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)

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“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,

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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.

 

The Woman Who Eats Cake Every Day

Debbie was working as a pastry chef when a customer came in wanting a cake like the one they saw in Martha Stewart Magazine. The customer said they’d been to every bakery in town, but no one would do it. Debbie was shocked to hear that, but the bakery where she worked was not properly equipped to do it either. So she opened her shop where she could bake anything anyone wanted.

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People ate this recently at the Pfister.

She bakes a lot of groom’s cakes for weddings at the Pfister. I’ve never heard of a groom’s cake before. “It’s a southern tradition, traditionally wedding cake was supposed to be white cake vanilla, so they would offer a chocolate cake too so that was another flavor. But then it evolved into more fun theme cakes, to incorporate his personality a little bit into the wedding.” Debbie has done the plain chocolate cake, but she has also made one to look like a pair of Chuck Taylors. The last cake she made for the Pfister was a Star Wars themed groom’s cake: Boba Fett’s helmet.

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Also eaten at the Pfister.

 

Previously, Debbie studied sculpture at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. “When I was younger I partied a lot and would pull all-nighters. And that’s good, now I have to do the same thing. When it came to projects in school, I always waited till the last minute to do anything. And with this job I really have to wait till the last minute,” Debbie explains referring to cake freshness.

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A more traditional Pfister wedding cake.

 

The largest cake she ever had to make was for something at the Pfister. They wanted a super tall cake, seven layers separated by pillars. The cake was to be placed in the middle of the table. She had to climb a ladder and lean way over with her arms extended to install it. “Usually at a wedding the cake is cut right away, but what happened was they wanted the cake to last like the entire evening because they had some sort of slide presentation and speakers. But they had to dismantle it early because the top cake was so tall, it was so much closer to the lights, and heat rises so it just started to melt.”

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But Debbie enjoys challenges. “I remember the first time someone asked me for an upright motorcycle, and I was just like, ‘Sure!’ not really thinking about how I could do it. And then I remember watching The Ace of Cakes and on that show they said the only thing that can’t be made with cake is an upright motorcycle. I was like ‘I just said yes to that! Oh my gosh!’” So she just had to figure it out. She built an armature out of wood, and made a cardboard platform that the cake could rest on. This is her 11th year in the cake business, in that time she has had to bake three upright motorcycles.

harley

One time GE designed a portable EKG machine. They brought her one and she had to make five identical EKG machine cakes.

One time she had to make a surprise toilet cake for a groom who was a plumber. And yes, as Debbie explains, “You can make some realistic poop with frosting.”

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One time at the Pfister a Wisconsin woman married a Texas man. The cake resembled a hunk of cheddar in the shape of Texas. This couple had met at Marquette University and liked going to mass at the campus’s St. Joan of Arc chapel. So Debbie made a second cake, a replica of the chapel, a surprise from one of the betrothed’s parents.

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Here are some other cakes that were cut at the Pfister:

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And here are some strange cakes by Debbie:

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An Andy Worhol!

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The Berlin Wall!
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These are from the guy that ordered a cat cake every year on his cat’s birthday.

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Debbie says that it is not uncommon for the person picking up the order set down before them to sincerely ask, “So where’s the cake?”

 

Too Old For Santa’s Knee

The day after Thanksgiving, Santa makes an appearance at the Pfister Hotel the same evening as the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony.  That’s great, kids love the opportunity to tell the man direct what it is they wish for.  But what about everyone else?  Once you grow up you still want things.   And perhaps more than that you need someone to listen to your wistful yearnings.  For three hours I set up my typewriter in the cafe and scribed a dozen adult’s lists to Santa.

 

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The live poetry reading consisted of me reading the letter aloud to each adult once complete.
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Daughter and mother. The daughter asked for a new boyfriend with a sense of humor and the mom for a new hospital to replace the old one she currently works at.

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It took him a while, then he knew just what he wanted.

Her husband lost his voice after his recent surgery.  She misses hearing him sing.
Her husband lost his voice after a recent surgery. She misses hearing him sing.

