BREAKFAST WITH SANTA | December 3, 2016 | What Do You Want From Santa? (Adult Version)

Breakfast With Santa, December 3, 2016

On the day after Thanksgiving, the Pfister Christmas tree was lit and Santa arrived to the applause of adults, the squeals of children, and the caroling of madrigals in the packed lobby.  But Santa didn’t return to the North Pole right away.  Instead, for the next three Saturdays, Mr. and Mrs. Claus (and a sledful of elves) are revisiting the Hotel at Breakfast With Santa in the elegant Imperial Ballroom.  To just call this “breakfast,” though, doesn’t do it justice.  I was able to get some beautiful shots of the holiday smorgasbord from the tiny balcony typically reserved for newlyweds, from which the laughter of families and the clink of plates blended harmoniously with the musical cheer resounding from the speakers.


The excitement was palatable: trays and trays of delicious foods, crafts for the children, and jolly elves whipping everyone into a holiday frenzy.


And then . . . “Can I have your attention, everyone?”  Concierge Peter Mortenson took center stage and entertained the crowd by pointing to a random breakfaster and asking, “Is that Santa Claus?”  The children, of course, yelled, “Noooooo!”  So if that wasn’t Santa, then, how could beckon him?  What else to do but to pick up a young boy, stand him on a chair, and announce that this boy had suggested singing a song.


It worked!  In the middle of “Jingle Bells,” look who arrived!


So, what’s a lowly Narrator to do when all the kids are sitting on Santa’s lap or making ornaments or decorating cookies? Interview the adults, of course, and ask them what they wanted from Santa.  Earlier in the week, I had gotten a glimpse of what of what kids at the tree lighting celebration had asked Santa for–electronics, toys, puppies, baby sisters, and the occasional selfless Milkbones for their current pets:
screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-9-11-54-amscreen-shot-2016-12-06-at-9-10-27-amscreen-shot-2016-12-06-at-9-11-30-amscreen-shot-2016-12-06-at-9-11-38-amBut this morning, I thought I’d talk to the people who would actually be trying to fulfill these children’s wishes for toys and siblings (by writing to Santa, of course, because that’s where all the toys and, er, children are made, right?).  Their responses didn’t surprise me, but they definitely weren’t all “I wish for world peace” beauty pageant types of responses.  Instead, they were down-to-earth, in-the-moment, and heartfelt.  Some wished for tangible things (some fantasies, others practical).  And some wishes were even a little fraught with anxiety about failing health and imminent births. Here is your Breakfast With Santa (Adult Version)screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-8-51-34-am

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May all of your wishes–whether you are young or old–come true in the new year!  Ho Ho Ho!

You can visit Santa this Saturday, December 10, and Saturday, December 17, from 9:30am-11:30am, in the Imperial Ballroom on the 7th floor.  Tickets are $45 for adults, $20 for children 3-10 years, and free for children 2 and younger.  Call 877-704-5340 or 414-935-5950 to reserve your spot!  

Deconstructing Gingerbread Town

In the final moments of 2015 as the holiday season wraps up, treatment I ask you this question…how much do you really know about Gingerbread Town?

Gingerbread Town (that’s the name I alone have given it, of course) is the impressively sugar stacked collection of chalets and free standing dwellings that has been on prominent display in the Pfister Lobby during the full extant of the holiday season. It is literally eye candy.

It’s unclear to me if my fascination with minutiae is a blessing or a curse, but for the purposes of a tour through Gingerbread Town let’s just call my obsessive tick a seasonal mitzvah. I’ve spent some considerable time gazing at Gingerbread Town this year and I’ve determined without a shadow of a doubt that it is a particularly charming place to live. But trust me, there’s more going on there than meets the eye.

You may not be aware of this, but Donner the Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman are comfortable to proudly show their love for one another on the streets of Gingerbread Town.


I’m thrilled about a place where the streets are lined with cotton candy and the air bristles with open and affirming love. It’s hard to see in this picture, but Frosty is blushing (which, truth be told, is not the best of things for the old snow puss as that sort of romantic heat sometimes melts his cheek right off onto the floor).

At Amber’s Café, you know you’ll always have a great meal.


