#Milbornandraised is a campaign run by Milborn Advisors to reach out to the people that make Milwaukee great. This week, we interview Claud Kling - a Sheboygan-area native who back in college wouldn’t even drive to Milwaukee but now calls it her home - and Eric Strackbein - a native of Milwaukee county, who recounts his childhood memories here and relives them with his fiancee.
Interview and photography by Amy Lancaster.
Autumn in Wisconsin can be very fickle. Within the same week, residents can see an 80-degree day with a clear sky, followed by a 40-degree day with a chance of snow. This day in particular, when I decided to walk to Colectivo in the heart of Bay View, it was a perfect, movie-like fall day. Originally, I was going to catch a ride with the two people I was interviewing, because we are all Bay View locals, but after seeing all the color and beauty, I had to make my way outside.
I made it to Colectivo shortly before Claud and Eric arrived, and once we ordered our drinks - Claud, a hot tea; Eric, an iced SportsTea; and I, a warm latte with almond milk - we made our way upstairs and managed to snag a table right by the window that looked at the main intersection of Bay View down below.
Eric was one of the first people I met when I moved to Milwaukee, and Claud and I, despite knowing each other for a while, only became close within the last two years due to our love of cats, obsession with Studio Ghibli, and the fact that our birthdays are four days apart. Once catching up with one another, I got into learning more about their experiences here in Milwaukee.
Amy Lancaster: How long have you two lived in Milwaukee?
Claud Kling: I’ve been here a little over five years now.
Eric Strackbein: I’ve lived in Milwaukee county my whole life. I’ve lived in the city of Milwaukee for, like, the last 15 years.
AL: Where did you move from, Claud?
CK: I’m from Sherman Center, Wisconsin. It’s about an hour and fifteen minutes north of Milwaukee. I had just finished college and I moved back home for a little bit, and one of my friend’s was moving from Pennsylvania to Milwaukee and needed a roommate.
AL: Cool! And you [Eric] have pretty much been born and raised in Milwaukee county, - where in Milwaukee county did you grow up?
ES: I grew up in Franklin, a suburb of Milwaukee. I went to MPS school district. My family would go downtown a lot when I was little to go to Summerfest or to go see fireworks, so when I was little, my favorite part was to go downtown. I always asked to go downtown on the weekends. My parents liked to go do stuff down there too. It was fun.
AL: And two met in Milwaukee, right? How did you two meet each other?
CK: Uhh, OK Cupid! (laughs) Our first date was at Bar Louie in Bayshore. I hadn’t moved to Milwaukee yet and he lived in Milwaukee, so it was like the halfway point for the two of us.
AL: And now you two live together, for how long?
CK and ES: (look at each other) I think three years? Yeah, three years.
AL: Why did you choose to live in Bay View?
CK: Eric really likes downtown. I’m from a very quiet country town, and Bay View kind of spoke a little bit more to that side. It’s still busy, but it’s not like down on the East Side or on Water street.
AL: Yeah, I always say Bay View is nice because it still has a lot of life, but it’s far enough away where you can be away from the busy stuff but close enough to get downtown if you really wanted to.
ES: It’s pretty close to where we both work, too. I wanted to be downtown because I work directly downtown, but the pricing was better here, too.
AL: How do you spend your free time in Milwaukee?
CK: I go to a lot of concerts when I get the time – I work a lot. I do like the Summerfest venues. I do like the Pabst a lot, actually. I do end up going to The Rave a lot because that’s where everybody goes to perform, but I did like The Pabst and Turner Hall when I’ve gone. Other than that, we go to a lot of Brewers games. We’re going to the playoff game on Saturday.
AL: I can’t believe that’s a thing that’s still happening! So is this post-season?
ES: Yeah, it can go ‘til the end of October if we go to the World Series. This is probably one of the best seasons we’ve had. The last time we went was 2011. The Brewers have never won a World Series. One of six teams in the country that has never won, and one of the oldest teams that’s never won, so it would be pretty neat!
I always found it slightly adorable when sports fans referred to their favorite team as “we”. It’s never “they”. As someone who has very little interest in sports, I never have fully understood the loyalty that exists between a sports fan and their team, but I can admire and respect it.
AL: What else do you like to do? Where else do you like to go?
ES: I like to ride bikes downtown. It gets a little dangerous sometimes I think, (laughs) but there’s a lot of trails so as long as you can figure out the trails you can avoid a lot of the danger.
