Tickled Ivories and the Wisdom of Pearls

Sometimes when you think you’re part of the show, seek you actually end up spending some time in the audience. When you’re in the middle of performing and you get surprised by something that captures your eye that when things get real—and good.

I recently had the unique pleasure to visit with a group of journalists on a tour of Milwaukee who made a stop at the Pfister. Our Resident Artist Todd and I have a nice little dog and pony show worked up at this point for these types of occasions. Todd takes the lead with true aplomb talking about history of the art and architecture at the Pfister and I round out our talks with general information and some fun facts. Got a spare half hour or so? Todd and I would love to meet with you and gab on and on about the Pfister.

This was a particularly engaged group of journalists. They asked good questions, sovaldi sale had wide-open eyes, and were full of smiles. It felt more like an afternoon with friends than a tour with strangers.

We generally start in Todd’s studio and make our way across the lobby and then up to the second floor to look at the art collection. We stopped at the landing overlooking the lobby next to the elevators and Todd and I made the snap decision to head to the seventh floor with our group as we were having such a good time and none of us wanted it to end. We split up since our group was so big, and I headed up in the elevators first.

My small group arrived on the seventh floor and we were just chatting about all the fun weddings and luncheons and parties that happen there as we waited for Todd and the others to catch up. As we chatted I couldn’t help but hear a lovely lick of piano music playing behind me. I turned around and was instantly delighted to see that one of my group, an energetic and friendly lady named Rebecca, had seated herself at the piano and was tickling the ivories.

It was lovely, a real great afternoon treat.

Rebecca explained that in addition to being a travel writer and journalist, she is a professional musician who plays cello in her own chamber orchestra back home in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We all gave Rebecca the applause she rightfully earned for her impromptu afternoon performance and went about the rest of our tour.

As Rebecca jumped in with the group she said to me, “Oh, don’t forget to have me tell you about these pearls.”

In a matter of moments I had gone from leading a group of people through the Pfister to being led by a new friend. A really good performer knows a secret trick: leave them wanting more. I certainly could have listened to Rebecca play for the group the rest of the afternoon, and now she had me on the edge of my seat wanting to hear the story about her pearls.

Our tour ended, and I had my chance. I pulled Rebecca aside and reminded her that she had a story to tell me. She did, and it’s a good one, and I’m sure my new friend wouldn’t mind if I share it with you.

Rebecca told me that when she’s back at home in Arkansas she is often invited to a standing ladies luncheon. One day the group’s organizer, a grand dame of the local luncheon set, pulled Rebecca aside as she entered for lunch and said, “I would like to speak to you privately once lunch is done today.” Rebecca told me she gulped her way through her salad, fearing the worst from her intimidating hostess.

Lunch ended, and Rebecca hoped that she might be able to secretly slip out without the feared discussion that she had been invited to at meal’s end. But the hostess had not forgotten the invitation and pulled Rebecca aside privately as all the other guests departed.

Rebecca stood silently, her heart racing as the luncheon organizer produced a black velvet bag. Speaking with purpose, the hostess said to Rebecca, “When you first started coming to our luncheons there was something that began to trouble me. You reminded me of my daughter, someone who I have not seen for many years because of our estranged relationship. But I believe I have a chance to have a connection with you that I wish I had with my daughter.”

She reached in the black velvet bag and pulled out a beautiful strand of pearls and presented them to Rebecca. As she gave them to Rebecca she said, “I want you to have these. I also want you to remember each time that you put these on that each of these pearls started off as something hard and ragged and after being tossed and turned and ground down over time, they were transformed into something elegant, smooth and beautiful.” Rebecca took the pearls, thanked her friend for this extraordinary gift and story, and left utterly speechless. Not long after this special moment, the hostess passed away. Since then, the pearls have been a permanent accessory in Rebecca’s wardrobe.

I sure like telling stories, and there is a real joy in seeing people lean in and listen to something you are saying. But communication is a two way street. It’s mighty nice to take a pause in the middle of telling a tale or two to be reminded by new friends like Rebecca that turnabout is the sweetest of fair play.

