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Andy Larson stands outside the new Float Milwaukee, opening mid-August.
Andy Larson stands outside the new Float Milwaukee, opening mid-August.

First look: Float Milwaukee

If you’ve never heard of floating and sensory deprivation tanks, let us answer this question for you: it’s not a form of torture. Rather, some consider it the ultimate form of relaxation, injury recovery and meditation, and it’s coming to Milwaukee in mere weeks.

Andy Larson, who discovered the art of floating first on Kickstarter then in a now-defunct one-off float center in Waukesha, has floated all over the country. It didn’t take much convincing for him to get into the business himself and he will open Float Milwaukee in mid-August in Walker’s Point.

According to Larson, spending in hour in a super-salinated, silent, pitch-black tank, just might change your life. And no, you’re not locked inside. You can even set the lights low while you get used to the sensation.

"I'm trying to do clean, upscale and spa-like," says Larson, who is a CPA by day. "I want it to be comfortable for everyone."

The location at 211 W. Freshwater Way has room for five float tanks, but Larson will start with three. He says it’s not a claustrophobic experience at all, and the water is filtered and cleaned completely to achieve a very sterile float.

To answer another question, floating is nothing like those aqua tubes in the mall – enthusiasts, athletes and people who like to meditate, report a sensation of total relaxation (and even out-of-body-experiences) when they find themselves weightless, devoid of all physical sensations.

Each tank holds approximately 10 inches of water with 900 pounds of dissolved Epsom salts, which enable a person to float effortlessly. The water is heated to an average skin temperature (93.5 degrees) which reduces the sensation between body and water. The tanks are fully ventilated and water is sterilized using hydrogen peroxide. The entire volume of the water/salt solution is circulated and filtered three times between each float using ozone and UV.

Each room is totally private with a shower. Inside, the vibe is very much like a high-e…

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Getting ready to take some laps at the Milwaukee Mile.
Getting ready to take some laps at the Milwaukee Mile.

My fastest laps

A decade ago, I took a spin around the Milwaukee Mile in a special two-seat IndyCar. I did it again this morning as a part of Milwaukee IndyFest, and it was even better.

This time I knew what to expect from my media ride in the blue Honda open-wheeled car driven by British driver Martin Plowman. The warp-drive acceleration, steep braking and multi-G centrifugal pull as we took the Mile’s tight, flat turns felt unbelievable. I was grinning from ear to ear.

On my second experience, I was still nervous, but less so once I got in the car. Rather than thinking I was going to crash, this time, I just enjoyed my ride for a few laps at somewhere around 180 mph. Yeah, it was just as awesome as the video below looks.

Of course, that fire suit doesn’t really breathe on a hot and sunny summer day, but I think I’d like to be a race car driver when I grow up. And had I not sweated out my entire body weight during those three minutes, I would’ve stuck around for the actual Wisconsin 250 this afternoon. What a cool event for Milwaukee.

My adrenaline is still pumping.

If the Bucks leave Milwaukee, the city and state will suffer for years to come.
If the Bucks leave Milwaukee, the city and state will suffer for years to come.

I'm not a Bucks fan, but build it now!

My dad took me to a bunch of Bucks games as a kid in the ‘80s, and I still attend maybe a game every season. I liked my "old friendly Bango" foam finger, and I played tennis with Bob Lanier's daughters in Mequon. I’ve always enjoyed the experience of going to a Bucks game, but I'm also an increasingly discriminating sports fan.

Even though I haven't paid for a ticket out of my own pocket since I saw Michael Jordan take on the Bucks as a Wizard a decade or so ago, I realize that NBA games are expensive to attend. In fact, the experience feels more and more like a ripoff these days, given that the Bucks play in the woefully dated, late-Soviet monolithic hockey arena called the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Don't get me wrong, though. I'm a well-wisher of the franchise. I appreciate its history, from my neighbor Lanier to Paul Mokeski to Robert "Tractor" Traylor, and I'm happy when they succeed. But I don’t really consider myself a Bucks fan.

In fact, I don’t get that jazzed up about the NBA at all. I wish I did. My appreciation of hoops peaked in 1993, when my GW Colonials reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament, and it's settled out into a distant third place behind baseball and football on my personal sports depth chart. Yeah, I had fun watching the '90s Bulls, because athletes performing at the highest level are always interesting to me, no matter what the sport. I'm just far from passionate about basketball these days. That doesn't mean I don't have an opinion about it, however.

I understand the game reasonably well (thank you, Intellivision Basketball), and I understand a little about the business behind it, too, and I know that the existing facility where the Bucks call home is laughably inadequate. From the cheap seats to the luxury suites and boxes, there is nothing inviting about taking in a game in this big gray concrete octogon. Devoid of so much as a restaurant, it was obsolete before it was ever occupied, a half-baked attempt to attract an NH…

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Summerfest's colors don't run.
Summerfest's colors don't run.

No, you won't find Confederate flag merch at Summerfest, either

It hasn’t been a good month for the Stars and Bars. Only 150 years after it should’ve disappeared for good, national online and brick and mortar retailers have yanked the Confederate battle flag from their shelves and their sites.

In other words, you will no longer find Confederate beach towels, belt buckles or even the General Lee (I’m bummed about that, actually) at Wal-Mart, Amazon, Etsy, eBay or many other stores around America.

Fortunately, you won’t find them at Summerfest, either, in the state that lost 12,216 men to the Civil War.

I asked John Boler, Summerfest’s chief marketing officer, if the festival sold anything emblazoned with that controversial flag.

"We currently have 91 merchandise vendors at Henry Maier Festival Park," he replied. "To the very best of our knowledge, there are no items that feature the Confederate flag designs or imagery."

On my first three visits to Summerfest, I couldn’t find anything, either. I looked all over, although it’s possible I missed a few nooks and crannies. Lots of tacky displays of the American flag, but the "Stainless Banner" was nowhere to be found. Actually, I was a little surprised … but relieved, too.

You can find buy just about anything, classy or tacky, at Summerfest. Want an airbrushed painting of Vince Lombardi? Check. Jonesing for an e-hookah? Look near the Briggs Backyard. Lusting for a toe ring that says Jimmy? You’re in luck.

But if you crave a thong that, at best, celebrates "Southern Pride," and at worst, slavery … you’ll be whistling Dixie.

I expect to have this same discussion with State Fair next month.

A search for "Confederate Flag" on Amazon.com, the night before it removed all listings.