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.”

DSCN0288

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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DSCN0182
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.

 

DSCN0211
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.”

 

DSCN0244
Yes.

 

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DSCN0269
I don’t know who these people are, but they sure look good.

 

 

event lady
She’s an event planner.

 

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11024740_10104013541527487_5040838295014465982_o
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.”

 

 

DSCN0298
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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DSCN0313
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.

Screen shot 2015-02-28 at 11.29.54 PM
http://www.truity.com/personality-type/enfp

Screen shot 2015-02-28 at 11.27.43 PM

“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.

DSCN9298
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.

DSCN0147
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,

Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 11.38.44 AM
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.”

DSCN9590

“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.

DSCN9596
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.

 DSCN9549

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.
 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

 

The Backside of Everything You Will Never Think About

Roving the lounge

I roll up to a family

with one of those dual seat strollers

and make my introduction, viagra sale

“Are those two ‘youngins’ twins?”

“They are almost Irish twins,” says the mama.

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Irish twins?

I’ve never heard

of that one

what does that mean?

 

Says mother:

“In order to be an Irish twin you would have to be born within twelve months of your sibling. But these two were born thirteen months apart.”

 

“Hmmm,”

I hmmm, realizing

my Dad and aunt are Irish twins.

I’ve got tell Dad

how he’s spent seven decades

probably not knowing

this part of his identity.

 

The things you can learn

when you go twin watching

at the Pfister.

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I really have met a lot of twins

by roaming the Pfister.

The very same day

as near-Irish twins

I meet fraternal twin siblings,

Levon and Levona,

almost two-year-olds

pausing for pictures

with the lion twins.

Now, what kind of twin are the lions?

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There’s a hat on the bar

beside a mostly empty coffee.

Snappy hat—

red black grey feather

leather hat,

probably smells good

but I don’t sniff stranger’s hats,

taking pictures of them

is enough.

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This quiet evening with the curtain in a knot

inspires me to write a birthday note.

I know three people with birthdays today

that I’m going to give this to:

 

“Happy Birthday to the missing tooth

and the room with no people in it

and to the shrink wrap bag

with nothing shrink-wrapped in it

happy birthday to the backside

of everything you will never think about

even with a search engine

and fifty widdle five-year-olds

who ask about when fish feel sad

and what is inside the popcorn kernal

to make it explode?

Those kids always talk about eternity

but I’m talking about the backside of eternity

and I’m wishing it a very happy

a berry merry birthday.”

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First I give this note to Birthday Bridget

along with my spare Tom Thumb typewriter.

As we sit on the orange velour couches of the lounge

my friend Natalie exclaims

this line thrice:

 

“The hot cocoa here, oh!

Thick and rich!”

 

She can’t believe how delicious it is,

or how she’s ordered hot cocoa

all over the city—

disappointing hot cocoas

concoctions of wateriness

contained in styrofoam cup

contrasted

to this whipped cream crowned cocoa,

of thick quality chocolate

that leaves rings

formidable

frappe-esque stain

inside ceramic mug.

To Properly Crash A Wedding You Just…

In the lounge by the fire I meet a clump of kids and their parents. There are six empty mugs of hot cocoas and the dad tells me they all came here to enjoy the holiday décor. The nearest décor (that I suddenly notice with fresh décor searching eyes) are the stuffed stockings that hang from the mantelpiece. They look well stuffed, handsomely stuffed. Before coming to the Pfister the family toured the holiday displays at the BMO Harris bank building where the father works. I learn that the mother is an alderman for Wauwatosa. Alderwoman, she corrects me. As a fellow woman I wonder: how I could I have just made a mistake like that?

 

I catch them right before they put on their coats and leave to spend their afternoon at the Discovery World museum. Daughter Natalia tells me she is eager to rest her body on the bed of nails that is kept there. Daughter Anastasia is dreamy with thoughts of the pirate ship. “Where is Joe?” someone asks. Sometimes he drifts away from the group to investigate shiny objects, and there are an awful lot of shiny objects in the Pfister, even more so when they have the holiday display up. Knowing Joe’s tendency, his brother Matthew gets up to go find him and bring him back for a picture.

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Parents with children Natalia, Matthew, Joe and Anastasia.

