A good story about fear–well, it’s kind of vain–is about when I was 21. I conquered a lot of fears by going to school in London. I was going to UW-Parkside and found a study abroad program through UW-Platteville. I really had no monetary understanding or issues; I just didn’t care. I just knew I was going to do this.
But I was scared shitless. For one, I didn’t know anyone in the program because I was at a different school. I just wanted to get out and do stuff–and I knew I’d have to conquer any fears. When I was there, I had to figure out the Underground by myself–I did that. And one time I figured out how to see four plays in one day! LENNON, 42ND STREET, GIGI, and LES MIS–seriously, the opening night of LES MIS in London!
When I came back from London, however, all the normal fears came back, especially since I didn’t feel, from London, like I had to make any real decisions. But of course I did.
I want this kind of experience for my daughters. I want them to experience a different culture and conquer their fears–at least temporarily.
I love meeting new people in my role as the Pfister Narrator, viagra but there are some times when I’d rather fade into the wallpaper and listen; watching and admiring life passing by rather than having face-to-face discoveries.
Times like 10pm on Friday night.
This last Friday I had been at the Pfister early in the evening to see the new Teachers show in the Pfister’s Pop-Up Gallery that our Artist-In-Residence Todd has curated with his usual care and attention. I then had to dash off to some other social engagements for the evening that wrapped up a few hours later. At a few minutes to 10pm on Friday night I found myself alone on the streets of Milwaukee faced with the options of going home to lay my head on my pillow or swinging by the Pfister to see if I might run into friends who I had heard were out and about for fun and games. It was one of those moments when I really didn’t want the shank of the evening to fade too quickly. I still had the itch to surround myself with the buzz of people clinking glasses and chattering away before wrapping myself in my bedcovers and calling it a day. So, viagra at 10pm on Friday night, the Pfister it was for my final stop.
I made a full swing through the hotel to see if my friends were solving all of the world’s problems fueled by glasses of gin and champagne. Alas, they seemed to be somewhere else in the universe hatching plots, but at 10pm on Friday night, I sensed that I had the rare solo viewer chance to seek out the everyday magic that seemed to be tucked in every action filled nook and cranny of the hotel that has become my home away from home.
The lobby bar was filled to the brim with twenty-somethings dressed to the nines smiling and flirting their way to the promise of a dewey eyed Saturday morning pillow talk with someone kind of sweet. And at 10pm on a Friday night, a handsome man with a perfect tight and trim haircut lit up the chilly winter night by proving that his purchase of an electric blue suit was the best charge he had ever put on his credit card.
I popped into Blu on the 23rd floor and thought about staying around to listen to the melancholy songs wafting through the air, but I saw that at 10pm on Friday night there were no seats to be had and decided it was probably bad form to take a perch on someone’s lap. As I made my way to the ground floor with a group of white haired ladies cheeping at each other, I learned that Harriet, some far off friend, had taken up swing dancing, and her new hip was holding up just fine.
A pass through Mason Street Grill at 10pm on Friday night reminded me that I should absolutely consider eating more steak and listening to loads more jazz because everyone packed into the swank room brimmed with joy and the luscious perfume of Porterhouse.
At 10pm on Friday night I made my way past the Artist-In-Residence Studio to see that Todd was home and that creation was marching on with a guest humming along drawing and painting into the dark hours.
I like to think that at 10pm on a Friday night there should never be a question of whether or not art is happening at the Pfister.
It also pleases me to no end that at 10pm on a Friday night a young lady is allowed to stay up way past her bedtime so she can snake her way through a crowded room in her bathing suit after a starry sky swim.
The little yawn coming from my mouth told me finally that at 10pm on a Friday night there was no shame in submitting to the lure of cozy time with my lids snapped shut, so I buttoned up my coat and started to make my way to the parking garage to grab my car and head home. As I passed the Café at the Pfister I noticed that the occasion of a special Chef’s Table dinner was warmly bringing together a group of people for elevated food and inspired conversation. Peering into the darkness of the room, I looked past Dr. Hollander, the Pfister’s legend of the 88 keys, as he was taking a break from his piano set. I couldn’t tell if the shining light around his noggin full of well-tuned notions was coming from a simple light bulb or the glow of genius within his artist’s soul.