Look at Joe and Marla Stinson, longtime residents of Gingerbread Town, bellies full as they relax on the bench outside Amber’s. They just finished a nourishing lunch of gingerbread cookie beer, gingerbread cookie casserole, gingerbread candy, and a warm gingerbread tea. They were celebrating their anniversary, so Amber sent a special delivery to their table, of course—a gingerbread cookie cake. Joe and Marla can’t get enough of Amber’s and they told me that they’ll probably be the first in line for the evening gingerbread cookie hot buffet and gingerbread cookie salad bar. They proudly showed me their AARP cards and said, “We have a coupon!”

You’ll always catch customers from Amber’s Café stopping into Jen’s Clothes to buy a new scarf, pair of winter boots or wool cap.


Jen’s once tried stocking swim trunks and bikinis, but the only one who bought any of those was Gundry Henshaw, and everyone has always had suspicions that the time Scotty Knorwald hit him in the head with a snowball left him a little off.

If I lived in Gingerbread Town, I’d absolutely want to live in the Gingerbread Village Condos.


It’s an impressive high rise, don’t you think? And who can argue about living in a place that promises there’s a live-in super who spends his day chopping wood for every resident’s wood burning stove. Plus, I understand they’re pet friendly and every unit has a Lake of Gumdrop view, and those are so tough to come by these days.

You don’t live in Gingerbread Town without making a visit to Michelle’s Skis.


It’s really the only way to get around town, what with hoverboards now being outlawed by Mayor Shimble out of fear of scorched cookie roads and cotton candy lanes.

One sort of sad story I heard as I talked to Gingerbread Town residents was that after who knows how many years of business, Chrissy’s Sweets is closing up shop.


Chrissy made the decision to retire and move South after she decided she wanted to go gluten free. Candy is okay, though. Chrissy has handed over the keys to the candy castle, and there’s a new owner moving in who promises to carry on Chrissy’s traditions with his own special twist for modern palettes. I’m excited to see what Carlos’ Organic Gluten Free Sweets and Kale Juice Bar has to offer. All eyes are going to be on Gingerbread Town in 2016…who knows, they might even get an IKEA this year.

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My Ice Cream Cone of Comfort

You know how sometimes when you’re thinking about how you’d really like an ice cream cone, viagra sale and then all of a sudden you hear the welcome tunes of the Good Humor truck coming down your block? The mind is a mighty mystery of chance and providence, my friends. I recently had one of my own ice cream cone moments.

In this holiday season, my mind has been filled with thoughts of my aging mother-in-law and grandfather, two extraordinary souls who this year will be spending their first holidays out of their longtime homes after transitioning into senior living facilities. I know intellectually that they are both in wonderful and caring environments that are providing them with a better quality of life than they could now have in the houses they lived in for many years, but I still have a tinge of melancholy about me with the thought of them both spending this season somewhere other than the physical places that I will forever place them in my memories.

Some angels show off their wings by flapping them in your face and some of them hide them by leading first with soulful eyes that tell you immediately that they are extraordinary spirits. As I introduced myself to Amanda as she lingered over a single perfect glass of wine waiting for co-workers to join her for a seasonal celebration, I understood that I was meeting one of those saints who walk amongst we ordinary humans. My encounter with her did my heart a world of good as I thought of the aged loved ones in my life.

Amanda explained to me that she works at a senior living facility that specializes in caring for people who are dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Hearing her talk about the sort of special attention she and her co-workers, who also happen to be her blood relatives as hers is a family business, was that ice cream cone moment for me. I had been thinking about my mother-in-law who has slide further and further into dementia over the past year, and now a woman responsible for showing love and warmth to similar seniors was giving me assurance that she was in a good place. Amanda had handed me my own ice cream cone of comfort.

“The residents have such fun at the holidays,” said Amanda. “We have a great time playing games and singing songs. It’s a magical time of family.” Amanda beamed as she talked about how she has shaped her days around attending to the needs of people who have had full and productive lives, those who haven’t chosen the path towards dedicated care, but those who need it most in their later years. What struck me hard about this divine lady was the full force of heart and love that she displayed in her every thought and spoken word. I will forever place images of my grandfather and mother-in-law in the homes that they created founded on love of family and a dedication to good, honest hard work, but the gift of knowing that people like Amanda are now giving them moment-to-moment specialized care is one of the greatest graces I could have ever imagined in this season of love.

