Meet Marco: A treasure in eccentric Milwaukee's trove
Podcast: Marco cackles and talks high school sports with Molly
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Anyone who spends time in Milwaukee -- specifically the East Side -- becomes familiar with the neighborhood's unconventional characters, those folks who add exclamation points to the status quo.
Take Jim, for example. He's the gray-haired gent who rides a bike from Bayshore to Downtown (and back) almost every day of his life. And anyone who went to UW-Milwaukee remembers the newspaper-collecting Ray or the wheelchair guy who knows where you went to high school.
Marco Buelow, who is just "Marco" to most, is another recognizable resident.
Perhaps you've seen Marco hanging his long-white-haired head out of a third story window in the Bradford Beach Club building, chatting away at Hooligan's or strolling down Farwell Avenue with a VW-sized grin on his face.
In 1996, Marco moved into the massive space above the BBC, 2022 E. North Ave., where he works as a janitor. It's a good set-up for the quirky free spirit who speaks a language that gnomes or crystals might understand best.
"I'm the mop man and broom boy on deck am I," he says, referring to his job at the BBC. "Every day and in every way I am the lighthouse keeper."
When OnMilwaukee.com photographer Whitney Teska visited Marco's 2,000-sq. ft. living space for a photo shoot, he said, "That's the most amazing apartment I've ever seen."
For the past decade, Marco has collected hoards of antiques from estate sales, all of which he says come from Milwaukee houses.
Every inch of his space -- with the exception of clear walking paths -- is filled with old cameras, tin signs, wagons (God, he loves wagons!), bells, shells, jars of buttons, jars of wine corks, macramé plant holders cradling healthy plants, old lamps, tiny pianos, owl figurines, glass bottles, vintage magazines, art supplies, hats, dish sets, statues, afghans, feathers, dolls, decks of cards, wind chimes, guitars, bird cages, brooms, bones, books, beads, crystals, skates, photographs and thousands, yes thousands, of other knick-knacks and memorabilia.
Despite the insanely high volume of predominantly vintage personal belongings, everything is particularly placed and organized, giving the space an impressive museum-like quality.
"This is a piece of all that is," says Marco. "A touchable treasury."
Additionally, Marco claims he has five trailers parked "nearby" with more paraphernalia.
Marco has a plethora of pet names for his living space. Besides "touchable treasury," he calls it a nest, a vibration, a "core of home and a tone," the core of care (or just the "COC"), The Art Ark, "Atmo" (short for "Atmosphere Studio Space"), a living library and "a piece of cake near the lake."
Conversing with Marco is, well, a trip. He is lively and talkative, jumping from subject to subject, and spontaneously erupting with a robust cackle. While talking, his arms wave wildly and he looks like a two-armed octopus.
Marco's attention to detail is impressive. Despite the thousands of artifacts in his abode, he frequently zeros in on something small like an intricate spider's web in the corner of a window pane or the striations in a single rock. He has dozens, maybe hundreds, of vintage coats hanging from the ceiling, but is magnetically drawn to one that he removes from the hanger and pets like a cherished hound.
Marco has a knack for words and storytelling. He tells snippets of stories, all strung together like mismatched tiki lights.
He describes a canopy that he believes covers the earth, then says that 2012 will include events that only occur once every 2 million years. Soon after, he gives a detailed account of his job as a lifeguard at Atwater Beach in Shorewood.
"I spent 8,000 hours on that beach, with thousands of kids. I wasn't going to let any of them drown. Nope. 'You wanna drown? Go to Bradford Beach!'" Page 1 of 2 (view all on one page)
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Marco taught me how to roll my first joint when I was like 8 years old... Maybe it was a cigarette, but I still doubt that, he also hid all these rocks in my mothers riverwest home when we moved in... Rocks with good vibes, 20 years later I still find them when I visit her there... Great guy, great article
I have known Marco since I moved to Milwaukee almost 30 years ago. Always the shepard of the flocks...and a great friend to know and love.
Thanks for doing a reverent and respectful expose on Marco. He's part of a generation of people who eventually will be gone. The Eastside has been defined by these unique personalities.
Marco's rocks exude positive karma. If you meet him, ask him for a rock! He always carries some and loves to bestow them to others.
Never heard of this guy, but great article. I would say Freeway Mike or Ray from UW-Milwaukee next. I used to talk to Ray all the time at bars on the east side. This could be a great series of articles.
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