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?”

DSCN8017

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.

DSCN7890
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.

DSCN7898
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.

10397224_569390356392_5780591114590698560_o

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.
DSCN7785
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.
DSCN7786
Each panel weighs 75 pounds.
DSCN7791
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.
DSCN7802
This is as good a picture I was able to get of LeVar Burton. Sunflowers and heads packed the room and view.

 

The Pinecone Shaped Doorknob on the Seventh Floor

The suit store, Roger Stevens will cease to exist at the end of this month after its four decades at the Pfister. Everything is for sale.  Everything.

EverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverything.

EverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverythingEverything.

DSCN7579
The striped shorts!
DSCN7586
The suits!
DSCN7576
The exquisite chair!
DSCN7572
The authentic Italian army nesting cases!
DSCN7568
The books!
DSCN7567
The wooden beaver!
DSCN7566
The “HONOURS” board!

 

The bow ties!
The bow ties!
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The classic Ralph Lauren photographs!
DSCN7570
The jar of buttons!

But NOT the elk head. That one they tell me is on loan.

DSCN7558

I show all these manly goods to Wes because he is a man. He’s also a person with the inquisitive eye of a filmmaker-photographer-retired rapper. His eyeballs expand and emit rays of zing whenever he sees project potential. It is natural when in his company to want to show him every storied bit you can scratch together in the hope that he will do that peculiar eye thing again.

DSCN7627

He shows me things too. Things I have never noticed before like the pinecone shaped doorknob on the seventh floor. Wes explains that the pinecone is an important symbol to a lot of cultures and represents the pineal gland in the brain. It is believed by much of humanity that the pineal gland is where one’s soul enters and exits the body at the start and end of life. Also, the top of the head is where divine knowledge enters the body through the crown chakra.

I don’t know where he gathered all this knowledge, but it could have been back in Dodgeville where he was hatched amongst pinecones.

DSCN7646
Who is that?!

I show him the wall with the portraits of all the governors Wisconsin has ever known and Wes searches for Governor Dodge, the namesake of his hometown. None of the inscriptions below the portraits bear his name. Though there is one on the wall without an inscription, so Wes decides that one is him.   Either that or “A hipster guy who bartends over at the Sugar Maple.”

He told me about a movie he shot years ago in some abandoned houses of Dodgeville. He made his decision for the location when he went up to one and thought, “This house feels ghosty. ” He would tell his actors, “Let’s have you walk down this staircase and uh hopefully it doesn’t cave in.”   Sometimes the houses would smell weird, like animal death. After he made that movie he was traumatized from making that movie and didn’t make another one for a long time “Even though I tried like several times.”

He’s been more productive in amassing “Gourds of writings! Hoards of writings! Hoards of gourds of writings!” And now that he is retiring from rap he is ghostwriting an R&B album. “I’ve got it all mapped out, it’s a ‘triple triptych symphony.’ I’m working with three different producers and they’re each giving me 3D beats. Then they’re going to collaborate on each other’s beats so it will have a persistent feel to it with three different movements.” Wes explained this one to me thrice and in three different ways. Expect to hear the results nigh.

HenryDodge
The real Governor Dodge.

While writing this post I’ve looked up a picture of Governor Dodge. I think the unnamed fellow we found is more likely The Sugar Maple Hipster.

a despondent coffee bean anticipating its consumption

This hotel is rife with whiz-bang creators. At any hour someone with an opinion on Salavador Dali is likely to state it from behind a counter, pills since so much of the staff identifies with being an artist of some sort. Certainly, there is an official resident artist and an official resident narrator, but there are many more creative Pfister residents than just that. Take the three concierges: Peter is our resident costume constructor and actor, viagra Greta is our resident painting gallery owner and Roc is our resident live raconteur with a background in teaching English.

I have been here three months and I still haven’t met all of the musicians that lurk here.

I suppose if one hoped to find the classic bohemian employed by the Pfister, ed the most stereotypically logical place to look would be near the coffee in the café. Indeed, barista Adam identifies as a creative writer and a musician. He has the samples to prove it too, once, he handed me my receipt with two links to his work.

adamlink

The song “Coins and Bullets” on the bandcamp site is particularly evocative of late fall angst.

Adam reads this blog. One day he told me he wanted me to write him a letter and handed me my receipt with a request written in his precise and gentle script.

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This is the pinnacle of my life. This is the pinnacle of my usefulness.

The pulverization ritual is nigh.

The spiritual gain of the pulverization ritual???

To become grit and aroma,

I will vanish like steam on a hot day

like health from a hot dog

like they have always said oh,

thissucksthissucksthissucksthissucksthissucks

c e a s e l e s s  

w   o   e   b   e   g   o   n   e

so present

so nipsy

there is no other truth anymore

except: I am a bean and resemble a turd from an unidentified rodent.

