Milwaukee, Winsconsin - There is nothing finer than going to your best-friend-of-20-years’ wedding, unless it going to his wedding and catching up while riding motorcycles around aimlessly.
I wake up again as we are arriving to Milwaukee and see white-capped waves breaking on Lake Michigan.
On the ground, the weather is sunny and the Milwaukeeans are decked out in t-shirts, shorts and sandals, the better to soak up the rays on a balmy 50 degree afternoon. I settle into a curbside bench for a nap and wait for my friend to pick me up, ignoring the loudspeakers announcing the Code Orange security alert – in fact one day later I learned that at least in Milwaukee there is now a $165 fine for mistakenly leaving baggage at the curb, due to the potential for bombs masquerading as cheap Wal-Mart rollies.
I am here for a wedding, but also because I am sadly out of touch with my friend who led me to a love for motorcycles. Day 1 is a long one for me, beginning after 13 hours of travel; we have 2-3 hours to reestablish our bearings to one another, admire his toys – BMW M3, Dual Sport adventure-cycle, and mammoth sized Craftsman home one block from Lake Michigan – before meeting his fiancee for dinner.
This is a man who once told me he would be contented the day he could afford a garage filled with power tools and motorcycles. Exhaustion, emotion and a beer almost send me toppling sideways as I take his Buell Ulyesses motorcycle for a spin. Dinner is the perfect end to the day; over a shredded beef burrito bathed in a nutty mole verde or pipian sauce, I share autobiographies with Jennifer, my friend’s fianceé and a beautiful person in her own right.
My friend has fineggled to borrow a copy of his bike from a colleague. I make coffee while he warms up the bikes and throws an extra fleece into each of the bikes ample hard luggage cases. Our plans for a motorcycle outing are cut short by the reality of wedding arrangements and running errands but we still manage an architectural tour of Milwaukee, including a stopover at the Harley Davidson World Headquarters, where my friend works.
The city has a modern art museum revamped by Santiago Calatrava, world class views of one of the Great Lakes, and is 1.5 hours from Chicago. Tooling around town on a rumbling 1200cc motorcycle, I think Milwaukee’s charm is only enhanced by the visible remnants of the faded rust belt era, coupled with its distinctive (if notably segregated) Black, Latino, and European American neighborhoods.
Over the course of four days, we celebrate the widening of friendships, the joining of families and the notion that our partners make sense of us, and vice versa. Arriving at my friend’s house after the wedding, I slip into bed and I sleep that deep sleep where the body and mind meld, where there is no conscious worry and where friends meet and new friendships are born.