A Cat, A Bat And Many A Diplomat.

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Wherever they are headed, I’m going too!

The Wisconsin Humane Society is throwing a fundraiser, “An Old Hollywoof affair.”

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Helga, the concierge, gave me three magic treats to offer guests before I joined up with the ball.
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“Talon is a healthy peregrine falcon.”
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This owl kept turning its head like a screw. Looking at me and looking at who, who, who?
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“Coco is a Wisconsin Humane Society alum, adopted last year. Since then he’s visited St. Luke’s Hospital and spoke to the stroke support group. Last year he wore a tweed jacket. This year he has a smoking jacket and a pipe donated from Uhle’s Smoke Shop.” I offer to hold his pipe for him, but he says he doesn’t actually like smoking.
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Nope!
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In case you were wondering, he is half siamese and half tabby.

 

 

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Cora is a “hoary bat.” Hoary bats have a frost tint to their hair.
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Meal worms. “Cora is cuddly right now because she just had a big meal. This is what she eats in captivity. In the wild she’d eat things like moths or corn earworm, a significant agricultural pest. She’d be interested in any big winged insect.”

 

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“His real name is Cary Grant.”
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Handsome. My kinda guy.
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I have always feared tiny dogs, but a lady asked me if I would like to hold her dog and I could not say no.
Everyone wanted their picture taken with this particular dog.
Everyone wanted their picture taken with this particular dog.
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“Would you like to play ‘Blingo?’ It’s $100 a ticket and if you win you get $4,000 jewelry.”
Care for any skewers with dipping sauce?
Care for any skewers with dipping sauce?
This dame was a real hoot!
This dame was a real hoot!
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Surveying the silent auction wares that included a palatial four poster bed for a royal creature who should weight eight pounds or less.
Would you like a Garfield poster AUTOGRAPHED BY JIM DAVIS????  Twelve year old me would!
Would you like a Garfield poster SIGNED BY JIM DAVIS???? Twelve year old me would!
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I was attempting to surreptitiously snap a picture of his Hollywood hair, but he caught me! Generously, this star gave me his autograph with a single glance.
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This beautiful person is named Angela.

 

There were plenty of spangly gowns to gawk upon.
There were plenty of spangly gowns to gawk upon.

 

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Very gawk worthy.
This woman's dress epitomized the evening's theme.
This woman’s dress epitomized the evening’s theme.
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There were many variations of that theme.
Dizzied by all the glitter, sparkling with the wine.
Dizzil’d by all the glitter gla gla gla, sparkling along with the wine.
There was lots of petting.
There was lots of petting.

 

This one fooled me.  I thought it was alive.
This one fooled me. I thought it was still alive.
The unwavering gaze of this couple transferred an electric current strong enough to thwart my camera's battery. There are no further pictures of this event.
The unwavering gaze of this couple transferred an electric current strong enough to thwart my camera’s battery. There are no further pictures of this event.

 

 

“We are staying here for the junk mail conference.”

Some days I’ll consult the hotel’s itinerary and try out other people’s conferences. Recently, I attended the Printing and Mailing Conference. They had “dimensional packaging sessions,” and forums on why LinkedIn is important. Though I have a profile on there I still don’t know why LinkedIn is important. I should have paid more attention, but I was still grasping how printing and mailing people had their own conference. Tyler, the organizer of the gathering said that there is an association for everything. “There is even an association for associations, and I’m a member of that.”

Hours later I was still in enough shock from hearing about the association for associations to tell the printing and mailing attendee who rode the elevator with me about it. He replied that he has a colleague in Detroit who attends three-day long barcode conferences. Barcode conferences! Ahh!

Unable to fathom how boring that might be, I sat at the desk on the lobby’s landing and clacked a few words into my typewriter, “In the elevator I heard…” but I stopped typing because a couple climbed up the stairs to smile at me. I smiled back and they told me, “We are supposed to know you.” They didn’t look like anyone I know. “Do you know a Gina?” I do know a Gina and described which one (as there are many Ginas on this Earth), “I know the Gina who lives in Chicago and went to film school with my mom.” “She’s my sister,” says the woman who I then saw looked very much like Gina’s other sister, Kristen. Large, expressive round eyes. Delicate bones. The difference is that this sister of Gina’s spoke with a slight southern twang (and I am not talking about the south side of Milwaukee where Gina and her sisters all grew up), having now lived in Texas with her husband for many years.

“We are staying here for the junk mail conference,” said Gina’s brother-in-law, Gino, “and Gina told us to keep an eye out for you since you work here.”

