Though dangerous and damaging, there is something special about being with your family during a storm.
Though dangerous and damaging, there is something special about being with your family during a storm.

Surreal peacefulness of a stormy night


Last night's storm reminded me of when I was a kid growing up in good old Wisconsin Rapids in the 1980's.

It's probably the first storm I've seen in Milwaukee that reminded me of the storms we sustained up north, even thought the meteorologists pointed out that we've had four "once in a hundred years" type storms since in the last 25 years: in 1986, 1999, 2008, and now.

We were fortunate enough not to lose power during the downpour, unlike many of our neighbors to the north and south.

We had only a trickle of water in the basement, which is likely due to the fact that our neighbor to the west has no gutters on her house. We stayed dry and cozy inside, watching the lightning dance off of nearby commercial buildings and literally light up the sky. Some of the flashes seemed cinema-like, as if we were in a theater watching a seen from the" Amityville Horror;" others just cast a soft glow or a crack across the glistening and somewhat puddle pavement.  The thunder rumbled continuously like the finale of a giant fireworks display.

Growing up in Rapids, tornado season was actually a season, when seemingly (at least to a kid) once a week, we had to shuttle to the basement as the sirens and the power went off, while my dad went and smoked on the porch and watched clouds swirl around.

The basement in our first home, an old farmhouse, was one of those pull-up double doors from the bathroom floor with a rickety wooden staircase-again, straight from a horror film. After mom became friends with the neighbor, we'd go into their large, uncluttered basement instead, where we could ride bigwheels around the support posts or play ping pong with the older kids amongst candles and camping lanterns. Storms were less scary when you had something to look forward to.

When we were older and moved out to the rural areas, a power outage also meant there was no water.

Mom and dad kept a stash of flashlights and candles nearby and a battery-powered radio that my dad would set to a combination statio…

Non-alcoholic choices are often limited at bars and restaurants.
Non-alcoholic choices are often limited at bars and restaurants.

Limited non-alcoholic choices

I've been conducting an experiment to see what my options would be at Milwaukee bars and restaurants if I decided not to consume alcohol.

Funny, in a state where we are so focused on designated driving, there don't seem to be a whole heck of a lot of options.

Sure, soda is aplenty. You can get a soda, lemonade, usually coffee, tea or any juice that typically plays a role in a mixed drink (grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, OJ -- you get to picture).

Many places seem to be pretty good about having some sort of non-alcoholic beer; be it an O'Douls, Clausthaler or Kaliber to get you through the evening without feeling like you have to sip a Shirley Temple. Although usually you'll only get one option, and you may have to blow the dust from the bottle before drinking it.

It's much easier at Mexican restaurants or brunch places as it's pretty simple to make a virgin margarita or Bloody Mary.

Recently, I lucked out at a tiny new bistro where I was able to get a glass of really lovely non-alcoholic sparkling cider, but that was my only success after more than three dozen attempt to get a glass of non-alcoholic wine at local bars and restaurants.

I would have even been happy with a glass of Fre, the just-palatable version we carried when I tended bar a decade ago, but nope; nothing, though one kind host at a Third Ward venue suggested I run to the wine shop across the street and bring a bottle of NA wine back, which they'd allow me to drink for a $15 corkage fee.

Since corkage fees are illegal in Wisconsin and $15 seemed a hefty price to pay for a buzz kill, I wasn't all that disappointed that the store didn't have any non-alcoholic product, either. Instead, I settled for some juice concoction the bartender served in a martini glass.

This is likely the result of lack of demand for NA products, but nonetheless disappointing.

If someone's going to be the DD, they should at least have a fun array of product to keep them occupied while their friends drink up.