Jude Genereaux | New Years Eve. Our Way.

29 12 2014
Jude Genereaux & Norbert Blei

Jude Genereaux & Norbert Blei

New Years Eve. Our Way.

There are those of us “quiet people” in the world who’ve spent lifetimes avoiding the hardy HOoHaH of New Year’s Eve. We choose instead to scurry off together after the festivities of Christmas slow down, to savor the peace of just being a duo again. To seek out some place special to share hours of reflection and renewal, in the quiet of winter evenings infused with beauty and light.

This was our deeply held tradition, Norbert’s and mine. We tagged New Years Eve as our own, and escaped to: Milwaukee! The best kept secret in the mid-west. Milwaukee. City of old and treasured buildings and architecture, abundant with ethnic restaurants of every culture, gifted with the world famous Calatrava addition to the Art Museum – and boldly glittered & lit as festive as a city can be. Most surprising: there was somehow a quietness that cocooned the East Side as we walked the snowy sidewalks at night.

As much of a Chicago person as one can be, Norb still came to love Milwaukee. It was something we discovered and made Ours together. More negotiable in scale (and expense), and an easy drive from home in Door County. We could be there in a three short hours, to check into our favorite corner room at the (former) Park East, where we could walk to the museum and numerous galleries nearby. Walk to breakfast at the Plaza or the old Knick; walk past gracious brownstone homes and glorious churches, through the beautiful neighborhood of the East Side. Walk to dinner at the Lakeside, the County Clare Irish Pub or if we were lucky enough to be there on a Friday – through the city square’s brightly lit park to Elsa’s for giant shrimp and broccoli & honey-mustard sauce.

Afternoons were for bookstores. The old Schwartz bookstore (now Boswells) on Downer and the classic “Woodland Patterns” on Locust. Once inside, Norb could only be lured out by a good movie ~ or two … all the films that never made it north to the Door, we’d catch up on at the Oriental or on Downer Street. In between, to wander through Sendiks wonderful grocery to oogle the beautifully fresh produce, and never! missed stopping at Glorioso’s on Brady Street – an Italian deli loaded with wonder.

New Years Eve dinner itself? Only one place for that. “Three Brothers”- from Serbia. The Burek and Serbian salad – incomparable. Not everyone might “get” the ambience of its old country charm, but Norb cozied in like a cat in a cushion. Before all the new road work, it was nearly impossible to find – our first time, we drove in circles through south Milwaukee until nearly giving up, though thankfully we did not. Just a few years ago, one of the founding brothers, Branko Radicevik (now 91), joined us at our table to talk history and recipes with Norb. We did not know it would be our last time.

Norbert Blei & Branko Radicevik

Norbert Blei & Branko Radicevik

One crucial stop remained before returning to our room to watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York. A cab ride took us to the Pfister Hotel for after dinner scotch in the luscious golden lobby, relishing the beauty of the room and Jeff Hollander on the baby grand. Then to the top – the Blu Room, where a jazz trio normally held forth. We finished our kind of New Year’s Eve surrounded by just the right amount of glitter, soft sexy jazz, city lights and – the quietness we treasured, just the two of us.

Time is a river, rolling and roaring and whisking away our days … days that rush at us in abundance, tumbling forth one after another as if they’ll never end. They do. Our New Years Eves were high in treasure, and memory. Friends have followed our lead and some now walk these same paths; I’d ask that you remember us in our favorite haunts ~ that’s what I’ll be doing on New Years Eve.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection” ~Anaїs Nin.

Alchemy: a mingling; the medieval chemical science, object of which was to transmute base metals into gold, to discover the universal cure for disease and means of indefinitely prolonging life.


A frosty New Year’s morning
from a corner window, our favorite room
we watch the Calatrava salute
a new morning sun.

Sea smoke rolls off Lake Michigan,
the famous blue flame flags our cold walk
to the Plaza for coffee & eggs & early chatter.
Streets lined with brownstone mansions,
gothic churches and cafes steeped
in scent of the old country.
We wander through bookstores
the riverfront; the Oriental at two o’clock.

