Veterans Day at the Pfister
14 Nov, 2011
by Ed Makowski
This past Saturday I asked Pfister Chef Concierge Peter Mortensen (found out chef translates to “chief,” and not strictly the cuisine variety. Yep, I asked.) to grant me a tour of a few rooms and unique suites. The Pfister is actually two buildings, the initial 1893 Wisconsin Avenue building and the 1960’s tower addition which stretches the hotel to Mason Street. I wanted to get a feel for the subtleties of each. Saturday morning there was time prior to check-in so Peter and myself raced around the two buildings. Just in case…Knock knock knock. Knock knock. “Good morning, Concierge…”
After my whirlwind tour I sat in the lobby lounge and ended up meeting David and Patrick. These wonderful Polish “Sout-Side” gentlemen were in town for the Veteran’s Day parade. Amongst many things we talked Milwaukee history, state politics, brandy. Growing up David and Patrick’s neighborhood on the South Side featured a deli which carried several different types of European sausages. A Hungarian made the Hungarian sausage. A German immigrant ground and cased the bratwurst. A Polish employee…and so on.
What stuck with me most was Pat’s experience during his tour in Vietnam. He explained that there was one day which defined his time serving there and his life as well. Pat graciously allowed me to record him telling the story he doesn’t tell very often.
It’s pretty rare that the storyteller relays something so serious as, “I feared for my life. Then…I feared nothing,” and by the end is laughing from his belly. My new friend Pat is a class act.
My barometer for if an interview is this simple criteria: After arriving at my destination, would I sit in the car to hear the end of the story? If yes, then the work is worth sharing with people. If no, then I chalk it up to a learning exercise. This one is definitely “sit in the car” worthy.
To all of our veterans- Thank You.