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Her description included showing me with her hands how big she would like it to be.

 

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A father wanted a green backpack.  A couple visiting from Minnesota wanted everything from the cashews to the saws advertised in the current Blain’s Farm and Fleet catalogue. A sixty-two year old wanted another twenty years of life and world peace.  Someone else wanted “joy, peace, prosperity love and vindication.”   A woman in her early twenties told me she was like a ferret: she wanted something sparkly and shiny.

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Still, the kids could not keep away from the elf lady and her typewriter, a magical object they had never seen before, but had to photograph on mama's cell phone.
Still, the kids could not keep away from the elf lady and her typewriter, a magical object they had never seen before, but had to photograph on mama’s cell phone.

 

The parents of these kids called out to their kids, "Leave her air!  She needs air to type!"
The parents of these kids called out to them, “Leave her air! She needs air to type!”

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Shrunken Heads of Old Men & Angels of Light Hibiscus

 

Each time I go to work someone from the staff is bound to show me something.

 

Once, seek Rick the bellhop tells me about his boston terrier, Mugsy.

“She grows more and more into a creature every day, and less like a dog. She has creature tendencies.”

Such as?

“She makes crazy noises.”

I assume he means noises that are not at all doglike, perhaps a terrifying gnashing of its mandibles followed by hours of venomous hissing.

“She will listen to me inside, but not outside, not when she’s in the wild, that’s when her creature kicks in.”

I imagine Rick’s tiny dog hunting for whole families of rabbits, whole herds of beaver.

“One time she came back with a feather on her nose, she ate a bird.”

He shows me a picture of Mugsy, and she doesn’t look like a creature to me. She looks much closer to something of an alien.

“I think she’s an alien,” says Rick, “She’s couldn’t have been born on this planet.”

 

One day, Helga the concierge tells me she brought something to work to show me: tiny shrunken heads of old men! Well, maybe not, maybe just metal beads shaped like shrunken heads of old men if you believe Helga’s claim. Her claim is that years ago she sculpted these heads out of clay and then cast them. No matter what the true story of their origin is, one fact remains— Helga houses these partial gentlemen in a nest she built out of coiled wire.

 

Peter, the daytime concierge, shows me what to look up on my next online image search: “angels of light hibiscus.” The pictures that come up will be of George Edgerly Harris III, a performance artist from the seventies who started a ‘psychedelic gay liberation’ theater troupe known for its outlandish and remarkably detailed costumes.

 

On my way to the elevator I run into Matt, the head engineer, and the employee whom I suspect has the quickest comebacks of all the staff.

I ask him, “How’s it going?”

“It’s going.”

“GOOD,” I say with jovially and with increased volume since he’s going one way down the hall and I the other.

“I will not qualify how it’s going,” he replies. The hilarity of this response is not evident on the blog, but it was very funny. He had a contrarian tone in his voice, one that implied my automatic friendly greeting made the mistake of trying to simplify the complexity of the saga known as his day. Lesson learned.

A Love Letter From the Man With a Kind Smile

One day I’m typing in the lobby when a man approaches me. He has a kind face, one that appears illuminated from within by what I’d guess to be a gentle, prolonged love relationship. He just looks easeful and friendly. He inquires as to what I’m doing with a typewriter. When I tell him that I write poetry and letters for people, he looks at me with approval.

 

The next day I’m typing again when the same fellow comes up to me. He explains how he is staying here a few days for a business conference and would like me to compose a love letter to send to his wife back in Detroit. After interviewing this man I learn that he’s been married fifteen years, has two kids and that his wife, Heather, takes care of them a lot. While he is on this trip, she is attending parent-teacher conferences. Heather has taught this man with the kind smile how to be more social, and to slow down so as to better appreciate life. He confesses he has a “type A” personality and has a hard time doing that. When he asks me when he can pick up the letter I tell him ten minutes. “Really?!” He looks surprised, but sure enough, in exactly ten minutes he comes back as I am typing “devotion,” the last word.

