A STRONG COMMUNITY SERVED A LA CARTE!

Here is a snapshot of a festival in my city of West Allis Wisconsin. As you can see it is a street festival where a lot of people, and dogs, came out to enjoy the nice weather. It not only was a great chance to find some good deals and enjoy some great food and refreshments, but to get to know some of our neighbors as well.
We had the great pleasure of running into friends we already knew including our friend Curtis and his wife Dani (not to mention their charming son and fun-loving dog) and our friend Regina, but we also had a chance to meet some new neighbors. There were new business we had not stepped foot in that we got to see. There were also several stands we enjoyed such as a food vendor named Pigtailz and a business that sold specialty rice krispy treats.
The point here is that it not only gave us a great time but lead us to developing closer ties with many in our community. I recommend attending such festivals in your neighborhood. If they do not exist, encourage leaders and business owners to start one. If you have the chance not only get to know but support local businesses when you can. It not only helps them make a living, it also gives them a sense of pride and strengthens your community. As far as that goes, I am very excited for the steps forward my community of West Allis has taken recently and is poised to take in the future and I am going to do my best to continue to be a part of that.

SOMETHING WILD IN WEST ALLIS!

Below you will find a link to my latest restaurant review. Wild Roots is located in the eastern corridor of West Allis and is unlike any other place the city has to offer!

Find out what makes this place so unique and what rare dishes you can find. You will also discover the one quality ingredient found at Wild Roots that is not listed on the menu. I can’t wait for you to read my adventure at one of the newest dinning options in West Allis!

CLICK HERE TO READ MY REVIEW OF WILD ROOTS

THE 1 QUESTION TO ASK TO IMPROVE YOUR CITY

I recently filmed a video at the West Allis city hall explaining the one question you can ask to improve your city.

No matter what your complaint about your city is, asking yourself this one question will go a long way to improving it.

Click the link below to watch the video. You will not only discover what the question is, but more importantly how you can use it to improve the quality of your city.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO

SUCH AN AMAZING COMMUNITY


I seldom pass on an opportunity to brag on my community. This I do for two very important reasons. First, no matter where you live, there is always enough bad press. It seems like if people have a compliment they tell someone, but if they have a complaint they tell everyone. I guess I can understand that, negative experiences seem to impact us intensely. When we have a great experience it tends to be appreciated and quickly forgotten. I like to capture and share all the good things that happen inside of a community that everyone may not know about. I encourage you to do the same for your community. Growing a feeling of positivity can give all of your neighbors something nice to talk about instead of what is not working in the community, unless of course it is to come up with solutions.
The second reason I enjoy sharing what is great about the city of West Allis, where I live with my beautiful lady Margie, is there are quite a few people who need to get a fair share of credit. Case in point, the subject of this post. This morning I attended ‘Coffee with the mayor’. For those of you who did not see my last post about this amazing event, allow me to give you a recap. Our mayor, Dan Devine, takes time out of his busy schedule roughly once a month to meet with the citizens of the city. This is an informal gathering that anyone is allowed to attend. The mayor informs you of events happening in the city and you are free to ask questions. It is very informative and interactive. It is one of the many impressive things our mayor does to make our city great.
Today, however, there were even more reasons to be grateful for attending such an event. First on the list was the venue. It was held at a place aptly called “West Allis Cheese and Sausage”. This restaurant is owned by a gentleman named Mark Lutz. Mark has invested in his community in many ways. First he purchased several properties in the area including a restaurant he leases across the street, a butcher shop that will be open this year and he has just purchased the building next door. Last I heard he planned to use this for catering, but I am not certain. Mr. Lutz also invests in the community with his time and organizational skills. While we were there I counted no less than 3 events they are a part of that benefit everything from food pantries to the coming dog park. Mark Lutz is a great pillar of the community.
Next up was Jon Cervantes. Jon is the head of the East Allis Neighborhood Association. It is a neighborhood group that I am proud to be a member of. In addition to various projects throughout the neighborhood, that association is a catalyst for those looking to better get to know their neighbors. To that end, Mr. Cervantes hosts monthly coffee gatherings of his own and parks and other places in the neighborhood where people can meet and share stories of the neighborhood.
Lastly, in attendance was my good friend Alice Behnke. Alice runs the Facebook group, ‘West Allis News, Events & Stuff.’. It is all things West Allis. She keeps it both informative and positive. There is news of whatever is happening in the city, with a rule to make sure there is no negative bashing of the city. Alice works tirelessly to interview businesses, communicate with elected officials and share news to keep everyone informed.
In addition to these amazing people, there were lots of concerned neighbors filled with both curiosity and questions. Margie, my mother and I all enjoyed a great meal and learned a lot of information about the city.