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Winter Weddingland

Hang around the lobby long enough and you end up walking into a moment when you feel like you’re on the set of a classic Hollywood film. When I came across three beauties in soft, cialis fuzzy wraps and golden gowns I wouldn’t have been surprised if Rosemary Clooney herself had rushed up and joined their clutch. It would have been fitting if they had all starting trilling “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, marking the time as a sort of cuddly Christmas girl group.

It seemed as if these three young ladies had just come from a day shooting Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and were now going to relax by the lobby lounge fireplace with a frothy hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane. I learned their real names and raisin d’etre for being on site as we chatted about the wedding that they were dolled up for as bridesmaids, healing but the magic of their movie star aura didn’t fade because they all seemed to come by sparkle and sizzle quite naturally. Because of their twinkling aura, I’ve decided that these winter bunnies will live in my memory as Trixie, Gert, and Rosie, The Winter Girls.

Every female trio worth its salt is able to turn the head of a handsome beau or six, and Trixie, Gert and Rosie weren’t slacking in the business of making a young fella’s fancy something other than baseball. The Winter Girls were presently being attended by a young admirer whose given name I’ve also chosen to ignore and instead will call Bentley Caruthers.


This dapper lad was wearing a tuxedo like a boss and deserved a surname because he was deadly serious about committing to his role as sidekick and fawning admirer. He arched his eyebrow slyly and discreetly told me that he was “running security” for the fetching lasses. If I had any reason to doubt him, he flashed me the gentleman’s equivalent of a badge, a pocket watch that had been given to him as a token befitting his place in the coming wedding event as an usher.


This teen in a tux made me feel like I needed to study up a little harder on how to really shine my shoes and fold a pocket square, so full of courtly charms was he.

The Winter Girls and Bentley faded into the rest of the wedding crowd as they descended on the lobby to whisk away to some tony pre-nuptial event in waiting limousines. Watching them sashay their way to open car doors, it was as if it was late at night and I was home flipping the channels and landed on an old black and white where Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope, Doris Day, Myrna Loy or any number of star or starlets were sipping martinis and laughing over snappy remarks. Trixie, Gert, Rosie and our man Caruthers will live forever in my movie star dreams long after the cameras stop rolling and someone yells, “That’s a wrap!”

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Granny, Off Her Rocker

Today one of the greatest iconic Milwaukee grade school field trip destinations is unveiled dusted up for a new generation. I speak, order of course, of the Milwaukee Public Museum’s Streets of Old Milwaukee.

To say that one of the requirements to really call oneself a person of substance when it concerns the minutiae of Milwaukee trivia is to have visited the Streets of Old Milwaukee is sort of like saying frozen custard is just okay. That is, ampoule it is a severe understatement. The Streets (do I sound real “street” when I say that?) have been undergoing something of a facelift. There have been additions and improvements made. Which is sort of a funny thing to think about when you realize that the life sized walkable diorama is trying to approximate oldie timey things in Milwaukee. But I’m as excited as anyone to see the revisionist approach to making an old thing be a better sort of old.

So it was with the greatest of thrills that I recently had the supreme pleasure of meeting the grand dame of the Streets of Old Milwaukee as she made the first of several appearances for holiday storytelling in the Pfister’s Pop-Up Gallery. I’m speaking of none other than Granny.

Granny…storyteller, look raconteur, rocker.

For those of you who have visited the Streets of Old Milwaukee you’ll immediately know who I’m talking about. She’s the grey-haired lady who rocks the shawl while she rocks in her rocking chair. Day in, and day out. In fact, that’s all I every thought she was capable of doing. Rocking. Over, and over, and over.

You can understand my surprise when I found that Granny does much more than just rock. She tells stories. She’s able to crack a joke. And Granny is even getting the hang of that new fangled thing called social media.

