Peaches Ellis leans against a railing of her porch in Sherman Park. The 49-year-old wears a wide smile; her bellowing laugh can be heard early and often, in between sentences, up and down a sunny 41st Street. “It was beautiful, it really was,” says Ellis of growing up in Milwaukee. “That was a long time ago. But it was beautiful because it was more peaceful, everybody got along, everybody helped one another.”
Timothy Seeger greets “Mo,” a Muslim employee at Capitol Smoke Shop, 6924 W. Capitol Dr., with the customary greetings of “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greater”) and “As-salamu alaykum” (“peace be upon you”). Seeger, who’s there for two packs of Pyramid Blue King cigarettes, which he refers to as “modern-day peace pipes,” pays the bill of $11.50 in dollar bills and pennies. “When you think about it, there’s no fighting and no arguing when people are smoking cigarettes, for the most part,” says Seeger, who only began the habit three years ago, at 58. “They’re calm, relaxed; It’s like weed … but this is legal.”
M.J. Perez stands on the front porch of her home in Muskego Way finishing a cigarette, taking a break from her granddaughter’s birthday party. At first glance, Perez doesn’t have the look of a native — she’s wearing a Minnesota Vikings jersey — but she quickly puts the thought to rest. “I’ve been here all my life,” she says. “Mostly on the South Side.”
Raymond Clark rings his bell, decked out in a standard-issue Salvation Army frock and a red winter hat, “Milwaukee” emblazoned across the front. He greets comers and goers as they pass by. “Have a good day, ma’am … have a good day, guys,” he says. No one gets by without a few kind words.