Meet The Bloody Mary Elf

I have recently written about my encounters with innocent children at the finest Santa breakfast in the land, thumb a meal that helped remind me that Christmas is all about kids. Today I would like to slightly amend that statement because the holidays are also a particularly special time when adults are filled with the spirit.

Take the spirit vodka for instance. You can’t make a good Bloody without it.

During my visit to the breakfast to end all Santalands at the Pfister this past weekend, sovaldi sale I witnessed a delightful phenomenon occur involving the parents and guardians of many of the exuberant tikes who had come to give Santa the straight dope on their wants and needs. In the midst of the scrambled egg and pastry feeding frenzy, I noticed a solo middle aged man saunter through the crowds to his family’s breakfast table carrying precious cargo in his hands. He was not balancing a buffet plate with sausage links stacked like cord wood as you might expect of that sort of a dad type. Instead he had hunted down his own Yuletide treat – a towering Bloody Mary.

As the smartest adult in the room settled in to crunch on a celery stick slick with spicy, boozy tomato juice, the eyes of others in the room whose height is measured in feet rather than inches looked dreamily at his better alternative to grapefruit juice. Then slowly, one by one, many of the elders in the room started to disappear and then reappear minutes later with their own fully stuffed Bloody Marys. Soon the ratio of hot chocolate to vodka-based drinks in the room was balanced and both kids and adults had their own distinct reasons to call this “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Watching this silent Bloody Mary train chug along, I thought of the busy bar staff in the Lobby Lounge who I imagined were mixing and fixing these elaborate cocktails as fast as you can say “a little moderate day drinking will always jingle my bells.” It certainly was a tall order for a Saturday morning, what with the secret hotsy totsy mix needing plenty of celery, pickle and other delish garnish.

A short time after leaving Breakfast with Santa, I found myself down in the Lobby Lounge. Val was indeed busy behind the bar mixing Bloody Marys and pouring short beer backs. Two folks in red running gear had a place at the bar and were enjoying some refreshing Mimosas. The female of the pair noticed a woman across the lobby, and shouted to her.

“Did you make it upstairs in one piece with the Bloody Mary?”

The woman gave a thumbs up and waved a show of thanks. And then it hit me. A Bloody Mary train needs its own conductor, and this lady in the red tracksuit was it.

I introduced myself, shook her hand and explained the phenomenon of the sudden appearance of happy adults holding classic brunch drinks at Breakfast with Santa. I asked her if she had had something to do with that drink dance. The lady admitted that she had given a hand with the stacking of garnish and had offered an assist to the woman she had just checked in with as she had teetered across the lobby with a full drink.

Now here’s the part of the story that I would very much like you to believe is magic. When I talk to folks at the Pfister, I ask permission to tell about our encounter, and I always, without fail, write down their names in a small notebook I keep tucked in the breast pocket of my suit jacket. When I went back to that notebook to get the woman’s name so I could insert it in this story and give some attribution to this good soul who had shown herself to be a true believer in enabling a little light morning buzz, the page that had contained her name was missing from my notebook.

You might think that I lost the page after having a few pre-noon nips myself, but the only sauce that goes in my gullet is black, steamy, and java jiving all the way. I call “Christmas Miracle!” on this one (allowing of course for the possibility that maybe, just maybe, that page had been ripped from my notebook and wrapped around a piece of chewed gum that had lost its flavor).

The lady in question and her male companion had come from a morning fun run downtown and were relaxing with their champagne cocktails in true holiday decompression mode. I would like to give credit where credit is due, but I’ll simply accept the magical Christmas moment and crown this service-oriented woman as The Bloody Mary Elf. And believe me, Elf on the Shelf ain’t got anything on this sister.

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A Global Union

Admit it…when you think of families coming together to enjoy the holidays, ambulance your mind has a better than average chance of wandering to images of a mother, dad and children who all have the same color skin and look like they share some DNA. Throw in a good dash of wool and a roaring fire, and it’s a painting that Norman Rockwell himself could have created.

After meeting some new friends at the Pfister finishing their holiday lunch next to the fireplace in the lounge, check I’m happy to add another image of familial harmony to the old grey matter. My mind will now invariably start wandering towards the charming image of a Norse father, a Finnish mother and their two delightful Chinese daughters.

