With summer on its way out and fall slowly creeping in, “back to school” fever is in the increasingly chilly air. But you don’t have to be a kid, a teen, or a college-age student to get in on the fun: thanks to Milwaukee Public Schools’ Department of Recreation and Community Services, anyone can enjoy the thrill of learning something new while suffering through awkward class introductions. Yes, this year’s fall Milwaukee Recreation guide is loaded with hundreds of courses open to residents (and non-residents) of all ages, covering time-honored areas of interest like arts and crafts, cooking, fitness, sports, and swimming. But sprinkled throughout are a few classes that simply defy explanation. With time still remaining to sign up (mail-in and fax registration ends September 8), here are 11 Milwaukee Rec classes that can only be described as “wonderfully weird.”
How to Draw a Portrait of Your Pet
The Internet is teeming with pet photos and pet videos, but when was the last time you enjoyed and/or created a pet portrait? New this year to Milwaukee Recreation is a delightful course in creating an artistic rendering of your beloved Rover, Whiskers, or Mr. Socks. “We will provide you with the confidence and ability to recreate, from a photo, your pet into a piece of art that you will treasure forever,” reads the guide. Consider it a far-less-creepy alternative to a class on stuffing your pet or turning its ashes into a charm bracelet or whatever.
With all things geeky and Ren Faire-y more popular than ever, and with the new Milwaukee Blacksmith reality show currently clanging away on the History Channel, there’s never been a better time to take a course in chain mail. Not that you’ll be forging full suits of armor, exactly: “Learn the very basics of chain mail as you produce a beautiful pair of earring and two bracelets,” reads the guide. We’re sure some judicious Monty Python And The Holy Grail quotes will still be appreciated.
Sundays in Wisconsin can be tough for non-football fans. How many “downs” are in a “drive”? What’s a “nickel defense”? What’s the deal with “Joe Buck” and “Troy Aikman”? Happily, Milwaukee Recreation’s Football Lingo course is here to help pigskin newbies hang with the seasoned pros. “Do you live with or know someone who watches a LOT of football?” the guide asks, narrowly avoiding prefacing that question with “Hey ladies!” “Do you want to become more knowledgeable of the game and contribute to the conversation?” Of course you do. This one-time-only class is held on Saturday, September 10—one day before the Packers play the Jaguars—making it a must-attend for folks who are forever mystified by passing routes and anything that comes out of Terry Bradshaw’s mouth.
One of the most peculiar aspects of the whole survivalism (or “prepping”) movement is the assumption that when the shit goes down, you’ll be one of the lucky few still standing. Isn’t it more likely you’ll end up as a zombie and/or a pile of smoldering ash like everyone else? Probably, but that’s not stopping this course from teaching you how to build a debris hut and lean-to in the off chance you find yourself in an “emergency situation” where “even the most basic of wilderness survival knowledge could mean a world of difference.” A library full of Tom Brown, Jr. books isn’t required, though it’s likely encouraged.
“Laughter is a healing force!” proclaims the description to Laughter Yoga, which is a thing. Put on by the “Hysterical Society of Milwaukee” (ha), this course promises stress, tension, pain, and depression reduction coupled with a fun and easy aerobic workout. And laughing. Lots of laughing. Students are encouraged to text their friends “IRTLOLBIJSUFLY,” which, of course, stands for “I’m ready to laugh out loud because I just signed up for Laughter Yoga!”
Fun Fact: John Lennon cribbed some of the lyrics to “Tomorrow Never Knows” from The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based On The Tibetan Book Of The Dead by Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and Ralph Metzne. “Whenever in doubt, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream,” read the book, which aimed to be a spiritual, emotional, and ego-eradicating guide for folks tripping their balls off. Illegal hallucinogens aren’t part of Milwaukee Rec’s Guided Visualization course (well, officially, anyway), but the promise of a meditative journey “that will allow for healing understanding, or stress relief” sounds trippy enough on its own.
Looking to add that “little bit extra to your next presentation at work”? Hoping to “impress your friends”? Just looking to do anything this fall? Then this Circus Skills class is for you! For a $33 residents fee ($49.50 for non-residents), you’ll learn the ins and outs of balancing, magic, puppetry, and showmanship. Oh, and juggling, of course, because nothing spices up a soul-deadening PowerPoint presentation or an awkward coffee date quite like some unsolicited juggling.
Like ghosts, alien abductions, and anti-Semitic messages hidden in Shorewood sculptures, numerology is not real. But hey, what’s the harm in mucking around with it anyway? “Discuss the significance of your favorite or lucky number and how the world of numbers is mystifying, fascinating, and available to everyone,” reads the guide. Though it’s not mentioned specifically, the course will also likely delve into the hidden meanings behind the $8 residents and $12 non-residents fee.
Reiki for You and Your Pet
Reiki, the Milwaukee Rec guide explains, is a “Japanese stress reducing relaxation technique based on the concept of utilizing one’s ‘life energy.'” And what Japanese stress reducing relaxation technique based on the concept of utilizing one’s “life energy” would be complete without a questionable application to one’s pets? “Learn how this energy can affect animals and how their chakra systems work,” reads the guide, before dropping the hilarious bombshell that no pets are allowed in class.
Romantic Story of Scent
“You will discover what scents bring love and what common household spice may bring you money,” teases the description for this odoriferous course. Presumably that common household spice is tied in with the the $7 cash-only, non-refundable supply fee due to the instructor at the beginning of class.
Develop a Radio Personality
Think of history’s great radio broadcasters: Orson Welles, Paul Harvey, Bob Uecker, Howard Stern, Dori Zori. What do they all have in common? Great voices, of course. Yes, radio personalities aren’t born, they’re bred, and this Milwaukee Rec class will help you unleash your inner morning zoo DJ. An unnamed “veteran radio announcer” will be on hand to give you pointers in creating “the voice that inspires people to hear you day after day.” Like a young Stern, you’ll be crowing “W-NNNNNNN-B-C!” in no time.