Was it English theologian Thomas Fuller or Gotham City DA Harvey Dent who said the night is darkest just before the dawn? (Trick question: it was both.) Either way, might we suggest a Milwaukee version of the popular expression? When life is getting you down, when the remaining shreds of true-blue Milwaukee identity are being buried beneath luxury apartments and T-shirt-friendly flags, when the night is at its darkest, just remember that Milwaukee has a polka escalator.
Walk through the 6th Street entrance of the downtown Wisconsin Center (née Midwest Express Center, Midwest Airlines Center, Frontier Airlines Center, and Delta Center), hang a left, hang another left, and you’ll come across an escalator leading to the Hilton Milwaukee City Center skywalk. This is the polka escalator. You can tell because, at the top and bottom of the escalator, there’s a small black plaque with a button, and the words “PUSH TO PLAY POLKA!” Heed the plaque’s instructions and you’ll never guess what happens next:
The polka escalator is part of a permanent installation called Polka Time! by celebrated Milwaukee photographer and filmmaker Dick Blau. Blau’s handsome black-and-white photographs of polka bands and polka fans line the length of the escalator, humming with joy, love, and life. Also humming is the polka music piping out of ceiling-mounted speakers when you push one of those “PUSH TO PLAY POLKA” buttons.
On a recent visit/pilgrimage, a push of the button brought forth the “Life Is Good Polka.” With things like the polka escalator still kicking around in the nooks and crannies of Milwaukee, we agree. [h/t Jeff B.]