 

Two of the kids are biological, one is foster and another was adopted all the way from Khazakstan. “They are all miracles and great kids,” confirms their mother who adds entirely in jest, “And they are all a pain in the butt.”

 

The family asks me to share with them a secret about the Pfister Hotel. I tell them about the peephole on the seventh floor ballroom door. The kids ask me if I have ever seen a wedding in the ballroom, and I assert that I have witnessed quite a few. The dad asks Matthew, the eldest if he knows what it means to crash a wedding and the boy nods, “You just storm in, uninvited.” I get an image in my head of myself leaping into the ballroom, wearing a cape the color of a grey cloud and holding two cardboard lightening bolts. I swipe the microphone right out of the best man’s hand and yell into it my declaration of “I’m here!” The bride and groom gasp, several guests drop their forks that clang into their plates. Everyone is thunderstruck.

 

“But I have never crashed any weddings here,” I clarify.

 

Wasn’t One of Our Ancestors a French Bishop Or Something?

Two of my second cousins are in town

so my Grandma and Mom take us all out

to a Monday noon lunch at the Pfister café.

My cousin Courtney, lifelong Texas resident

introduces us to her new husband, Michael

who, to our collective delight is as Wisconsin as

Green Bay where he was raised.

DSCN9012
Courtney and Michael.

Then there is my cousin Amy and her new husband, Punit

who grew up in Zambia, Africa.

Soon Amy & Punit (of Kansas) will voyage to India

to visit all his grandparents and family there.

Many countries and continents encompass our family,

but today’s meeting concerns the Italian “De Simone” side.

DSCN9008
I attended Amy & Punit’s wedding last summer.

My mom wants you to know De Simone

should be pronounced Deh-si-MON-eh

not Dee-Simone as they switched it long ago

to fit their new American life in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

 

Courtney says she thought she once heard

that De Simone is really a French name

and that one of our ancestors married a French bishop,

which would be against the Vatican’s wishes if true.

But my mom says no, that’s not right, at all,

nuh-uh-UH.

Grandpa (my great-grandpa) had an uncle who was an archbishop,

Filippo, born in Acri, Consenza, Calabria in 1807

long before it was considered Italy, unified as we know it today.

Filippo was installed as the bishop in the Cathedral of Santa Severina

which my parents snapped a picture of when they visited Italy in 1983.

 

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Santa Severina’s cathedral is in the middle.

 

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Outside the castle village of Santa Severina.
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Inside.

Bishop Filippo’s brother and sister-in-law lived with him,

as the caretakers of his house.

Once, when this sister-in-law turned gravely ill,

her husband prayed to let her live

and to have him be the one to die instead…

and that’s just what happened.

Then the bishop’s widowed sister-in-law remarried

to a man with the last name of Pignataro.

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The bishop’s sister-in-law, Dominica Patarino De Simone Pignataro  with her second husband Francisco Pignataro.

Years later, her son Giuseppe De Simone

(from her first marriage),

moved to America and worked

to provide enough for his teenage bride, Maria

and their first son

as well as his sisters and half-sisters

to all cross over in 1914.

Years later my mother explained to Maria all about her new waterbed

Maria was repulsed at the idea of a swaying, watery bed,

“I came over on the boat, that’s enough for me.”

 

Maria and Giuseppe’s son, Alberto De Simone was my Grandpa.

My cousin Amy’s Grandpa was Alberto’s brother, Alfredo.

Both Al’s eliminated the o’s off the ends of their name

so they wouldn’t stick out as Italians.

Courtney’s Grandma, Elvira became Vera.

Salvatore became Uncle Sam,

Guillermo became Uncle Willy.

Aunts Florence and Eva didn’t change their names,

Aunts Adeline and Angeline did not survive childhood.

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Left to right: Vera, Maria with baby Albert (my grandpa!), Sam, Giuseppe (Peppi) and Alfred around 1920.

 

Now, a century after Giuseppe (a.k.a “Peppi”) came over to America

looking for his new life as a blacksmith,

his offspring gather in the Pfister, ordering a bloody mary,

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With beefstick (among other delectables), and beer chaser.

cream of broccoli soup and a couple of salmon salads

while wondering,

“Wasn’t one of our ancestors a French Bishop or something?”

No, he wasn’t,

but isn’t this game of generational telephone interesting?

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My grandparents getting information from a local in 1983.