“I have my own Twitter,” said Granny as we chatted after her recent holiday storytelling set. “I thought it was a Tinder, but I understand that’s something quite different.” Yes, Granny, those are certainly horses of a different color but your Twitter handle @MPMgranny is something that the whole family can enjoy.

Granny is tickled about the changes that have occurred in the reimagining of her forever home. “The street has never looked so good. And I should know. I’ve lived there a loooooooooonnnnngggg time.” Granny let me know that there were plenty of new surprises for visitors, including a fresh entrance right through a trolley, some touch ups to the General Store, and even an interactive app for smart phone users (the way Granny talks tech, she seems to have audited some computer classes since she’s gotten off her rocker).

“My neighbor Miss Kitty is still there,” Granny said with an eye roll. “She’s up to something…I just can’t put my finger on it.”

I complemented Granny on how superb she looked and she twinkled as she shared her secret. “Oh, stars! I’ve had a trip to the spa. I love it.”

I hope Granny stays off her rocker long enough for another spa treatment. There’s always room at the Pfister’s Well Spa for one of the all time greats.

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Sunshine Face and Straight Shooter Have Eggs with Santa

There is nothing like a good old fashioned grown-adult-helpers-dressed-like-elves-everything-dipped-in whipped cream-frosting-and-sprinkles Breakfast with Santa to remind an old fella like me that Christmas is for the kiddos.

This past weekend at the Pfister, the granddaddy of all the Santa breakfasts began its three-weekend run. This was cause for joyful jubilation for me because I realized that in all my years of believing in the man in the red suit with the jelly bowl tummy, I’ve never shared eggs and bacon with him. They say you never forget your first, and I surely won’t soon get this glorious affair out of my memories.

The adorable factor was dialed up to the rarely seen SUPER CUTE setting as kids decked out in their best Christmas do dads sipped hot cocoa between bites of fruit salad and toast. They had come to speak to the big guy and his best gal, Mrs. Claus, and the perfect training meal for that big moment is clearly capped off by a gingerbread cookie slathered with frosting a couple of inches thick.

I’m convinced that a room full of smiling children has the potential to change the world. Or, at least, gently melt many a cold, cold heart. From the high pitched group Christmas Carol sing-a-long lead by Chief Concierge Peter Mortenson to the little fists writing notes on the letterhead all primed for Santa, the good girls and boys who had come to spend the morning dreaming about what they might see under their tree on December 25th were cherubic as all get out.

I’m not trafficking new territory when I say kids are great. The ways in which they are great are numerous, of course, but I had delightful encounters with two lasses who showed off two of my favorite kid types that I like to call Sunshine Face and Straight Shooter.

Sunshine Face is that remarkable ability kids have to wring the most out of a good feeling. Sure, kids have rough patches, and maybe you could call those Cloudy Puss days, but Sunshine Face makes my heart skip a few beats when I’m lucky enough to see it in action. I’ll go on record to say that watching kids shoot beams of joy from their eyes as they’re on the edge of exploding from fun rather than being all adulty and cool about feeling good should be prescribed as an antidepressant by big pharma and stat.

Trinity had one of the most devastating cases of Sunshine Face I have ever seen. I’m pretty sure her brother Trent did, too, but when I tried to draw him into a conversation he was laser focused on scraping all of the frosting off of a cookie and into his mouth. And who among us can blame that brilliant kid?


Trinity, on the other hand, was daintily eating a cookie at a table shared by her brother, mom, Jessica, and grandma, Adele. She had on a lovely head wrap that was festively appointed with a pair of reindeer antlers.

“Are you part reindeer?” I asked.

Trinity giggled as she snapped back, “No! Those are just my ears.” Just her ears? Surely she meant, “Just the cutest reindeer ears ever to frame a Sunshine Face.”

I asked the question on everyone’s mind who had come to bow at the alter of S.C. “What are you going to ask Santa for this year, Trinity”

Shopkins!” screamed Trinity. “I want Santa to bring me Skopkins!” Not spending a lot of time in the toy aisles these days, I had never heard of Shopkins and asked Trinity what they were. Asking someone with Sunshine Face to describe their favorite toy is something of a fatal error to make if you’re looking for a short answer. The only thing to do when you jump off that cliff is to hold on to your Sunshine Face friend as they spiral down the rabbit hole to tell you the completely detailed history of their Christmas wish. For those of you who, like me, were unaware of what Skopkins were, I now know from Trinity that they are small pieces of food that you don’t really eat but are super cute and the absolutely coolest best thing ever that there ever was for all time now and forever. Or something like that.