Follow me on Twitter @jonathantwest for more smart remarks and snappy retorts.

Art and Stuff? I Mean, What Do I Know?

I’m not a cultural critic. I mean, treatment what do I know?

I’m just a guy who hangs out in classy hotels with his mouth open in awe most of the time.

Case in point…at the opening of Biography of a Stitch, the first show in the Pfister’s brand spanking new Pop-Up Gallery welcoming the world through inviting windows on Wisconsin Avenue, there my mouth was open, dragging on the floor, fully in awe throughout the evening.

This isn’t some kind of critique, remember. I mean, really, what do I know? I’m just a guy with an open mouth.

But if I were a cultural critic and if I knew anything about things of beauty, I would give this past Friday night at the Pfister and the work presented by Todd Mrozinski (our current Resident Artist) and Timothy Westbrook (our fourth Resident Artist who returns for an inspired visit) a resounding rave.

But I’m not a critic, so what do I know?

If someone ever asked me to weigh in with a critical eye, I guess I would have to talk about things like texture and how Todd’s paintings of clothing have a vibrancy because of the dynamic layering of the paint he applies to canvas. I guess I would talk about how I love that he made an image of his dad’s favorite tie into a very personal work of art. I’d talk about how images that could verge on sappy sentiment never veer into that realm, but end up becoming vivid and uniquely personal stories for the eye.

If I had a critical bone in my body I would probably also be pulled into speaking about Timothy’s clothing designs. I might mention that Todd Mrozinski’s wife Renee Bebeau was resplendent in a Westbrook gown that seemed to be tailor made for her even though she had simply slipped into it earlier in the day upon Timothy’s urging. Perhaps it was because the designer intuitively knew that he had found the perfect model for that particular divine pearl colored frock. Perhaps it is because Renee’s joyful heart and easy, honest beauty make Timothy’s clothes soar when she wears them they way they are to be worn. Perhaps it’s a combination of all those reasons.

But what do I know? Right?

Maybe being a cultural critic would also require speaking about the stunning Westbrook combo worn by Deb, Timothy’s figure skating instructor. Maybe I’d write about the special alchemy Timothy seems to have as he weaves together the magnetic tape from old cassettes used in past figure skating routines, a retired scarf from a belly dancer, and someone’s recycled clothing from Goodwill into an ensemble fit for a rock star.

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Deb. Skating Instructor. Model. Rock Star.

But, I don’t know anything about clothes. I just keep my mouth open with wonder.

I’d also probably be asked to weigh in on the music, food and service as an opinionated cultural critiquer. But how many ways are there to say “stunning” about Janet Schiff and Victor DeLorenzo of Nineteen Thirteen providing the ideal musical track for the evening, a pitch perfect spread of gallery noshes, and smiling bar service that submitted to my request for extra cherries and grenadine in the sodas I ordered for the three children smacked with artistic wonder that I brought to the event? I’d struggle with how to address that, I’m sure, because, let’s face it, what do I know?

I guess I do know that Todd Mrozinski and Timothy Westbrook’s creations are on display in the Pfister’s elegant Pop-Up Gallery on Wisconsin Avenue right now. And maybe, just maybe, if you want to know a thing or two, you’ll stop by.

It Is Never Too Late for the Wrap Party

Leda raises a glass of white wine to her lips and smiles as the crisp, advice cold vino finally makes its way down her throat. It’s been a long, long wait, and she is savoring the moment as the glimmering lights of the Milwaukee skyline serve as her backdrop.

Leda is a stage director who bounces from job to job. Tonight she has taken a break from packing up her life for a summer gig directing a couple of Shakespeare plays. She has foregone a much desired trip to a local custard stand because friends of hers redirected a last in-town evening of mischief to Blu for fancy libations. The switcheroo allows Leda to have a long overdue celebratory drink.

“I directed a play here, no rx ” says Leda. “No, actually, two plays.” One play deserves a slow clap at the very least. Two plays? Definitely a glass of Zinfandel.

