HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | SEPTEMBER 2016 | Back-to-School edition | “Is That All There Is?”

20160915_133845In between his sets at the Mason Street Grill this Monday–where he plays every Monday from 5:30-9pm–Chicago jazz pianist Joel Burt and I talked a little about his musical journey and, using a bit of interpretive poetic license, about the most important question any learner can ask: “Is that all there is?”

Getting here has been a life-long journey.

When I was younger, like ten years old, my mom said that I should take piano lessons.  And when mom says you’re going to take piano lessons, you take piano lessons.  But of course I wanted to play baseball, football.  I only dibble-dabbled with the piano for years after that.

I became an underwriter, but at one point I decided I’d like to try piano again.  I didn’t want to be in the front seat of the hearse; I didn’t want to be a vegetable.  So I enrolled at Berklee in Boston. Each day is a new day, right?  I always want to do something today that I didn’t do yesterday.  It’s always new–otherwise, what’s the point of doing the same thing all the time.  Like my mother used to tell me: “Make sure you go clean underwear on.”

I started off as a sideman for different bands, but now I’m pretty much in the lead.  I’ve been playing for six years at The Pfister and they finally gave me a drummer.  I mean, I’m not famous, but it’s nice getting called back.  I’m always learning, always getting better. I recently heard an arrangement played by an eighteen-piece orchestra and contacted the arranger: “You got to teach me how to do this.”  And he finally told me, “When’re we gonna start?”  Not “Here’s how much it’s going to cost” but “When’re we gonna start?”

I don’t ever want to live in a box.  Because life is like . . . a cabbage. A huuuge cabbage, with so many levels of life.  You can keep peeling it back and there’s still more!

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Mr. Burt and I ended our pleasant talk between sets by suggesting I listen to Peggy Lee’s song “Is That All There Is?”  If I’m understanding the lyrics correctly, the title line in the chorus suggests that the speaker has come to understand that powerful forces aren’t always as powerful as she perceived them to be.  Taken out of context, though, the title line could certainly echo Mr. Burt’s passionate optimism and desire for new experiences:

I remember when I was a very little girl, our house caught on fire.
I’ll never forget the look on my father’s face as he gathered me up
In his arms and raced through the burning building out to the pavement.
I stood there shivering in my pajamas and watched the whole world go up in flames.
And when it was all over I said to myself,
“Is that all there is to a fire?”

Is that all there is?
Is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends
Then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

And when I was 12 years old, my daddy took me to a circus.
“The Greatest Show On Earth.”
There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears.
And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads.
And as I sat there watching, I had the feeling that something was missing.
I don’t know what, but when it was over,
I said to myself,
“Is that all there is to a circus?”

Is that all there is?
Is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends
Then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

And then I fell in love, with the most wonderful boy in the world.
We would take long walks by the river
Or just sit for hours gazing into each other’s eyes.
We were so very much in love.
Then one day, he went away and I thought I’d die.
But I didn’t.
And when I didn’t I said to myself,
“Is that all there is to love?”

Is that all there is?
Is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep-

I know what you must be saying to yourselves.
“If that’s the way she feels about it why doesn’t she just end it all?”
Oh, no, not me.
I’m in no hurry for that final disappointment.
‘Cause I know just as well as I’m standing here talking to you,
That when that final moment comes and I’m breathing my last breath
I’ll be saying to myself-

Is that all there is?
Is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends
Then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

We’re Going to Get Out of This: LSU Fans Reflect on Fixing the Floods and More

I’ve never seen the Lobby Lounge as crowded as it was last Friday afternoon.  The night before, a streak (which is what a group of tigers is called) of Louisiana State University fans descended upon The Pfister and other local hotels, eating and drinking their way to Saturday morning’s mass bus ride to Lambeau Field.  They filled every chair, many of which were pulled together so what looked whole extended families could gather.  Once they’d staked their territories, purple and gold tigers roamed from one oasis to another.  No one seemed stuck in one place, and no one seemed to be without a drink.  The piano could barely be heard over the laughter, clinking glasses, high fives, and shouts across the lounge to new arrivals.  I was able to squeeze in at the bar–the bartenders and the servers were working double-time to accommodate everyone–but before I was able to order a drink for myself, I heard a woman with an LSU logo on her shirt tell Thomas that she was going to escape the din for a smoke.  I introduced myself, decided to wait on my drink, grabbed my notebook, and followed her as she sauntered across the lobby, refreshed vodka tonic in hand.

