On the Road again – 3 – What made Milwaukee famous…

18 Mar

In the words of the song (and the version by Rod Stewart is the only one I’m familiar with) “What made Milwaukee famous, made a loser out of me” and it refers to the beer produced by the Schlitz brewery native to that city. It has over the last few decades, fallen from its premier place among beers of the USA – although I understand that a comeback is currently underway.

Be that as it may I remember it more as the setting for the comedy series “Happy Days” (1974 – 1984) – a show I seem to somehow manage to catch while missing a great many others of the same era. Possibly it wasn’t scheduled during children’s TV hours when I would usually have been working or just maybe it’s been repeated so often that I’ve viewed most of it by accident!

The reason all of that has occurred to me is that I am writing my first draft of this in a location that could, very easily, be a set for that show.

Apart from the 42 inch colour television showing the BBC breakfast news I could have been munching my mushroom and cheese omelette in late 1950’s America. The tables all have laminated tops and fancy aluminium (or “aluminum” if you’re an American and therefore unable to speak proper English) edging, while the chairs are furnished in what would then have been called “leatherette” – that’s PVC to you and me – in bright primary colours.

The concealed ceiling lights are constantly changing their pastel hues reminiscent of the neon lights of that era and there is a large “Rockola” Juke Box over near the bar. I haven’t been able to tell if this is functioning but the speakers around the room are putting out music of the time which is definitely of a “non-UK chart” variety. American, in other words.

When I first walked into the place I wondered if my 2004 Nissan Micra had suddenly turned into a time machine! It IS bigger on the inside and there is a thing under the bonnet which MIGHT just be a flux capacitor (if I may mix my time travel technologies) – but no.

This “Diner”, a transatlantic expression I know but there seems to be no better term for it, is open to the public but also serves as the dining room for the latest hotel in my UK travels.

After a week and a half of driving from the fairly nondescript County Hotel in Woodford Green down the Lea Bridge Road to a bakery site in Leyton (I never did get used to cattle grids either side of the North Circular Road – I’m in LONDON for <insert deity of choice>’s sake! Who has cattle here?) I have moved on again to a similar, somewhat larger site in Orpington, Kent.

And the hotel I’m at now (and will be for the next two weeks) is the “7 Hotel Diner” on the A224 near a place called Halstead and a couple of miles from Sevenoaks. It’s a very nice place – comparatively cheap for this part of the world (i.e. within the M25) – and while the room might be called “compact” I do, after all, only need to sleep in it.

I did nearly have a bit of an accident in the bathroom one morning last week – there isn’t a lot of room in the shower cubicle with my vast bulk in there and the controls were of an unfamiliar type. Instead of turning off the water as I wanted to I actually turned the temperature up almost to “blowing steam” level! There was nowhere to run so I had to act quickly to turn that tap off before my stomach started to blister. I managed it in time but went to the opposite extreme thus giving my neighbours a second scream to wonder about!

Those who know of my past history involving bathrooms, heat and third degree burns will probably be thinking that I really ought to take more care. Well, I will be from now!

Having started this piece on Wednesday morning before, during and after the excellent omelette mentioned earlier I returned to the bar area on Wednesday evening to try to finish it – the article, that is, not the omlette!

In keeping with the “what made Milwaukee famous” remark that I started with, I decided to have a bottle of beer while I wrote.

Alas they only had Budweiser – I really wanted to try a Schlitz! I don’t believe I’ve ever had it before.

Which means that those people over the years who’ve told me I’m full of it are all WRONG!


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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Travel related


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