I scratch my head, wondering if somehow I’ve missed a secret underground theater here at the Pfister. Is there some sort of speakeasy entertainment venue hidden within the inner core of the hotel? Do I need to whisper, “Swordfish!” along the walls so I might find a hidden secret passage? Leda is required to stop drinking to give me the dope.

“We did these plays in the ballroom…I think it’s on the 7th floor,” she says. I confirm that there is indeed a ballroom on the 7th floor at the Pfister, but it’s news to me that a fella might catch a production of DEATH OF A SALESMAN at the Pfister if he’s in the know.

Leda corrects my aspirational thinking that I might snag a ticket for a rouge 7th floor production of THE BOOK OF MORMON. Her theatrical debut at the Pfister was part of the Young Leaders’ Academy Discovering Our Destiny Gala. As a member of Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s artistic staff, Leda worked with female students from this charter school affiliated with the YMCA on writing and producing an original play. The girls from the school presented their final results as part of an end-of-year celebration. I couldn’t have gotten a ticket if I had tried. The show was for families and all the boys at the school.

“The girls were all dressed in white and did this grand presentation. We did our play after the girls did a dance that they had worked on with the Milwaukee Ballet.” Leda advises me that if you have the choice, never be the follow up act to the Milwaukee Ballet. Especially when you’re a middle school play. It’s a tough spot.

I ask Leda is she ever made it past the 7th floor during her days directing the young ladies.
“Nope. But I brought a lot of props up in the elevator in my shorts and t-shirt. I felt a bit underdressed.”

Tonight Leda is decked out in a cocktail dress, and the spiffy friends at her table raise a glass to toast her past openings at the Pfister. It’s not quite like winning a Tony Award, but the view sure is swell.

The Brunchers, or Mooning Over Each Other and Some Eggs

As a baby, nurse Ted screamed during his christening party some 73 years ago filling the 7th floor with bouncing baby echoes.

As a boy Ted walked to school past the entrance to the Pfister every day in awe of the obvious grandeur inside.

As a man of distinction, Ted wisely understands that the best way to woo a lady is to humble brag his way to a date by masterfully cooking an Italian feast and casually doing all the dishes to boot.

As a Sunday bruncher, Ted had the Eggs Benedict.

His love and companion Ian did, too. As she poses for a picture with her beau, she gives a smoldering vixen look for the camera. She breaks it with the sweetest smile, and her courtly companion gives her arm a tender squeeze. I make a mental note to give my squeeze a squeeze…I want to be just like this two.

Ted and Ian have invited me for coffee. Ian explains to me that Ted has stories—many, many stories. In the time it takes to drain my cup of jo, Ted proves her right.

Ted freely and happily shares all the bits about growing up in the Third Ward where families lived close to each other in apartments and homes that were the undisputed center of Milwaukee’s Italian community. Ted reminds me that back in the day you didn’t just have the family you lived with, but you also had the folks in your building and on your block watching your back and bringing you a plate of food when you needed it most.

We discuss opera, as Ted is a fan. He learns that my wife works in the field, and says, “You’ve got something I want…your wife.”

I know he’s not a cad, because he’s so polite and well dressed, and Ian, who is clearly a lady of great refinement and bearing wouldn’t put up with any shenanigans. She tells Ted to tell me “that one story.” I lean in because I love “that one story” that everyone seems to have.

Ted tells me he was a family friend with long-time Milwaukee music impresario John-David Anello. Annello decided in 1932 that Milwaukee needed a grand opera company and formed the Florentine Opera. Serving as principal conductor, Anello did what he needed to get a show up, even if it meant putting his own money where his mouth was. Ted remembers sitting around the dining room table with Anello years after the company had formed, trying to sort out a particularly sticky problem.

“He had a tenor pull out of this production of SAMSON AND DELILAH at the last minute,” explained Ted. “It was a disaster, and we needed to find a replacement quick.”

Calling around, they found a young singer who had gotten panned in Detroit and slammed in Washington, DC, but he knew the role. Anello got him on the phone at Idlewild airport just before he was to head back home and convinced him to come to Milwaukee on short notice once he promised to wire the dead broke tenor some money to get to town.