The Badgers, of course, beat the Tigers 16-14, but my guess is that this defeat did not break the spirits of the die-hard LSU fans.  Because what I learned from Karen (names have been changed), and later her husband Teddy, is that deeper than tailgating is blood.  From the way they described it, tailgating actually might be in their blood (“It’s part of our culture, which is a connection we have with you here in Wisconsin,” Teddy would tell me), but so, too, is a culture of self-sufficiency, generosity, and magnanimity.

20160902_154558“I came to Milwaukee to escape the total shit at home.”

Karen wasn’t one to mince words.  We sat together on a bench in the courtyard outside the Hotel.  “This is perfect weather,” she sighed pleasantly.  It was indeed a comfortable 75.  “Back home in Baton Rouge, it’s 95 degrees and 95% humidity.”  Her oversized shirt, with an open and popped collar, sporting a bold LSU logo, gleamed white in the sunlight.  She removed a cigarette from her purse, but didn’t light it.  Instead, she placed a hand on my arm, leaned in, and said, “We were just recovering from the police shootings and racial tension, you know.  Then the flooding happened.”

She was referring, of course, to the officer-involved shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge on July 5.  The next day, Philando Castille was killed by an officer in Minnesota and protests erupted around the country, followed by the shooting of five police officers in Dallas on July 7.  Then, on July 17, a gunman shot six police officers in Baton Rouge, killing three of them.  The rains that hit southern Louisiana about a month later could have been poetically cleansing, but instead they dumped over two feet of rain over two days, in what has been described as “the worst disaster in the U.S. since Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast in 2012,” damaging more than 55,000 houses, 80% of which lacked flood insurance, more than 6,000 businesses, and about 30 state roads.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Karen said.  “This is three times worse than Katrina.  Noah wasn’t even prepared for it.  The rain filled up all the streams, rivers, and bayous–and then had nowhere to go.”  She realizes that what happened in New Orleans was different, of course–80% of the city and nearby parishes were flooded–but remarked that the August rain was so “unexpected” and that it “hit everyone, not one specific race or class.  It hit the upper class, the lower class, and everyone in between.”

Karen was sad that the summer had seen so much destruction.  She lit her cigarette finally and sipped her vodka.  “We’re all equal,” she repeated multiple times when reflecting on the destroyed lives and flooded homes.  “Whether we’re black, white, orange, purple.”  Inside, her husband and other relatives would reiterate this belief.

As we talked, a man who had been drinking a beer across the courtyard stumbled over and asked for some money for the bus, then changed his mind and settled for a cigarette.  Karen offered him hers, barely touched, but he indicated that he had hoped for a fresh one.  Unfazed instead of offended, she brought out two from her purse, plus her lighter.  Yes, she was encouraging a bad habit, but she did it graciously, I thought.  After he left, she sighed and said, “You just have to believe it’s all going to work out.  It’s gonna fix itself–by the grace of God–or we’re going to kill ourselves.”  I wondered out loud how much believing things will change would actually change anything–and whether the problems that both her city and Milwaukee were sharing (she, of course, knew the name of Sherman Park from the nightly news) could actually fix themselves.  I wondered whether even God could.  “The right people have to stand up,” she clarified.

“But who are those people?” I wondered again.

“Maybe that’s you and me.  But they’re going to be a lot of ‘wrongs’ that’re going to try.”  I agreed, and we agreed to try to be those “right people” who stand up.

She added, looking up to the sun, “There’s always going to be sunshine after the bad storm.”  She finished her cigarette and picked up her vodka.

Inside, it took only a few seconds after she let everyone know where she’d been for the past half hour for me to join one of those circles of chairs.  Her husband and daughter, the daughter’s husband, his parents (who were staying with Karen and Teddy because their house had been flooded), other family members and friends–about a dozen in all–had commandeered the couches in front of the fireplace.  “So you’re a writer?”  They all found this awfully interesting and jockeyed for my attention immediately.  The winners?  Teddy sat to my right sipping a Glenfiddich (I don’t think it was his first), to my left his son-in-law Ryan looked over my shoulder at what I was writing (“You wrote all that already?”), Karen stood in front of me, and Ryan’s wife Mary settled for popping in every once in awhile with a funny remark or helpful clarification.  Teddy was clearly the star of this show, however, and kept talking even when Karen, Ryan, and Mary were talking into my other three ears.

