“Mod Geometric Flower” (and the end of my pandemic lifestyle)

Just a quick roundup of my life lately here in Milwaukee. Topics for today:

  • a parking lot photo
  • my car troubles
  • the Milwaukee Bucks and clean streets
  • ending my pandemic lifestyle

So first, the photo. I’m calling this “Mod Geometric Flower,” even though it’s obviously an outdoor light fixture.

I took this picture with my phone Saturday evening as I walked out of our grocery store. Pretty striking, hey? I love the black lines around the diamond brilliance of the lights. That light fixture is normally very ordinary looking, but I think what caught my eye on Saturday was the variegated, watercolor gray of the sky against the black metal and the startling white light and reflectors.

After pausing to take this photo, I loaded groceries into the car and was ready to head home. However, when I turned the key in the ignition and shifted into drive, my car died almost immediately. I tried again and this time got about ten feet farther before the car died again. So my husband and older daughter came to pick me up (along with the groceries, which included some frozen items), and then my husband and I went back to the parking lot of the now-closed store to wait for a tow truck to take our car several blocks away to our local mechanic. Just a little aggravation and several hundred dollars later, our car is back in business.

While my main car was in the shop, I drove our almost-25-year-old “kids’ car” to my eye doctor’s appointment yesterday morning. Which was good because we try to drive that car regularly enough for it to remain in good running condition. This was the car I drove to work for many years before we upgraded to a larger vehicle that could accommodate the carpool thing when our kids were younger and involved in school activities. When we got the minivan, we decided to keep our older car (which we owned free and clear, after all) as a backup. That decision has paid off for us many times in terms of peace of mind when we’ve run into trouble with our other vehicles.

On my return home (in my 25-year-old car) from the eye doctor on the East Side, the drive west on Juneau took me past both Water Street (Milwaukee’s “party” strip of bars and clubs) and Fiserv Forum. As you probably know, the Milwaukee Bucks won the game (pretty convincingly, too, imo! 🙂 ) Sunday night. There was a huge crowd of people watching the game on large screens in the big plaza right outside the arena in addition to everyone inside watching the game in person. After the victory, all those people were stoked and no doubt stayed downtown awhile longer to celebrate.

And yet, as I drove past Water Street and Fiserv Forum yesterday morning, everything was neat and clean. You’d never know anything out of the ordinary had happened just hours earlier. No litter, no disarray whatsoever. In the “Deer District” the barricade fencing and large TV screens were set up on the arena grounds, and the entire plaza area was definitely prepped for continued crowds in advance of tomorrow night’s game, which is also here in Milwaukee. There was at least one large electronic street sign displaying a message that only game ticket holders could pass, meaning that the street was closed off to traffic Sunday, but even that sign had been rolled out of the way into the parking lane yesterday. Juneau was completely open to through traffic.

I was impressed. Especially by how clean everything was. The socialists who ran Milwaukee for much of the 20th century’s first half were known as the “Sewer Socialists.” (See the Wikipedia article on sewer socialism HERE and the Wisconsin Historical Society’s article on the same topic HERE.) They kept the city clean and smoothly functioning. When I first moved here in the early 1980s, the first thing I noticed was how CLEAN the city was. (The second was how friendly everyone was 🙂 ) I’ve just gotten used to that over the years and only recall how very striking it was originally when I hear someone else new to Milwaukee remarking on the city’s cleanliness. But I have to say, I couldn’t believe that on the morning after that victory and the downtown celebrations that followed, those two key areas (Water Street and the Deer District) were so clean and orderly. Well done, City of Milwaukee workers!

After I got home from the eye doctor—who told me that I have the eyes of a jet fighter pilot and that my 20/20 eyesight has even improved since last year, to which I can only say YAY!!! for that great news after spending way too much time staring at my computer screen since the pandemic began and everything for work went virtual—I had to get right back to grading. I taught a summer political science class that started immediately after spring classes ended in May. As has been the case since March 2020, all my summer class meetings were virtual and all student work was submitted and graded online in a learning management system platform. Grades for the summer class were due yesterday by 4:30 p.m. I made the deadline with about twenty minutes to spare.

And that was . . . THE END!

I found my husband and told him that the moment I turned in those summer grades and shut down my computer, my horrible pandemic lifestyle was also over. Although I still have plenty of work to do this summer, I’m through with online teaching! MSOE plans to be back to holding in-person classes come fall. God willing, I will never teach another course completely online.

I did learn new technology and skills associated with online teaching/learning. And there were some good things about teaching online I hope to bring into my classes this fall. It will also be nice during winter emergencies that my classes can easily pivot to an online environment on days with lots of snow or terribly cold temperatures. Maybe I can even develop hybrid structures for all my courses that combine in-person and online class meetings and possibly even incorporate asynchronous elements for greater flexibility.

But let’s not go too far down that road just yet. My feelings about online teaching and learning are a mixed bag, complicated by the tremendous physical toll virtual education has taken on me.

I never truly realized the meaning of “sedentary” until I had to sit and work on my computer practically 24/7 for 16 months. Sometimes literally on the 24/7 thing. A few times I had to stay up all night to get necessary work completed. I’m too old for shenanigans like that. I gained 15 pounds during the peak pandemic months, even though my eating habits didn’t really change. That’s what no exercise does to you. Once things opened up, I did start going to campus to work from my office about half the time, so at least then I got the exercise associated with walking from my parking garage to my office (not to mention occasional walks to Starbucks 🙂 ). I’ve dropped seven of those 15 pounds, so maybe by the time school starts up again in fall, I’ll be back to normal. That would be nice.

For now, though, I’m just happy to have survived the past 16 months, just to be here, alive and fairly healthy. When you think about what the world has been through since March 11, 2020, that is no small thing!

 

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
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4 Responses to “Mod Geometric Flower” (and the end of my pandemic lifestyle)

  1. mworfolk says:

    I am really glad you will be heading back to the classroom! I share your relief at being able to teach in-person again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. paulrwaibel says:

    To see beauty in a light pole is a gift. You must be a natural optimist.
    I am so glad that I retired before the pandemic. I don’t think I could ever teach online. I always refused to use technology in my classes, except for an occasional short off youtube. I’m just a dinosour.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Paul! I don’t know if I’m a natural optimist, but I guess I do try. There’s plenty of ugly in the world; we don’t even have to look for it. What an unpleasant way to spend our lives if that is all we see!

      The online teaching is just such a strange thing. It had some nice upsides, but on the whole it sucked (which, while vulgar, may be the most accurate and precise descriptor:) )

      Like

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