“The performance was a triumph,” recalled Ted. “And at the opening night party Maestro Anello lifted a glass to the tenor who had saved the day and claimed he would be one of the greatest singers of our time. His name? Placido Domingo.”

Ted has that Zelig kind of quality. He was the guy standing next to the guy during some classic moments. But for this always curious gentlemen, one of the most important moments in his life was when he first met Ian.

Ian recalled the set up for their first meeting. “I had been invited to a Lutheran group for singles, and I thought, ‘Oh…how boring!’ But my friend in the group said they were having an Italian dinner, and I like Italian food, so I gave it a try.”

Ian showed up and discovered that a feast had been prepared. When she found herself seated next to Ted and discovered he was the chef, curiosity soon got the cat. Watching him clean up all the dishes after dinner, didn’t hurt either.

A date was planned, and Ted went to Ian’s home to pick her up at the appointed time. Entering Ian’s he was greeted with, “I can’t talk to you right now!” Ian had just started a job as a crisis counselor for an airline, and she had a telephone receiver strapped to her ear dealing with families who had questions about a plane crash that had just happened. It was an auspicious first union, and hours later they had their first real date and second shared meal. This time, it was Chinese food that Ted ran out to pick up.

“I knew she was a special lady when I watched her handle the concerns of all those people as she dealt with their feelings and the plane crash,” said Ted. “You wanna talk about a WOW moment—that was it.”

Ted and Ian are truly partners, and their time together at the Pfister for a shared brunch is only part of a full day to come. The coming hours could mean a movie date, some quiet time at home, or a simple walk. Wherever they go from there, they agree that brunch has kept them full for the day. It will be a light meal that evening, and if I were a betting man, I’d say that there’s no way that Ted would let Ian touch a dirty dish.

You see the woman in the nude shag dress?

When the professional ballroom dancers come en masse to the Pfister,

expect to find several crystals strewn across the bathroom floor,

shed from their glistening, parrot colored ensembles

that induce the ordinary citizens in the café around them to exclaim,

“Ah my god, I can’t believe it!”DSCN1320

I go up to the source, the infestation of music and extra bright spangles,

and experience a crescendo

starting from the cobblers

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The bottom of every shoe is made of rough swede to prevent sliding. This brush is sold so that you can rough up sole’s surface when it gets flat. It should not be used on cats. I asked.

moving to the bangle vendors,

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then racks stuffed with crinolines,DSCN1380 DSCN1321 DSCN1361 DSCN1316

the woman with two attendants lacing a thin string of diamonds across her back,

and climaxing to when I step into the ballroom

and watch three male dancers dragging a flashing blue pod onto the floor.

The pod unfurls revealing a woman wrapped in a blanket of LED lights.

They lift the woman high in the air,

and she raises the diode blinking blanket above her head.

After seeing that I stay, watching for hours.

Most of what I witness are eight to twelve couples

simultaneously dancing and competing

in fox trot, Viennese waltz, samba, cha cha, tango and swing categoriesDSCN1653

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I am given a guide that lists the expected components of each dance.

 

for one minute to randomly selected music,

sneaky, unpredictable music

ranging from Eurythmics hits, Country, Sinatra,

Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets,

Lady Gaga, Enya and metallic rock.

The dancers do not know what they are going to get song-wise,

and sometime it takes them several seconds of standing still

before they make their first timid move to the difficult tune.

A companion joins me and points out the various doctors

that she knows on the floor,

“You see the woman in the nude shag dress?

She was my fertility doctor years ago.

She usually wins too.”

My companion points to the dancer in a black and yellow dress,

“She’s a highly regarded dermatologist.”

I admit, the tango seems the most exciting.

My companion corrects me,

“No, it’s Argentine tango,

it’s very… alluring.”DSCN1476

DSCN1482Dancers cross the aisle in front of us,

obscuring our view of the dance floor

which gives us excuse to oogle their satin

dragon embroidered Japanese robes

that encase pastel petticoats.

A few of the women pin their ponytails

to their shoulder straps so that they do not budge

when they are flipped upside-down.

Another has a handkerchief attached via elastic

to her wrist, so that when she raises it,

it hangs whimsically, mournfully, pretentiously

so magnificently that I think to myself,

‘I am going to start wearing a handkerchief on my wrist like that.’