Whims of taste supply and demand me to be shred, submerged, percolated, strained, stained, ingested, burped, excreted,

sold en masse

never remembered as the soul that I am

now roasting in a barrel.

This is my last moment to recall how

before my memory burns away

before I knew death would come

before I knew cruelty could happen at all

before all else there was gestation

soft pod skin seal,

ambition to make mom tree proud by my expansion,

“I’ll get so big that I’ll obscure our cacao pod neighbors!!!”

Ah, the laughter of caffeine cliques

so fruitless now

that we all

die.

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He liked it!
He liked it!

Breakfast

Screen shot 2014-05-18 at 9.40.29 PM

“Breakfast, pharmacy ” by: Léon Francois Comerre (born 1850, died 1916), Oil on canvas, 48” x 28”

There is a woman who continually offers me breakfast as I type at my desk. She always hangs behind my chair, oblivious to my working status.  She is confident that I have just finished a long slumber and am now in need of some gastronomical vivification. The expression of her face is set into a gentle greeting, sovaldi as if she knows she is the first person I have seen today, and also that my hair is still snarled by the bed raggles. She is glad to see me in my most unrefined state once again. That’s my loyal servant!

I usually pay brief attention to my servant, but today two sisters asked me to write them a poem with her in it. The sisters, Jill and Judy, gave me these other facts to work off of: they both grew up in Peoria, Illinois, one now lives in Milwaukee and one currently lives in Portland (“Oregon, not Maine!”), both are staying at the hotel because the Portland based sister came to Milwaukee to attend the first birthday party of her granddaughter. Jill and Judy saw me just as they were coming back from a walk along the lake. They claim the status of being “exercise fanatics.” Additionally, they wanted to know why my servant wears a gold headdress that appears to be from somewhere in Asia and is, as my mother would tell me, “awfully fancy for breakfast time.”

The rest of this blog post is a digital transcription of what I spontaneously typed for Jill and Judy:

 

Sisters,

Here, eat your breakfast!

A quart of sugared buttermilk

served in a silver pitcher

that tinges the thick nectar within

with the substance of metallic

responsibility to the day rising:

one in which 73,482,551,232,473 strides

will be stridden besides your sister

hip-to-hip see-sawing in time to the waves

that know Portland, Portland and Milwaukee well

enough to know you’ll need this roll

and empty cup of coffee for strength.

There’s just one roll here though, so half it

and half this smile from the French

woman in orientalist headdress.

Baubels and rectangles of gold

parting the lace of her face

and confusing her time period

of 1900 with that of 2084

when such temple bling

will be all the rage

amongst Peoria’s android

house maids.

And if you were born a year ago today, you may just live to see this fashion.

 

sisters

 

 

 

 

The 2014 Pfister Artist in Residence Finalists

Congratulations to our six 2014 Artist-in-Residence finalists. Their work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 13th, shop 2013 through February 14th, 2013. The public will be able to vote for Richard & the other 2014 Artist in Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.17.  Fans will be able to vote once per day through 2.14.  
(Please note that the public vote only counts for one chair on the final selection committee).

Starting at Noon on January 17th, and you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can read the proposals from each of the finalists by clicking their names below:

Brandon Minga
Dena Nord
Richard Dorbin
Niki Johnson
Jeff Redmon
Stacey Williams-Ng

2014 Artist in Residence Finalist – Richard Dorbin

Richard Dorbin – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal:  I love interacting with people and learning their stories. I also love creating images that have a human narrative. These two loves can dovetail into a new medium for the Pfister Artist-in-Residence: Photography

Imagine an image of a guest’s nightstand, littered with a crumpled wedding invitation, a withered boutonniere, and crumpled tissues. How could an image of “trash” on a nightstand be compelling, emotional, or even artistic?

I believe that I have the experience as an artist, a listener, and a story teller to answer that question and do it in collaboration with guests in the gallery.

There are countless stories to be found in the objects, faces, guests and employees of the Pfister. Those images can be emotionally charged and artistically compelling.

That very collaboration will be the creative process that drives the creation of my art.

Gallery nights will also be collaborative events that will highlight established professionals and aspiring photographers as well as creating exciting, in-the-moment imagery as part of the event.

The gallery space will display an on-going and ever changing collection of images that will tell stories with a unique and textural voice, as well as being host to photography classes for underserved parts of the Milwaukee community.


Richard’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 13th, 2013 through February 14th, 2013.  The public will be able to vote for Richard & the other 2014 Artist in Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.17.  Fans will be able to vote once per day through 2.14.  
(Please note that the public vote only counts for one chair on the final selection committee).

Starting at Noon on January 17th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can read the proposals from each of the other finalists by clicking their names below:

Brandon Minga
Dena Nord
Niki Johnson
Jeff Redmon
Stacey Williams-Ng