the ramblings of a music journalist and nearly-published author.

Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

FYI: I started a crafty blog!

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While it may seem like I’ve forgotten about writing, I haven’t – just haven’t been feeling real inspired to write lately. One thing thats’ taken over a big portion of my life, however, is my crafts, oddly enough! I’ve been building all kinds of stuff from scarves to cakes to even art pieces, and decided to throw it all onto a second blog (though don’t worry, this one isn’t going anywhere). You can find that blog here. Even if I’m not updating this blog too often, be happy to know that I’m likely knitting, sleeping or working, and I haven’t forgotten about this. If you’re interested in what I do craft-wise, or want to learn something new, check it out!


Written by Liz Van Pay

December 2, 2010 at 8:56 pm

One of my favorite haunts: Blackbird Bar, Milwaukee.

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece for Milwaukee Magazine’s Bar Time Contest, on one of my favorite spots in Milwaukee, Bay View’s Blackbird Bar. While the piece has not yet been posted on the website (and I’m not certain that it will be at all – selection can be a bitch), I felt it was worth posting right here on the ol’ blog. If I am selected for contention I will let everyone know – just because every vote counts! Let me know how you feel, and if you’ve patronized Blackbird, if you think I’m at least a little bit correct.

Small bars are a dime a dozen in Milwaukee, and most are downright forgettable. The scene plays out as it has so many times before: you walk in, grab a beer, and walk out – maybe you have a decent conversation with a stranger to pass time after a long work day or in an attempt to extend last night’s bender. At Bay View’s Blackbird Bar, leaving without a memorable experience and a smile on your face is not an option. Situated at 3007 South Kinnickinnic Avenue, it can be difficult to find unless you’re looking for it (as it can be best described as a storefront space), but once you do, you will have found your new favorite watering hole.

Laid out in an open style with classic Milwaukee kitsch throughout, Blackbird is a non-discriminating hometown bar that makes you feel like part of the family just for walking in the door. With most drink specials under $5, these good times won’t break your bank, either. Happy Hour runs from 4-8 PM every day and offer $2 taps of Schlitz and Riverwest Stein, $3 microtaps and 2-4-1 well drinks. Find yourself going out for a drink a bit later in the day? Nightly specials are for you, beginning at 9 PM and changing on a regular basis. With twenty bucks in your pocket, you can get a great buzz going in a fun atmosphere with wonderful people from all walks of life. Any night of the week, you are assured great conversation. Sports fan? You can always just enjoy a beer while watching a Brewers game on one of two flat-screen televisions in the front bar area.

Speaking of the kitsch – there are large, intricate paintings of various blackbirds on the gold walls in the cozy back booth area. In the front bar, bright blue walls are complimented by gold lion statues circling the two large booths across from the long, padded (dare I say comfortable) bar. It seems like a small place from the outside, but spacious once you walk in the door. Depending on the nature of your visit – coming in to catch a post-work beer or with a group to celebrate a birthday or other event – there is ample and appropriate seating for either. Trying to pinpoint a genre for Blackbird is impossible, as there are always new faces and new goings-on that ensure boredom will never be a concern.

Looking for fun on a Thursday night? Every night from 7-9 PM, Blackbird hosts ‘Team Trivia’, a popular event in Bay View with prizes and snacks for attendees. Monday nights have been coined ‘Metal Mondays’ from 7-9, featuring – you guessed it – metal music and even more drink specials.

Open since 2008 and replacing the building’s former occupant The Groove, Blackbird has created its’ niche as more than just a bar. It is the perfect marriage of bar and coffee shop, of great people and even better times. With more than just beer, Blackbird offers many different veins of amusement. Televisions (of course), board games, always-changing pinball machines and the always-popular photo booth are just a few items that ensure your great times at Blackbird are all but guaranteed with just one stop.

Written by Liz Van Pay

August 2, 2010 at 8:37 pm

A colorful life.

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As funny as it sounds, I never intended to become heavily tattooed. At 24, I have approximately 30 pieces, and I never thought for a second that it would extend past one or two. Many people have long-winded stories about their pieces (think the typical tattoos done on a show like LA Ink), and most of them involve death, loss, and sadness. My story isn’t like that at all. I am a bubbly person with a personality much like my mother, and have tried to let that reflect in the tattoos I’ve chosen to wear for the rest of my life. Not every tattoo has to be surrounded by sadness. Mine are a look into who I am, what and who I love, and how I choose to live. I don’t regret a single thing, and that’s what stays most important to me about the act of getting tattooed – no matter how serious or how ridiculous.

My first piece was a memorial tattoo. It was for my grandmother who I was very close to, and who I lost at the age of fifteen. Shortly before her death, her, my mother, and I went to a small store in Green Bay, WI called Mico Femina. During this trip, she purchased one of Amy Brown’s prints, called “Forget Me Not”. When I lost her, I was deeply affected for a long period of time, and I wanted to commemorate both her life and how much she meant to me with a tattoo. Almost immediately, I thought of that piece, and it was my first tattoo, and has since turned into the main part of a custom sleeve by Little Lisa at Titletown Ink in Green Bay, WI.

