The Lady and the Pirate

I meet an accountant. She tells me about her career hobby: her involvement with the Society For Creative Anachronism (SCA) where she is known as ‘Lady Aiofe Cno Capaill, recipe ’ which means ‘dark horse.’ What is the SCA? “Basically we do 600 to 1600 (a.d.) everything, from Middle Ages to the Renaissance period. We cut off right before the Victorian era starts.” The SCA has similarities to those Renaissance Faires you may have heard about where they speak in old English and wear period costumes. “Where we differ is that our events and fights are not choreographed. They are real time, in life. I have no idea what my opponent is going to be doing and I have to move and judge accordingly.” These real battles consist of traditional archery, heavy weapons fighting, rapier, trebuchets and siege weapons.

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Rapiers.
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A trebuchet.

 

The SCA is also devoted to supporting crafts such as fiber arts, weaving, metal smithing, spinning, hand sewing, coin making… “If it happened during the middle ages, we have someone within our 30,000 worldwide membership who knows something about it and can recreate it.”

 

Lady Aiofe Cno Capaill first became involved in the organization when she was 15. Now she is the archery captain for the Madison chapter, but no one calls it the ‘Madison Chapter,’ they call it ‘The Barony of Jararvellir.’   “We use live tip steel arrows in our practices. You can get killed playing this game.” I ask her if she has ever seen that happen. “I have come across quite a few people who have had some very close calls. We have a very large event in Pennsylvania that’s two weeks long.” Approximately 15,000 people show up for this every summer, ready to cast aside modern times for a good ole European middle age lifestyle. “I have seen individuals fall on the battle field from heat stroke. I have heard of heart attacks. I’ve heard of broken bones. Bruises are absolutely beautiful when you get hit by a rattan sword— even if you’re wearing two sheets of metal.”

 

At last year’s gathering Lady Aiofe Cno Capaill was listening to the frogs call when “a group of Frenchmen from France in full regalia stumbled past me singing drunk French songs.” That was a quintessential moment for her, and precisely why she goes every year.

 

Today she has opted for the Victorian hotel experience of the Pfister because she is celebrating her one-month anniversary with her boyfriend. She’s known him for years as a neighbor, but until a month ago they both “honest to God hated each other,” as he put it. Up until last month Lady Aiofe Cno Capaill assumed her neighbor, the very social, ‘good-with-children’ single male was actually a danger to her teenage daughter. “I thought he was a pedophile.” Hearing this explanation her boyfriend both groans and grins, “Thanks.” Lady Aiofe Cno Capaill defends her former assumption by describing herself as a mama bear. “Very overprotective and mean!” agrees the boyfriend. Then, a month ago, he came over to help her clean her house. While he was there they hit it off: talking some sci-fi, some 80’s, some 90’s, some steam punk, some reenactment…

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And that is how Lady Aiofe Cno Capaill began her romance with Berisat the Air Pirate.

This Is Not The Real Dance

Sisters came in from New York

to attend the wedding and to show off their Wedding Dance.

They are choreographing their piece right now

on the exquisite carpet that urges all who come here

to at least sashay at least slightly

even if it is so slight that no one notices

because you are an adult.

The younger sister warns me

not to succumb to any false illusions,

“This is not the real dance.”

I agree to accept the following staged movements as not real,

and then I stand back to accept them

whatever they are.

Their mother tells me that the older sister, who leads,

is enrolled modern dance classes

and the younger one, who follows but also improvises

is currently taking interpretive dance.

Yes, I can see the professional training

in their deep dips,

the poised regal avian gestures

of two students who absorb

what they are taught.

“This was not the real dance,” the younger sister reminds me,

after their performance,

but it was very good,

so I tell them,

“No, what I just saw was real.”