Setting out to start their holiday celebration, Hallgeir, the dad, and Marja, the mom, had put together a day of fun with their daughters Juliette and Claudia that had started with a trip to the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. I had the pleasure of meeting the family as seven-year-old Juliette and nine-year-old Claudia were finishing once full lunch plates. There were no phones on the tables, no tablets distracting this scene of togetherness, just a foursome full of inquisitive looks and open ears.

Hallgeir and Marja landed in Milwaukee from Norway and Finland respectively and both work at the Medical College of Wisconsin. They live in nearby Shorewood, and the outing with their daughters was a special treat to experience some peaceful times during the crush of the holidays. The girls were soaking it in like true pros.

“I want to stay here ten days in a row,” said Claudia. Her sister’s cheerful smile confirmed that she was in on that wish. I mentioned to the girls that if they could convince their mom and dad to make an extended stay happen, that they had better take full advantage of our 23rd floor swimming pool. The girls leaned forward a little bit more as I described the pool, certainly dreaming about dips and dives to come.

Marja and Hallgeir looked on at their adopted daughters as we chatted, faces full of the most real and genuine love. I asked Hallgeir what he thought on the girls’ plan to put down some roots for a good long Pfister stay someday in the future. He smiled the smile of all great dads, shrugging his shoulders with the sort of gesture that said, “Sure, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my family.” I bet that’s true, and I bet that if Norman Rockwell were still around, he’d create a masterpiece with this global union.

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Operation Pamper: The Secret Spa Mission

Friday the 13th. 10:55am. Pfister Hotel Lobby Bar. Black Ops Mission engaged. Decompression fluids in process. Relaxation level at Level Orange headed towards Blazing Red.

I was witness to a secret mission at the Pfister this morning. It included a fair dose of intrigue. I never felt in danger as I saw the mission going down, viagra however. There was hardly any dagger, but plenty of cloak. Well, robe, actually.

Seeing three women looking like they’re ready for the weekend to start a little early in the day on a Friday in the Pfister lobby is like a bell going off in my brain that says, “Hey, these ladies probably have a story.” I wasn’t wrong.

I took a seat next to the trio and asked, “What are you ladies celebrating? You look like you’re in a festive mood.” They put in three drink orders, the kind of ones you make when you don’t have to go back to work, and smiled.

“We’re having a little R&R before our spa visit. Just to really relax,” said one of the women. Sounded like a pretty nice Friday to me, so I followed up to see if I could ask them some questions and write about their day.

That’s when eyes started to shift back and forth, questioning looks appeared on their faces, and I started to get the feeling that they thought I was working for some covert operation. Then they landed the deadliest question any writer who talks to people and writes about it fears he or she may hear.

“Uh…where does this go? We need to be careful.”

Now, that’s exactly the sort of response that generates two strong feelings. The first feeling is one that tells you in your tender soul to just leave the ladies be and let them enjoy their day. The second feeling is that one where you’re just not going to stop until you get the full scoop on the nefarious doings potentially going down. I’m weak in the knees when it comes to stories of people doing things they maybe shouldn’t be doing, so my tender soul took a rain check on taking the lead and I kept going with my questions.

I explained to the ladies that I wanted to hear their story and write about it for this very blog. The word “blog” made them open their eyes wide with a look of terror. Looking back at me they had expressions on their faces that sort of said, “You’ve found us! Curses! Drat!”

I asked, “What’s the matter…you playing hooky?” I thought back to all the times a few friends of mine and I might have slipped out of work for an unplanned drink, cookie, or, the granddaddy of them all, afternoon nap. Yeah, I realized that if someone had approached me in those moments wanting to write about my slinking away, I wouldn’t have taken too great of a shine to that proposition.

Immediately, the ladies assured me that they weren’t playing hooky. “No, no! Nothing like that,” said their default spokeswoman. “We just shouldn’t really spread this news around that we’re here right now. It’s sort of a special thing.”

I’d love to tell you that they were all trained ninjas or women on the run from the law, but it seems that there was no soul stirring betrayal happening. The women weren’t employed in some corporate espionage scenario. They just happened to be three great workers who their boss had recognized within their company with a trip to the Well Spa on this particular Friday afternoon.

“We told a little white lie about where we were going to the rest of the people we work with. We didn’t want them to feel bad that it was only the three of us getting to spend the day in the spa.”

I learned more about the who, what and why of how the ladies came to get their afternoon off, but my tender soul finally kicked in. They let me snap a picture of them toasting the day, but I’m not telling any more than that. Yours is a little white lie that I’m happy to keep, ladies. A fine spa mission to you all, and you’re right–your co-workers would have been very jealous of your perfectly divine day. Operation Pamper is a super sneaky success.

