Without Getting Even Slightly Frazzled

Dr. Hollander likes to talk and play at the same time. This afternoon he invites me to pull up a chair and keep him company.   He hasn’t any sheet music with him but there’s no song he can’t play on the lobby piano. Aware of this, I ask him to play “when the red, red robin comes a bob-bob-bobbin’ along.” He does a fast tempo ditty that is extra-extra upbeat and cheery that leads into a whole medley of songs all by the red robin songwriter, Harry Wood. The lounge rapidly vibrates with a goofy joy so infectious that 1920’s flappers flap right out of the curtains of the nearest window to tap dance upon some of the empty tabletops.

Dr. Hollander doesn’t seem to notice the flappers as he plays and talks. He tells me that Harry Woods was born without fingers on his left hand. Even though he didn’t have ten fingers, he learned to play the bass and wrote many songs. He was also a brawler who’d use his deformed hand to bash people repeatedly in the head. Still, let’s remember that he was the songwriter of the wildly popular “Try A Little Tenderness.”

Dr. Hollander talks and plays the piano at the same time without getting even slightly frazzled. “I can just express my feelings in all situations, historical, literary. I can escape from the real world, most of the problems just vanish when playing,” he sighs.   The more he plays a song the more he finds new ways to play it with his emotions. People ask home to play “Over the Rainbow” and “As Time Goes By” all the dang time, but he doesn’t mind. He finds a new way to play them each time, and it always matches his mood.

When Paul McCartney stayed, he asked Dr. Hollander to play “The Very Thought of You.” It was a song McCartney had heard a lot as a boy in Liverpool. Today a hotel guest requests him to play the “matchmaker song” from Fiddler On The Roof. And this is when I must report that Dr. Hollander did make a boo-boo. He started playing a cautious rendition of “Chim-chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins. However, he knew he might be wrong and asked us what it was he was playing. We told him what it was and then sang for him the right song, “Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a match, find me a find…” and Dr. Hollander started up with the correct song. He then played the entire song, including all the complicated bits that I forgot were in there. I am enthralled with the complete anthology in his mind.

Anthology enough to give those he meets individual theme songs.   Like how the night time manager, Chris gets “The Music of the Night.” Dr. Hollander will play a person’s theme any time he sees them enter the lobby area. He may be playing a different song, but he will instantly integrate the theme’s melody into the song he is playing. A large portion of the Pfister staff can claim their own theme song, but Dr. Hollander frequently remembers what out-of-town guests request too, and when he sees them in the lobby lounge again months or years later, he will play that song. Their song.

Dr. Hollander says he always hopes that Mr. Pfister (who is right by the piano) approves of what he plays.
Dr. Hollander says he always hopes that Mr. Pfister (who is right by the piano) approves of what he plays.

They Seem Very Busy

The woman does not want to be identified.

The woman can make you an iced coffee.

The woman frequently makes me an earl grey

with a side of questions concerning Harry Potter.

 

She first read Harry Potter as a high school student

back in her homeland, viagra the third major island

of the Philippines’ 7,107 total islands.

“I think every kid was inspired by Harry Potter,

he’s not perfect, he has a lot of flaws,

but the people around him make him strong.”

 

This management, accounting and law school graduate

has been in the states for a year now

working at her first job of all time

and has observed:

“Things are cleaner over here, purchase

and the people here are on their own always

instead of compounds of families all living together.

Things are very peaceful here,

but people have no time for other people

they seem very busy.”

 

She would tell me more

but a line has formed,

it is three in the afternoon

and everyone wants

a medium cappuccino

or some other brown dessert drink

that requires rituals & cream.

 

I go away to become busy

and am reminded of something

Joe Charney described before parting ways:

the ‘zombie grocery store,’

where Joe goes to get his food,

is a place where people go to ignore each other.

“They don’t mumble to themselves,

they pass each other,

but no action or reaction,

statement or thought,” he said.

People pushing their carts around

all demonstrate something he called, “the stare:

looking straight ahead, but not side-to-side.

They are unaware!

I often think that one of them could be stabbed

a little to the right of their field of vision

and they wouldn’t even notice.