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Maia has come up from Chicago for the weekend. I am told she will be eight soon.  She wears a wristband because today she explored “The Streets of Old Milwaukee” at the Milwaukee Public Museum.  When Maia types, she does so with only her right hand.  Her Grandma watches her through the window of Todd Mrozinski’s new art studio in the Pfister. DSCN1179
Todd lets both Maia and I type in his studio. Maia does not want to leave the instant clack-word device.  She is writing a story.  Her mother has to call her three times before Maia gets to the part about “The End.”

By hanging out in Todd’s studio I meet a lot of interesting people, like Luis and Ruben from Los Angeles.

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Luis, Ruben and Todd.

Luis and Ruben are artists for Kohl’s Department Stores.  Their apparel design work has brought them to town.  Pictures of Ruben’s private art portfolio are kept on his phone. He does oil paintings.  The one I see depicts a motorcyclist.  He had to come in here to the artist studio and show us his work.  He also shows us his big bag of cheese. Tomorrow Luis and Ruben are going back home, and they are taking back as much gouda and cheddar of Wisconsin as they can fit in their suitcases.

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Bag of Cheese

 

 

Whispering, 1925

My term as Pfister narrator is almost up, so yesterday I finally booked a room.  My best friend Jessie drove in from Ann Arbor for the occasion.   Jessie promptly plopped on the plush puff bed as soon as we had entered and perused our room, #332.

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She then jumped to action and made us a to-do list.DSCN0458 DSCN0463We were already well on our way with task number three.

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The view from our window allowed us to spy on two of the kitchen staff taking their break in the sun.

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“Jessie, doesn’t the reflection of the hotel in the glass across the street trick you into thinking we are in Paris?”
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We watched this man for a while.  He looked very disappointed every time other buses passed.  He scrutinized a schedule, tracing his anticipated route with a finger.DSCN0482The windows are an excellent place to hide.DSCN0486Or to shock.

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We walked to Brady Street and saw this basking, busking cowboy.

DSCN0473Concierge Peter offered us a “poisoned apple,” but we did not bite.DSCN0464With elite guest access to the business center, I did as much business as possible with the opportunity.

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DSCN0496We inspected the “Under the Sea” gala for curing diabetes.DSCN0498

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Here is Chief Nursing Officer of Children’s Hospital, Nancy Korom (on the left) and friends.  DSCN0513

I found myself asking everyone I met if they had diabetes.

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The wife, but not the husband.DSCN0511

Both sisters do.
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Neither of these men are diabetic, but both are on diets.  White tie/black shirt Ryan is Paleo.  White shirt/black tie Sean is “plant based.”DSCN0539

Matt, server states, “I am a human tray at the moment.”  I wonder the maximum amount of drinks this tray can hold for his guests.DSCN0504

I admire, but I do not partake of the shrimp.
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We have dinner at the Mason Street Grill.  Jessie eats much faster than me, so she must carry the conversation by herself for ten minutes as I chew.
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We take turns petting the decorative moss between courses.DSCN0488

As the evening progresses our pictures get blurrier.DSCN0526

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I teach Jessie how to play Rummy in Blu.  DSCN0552
We play cards, drink and dance in our seats to the Jazz.unnamed-9

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I meet Pam and Bill from Janesville.  They are here to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. They remind me:DSCN0551unnamed-8

Jessie is a professional  statistician, but she can’t stand all the counting in this rummy game.  She asks to change the rules.   But I do not like to change the rules when I play cards.  
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 We agree to only play games without rules for the rest of the evening.

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This game is called: “Draw your spiritual self.”DSCN0595 DSCN0590 While I take a picture of this woman’s shoe, Jessie draws what she sees in front of her.DSCN0532DSCN0557DSCN0553The most meaningful thing happens to me three minutes to midnight. We are in the lobby listening to Dr. Hollander playing one of his final songs for the evening. The tune is something antique, soursweet and familiar. Like every time I am in the lobby and Dr. Hollander is there, I think I hear him playing it. I know he gives regulars and staff members theme songs, so I go up to him. “Is this my theme song?” He nods. He says he cannot remember the name, only that it was about whispering and it was released in 1925.