20160902_161510I say this in jest, of course, because I really was having a good time (helped, I’ll admit, by the whiskey Karen had fetched for me).  Teddy wanted me to know what had happened with the floods–and ultimately what it meant to be a Louisianan.

The first thing he wanted to make clear is that “Baton Rouge is mainly blue collar, with all the chemical plants especially.  But it’s mixed, too.  We’re all regular people, though, with house payments, car payments.”  I started writing in my notebook again, Ryan craning his neck.  “So imagine this: for the first six to eight days, we were going into people’s houses, cutting through drywall and sheetrock, piling everything, all their belongings, in the yards and streets.  I saw hundreds of people coming out of subdivisions like my brother’s–all these people.  No one’s living in their own houses.  It’s going to take one to two years to fix this.  So many people are going to let their houses go back to the bank.”

Just as his wife had done, he recalled Hurricane Katrina and it’s destruction: “With Katrina, so many of the people affected–and I don’t want to get political–were poor.  They were the people the federal government told to sit tight.  ‘We’ll help you.’  And then the levees broke.”  But he was quick to remind me how people helped each other: “Back then and this time, I went down with my boat, pulling people out.  That’s what we call the ‘Cajun Navy’–thousands of people with boats and back tows helping people out.  In southern Louisiana, people care about each other.  It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white.”

Teddy assured me, “But they’ll come back.  I’m not worried about southern Louisiana.  It’s a part of our Cajun culture.”  In between sips of scotch, he would reference “Cajun culture” many times.  When I asked him what he meant by “culture,” he started singing (then Ryan and his father started singing, heck, I started singing): “Hey, you get down the fiddle and you get down the bow, / kick off your shoes and throw ’em on the floor, / dance in the kitchen till the morning light: / Louisiana Saturday night.”

“That’s what I’m talking about!” bellowed Teddy.  He added: “You can tell we like to drink, huh?”

I suspected, however, that by “culture” he meant something a little more than a “one-eyed dog” and “yonder kinfolk,” “bellies full of beer” and “possums in sacks” (the next two stanzas of Mel McDaniel’s often re-released 1981 hit “Louisiana Saturday Night“).  Teddy smiled and added, “When people came from Newfoundland–that’s where the Cajuns came from–and got down to the south, they were starving.  So the first person who decided to catch and cook a bunch of crawfish for his family–that’s when Cajun culture was born.  We depend on ourselves and each other.  That’s our heart and soul.  So it doesn’t matter if the federal government sends us assistance.  We’re going to get out of this.”

Bryan chimed in–“The enemy of excellence is complacency”–as he held up his Hyundai wristband (he owns a dealership) that said “No negativity allowed.”  Mary photobombed.  More drinking ensued, even as everyone started packing up to go to dinner.


Before I left, amid handshakes (and many high fives and hugs from non-complacent Bryan), Karen and Mary pulled me in and told me a secret: “The ‘U’ in Louisiana stands for ‘I will help you first,’ and the ‘I’ stands for ‘I‘ll take care of myself later.’  Make sure you write that down.”

What about the ‘O’?  Mary had a quick response: “The ‘O’?  How about ‘You always owe someone something to give.'”

I told them I thought they were making that up.  “Of course we’re making that up!  But it’s true, too.”

I think that if I ever visit Baton Rouge, I just may believe that lie, too.









NOTE: 10 percent of September 2-3 food and beverage sales in the Lobby Lounge and in Blu was donated to the Red Cross Louisiana Flood Relief Fund.

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | AUGUST 2016 | Being “August” | Continued


This is a friend of the Spunky Bohemian.  She shared an august story about an auspicious decision and a funky house bar:

About 22 years ago, my husband I packed up all our stuff and moved from Madison to San Diego in ten days.  We heard that there were jobs for us out there that paid $1 extra an hour.  We thought, “Wow, we’re going to be rich!”