Like horse blinders.”

 

I know what he was talking about,

but luckily here at the Pfister people greet each other

like in the elevator where I am asked,

“Hey, where’s your typewriter?”

And I say, “It’s heavy, I can’t lug it with me everywhere I go.”

“But heavy things are good for your muscles.”

“That’s true, but you see I have snake arms.”

I roll up my sleeve and expose my thin, straight arm.

The elevator rider laughs,

“Snake arms! I like that. I myself would call them ‘buggy whips.’”

 

Now there’s a term that is at least as old as the hotel,

pre automobile

and pre virtual fake reality network friendships.

‘Buggy whip.’

When horses wearing blinders

clomped down Wisconsin Avenue en masse.

 

I go back to the café and the line is finally gone.

I ask if I can take a picture of her tattoo,

and she says sure, it is not her face

though it has an eye of Horace

to represent restoration—

not bad luck

like some people think.

I think it’s pretty,

she got it here in the states

since in the Philippines it would be too controversial.

She tells me that both “The Da Vinci Code” author Dan Brown

and boy band “One Direction,”

have been banned from the country

she hopes one day to return to

though she now has a golden snitch

engraved on her arm to represent time flying.

 

“The Painting” By Joe

Mr. Joe Charney, cialis Pfister lobby lounge frequent visitor, has already been written about by the two hotel narrators before me. And much of what he told me was also accurately described in those blog posts. But not everything! Here you will see why Mr. Charney needs a third story, my story. Since quality journalism was demonstrated by both narrators Molly and Jenna, find this time Joe is getting an authentic free verse poem story thingo!

Once, before Joe knew this opulent palace,

or his European voyages

before, before all that

he was a boy with a painting in his room

well, it was a good reproduction of a painting

depicting horse riders

kicking up dust and pointing

perhaps to Joe’s own distant quests:

to attain commercial real estate

to acquire 18th century artwork, cheap

because like an omen

it all turned out to be true

when he came to the Pfister

he saw his own painting

well, the real one

hanging above the front desk.

That’s how he knows he belongs here

“in the warmth of a hug”

as he puts it.

“this is pure unadulterated perfection,”

as he puts it.

 

The moment is interrupted,

as Senator Kohl gets up from his chair and leaves the lounge.

Valerie, the mixologist calls after him, “I love you.”

Senator Kohl wears a green baseball cap.

 

“If you’re feeling low,

this is the place to go,”

continues Joe,

he gestures towards Valerie and tells me,

“She is much more advanced than a bartenderess,

she’s a… she’s a mixologist!”

I tell him I have never heard a woman bartender called a bartenderess before.

Says Joe,

“Well, it would be apropos,

she’s really a good looking female

and you must distinguish between the two.”

Joe cuts the fluff,

the nice fluff,

but enough

and goes into an hour long description

of the blog post he wants me to write

one day

but not today

about the cover up of the banking industry by the government.

I stop taking notes

because this is not for today

and he tells me I should change my name anyways

before I write the story he says he has for me

about “necessary evil.”

Joe asks me a lot of questions:

“Do you know what we’d have without the banking system?”

“Have you heard about getting on the merry-go-round?

“Commercial loans?”

He draws me a picture on a napkin.

“Do you understand now?

You never get to pay the loan back.”

He tells me a story and he even starts with a title.

I transcribe.

“The Painting

Mr. Marcus was standing in the lobby as the bank turned him down for a loan. The bank told him, ‘You must proceed to have investors with you and then you can come back to buy the hotel.’ Another man who happened to be in the lobby pointed to a painting and said, ‘Mr. Marcus if you buy this hotel I will give you a large sum of money to buy that painting.’ Mr. Marcus knew that in a locked room in an upper floor was a bunch of paintings, secure and waiting for a buyer to come along.

The room was full of appraisers and insurance people all contemplating the worth of these 18th century paintings. Mr. Marcus with papers in hand and the grand total entered into the bank, proceeded to tell the head of the bank he had enough equity from the paintings alone without a single dollar of his that would satisfy any loan that was given to buy the hotel.