I found it, MY THEME SONG! Whispering Jack Smith – Whispering – YouTube.

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The magic continues: when we get to our room there is a plate of fruit we never ordered.

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In the morning I try out the complementary blowdryer since I’ve never owned one.DSCN0599Before brunch we stroll over to a bookstore to pet some cats.DSCN0612DSCN0610
unnamed-2 unnamed-3unnamed-5DSCN0616We return for brunch.  DSCN0622Matt!  Again!  Now he is our server rather than a tray.
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If he don’t love me, how could he love you?

“My name is Charles Bentley.

I’m Native American, sick

Cherokee.

My grandmother was Cherokee.

I worked for American Motors

at the corner of Capitol and Richards,

where Wal-Mart is now

from 1958-1966.

I was a spray painter,

I was “The Door Jam Man.”

The Rambler was the first car I worked on at the plant.

I’m 77 years old,

and I like the young women, medicine

hahahah!

I came from Georgia.

I was ten years old when I met my Grandfather for the first time.

My Grandfather left my dad when he was an infant…”

 

Charles pauses, asking aloud how best to phrase the conversation he had with his father after he met his grandfather sixty-seven years ago.

 

“I talked to my father and I asked him, medical

‘How do he love you?’

And my father said to me, ‘No.’

I said to him, ‘Why?’

‘I couldn’t answer that.’

I met my grandfather in ’47,

moved to Chicago in ’49,

moved to Milwaukee in 1950.

My dad got a job as City of Milwaukee Sanitary Worker.

Cause he was short he was a Garbage Man.

That’s when they had the cans

and the pad on the shoulder.

I have a plaque at home

of the service my that father did for the city.

It’s by my door as you go up.

He retired in 1968,

he did some years.

I take after my father.

I’m the spitting image of my father,

the older I get, the more I look like my father.

I went in 2014 to see my 93-year-old Uncle in Georgia.

That’s the only one I got left.

He washes his own clothes

though he walks with a cane.

I don’t know that much about Native American customs.”

 

Charles hands my recorder back to me, to make room on the table for his steak. He presses his hands together, bends his head and mutters a prayer over his food. Before he tries it though, he asks the waitress for an additional bottle of steak sauce.

 

“Growing up,

if I saw a peanut on the ground,

I would bless it and then eat it.

Let me tell you something about the white man:

on my birth certificate I was called a ‘Negro,’

not a Native American.

I’m still considered Indian N*****,

that’s why I don’t get the money,

but I have a picture of my grandmother to prove it.

So maybe I could talk to you,

and you could write my memoirs for me.

Seeing my grandfather for the first time

all I wanted was love from him,

it’d be easy to show that,

but as my Dad explained to me,

‘If he don’t love me, how could he love you?’

To me I couldn’t understand it,

cause of my youth, y’know,

but it sunk in later on.

I’d only seen my grandfather maybe two or three times in my life.

All I wanted to do was go fishing or hunting,

he loved to fish and hunt,

that’s all I wanted,

I wanted him to show me love,

but as I said,

my dad said ‘If he don’t love me, how could he love you?’

That’s right,

I’m a self-made man.

I’m a Step-Pop,

and they still call me,

I’m the only pop they know,

they had a living father too,

but he was a bigamist, y’know,

cause my wife that I married,

(their mother),

she thought she was married to him,

but she wasn’t because he had another wife,

so he was a bigamist.

I went through hell and high water in my life,

like I said you can write my memoir,

I wouldn’t mind writing a book,

really, seriously,

I think it’d be a number one seller.”

 

When I finished interviewing him, I thanked him for taking the time to talk with a stranger. He corrected me,

 

“To you I’m a stranger,

but to me you’re not,

you’re a beautiful young sister.”

