I walked out of my house into the breathtaking cold and watched my bus rush past me through the slowly falling snow. I sprinted to the next stop and the bus driver reluctantly reopened the doors for me, as if I had somehow cheated the system. Settling down next to a man in his early thirties, I couldn’t help but see what he was doing on his iPhone. He had up the dictionary app and was finding synonyms for the word “dull.” I couldn’t decide if he was searching for words to describe his own person or his day. At any rate, I stepped off the bus after reading a chapter in my book, and headed towards 88Nine’s building for the Carnival and Mardi Gras celebration.
I wrote myself a nametag, bought a beer from the genuinely happy tenders, and served myself a plate of spicy jambalaya (courtesy of Kasana). Brazilian flags hung from the rustic walls, interspersed with twirling plastic parrots overlooking the stage and dance floor. A pretty girl in orange approached me and I wasn’t shocked to find that it was a part of her job—to enlist me to enter Dori Zori’s padded, sound-proof lair and divulge what makes me come alive. Positioned in front of a mic, I said something about biking down a hill with my hands at my sides and the wind whipping by my face and through my hair, feeling free and exactly right.
Marcus Doucette, with his long curly hair and confident voice, introduced the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s Samba Unit as they marched through the back door. The group spans multiple generations, and the three-year-old brought just as much energy and purpose as the members approaching 70. I felt an exhilaration that reached to my bones as the string of drum bangers, cowbell clangers, and salt shakers filed to their places and turned to face the audience. Three samba dancers who performed a series of movements joined them and encouraged the crowd to dance along as well as we could.
An elderly couple in front of me seemed wary of giving in to the rhythm of the samba, but after a few minutes, they were flowing in and out of each other’s arms as if their youth had been renewed. A handsome, young, dark-haired man stepped and turned so incredibly naturally that two middle-aged blonde women watched him more intently than the professional samba dancers on stage. For a short duration, two performers improvised a dance, which included high kicks over the other’s head, cartwheels, and flailing handstands. They circled each other like wolves compelled to be civil due to the magical properties of the music.
The Extra Crispy Brass Band strolled onto stage while playing their first song. The tuba player held a beer in one hand and pushed down levers with his other—a sight truly in tune with the band’s New Orleans vibe. The members of the Samba Unit filled the front row and danced passionately, uninhibited by their drums and bells, which they held while performing. “Uno Mas!” they shouted after practically every song. But the Brass Band hardly needed any encouragement to continue playing—they loved performing just as much as the crowd loved dancing. A human train formed and started making its way through the dance floor, but derailed, creating multiple trains headed in different directions. I high-fived one of the masked rebel train conductors and continued to enthusiastically nod to the music and shuffle in place until the music ended.
Walking to the bus stop, I thought to myself, “No day is a dull day at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee.”
Words by Micah Hall
Micah writes poems about avocados, plays guitar in order to let go of the past, and dances with his niece until his head spins.
Poems by Anja Notanja Sieger
Anja is a writer and artist known for her typewriter performance La Prosette, and the resident Narrator of the Pfister Hotel.
Photos by Sarah Nelson
Along for the ride, snapping photos, swimming with the tide, Sarah will write and shed a certain light, anywhere on her magnificent flight.