Gino and Susan said that they might be in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, because they were just telling a reporter from that paper all about how China ships goods to America, and then fills their empty ships with America’s recycling paper to take back to China where they manufacture it into products. I was told that there is no trade involved, that China just takes the paper. I was also told that China takes our paper because they don’t have any of their own natural resources to harvest. Gina’s relatives tell me all this with great urgency, because I publish “the news” on the Pfister blog. As soon as they were done telling me of the Chinese paper transaction they disappeared.

‘Twas the night before Pfist-mas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, health

and all through the Pfister

a few creatures were stirring,

some misses, some misters.

 

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The stockings were hung

without a single demand

and stuffed with the sounds

from the piano man’s hands.

 

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A few guests were asleep

in pillow-topped beds

with visions of lions

roaming in their heads.

 

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The barkeep in his black suit

poured sparkling nightcaps

ensuring those still awake

would soon take long naps.

 

Then out on the street

horns started blaring

some sprang from their stools

some stayed seated, here not caring.

 

And from the cafe windows

they were stunned by what they saw:

Saint Nicholas himself

get out of a yellow taxi car.

 

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His eyes, doctor how they twinkled

not a trace of the crabbies

and before going in

he triple-tipped the cabby.

 

He walked behind the bar

and went straight to work,

refilled everyone’s glasses

with a jolly wink and a smirk.

 

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The guests toasted his kindness

as he left the festive lobby

“Merry Christmas to all

and go back to your room if you start to feel wobbly.”

 

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From facelifts to world peace: What Pfister guests want for the holidays

A couple of nights ago, I went to the Pfister’s Lobby Bar and Blu and randomly asked visitors and guests what they wanted for the holidays.

“You know, if I were Santa or Oprah and the sky was the limit,” I said.

I was surprised, amused and touched by peoples’ responses to my question. Here is what they said. I may have omitted a couple that weren’t, ahem, appropriate.

Aimee: “I want to get my neck done. A mini facelift. Just the bottom half. It takes this and all this gunk out (touches area below chin and on neck.)”

Julie: “An extended holiday. Europe would be nice. When you work, a week off at a time is not enough. Maybe a pair of Jimmy Choos or two.”

Jennifer: “No more student loans for my husband and me.”

Lisa: “I would love it if the Property Brothers from HGTV came to my house and redid my kitchen and bathroom. Six-foot-five, hot twins come and knock out the work? Merry Christmas to me.”

Lori: “Just please make my family well.”

Bob and Gretchen: “We want our kids to be happy. We moved here from Virginia in September and they aren’t liking it. So we don’t want anything for Christmas except for our kids to be happy. Otherwise we are going to kill ourselves.”

Pat: “A brand new Jaguar. It has to have the hood ornament, though.”

Peter: “Honestly, it’s very morose, but I just want my friends alive again. In the last six years I’ve had so many family and friends die. I’m almost afraid of the holidays because of the visits and phone calls I can’t make. I’m sorry I can’t say something like Tickle Me Elmo. Also, I would like more people to be excited about live theater. If you see a good performance, it changes you as a human being. What greater gift could you give yourself or another person?”

Pfister Lion: “I would like people to stop climbing on me. And maybe Chef Frakes could whip me up a nice, rare steak.”

Jeff: “I would like 80 degree weather on a beach. I don’t like winter. Sorry.”

Trish: “I would like Hillary Clinton to be the next president. And for people to stop sweating the small stuff.”

Linda: “A really good bottle of Pinot Noir.”

Bonnie: “World Peace.” (Someone had to say it.)

Jason: “To graduate college. I switched majors twice, took a year off, so it’s been a long time – on top of working 40 hours a week. You get a little burned out.”

Beth: “A new phone. I just lost my iPhone in the snow. My purse strap broke and the phone fell out. I would also like the pilot for Harley Davidson to drop me off in a helicopter on the ski mountain at Banff in Alberta, Canada.”

Chris: “Being with family and friends. There’s nothing I need that’s material. Love. That’s really all I desire.”

Timothy: “I’m getting everything I want for the holidays. My parents are flying me home and I get to be at home for the holidays. It’s not even about Christmas, it’s about New Years, standing in a snow bank around a campfire in our little town square with the other 60 people who live there. They ball up a string of lights and actually have a ball drop. It’s hilarious.”