I am quite certain that Trinity is a very good girl and will undoubtedly receive the Shopkins she requested for herself and her brother Trent, he of the steely frosting focus. You don’t hold onto Sunshine Face as long as she did unless you’re polite, and kind, and clean up your room when your mom asks.

Sunshine Face had me feeling like I had just drank a bathtub full of eggnog and followed it with a victory in a candy cane eating contest. It’s a good feeling, for sure, but I’m a man of moderation so I really appreciated Straight Shooter giving me balance.

Lili, her sister Emma, mom Erika, and dad Sean were tucked in a corner smiling the smile of satisfied breakfast bellies, all framed with the glow of sunshine pouring in through nearby windows. A smarter more fashionable family would have been harder to imagine. I have to believe their holiday photos are spectacular…or simply so dazzling that I would be forever jealous.


Emma, a bright teen, was clearly being delightfully tolerant of the whole Santa who ha for her sister’s sake, though I marked her as a true believer if ever I’ve seen one. I turned to Lili to learn her thoughts about the day at hand and the holiday as a whole.

“What’s your favorite part about Christmas?” I asked.

Spoken clearly with the confidence that belied her single digit age, the young Straight Shooter laid it out plan.

“I like giving more than getting.”

I liked this kid right away. No messing around. I asked her if she had gotten presents for her family and she nodded that she had. I wondered if she would share that info with me and she summoned me close to whisper into my ear so that she could hold onto the secret of the gifts she would soon be giving. I’m not spilling the beans, but let’s just say, she’s an excellent shopper.

As Lili and I were chatting, Santa and Mrs. Claus made their big entrance into the room. There was a noticeable lift to the energy in the room, but Lili herself seemed a bit nonplussed by all the hoopla. I asked her what she thought about visiting with Santa. Her answer defined what I adore about Straight Shooters everywhere.

“I mean I don’t know Santa, so it’s really just like sitting on a stranger’s lap.”

The world needs an equal share of Sunshine Faces and Straight Shooters, for sure. That and plenty of friendly jolly old elves who are happy to listen to your holiday hopes after some tasty scrambled eggs.

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Of Fathers and Sons and Hugs

Joe and Simon hugged themselves into a booth at the Café at the Pfister on a Saturday afternoon. They stopped for a quick nosh before scrubbing up for a wedding on the 7th floor. These gents looked like they had invented hugging, viagra and I was immediately impressed.

I watched this small miracle take place as I chomped a veggie omelet. Call me a sap, but watching a sloppy looking guy hugging his imp of a six-year-old son in public is kind of beautiful.

Simon reminded Joe, buy cialis “We gotta make this quick pal…Mom wants us to get upstairs and shower.” I saw that Simon believed in the HAPPY WIFE=HAPPY LIFE principle. Smart man that Simon.

Joe had some important stuff to discuss with his father.

“Why do you think I don’t like Mickey Mouse?” asked Joe?

Simon was surprised. “You don’t like Mickey Mouse?”

“No, tadalafil I don’t like Mickey Mouse,” Joe answered flatly.

Joe had it all as he ordered his mac and cheese—someone to talk to who buys lunch and gives you hugs. It made me think about the recent hugging history between me and my dad. Our pre meal hugs have been a matter of diminishing returns for years.

Simon helped Joe sort it all out. “You like Pluto. You like Minnie Mouse.”

“I do like Pluto,” said Joe. “But I DON’T like Minnie Mouse.”

Simon scratched his head. “Why do you think you don’t like the mice?”

“I don’t know,” said Joe.

My dad and I used to chat this way over Saturday morning pancakes and sausages. We now struggle to talk, but not out of a lack of love. We have just become men who rarely find time for having as much syrup as you want and telling bad jokes.

Joe shifted gears between nibbles of mac and cheese. “Dad, can a good knife cut anything?”

