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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It Is Time to Speak of Cake

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.

Carry…and cake…on, one and all.

 

All Eyes on Couple Number One

It is a crowded night at Blu. The room is full of stylish couples and solo swells who have all come to get their drink on. It’s a smart choice for cocktailing when there is such a delectable selection of boozy elixirs available 23 floors above ground level and great live music filling the room.

There are also fireworks. Not the kind from some glorious bar fight, sick nothing as untoward as that, but literal explosive fireworks shooting into the jet black night sky. It’s one of the great secret benefits of spending the summer in Milwaukee where fireworks displays are the norm every weekend from June through August because a festival city deserves festival spectacle.

My eyes should be drawn to those fireworks because, generic I mean, they are fireworks. But my head keeps jerking to see what special brand of shimmy and shake is going on across the room. Couple Number One is tripping the light fantastic, and the fireworks will need to step it up to hold a place as the evening’s main attraction.

Couple Number One is in a dance contest of sorts where the odds of winning are stacked in their favor. The entries to this special gliding, sliding, dipping competition start and end at the most single of all digits. These dancers stand out in a room of sitters simply because they are standing, but beyond that simple difference those supportive legs of theirs have a lot of smooth moves.

I catch Couple Number One on a dance break and they introduce themselves to me with big smiles.

“I’m Bill, and this is Lois,” says the fella who I have noticed is focused on his job leading the dance with cool seriousness.

“Just like the couple that founded Alcoholics Anonymous,” says Lois immediately taking a long swig from the refreshing cocktail she is enjoying between routines.

Bill and Lois tell me they met 13 years ago, and ever since then they’ve been dancing. There is no limit to their love of moving their groove thing. The night before their Pfister visit, they had they had shown off their sizzling moves at the Milwaukee lakefront backed by Zydeco music. Be it swing, disco, rhumba, or polka, Bill and Lois are equal partners in the business of making cha-cha a serious art form.

As in any classic creative union, the two dancers have fought through some rough patches.

“We break up three or four times a year,” says Bill.

“Sometimes he wants me to wear sneakers,” explains Lois. “That’s ridiculous.”

Right now, however, there is no mention of athletic footwear. Bill grins at Lois, and holds her hand warmly. This gracious gentleman shares that he thinks they are clicking on all cylinders because Lois now splits her year between Milwaukee and Arizona. Distance is making their hearts grow fonder, it seems. And as the music starts up again, it’s clear that a bouncing beat helps them joyfully tap their feet.

The Kid Definitely Stays in the Picture

Jennifer took about half a second to consider the set up for the photographer’s shot.

The kid stays in the picture.

The kid in question is named Maggie, ask and she is squiggly, giggly, and adorable as she is expertly curled in her mom Jennifer’s arms. And the picture that Maggie stayed in is one that she and Jennifer will be able to look back on years from now as they continue their fierce lives as strong and successful women.

Jennifer was one of this year’s honorees for the Wisconsin Law Journal’s Women in the Law awards that she graciously accepted at a recent dinner celebration at the Pfister. As a new mom, the award had special significance for Jennifer who just recently returned to full-time work after her maternity leave.

“I’m happy that I can show Maggie that as a woman she need not be afraid to ask questions and for a deserved place at the table,” said a beaming Jennifer. “It’s a great honor for me to have been nominated by my firm and to receive this recognition with a group of stellar women.”

The Wisconsin Law Journal’s Women in the Law awards recognize women who show a commitment to advocacy and support of other women working in the law. Jennifer tells me she has benefitted from great mentorship throughout her career, and that lesson is not lost on her. She doesn’t see this recognition as an end point in her professional development, but rather a challenge to continue to work hard and be a model for her peers.

And being a model to her daughter is a most important thing for the award winner. Jennifer and I talk about how there is still unfortunately a stigma about working moms, and that she proscribes to the idea that it’s important that you, “Don’t mommy out.” Jennifer is driven, passionate, obviously accomplished, but at the end of the day, she and her educator husband Chris have their priorities firmly in line around family and sense of self. Showing their daughter that rewarding work is only a part of a full life is deep in Jennifer’s DNA.

It’s hard not to understand your priorities when a bubbly little baby is bouncing in your arms. I ask if I can hold Maggie, and Jennifer proudly passes her to me. I’m sure Jennifer’s skills as a lawyer are something to behold, but right now I’m in awe of her talents as a human being. This kid should stay in any picture that is ever snapped, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s the main subject of a photographer’s lens for some award ceremonies a few years down the line.

The Many Miles Man

Three days. Not a day less. That was my guess.

By the tight grip of his jaw, medicine I knew the man seated alone at a table next to a window in Blu had to have been on the road for at least three days.

I was almost right.

David had already been out on business for four days straight. In that time he had wound his watch to keep current in three different times zones. He wouldn’t be home again to Pennsylvania for another four days and by then he would go from Milwaukee to Chicago to Miami to Arkansas. Not the type of trip you plan for efficiency and pretty airports, view that was for sure.

David was in the sort of business where it probably made sense to wear a tie, but no way, no how did David need one. He was sure and confident and a necktie wouldn’t have proved anything worthwhile to anyone he passed by on the road. But you can be certain that if he had knotted something around his neck, it would have been as impressive as he was. With his shaved head, piercing eyes, and tight, compact frame he looked like he could have been Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luther. But something told me that David was more concerned with saving the world than destroying it.

David was a road warrior and he seemed to be winning whatever battle he had signed up for. Executive recruitment was his trade, and he was on a multi city swing finding leaders to fill voids and making clients happy. And now, for a moment, it was time for David to be happy.

David’s red wine arrived. He grabbed it with hands that looked like they could easily shatter the long stemmed glass holding the drink. He took a long sip. His strong shoulders relaxed. You could almost hear his body say, “Ahhhhhhhh.”

David stared into the night, his eyes sharply focused on the shining lights of the Milwaukee skyline. He looked like he was hatching a plan, some scheme that would be a stunner for sure. He reached for the wine. Another sip. A little more tension released from his shoulders. A little more calm in his face suggested that when he chose to, his smile would fill a room with light and wonder.

Those eyes, those piercing eyes staring into the night–they were full of intrigue, intellect and a little bit of danger. The hand shifted again, but this time it passed over his wine and headed for the breast pocket of his sport coat. He reached toward his chest. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a shining revolver at the end of his powerful grip as the hand emerged from his neatly tailored jacket. And if he wanted your wallet, you would have given it happily and thanked him for the honor of choosing you to stick up.

As his hand emerged from his jacket, a phone appeared in his palm instead of a weapon of mass destruction. I somehow imagined that David was actually capable of doing even more damage with his phone than any chamber full of bullets. He lifted the screen at an angle and typed. He waited.

A moment passed.

Bing.

A message.

Then a smile.

I offered a hand and said hello. His fingers could have crushed the meta out of my carpals, but instead he warmly accepted the friendly gesture. After four days, it wasn’t the worst thing to see a smile coming back at you in a comfortable place on top of the city and a few floors above the bed where you’d hang your head.

“Everything okay with you?” I asked.

“Yeah,” said David. “I miss my wife. I always miss my wife.”

It was nice to know that the most impressive gentleman in the joint was simply pining for his sweetheart.

We traded pleasantries and I bid him a good night. Glancing back a moment after saying goodbye, I saw him smiling down at his phone. His wife had written back, something sweet, something funny, something that deserved another pull of wine.

I asked the waitress to send him a glass of whatever he was drinking as soon as he was ready for his next. David had many more miles to go, but tonight, alone in the dark he earned a quiet moment to remember that he’d be home soon enough to say, “I love you, oh yes I do.”