John: “I like cooking – so appliances and things of that nature. I’m in the market for a new blender. And gifts of food are great, too. My sister made our grandmother’s recipe for meatballs and put them in jars. Then she got baskets from the Dollar Store or Goodwill and filled them with the jars, noodles and a half of a loaf of bread. It was a present that everyone was talking about it. I guess I inherited my grandfather’s trait of wanting practical gifts.”

Santa’s visit!

After last Friday’s tree lighting ceremony, Santa had a  ton of letters to go through just from the children who visited him here at the Pfister (this on top of all of the other letters from across the world). As a testament to the talent that the jolly ol’ man has, and his adoption of technology in the digital age (or maybe it’s just a tech-savvy elf), Santa sent us a brief email along with photos of all the great letters he received from the children of the Pfister, and insisted that we share it with all of you!

Ho ho ho,

Hello there my good friends at The Pfister! I wanted to thank all of you for hosting yet another gorgeous ceremony kicking off the Christmas season at your hotel! It’s always a delight when I make my visits to Milwaukee to include The Pfister in them, and I love leading the countdown to the lighting of your grand tree!

Most importantly though, I love spending time with all of the great girls and boys who attend the tree lighting every year, and those who I get to see each Saturday in December during your “Breakfast with Santa” event.  Year after year, these kids continue to impress me with how smart they are, how exciting they are, and most importantly, with how good they’ve been.

I’ve already dropped my letters back to each of them in the mail, so they should be getting them soon (if they haven’t already), but I’ve enclosed photos that some of my elves helped me take of all the great letters that I got from the children at the lighting ceremony this year.  They were so well written and fun to read that I thought some of your friends might be interested in seeing them too!

I’ve got a busy month ahead of me, but thank you again for welcoming all the great guests along with myself and my lovely wife into your home this and every holiday season!

HO HO HO!

Santa


View all of the letters here!

 

Dancing With the Stars

It’s the one sport that caters to people ages 3-93. And, it has the elegance, grace and pizzazz of a Hollywood movie premier. The Wisconsin State Dancesport Championships was back at the Pfister Hotel for its 26th year of professional/amateur ballroom dance competition last weekend.

Dan and Rebecca Messenger, from Nashotah, Wisconsin, organized the event and attracted thousands of dancers from all over the U.S for four days of fierce competition. There was up to $3,000 in prize money at stake in addition to scholarships available for continuing instruction. Looking through the program and schedule of events was like flipping the yellow pages, in Greek. There were back-to-back events for different ability levels and ages for the rumba, pasa doble, swing and more. It was just like watching Dancing with the Stars, but this time the stars weren’t celebrities vying for a second chance at fame, they were bona-fide dancing divas. There were support teams, families, and dance enthusiasts with every form of technology capturing the dancers’ every movement and expression during the awards ceremony after each event.

So rather than try and tell you about this visually stunning display, I am going to show you in the slideshow below. It will make you want to move your feet. Viva la dance!

Creativity is Everybody’s Business

Maggie Kuhn Jacobus is not your typical executive. Nor is she your typical mom. After a successful carrer as an entreprenuer, writer, producer, marketer, and public relations exec, she took a six-year sabbatical to raise her kids in the lush and far-flung tropics of Costa Rica because she wanted to give them a creative and enriching childhood. “Select soccer and routines were the things I feared most,” she admits.

Maggie Keuhn Jacobus
Maggie Keuhn Jacobus

Kuhn Jacobus is back in her hometown of Milwaukee with teenage boys. She took the position of President and Executive Director of the Creative Alliance  in January and is passionate about linking, leveraging, promoting, and growing the creative industries in the Milwaukee region.

“Creativity is everybody’s business,” she insists at a reception in Cafe Rouge on Thursday night.  It’s evident that not only with her impressive professional resume, but also by her own personal choices that she is just the risk-taker Milwaukee needs to prove the impact of the creative industries on our local economy. Kuhn is a “Glass half full” type of leader and says “Risk is about possibility. We have to ask ourselves what can we do with what we have here in Milwaukee?”

Creative industries are responsible for $2 billion in wages here in Wisconsin, contributing to our region’s vibrancy. But until industries stop working in sillos, growth and development cannot happen. So, the Creative Alliance is set on connecting commerce and creatives.

The Creative Alliance is partnering with the Pfister’s Artist in Residence program and hopes to add more creativite residencies to corporations in MIlwaukee, among a long list of other tactics to bring the creative industry to the forefront of economic discussion.