You see, at 10pm on Friday night there was indeed magic in every corner on this particular hotel, and I was lucky enough to be there to see it all in its everyday glory.
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After spending time with Brian Frakes in the bowels of the Pfister, remedy I am quite confident that I will have no need to visit any doctor for 96 days or so.
Brian, the Pfister’s Executive Chef, caught me in the Café drinking coffee like I was in a contest to see if I could ingest a day’s worth of caffeine that might rival Voltaire’s daily in take. (If you’re not a Voltaire freak like me, and I sincerely hope your nerd strains don’t run that deep, you should know that Voltaire reportedly drank up to 40 cups of coffee a day).
I believe Brian sensed from my cocoa colored skin that the benefits of healthy eating would be well served on me with a trip to his magical apple cellar.
Brian tipped me off that he had just received a sampling of apples from his pal Ken Weston at Weston’s Antique Apple Orchard. An apple break sounded grand to me. I was also curious to see what an antique apple actually was. My mind conjured the thought of a fruit wrapped in a doily. But Brian has a great palette and essentially defines “cool chef”, so I knew that whatever the case, the snacking was bound to be good.
I gulped a long final draw of black coffee and got up from my Café table for apple tasting time. It seemed like a perfect thing to do on the first acceptable fall day when I had slipped into a wool suit because the temps outside the Pfister have started dipping into those beautiful autumn levels that remind all our visitors that Milwaukee is a truly spectacular place to be this time of the year. Brian’s invitation was more than a summons to apple snack, it was a welcoming to leaves crunching under my feet and hearty cheers at a football game.
I’m an apple fan, so what Brian had laid out for sweet and tart tasting time was a slice of heaven. He explained to me that Mr. Weston had given him some samples in the past and ever since then has shown the Pfister a lot of apple love. Locally sourced, delicately handled, these apples were a visual feast and Brian’s rustic display looked magazine photo shoot worthy as my eyes popped over which red or green goodness to try first.
I followed Brian’s lead and took slices of different varieties and dipped them into light colored honey. As the crisp slivers of apple and sweet honey hit my tongue, the seasons changed before my eyes. This wasn’t just an apple moment, this was my chance to see how the Pfister shifts and shapes with each new turn of the calendar. It’s fairly splendid to imagine a guest chomping down on one of these spectacular pieces of fruit and in one bite experiencing a rush of nature that is both full of flavor wonder and seasonal peace.
Call your doctor, and by all means invite him or her for a trip down to the Pfister. The apples are coming and it means very good things for everyone.
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I have some great stories to tell you all about some great Pfister visitors.
But not today. Today it is finally time to speak of cake.
It’s a languid summer day here at the Pfister, click and on days like this guests are relaxed and casual. There’s a couple of guys in the lobby nursing a mid afternoon brew, a lady has come back from a downtown jog, and then there’s the guy in dark glasses and beard who just got handed an enormous cardboard box and left the building (a box of puppies…maybe?). It’s what you might call sort of a “chill” day. It’s pretty glorious.
I found myself with a little spare time around the noon hour today, cialis so I checked with my friend Jimmy about an impromptu lunch date. I keep inviting Jimmy to the Pfister for lunch because I really want to see him eat The Senator’s Tuna. Jimmy and I argue about food (I’m pro Schnitzel, he is scared of it), but I know that he and I would have the same reverence for The Senator’s Tuna served so perfectly with its side cup of coffee.
But Jimmy suggested a lunch spot near his office a few blocks from the Pfister in downtown Milwaukee. I knew Jimmy had a finite amount of time for lunch, so I willingly obliged and departed the Pfister for our luncheon date.
And then I really screwed up. I had the kale salad for lunch.
Now there is nothing particularly wrong about having a kale salad for lunch, but when you have in your head that you could have had The Senator’s Tuna and a cup of hot black coffee, which is one of your all time favorite lunches, the kale salad just about kills you.
I made my way back to the Pfister feeling the sorrowful effects of kale–superior health, bursting energy, a bright sense of connection to the world. It was awful, I tell you, awful.
I had been having a “chill” day soaking in the vibes of the Pfister, so that Vitamin D pep of kale kind of bummed me out. I needed to do something to slide back into the swell and “maybe I’ll take a nap” sort of vibes of the day.