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About Life, About Mystery

The shop window on Wisconsin Avenue is empty.  Inside the glass room is a door that leads to the darkness.  The combination of this darkness door, the street lights reflected in the glass and the promise that the blank space will be filled up one day again, instills in me a wild excitement.  Truly!

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Madame plaid skirt came up from Chicago. This is the second time she has come to spend her weekend at the Pfister.

 

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Two mothers, two daughters about to see Ariana Grande at the Bradley Center.

 

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They will pose for you, they will show you where the benefit for the Milwaukee Ballet is; and if you shake their hand, you will hold a white handprint with fine glitter dust.

 

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That evening, greco ballet dancers did descend from heaven and pause, inviting me to join them.

 

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The very next day, more models in white were found inside the Pfister.

 

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This is Milwaukee’s Magnificent Bride Exposition.

 

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If I ever marry, this will be the most important decision: The Hats.

 

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Which feather for your ceremony?

 

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They were so in love, their arms disappeared and their heads became flowers.

 

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Chair Option A by BBJ.

 

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Option B

 

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Option C

 

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Option D, “ghost chairs.”

 

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Option E, “goth chairs.”

 

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Yes.

 

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I don’t know who these people are, but they sure look good.

 

 

event lady
She’s an event planner.

 

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Artist John Kowalczyk here, about to officiate his second wedding.

 

 

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He told me he did a lot of googling, cutting and pasting to figure out what he needed to say. “The first wedding I did, there was no God talk at all.” This time he has to recite an entire list each time the divine gets brought up in the ceremony. “In the presence of friends, family, God, Gods, Goddesses, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and All that is Holy… or something like that.”

 

 

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Art intern for Niki Johnson, smiling her way down the corridor.
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At the wine tasting the following flavors are found and named: peach butter blossom, honey suckle, pound cake, sour apple, crisp autumn air, under the park bench.
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I meet Katrina.
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She wants a poem, “About life, about mystery.”
about life, about mystery
Yes, I know I misspelled “after taste” and  “connoisseur.”

 

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Lastly, Sean from indianapolis (who loves golf) will only let me take his picture if he can take mine at the same time.

 

 

 

A Psychometric Questionairre

Yeah, humans are social creatures

you know, we see faces

inside clouds, fungus and tea stains.

Children conduct full-length conversations

with “pet” rocks and plush dinosaurs,

then as adults, they still try to assign meaning

to their frighteningly mysterious days

through science, philosophy, religion,

art, astrology or psychology.

Pfister barista Desiree

longs to crack the code

of her workmates

through Myers-Briggs,

which according to Wikipedia is,

“A psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.”

She keeps the Myers-Briggs test page

as a favorite on one of the café’s

complementary iPads.

If a staff member lingers a moment

for conversation,

Desiree will ask them to take the test.

desiree
Desiree and her list of 39 people and their types.

 

When she handed me the ipad,

I had one question for her:

“Are you 23, Desiree?”

Desiree paused,

“Yes… how did you know?”

It was the year I was 23,

when everyone my age

(who I knew)

seemed to be into that test.

My result remains:

“ENFP” a.k.a.,

“Emotional Intuitive Feeling Perceiving”

myers-briggs
Found on ritholtz.com

 

so I’m just like Oscar Wilde.

Mister Wilde would fit in at the Pfister,

since according to Desiree’s list

of all the 16 existing Myers-Briggs types,

one quarter of the staff shares this type.

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http://www.truity.com/personality-type/enfp

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“This is not at all a statistically sound survey,”

according to my best friend Jessie,

the professional statistician who made this chart.

But-but-but—

Desiree discovered

that all five of the tested baristas

are Introverts.

One of the baristas, Toni is shocked,

“But we have to deal with a lot of people!”

True, but that wide marble counter

and plexiglass divider

protects a barista’s

tender auric fields.

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Desiree, behind plexiglass.