Stephanie Barenz, the Pfister’s current Artist in Residence, also spoke to the crowd about her work as a full-time creative professional working in a corporate setting.  She is currently working on both a mentoring program with students at St. Marcus School (where her husband is a teacher) to teach them about writing and painting as well as a body of work entitled “The Carriers,” which explores how travel affects our perception of home. What a fitting proposal for a working studio in a historic hotel. Several of her intricate and thought-provoking paintings were on display, along with a diverse body of work from past Artist in Residence finalists.

Stephanie Barenz's artwork on display
Stephanie Barenz’s artwork on display

To really hit home her point, Kuhn Jacobus invited her favorite local band, Painted Caves, to serenade the crowd with exotic sounds, while they mingled and discussed how enriching and vital the arts truly are. The whole event was well choreographed and engaged like a creative leader does best.

 

Painted Caves
Painted Caves

 

 

Lindsay the Magnificent Bride

“We were staying at the Pfister when it  happened.” That phrase could apply to a million different situations. Lindsay was at the Pfister for the Magnificent Bride show earlier this month, where I captured her story.

Shaun and Lindsay met at UW-Milwaukee. He – a studious PhD candidate in psychology and she – a curious lab assistant. The courtship started with a roller derby and the engagement started with a derby of a whole different kind – a bet on a Kentucky Derby race horse. Shaun was watching the derby at Maxie’s Southern Comfort when he entered his name in a raffle and won an overnight stay at the Pfister. So, he and Lindsay decided to stay at the Pfister for their one-year anniversary.

When the weekend arrived, they enjoyed dinner at the Mason Street Grill and then set out to re-create their first date at a Brew City Bruisers roller derby bout. Lindsay boldly asked Shaun out after noticing him in class. Immediately on their first date, he warned her: “You know, we can’t really date because I am your teacher’s assistant.” By the end of the night, Shaun had changed his tune. “You know, it’d be stupid if we didn’t date. Let’s talk to our professor and see if we can’t work something out,” he suggested.

Shaun and Lindsay
Shaun and Lindsay

One year later, back at the reenactment, Shaun and Lindsay sat trackside at the bout and she noticed that he was acting a little odd. “He didn’t want to converse with or hang out with any of our friends that were there, but I did’t really think anything of it.” Of course, he was just focused and didn’t want anyone or anything to deter him from his plan.

He watches her as she’s recounting the details and smiles sweetly. She’s vivacious an verbose, telling the story with the same excitement of the first time.

After the bout, they returned to the hotel to change into nice clothes to go up stairs to Blu. As Lindsay was putting the finishing touches on her look, her back was turned to Shaun and he said, “Before we go downstairs, there is something I’d like to ask you,” and he immediately got down on one knee. With her back still turned and after about a minute of dead silence, Lindsay turned around to see that the Shaun had been waiting on his knee with the ring in hand.

“That minute seemed to last forever,” confessed Shaun.

Although they had talked about marriage, Lindsay had no idea that the proposal was coming.  He had consciously stopped conversations about marriage so he could surprise her. The string of serendipity continued…

“So then we go up to Blu and there happened to be fireworks in honor of Chinese New Year!” proclaimed Lindsay. They ordered a set of chocolate-covered strawberries (Lindsay’s favorite) and the waitress came out with Congratulations written on the plate, though she had no idea that they had just gotten engaged. “It was so crazy, by pure coincidence she used this plate that was just laying around back there.”

Shaun and Lindsay are planning on tying the knot in May 2014 after graduation. “The Pfister has been a significant presence in our journey,” she said and after all this good luck, they fully intend to include the Pfister in the wedding plans.

 

Lindsay and Shaun at Blu post-engagement
Lindsay and Shaun at Blu post-engagement

 

Inspirational Women, Inspiring Change

No matter who you are or where you came from, you probably had some help along the way. At the Women Inspired to Lead event last week at the Pfister, I spoke to several role models of all ages who’ve enjoyed the support of strong women to help them get to where they are now.

The event was a benefit for PEARLS for Teen Girls, a leadership development organization for African-American and Latina girls ages 10-19. Among the 400 guests, there was a panel of diverse women leaders who shared their personal stories of inspiration.

Tawanna Jackson stood out among the crowd. She is affectionately known as the Harriet Tubman of PEARLS. She  joined the group as it was taking root photoin Milwaukee in 2002, when she was a freshman in high school. Since then, she’s worked as a team facilitator and is now the youngest member of the Board of the Directors. Tawanna, 25 years old, is an HR coordinator at US Bank. She was polished, personable and poised in a coral shift dress belted at the waist, blazer and a leopard print scarf neatly tied at her neck. I was even more impressed when she spoke.