I stay until they announce the winners at midnight

My companion tells me that some of the dancers

I just watched have been performing since 7a.m.

In the elevator

a woman with red rhinestones

glued between each of her

eyelashes

speaks to me in a Russian accent

saying, “Maybe next year you will be competing,”

and the way she emphasizes “maybe” sounds prophetic.

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The Hard Part About Living In Costa Rica

I meet her in the elevator and she says she recently moved to Costa Rica. I ask the Costa Rican ex-patriot for a story and she tells me that she is not a very interesting, site story-rich person. I whine, “Come on, you live in Costa Rica! Haven’t you seen some crazy wildlife down there?”

“Oh yes, monkeys, sloths…” and lists a few other fantastic creatures I have never even heard of. Then she stops. She has nothing more to say. I ask her, “What’s the hard part about living in Costa Rica?”

 

The hard part about Costa Rica:

 

It is not the U.S.

You have to adjust what your cultural expectations are and accept what is different.

If you want to go to Costco it is a 3.5 hour drive.

It is warm all the time, clinic unceasingly.

 

The last point surprises me since the Costa Rican tells me that before she moved there she lived in Los Angeles, a place I would assume to be a year-round temperature inferno. I want to ask more questions and take her picture but she disappears. I wonder if I have disturbed a famous actress. She was casual but had an undeniably photogenic presence. Speaking of which, I think I see a large, multiple bride wedding photoshoot taking place on the stairs.

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I ask a man, standing apart from all the hubbub of mothers and aunts frumping their daughters gowns how many of these women are getting married today. He tells me they aren’t. It’s prom.

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I suppose they do look rather young. When I ask them what high school they represent they tell me “Pius.” My own alma mater! They are all junior girls, about to dance at the Renaissance Place. I instantly recall the picture of myself as a Pius junior attending the “Winterlude” school dance at the Renaissance Place.

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Outside the elevator I meet another young woman in a nice dress. “Prom?” I ask her. “No,” she says. She is volunteering for the Autism Society’s Gala. “This is just my sister’s Sadie Hawkins dress.”

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Near the ballroom I ask the woman in a nice hat how she became involved in the autism community. “I’m not,” she says. It turns out she is here for the Bel Canto Chorus’s 22nd Annual Fundraiser Gala. I can’t get anything right.

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So is she.

 

To end my day, I watch resident artist Todd Mrozinski do an old school pre-camera photoshoot of Brittany-the-barista.  Before starting a piece, Todd rubs his hands together and whispers ” Hah hah hah hah hah” to himself.  As he paints there are a lot of noises that sound like a kindergartener scrubbing a marker against a rough piece of construction paper.  Two hours after the initial tracing, he is done.

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She Pauses To Nibble On Her Pickle

“You have to travel with people who want to explore

otherwise everything is constructed, pills

warns Louise.

She pauses to nibble on her pickle,

and contemplate those frequent trips

she has made to visit her family in Barbados.

The last time she went down there with non-explorers

they whined every time they left the hotel, find

“Can’t we just take a cab?”

The non-explorers carefully followed their itinerary,

rushing through the locations of designated interest

and afterwards they would state,

“We’re done now. Can we go back to the hotel?”

Louise was appalled,

“American people traveling,

they don’t get it.”

She prefers to take it slow,

by walking or bicycling,

discovering the unknown island.

When she returned to Milwaukee she felt,

“I had to take another vacation.”

Just to counteract the energy she expended

on frustration with her boring companions.

“It costs too much to go to Barbados to sit in the hotel room!”

But I think she feels the same way about life in her own city,

having lived in Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee,

she tells me with confidence that she has never seen a city

more segregated than Milwaukee.

“You can’t just stay in that little neighborhood you live in.”

She talks boxes

she talks fears and safety

that make the boxes

that we call our neighborhoods.

She believes that the east side of Milwaukee is the most diverse

but even then it is all young people,

not old.