This was circa fifty years ago when the paintings were worth more than the hotel. He really saved an iconic piece of architecture, which could not be reproduced today. This is also an evolution of great taste. Each renovation is better than the last.”

This is the whole problem with commercial loans.  You never get to pay back the principle.
This is the whole problem with commercial loans.

Hey Historians Of The Future, READ THIS!!!

I am at my typewriter when a woman comes up to me with a request for a love letter. The reason for her love letter being ordered: the two of them are apart while her partner goes on an extended trip to Boston, Winnipeg and Lake Forest to pursue the subjects of their interest, gender queerness and poetry. While negotiating her order, the woman’s two young sons both wanted to play with my typewriter, ride the bell carts and slide down the railing.

I joined the three of them for lunch in the café and we engaged in a conversation where I learned (and I would like to state here that this conversation was grown organically, and was not related in any way to the delicious Reuben sandwiches served) that artificial butter flavoring is lethal if inhaled. So lethal, that the workers who produce it must wear hazmat suits. Artificial butter like most artificial flavors is a byproduct of genetically modified bacteria. I did not know any of this. However, I do think I might have heard about human organs being printed out by machines and the human ears harvested on the backs of mice, both of which were brought up in this discussion. Side note: I hope the historians of the far future will one day read this blog.

This here is a hazmat suit.
This here is a hazmat suit.

After lunch, I went back to my typewriter to write the love letter. Something for you to understand is that the recipient of this letter is genderqueer and therefore gets a different pronoun than a man or a woman. In this instance they, them, their all refer to the recipient of the letter. Here is the letter:

 

Dear Winnipeg,

you have yourself a visitor

you have yourself a dragonfruit

you have yourself a starfruit

a bumbershoot

some reals bumblebee honey

a pouring

all across the gender queer conference

with their golden red

sweetness for hot toast

I miss them the most

in the morning

in the evening

in the allthetime.

My adrenals fatigue

without the jolt

of you entering the room

to sit down on the couch of my life

with the two jumping bean

boys a squirming

across the plush cushions.

And Boston, you lucky devil,

getting your back scratched

by the tip of their pencil

and comforted by the warm touch

of their working laptop!

I wish I were you, Boston.

I wish I were a carrot frying in their pan.

When they return, my eldest boy will help me cook the celebratory feast of stir fried Indian roti flavored hummus. All natural of course, no hazmat suit will be necessary.

I am committed to finding my love

inside the River Forest, inside the Lake Forest,

where trees are hewn from pure water,

fishes wishes and fishes kisses.

Tuesday Afternoon Reverie

It is 2:21 p.m. and here’s what is going down:  a recording of violin music saturates the air.  Someone walks past hauling a 2.88 (or so) foot long camcorder.  The fronds of a palm tree sensuously caress the south column.  A security guard carefully explains how to get to the Metro Market to a hotel guest.  I estimate the guest to be about thirty years old by the way he has trimmed his beard. Another man in a baseball cap asks me if I am typing a letter to my mother, cialis I am not.  I am writing a letter to the hotel lobby, or rather what is happening inside it, since the lobby itself might not be sentient in the way that you and I are.  If it were though, I’d feel sorry for the rug.  Here is this exquisite rug placed on top of the ornate wall-to-wall carpeting and people just walk right over it without respectfully acknowledging the brief yet fantastic change of terrain.

DSCN5549
Behold.

This is a place where no matter where you look there is something that you can get lost dazing into. I am going to stop typing now so that I may enter reverie as I consider the spatial delights experienced by the light emanating from all the electrical fixtures.  I consider the spatial tension that exists between the empty chairs at the top of the stairs.  If you stick around in this place long enough you will hear each quarter of the hour marked by the dingdong chime of a grandfather clock.  Today I’ve typed here long enough to see a ball bearing pop off my typewriter and roll down the marble steps.  The steps here remind me of salami.  How delicious!

DSCN5557
Genoa salami is my favorite, perhaps but this looks a little more like capicola.