Tawanna barely stopped to take a breath once she started extolling all the virtues of PEARLS. “I wouldn’t be where I am without PEARLS. Wherever I am, I am always a part of this organization and I am always representing,” she boasted. “It’s taught me to give back to my community too.” She continued and smiled as she recalled her experience. “I learned how to love myself. I was never a misfit, I was always focused, but PEARLS helped me to stay on that track. I understood how to carry myself as a young lady and be a role model for other young ladies.”

I ran into more smiling faces – PEARLS girls, you could just tell. They were  greeting guests at the elevators. Hydia Harris, 17, attends MC2 High School, Shante McKay, 17, goes to Riverside and Jazzlin Jones, 18, is a senior at Hope Christian School. They are all team facilitators who work with younger members of the PEARLS program and serve as role models to the middle school students. Bubbly and attentive, they were eager to answer any question. Through PEARLS, Jazzlin had the opportunity to go on a college tour and begin planning her future. Shante enjoyed the “Making Proud Choices” curriculum that teaches young women about healthy relationships and Hydia attributes her academic success to the “Strive to Achieve” program. All of these young women personified the mission of PEARLS and were excellent spokespeople for what can be achieved through opportunity, guidance and hard work.

Now on to a role model of a different caliber. Margaret HenningsenExecutive Director of the Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee, was a panelist and has been involved in PEARLS since it started. She and PEARLS Executive Director Danae Davis have mentored each other over the years. Margaret knows a thing or two about women and girls. She is the oldest of 10 children in her family, with five sisters who now all have daughters. “It’s been my passion to make sure women and girls are treated equally,” she said.  As the owner of the now closed Legacy Bank, Margaret most enjoyed teaching a class to PEARLS girls about managing finances.  She too has a role model: “My grandmother instilled in me to get out there and do things.”  But surprisingly, she doesn’t consider herself one.  “I am really honored to have been selected, but I never really thought of myself as someone who inspires,” she admits.

I stepped aside as the crowd flooded into the ballroom. It quickly became apparent that whether they knew it or not, all of these women affected the life of another. And this culture of community, of enabling success, is exactly what made me proud to be among that crowd.

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Hydia, Shante and Jazzlin

The Art of Storytelling with Ex Fabula

No professionals needed – just enthusiastic amateurs. That’s my kind of club. ExFabula has been organizing live storytelling events in Milwaukee since 2009. Founding member Megan McGee takes pride in helping people discover that they have a story to tell and showing them how to do it. There is only one rule – all five-minute stories must be true. And, each event has a theme that storytellers must stick to. “The themes aren’t a way to restrict people, they should just be starting off point,” explains Megan. “Eventually everyone connects with something.”

Andrew Larsen got involved last fall and has been telling stories at several of the monthly events. He clears his throat and his baritone voice booms sarcastically, “I like the hearing the sound of my own voice.”  By day, Andrew is a history teacher at Marquette and a passionate advocate for the art of storytelling. “History is really just a collection of stories,” he says, and he often uses storytelling to engage his students. “It’s fun telling stories,” he confesses, “Its is how people used to entertain each other years ago before technology. American culture has taught people to be really passive. Live storytelling allows the audience to take an active role in their entertainment.”

Andrew Larsen and Megan McGee
Andrew Larsen and Megan McGee

I met Andrew and Megan in the Pfister lobby to talk about their upcoming event and was able to coerce Andrew into sharing a story.  (See below) “There are a few key elements to a good story,” he explains, “The delivery certainly matters and it helps if its relatable.” Andrew’s poise, confidence and articulation definitely shine through when the spotlight is on him.

At each event the are scheduled storytellers and people who volunteer that night.  Funny stories always go over well,  but are not the only effective ones. “The story I liked the most was actually serious, it was about a very challenging conversation with my father,” admits Andrew.

Think you want try your hand at storytelling? The theme for the next ExFabula event on Tuesday, March 12  is “Green.”  The event will be at Club Giribaldi in Bayview and admission is $5 at the door. About half of the crowd are newcomers and half are regulars. Andrew plans on telling a story and assures that it’s a very supportive atmosphere. “Our audience appreciates people who are brave enough to tell their stories, Megan chimes in. “Every story inspires another.”

For more information on ExFabula or the event on March 12, click here.

See Andrew tell his story “Blind Date” that he told last month at an ExFabula event.