Two of the tested bellhops are ENTJ’s,

the type known as “the Commander,”

and all of the bellhops are Judging types,

that must be an asset for anyone who has to weigh,

organize, heft and swiftly deliver luggage for guests,

while maintaining safety for the contents within.bellcart

All the security guards on Desiree’s list are judging types,

maybe that is why they were paired up

to share a desk with the bellhops.

Her list also shows

there is no unifying factor

between five of the Pfister’s servers,

indeed,

introverts and extroverts,

sensing and intuitive,

feeling and thinking,

judging and perceiving persons

are all likely to take your order;

while those with management positions at the Pfister,

tend to be sensing rather than intuitive people.

On the official Myers-Briggs site,

they say people who are the sensing type think:

 

  • I remember events as snapshots of what actually happened
  • I solve problems by working through facts until I understand the problem.
  • I am pragmatic and look to the “bottom line.”

That sounds like a manager’s mind, all right!

 

But one in four of the staff are “champions”

with intuitive tendencies rather than perceiving.

For them, it is more common to think this way:

 

  • I remember events by what I read “between the lines” about their meaning.
  • I like to see the big picture, then to find out the facts.
  • I trust impressions, symbols, and metaphors more than what I actually experienced

 

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This is exactly the sort of brain that is critical in preserving romance,

by carrying forward the gilded service

that matches the gilded stairs,

that matches the truth:

there is no place in this hotel that is ugly

or even just plain,

there is more for the eyes to see here

than they could ever retain.

You could never figure it all out,

just as Desiree will never

figure her workmates out

entirely.

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Sam, a frequent cafe customer also took the test, becoming the only non-staff member on Desiree’s list.

 

When you look at some modern art it can stump you.

Barbara has been giving tours for the Milwaukee Art Museum over a half century.

“When I first came to the museum, there were eight employees.”

This January I started my fifty-second year.

I retired when I was 50,

but I’m still going in,

teaching and working

‘cause I don’t want to sit at home.

I train the docents

and they tour about 80.000 people a year.”

She’s taken 75 trips to Europe,

“I counted it all up when I retired.

England was the first country I went to.”

Last year she took her docents to Belgium and Holland.

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And she made her own dress.

 

Being an art museum docent is hard.

“People expect you to know everything.”

When you look at some modern art it can stump you.

“Ellsworth Kelly’s “Red, Yellow, Blue,”

that’s one people have a hard time with.

Red, Yellow, Blue II

But you have to understand,

it was hand done,

he mixed the colors, that yellow

is the yellow he wanted,

he copied it from nature,

like a bird he saw,

he didn’t just go out to Menards!

How can I make these people understand?

Their grandchildren can’t do it!

When Kelly was in the war

he asked to be in the camouflage department.

Once in a while I’ll be lucky

and a student will be in

Ellsworth Kelly camo.

I’ve met Ellsworth Kelly several times.

He’s a very kind person,

a little on the shy side.”

 

What are Barbara’s favorite areas of art to talk on?

“American History and Decorative Arts

furniture, silver, ceramics.

My favorite is probably seventeenth century colonial.”

 

“Over the years a lot of people have visited Milwaukee

and I’ve taken them around,

Madame Chiang Kai-shek.”

(I hadn’t heard of her, so I looked her up,

former first lady of China, 1948-1975)

23325_web_ThisDay-Madame-Chiang-Kai-Shek-AP

“David Hockney, I loved him.

“I loved this young man who is now a rock star, but when I met him he was just coming up, um, I can’t think of his name. It’ll come. He works on China, Africa and America… Kehinde Wiley!

Gilbert and George when they came from England,

I met Andy Worhol. He never talked. My brother had a friend who knew him quite well.

Mark Rothko,

Tony Randall of the Odd Couple,

he knew everything,

he was the smartest man I ever met.

I let him do all the talking and I did the anecdotes.”

Barbara has never watched Star Trek,

but she gave Dr. Spock a tour.

“He gave me a Dr. Spock ear,

I didn’t know what it was or what I was supposed to do with it.