City lights dot & glitter the night sky as our
cab delivers us to the warmth of golden lobbies
beckoning “come inside”;
Pfister’s piano man teases longing and
memory from ivory & shadow
the tower turns, blue jazz on top.

We start again
open as Calatrava’s wings.

~ Jude Genereaux

Norbert Blei

Norbert Blei




16 responses

29 12 2014

Beautiful, Jude. You had me right there with you guys. What lovely memories.

29 12 2014
Martin Robinson

Happy New Year Jude. I regret we never accepted your invitation to join you and Norb for New Year’s Eve in Milwaukee. We’ll have an early dinner at Palm Court, just a few miles from us. Lobster for Mary. Dover Sole for me. Home by ten to watch New York and then Chicago on TV, with a champagne toast from a lovely bottle given to us by son Paul at Christmas.

29 12 2014

Touching and well written. I can hardly read anything about Norb without being touched and sad. Jude has expressed herself so well and written well about their friendship in this fine piece. Thanks Klaus and please extend my thanks to Jude. Gary

29 12 2014
Jude Genereaux

My friend, my teacher, my mentor, the love of my life, co-vivant, life partner and everything in between. Yes.

30 12 2014

Jude, just beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. Sounds like the perfect New Year celebration. Love the poem and Nin quote as well.

30 12 2014
Carol Doty

A lovely, poignant sharing, Jude. Thank you. I’ll be thinking of you on New Year’s Eve.

30 12 2014
Phil Hansotia

I notice how pine ciskins
like the tops pf trees,
and finches flock in spring
to feed on wildflowers..cheers
The silent ;llanguage of the jheart
finds the wavelength
that wings to its soulmate
and falls easily into place
The mystery is not in asking—–why ?
but in understanding —why not! cheers, phil

30 12 2014
Phil Hansotia

Norb was one of a kind, and you were perfect for him. He lives on!

30 12 2014

I can identify! We (seven) were at Three Brothers on Sunday night for Burek and Serbian salad and a couple carafes of red wine. Sounds like a perfect New Year celebration. We lived in Milwaukee for ten years, and know all the places you write about. Happy New Year!!!

30 12 2014
Alice D'Alessio

A lovely reminiscence, Jude. I imagine himself watching and nodding as you wrote this. It’s so perfect, and so perfectly the two of you.

30 12 2014
John Nelson

Thanks for this, Jude. Norb and Branko…great combo, wish I’d been there.

By the way, just came across a 2012 Christmas note in which he says he has to bow out of future writing commitments, as he needs to “…concentrate whatever energy I can toward getting my own final works done…”

SO wish he’d had more time to complete that immense task.

31 12 2014
Pete Thelen

Jude, most excellent!

31 12 2014

Thanks Jude. I felt those New Years days with you and Norb. I could hear the crunch under your feet and the smell of Italian, I had much to imagine with those beautiful words of yours.
Love to you darling.

31 12 2014

Lovely memories. I love the anais quote. Wishing you a peaceful new year.

31 12 2014
Phil Hansotia

Another Cup of Coffee

Black Body Parts
,Little bit of Truth,
a crude red boat,
Blei with his cup of coffee,
by the Door Way
down Door Steps,
like leaves of
a mighty maple.
Gazing at its scattered mantle
hoping the coming snow
will compost his [past
and touch twigs
of tomorrow with
that wry coffee smile
and a chuckle that says
“I’m not going away.

4 01 2015
Bobbie Krinsky

Dearest Jude, thank you! This is one of the best gifts i’ve ever had, this generous sharing of times so private for you and Norb and thus, so immediate. As I read your New Year’s Eve itinerary, I felt like I was there with you. And the eloquent but honest way you wrote this, you brought Norb back so vividly, I could hear his voice. You both were, no — are so unique, of course you were destined to find each other and enrich each others’ lives. I feel so blessed to have been there, to be there with you now, to dwell in what you both set in motion
. Big love, Bobberita

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