As I settled back into the Pfister after my short walk out into the city streets, I knew that action needed to be taken if I was to feel like a part of the cozy party taking place. I needed something to counteract all of that green goodness lunch, something that would actually make my heart swell, figuratively and maybe even literally.
And then there was cake. Ahhhhhh!
I am all for personal choice, but damn that all when it is time to speak of the Pfister’s Signature Cake. I would like to mandate that everyone everywhere should be eating a piece of this glorious cake right now. It’s like a cup of coffee with the perfect amount of cream and sugar and some caramel and a sprinkle of unicorn dust. It’s simply perfect in every way that cake should be.
I’m back to having a “chill” day after my afternoon snack, and I feel like the guy in the lobby in the blue baseball hat who has droopy eyes because he’s reveling in all the chill of the day trusts me a little more because I have cake on my breath and not the clean crisp scent of kale.
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.
Barbara has her own table. She has no need to look at the menu to know what she wants to eat. She’s on a first name basis with the entire wait staff, and jokes fly back and forth with them all.
Barbara also comes in daily, picks up the newspaper (the real paper one, not a digital version mind you—that’s how regulars play) and does the crossword puzzle. She’s a champ and finishing the crossword puzzle is something that is not a miracle occurrence for her, but rather the daily expectation.
Having taken to sitting near Barbara on my daily visits to the Café, I have happily formed a friendly relationship with her. In that collegial role, I have recently become one of the people Barbara might throw a clue out to for help while she’s doodling on the puzzle. I suspect sometimes that she doesn’t really need the help, it’s more like throwing a dog a bone. I for one slobber all over that bone.
I’m always willing to step up and help a crossword puzzler to fill in all the open boxes. I like to give my fellow man or woman an assist, and it’s certainly great to entrench yourself in the fabric of the regular rhythms of life at the Pfister by showing one of the regulars some love.
So I help Barbara finish her puzzles whenever she throws out a clue. And to do so, I cheat real, real bad.
I’ve certainly been able to come up with a few words and ideas from time to time on my very own. There was the day that the word DAHLIA (a Mexican flower was the clue) came to mind and I was able to help Barbara with a vexing opening. But I’m often at the Café writing behind my open laptop that is connected to the internet through the glorious available WIFI. The temptation to reach into the vast Googly network of research available to me without Barbara or anyone really seeing me do so is too tempting.
Barbara threw out the clue, “Two letter Kipling poem,” and you would be amazed at how silently and stealthily my fingers typed KIPLING into my keyboard to get a list of his works. (The poem is called “If” by the way, and it is a good one.)
I’ve not told Barbara of my cheater, cheater, internet eater ways yet. For now, I’ll try harder to keep my hands off the keys and keep my brain in the game. Being a regular means living by a certain code, and I’ll be damned if 17-across will bring me to my knees.
I anticipate that today I will begin what will grow to become a more public and frequent declaration of one of my favorite harmless infatuations.
Oh, how I love a gaggle of ladies who have all agreed to wear the same dress and stand in front of a group of people.
And, okay, I can’t forget their male counterparts, the groomsmen. Guys, remember, clip-on bow ties just mean you haven’t tried hard enough (forgive me, I’m a bow tie snob).
The Pfister is a glittering nexus for wedding activity. It’s either the place your party gathers and stays at before a march down the aisle, or it becomes wedding command central for every element of your public declaration of love. It is literally possible to enter the Pfister for your wedding one day and never leave the building until several days and glasses of champagne later when a shiny new ring has been firmly placed on your left hand.
Everything you need for a good wedding experience can be found at the Pfister. There’s nothing wrong with the eye candy of the whole building with its classic architectural flourishes, of course, but there’s also a spa for pre wedding primping, plenty of bar space for having an ounce of courage before you make the big move into coupledom, and ballrooms are abundant for your grandmother to sit and finish her wedding cake while you and your wedding party do the Chicken Dance to really show the world you’ve gotten hitched. Plus, a post wedding day breakfast in the Café at the Pfister offers plenty of options for that one dude at every wedding who pushes it a little too far and needs to have a start of day meal that combines equal parts of greasy and gooey (a sure fire hangover cure according to my dear, sweet mother).