 

A man descends the stairs and I notice that he has clipped his sunglasses to the backside of his turtleneck collar.  I have never seen anyone keep their sunglasses snug against their neck vertebrae like that before.  Someone loudly asks, “Anymore gifts?”  Their companion loudly replies, “We are up to $1500,000 now.” People wheel their baggage through.  It is funny to think about how 20 years ago all this luggage would have been lugged in without wheels.  When I was a kid it still had not occurred to society to put wheels on suitcases. We have come a long way.  I leave my typewriter to go sit by the fire for a while.  My eyes close.  Val, the bartender asks if I want anything, but no, I just want to sit by the fire.  “That’s fine, people have been doing that since 1893,” says Val.  As I sit I hear a pair of middle-aged women in the midst of some profuse giggling.  I walk over to them.  Pam & Kate explain how they just got back from a Photoshop conference and are now feeling giddy.  The Happy Hour has descended.  Roc at the desk has told me that the lobby bar is where Marilyn Monroe liked to sip her drinks.  The stairwell is where Elvis Presley stood to graciously wave at everyone.  Roc himself spent an hour and a half discussing international politics with Margaret Thatcher.  Roc also said, “The hotel never used to allow dogs in here like they do now.  Dogs love the elevator here! Each floor has it’s own bouquet of smells that the dog catches whiff of as they go past in the elevator. I wish you could interview a dog and get them to tell you what it is that they smell on each floor.”  Hmm, good idea.

Announcing the 7th Pfister Narrator – Anja Notanja Sieger

We are absolutely elated to name Anja Notanja Sieger as our seventh “Pfister Narrator.” In this role, she will spend time in the hotel’s lobby and public spaces, typing letters and poems on site, speaking with visitors and guests and sharing their stories right here on our award-winning blog.

“I will write personal letters for visiting strangers, and contribute to the Pfister’s blog,” said Sieger. “I hope to also host public story slams and literary readings featuring local talent, as well as to publish a book by the end of my incumbency.”

Sieger received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in printmaking and creative writing from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2009. Her performance writing art service “La Prosette” has been featured on the front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA Today Online, MSN Hotmail News and Yahoo News. La Prosette is a one-woman typewriter service that allows clients to choose from the following options: Poetry, Love Letter, Insult Letter, Letter of Recommendation, Short Story, or Letter from a Pet. Writing letters requires her to pretend for the duration of the composition that she is “Not-Anja,” but the client. Her live stories have won Milwaukee area slams held by Ex Fabula and the Pfister Hotel. Sieger is currently an Artist in Resident at In Tandem Theatre and a Writer in Residence at Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee.

Sieger was chosen to serve as narrator based on her writing style, professional experience and personality. She was selected from a large pool of qualified applicants by a review panel consisting of local writers, editors and representatives from the hotel. She will be replacing Molly Snyder, who has been blogging for the hotel since May 2013. Sieger will begin her residency as narrator on May 1, 2014.

“Anja brings creativity, enthusiasm, and a fresh perspective to the Narrator program,” said Paul Ohm, general manager of The Pfister. “We think our guests are going to enjoy her presence at the hotel and look forward to seeing how her personal interactions with them unfold on the blog.”

No jacket required

Amanda and Craig traveled from their home in Elkhorn to Milwaukee just for the day and in order to randomly stop in at “cool places.”

I love the spontaneity of their plan and the fact their quest for cool landed them in the Lobby Bar sipping cocktails. Amanda had been to the Pfister one time before for her sister’s birthday. They – along with a few others – went to Blu (on the 23rd floor of the hotel) and had a spectacular time.

“I just had to come back,” says Amanda. “Craig’s never been here. It’s such a beautiful hotel.”

Amanda went on to say that she was, at first, concerned that perhaps they weren’t dressed up enough to hang out at the Pfister. However, she decided to risk it and was happy to find out she was perfectly comfortable in her casual clothing.

We talked about the range of guests – and therefore the range of attire – at the Pfister Hotel. I told Amanda and Craig that when I tell people I work at the Pfister, they sometimes make a comment about how “fancy” it is. (A few even said it in a fake “rich person” voice.)

And it is fancy, I tell them, but it isn’t.