Ginger Rodgers,

Ray Milland, he never took his hat off because he didn’t have his toupee on,

Vincent Price,

Noguchi,

Sofa and Ottoman
Noguchi!

di Suvero,

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This is what googling di Suvero’s “The Calling” looks like.

 

George Shearing, he’s blind and I got a call from him asking to take him around.

A grandmother had the same thing, I took her around.

Gordon Parks,

and when the Beatles came to Milwaukee the first time,

I held the door to the war memorial open for them.”

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“Excellent Broth! I’m going to have it every time I come.

I’ve been begging for broth here.

I like soup very much but,

I don’t like heavy duty,

I like to have broth.

It kinda curbs your appetite,

settles your stomach,

it’s good for your bones,

and I just love hot broth.

Right here at the café counter I met Shaquille O’Neill.

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Right there!

He wasn’t feeling well.

I didn’t know who he was.”

Shaq’s manager worked on a crossword puzzle with Barbara,

and explained who Mr. O’Neill was.

Barbara gave Shaq a ticket to the art museum,

and he went.

 

A Mom Letter and a Dad Letter

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I was taking a picture of the roses in the lobby when Val, the bartender summoned me over to see something. I took a stool at the bar and waited for a moment as Val rustled around in her bag, elbow deep.  At last she exclaimed “Ah!” and pulled out an envelope to show me. It was sent from a woman named Coco who came here for a birthday drink the other day, along with her baby. Coco’s friend and her friend’s baby joined her for the celebration.

coco

I took the contents out of the envelope and saw a most charming picture. Val got to know the two ladies and their babies quite well over a period of three hours, and asked, “Would you write this woman a letter back for me?”

coco poem

So I wrote Coco a poem on one of Valerie’s guest checks and sent it to the return address on the envelope.

 

Soon after Coco emailed me that she wrote a blog about getting a letter from the Pfister in the mail.  So,

IjustwroteheranemailthatIwrotethisblogaboutheremailaboutherblogaboutgettingaletterinthemailbecause,

shesentaletterinthemailaboutapleasantafternoonofpolitevalets,chattingandbabies!

Phew!!

 

Another day, another letter:

lydia's daddy

A father comes to me in need of his daughter’s forgiveness. In the city of Madison where he and his family reside, there is a highly competitive theater program for kids. His daughter, Lydia tried out for a production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” in hopes of being cast as one of the dwarves. Lydia, who is in fourth grade and has never had an opportunity like this before, was a nervous mess the morning of her audition. Sympathetic to her distraught, Lydia’s dad gave her a pearl of encouragement, “Don’t worry, everything will turn out just fine!”

 

The two of them stayed up late, awaiting the phone call to let them know if Lydia would be expected to come back in for call-backs the following day. It was so late by the time the phone finally rang, Lydia was already put to bed. She was wide awake when her father came in and told her the answer was no. Lydia sobbed, dampening her pillow. Her dad assured her that she was younger than the rest of the kids who had tried out, and that it was likely that she would be cast in the coming years, then said goodnight.

 

The next morning, as Lydia glumly ate her cereal she told her father, “You lied. You said everything would be fine, but everything is not fine.”

 

The statement unsettled him, and the combination of his daughter’s broken heart and distrust in his word tarnished his entire day. So much so that when his job brought him to the Pfister hotel and he met me, he asked for a poem of encouragement (not from him or his perspective!) to give his child.  lydia

Butter on a Plate & Hat Swapping in the Bathroom


The whole hotel is my beat so I’ve got to drift.

I’ve got to find the swirled butter on the plate.

Regard this spiraled stack of paper napkins. This miniscule, considered bit of hospitality intrigues me.

DSCN9562 DSCN9397I like to chase the shadows of bicyclists with my camera from a height of 23 stories.

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On weekends my ambulations deliver me to London.

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High tea preparations imbue the room in the rusky scent of cinnamon.DSCN9351

 

The other day as I got off the elevator, I discovered that Italy was getting reconstructed on the seventh floor.