I have a sentimental attachment to the whole idea of weddings as they relate to the Pfister, because my wife and I stayed the night at the Pfister the evening after we got married on a Friday the 13th 107 years ago (I am very old as you can probably tell from my baldness and affection for eyeglasses that make me look like Swifty Lazar). I will always remember how gorgeous our room was and how quickly we fell asleep when we tumbled into our suite. I am ever grateful for that uninterrupted night of Pfister rest as it gave my wife and I the strength we needed to rise triumphant the next morning and finish off the catering we had done ourselves for a party for 200 of our friends…but that’s another story of things you should never do when planning a wedding.
At my wedding, I wore a suit and my wife wore an eggplant colored dress. My brother and I were the ushers, no one wore matching colors, and the bride taught a spinning class the morning before the ceremony.
It is perhaps because of this casual approach to pomp that I have since been slightly obsessed with the dynamics of weddings that really have some sort of structure and design. Don’t get me wrong, I love how I got married, but I always have secretly wondered what it would have been like to have a few guys stand next to me in matching bow ties while I said my vows looking at my dad uncomfortably stuffed into a tuxedo. It boggles my mind what that might have been.
It was with a giddy joy that I came upon a group of bridesmaids in the Pfister Lobby. Signing on to be a bridesmaid means that you are content with enjoying the one time in a woman’s life when wearing the same dress as another lady at a party is not only an okay social thing to do, but it’s sort of expected. In this case the chosen bridesmaid dress was a deep dark blue. The ladies had every hair perfectly in place and comported themselves with a grace that suggested they knew their business well.
I thought their dresses were quite fetching, but I am also constantly curious about how the ladies themselves feel about the clothes they must wear in service to the bride as her support network. I honed in on a bright-eyed lady named Ashley who I sensed was the organizer of the group. I asked her that key style question that haunts all bridesmaids: “So, how do you like your dress?”
Ashley smiled and graciously said, “I think it’s beautiful. I imagine I’ll wear mine again.”
I stood with Ashley and found myself in the center of the group of waiting lady attendants. I posed the question to the other women, and fellow bridesmaid Melissa said, “It’s okay. Certainly not the worst I’ve ever worn.” Like a career soldier, Melissa wears the colors in dutiful service to the bride. Melissa, we salute you.
I noticed that all the bridesmaids were wearing matching flip-flops. Ashley explained to me that the flip-flops were a comfort concession for later on in the evening when the whole bridal party planned to tear up the dance floor. Other heeled shoes were part of the uniform of the day, but it seemed that standing on ceremony in those for too long would have been a bit too much for all the ladies’ tootsies.
In the pecking order of my bridal party obsessions, bridesmaids come way before groomsmen. It’s not every man’s business to wear a tuxedo. I think the best gang of groomsmen are the ones who sort of fade into the whole party. They’re the ones who are fun lads, have all the right buttons done, and don’t faint from locking their knees during the wedding ceremony.
The fellas complementing the ladies in blue were all hydrating well sucking on water bottles when I asked for a picture. It was good to see that no flies were open as I asked for a photo.
I imagine these guys presented well at the actual event. They looked like they had all done a good workout beforehand and were serious, steely and focused on being a quiet and respectful set of bros who knew it was best to let the ladies shine.
Ashley pointed out to me that the bride had made her way into the lobby at one point and that I might want to talk to her about the big day. I smiled at Ashley, and nodded enthusiastically about that announcement, but I never thought to check in with the woman in white (who, by the way, was gorgeous and beautifully gowned). Honestly, I didn’t much care. It’s the ladies and gents who agree to have their clothes picked by others that really turn my head.
Are you still feeling the glow of Mother’s Day? It was a glorious brunch filled day at the Pfister this past Sunday when good sons and daughters showered their moms with well deserved adoration.
Me? I was out of town, there and I’m not 100% certain that my Mom even had a good cup of coffee.
Lest you think I’m a terrible son, you should know that I did manage to arrange an early Mother’s Day lunch at the Café at the Pfister with my mother Judy. She’s a rock star of motherdom, and I wanted to make sure I had at least bought her a salad.
I also had an ulterior motive for our lunch date. My Mom has a great Pfister story that I really wanted to hear told to me at the scene-of-the–crime, as it were. This story is part of my family’s legend and lore, and I’m sure for those folks who were around the day it happened some 35 years ago, it’s still a memorable moment.