The hotel is extraordinarily opulent, from the twinkling crystal chandeliers to the stunning Victorian art collection – it’s a visual feast of history and beauty – but it’s not stuffy.

Furthermore, I spend about 10 hours a week at the Pfister and never once have I felt displaced even though I’m a pretty casual gal. I’m most comfortable in jeans and a black concert T-shirt – and I admit I upped my wardrobe game for the Narrator position (translation: I bought a blazer) – but I didn’t exactly run out and charge piles of gowns and gold adornments.

I often tell people who suggest the hotel is too lavish for their likes the story of founder Guido Pfister and how he wanted to give the city a beautiful yet comfortable gathering place. A hotel that would serve as “Milwaukee’s living room.”

And although my living room doesn’t have large lion statues or, sadly, a dapper and dedicated staff (in fact it’s kinda small and overstuffed with books and old furniture), the Pfister lobby does feel like an extension of my home at this point. Even on days when I’m wearing my Joan Jett T-shirt.

Under the blazer, of course.

Soaring through happy hour with flight attendants

As flight attendants, treat Jamie and Quin land all over the country. Including, recently, in Milwaukee.

I met them during Happy Hour at Mason Street Grill and asked them what, if anything, they like about Brew City.

“The Public Market,” Quin says immediately. “I love it. Love the gourmet food. I visit every time I’m here.”

Jamie says she liked the city, too, but being a Bears fan – both she and Quin live in Chicago – makes her experience here sometimes a bit unsavory. Especially when she’s wearing her Chicago Bears gloves.

“The Green Bay fans give me sh-t about these all the time,” she says.

Personally, I have always been fascinated by the lives of pilots and flight attendants. As a person with terminal wanderlust, it seems like a really exciting and enriching job.

“It is,” says Quin. “It’s like being on vacation every day. You don’t have to see the same boring people every day and work in the same boring office. And I was in Ft. Lauderdale last night.”

I am clearly in the wrong profession.

“The best part is that I have friends all over the country, and I get to see them, when I’m working,” she says.

Have they ever experienced “scary moments” in the sky?

“There have been a few,” says Jamie. “But I’d still pick flying over driving or taking a train any day.”

Do they still serve any special snacks on their flights?

“Cookies in the morning!” says Jamie.

Favorite places to fly?

“San Diego. It’s where I’m from,” says Quin.

Jamie’s response surprises me a bit. I never thought of this place as an all-time favorite destination.

“Portland, Maine,” she says. “I love the seafood – the restaurants are phenomenal – and the scenery is beautiful.”

OK, Portland, Maine, you are now on my Travel Bucket List. Thanks, ladies, and happy trails to you.

Getting along swimmingly at a sea-themed soiree

On Thursday night, I went to the 2014 Book Of Lists party with Pfister artist-in-residence Stephanie Barenz and my parter, Royal.

The party’s theme this year was “Under The Sea” and its mission was, as always, to celebrate the media firm’s Book of Lists, which is a compilation of the lists published each week in the Milwaukee Business Journal.

The unofficial mission of the evening, however, was to enjoy the art of the six Pfister artist finalists, eat from an incredible seafood-loaded buffet, imbibe boozy blue drinks, play carnival-esque games and attempt to stay upright while balancing on a mechanical surfboard.

Let’s just say it was harder than it looked.

The annual shindig is described as “the best business networking event” of the year and attracts more than 500 business-area executives which means lots of suits, ties and, this year, plenty of lobster claws and mermaid tails, too.

A sea-friendly spirit was in full force and the details – from the bowls of goldfish crackers to the insanely detailed starfish and seahorse cookies for dessert to the super fresh mussels – made the evening a wave of success.

But perhaps my favorite part of the evening was all of the costumes. I particularly enjoyed the lobster lady in the elevator and the hippie Neptune dude as well as my own chance to toss on a coconut bra and sailor’s cap and climb inside a photo booth with my super fun party mates.

My time as the Pfister Narrator is winding down, and to stick with a water metaphor in honor of the sea-themed party, I’m swirling the drain over here. Hence, these moments, and documentation of these moments, are really starting to make a splash in my nostalgic parts.