AL: Yeah, the biking is really good in Milwaukee isn’t it?
ES: It’s getting a lot better. When I was younger I didn’t know about all these trails and I think they’re just doing a better job of promoting it. You see a lot more bike paths that there weren’t before, all the bike lanes that didn’t exist, like, ten years ago. They’ve been really proactive on trying to bring cycling in and making it more popular.
AL: They have the bike rentals popping up everywhere too, I’ve noticed, which is awesome.
ES: Yeah! I also just like to try out new restaurants. We spend a lot of time doing that. We’re always hearing about a new restaurant that opens or a new thing being served at a restaurant and we go do that.
AL: What’s the latest restaurant that you went to that you liked?
CK: I just tried Dan Dan’s dinner service for the first time and that was really, really good. I really want to go to their new French restaurant that they just opened, it’s called Fauntleroy –
AL: - I went there maybe a month ago, it’s really good! I love it.
ES: There’s like a Cuban fusion place on the East Side. I don’t know the name of it, it just recently opened. I think I went, like, a month ago? It was really good!
AL: Surprisingly there’s a lot of cultural variety when it comes to food in Milwaukee, which is really cool. Are there any spots that you haven’t been to yet that you want to check out?
CK: I’m sure there’s like, a thousand restaurants. I still need to take [Eric] to Tandem; that’s a really nice Milwaukee gem.
AL: What’s Tandem?
CK: Tandem is a restaurant that’s set up just outside of the East Side. I believe it’s on Fond Du Lac? It’s a company that got started employing people directly from that area. So it’s a lot of people who have never worked in a restaurant before, lots of kids…and it’s so good. Their fried chicken is better than anything I’ve ever had before. Their staff is really nice and friendly. It’s a really great local restaurant that’s using the roots of the community to promote and make things happen, which…working at Honey Pie and doing the local Milwaukee vendor events, it’s always nice to see another restaurant that’s trying to branch into the community a little bit more, too.
ES: I always like to take Claud to places that she’s never seen, because there’s still places that she goes to that she’s never been but I’ve been to as a kid, so I knew of it. A lot of trails downtown. When we went to Denver and went hiking Claud said to me, “I think I actually want to go on more hikes!”
CK: Yeah, I might actually like the outdoors now….
This is funny for anyone who knows Claud - the amount of allergies this woman has surpasses anyone I’ve ever known.
AL: Have you hiked at the Urban Ecology Center?
ES: I’ve done that!
AL: Oh, it’s so cool! It’s so weird because the main entrance is on the East Side, but you go from, like, the East Side neighborhood into this forest just out of nowhere.
AL: Yeah, and there’s a river running through, and there’s a big bike trail. It’s a really cool place to go hiking.
ES: They have a lot of big bike events there. When I go biking on Tuesday nights, they’ll end the trail there and you can do stuff at the Ecology Center after.
CK: Is that where Tippecanoe [Herbs and Apothecary] does that herb walk, too?
ES: It might start there? Because it’s pretty dense forest for being in downtown.
After filling Claud in on the best hiking spots in the city - which sounds conflicting because one wouldn’t think hiking was available in a city - I got to the main crux of our conversation.
AL: So, would you say Milwaukee is one of your favorite cities?
CK: I would definitely say it’s up there, for sure. I really like living here. I like still being closer to a city that’s not too big for me. (chuckles) I like it a lot. I never honestly thought I would live down here. I thought it was too scary for a very long time. When I was in college, I was in Mequon and if people would go down in Milwaukee, I would refuse to drive or I just wouldn’t go. That was known through my college friends and friends outside of school – “We’re going to Milwaukee, Claud’s not going to drive down.” Like I’m 87 or something.
AL: And now you fit right in!
CK: Yeah. I’m still not great at driving here at all, but –
ES: - She’s pretty good. (Claud and Amy laugh) She’s definitely a lot better –
CK: I almost hit him on one of our first dates with my car.
ES: I was walking across the street –
CK: I was driving to meet him at my apartment –
ES: I was like, a block away –
CK: I had to slam on the brakes –
ES: I was like, “Is this person gonna stop at the stop sign!? Because I’m walking right through – oh, hey!” (laughs) That was fun.
AL: Would you say you two feel at home here?
ES: I do, yeah. Growing up here, everywhere I go there’s a memory, so it’s really comforting to see that, and I’ve been to a lot of other cities and nothing has convinced me that I want to move yet, other than the weather factor.
