The Pfister Five: Meet international model Raengel Solis

Welcome to a new series on the blog called “The Pfister Five.” Occasionally, order I’ll post a five-question interview with a guest. To kick this off, here’s a chat with Raengel Solis, an international model who stayed at the Pfister recently. 

Raengel was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. Eight years ago, she moved to New York City and three years ago to Miami, medicine where she works as a model for the Home Shopping Network and on Telemundo Miami.

“I love Miami,” she says. “Winter’s just not for me.”

Now fluent in both Spanish and English, Raengel moved to the United States knowing very little English, but learned the language at Worcester Community College in New York and through her job working at a busy supermarket.

“It wasn’t hard for me to learn English. Once I put my mind to something, I do it,” says Raengel.

Molly: What brings you to the Pfister?

Raengel: I am here modeling summer clothes for Kohl’s Department Store.

Just before I came here, I was modeling for Queen Latifah. She has a line of clothing called “Queen Collection.” I was so excited to meet her and she is the best famous person I have ever met. She is the same in real life as she is on TV and movies. She is not a diva.

Molly: How long have you been a model and what do you like about it?

Raengel: I have been a model for 15 years and I love it. I like the feelings I have when walking down the catwalk. I have a very fun life. I get to travel all over the world: Spain, London, Milwaukee. (She doesn’t even chuckle when she says “Milwaukee” after the two Fashion Capitals of the World. For this, I like her even more and mentally make her an Honorary Cheesehead. Actually, with her stunning looks, she’s probably one of the few people who could truly rock one of those foam cheese hats. But back to the interview…)

Molly: You were born and raised in the Dominican Republic. What is one thing about your home country that most people don’t know?

Raengel: The people are really fun. And they are very caring. Here, if you live in an apartment, you might not know your neighbors, but there, if you have a problem, you knock on your neighbor’s door and they will help you.

Molly: What are your thoughts on fashion and shopping?

Raengel: I love fashion, like all models. And I like Prada, Dolce. But it doesn’t have to be expensive for me to like it. Fashion is about personal style, mixing it together, not matching.

I don’t like shopping at all. I get tired of taking clothes on and off all day as a model, so I don’t like to go to malls with my friends even though they always go. I only shop online.

Molly: What is one thing you want to do during your lifetime?

Raengel: My mom got a fever when she was six years old and she lost her hearing. She has been to doctors but they could not help her. I would like her to see more doctors. I want her to hear my voice someday.

Talking New York City, identical twins and happy hours with the McDonoughs

It was clear Mary and Tim McDonough were having Date Night at the Lobby Bar. Snuggled closely on the couch in front of the fire, rx Mary cradled a glass of Shiraz and Tim held a Sambuca with three coffee beans. Engrossed in quiet conversation, they paused only to laugh.

Of course, the only element missing from this romantic scene was a complete stranger with a serious case of the chatties. And so I provided that.

“Hi, I’m the new Pfister Narrator. Can I pull up a chair?”

They might have politely told me to get lost, generic but when I explained what I was doing, Mary’s entire face lit up.

“We love the Pfister!”

Their love affair with the hotel began 25 years ago, when they were first married and came as guests of Mary’s parents.

“Has it really been 25 years?” Mary asks Tim.

“It has,” he says, smiling, and then to me: “Our 25-year wedding anniversary is in October.”

Fulfilling Guido Pfister’s vision for the hotel he would plan but not see finished in 1893, the McDonoughs treat the commons areas of the hotel as Milwaukee’s living room, regularly entertaining groups of couples they recruit to join them from all around the city.

The McDonoughs’ visits to the Pfister ceased for a stretch of time during The Baby Years. The couple has three children: twin boys who are now 22 and a daughter, 19.

All of the children play piano and so when they got a little older, it was a special treat to visit the lobby and listen to long-time pianist Dr. Jeffrey Hollander.

“We would give him $5 and request ‘Clair de Lune’ – the kids loved ‘Oceans 11’ – or our wedding song, ‘Love Is Here to Stay,’” said Mary, her sparkly eyes softening with wistfulness.

