If you are native to this area, that's how you pronounce Milwaukee. I was born there, in a Catholic hospital from a Lutheran mother. She shared a room with another woman, who heard in the maternity ward what she thought would be a beautiful and unusual-sounding name for her own newborn daughter. Fortunately for the child, the nurses convinced her that "Placenta" was not a good name, not at all. I wonder what ever happened to my birthmate, Not Placenta.

Today we drove down to Milwaukee's Eastside, the hip part of town for as long as I can recall. Driving from the farm/lake land quickly changes to big box stores and strip malls and generic developments. I cannot place where I am along the way any more; there is too much new, all my old landmarks are gone. Getting into the outskirts of the city, then I see the familiar brick or limestone 6-plex apartment buildings that go on for miles, one after another, unique in my memory to here. They range from neat and tidy to, when looking closely, tattered and dumpy, with some kind of misery living within. The people on the street go from white, to black, to white again. No mix.

Milwaukee reminds me of my maternal grandmother, the "other" one, whom I had no contact with after the age of nine. She lived here, in the exotic city, on her own for much of her adult life, in-between various husbands. She was what people called a "handsome" woman; strong-featured with a wide smile and squinty eyes, sturdy German stock, with thick beautiful auburn hair. The tiny bit of red in my natural hair color, and in my daughter's hair, comes from her, and also likely my bold-ish temperament, also passed to my daughter. Grandma Milwaukee just had no problems whatsoever telling anyone what she thought at any time, and I remember her as critical, generous, and definitely a my-way-or-the-highway kind of woman. Truthfully, I didn't like her because I thought she was mean, and she could turn on a dime. I didn't trust her. She seemed hard. I think of, as we drive further into the city, the few times I went to visit her here. It was the first time I rode on a city bus, and the first time I saw anyone any other color than white. It was the first time anyone ever made me make a bed military-style, and the last time too, for that matter. I can't say that I missed her as I finished growing up. I just felt bad for my nice mom that she didn't get a nice mom.

Our destination, Urban Outfitters, is at hand. I go with my college-age niece, and she goes wild picking out stuff which is a delight to see because she is so cute and sweet. I get a dark gray skirt and a print v-neck shirt, some stuff for the teen, and the second volume of the great creative nonfiction collection that I got at Urban in April, so that makes my day right there. Walking out and down the street, I see the theater where I saw Elvis Costello in 1979, one of the best shows I have ever been to, and the park were there used to be free concerts, raided frequently by the erstwhile Milwaukee police. It is nice to see something I remember. I also see the sub shop where I consumed a vinegar-laden sandwich that had me puking for days. I stick my tongue out at the shop with vigor.

Drive home, white to black to white. The sun sparkles on the lake, my niece shows off her pretty clothes, and I greet my mother, waiting for me with a smile.