IT MAKES YOU THINK

Today I looked down in my car and what did I find? A DVD I had rented from the West Allis Public Library on Bob Marley that was supposed to be returned days earlier. As I happened to be out driving around, I decided to return the movie and take care of any fines that may have accumulated. As a dedicated life-long reader, I absolutely love going to the library. You have access to almost every piece of information you can desire and it does not cost you anything. Unless of course you forget a Bob Marley biography in the back of your car for two weeks, and then it runs you $5.

My point is that the library is a goldmine when it comes to individuals seeking knowledge of any kind. The library I use in my hometown of West Allis Wisconsin is particularly amazing. They have a separate floor just for children’s learning. They have several computers you can use to access the internet, print documents or anything else you may need. There are also conference rooms available to rent, educational programs on a wide variety of topics not to mention the volumes of different media available to rent, including an amazing book called A Happy Life for Busy People.

On this day, however, I learned something far more important. After paying the fine for my forgetfulness I was on my way out of the library when I noticed a mother and son behind me. I stopped to hold the door for them. It was then I noticed the young man had down syndrome. His mother was leading him by the hand informing him it was time to go. “We have had enough learning for one day.” she informed him. It was his reply that stopped me in my tracks. “I love to learn mom!” he reminded her.

It was then I began to think of all the different students of life the library caters to. I must confess I had not stopped to consider those with special needs and how eager they thirst for knowledge. It was then I felt a great sense of appreciation and respect for those who spend their time and have the patience to bring the world of knowledge to those who may have extreme difficulty in assimilating it. This mother had taken her son to the library and helped him increase his knowledge and expand his mind. Which happened to be the same reason I was there. I thought of the patience it must take parents and special education teachers. They are helping empower those others may cast aside. They are not only helping them learn, but giving them reasons to be proud of themselves. I know how great it feels to learn something new and obviously, this young man felt the same.

It gave me a great sense of pride to have such a brave and hard-working young man as a part of my community. Last post we spoke of not giving in to your limits and this young man was doing just that. It made me so happy and proud to have amazing parents, teachers and young men like him in my community. It also made me appreciate the Public Library in yet another way. If you know a parent or teacher of a child with special needs, please take a moment to thank them for their work and dedication to make the world a better place.

EARNING MY BUSINESS


In several industries with the blur of different options it can be hard to see a difference. That holds quite true in the grocery industry. In my city alone there are giants such as Walmart, Meijer and a version of Kroger. In bigger box stores such as these, speed and cost cutting seem to be the focus. Customer service tends to be an afterthought, if even a thought at all. The Walmart in my neighborhood has me thinking they are doing their best to push people out of their stores with their service. There was one moment I recall where items in a locked cabinet were all facing backwards making it impossible to see what they were. When I brought this to a managers attention her answer was, “It makes it easier for us to do inventory.” In other words, they knew the customers were not able to see the products and that was ok.

Purchasing items such as books, media and other such items has largely switched to an online affair. I must confess to ordering a good deal of stuff off Amazon myself. The advantage here is there is little or no option for bad customer service, the prices are more reasonable and you don’t even have to leave the house. During a Wisconsin winter this can be worth its weight in gold. There is this great book on happiness you can order to make your winter a little brighter as well.

That is why the 2 experiences I am about to share with you stand out so much. The first is one I had at a local grocery store. I had looked for a seasonal surprise at some of the larger grocery stores in town, but they did not have what I was looking for. It was suggested that I try Rupena’s. A small, independent grocery store located not far from my house in West Allis. When I entered the store I was greeted right away and asked how I was doing. After replying that I was living the dream, the conversation continued with some discussion of gratitude and an inquiry as to what I was looking for. I was directed to the section of the store where the product could be found. Sadly, they were sold out by this time of the evening. The lady in that department offered me samples of other products that might interest me. Then, finding some other items in passing I returned to check out with the lady who greeted me. She asked if I found what I was looking for and apologized I had not. She also gave me other suggestions and shared some humor with me.