“Well, it depends,” said Simon looking at Joe’s butter knife.

“What about candy?” asked Joe. “Could a good knife cut candy?”

“That would be hard,” said Simon scooping a bit of Joe’s noodles into his mouth as he waved the waitress over for their bill. My dad used to finish my sausage. It’s clearly part of the good dad DNA.

Simon and Joe paid their bill and scurried out of their seats. Simon swung his arm around Joe’s shoulder in what can only be called the perfect walking hug. “Show offs,” I thought. I shared the smile that had come over my face with Simon as I caught his eye.

Joe lit up as he walked past my booth. “A jawbreaker would be hard to cut.”

“A jawbreaker would be impossible to cut,” agreed Simon.

I don’t know guys, watching you makes me think nothing is impossible. Consider for instance a future Saturday at the Café at the Pfister when me and my dad hug our way into a booth and let the syrup flow. But no way, no how is dad finishing my sausage this time.

To Properly Crash A Wedding You Just…

In the lounge by the fire I meet a clump of kids and their parents. There are six empty mugs of hot cocoas and the dad tells me they all came here to enjoy the holiday décor. The nearest décor (that I suddenly notice with fresh décor searching eyes) are the stuffed stockings that hang from the mantelpiece. They look well stuffed, handsomely stuffed. Before coming to the Pfister the family toured the holiday displays at the BMO Harris bank building where the father works. I learn that the mother is an alderman for Wauwatosa. Alderwoman, she corrects me. As a fellow woman I wonder: how I could I have just made a mistake like that?


I catch them right before they put on their coats and leave to spend their afternoon at the Discovery World museum. Daughter Natalia tells me she is eager to rest her body on the bed of nails that is kept there. Daughter Anastasia is dreamy with thoughts of the pirate ship. “Where is Joe?” someone asks. Sometimes he drifts away from the group to investigate shiny objects, and there are an awful lot of shiny objects in the Pfister, even more so when they have the holiday display up. Knowing Joe’s tendency, his brother Matthew gets up to go find him and bring him back for a picture.

Parents with children Natalia, Matthew, Joe and Anastasia.


Two of the kids are biological, one is foster and another was adopted all the way from Khazakstan. “They are all miracles and great kids,” confirms their mother who adds entirely in jest, “And they are all a pain in the butt.”


The family asks me to share with them a secret about the Pfister Hotel. I tell them about the peephole on the seventh floor ballroom door. The kids ask me if I have ever seen a wedding in the ballroom, and I assert that I have witnessed quite a few. The dad asks Matthew, the eldest if he knows what it means to crash a wedding and the boy nods, “You just storm in, uninvited.” I get an image in my head of myself leaping into the ballroom, wearing a cape the color of a grey cloud and holding two cardboard lightening bolts. I swipe the microphone right out of the best man’s hand and yell into it my declaration of “I’m here!” The bride and groom gasp, several guests drop their forks that clang into their plates. Everyone is thunderstruck.


“But I have never crashed any weddings here,” I clarify.


Wasn’t One of Our Ancestors a French Bishop Or Something?

Two of my second cousins are in town

so my Grandma and Mom take us all out

to a Monday noon lunch at the Pfister café.

My cousin Courtney, lifelong Texas resident

introduces us to her new husband, Michael

who, to our collective delight is as Wisconsin as

Green Bay where he was raised.

Courtney and Michael.

Then there is my cousin Amy and her new husband, Punit

who grew up in Zambia, Africa.

Soon Amy & Punit (of Kansas) will voyage to India

to visit all his grandparents and family there.

Many countries and continents encompass our family,

but today’s meeting concerns the Italian “De Simone” side.

I attended Amy & Punit’s wedding last summer.

My mom wants you to know De Simone

should be pronounced Deh-si-MON-eh

not Dee-Simone as they switched it long ago

to fit their new American life in Kenosha, Wisconsin.


Courtney says she thought she once heard

that De Simone is really a French name

and that one of our ancestors married a French bishop,

which would be against the Vatican’s wishes if true.

But my mom says no, that’s not right, at all,


Grandpa (my great-grandpa) had an uncle who was an archbishop,

Filippo, born in Acri, Consenza, Calabria in 1807

long before it was considered Italy, unified as we know it today.

