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Great teachers make their mark every single day

It's teacher appreciation week and social media is humming with tributes to great mentors and educators. A few years ago, I wrote about the best teacher I ever had and about how I wished I'd had the chance to tell Mr. Pepper about the impact he had on my life.

When I became a dad and my kids neared school age, I hoped they'd have a teacher like Jack Pepper – one who knew when to be firm, knew when to be loving and knew how to reach and teach children.

A few years into their school careers, I can honestly say that my wish has already come true.

For six straight years, my family has been fortunate to have an MPS teacher who just may be the best my kids will ever have – though I hope she's just the first in a long line of similarly dedicated, caring, smart, no-nonsense teachers who will instill knowledge, critical thinking, confidence and independence in my children.

I will not name her here, because I suspect that it might make her uncomfortable. But she – and her principal and colleagues – know who she is, and that's all that matters.

When my shy kid was in her room, she nudged him gently along. When he spaced off, gazing out the window, she kindly redirected him. When he gave her a wallet-size print of his class picture, she put it on the wall. Years later it's still there, joined now by a picture of his sibling, who entered the room as he exited.

That kid brought a different spirit to school, but our teacher has worked hard to focus and guide and nurture that personality, too. When tough love is needed, tough love is dealt. When encouragement is required, encouragement is given. When incentive will work, incentive is provided. When praise will do the trick, there is praise.

Even on a tough love day, when it might be hardest for them to see, I think my kids know they are in the daily care of someone who loves them. And I'm sure they'll understand and appreciate later that their teacher was willing to do whatever it took to get them ready to face the w…

Yep, those are chocolate wings. At The Irish Pub in the Third Ward.
Yep, those are chocolate wings. At The Irish Pub in the Third Ward.

Chocolate wings? You betcha!

I love chocolate and I love wings, but I don't think I'd ever have considered marrying those flavors. Luckily, The Irish Pub, 124 N. Water St., in the Third Ward has.

I stopped in for a taste, but figured these wings could be amazing or, like chocolate covered bacon at the fair, two great tastes that, together, are simply meh.

Visiting with my intrepid colleague and fellow wings fan Carolynn Buser, we ordered a round of Jameson hot sauce wings and a round of chocolate thunder, of course. Wings at The Irish Pub are a buck apiece on the appetizer menu – you can order a dozen or a half-dozen – and come grilled or fried, with ranch or blue cheese.

The wings were on the plus-side in terms of size and arrived piping hot. 

This is how the chocolate thunder looked...

I know, right? The grill marks were alluring, and though the scent was chocolatey, the flavor was, thankfully, pretty subtle. They were good, juicy, grilled wings, lightly sauced, with a hint of cocoa flavor and a dash of tang.

But, honestly, even better were the Jameson wings, which were lighter on the sauce and packed a bit more punch and a bit more flavor. Both were really good, but I think Jameson stole the thunder here.

Also a revelation – though, if you ask me, a tad on the pricey side is the pretzel breadsticks appetizer ($8 for two deliciously buttered and soft breadsticks) – which is even better when dipped into the tangy honey whole grain mustard.

We also got a half-order of hand-cut pub fries, which were a bargain at $4. A huge basket of thick-cut fries arrived – with garlic aioli for dipping – and couldn't finish them. I can't imagine how big the portion is in a regular order. The only misstep of the meal for me was here, as the fries were cooked a little unevenly. But I'm not letting that tarnish the experience of some really good wings.

Downtown Milwaukee, from an aerial Uecker seat.
Downtown Milwaukee, from an aerial Uecker seat.

8 aerial views of Milwaukee

A few years ago, I unexpectedly flew a plane. It's true. I went to Timmerman to write a story about the airport and somehow ended up with my hands on the wheel of a small airplane, an instructor walking me through it.

I have a booklet marking my first hour of "flight training" as proof, should I ever decide to give it another go.

It was definitely fun, and, while I did actually take off and fly, my instructor landed the plane, which is likely why I'm still here today.

Every now and I again, I come across the photos I took that day. Now, I make no claim on being either an airplane pilot or a great photographer, but the combination of dabbling in those things resulted in some decent aerial photos of the city, some of which made it into the original story.

When I stumbled across them today, I decided to share them here, along with some great advice I received that day from my instructor, Daniel Gerard ... "don't drop the camera out the window."

The Courthouse, with wing

Downtown, with wing brace

The East Side, including Bradford Beach

Miller Park

Marquette Interchange

My house


Downtown, looking pale

"Eugenia's in the kitchen stuffing paczkis for a dime."
"Eugenia's in the kitchen stuffing paczkis for a dime."

Hear the compleat works of Mad Man Michaels, the bard of Mitchell Street

Though I was born and raised about 1,000 miles from Milwaukee, I grew up knowing the words to Mad Man Michaels' cream city classics – the A- and B-sides to his 1950s-era single: a "Dragnet" take-off called "The Czarnina Kid" and "Michaels Market (Kobasa Song)."

Thanks to my South Side (but not Polish) mom, that is, who carried the 7" single with her when she moved to New York City to marry my dad. I don't think she brought much with her, so perhaps it says a lot that the record made the journey.

Johnny "Mad Man" Michaels launched his program on Milwaukee's WOKY-AM in July 1953, spinning records, and sharing the news and weather. In 1961, Michaels moved over to WEMP – prompting a lawsuit by Bartell Broadcasters, which owned WOKY.

I haven't been able to find much about the man behind the music, but I trust you'll tell me what you know using the Talkback feature below or via Facebook or email.

In 1954, Michaels released "The Czarnina Kid" and the following year he issued another 45 with "Gwiazdor" and "Snack for Santa" – both on his own Michaels imprint and both also potentially issued on 78s.

Why I found this hilarious as a little kid in 1970s Brooklyn is a mystery – though he does mention a "tooshie bone" in "Michaels Market," so there's that – but I loved both sides and still do. Enjoy...

And here's a Milwaukee Polonia Project blog post that includes a link to "Gwiazdor" ...

And, finally, here's "Snack for Santa," thanks to Budding Ventriloquist ...

My friend Duane Dudek has also posted about these songs, and some related ones, including Frankie Yankovic's brilliant, "Who Stole the Keeshka," here.