In June I told you about a project I’d started: photographing things I find on Milwaukee’s city sidewalks. My mama had always yelled at me to stand up straight when I walk, but I still do it leaning forward and looking at the ground. The habit became useful when I got my iPhone and started taking pictures of the stuff I find down there.

I posted the first forty shots back then. You can also find them (among others) under my Photos tab. What follows are the next forty shots in the series.

Some notes:

The first “Dad” graffiti I found was “I Love You, Dad” on a sidewalk on Farwell Avenue. Then I found it on the other side of the street and farther south and over on Prospect Avenue. It was nowhere near Father’s Day. At the time I imagined that someone’s father had just died and the writer was grieving on the sidewalks, sensing it in the hastiness in which it seemed to be written and the droopiness of the letters. I still feel this way every time I see them.

I don’t know who or what Visceral is, but I have him pictured as, well, a he, and a rapper or a tagger, like the ones I saw in the documentary “Infamy” a few years ago. His tag is all of a sudden everywhere, usually in black paint. The last one I saw looked as if it had been written in Gorilla Glue: amber in color, drippy, tacky. If anyone in Milwaukee knows who or what Visceral is, drop me a line.

The recliner: I discovered it the way you first see it here. Over a period of two weeks, the beer bottle disappeared. Then the armrest covers. Then the bottom cushion. In the final stages of its evolution, upholstery was ripped from it, padding exposed. The chair got pushed over on to one side, then the other, then on to its back. Then it disappeared altogether.

The magazine rack: I discovered it on my way to a breakfast meeting. Early American-ish, like one your dentist might have hanging in the waiting room. Excellent condition. A flea market price tag on it. I wanted to take it. But: the meeting. I decided to snag it on my way back, if it was still there. It was not.

Something I could not take a picture of I found on a heavily trafficked sidewalk a half-block from our place: a tiny little creature – I did not know what – lying by its lonesome, fetal, eyes that had never opened. A Google search revealed that it was a newborn gray squirrel. It had apparently fallen from a nest in a tree that hung over the sidewalk. It was dead.

I shoved the iPhone in my back pocket, wrapped the baby squirrel in a Kleenex, dug a hole under a tree in our courtyard, and covered the tiny thing with a leaf, then dirt. If you want to know what it looks like, you’ll have to Google it for yourself.

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4 Comments

  1. Love the description and photos of the armchair. It’s almost as if the city just beat it up over time and then dragged it to its bowels.

    • That’s one of the things I like about living in the city: you sort of get to see things evolve (decay) before your eyes. They don’t go out of sight as neatly and instantaneously as they do when you live in the suburbs; you put it out by the curb, it gets picked up; out of sight, out of mind. Thanks, John.

  2. The tenacity of living things always amazes me. Under the most tenuous of conditions, struggling to survive and even thrive with no nurturing—only a will to live, to complete its life’s purpose.

    Thank you for caring for the tiny squirrel, who never had the opportunity.

    • Aw, thanks, Denise. It was the sweetest little thing. There are several birds and butterflies buried back there. By me. There’s a movie in which the first time you see one of the main characters, he’s picking up a dead pigeon in a city street; he just can’t stand leaving it there to be run over. I forget the name of the film; I’m really bad at that stuff. But that’s me. Although I’ve never brought home a pigeon.

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