AL: When you go to other cities, what do you notice missing there, that’s here?
ES: I look for the same feelings that I get in certain areas of Milwaukee where I feel comfortable, or the people are nice enough, or it’s accessible. There’s a lot of cities where you don’t get things in a 10-mile radius. You could go to LA but you’re driving an hour, two hours to get out somewhere. Same thing with New York - it’s gonna take you an hour to get from one side of Manhattan to the other during certain times of the day. Even though I love Manhattan, I would want to say I would move there, but it would be trying. It would be a very different cultural experience to actually live there than what I’m used to. It’s like we get pieces here from different areas that I like. I think that is part of Milwaukee – the culture is implanted in different areas and then it starts to mix around. When you go to New York, there’s an Italian community – and that’s kind of all you get in that area. There’s 20 pizza places or 20 old school Italian restaurants in one spot. We have those restaurants here but they’re all over.
AL: So it seems like no matter where you go in Milwaukee, you can still get a little bit of everything.
ES: Yeah, exactly.
AL: So my last formal question is what advice would you give to those who are either looking to move here or, if they’re already here, get more out of the city?
CK: There’s so much free stuff. (Amy laughs) I get a lot of people at Honey Pie that are coming from or going to the airport or trying to plan their trip and they always ask what they should do. There’s always some sort of festival going on - whether it’s going to be one of the cultural festivals or a music festival, or the China Lights at the Boerner Botanical Garden. Also, I think the art museum is first Thursdays are free, the free museum day is the first Tuesday, free zoo days…a very overlooked aspect of Milwaukee is the brewery tours, we have a ton of them and there’s good aspects about each of them. We also have a cheese tour at Clock Shadow Creamery that’s only, like, 5-7 dollars I think? So that’s something I always tell people to do. Because people always think “Oh, Milwaukee, beer, we wanna hit all these tours” which is great, but…there’s also cheese tours.
AL: I actually didn’t know they did that, so that’s good to know! (laughs)
CK: Oh, they do that. (laughs)
AL: So you would say take advantage of the opportunities the city has to offer, because no matter what day of the week, there’s always something new to do.
ES: We always make the best of every season. When you go out on the weekend in other cities, you don’t have a festival every single weekend of summer. You can always find some sort of block party or festival because they know they won’t be able to do this all year and they want to take advantage of it, so there’s something going on.
AL: Even in winter, there are still festivals.
ES: Yeah, even in winter. There’s still a lot of stuff. And then you have Bucks games and that entire section is a party section now. There’s still stuff to do in winter – it’s just colder.
CK: Even if you’re not somebody who likes to go out to festivals, there’s so many yoga studios, or different types of fitness classes or health classes, or you can go to a class like at Tippecanoe [Herbs and Apothecary] –
AL: Yeah, I actually really enjoyed going to that. I love that there are hidden gems and stores that are doing, like, a Tuesday herb class. or a Thursday meditation class.
CK: Yeah, and – I’m not sure if it’s all of Milwaukee county or just Milwaukee - but someone puts out a seasonal recreation guide.
ES: - I think it’s Milwaukee County Parks, it shows you –
CK: You wanna knit? You can knit.
ES: Or art classes!
CK: You wanna sit and talk with a bunch of people about your cats? They probably have that, too! Or you can just come over to my house and talk about cats, that’s fine. (laughs)
ES: I think a lot of people in Wisconsin that aren’t from Milwaukee, they’re always scared of here –
CK: Oh, I was terrified –
ES: - Because it’s like, the big city of the state. We’re not Chicago or Detroit. We have crime problems, but most major cities have crime problems. They have a stigma of that, and there’s so many good things you can do – the crime sucks when it happens, but that’s not the majority of what happens here. (laughs)
After hanging out a little longer and filling each other in on the latest Netflix documentaries, it was time to head home. Unfortunately, I got caught in the sudden torrential rainfall (remember what I said earlier about autumn in Wisconsin being fickle? It can happen within the same day), but I didn’t mind. I had walked away from a very insightful conversation with two people who were able to find their home, their passions, and each other in Milwaukee - and that’s a silver lining to any storm.
Would you like to be interviewed next, brag about your favorite city, and gush about how you’re Milborn-and-raised? Fill out our contact form with the subject #milbornandraised to be considered!