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Peter’s Perfectly Pious Pius Pitch

They say that coffee is for closers. I say that cocktails are for charmers.

My Wednesday night plans this week involved meeting up at Blu with a group of writers to chat into the night like some sort of Cream City Algonquin Round Table. As I exited the elevator on the 23rd floor to meet my friends, ambulance I found myself walking right into the middle of a swinging party. And it was quite a rager for a school night.

That school night festivus turned out to be a mighty successful Blutender event for Pius XI High School. The smiling guests clinking glasses made the trip to the top floor bar to raise a toast and make sure a percentage of their cocktail dollars would go to support Pius’ Hank Raymonds Family Scholarship, and a designated pool of money established in honor of the beloved former Marquette University basketball coach that helps support scholarships for Pius’s student body.

Chatting up some guests at the entrance to that bar I bumped into Peter Reeves, who serves as Pius’ Community Relations Coordinator. It is clear upon meeting Peter that he also serves an extra special role as Charmer-in-Chief. Peter is the kind of guy who looks in your eyes, listens to every word you say, and then smiles back at you and easily gets you wrapped up in a zippy conversation. I made sure to stuff my hands in my pocket as I talked with Peter because I had this feeling that he had the power to chatter the few Hamiltons and Lincolns I had folded in wallet and add them to kitty for the Raymonds Fund.

Peter told me that over 70 percent of the students at Pius High School receive some form of scholarship assistance. He was clearly pleased with the evening’s turnout and told me it wasn’t just a night to raise some money, but also a night to raise some excitement.

I figured a guy like Peter had a great elevator pitch, some sort of thirty second speech that hit all the positive points about why someone might want to start throwing some shade his and Pius’ way. Peter did me one better than that, though. He gave me what he calls his airplane pitch. The guy is good, and like any charmer looking to garner support he had a twinkle in his eye that made me want to sign up for whatever club he’s a member of. I’m sure Pius High is happy to have Peter on their team, but if he ever gets his pilot’s license, I’m bouncing around some clouds with Mr. Charm.

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What Would Be Chapter One

I promise you, physician if I ever write a book that weaves together bits and pieces of prose into a narrative that tells a story about the many important and not so important moments I’ve seen, heard and experienced at the Pfister, this would be Chapter One.

The sevenish afternoon lobby lounge so and sos didn’t lift their heads from their draft beers because one of the women was a red head and the other was a brunette. They didn’t even shift their attention from getting a light buzz on before eating the fully expensed porterhouses they would charge to the home office because the terry robes hugged the ladies’ shoulders just right. It wasn’t even just because lady one and lady two were carrying a pair of the biggest cocktails any of the men had ever seen, stuff and that was saying something for a lineup heavy on traveling salesmen.

Truth be told, the casual head turns had to do with the whole package. That packaged deal could have been the start of a classic one-liner. “Two pretty ladies walk through the lobby of a swank hotel in terry cloth robes carrying a pair of perfect Manhattans…” There were literally hundreds of good ways to fill in a good punch line, but none of those would have landed the way the red head and brunette were killing it today.

It was a busy Thursday afternoon, and the front desk had a steady line of arriving guests checking in for a long weekend of work, play and all manner of diversions in between. Accommodation was the name of the game, and luggage was in need of toting as hospitality was served up with a genuine smile and just the right mint on a pillow. That sort of attention to detail required laser focus. Which is why the lightly clothed ladies who might otherwise stick out like some spa perfect sore thumb were not the main attraction on this particular autumn afternoon.

The men at the bar weren’t really even staring at the ladies as they made their slow walk across the lobby. They were a pack of kittens, nary a cad among the toothless middle agers, and too tame to be any sort of leering threat.

The corner of the eye of the home goods salesman from Topeka picked up that the red head had her hair up in a ponytail. He thought that was nice because as he was told and as was true he was basically a nice guy who always did actually finish last.

As the IT rep from Boise reached for a bar napkin to blow his nose, he saw the glimmer of the auburn liquid in the women’s icy rocks glasses and wondered what kind of bourbon was floating their boats. He desperately hoped they were Jim Beamers, not card-carrying members of the cult of Jack Daniels.

