People watching is a skill. If you’re good at it (and I really want to believe I am) you can master blending in, even if you’re taking notes and keeping your eyes up, about and above your coffee. People often sit, trying to go unnoticed, and to do so, they revert to the childhood understanding that if “I can’t see you, you can’t see me” and bury themselves in their work, their food, their drink, their smart phone or even clean out the contents of their purse with such dedication you might wonder if they’d even notice a fire alarm.
I keep eyes up. I don’t face front, I face all directions and turn frequently. I suspect people are wondering about me the same things I’m wondering (and writing down) about them, but after awhile, much like the cameras on Big Brother or any other mess of a reality program, they forget I’m there.
As your Narrator, I’ve had the great pleasure of being forgotten frequently. That’s when the magic happens. Once I’ve disappeared right next to someone, I’ve heard all versions of amazing, hilarious, sad and complimentary kinds of conversation.
The wisdom I’ve gained from this is important to us all. If you’ve ever wondered if you’re doing it right—life, that is—I’m here to say, odds are you are. Old, young, professional, career newbie, women, men, couples, singles, families—all of them engage in very similar conversations. People ask about others, share their concerns. People talk about common events. People discuss frustrations at work (and about co-workers). People express genuine thanks or appreciation to one another. Doesn’t matter who you are, I was an equal-opportunity eavesdropper.
But it was for your own good. What I overheard is evidence that we’re moving through this world, this cocktail hour, this hotel, this dinner, this town in very similar ways. We’re in it together, we’re getting it right.
So, below, I’m including for you as one of my last treatises to the ways the Pfister filled me up these past six months, a Mad-Lib of sorts of the random, detached comments I absorbed as an invisible observer in the hotel. They’re flying solo, detached from their owners and conversations, but you may recognize their themes and guess at which stories they fit.
What I hope you recognize is yourself.
I hope you see them as a story starter and that they inspire wonder and you create in your own mind the speaker and the connective narrative that surrounded these singular ideas. I know what they’re linked to. I know who said them. Those are my secrets, but I leave them for you to write your own story.
“Either you’re a Pfister person or you’re not”
“We become celebrity immune”
“Our Chicago friends don’t get it”
“That’s the New York you’re hearing, honey.”
“Is it too early for a cocktail?”
“The masseuse needs wine to see my body!”
“I like your new look, it’s great!”
“He wanted a martini, not a bloody Mary, a mimosa, something ‘morning’”
“I like ‘em here.”
“No, I’m waiting for someone”
“You gotta kiss a lot of frogs, honey”
“You hope the young people come, but…”
“I don’t get the Clooney thing”
“Frumpamuffin” (referencing Harrison Ford)
“If your dad and I ever hook up we could conquer the world!”
“He used to ride.”
“Now, I’m not a marketing major…”
“You get the golden star!”
“She’s a narrator, eh?” “There are a lot of other words for it…”
“Hmm, photographers… or really bad spies.”
“It’s a made-up holiday—a Hallmark holiday…Now that’s marketing”
“To get their favorite fix.”
“I have to have a wicked burrito from Taco John’s”
“We need another prohibition to get rid of this bad music.”
“I can get that done for you.”
“Ha! At two in the morning!”
“Well, we can wait at Blu!”
“Ha! The kids would never look for us there!”
“What’s your cholesterol?
“Well, that’s good.”
“I wasn’t getting any action just on the mixer alone.”
“I’ll make you famous
I’m already famous; I was on three episodes of Dallas.
A writer, actor, director and raconteur, West has written for various arts and architecture publications, been a commentator for WUWMs Lake Effect, and shares his opinions and insights on culture and the art of everyday life on his blog Artsy Schmartsy. He served as Head Writer for Wisconsin Public Radios Hotel Milwaukee, and his book Milwaukees Live Theater was published in 2009 by Arcadia Publishing as part of their Images of America Series. He most recently served as Director of Communications for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. West has been an active theatre professional for more than 20 years.
Along with his wife, opera director Paula Suozzi, and two daughters, Dorothea and Carmela, West lives in a cozy bungalow in Bay View, which he refers to as “the finest neighborhood in the world for beer gardens in lush parks, coffee joints, barbershops, record stores and pizzerias.” He can be identified by his signature bow tie.