A few days later, I decided to use a gift card I had received for Barnes and Noble. While there a friendly young lady in a giraffe shirt saw I was looking lost and asked if she could help. I told her the book I was looking for and she looked it up and then lead me to it. On a side note, it happened to be right next to my book on the shelf which felt kind of cool. Then when I went to pay for my books, the lady at the cash register joked with me and her coworkers as the transaction continued. I left happy with my purchased as well as entertained.

In both of these examples I left with something more – a desire to return. Great customer service is something that will never go out of style. From the small grocery store a mere 10 blocks from my house, to the brick and mortar book store, there is opportunity to retain and gain customers. The price point might be a little higher, and it does require leaving the house, but the opportunity to be treated to a little extra humor and good service is priceless.

A WAY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE


Recently, I entered a poetry contest for my city of West Allis, Wisconsin. First of all, I would like to say that I thought this was a great opportunity for citizens to become involved with the city. In previous posts I have mentioned the mayor and the good programs he has put forth. This program came from the West Allis Public Library Board of Directors and I am so humbled that they chose me as a winner. There are two points that this event made me think of and I wanted to take this opportunity to share them with you.
The first is that this is just another example of the steps that West Allis is taking to improve both the city and the quality of life for its citizens. It shows a commitment to excellence and resurgence for a city that many left for dead when manufacturing jobs began to disappear. It is a good reminder not to give up on your city. With some forward thinking, and creative initiatives a city can begin to become vibrant and full of vitality again. It is also a good reminder to search out and get involved in programs your city might offer. If you cannot find programs such as these in your city it presents a great opportunity to speak with elected officials to begin to set some up. Elected officials are not just the only ones to turn to either. There are community groups, senior centers, clubs and organizations that have many chances to become active in your city. Contests and activities like this foster a sense of community. In doing so they help neighbors get to know each other which can reduce crime and increase a safe atmosphere in which to raise a family and spend your days.
The second point that this contest brought to mind was an opportunity to both inspire my fellow neighbors as well as promote the good things that happen in the city. A quick glance in the newspaper or on social media will supply you with plenty of reasons in which you may NOT want to visit and/or live in a city. It is always a good idea to balance those out with promoting good events that are happening as well. In my city there is a neighborhood walk to encourage physical fitness, a monthly coffee with the mayor in which citizens can relax with a cup of coffee and hear exactly what is happening in the city from the mayor himself. There is also a new dog park being planned and built as well as roughly $200 million worth of new developments in various stages. There are what seems like a thousand other great things I could mention here that are going on as well.
Maybe your city is not as fortunate as mine, but truly there is something great going on in your city as well. Make it known. Get the neighbors involved. Like in my poem below, it is by becoming the best citizens we can that we create the best cities possible. I encourage you to promote all the good that is happening in your city. While you are reading this, feel free to check out my winning poem, along with the other 5 winners that I am honored to be joined by. At a future date all of these poems will be placed in concrete to honor the authors. Still another great event to look forward to in West Allis.

WHY EVERY MAYOR SHOULD BE LIKE MINE.


I live in the small city (pop. 60,000) of West Allis, Wisconsin. In this town we have a mayor by the name of Dan Devine. He is the man standing who is ironically facing away from the camera. Those of you who follow this blog with regularity may recall mention of him this past July in a post titled Secret to a Healthy Community. In which the mayor led a neighborhood walk to encourage the community to engage in a healthier lifestyle. To me it was a great example of a person who leads by example.
The picture above is from an event I attended this morning called ‘Coffee with the mayor’. The premise is a simple one, the mayor chooses a local business and meets informally with anyone who shows up. Not only does this offer a unique chance to connect with the community for those who may be too intimidated to attend meetings at city hall, but also brings a lot of business to a local establishment. In this case the venue was Urban Joe Café and Bar. Although their questionable decision to have minimum staff on such a busy morning, the young lady who was working named Tina, did a marvelous job keeping everyone happy.
Through the course of this gathering, the mayor informed us on the status of ongoing projects as well as new developments. As you can imagine the people attending ranged in age from young to old. They also ranged from being cheerful and excited to jaded and generally full of complaints. What impressed me most was that Mayor Devine not only subjected himself to some conversation that bordered on unpleasant, but responded to everyone in a cheerful and encouraging fashion.
When the scheduled hour was up the mayor still gave time for those in attendance. He was also joined by an alderman and the fire chief.