She chuckles: a whole dollar more!

We loved it out there.  We came back when we had a kid and figured that since our parents lived in Wisconsin, it would be good for our kid to grow up near them.

She sighs, not with regret but nostalgia for San Diego.

Now we have property here, ten acres bordering the Kettle Moraine Forest in a tiny town called Greenbush.  There’s not even a bar in Greenbush.  I know, in Wisconsin!  But there is a stagecoach museum . . .

And there is a place 5-10 minutes away that’s a house bar.  A lady has a bar in her sun porch, with red velvet wallpaper and a jukebox.  You can play Elvis for 10 cents and get domestic beers for a buck and a quarter.  And they have the best Southern Comfort Old Fashioned Sweets around.  It’s only “open” when the bar lights are on: you just have to take your chance going there!  What’s the name of the bar?  No one knows!  We just call it “The House Bar.”

She insists that the owner of “The House Bar” has a liquor license.  She must, right?

And I promised I’d include a map showing where Greenbush is located.  I just might have to take a drive in search of the red velvet porch bar!  Now “Velvet”–that would make a swanky name!

Greenbush, Wisconsin (pop. 2,773 at the 2000 census)
Greenbush, Wisconsin (pop. 2,773 at the 2000 census)

Cordial of Wisdom | August 2016

This is Thomas, one of the bartenders in the Lobby Lounge. He is full of cosmic love.

Last month I offered the first “Cordial of Wisdom” from behind the bar in the Lobby Lounge, featuring the imaginative, pun-laden, talismanic words of wisdom of Val, who has been with the Hotel for decades.  Today, I offer you Thomas.  At first, he smiled and said, with so much conviction, “I think I’m too young to be disseminating wisdom.  I’m still learning so much.”  I was patient with him, which was good because he tilted his head up slightly, his eyes glazed in contemplation, and with clarity and conviction that belied his age (which he didn’t reveal), began to talk about love.  We joked that I would call this post “Love Letter to My Wife,” but I think it’s really a “Love Letter to Love.”

Love is the most significant, energetic attribute we possess in life, but it is so elusive.  Every time I’ve grasped a taste of it, I’ve realized that its flavor is so much more vast.  I get overwhelmed–like I’m a cell in a giant of love.  Every time you taste it, there’s some new flavor.  I guess I’m a crazy, hopeless romantic, but I’m truly obsessed with this experience.

I’ve made some of the most significant life choices in the quest for this “Love.”  And it’s an experiential kind of love–not the printed card type of love.

Speaking of cordials, I feel like love–whatever it is–is truth.  It’s flowing from one ancient vine of grapes, and every grape is a different kind of love, and these flavors of grapes are all connected to the vine, and other vines–and they all connect to one source, one that goes below the ground where we can’t see it–and beyond.  What’s beyond is so mysterious, but all this love is connected to it somehow.

We got a kick out of taking this photo.



Rocman “Roc” Whitesell retires from The Pfister Hotel tonight at 10:00 pm after 18 years of service as Concierge.  I got a chance to talk to him a few hours before he hung up his uniform.  Roc affirmed in my a belief in and celebration of ignorance–there is so much that we don’t know about so much . . . and that’s pretty cool.  I’ll be inviting Hotel associates and blog readers to share their favorite stories about Roc!

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Gallery Night last Friday in the Pop-Up Gallery and the Rouge Ballroom taught me about textures:

How atmospheric textures can affect a photograph of the Grand Tetons, or how printing in black and white versus color can lead to striking differences–thanks to insight offered by Coalition of Photographic Arts (CoPA) founding member Tom Federbar during the opening of his exhibit Yosemite & the Tetons.


How printing a photograph on a different surface, such as Sunset Metallic Photo Paper or Brushed Aluminum or Breathing Color Elegant Velvet Fine Art Paper (all Prime Digital Media products), can change the way a photograph appears and is perceived.


And how the musical textures of an electronically-amplified cello and the dramatic swish of snare drum brushes can affect what an artist such as Pamela M. Anderson, our Artist-in-Residence, sees and feels–and how that can translate to a blank canvas.

