Cordials of Wisdom | July 2016

She works Tuesday through Saturday behind the bar in the Lobby Lounge, but in one sitting dispenses enough wisdom for an entire week (although she would probably chuckle her inward chuckle at me calling her quips and quivers “wisdom”).  She moves behind the bar with grace but always looks like she has a trick up her sleeve (she had several this afternoon, actually!).  Here is the first of multiple installments, I’m sure, of Valerie’s Cordials of Wisdom:

 

  • On the Art of Conversation.  “Allow the other to begin in one direction, like a straight arrow; allow them to take the lead.  Create the space where this freedom is possible, then begin to fill in the open spaces with yourself.  Follow the arrow down one path or the other path.”

Valerie has a quiet way of making you feel comfortable in the Lobby, waiting patiently for spaces that she can fill with wisdom, humor, impromptu insights, probing questions.  

 

  • Keep It Simple.  “Too many ingredients in a drink confuses the tastebuds.  Too many ingredients with dozens of other ingredients in them creates mud.  To avoid the muddle, in a drink (or life), keep it simple.  Complement simple ingredients with one or two others so that you can taste each one separately; if you’re lucky, then one flavor delight at the beginning, then give way to another, with a flourish at the end.”  

I learned this with her cordial of berries, coffee, and an ingredient that I’m not sure is secret or not, so I don’t dare mention it here lest I suffer the quivers of her “quips and quivers.”

 

  • Represent Your Places Well.  “Whatever places you represent, present them well.  Creating a relaxing atmosphere, a cordial experience, an unforgettable memory–this is who we are at The Pfister Hotel, for instance.”  

If you represent a school, present in every place you go as an ambassador.  If you represent a household, model for others what kind of family you are.  The same goes if you represent a company or a religion or a political office.  You are a synecdoche, a part that represents a whole.  It’s so easy to forget this, isn’t it?

 

  • Your Perception Directs Your Course.  “If you think that that black cat crossing your path is going to give you bad luck, then it’s more likely that you will have “bad luck.”  Your belief will affect the course of your day, making you more apt to identify “bad luck” when you might not have before.  Have you ever heard, however, about someone looking forward to a white cat crossing their path?”

Perhaps if more of us did . . .

 

  • Your Doubt Will Blind You.  “Here are three quarters separated by two dimes, all in a row.  Can you move two adjacent coins at a time, left or right, in three moves, so that the three quarters and two dimes are next to each other, with no spaces between any coins?”

I tried.  And tried.  And retried.  The answer to her question was a frustrated “No.”

“You doubted yourself.  You had it–the third move was right in front of you.  Many times.  But you doubted yourself.”

After whining a bit, I think, she calmly moved two coins, then two others, then two others.  And the coins aligned.  Then she brought out the cocktail napkin, ripped it into shreds, blew on it, and waved it in front of me like a white flag.  But it was me who was surrendering!  Magic . . .

So if you’re downtown when Valerie’s working and you’re feeling all quarters and dimes–or even worse, feeling like a shredded napkin–then step into the elegant Lobby Lounge, pull up a chair, bend one ear to the piano and another to Valerie, and get ready for some true Cordials of Wisdom.

 

Author: Dominic Inouye

As a teacher for over twenty years, Dominic Inouye has worked with everyone from elementary school students to adult learners, creative writers and physical therapists, to help them develop their reading, writing, critical thinking, and, most of all, their voices.  He began his career at Marquette University, expecting to become the next Mr. Keating from Dead Poets Society, then made a surprise move to the high school classroom, where he found his home at Pius XI High School, then later at The Prairie School in Wind Point, Wisconsin, where he is completing his seventh and final year as an English teacher. Never one to pull an old lesson plan out of a dusty file cabinet and re-use it year after year, Inouye began experimenting from the very beginning with how to integrate authentic, real-world, transformative learning into his students’ study of literature and the expression of ideas.  Examples include his founding of the Milwaukee Spotlight Student Film Festival, the C.L.A.S.S. program, which brings together 4th-12th graders for service learning, and the Senior Capstone program of individualized research projects.  As expected, Inouye will not be bringing any dusty ideas to the Pfister--only creative celebrations of new voices. Inouye was chosen to serve as the hotel’s ninth Pfister Narrator based on his writing style, his vision for the role, and his personality.

  • blurondo

    In the late 70’s, Valerie and I worked in the Crown Room at the Pfister. At that time it was one of the few remaining cabarets in the midwest. All that she presents today was there then. I’ve been fortunate to know her these many years.

  • Dominic Inouye

    Blurondo: Thank you for your comment. I’d love to hear more about the Crown Room cabaret. What stories do you have that could bring The Pfister of the 70s to life?