A chunk of you know where I've been for the last six weeks and what has happened in my life.
For those that don't know, my mom died on March 15th. It was sudden and there was no indication that anything was wrong with her, no warning signs that could have helped us prevent what happened to her.
She went into cardiac arrest that afternoon and died.
I was extremely close to my mom, moreso than my dad. Probably the only other person that I can say that I'm as close to is my sister, April. So you can understand that how hard this has hit me.
In the aftermath, my sister and I decided we wanted to get out of Duluth. We wanted to start fresh or somewhat, anyway.
And the place that we chose was Milwaukee, where my mom's family still resides.
In order to make this happen, we needed help and we got help in the form of money sent to rent a U-Haul. We packed everything that was ours, everything that was our mom's and everything that belonged to our deceased sister and made our way to Milwaukee, making excellent time.
Almost immediately, everything that we were promised on the phone by the family in Milwaukee turned to shit.
We had been promised that we would be taken around the city to familiarize ourselves with it. We were promised that they would help us find an apartment and take us around the city to find jobs. When I mentioned that I was a writer and that I had done work as an editor and that I'd like to find something in this line of work, they scoffed. In fact, they made a mockery of reading books, as if it was beneath them.
We told them that my sister and I get ill whenever we're in contact with secondhand smoke. Three of the four residents of their apartment smoke and did so wherever they wished, with my sister and I sucking up the smoke and, of course, getting sick from it.
We were made to sleep on the living room floor eight out of the nine nights that we were there and, by the time we actually got to sleep in a bed, we had already decided we were leaving.
We were apparently brought down there to be live-in babysitters of our cousin's children, one of which is four years old but violent as hell and does not listen to anything that anyone tells him. We still have the bruises as proof of his violence. He kicked my sister in the jaw on the first day that we met him. Nice, huh?
By the second or third day that we were there, we were told that, while they weren't telling us where to work, we should consider getting jobs at the mega-casino because "it's got good benefits". One of these benefits apparently was being able to suck down as much cigarette smoke as you could in an eight-hour shift.
We were never shown the city, as I mentioned above, keeping to one extremely small portion of the place.
When I asked about Crimespree Magazine, which publishes out of Milwaukee, and inquired about whether it might be an address that it publishes out of or whether it was a mailing address, I was told, "That's in the ghetto" which was then revised to "Oh, no, wait, that's in the Spanish-speaking side of town." As if this was supposed to discourage me from wanting to see if Crimespree might need someone to, who knows, work the mailroom or something. God, no, Spanish-speaking people? Run!
It gets better or worse, if you're at all sane.
We were constantly warned that there were dangerous parts of the city.
One of these dangerous parts of the city?
The north side.
If you're following along, you probably know the reason.
Because the predominant color of people's skin on the north side is black or brown.
And, apparently, if you're not black or brown and you go to the north side of Milwaukee, you will be killed or raped or raped and then killed or something.
When we finally decided to get the fuck out of Milwaukee, we had to travel to the north side to pick up another U-Haul truck.
Guess what happened?
We saw black people. We saw brown people.
We didn't see one gun or one drug deal or one hooker or one rape or any of what we were warned about.
We walked into the U-Haul facility and rented a truck from...gasp!...a black woman.
We drove back through the north side of Milwaukee and...gasp!...got lost. And we ended up driving through the real downtown Milwaukee. Previously, we had been told the downtown Milwaukee was, you guessed it, the mega-casino. Which, having been to Milwaukee when I was a twenty-plus years younger, I knew to be a lie. My sister, who is a couple years younger than me, didn't remember that we had driven into downtown Milwaukee back then so this was all new to her.
We didn't get shot, we didn't get stabbed, we didn't get carjacked and we didn't get accosted.
If I could have stayed in Milwaukee, I would have spent most of my time downtown. Probably getting lost a lot, too.
Whatever amount of time we spent on the north side and in downtown, working our way back to the other side of town where we had a hotel room, was the best time in the ten or eleven days that we spent there. For a journey that was supposed to be our destination, I think that's a pretty sad commentary.
The last six weeks have been both painful and eye-opening and most definitely have flipped my world upside-down but I'm happy to say that they haven't changed me in any of the ways that really matter.
I've learned who I can and cannot trust and what family really is and what friends are all about.
ATON will get back up and running as soon as possible. In the meantime, I would ask that everyone check out what has already come before, check out all the links on the sidebars and enjoy themselves.
Elvis Costello - Complicated Shadows
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