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Is that Basilica di San Marco?

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Free gondala rides.

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What is up with that vat of plastic grapes?

DSCN9573Oh, I see.

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I tell these grape stompers, “You know, my great-grandma actually made wine that way.” They tell me, “A lot of people have been telling us that tonight!”

DSCN9583Can you guess how many olives are in this glass urn?  I thought it was 603.  Apparently not, since I haven’t gotten that phone call telling me I won the iPad.

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Of all the Italy I see here, I most enjoy the giant see-through paintings.

DSCN9553A crevice implores me to monkey around.

DSCN9558And really, this picture is much better with me added to the scene.

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Women in inflated chef uniforms and stick-on moustaches emphatically call “Bonjourno!” and “Mangia-mangia!”
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In the bathroom I run into a friend of mine and her business partner.  They run a florist company called “Flower and Bee.” They are arranging wedding bouquets.  The whole sink area smells like a realm of olfactory love and harp music.  It must be all the jasmine.

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I ask them who is getting married.

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It turns out I actually know the couple.  Sure enough, when I check out the lobby bar I recognize half the wedding party.  One of the groomsmen folds a paper napkin into his empty breast pocket.  And as long as it is dry, you won’t notice that his handkerchief is not silk.DSCN9675

I type a quick congratulatory poem for the couple.

DSCN8477The next day I get together with my friend Adam for a brainstorm session.  He tells me “Thanks for allowing me push this meeting back a few days.  I was really busy, I had to officiate a wedding yesterday.”

And yes, it turns out to be the same wedding.

Excuse me Adam, I have to use the bathroom.

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In the bathroom a lady admires my hat so much she asks to try it on.  I let her, and she likes what she sees so much, she asks me if she can buy it from me.  Before I’ve even had the chance to use the bathroom facilities, I’ve sold the hat off my head.  Additionally, she gives me her own crocheted hat.  It matches my outfit far better than the one I had before.  I soon find out this hat-loving woman is the aunt of yesterday’s bride.
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Goodbye purple hat, I will always remember the day I completed you.
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We Ate Our Last Meal Together At The Pfister

We ate our last lunch together at the Pfister, buy cialis

my Grandma and I

and family,

I wrote a story about it the other week,

except then I did not know it would be our last meal

when I sat next to Grandma

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and we both ordered the salmon salad

from a booth in the café.

The nice thing about a booth

is that it allows multiple people to sit in the same seat

like a couch

like you’re at home

with grandma, patient

my last,

my matriarch

with the passion for hospitality.

She had been talking about taking us out

to a meal at the Pfister for weeks before,

a stupendous outing, a big to-do.

After our meal we slowly ambled through the ballroom

looking at the paintingsDSCN9018

as I carried her purse

which must have held fifteen pounds

of everything anyone could possibly ever want from a grandma.

Chickadee, find would you like a stick of gum?

Do you need a Kleenex, a dab of lip balm or lipstick?

Life savers, a wallet stuffed with family photos,

five dollars worth of change

and biscotti at the ready,

so organized

like her kitchen table

that three weeks after our last meal

has a stack of all her receipts

with the one from the Pfister on top,

obviously her favorite purchase

of the bunch,

an afternoon with the family

she loved so much

that she kept two refrigerators

and an industrial freezer

stuffed with chickens, soups, roasts

and ravioli at the ready

in case we all showed up

with a platoon of long-lost relatives

and their neighbors all

playing

a symphony of deep

growls,

howling stomachs

in need of their 88-year-old matriarch’s

wooden spoon and steel stew basin magic.DSCN9196

A month ago she cooked Christmas dinner for eight

with both conventional and organic broccoli

(just for me, the grandchild with a zillion food sensitivities)

“Well, I don’t want you getting sick, Anja-Mangia!”

And that same day just for her, I typed this poem:the existence of grand love