 

“Heather,

 

My succulent savorer

of all things living

of all things swaying

on this planet

made better, burnished deeper

by your focused listening.

 

Even me

even sharp toothed

quick bite and run type A me

even I can say “ahhhhhhhhh”

what a beautiful

lackadaisical daisy

scented thought filled

day it is,

one in which I am glad

to walk through

because I have you

and I have your lesson

mimeographed upon my lungs:

b r e a t h e, gasp, hyperventilate

b r e a t h e ,

there we go,

it takes practice

but it is worth doing

to please the kind woman

who has mixed within her own body

two children for us to share

with the whole world.

And while I am womflinkering along in Milwaukee

my thoughts are with you,

they are sitting beside you

in the empty chair

at the parent-teacher conference.

My thoughts pat the soft crowns

of our kidlet’s heads,

splendid children.

 

While I am away

I am in review reverie

of our fine fifteen years

and even more than that

I am scheming up

fine dreams

for future cakes of ardor

to serve you, my love,

in admiration

and devotion,”

 

I hand him my pen and make him sign since I don’t know his name. He signs it “Troy.”

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The Men Still Sit With Their Songbirds

Mauriah has asymmetrical green bangs, buy viagra

but you can’t see them too well

in the shady nighttime of Blu.

She orders a moscow mule and tells me

that she felt really safe when she lived in Taiwan.

Sure, scooters and bicycles got stolen

but even then the thieves were only borrowing,

what was yours got returned to you.

 

“I was really lucky to go then

because it is changing so fast, viagra

they just want west,

western influence

so the traditional way of life is just

d i s a p p e a r i n g

for example:

the older women still get up,

do their chi gong

and their exercise in the park

at 5a.m. they rise

and they do that,

and you know the men

still sit with their songbirds

in cages and play checkers

in the park all afternoon, online

but I feel like that’s the last

generation that’s going to choose

to be in touch with those sorts of things.”

 

Mauriah has lived in multiple Asian countries

beginning with the letter ‘T.’

 

“After ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ came out

I was living in Thailand

and we’d be going up north

and then down to the islands

and you could tell

all the women

of a certain age bracket

who had really been influenced

by ‘Eat, Love, Pray’

and they were traveling

through Thailand

a lot of them would have their books

but you could just tell

that they were like

on this like

self-discovery journey

and you’re like

…”

Mauriah ends her sentence by making a face,

it is a amalgamation of pity, disgust and

wry smile acknowledging all the struggling of humanity.

 

Mauriah’s vocation?

“I make dances.”

Her verb makes confusion

to those who are trying to grasp her

for the first time,

they want to know,

does making dance mean you are a choreographer

or just a dancer?

Perhaps it means anything,

arranging and rearranging

her body and of the bodies

maybe of her students

since starting next week she will sub

a modern dance class at the University of Milwaukee.

 

Mauriah is the pioneer

for her three younger siblings.

 

“All of my brothers are athletes

(and my sister, a six foot tall twenty-two year old who plays basketball for a women’s Green Bay team.)

and they started to get to

like Warrior and the Spartan racing

They’re both now nationally ranked

and sponsored by Reebok

and they don’t work

so all they do

is they live at home with my parents,

they train,

and every weekend they go to a different race

and they race for money

and they win.

Like my brother just won the one

at Miller Park last weekend.

It’s becoming a new sport

where there’s obstacles,

they run sometimes just a couple meters

or sometimes two or three miles

and then the tougher courses are in the mountains

or in a really hilly environment

so they’re climbing up and down ravines,

one obstacle a couple weeks ago

was two eighty pound bags of stones

slung over their shoulders and like up a mountain.

It sounds terrible!

And then they’ll have to do like these

monkey bar climbs

but its usually after

they’ve been in a cold, wet water sort of thing

so that they can’t grip onto the monkey bars,

just ridiculous things!”

 

Mauriah’s dad was a football player for the Bears,

her mom was a high jumper.

Mauriah negotiates

earning a living as a dancer.

 

Does she ever think about going after the career of her brothers?

 

“I don’t want to do that, it just sounds terrible.