Tim took their daughter to dinner dances at the Pfister when she was a little girl and they celebrated, with Mary’s parents, their sons’ high school graduation at the hotel in 2009.

The boys have since graduated from college and plan to move to New York which, coincidentally, is where Tim and Mary met a lifetime ago.

“We met in a bank and the rest is history,” Tim says.

The opening of the Mason Street Grill was significant to the McDonoughs’ social life and it now officially has their favorite happy hour in the city. They often share small plates of food or split a hamburger.

“We’ve explored many of the happy hours in the city and Mason Street’s the best,” says Mary. ”And we love coming Downtown.”

Tim owns a printing company on the far West Side and often works until 6, so the fact that Mason Street’s happy hour goes until 7 is particularly appealing. They now come about twice a month.

“It’s our little get away,” says Mary. “It feels like New York. And we love New York, because we lived there, and now our boys are going to live there.”

Their sons, who are identical twins, plan to work for different companies but both on Wall Street. One will do equity research and the other investment banking. Parenting twins, it sounds, is a truly unique experience.

“I could text them the same question and they could be in two separate places and I will get almost identical responses. It’s crazy,” says Mary. “And yet, even though they are identical, they are really different, too.”

“The hardest thing about being a mother to identical twins is there isn’t a moment you aren’t feeling a little bit worrisome for the other twin. It’s not the same as siblings or ‘Irish twins’ (siblings born in the same calendar year). Whether they play basketball or golf there’s always one that’s going to do better, even if it’s minuscule, there’s always a comparison even though you don’t want there to be.”

There’s a few seconds of silence. Mary takes a sip of her wine. I absorb the aftermath of her honesty, something beautiful and rare in the world of motherhood.

“I hope I did a good job with them,” Mary goes on to say, speaking from a place of love and doubt that every mother harbors.

Tim chuckles and says softly, “Oh, you have.”

Although the McDonoughs have never stayed overnight at the Pfister, it might be in their future plans. If their daughter gets married someday, they hope to have the ceremony or reception at the Pfister.

And there’s that 25 year anniversary coming up …

The three-hour Milwaukeean

After I overheard – OK, online totally nosily dipped into – Mario Guerra’s cell phone conversation when he was sitting next to me at the Lobby Bar, I gleaned he had recently moved to Milwaukee.

“So how long have you lived in Milwaukee?” I asked Guerra, who was wearing a nice suit and drinking a Bud Light.

“About three hours, click ” he said.

That explains the Bud Light in MillerCoors Country, I guess.

But really, this was the perfect opening to what would become an engaging, two-hour conversation about Milwaukee, family, disappointment, successes and what led Guerra to the Pfister Hotel.

“Why am I at the Pfister? Because it’s the coolest hotel in Milwaukee. It’s Old Milwaukee, search ” says Guerra, who actually grew up in Milwaukee and moved away in 1989.

“When I was in high school, I played here for various MPS (Milwaukee Public School) functions and I was always in awe. My job takes me all over the world, India, Australia, London, and there is something about this hotel.”

The Pfister, in fact, was a beacon on the horizon for Guerra when he first moved back – about 180 minutes before our conversation. He had been living in Los Angeles, working for Prudent Technologies, and when the company signed a Midwest contract, he was the only employee who would even consider moving to Brew City.

Once he left Mitchell International Airport, while driving his rental car to the Pfister, it really started to sink in. He was living in Milwaukee again.

“I was like, ‘I’m really living here now. Ahhhh.’ And then I showed up at the Pfister Hotel and life is good,” he says.

Guerra was born at St. Mary’s in Milwaukee, attended Roosevelt Middle School and the Milwaukee High School of the Arts, and left in 1989 to attend the University of Texas.

A musician who plays keyboards, drums and “everything,” Guerra was in many bands. While in college, he worked in a dueling piano bar as a pianist. He also worked as a DJ in a strip club.

Guerra had big plans to be a rock star but decided to let go of the dream after choking down his thousandth packet of Ramen noodles.