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All in all, to bridge the gap between the evening’s art and my life, I was reminded to attend to the “textures” in my own life–those I’ve been given, those others create for me, and those I create myself–and how they transform how I present myself to the world, how I am perceived, how I affect and effect.

Stay tuned for my full reflection on these stories!





This woman is a state legislator from North Dakota.  She and her husband were enjoying some sit-at-the-bar time after a long week for her at a Council of State Governments conference.

We are happiest when we travel.  We were in Dublin this spring, and this fall, we’re going to Iceland then London.  One of our favorite places was Seattle.  I [Mike] particularly loved the Boeing airplane exhibit.  My dad flew a B-17, so being able to get on a real B-17 and crawl around on it, sit where he sat–it’s a magnificent plane–was pretty incredible.

We’ve traveled in groups many times, but as we got older, we got used to just traveling together.  We learned how to adjust to each others’ schedules, think about someone else’s feelings, things like that.  We do a good pace, we think.

When we travel, we really are sit-at-the-bar people.  We meet the most interesting people, some of whom become good friends.  We’re able to suggest things that strangers might like–and just have a good time.

We’re both retired teachers, so travel always had to happen in the summer.  But now . . .


The photo is a little blurry, but this is the one she liked.  It captures her youthful spirit, which emerged as she talked about her independence.  When I saw her, she was sitting alone, reading the newspaper, her expression inscrutable.  I couldn’t tell if she was going to welcome my company. 

I am happiest when I travel to a new city and I get to figure out how to navigate it, use the mass transit, and such.  When I travel, I’m almost always on my own, which makes me feel independent and strong.

My first trip was–I was only 20 or 21–when I went to New York City.  I was working at the time.  I didn’t finish college.  I didn’t drop out, though–back then, they called it “stopping college.”  Most people who “stopped” college planned on going back after they “found themselves.”  But once I started working and the money started coming in (I was never rich, of course), it got comfortable.  There was a documentary on in the 60s about elderly people who didn’t have enough to eat–and I remember telling myself that I didn’t want to be poor when I got older.  So, anyways: all my friends had just graduated from college, and they didn’t have a lot of money.  I figured that I could either wait to go to NYC until they had some money or–so I just went.

I never got married.  I was born independent.  In fact, I had my fortune told by a psychic once.  My mother was deceased, but the psychic saw her and my mother told her, “She’s always been independent, even as a little child.”


Two buddies from college in Indiana attended a wedding of a friend at the Milwaukee Art Museum this past weekend.  They both spoke about the happiest moments in their lives.  Guess which one is which. 🙂

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People think I’m the ‘Wedding Grinch.’  But the happiest day of my life was calling my wedding off 17 days before the date.  I saved her life and my own in the process.  That’s why I always have a smile on my face.  I love my independence: I have my family, my friends.

What’s funny is that I had my bachelor party planned from the time I was 7.  All I knew is that it was going to be in Las Vegas and that money wasn’t going to be an option.   I didn’t know, of course, about Scarface or women or any extracurriculars.  I just wanted it to be fun.  And when my buddy Matt offered to help, as best man, I told him, ‘Don’t worry.  I got it.’  

I’m the life of the party.  I danced the night away with a 7-year-old at the wedding this weekend.  We’re buddies for life now.  But happiness is not identifiable only with weddings.


The happiest day of my life?  Well, I got married in November.  The wedding day was great, but the engagement was better.  It’s all about the preparation and the anticipation.

So I bought a ring right around Thanksgiving and called my parents–my dad started crying.  I wanted to ask her parents’ permission, thinking I could wait until the next holiday, like Christmas.  But my mother told me, ‘No, you’re doing this now.  This week.’  So I flew from L.A. to San Francisco on the following Monday, making up a story to my girlfriend that I was on a business trip, emailing her parents to tell them that I was going to be in their neighborhood.  I’m pretty sure they knew I was going to ask for permission to marry their daughter, but they didn’t say anything.  I did, then proposed two weeks later.

Her dad and mom had been in a long-distance relationship like ours, except the reverse: she was in L.A. and he was in San Francisco.  He had brought her down to the beach to propose, but it started raining and she didn’t want to get out of the car.  So he proposed to her in the car.  I brought my girlfriend to the same beach and proposed to her there–successfully.  My father-in-law still jokes about how the next generation makes up for the mistakes of the previous one.