“And brown-skinned people are less likely to be seen

walking along the lakefront,”

where Louise bikes on a regular basis

amongst countless light-skinned people

who do not notice the lack.

“I think people as they move around the city

they need to open their hearts and minds.”

She tells me the best way to expose yourself

to variety in Milwaukee

is to attend gallery night

and Summerfest.

“Here in America it’s like,

what race are you?

You can’t just claim one,

I always check the box that says ‘other,’

and write ‘black-Indian-Island-Scottish-French.

Nobody’s white, you’re light skinned.”

Louise pats the marble under her plate,

“I’m not black, this table is black,

I am brown.

But we just need to get past it,

we won’t in this lifetime

but I go to Barbados and Trinidad a lot

and they don’t talk that way there.”

She waves her French fry in the air,

advising,

“Go somewhere and get lost,

just walk and explore.”

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I take her advice.

 

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Louise.

 

This Is Not The Real Dance

Sisters came in from New York

to attend the wedding and to show off their Wedding Dance.

They are choreographing their piece right now

on the exquisite carpet that urges all who come here

to at least sashay at least slightly

even if it is so slight that no one notices

because you are an adult.

The younger sister warns me

not to succumb to any false illusions,

“This is not the real dance.”

I agree to accept the following staged movements as not real,

and then I stand back to accept them

whatever they are.

Their mother tells me that the older sister, who leads,

is enrolled modern dance classes

and the younger one, who follows but also improvises

is currently taking interpretive dance.

Yes, I can see the professional training

in their deep dips,

the poised regal avian gestures

of two students who absorb

what they are taught.

“This was not the real dance,” the younger sister reminds me,

after their performance,

but it was very good,

so I tell them,

“No, what I just saw was real.”

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Maia has come up from Chicago for the weekend. I am told she will be eight soon.  She wears a wristband because today she explored “The Streets of Old Milwaukee” at the Milwaukee Public Museum.  When Maia types, she does so with only her right hand.  Her Grandma watches her through the window of Todd Mrozinski’s new art studio in the Pfister. DSCN1179
Todd lets both Maia and I type in his studio. Maia does not want to leave the instant clack-word device.  She is writing a story.  Her mother has to call her three times before Maia gets to the part about “The End.”

By hanging out in Todd’s studio I meet a lot of interesting people, like Luis and Ruben from Los Angeles.

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Luis, Ruben and Todd.

Luis and Ruben are artists for Kohl’s Department Stores.  Their apparel design work has brought them to town.  Pictures of Ruben’s private art portfolio are kept on his phone. He does oil paintings.  The one I see depicts a motorcyclist.  He had to come in here to the artist studio and show us his work.  He also shows us his big bag of cheese. Tomorrow Luis and Ruben are going back home, and they are taking back as much gouda and cheddar of Wisconsin as they can fit in their suitcases.

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Bag of Cheese

 

 

Two Texans

Two Texans,

architectural engineers,

college students,

conference attendees

named Shannon and Michaela

want me to write them love letters for their boyfriends.

two texans
Shannon and Michaela

 

Shannon lovingingly describes her boyfriend, Ryan, as

“a sarcastic ass always picking on me and my big head!”

She goes on to say she met him at a country club dance hall

four and a half years ago

and she’s “still waiting for the proposal

and make sure you put that in the letter!”

I ask Shannon why Ryan is holding back

she says Ryan claims he needs to “make sure it’s the right go” first

and that he is “still checking things out.”

Ryans passions?

“Trucking, working, and mudding in his ’97 blue Ford.”

She also adds “Shiner bock” and “Ziegen Bock,”

beers you can only find in Texas, apparently.ryan

 

shannon

Michaela’s “goofball” is named Justin,

and he is “the weirdest person you will ever meet,

a shy country boy who loves hunting and fishing.”

A little over a year ago Michaela asked him out,

and later on she had to ask Justin

to confirm if we were dating,

and his reply,

“Do I really need to?”

Michaela and Justin have two dogs,

June and Avery.

Michaela tells me she imagines that her boyfriend

is crying in bed and holding June now

that she has been gone for two days.