My wife Paula (a woman who is in the Top 2 of all-time great mothers on my “Mother’s I Love” List) was also included in our celebration of good mothers bread breaking because she somehow had never heard the story, and I’m also just rather fond of lunching with her.
My mom, Paula and I settled into a table in the Café right along the windows. It had been years since my mom had been to the Pfister, and as we took our seats she looked out the window as if looking back in time.
“It happened right out there,” said mom gazing at parked cars on the street. “Right in front of all the cab drivers. They had a good laugh.”
Over the years I’ve thought and thought about my mom’s story, and I’ve considered how different endings could have changed the course of my life in some pretty drastic ways. We’ve certainly laughed about it all over the years, but listening to my mom tell my wife the story put the whole thing in perspective for me once again and makes me think that maybe my mom had a guardian angel watching over her as she exited our family car to have the most eventful day ever getting her hair done in the Janice Salon at the Pfister (which has now blossomed into the full service WELL Spa® + Salon).
Paula leaned in as my mom recalled the day long ago when pants legs were flared and the music of your life had a disco beat. I was about 10-years-old and my brother was a mere toddler as my mom dropped us at a neighbor’s house so she could drive downtown to the Pfister to get her hair done, taking a well deserved break from her job at that time as a stay-at-home mom. We were a one car family back then, and my hard working father took the bus to work everyday as a tax attorney in a downtown office building a mere few blocks away from the Pfister.
Our family car was an AMC Green Hornet. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it did the job of getting us around town.
It also proved to be reliable for shuttling us back and forth to visit our family in upstate New York, a trip we made for the Christmas holiday and summers. That car was steady, and on our family’s modest budget it was a more than a-okay set of wheels.
Mom parked the Green Hornet on Jefferson Street right across from the lineup of cabs servicing Pfister guests in need of a ride around town. She filled her meter, dashed into the hotel, and went into the basement salon for a nice hairdo tune up.
As soon as she got settled in her stylist’s chair, someone rushed into the salon and said, “There’s a car on fire across the street!”
My mom gulped hard, panicked knowing that she herself had parked right across the street. Hoping that she heard red or orange or even brown, she asked, “What color is the car?”
“Blue,” answered the town crier who had given the car- -on-fire report. “It’s a blue car, and it’s up in flames.”
Blue was a perfectly fine color as far as my mother was concerned. It wasn’t green, the color of our sweet little ride, so she relaxed believing there was no need for concern and sunk into the stylist’s chair for one of the stunning cuts she always received, classic looker that she has always been.
As mom made her way out onto the street freshly coiffed, the news of the burning car had almost vanished from her thoughts. That is until she pulled her keys out of her purse and was stymied about how to unlock our AMC Green Hornet that was now charred and smoking parked tightly against the curb. Whether or not a Green Hornet burns blue when it bursts into flames, there had clearly been a mix up in making the announcement.
The cab drivers nearby had been waiting to see who the poor sucker was who owned the car. They told my mom that the moment she had walked into the lobby at the Pfister, flames had shot up from under the hood of the car. Had this happened a few moments earlier, my mom would have had no need for a cut and shampoo but my brother, dad and I might have had a great and powerful need for another lady who did a damned fine job of keeping us all together. It was, to say the least, the best bad timing my mother ever had.
My mom tells of walking to my dad’s office and announcing to my father that the car had burned up and that the fire department had smashed the driver’s side window when putting the fire out. I can only imagine the look on my dad’s face when my mom showed up that day to tell him that their only car was out of commission.
But here’s what I love about this story and my parents pluck and determination—we kept that car. My parents did what they could with the means that they had, and I’m happy to report that we had that little AMC for another couple of years. It even made the trip to upstate New York for Christmas a few months after the blaze. Of course, my brother and I huddled under blankets and my dad drove with mittens because heat rarely came from the dashboard after the accident.
Paula, my mother and I chuckled about it all over our salads, thinking about how crazy it was for my mom the moment she made her horrible discovery. I’m gladder than glad that no one, most of all, my mom, was hurt back in the day. I’m also proud to say that I know that standing before that smoldering Green Hornet in the afternoon sun nearly 40 years ago, my mom’s hair looked amazing.