“You ever been broke? It sucks,” he says.

Guerra also joined the Marines and served time in Afghanistan. Although he firmly believes in his mission as a Marine, Guerra suffered during his tour. He spent time recovering from emotional trauma in a military hospital and found out his wife had died in a car accident.

Today, Guerra is raising his 12-year-old son alone. The child is in California with his grandparents until Guerra can secure housing and determine where to send him to school.

“I had a great experience at MPS. I’m not sure where to send my son, though. He’s really into sports. I was more of an art kid,” says Guerra.

But for tonight, and a few more nights, Guerra’s happy just to be a resident of the Pfister Hotel.

“I have a lot of possibilities, but I just got here a few hours ago. Right now, I’m just trying to figure out where I’m having my next cocktail,” he says.

Guerra said he missed the food in Milwaukee the most  – specifically the barbecue at Speed Queen and Brady Street’s Emperor of China.

“Their fried rice is to die for,” he says.

But coming “home” to Milwaukee hasn’t been easy in some ways. The freeways are reconfigured. Some of his favorite places like the Brady Street Pharmacy are gone. (Guerra was, however, happy to hear that the iconic, quirky shop Art Smart’s Dart Mart & Juggling Emporium was still open on Brady Street.)

For Guerra, like all of us, life has taken some unexpected twists.

“I’m in my forties and I really don’t know everything I thought I would,” he says. “But I’m here, in the awesome Pfister, and I’m at a place in my career where I can be a little more funky. Finally sing the songs I want to sing.”

The Hello Campaign

Hello and goodbye: two of the most powerful words in the English language. Everything begins and, case as we all know from life and perhaps the words of Robert Frost, nothing gold can stay.

Hotels are the epitome of greetings and farewells. Guests arrive brimming with excitement and anticipation and then, a day or a weekend or a week later, pharm they put their belongings back into their suitcase. And they say goodbye.

This week, I got to say hello to my position as Narrator at the Pfister Hotel. I cannot fully express how meaningful this is to me. I am filled with excitement and ideas and yet, cialis also a little nervousness, hoping I can splatter-paint new life onto an already vibrant scene.

In the last couple of days, I have also had the chance to say hello to so many people at the hotel, including guests, staff and Pfister artist-in-residence Stephanie Barenz, with whom I look forward to working in a variety of creative endeavors.

Over the years, I have had the chance to greet so many interesting and inspiring people through my job at OnMilwaukee.com. I have also said hello to two sons, one who I traveled to Guatemala to greet and one who I met in the hospital, still connected to me.

I said hello to a partner who makes me feel alive and his beautiful daughter who sweetens my life.

This week, I also said goodbye. Over lunch on Saturday, I hugged farewell previous Narrator Jenna Kashou who, after a successful six-month tenure, passed me the torch (in the form of the Pfister Hotel parking pass).

Jenna said she was excited for me, but she was going to miss spending time in the hotel and seeing the staff and guests on a regular basis. I get this.

I have said good-bye to so many people and pets and things, including a parent, a 13-year marriage, a bandana-necked Chocolate lab with peace signs for eyes and – not in the same category but still – a beat-up, burgundy Cadillac Deville that was the first car I ever loved.

My father was an extremely nostalgic person. He often made the joke that he pined for events before they happened. I don’t want to be like this, but I did inherit the potential to be. So I am going to focus on the hellos even though I admit I have already acknowledged how quickly this time will fly by.

But I have six months before I have to proverbially pack up my Pfister suitcase. And in the meantime, I plan to savor every day of this experience and say hello to as many people as possible. So today, I am officially starting my “hello campaign” to the stunning Pfister Hotel and to its guests from around the world.

Aloha. Salut. Konnichiwa. Guten Tag. Ellohay. Hola. Namaste. Shalom. Dia duit. Buon giorno. Witaj. Jambo. Tja. Sawa dee-ka. Xin chào.

And, of course, as it reads in the Pfister hotel lobby, Salve.