An excerpt of this column originally appeared as a special to the Kenosha News, Sunday Mornings With Basil Willis, October 16, 2011
Almost four years ago I wrote a column about moving to Kenosha, and while the piece wasn’t entirely flattering, I did try to accentuate the positive. I moved here for love and since then have settled in, despite my constructive bullet points.
Most of our friends are scattered around the state and country, so visits usually involve an overnight stay. Last week we hosted Beth’s BFF, Heather LeMay, and Heather’s new friend Steve, who both live north of Milwaukee. Steve had never been to Kenosha and I found myself in the position of being an ambassador. It was a strange sensation looking at Kenosha through someone else’s eyes.
They didn’t arrive until Friday evening so we stayed in and ordered a smorgasbord from Tenuta’s, which Steve claimed was the best Italian food he’d ever had. We told him about the Italian influence in Kenosha, and Beth gleefully pointed out that one of the Tenuta guys on the pizza box was Heather’s prom date a couple decades ago. Awkward, small-world moment that Steve took well.
I’m a huge fan of Heather, and Steve turned out to be a worthy wingman. We were thrown together because our gals were best friends, and I could have done much worse. He was as laid back as me and spoke enough to be interesting, but didn’t feel like he had to fill space with idle chatter. He knew how to use “saw” and “seen” in the proper tense, which is kind of a litmus test for me.
Our Saturday got off to a bumpy start. Because of a cable TV show, every first time visitor to Kenosha wants to eat at Frank’s Diner. Or at least the people that live here think they do. I have been to Frank’s six times since I’ve moved to Kenosha and have yet to eat there. The two times that there wasn’t a line out the door and we actually went inside, we left after realizing the estimates being given for wait times were optimistic. We go out of our way to support local establishments, but bumping against strangers and getting barked at before I’m fully, or even partially caffeinated, just doesn’t work.
We went in and toughed it out for our friends but after five minutes all four of us, starving, looked at each other and decided to leave. In the future we’ll just drive by and say, “There’s Frank’s Diner.” They clearly don’t need my patronage to stay successful.
Serendipity led us to the Coffee Pot, a friendly place with a comfortable outdoor area, the best homemade bread ever, and a mean Bloody Mary. After breakfast we took a ride on the trolley and showed Steve all the downtown sights, stopping at the newish Irish pub near the marina, Ashling on the Lough, for another Bloody Mary and/or beer. It was the first time Beth and I had been and will not be the last.
If I was allowed to design the perfect weather day, it would have been this glorious fall specimen. We walked from the marina to the Farmers Market where we ran into Beth’s mom. She was in a lively conversation with former mayor, John Antaramian, who I understand was instrumental in helping develop what is now a vibrant downtown harbor area. Steve was getting the royal Kenosha treatment; meeting the mayor, dating a LeMay and hanging out with an esteemed (in his own mind) Kenosha News columnist. Had we come across an Aiello and a Ruffalo it would have been the Kenosha Trifecta.
We visited the public museum (Steve was amazingly schooled in glaciers and fossils) and had a late lunch outside at the yacht club.
That evening, after napping and freshening, we headed back downtown for dinner and cocktails. We started out on the deck at Pazzo’s and worked our way to Sazzy B’s where we sat outside. And that is where a superbly enjoyable day and evening turned deliciously weird.
We heard them before we saw them; moaning, screaming and growling, the honking of horns and ringing of bells. Our group stood up from our sidewalk table to see what was causing the commotion and around the corner came one of the trippiest things I have ever seen; a parade of over a hundred zombies on bicycles. They had pale faces and blood on their clothes. They were in all manner of dress and decay, from mutilated Elvis’ (Elvii?) to sexy zombie nurses; a cornucopia of rolling undead. They waved and hollered.
The rest of the night we saw zombies everywhere we went. The undead enjoy drinking and dancing and were very friendly. I was molested by a zombie with pigtails in a bloody school girl outfit (“umm… thanks, but I’m married”). We ended up at The Port, which was crawling with zombies, and it seemed much cleaner and less brooding since the last time I was there. Beth and I agreed it had lost its grunge since the smoking ban went into place, but it smelled a lot better and the drinks were worthy.
Downtown and the harbor is simply an awesome area and is the crown jewel of Kenosha. If only the economy were better. I would love living there and have a walking lifestyle, and I think a lot of people would if we could sell our houses. Steve mentioned a number of times how safe he felt, adding he always thought of Kenosha as more run down and dangerous. “Like Racine,” he said.
I could not have drawn up a better weekend, the best time I’ve had in Kenosha. Next year we are going to be bike riding zombies ourselves, and Steve can’t wait to come back. Any place that has bar-hopping bike-riding living dead is ok in my book. I think I’m starting to heart you, Kenosha.