Today is actually the anniversary of our first date.

Brian had to leave for the airport, so we departed, and within minutes, Amy appeared in search of food.  “I’ll have the burger,” she told Val, barely having scanned the menu.  “I just got here from the airport.  I’m very hungry.”  I took a risk and bugged her as she waited for her food.  We both discovered, however, that we could have talked for much longer; she barely touched her burger until I left.  (I won’t lie.  It was partly that we discovered we were both Eurasian, she Chinese-Sicilian, me Japanese-Calabrian.)  Amy offered a different perspective on relationships and marriage than Brian or Matt.

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I waited a long time to get married.  My husband kept trying and trying and trying.  When I lost my mom–I took care of her for four years–I told her on her deathbed that I didn’t want to get married or have kids.  I wanted to travel and . . . When I think of freedom, I think of travel, of having choices.  Dancing, too–that’s being free.

I finally agreed to get married.  But I was firm from the first date: “No kids.”  There’s a social stigma surrounding this, though.  People might say you’re selfish.  From the perspective of overpopulation, I think I’m being rather green by not bringing another person into this world ‘just because.’  I’m making a choice not to become a mother.  There are obviously many women who choose to become moms, but what about people like me who don’t want to give into social norms?

People have told me, ‘You’re not a woman.’  But a female shouldn’t be defined by her ability to bear children.  I want to be able to wake up every day and not have to take care of another human.  I mean, maybe when I’m old and all alone and wondering why there’s no one around to take care of me, but . . . for now, it’s my choice.


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When do you feel most alive?  

When do you feel the freest?  

How do you pursue happiness?  

Feel free to send me a photo and an anecdote (more questions here) to!

The following letter was sent to me by Marie Foote, who divides her time between San José, Costa Rica, and Denver:

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“Hello Dominic,

“I grabbed your flyer from the 23rd floor of The Pfister Hotel–what a
fabulous idea to tell the stories of those of us who have been touched
by its historic & modern charms!

As I write this out, I am currently en route from Milwaukee to Chicago
with my husband and two children. We are happy Denverites, serving in
a coffee business and ministry in San José, Costa Rica. It just so
happens that we are family reunion-hopping this week (a grand total of
3, yes, THREE reunions!), before we wing our way to Costa Rica, to
renew our two year residency status so our work can continue.

“We had plans, initially, to stay at another hotel in the Milwaukee
area, but after our first night there, we realized that the atmosphere
–ahem, other obnoxious guests–would not be the cohabitants with
whom we’d love to share the next two days! So, we canceled our
reservation there and chose to stay at the Pfister. It was one of the
best gifts we could have been given this week! Every interaction we
had with the staff resulted in us feeling as though we were the only
people they were serving the entire time. The Pfister serves with
excellence and pleasure . . . and left us aching for more time there
than our two splendid days!

“You asked what my happiest memory has been . . . when I’ve felt fully
alive. That ‘moment,’ for me, has been a conglomeration of several
memories from the last 12 years, since we first held our daughter in
our arms. All of the moments, pieced together into one grand story of
love, are moments which include the three people who complete me the

My husband, Jordan, my best friend and unfailing servant-companion
for 19 years; we have laughed and cried together on many international

Our daughter, Megan, adopted since birth, who sprinkles a multitude
of drawings on scraps of paper in every corner of our world–her
artistic signature sealing a life-letter full of chatter, song and

Our son, Micah, also adopted since birth, who can entertain a
roomful of incredulous adults with his Wikipedia-esque recitation of
random facts or humorous quips, and yet would rather eat a chocolate
donut with his Dad than do just about anything else.

Whether serving others in a tropical capital city, far from our
homeland, or receiving the gift of refreshment in a luxury hotel near
Lake Michigan, these three fellow travelers are the means by which God
gives me the strength to face each day, no matter what may come.
Living as an expat missionary in another culture is, at times, the
most trying task we have been given and yet, the joys which call to us
through every trial make every step worth the struggle. We have become
a family who travels well together, lives well together, loves well.

With them, traveling the world, I am fully alive.”