Noticing the daintily painted toes that the ladies flaunted on their flip flopped feet, the audit specialist from Nashville made a mental note to check out that sassy color when he got home for his own private spa night. Everyone has secrets.

If there had been spotlight operators working the lobby they surely would have tracked the ladies, hopefully picking them up with a beam of light softened by a gel in some charming shade of pink. For now, however, it was a step, a sip, a step, a giggle, a sip sip, and a sigh, all passing by all the passersby.

Hendricks stood at the farthest corner of the open space watching. It was his customary spot so he could see all there was to see and discreetly attend to anything that needed his carefully taught muted mitigation. He was a suit and tie guy who had long felt naked without at least three layers of cotton between his skin and the reversible belt he wore as part of his daily uniform. One thought pierced his brain as he watched the queens of serenity saunter the crowded space with nary a care for inquiring eyes as they enjoyed the comfort of robes and smart cocktails in public spaces.

“If I loosened my tie in the woods and no one was around to see it, would it make a sound?”

Deep flowed the rivers of the lobby’s steady suit and tie guy.

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Apples of My Eye

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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The 27-Month Pregnancy of Elizabeth’s Baby Walrus

Elizabeth is happy. She’s holding her baby. Clutching it really. It’s almost like she’s going to crush it in her hands. Makes sense–it feels so good to see it after the 25 long months it has taken from conception to delivery.

You won’t be seeing Elizabeth on some reality television show about miracle moms. Elizabeth will leave the Pfister with her baby and spend time considering its journey, malady seeing how it has been shaped by friends around the country, and she will close one chapter on her life and look forward to the next. Elizabeth’s Baby Walrus has finally arrived, and the project is complete.

Please understand that Elizabeth will not be tethering up some snorting, salve mustached creature than tips the scales somewhere north of the preseason weight of a defensive lineman. Elizabeth does play mother to a panting, dark haired cutie named Hazel the Dog, who enjoys a fair share of kibble treats and cuddles, but Baby Walrus is a different kind of familial connection altogether.

Back in 2013, treatment Elizabeth conspired with a group of friends scattered across the country to participate in a communal art project. The idea would be to have each participant chose a theme and start the creation of a book filled with images, notes, and other creative ephemera. Each month all the books would be passed on in a cross-country daisy chain, and after 16 months, all the books would land back in the hands of their creator. Elizabeth picked the name Baby Walrus for this art project because the poor mother walruses of the world actually carry their babies for about 15 months, almost the same intended amount of time for the project to be completed.

The timing and the execution of Baby Walrus was a perfectly conceived plan that could not fail, until, of course, it failed. It has been 25 months since Elizabeth has last laid eyes on her own Baby Walrus, well beyond the proposed gestation time. Her other creative friends have long since had their own Baby Walruses back in their waiting hands. There are reasons for Elizabeth’s delay… some honest missteps in timing along the way because of unforeseen life events, creative ideas taking too long to execute, and a general laissez faire attitude about finishing the job from the final participant before her end-of-project pass off was rendered. But, after many months and many miles, Elizabeth has met with friends for a dirty martini at Blu to celebrate the culmination of lots of creative people leaving their fingerprints on something she dreamed up.

Elizabeth’s book explored the idea of FLIGHT, and I see the pages of the well-traveled book filled with images such as a hand drawn ostrich, elaborate calligraphy, and passages of prose. Elizabeth has traveled from her home in New York City to spend time in Milwaukee with friends before retreating to the River Valley area of Wisconsin for more creative experiences. A fitting way to follow her book…flying off on an adventure to wrap her arms around a piece she started and finished through a network of friends. Tonight, its time to sip a cocktail and finger through the pages of her book. The stars in Elizabeth’s eyes as she experiences the touches of wonder left by her friends is magic and celebrates the simplest joys of creation and makes her happy to say, “Look what I made.”

Southern Discomfort

I can’t help but overhear the fella at the bar with the full glass of Scotch placed before him at 2:30 in the afternoon on a weekday.

He’s a loud talker, try and the round sounds coming at the end of his sentences tells me that he has enjoyed his fair share of humid summers deep in the South somewhere.

I hear him bellow into his cell phone something about getting back to Memphis. I have no suspicions that this is some conspiracy theory Elvis sighting. Besides, Elvis was never as ear piercingly loud as this fine figure of a man.