The girls are just like BEASTS

and they’re extraordinary,

but I just have no desire.”

 

She Works 7 Days A Week As A Fashion Designer

“My biggest bugaboo is blue jeans, advice sweatshirts, flat shoes.

I can’t stand it.

Every time I get on an airplane,

I’m over in Italy,

I’m over in Paris,

I’m over London,

I can tell without even asking which gate I’m supposed to go to

where the Americans are

they have blue jeans, sweatshirts, flat shoes.

Now in Paris for example,

they have really good imaginations,

they dress up just to go to the grocery store.

High heels. Dress. Hair is perfect. Grocery store!

 

I design some things for men sometimes,

but men are so generic, I hate it.

I think anyone could do my job if they wanted to.

Anyone can start a line of clothes if they want,

just get some capital together.

Some people have these talents buried in their brain

but they don’t try things so they stay working at K-Mart, Wal-Mart,

talented people!

It’s a shame.

 

My contract says I’ve got to work out every day,

two, three times a day,

gotta be able to get into these outfits,

and the models, I tutor them,

I’ve got four degrees,

two BS degrees, a masters and a PHD.

Physiology, Earth Science, Curriculum and Development for schools

and my PHD is in History.

To be honest I never really used them much

except physiology, I still use that.

We went through that phase where the models were getting too skinny,

we told them so now they look a little more normal.

It’s a struggle for them,

I’ve seen them take some real tumbles with those six and seven inch heels

on the marble runways.

 

I don’t set career goals,

that is a sure tool for disappointment and failure.

 

I also work for the government

I was appointed as a legislative advisor

in 1999, I just got a letter in the mail

I didn’t apply for the job

I get this letter

it says ‘we want you to be a legislative advisor

there’s only 200 of you in the country

we’re going to send you all the bills

you critique those bills

you make corrections

you’re a conduit to the public

find out what the public wants,

then you correct them and send them back

and give us your opinion.’

In addition to that I got special projects for them,

like I was the one who did the autism research.

I can’t believe the power that we have!

 

You know the stuff you see on the news?

Most of it is just pure crap.

It’s all funneled,

Washington is so corrupt,

they’re all members of the Illuminati and the Free Masons,

all the parties behind closed doors figure out who gets the money,

the power and the World Order.

If you want the real news go to the BBC station.

People think we’re #1 in healthcare,

but we’re 29th!

You know what country is 28th?

Barbados.

 

Here’s what the other countries do:

they put everything on a referendum.

You get to vote.

When did you ever have a chance to vote

about anything or any issue?

The wars?

If you’re in a democratic or republican district

and you’re in that district your whole life

it’s possible you can go from birth to death

and never be represented.

You go to church, you got a job, you pay your taxes, you fight in wars,

but you don’t exist.

So what we’re doing, the other 200 people,

we’re writing letters and campaigning,

we want everyone a chance to vote on every issue,

on every issue majority rules.

Now if it all goes to hell it’s our fault

we voted for it, right?”

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A Room Full of Barometric Gages

Inside the rouge ballroom is a top-secret gathering of the stylish.

 

The nation’s first four-year fashion program (Milwaukee’s own Mount Mary College!) is holding a reception for AIDS awareness. There is to be a conversation between Timothy Gunn, American fashion icon who hosts the television show, Project Runway and Sister Aloyse Hessburg, SSND, who founded the fashion design program at Mount Mary fifty years ago.

 

It is the hob-nob hour before Mr. Gunn and Sr. Aloyse speak, so I nob my hob over to the table of fashion majors to find out what trends they are all about. Petal sleeves! A recent assignment challenged them all to create a bunch of sleeves out of muslin fabric. The results were stapled to the wall and became something known as “the wall of sleeves.”

 

There are two kinds focus for fashion majors at Mount Mary, the merchandise department is for those who want to open a boutique, and the design department is for those who want to create the stock for their friend’s boutiques.

 

I ask them if they all draw pretty ladies in their free time.

“You SHOULD draw pretty ladies in your free time if you’re in fashion!”

