How Young Paul Got His Name

06 Jul, 2014

by Anja Notanja Sieger

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One day I plop down on the couch near a woman and her family because they look like they are having a riotous conversation and I want in.

The woman is having tea with her former boss and her children. She cackles at my idea of him as the father of her children. “He’s actually the son I gave up for adoption many years ago.” Ah! That was my other thought, the significantly older brother to Jennifer’s teenage children. But no he’s not, he’s just her old boss. When Aaron, the old boss gets up to use the bathroom, Jennifer tells me, “I don’t know if you’re seeing anyone, but he’s available.”

Jennifer and her kids live in North Prairie. I ask, “Where’s that?” It’s in Waukesha, a suburb of Milwaukee. Her daughter, Joy says, that when they took a cruise of the Mediterranean she just told everyone that she was from a place near Chicago. “Overseas all people know about America is Chicago and New York,” Joy says matter-of-factly. Jennifer looks with surprise at her daughter, “Not L.A.? Don’t they know about L.A?” Joy says no, she knows what she knows. She’s been around the world and is well-read. She wants to write young adult half fantasy half sci-fi novels when she grows up. Jennifer pipes in, “Post-apocalyptic so your mother will read them!” Joy doesn’t want to write post apocalyptic, there is enough of that already. “Why not pre-apocalyptic?”

To me, pre-apocalyptic means non-fiction coverage of current events, just like I am recording in my notebook right now. “Maybe one day you will be the Pfister’s Narrator too.” In response Joy says something very non-sequitur, she says, “I think the world is based on Hindu philosophy, resting on the back of four elephants.”

Paul, Jennifer’s other kid is very different from Joy. “Paul is very mechanical,” explains his mother.   Paul was named after Jennifer’s Austrian grandfather, Pius (pee-use) who hated his name. He was always the only one around named Pius, so he changed it to Paul at the start of his American life. He got a job at a shop on Mason street right by the Pfister. He sold wigs, cut hair and gave permanent waves. “They charged $1 a curl. That was really good money. Women would get 80 curls and that was rent back then,” notes Jennifer.

Another thing of note about Paul’s great-grandfather Paul: he pretended to be French when he moved to Iowa because it sounded classier. Classier than to be from Austria where he remembered a loaf of bread literally costing a bushel of money. At one point Paul’s cousin in Austria was captured by the Americans and transported to captivity in the states. Paul visited his cousin until the war was over and his cousin was allowed back home.

The conversation turns to explore Jennifer’s artistic streak, “I think I got it from my Uncle Paul who was a carpenter. He made signs and polished stones.” He learned how to polish stones shortly after joining the army. “He also got married right away so that he could get a toilet to himself. He couldn’t poop with the open toilets.” Jennifer went to art school at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design back when it was in a different building. “They had an elevator that would get stuck once or twice a week for like an hour because those Otis guys were sloshed.”

Jennifer, her boss and children consent to me taking a group picture.

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About the author

Anja Notanja Sieger

Anja is pronounced (ON-JUH) and 'Notanja' (not-ON-JUH). Anja is the person-conduit and Notanja is the spirit writing the letters. Both currently hang out in the Pfister Hotel and would like to meet you. "I am a performing typist who interprets other people's thoughts in the form of “prosettes.” Prosettes (poetry-letter hybrids) are typed for the customer on-the-spot, usually on a typewriter. For me the typewriter offers the pre-computer era tradition of translating ideas into clacking physicality. Customers can choose from the following options: Poetry, Love Letter, Insult Letter, Letter of Recommendation, Short Story, Letter from a Pet, Other. Writing letters requires me to pretend for the duration of the composition that I am the client.”

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