The booming Southerner has two hands that are working overtime on this sleepy afternoon. The right hand holds the man’s ever present cell phone, a piece of metal I imagine is growing hotter in his hand as he blathers into it with a good amount of demanding zeal. The left hand is in charge of that Scotch, and by the looks of his grip, that left hand has had a lot of practice as Scotch delivery vehicle.

There are no other guests in the Lobby Lounge–it is a very slow late summer day when the folks who are at work are working and the folks who are at play are in the sun. I wonder if the Man from Memphis would dial it down as he barks about business matters to some unfortunate soul on the receiving end of his call if he found himself surrounded by a gaggle of guests. Something tells me that the answer would be, “Hell no, y’all.”

I’m on the edge of my seat to see if this fellow will start railing so hard about getting business in order that his face will turn the shade of a Memphis summer sunburn. But the Scotch seems to take a little edge off, if only to also take away all ideas in the man’s head that there is a social contract about volume in public spaces that sort of values the idea that cranking the dial up to eleven is a real no-no.

He’s a good show, sort of a modern day Tennessee Williams play with a smart phone. But good old Tennessee couldn’t have ever written a better ending to this Southern gentleman’s business call than what I hear as he wraps up his tirade.

“Get ‘er done! I’m counting on it. Oh, and I love you.”

Was it a trick? Did my ears deceive me? I lean in for more and watch as the man of the hour launches into a succession of similar calls to business associates. It’s the same pattern over and over. Screaming, cajoling, bulldogging, threatening, and then landing the sucker punch.

“Yep, love you. Love ya, I really do. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, and remember I love you. Love, love, love you!”

A rebel yell that trails off into the sounds of hearts and cuddly puppy dogs? I think I just saw the South rise again.

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The Birthday Girl Answers the Birthday Questions

My ears perked up the minute I heard Dr. Hollander playing the familiar strains of “Happy Birthday.” It’s certainly one of my favorite tunes, and and the venerable Dr. Jeffrey Hollander, our long-admired pianist in the Lobby Lounge, pounds it out well on the old ivories.

I scanned the bar for the person who looked the happiest to be alive. That’s what birthdays are about, right? A day when you get to be surrounded by friends and say, “Whew, I made it to another one!”

The smile across Shaundra’s face pegged her as the birthday girl right away. I’m not sure if she has a million dollar grin on days when she’s not celebrating her big day, but the lady with the drink in front of her that had been purchased by the friend at her side was beaming. It seemed to me like she was having one of the greatest birthdays of all time as I approached and introduced myself.

I wished Shaundra well and asked her about all the revelry she had packed into her day. Surprisingly she answered, “I hadn’t really planned on doing anything today, but my friend convinced me to stop by the Pfister for a drink, and here I am.”

It was likely because Shaundra hadn’t given the day much thought that she was having a hell of a birthday. Sometimes setting the expectation bar low pays off with huge dividends. So far she had gotten Dr. Hollander’s lilting solo, a free drink, and the adoration of her friend as well as a gentleman at the bar who I saw and understood was certainly taking an interest in getting to know the birthday girl a little bit better.

I believe birthdays are sacred days in a person’s life, calendar marks that should only be reserved for eating cake for breakfast and napping until someone throws you a great dinner party. I always love to see friends and family on their birthdays because a good pal of mine created what she likes to call “The Birthday Questions.”

The Birthday Questions aren’t overly complicated. They are simple and straightforward, but they cause a birthday celebrant to pause, think and reflect. Shaundra told me she was game to answer the Birthday Questions, so I leaned in and listened as this friendly and positive lady let me know a little more about her life.

Question #1: What is the thing you are most happy about from your last birthday to this one?

I’m so proud that I opened my own salon this year. It’s called Salon Cass and it’s right down the street from the Pfister. It was a lot of work…I MEAN A LOT…but it has been great. I’m really happy about that one for sure.

Question #2: What is the one thing you wish hadn’t happened from last birthday to this one?

I wish my grandmother hadn’t gotten sick. She is a really special lady, and she has a condition that has confined her to a wheelchair. She still has a great attitude about life, but it is hard to see her sick like she is.

Question #3: If we see each other a year from now on your birthday, what is the thing that you hope you will have accomplished from this birthday to next?

I want to move to Las Vegas! I love it there. And I’d love to take my grandmother. We’d have a lot of fun. I can get help running my salon, but, yeah, Vegas is where I hope to end up someday.

Here’s to you on your recent special day, Shaundra, and may all your future wishes come true. I hope you’ll let me buy you a drink in the Lobby Lounge next year—that is if you can pull yourself away from the Vegas strip for a visit back home.

