Once a businessperson, Linda Banning left a 15-year career in the graphic arts industry to pursue a love for creating, and bringing joy. Watch: Part 1 of Linda’s story. Visit Linda’s website to see her collection of stained glass and recycled glass jewelry. See more videos from Milwaukee Stories, Inc. Did you find value in this story? If so, please sign up to receive periodic updates. We need your help! Milwaukee Stories is a nonprofit organization that brings you the real stories of regular people. This work is supported by small, individual monthly contributions from people just like you.
Vanessa Plant sits on a yellow, vintage sofa in the living room of her first-floor Riverwest apartment. Plant, whose multi-colored hair and bright, flowered chest tattoo give a bold first impression, has lived around the world but eventually came back to her childhood neighborhood to put down roots. “I was born on Pierce Street, in a home,” she says. “Homeschool and church, those were my things. I mean, I was 6 so I don’t remember a ton — mostly just from old home videos.”
“Teaspoon” — or “Spoon,” as he refers to himself — sits on a set of concrete steps on the corner of 35th and Wright streets in Metcalfe Park. Spoon’s thin, medium-length dreadlocks, his rust-colored eye whites, rough, workman’s jacket and well-worn clothes distinguish him, yet he seems in place. “Life is not what it is; life is what it’s about,” he says. “You grow up and … you’ve gotta be whatever. Your momma help you, your daddy help you, but, at the same time, you gotta do the best you can do. You gotta survive. Life is all about survival.”
Leon Douglas leans on a car in the parking lot of a McDonald’s on 35th and Juneau. Douglas, who’s homeless and had been canvassing the outside of the establishment hoping for some charity, scarfs down a cheeseburger, with one still waiting in the bag; an order of fries and a large Sprite sit on the sidelines. “You had to learn the hard way,” says Douglas, who grew up without a father near 35th and Center. “All I seen was pimps, prostitutes, whores, things of that nature; nothing productive, nothing that offered me any real insight as to what the future might bring, as far as goals.”
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.”
Alexander James walks briskly down North Avenue on an early Saturday afternoon. James has somewhere to be, today, but it’s easy to get the feeling there wouldn’t be much slowing him down, no matter what. James, who grew up in the foster system, says he “bounced around, moved around a lot” as a kid. “Those are the cards I was dealt — my mother, she wasn’t able to take care of us,” he says.