Typical behavior for the industrial technology student

who loves Fords but hates his own Dodge truck,

who loves Ziegen bach and Shiner beers.

justin letter

I am given a third assignment,

to write a letter to their friend Tate,

a “ditzy fashionista,

the owner of a wiener dog,

a smart, outgoing blonde”

who’s also studying architectural engineering

in Kingsville Texas

and is planning for her elaborate wedding

“which is not happening anytime soon.”

Her passions:

Chic Fil A, naps, sushi,

her football player boyfriend, Max.

Tate gets mad at Shannon and Michaela when they jaywalk.

“Really mad.”

Lastly, Tate collects trays,

shabby chic vintage trays.

She has so many she stores them in stacks.

 

tate

When you look at some modern art it can stump you.

Barbara has been giving tours for the Milwaukee Art Museum over a half century.

“When I first came to the museum, there were eight employees.”

This January I started my fifty-second year.

I retired when I was 50,

but I’m still going in,

teaching and working

‘cause I don’t want to sit at home.

I train the docents

and they tour about 80.000 people a year.”

She’s taken 75 trips to Europe,

“I counted it all up when I retired.

England was the first country I went to.”

Last year she took her docents to Belgium and Holland.

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And she made her own dress.

 

Being an art museum docent is hard.

“People expect you to know everything.”

When you look at some modern art it can stump you.

“Ellsworth Kelly’s “Red, Yellow, Blue,”

that’s one people have a hard time with.

Red, Yellow, Blue II

But you have to understand,

it was hand done,

he mixed the colors, that yellow

is the yellow he wanted,

he copied it from nature,

like a bird he saw,

he didn’t just go out to Menards!

How can I make these people understand?

Their grandchildren can’t do it!

When Kelly was in the war

he asked to be in the camouflage department.

Once in a while I’ll be lucky

and a student will be in

Ellsworth Kelly camo.

I’ve met Ellsworth Kelly several times.

He’s a very kind person,

a little on the shy side.”

 

What are Barbara’s favorite areas of art to talk on?

“American History and Decorative Arts

furniture, silver, ceramics.

My favorite is probably seventeenth century colonial.”

 

“Over the years a lot of people have visited Milwaukee

and I’ve taken them around,

Madame Chiang Kai-shek.”

(I hadn’t heard of her, so I looked her up,

former first lady of China, 1948-1975)

23325_web_ThisDay-Madame-Chiang-Kai-Shek-AP

“David Hockney, I loved him.

“I loved this young man who is now a rock star, but when I met him he was just coming up, um, I can’t think of his name. It’ll come. He works on China, Africa and America… Kehinde Wiley!

Gilbert and George when they came from England,

I met Andy Worhol. He never talked. My brother had a friend who knew him quite well.

Mark Rothko,

Tony Randall of the Odd Couple,

he knew everything,

he was the smartest man I ever met.

I let him do all the talking and I did the anecdotes.”

Barbara has never watched Star Trek,

but she gave Dr. Spock a tour.

“He gave me a Dr. Spock ear,

I didn’t know what it was or what I was supposed to do with it.

Ginger Rodgers,

Ray Milland, he never took his hat off because he didn’t have his toupee on,

Vincent Price,

Noguchi,

Sofa and Ottoman
Noguchi!

di Suvero,

Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 11.38.44 AM
This is what googling di Suvero’s “The Calling” looks like.

 

George Shearing, he’s blind and I got a call from him asking to take him around.

A grandmother had the same thing, I took her around.

Gordon Parks,

and when the Beatles came to Milwaukee the first time,

I held the door to the war memorial open for them.”

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“Excellent Broth! I’m going to have it every time I come.

I’ve been begging for broth here.

I like soup very much but,

I don’t like heavy duty,

I like to have broth.

It kinda curbs your appetite,

settles your stomach,

it’s good for your bones,

and I just love hot broth.

Right here at the café counter I met Shaquille O’Neill.

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Right there!

He wasn’t feeling well.

I didn’t know who he was.”

Shaq’s manager worked on a crossword puzzle with Barbara,

and explained who Mr. O’Neill was.

Barbara gave Shaq a ticket to the art museum,

and he went.