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This Week Everyone Looks Great in Spandex and Running Shoes

Picking someone to talk to in the Pfister Lobby who is decked out in spandex shorts and isn’t afraid to sweat a little is like shooting fish in a barrel for the next few days.

Milwaukee seems to be the fitness center of the world this week, medical and the Pfister is a sort of hub for tons of athletes who have traveled from near and far to test their mettle in feats of daring do, strength, and distance. I’m a suit a tie guy myself, but these sporting Joes and Janes give performance gear a good name as they wander the hotels halls stretching hamstrings and the like with their gazelle like strides.

This Olympic sized effort to make Milwaukee the epicenter of athletic achievement for a span of several huffing-and-puffing-to-the-finish-line August days started early this week with the 2015 JCC Maccabi Games. The Maccabi Games is the largest Jewish youth event in the world with young athletes coming to Milwaukee from around the globe to compete in a myriad of sporting events and build strong global community connections. We’ve had a fair share of folks with JCC Maccabi Games t-shirts relaxing in the Lobby Lounge while they aren’t cheering for some match or trying to kick the winning goal reminding everyone that a healthy body and soul go hand in hand. The JCC Maccabi Games produced this clever video for their Kickoff at the BMO Harris Center this past Sunday. Local bigwigs like Mayor Tom Barrett, no rx County Executive Chris Abele, and a cowboy hat sporting Sherriff David Clarke make nice cameos welcoming visitors to Milwaukee. Give it a gander…I think you’ll smile.

But right now we are on the cusp of what I believe is one of the most grueling sporting events that any group of overachievers could ever think up.

It’s triathlon time.

Triathlon time means a lot to me because my very own wife is one of those mad women…er, overachievers…who love the sport of triathlon and think that going out for a swim isn’t enough so it makes perfect sense to tack on a bike ride and a run to round out a day of exercise.

My wife won’t be participating in the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals this weekend in Milwaukee (don’t worry, she’s not being lazy, she’s actually flying to Seattle to run a half marathon), but there are plenty of fit and fiery competitors prepping for Saturday and Sunday’s tri activities who have checked in early at the Pfister.

I came upon two such athletes tucked into plush sofas in the lobby reading the newspaper on a quiet morning. I spotted their USA Triathlon sweatshirts, but I could have picked them out as triathletes even in civilian clothes. They looked like ladies who did not wilt from challenges, and their lean and strong physiques were like a warning to avoid challenging either of them to an arm wrestling match.

Pat and Nancy are from Massachusetts and this is their second time to Milwaukee and the Pfister for this race. It is not, however, the duo’s second time in the triathlon ring. When I ask them how many tris they’ve completed they casually say, “Oh, maybe a hundred or so.”

This is the thing about triathletes. They have this sort of laid-back attitude about pushing their bodies to the limit.

Case in point. I asked how each of the ladies got into triathlon. Nancy told me, “Well I ran marathons, but the running was too much for me after many years, so I switched to tri.” Now, for those of you who are still a little shaky on the actual order of events in a triathlon, first you swim, and then you bike, and then YOU RUN. Nice try, Nancy, but I chalk that one up as a well played humble brag.

Pat did her own stint with marathons by qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon three times. She did her first triathlon after watching one in Massachusetts. She looked at the competitors and thought, “Gee, that looks kind of fun, I think I’ll give it a shot.” From that meditation on competition, Pat soon found herself crossing the finish line after 140.6 miles at the granddaddy of all triathlons, Iron Man Hawaii. Pat and Nancy have been to this rodeo a few times before, and by now the horses are eating out of their hands, it seems.

This year, they’ll take part in the sprint distance triathlon at the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals. They’ll dip into Lake Michigan for a nice morning swim and will the stride across the finish line about 16 miles later. It’s not Iron Man, but it’s no walk in the park, either (that is unless your park has water stops and a place to change your swimming suit).

I’m always curious about what a triathlete wants to do immediately following a race (I would eat four whole pizzas, I believe), so I ask Pat and Nancy what their plans are post event. Pat tells me, “Well this year we splurged and had our bikes shipped fully in tact so we won’t have to rush back to our hotel rooms and take them apart.” Sounds like a fair and reasonable concession to make in a long triathlon career, and don’t worry ladies, I’m pretty sure no one is saying, “Pat and Nancy are shipping their bikes? What slackers!”

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