Filippo was installed as the bishop in the Cathedral of Santa Severina

which my parents snapped a picture of when they visited Italy in 1983.


Santa Severina’s cathedral is in the middle.


Outside the castle village of Santa Severina.

Bishop Filippo’s brother and sister-in-law lived with him,

as the caretakers of his house.

Once, when this sister-in-law turned gravely ill,

her husband prayed to let her live

and to have him be the one to die instead…

and that’s just what happened.

Then the bishop’s widowed sister-in-law remarried

to a man with the last name of Pignataro.

The bishop’s sister-in-law, Dominica Patarino De Simone Pignataro  with her second husband Francisco Pignataro.

Years later, her son Giuseppe De Simone

(from her first marriage),

moved to America and worked

to provide enough for his teenage bride, Maria

and their first son

as well as his sisters and half-sisters

to all cross over in 1914.

Years later my mother explained to Maria all about her new waterbed

Maria was repulsed at the idea of a swaying, watery bed,

“I came over on the boat, that’s enough for me.”


Maria and Giuseppe’s son, Alberto De Simone was my Grandpa.

My cousin Amy’s Grandpa was Alberto’s brother, Alfredo.

Both Al’s eliminated the o’s off the ends of their name

so they wouldn’t stick out as Italians.

Courtney’s Grandma, Elvira became Vera.

Salvatore became Uncle Sam,

Guillermo became Uncle Willy.

Aunts Florence and Eva didn’t change their names,

Aunts Adeline and Angeline did not survive childhood.

Left to right: Vera, Maria with baby Albert (my grandpa!), Sam, Giuseppe (Peppi) and Alfred around 1920.


Now, a century after Giuseppe (a.k.a “Peppi”) came over to America

looking for his new life as a blacksmith,

his offspring gather in the Pfister, ordering a bloody mary,

With beefstick (among other delectables), and beer chaser.

cream of broccoli soup and a couple of salmon salads

while wondering,

“Wasn’t one of our ancestors a French Bishop or something?”

No, he wasn’t,

but isn’t this game of generational telephone interesting?

My grandparents getting information from a local in 1983.

“could you please send me a boyfriend who does yoga?”


Katherine has been coming here for years

she was married for three decades

to a man who came to the Pfister to just to jog.

He died ten years ago

so, viagra recently she asked the divine,

“could you please send me a boyfriend who does yoga?”

After she asked she didn’t expect a response,

so instead of waiting around for love

she went camping.

While she was out there in the wilderness

she met an interesting man

they talked quite awhile

and when they were done he asked for her number

but for whatever reason she wouldn’t give it to him

so it took weeks for them to run into each other again

but when they did

he asked her for her number again,


so this time she did

and now she’s spending Christmas

and New Years with him,

her new boyfriend

who just so happens to practice yoga.

He wants to serve lobster on New Years Eve

which is frankly,

a tad daunting for Katherine

who has never eaten that before.

She is a woman with habits,

she comes to the Pfister

every year to visit with Val at the bar

after doing some shopping at Boutique B’Lou.

Her bags of loot sit on the stool beside her.

Inside the paper bag wrapped bounty

are Nepalese bracelets of woven beads

of which a portion of the sale

goes back to helping the women crafters of Nepal

and their families to live more complete and healthy lives.

So Katherine bought a few of these seed bead wonders

and took one out for me to touch

it feels like a snake

in a good way,

I know, I have touched snakes

they are cool


cool and smooth,

in a bumpy way

but I have slithered myself into tangent

back to the story

this is how Kathy shows her love:

three moose are in the mail

(Or is it meese? Like geese?)

I don’t know what they look like

or if they are alive,

but she gestures how big they are

these moosen are headed

for Kathy’s great-grandchildren

who live in Minneapolis.

This morning she went shopping for the yogic boyfriend too

and he’s going to get

shrimp, champagne and chocolate cupcakes,

I know, I asked,

and now you know too.

And what did Katherine learn from all this?

She laughs, “Maybe I should pray more often.”

By the way, I hear this lad in the shash recently picked up yoga!