Family is a large part of my life, and I don’t only have a tattoo for my grandmother. My chest piece, worked on by Ryan Monahan of Naperville, IL and Adrian Valdez of Colt’s Timeless Tattoo in Appleton, WI, is a dedication to my parents. Two sugar skulls; one to represent each of my parents in the Día de los Muertos respect, in that while they’re still breathing they can enjoy the pieces, and when they’re gone, I will always carry them with me. The cupcake I carry on the inside of my left wrist also carries my niece’s name, Sarah. It took a long time for my sister and brother-in-law to conceive a child, and when Sarah was born the family treated her as our own miracle. When Sarah was three, she was afraid of many of my tattoos that featured skulls (especially the aforementioned chest piece), and I showed her the cupcake and showed her that her name was there. I asked her if that was scary. She shook her head, blushing, and laughed. “No, Auntie. That’s not scary.” I will never forget that day, and will never regret the great amount of love I carry for my family and friends.

Some of my best friends in the world have tattooed me, even if they aren’t tattooers by trade. Some apprenticing, and some just because. Most of those tattoos? Teeth. At current, I have four teeth tattooed in various places, all with a different look and all with their own stories. The world of tattooing has also given me an outlet to meet people I never would have, people who all come from different places and have their own interesting stories. Every tattoo is a memory, and my memories are a gift that I’ve chosen to show off on my skin.

Written by Liz Van Pay

June 28, 2010 at 8:04 pm

I wrote a book.

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If you’re anything like I am, you have definitely had a job that you hated getting up and going to every day. There is only one difference between you and I: my former job was like the saddest, worst soap opera I ever could have dreamt up, but the worst part was that it was all true. Back in November 2009, I finished my manuscript for On The Sauce: A Cautionary Tale of Being Burned by the Pizza Industry. Below, please find the first chapter of the manuscript, and feel free to offer any advice or criticisms. For more info, check out the ‘On The Sauce’ tab on the right-hand side of the page, over yonder.

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Written by Liz Van Pay

June 21, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I used to be straight edge.

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Growing up, many kids desire a feeling of belonging. A feeling of being a part of something bigger than themselves. For me, that wasn’t being part of the high school Yearbook Club, or the Drama Club… I wanted to go bigger than that. For six years, I considered myself straight edge – abstaining from “the big three” – alcohol, drugs, and promiscuous sex. From age fifteen until age twenty-one, I lived and breathed everything edge. I listened to the music, I went to the shows, hell, I even got three X’s tattooed. As I grew up, things changed. The people changed. The scene changed. When I got into it, edge was something serious. While it wasn’t classified as a gang then as it is now, everyone’s intentions were much purer. Everyone genuinely cared about giving straight edge a good name, instead of beating it to an unrecognizable pulp.

Some have argued with me and said that I only gave up on it because I wanted to drink and do drugs. Not true. As I grew up and spent more years involved in the scene, I realized that upstarts were showing up out of the woodwork. They claimed that they were abstaining from not only alcohol, drugs, and sex, but caffeine, meat, and a myriad of other things – and many of them were selectively so. The boys would abstain from alcohol and drugs, but still bang everything on two legs. Straight edge became more of a joke than a serious movement. As I grew up, I also realized that I didn’t want to live my life with boundaries – even self-inflicted ones. One thing had to go, and it was my straight edge lifestyle. While I still feel passionate about the time I spent, I couldn’t feel good about continuing. Straight edge was turning into something it was never meant to be. The straight edge movement I became a part of at age fifteen is something completely different than what it’s turned into. In recent years, it has been considered a gang instead of a movement. I couldn’t be a part of it then, and could never be now.

This is not to say that straight edge is entirely flawed. I know many people who have been edge for five, ten years, or their entire lifetime. They still carry the original beliefs of the movement, and I have no problem with that whatsoever. I would never do anything but commend those who have stuck with their original decision.

Before I broke edge, I questioned my family and closest friends, asking if their opinions of me would be different based on my decision. Their answer? “We love you no matter what you want to be.” Their blessing was important to me. I have never been and will never be a selfish person, and I want my family and friends to be part of any big decisions I make – especially the life-altering ones.

Just because straight edge changed, I am not blaming others for my decision. Straight edge is a very personal decision, and it just didn’t fit me anymore. Looking back after nearly four years, I can say that I wouldn’t change a thing. I still have family and friends who are proud of my accomplishments, and am still proud of myself. I volunteer on a weekly basis, and I work a full-time job. Just because I decided to break edge, I did not decide to become a terrible person. If anything, I’ve become a better one.

A variation of this post was originally written for several months ago, but was not selected for posting.

Written by Liz Van Pay

April 27, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Posted in 2010, personal, random

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