 

Fashion design majors.
Fashion design majors.

Tori, a junior in the designer program loves to knit, but has never crocheted. She tells me that after graduation she is going to move to either New York or London and get her masters in knitwear.

 

Pakou.
Pakou.

“I like posh New York style business wear,” says Pakou, a sophomore who gets a lot of her influences as a designer from Alexander McQueen. “I love his drama and tailoring.” Pakou made up her own henna design and applied it to her hand with a toothpick. She wants to stay in Milwaukee after graduation, but is thinking about using a different name as a designer because “Pakou is a very common Hmong name.” I shake my head, “But just think of all the women named Pakou who will want to buy your clothes and wear them because you share the same name!” Pakou smiles and admits that she’s never thought of it that way.

 

She applied the henna with a toothpick.
She applied the henna with a toothpick.

Two moments stand out in the dialogue between Sr. Aloyse and Tim Gunn. One is the story of how Sr. Aloyse studied fashion in New York and still had to wear her full floor length habit of a Catholic nun that covered all of her hair and much of her face. Many people on the streets and in elevators assumed she was a beggar.

 

The other moment occurred at the end of the discussion when Timothy Gunn said, “There is a profound difference between being a fashion designer and a clothing designer. The world needs clothes, it doesn’t need fashion. As a fashion designer you’re really a barometric gage of your culture. And if that sounds highfalootin’ and grand— it is! You are working in a context as the societal, cultural, historical, political and economic. You are that gage of what is happening in this particular time and place. That’s your role and you need to accept responsibility for it. It’s not just about the pretty dress.”

 

A Reunion With Radical Kiera

Until today, I hadn’t seen my friend Kiera in nine years. The last time I saw her we were having one last group sleepover at my house the week before we each moved out of Milwaukee to seek our higher educations in other cities. I went to Missouri for the Kansas City Art Institute and Kiera went to Oakland for the College of Creative Studies. Kiera has been living in Oakland ever since. Understandable, Oakland is a balmy paradise full of bookstores and coffee shops, and it is easy to navigate without a car. Unfortunately, the gentrification of Oakland will soon force Kiera to move out. The soaring rents will soon match those of San Francisco where the average one bedroom apartment is $3,000 a month.

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Here we are at a school dance back in the day.

 

Keira tells me that this could be a good change because she would like to live somewhere quiet where there is lots of space between the houses. However, Kiera is conflicted about this idea because she a city girl. I recommend Detroit to her because whenever I go to that city it has a quiet feel due to all the boarded up houses, but remains a city where only those possessing much grit survive. She agrees with me but says she probably won’t be moving to anywhere in the Midwest since her boyfriend, Snow, doesn’t like cold weather!

 

Kiera tells me about how one time Snow and his father went skiing and got separated on the hill. Snow’s father started calling for his son, “Snow! Snoooow!!!” and people looked strangely at this man who seemed to suddenly realize that the world around him was covered in snow.

 

Kiera joins me for a meal at the Pfister café. She surveys the menu and starts to laugh when she sees it offers a salad called a “cheeseburger bowl,” featuring a hamburger with cheese on a bed of lettuce “Only out here,” says Kiera. I ask what the “only out there” regional equivalent would be in Oakland. “Maybe if you asked for the simple arugula salad, with just arugula and tomatoes.” We are sitting in one of the café booths and it reminds us both of hanging out late at night at 24-hour diners in high school. Kiera laments that Oakland has a scarcity of 24-hour establishments.

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That’s a lot of men in one room.

 

We walk around the hotel imagine what it and the city were like when it was first built. Kiera takes her time, reading every plaque and investigating every painting and photograph. We stop in front of a picture that was taken when President McKinley came to the Pfister. There must be 2000 people in the room, and we try to find even one woman in the crowd, but don’t see one, not even a maid. We both say how we cannot fully grasp what life was like back then.  Although I do look at over my contemporary, Keira, and (using my hundred year old filter) observe that she wears her hair very short. Radical! Kiera wonders if any of her ancestors from her dad’s side are in this photo. The German side of Kiera’s family had some influence in this town back when Milwaukee was considered “the gold coast” prior to the first World War.