The reason for me sharing the story of this gathering is to show what is possible when leaders genuinely care for the people and seek to engage them from many different angles. We have a city website, newsletter and formal meetings of course, but this informal gathering really gave the citizens a chance to feel included in what is happening in their city. Not to mention our good friends at Urban Joe Café & Bar were introduced to several more customers.
It is my sincere hope that leaders in other communities take this example and bring it to their cities and towns as well. In addition, I hope citizens take advantage of such opportunities to have their voices heard and become more engaged in the community. I find myself feeling very grateful that I live in a city with leaders who care and are willing to work to make a difference.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE OTHER POST ABOUT THE MAYOR

IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL…

First of all I would like to apologize for putting this song in your head. The purpose of this post is not to have you singing Disney songs for the next 48 hours. What I am going to attempt to do is explain an abstract concept of quantum physics and metaphysics by way of the internet and social media.

Let us pause here and take a deep breath as we have just used the words Disney, quantum physics, metaphysics, internet and social media all in one small paragraph.

Hopefully we are all back to taking in nourishing breaths of oxygen-rich air once more. This may sound daunting, but I am going to explain what amounts to a complex theory in simple terms. I am going to share a personal story that will provide an example of this concept in action. Not only did it help me grasp something I couldn’t quite get my head around, but it may just do the same for you.

Let us begin with the science part of this. If this sounds a bit too complicated, just keep reading I promise it will come together even if you have no idea in hell what this paragraph is about. Quantum physics tells us that at its very core everything in the universe is energy. The difference between say the pig you saw at the farm and the one sitting next to your eggs is the rate at which they are vibrating. In theory, if we could control vibration we could change our Honda CRV into a Dodge Viper. It also means that because not only are all forms of matter energy, but the space between matter is energy as well. Extrapolating that out further, that means everything is connected. We should, by all accounts, be able to slap our annoying co-worker 2 cubicles down without getting out of your seat. Sadly, we have not figured that out. I guess it might not be too sad if you happen to be the annoying co-worker.

If all of the talk about energy and quantum physics has your head spinning, or if you can’t quite grasp the energy concept, do not worry. Let us approach this from a different metaphysical and social angle. There are theories that everyone is only 6 degrees away from being connected to everyone else. The number changes depending on who you are talking to, but usually falls somewhere into that area. That means if I approach a person in Melbourne Australia and talk to one of their friends, and then talk to one of their friend’s friends, and carry that on for six levels eventually we would come across someone who knows me here in West Allis Wisconsin. Personally, with the advent of the internet, I think the levels may be down to 2 or 3.

Still having a hard time grasping this idea? Don’t worry so was I at first. Let me tell you a story that may bring it into focus a little better. In the beginning of my bartending career I worked at a small bar here in West Allis, not far from my home. There I met a gentleman named Rick who happened to be a regular that lived across the street. Shortly thereafter, I met his daughter Becky. So far not too complicated of a story. Becky fell in love with a gentleman named Jason. They were married and I had the pleasure of becoming his friend as well. It turned out Jason’s father worked with my mother several years prior. While my bartending career moved on to another bar in the city I met another gentleman. Through the wonder of Facebook I became connected with all of these fine people. While DJing at our Sunday show I ran into Becky’s mother. She recognized us from seeing things on her daughter’s Facebook page. Now we are ‘friends’ on social media as well. She informed me the gentleman I met at the second bar was her nephew and Becky’s cousin. Also, I do a good portion of my writing at coffee shops throughout the city. At several I have run into Jason’s brother. Basically, what this proves is that it is indeed a small world after all.

It also proves one other very important fact. Even if we have a hard time grasping the quantum physics concept of everything being connected, we can certainly see it in people. Now, through the power of the internet and social media, no matter what you do in this world it will end up having a consequence on you at some level. This will help us appreciate and see how Karma works. It can really make clear how what you sow, so shall you reap works. That should prompt us to be more responsible and compassionate individuals. Knowing our words, actions and even thoughts will, in some form or fashion, come back to us.