Too smiley to be a crab. Must be a lobster.
Too smiley to be a crab. Must be a lobster.
There was a big star at the party.
Sea creatures say “cheese,” too.
Secret: That's not his real beard.
Secret: That’s not his real beard.
Nice tail.
Nice tail.
Ok, we might have had one blue drink too many but this really was fun.
One blue drink too many?

Strangers become friends over food, paint and travel stories

[next_message styles=”2″ title=”Gathering of the Senses II”]We’re thrilled to bring our second iteration of Gathering Of the Senses on Saturday, March 15th at 5pm. Tickets are $95++ per person. RSVP by calling 414-935-5950 or emailing m1res@marcuscorp.com.

Find more information, including the full menu, visit here.[/next_message]

Last week, artist-in-residence Stephanie Barenz, executive chef Brian Frakes and I hosted an evening of painting, eating and travel story telling. Nine people attended the event, called “Gathering Of The Senses,” which took place in Stephanie’s studio.

Each participant submitted a photo from a recent vacation to trace onto a canvas and then paint after a brief instruction session by Stephanie. Sue’s photo was taken in Ireland; Grace’s in Istanbul; Erin’s in New Orleans; Cathy’s in Amsterdam; Randy’s in Gettsyburg; Hannah’s in Germany and Karen and Lori’s photos were from a trip they took together to Prague.

photo-11

Jenni’s photo was from Chicago, but then went on to say she actually had never been to the Windy City. For a moment I was perplexed, but then she explained she came to the event at the last minute with Erin, whose original date was ill and could not attend. (#goodsport!)

During the painting time, the participants told me the stories behind their travel photos / paintings. I felt moved by and connected to much of what they said, especially considering I have been to every place they were painting with the exception of Ireland and Istanbul.

However, both Istanbul and Ireland are high on my lists of places I want to travel.

Just last month, I met a friend in the Pfister’s Lobby Bar after her trip to Instanbul. It was the first trip she took without her husband who had passed away unexpectedly the year before. I was so enamored with her photos and travels I bought a book, “Istanbul” by Orhan Pamuk, and my partner and I vowed to go some day.

I have also always wanted to go to Ireland. I told Sue that even though my name is Molly and my beer of choice is Guinness, I am not Irish (even though people always ask) but I love all things Irish – including my partner who is 5/8th Irish.

Sue’s Ireland story was very touching because even though her mother passed away when she was 12, she felt her presence while visiting the same places she had been as a young girl.

Erin’s story of traveling in New Orleans with her sister was wonderful, too. She said it was during that trip that she and her sister evolved from siblings to true friends. This choked me up a bit as I am somewhat estranged form my sister for reasons that are unclear to me and I also have had some of my best life moments in the city of New Orleans.

The warm and adventuresome stories went on and on. Hannah reunited with family in Germany; Lori and Karen had the time of their lives in Prague despite the rain.

Cathy told us of boating atop the canals in Amsterdam and her husband, Randy, who is a history buff, had a fantastic time in Gettysburg.

photo-11

Chef’s dinner was truly a first for me – since I am not much of a foodie – but everything was absolutely delicious, from the firesalt kiln baked beef marrow (served in a bone) to the firecracker tempura mini flounder to milk chocolate malted mousse. The fact that all of the menu items were inspired by chef’s travels made the cuisine even more meaningful.

chef

The four glasses of wine that accompanied the meal got everyone even chattier and sharing more of themselves as the evening went on. This was my favorite part of the event, having the chance to connect with random, fun, interesting people whom I never would have met or gotten to know without the Pfister connection.

“When people come into my studio or to one of my gallery events I usually only get to talk to them for a few minutes,” Stephanie later said to me. “It was wonderful to spend an entire evening with a small group of people and really get to know them. I loved teaching them my painting process, learning about their personal travel stories and sharing a special meal prepared by our Executive Chef.”

A couple days after the event, I looked at photos of all of the finished paintings from the evening and wrote a haiku about each one. I then mailed the haiku on a postcard to each participant. When I dropped the postcards in the mailbox I felt a little wistful as it marked the end of a magical evening.