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One more thing: Radical Kiera is just back from competing in Art Prize, a national juried art show in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here she is modeling a nine-foot wearable art piece that she designed with five other collaborators.

A Poem By LeVar Burton

Recently, Sharp Literacy, an organization devoted to the educational flourishment of urban children held a fundraiser at the Pfister. Actor LeVar Burton, who hosted all 26 years of Reading Rainbow on PBS spoke.

 

“My mom’s about four foot ten and a half,

weighs about a buck and a quarter.

I’m fifty-seven years old

and to this day

I am still afraid of this woman

when I was a kid she was both father and mother

she held and set the standards.

I am the man I am

because my mother

is the woman she is.

 

What if?

Two of the most potent words

in combination.

 

That which we focus our imaginations upon

is what we tend to manifest as well.

That’s how it works.

 

Because of Star Trek

today we have the Bluetooth,

cellphone

and iPad.

 

I’m sorry to tell you

there aren’t any pockets in the future

I’ve been there.

We had no pockets

on our spacesuits.

 

Everything happens for a reason, y’all

there are no accidents in this universe*

 

I got a call

“I know you’ve never done a television series

but would you be interested in doing a new Star Trek series?”

I had one question only,

“Is Gene Roddenberry involved?”

Gene was a huge, huge hero of mine,

Gene was not just a visionary

he was a social scientist,

an advocate for civil rights.

Gene taught me:

in order to be a complete storyteller

it is necessary to move the culture forward.

Star Trek was responsible

for the first interracial kiss

on network television.

Gene was also a man

who insisted

on seeing women in short skirts in the future.

You see we’re all human.

There is a dichotomy that exists in humanity

sometimes difficult to resolve.

 

No Child Left Behind

insisted we make the choice

between teaching our kids how to read

and fostering in them a love of the written word

in a healthy society

we don’t make that choice.

3,000 seniors drop out of high school

almost every day

in America.

Most of them are poor readers.

We have spent an inordinate amount of money

in the past ten years on war and machineries.

We have sacrificed our children

and for me that’s not okay.

 

If any of you ever hear of LeVar Burton

running for public office

you have my permission to slap him upside his head.

 

When I met Fred Rogers for the first time

I was so excited because I thought

“Finally, I’m going to meet the man behind the Mr. Rodgers Personae.”

I did not believe that anyone could be that nice

but as it turns out

he was.

Fred was Fred. Always.

No matter where he was

or who he was engaged in conversation with

he was consistent.

We were once together at the White House

for a conference on children education in television.

When you fill a room with Washington politicos

and Hollywood egos

there’s hardly room to breathe

so Fred encouraged us all in the room

to close our eyes

for thirty seconds,

remember a teacher who had impact

on us in a very profound and personal way

and ladies and gentlemen,

everybody in that room

from the president of the united states,

to the heads of networks,

everyone closed their eyes

and engaged in the exercise.

 

I know because I peeked.

 

No one can become all that they are meant to be

unless

they are a lifelong learner.

The key to becoming a lifelong learner

is to be a reader

for life.”

 

*Mr. Burton emphasized this point, repeating it four times throughout his speech.

 

DSCN7780
Artist Sally Duback and 5-8th grade students at Lutheran Special School teamed up to make this mural through the school’s Sharp program.
It was also funded by baseball player Ryan Braun and his wife Larissa.  So the kids included him in the composition.
It was also funded by baseball player Ryan Braun and his wife Larissa. So the kids included him in the composition.
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11 kids drew the scene and then Duback projected it onto three panels that they covered in homemade tiles, shells and found objects like compact discs.
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Each panel weighs 75 pounds.
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Teacher, Jill Bell (whose outfit matches the mosaic) tells me that this was a wonderful opportunity for her students. Each one of them has a different learning disability.
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This is as good a picture I was able to get of LeVar Burton. Sunflowers and heads packed the room and view.