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Here we are, in our living area on our last night at The Pfister (July 5, 2016), playing with our Mac’s Photo Booth app. Megan and I are in the robes provided by the hotel, after a late night snack from the lobby restaurant. The additional photos sum up who are in 3 snapshots. While the quality of the photos will never win an award, the “moments” they captured memorialize our side-splitting laughter and giddiness, for the joy of simply being together, without a care in the world. –Maria


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When do you feel most alive?  

When do you feel the freest?  

How do you pursue happiness?  

Feel free to send me a photo and an anecdote (more questions here) to

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 11.48.09 AM“I feel most alive when I’m at my peak, with my home life, my love life, my work life.  And also with my wealth.  I don’t mean just monetary wealth.  It’s also my personal wealth, the things I value, the laurels I have–and then staying true to those things.  I feel most alive when I’m doing things the right way and things are working out.”

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“I feel most alive when I feel like I’m making a progression, moving forward.  Otherwise, I’m at a standstill.  I measure myself to see how I’m progressing.  It’s not an ‘envy’ kind of measurement.  But I’m only twenty and I feel like I’m behind.  We’re all born with different cards.  Some people get aces, kings, or queens.  Others get deuces, two’s, or three’s.  I just want to feel like I have a nice strong deck in my hands.”

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Her: “I am the happiest when I get to watch my husband find his happiness.  He’s a closet rock star who never pursued that part of his life.  Luckily, though, we live in Madison and there’s a band called The Gomers who play what’s called ‘Gomeroke.'”

Him: “How lucky am I?” (referring to his wife, with whom he was celebrating their 28th anniversary) “I do feel so happy when I’m on that stage.  It doesn’t matter what song you want to sing, they’ll play it.  And if you’re singing off-key, they’ll change the key.  If you forget the words, they’ll fill in for you.  And the best part is coming down from that stage to join my wife and friends.  This was like my therapy at times.”

Her: “Sometimes magic happens on that stage–I cried when he sang Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game.’  And sometimes people are pretty bad, but it doesn’t matter.  The band will just smile and keep playing, and we’ll all celebrate the fact that they got on that stage.  And me, I’m a doo-wop girl, a roadie, who’s there to help everyone shine.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 11.47.23 AM“My country song would be a happy adventure song, fully of travel, sunshine, and good people.  I really foresee more travel for me in the future.  My cousin and I have been talking about going to Cape Cod, the east coast, next.  And Greece has been on my European bucket list for awhile.”

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“My country song would be kind of like my cousin’s: full of sunshine, warm weather, and water.  And there’d be a little love story.  But definitely a beach, because it lightens you, frees you.  Ooo…it’s invigorating to me.”

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“We love coming downtown and staying at The Pfister.  We live out in Sussex, but we still come down, even though lots of people out there would say we’re crazy going all that way.  We used to live on 89th and Center in Milwaukee before we moved to Sussex.  And when we first moved, our four-year-old daughter would cry: ‘It’s too quiet, mom.  Where are the sirens?  And where are the sidewalks?  And the street lights?’  It would be dead silent.  But you know what?  She got used to it.  And loves it.”

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“My wife has some health problems and so we’re part of a support group.  So many people are dying, so I try to lighten things up.  I write a monthly, 18-page newsletter.  I can put whatever the hell I want in it.  There are a lot of jokes, of course.  And this month I’ll have a quote from Patrick Henry: ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’  There will be a Beauty of Nature section with a beautiful bird.  And an Everybody Needs Somebody section with pictures of people with their dogs.  An Aunty Acid section.  Features about special people, like the one about the police commissioner of Chicago, and excerpts from caregiver journals.  I’ll send you a copy of the latest newsletter.”

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Him: “I’m the most alive when I’m listening to live music.  I get emotional.  So I try to go wherever the music is: Jazz Fest, Newport, Austin, here for Summerfest.  Wherever.  Even last night, at the Johnson Control stage–their whole focuse was on emerging artists, we got to hear Peter Bjorn.  Me being fifty-six, I’ve never heard of them before, but it was like Swedish pop heaven; everyone was singing at the top of their lungs.  I got–I get–very verklempt; I feel a connection.  I mean, life is about dancing and singing.  They’re the two biggest cures for illness.  If we don’t live, then we’re not accomplishing anything, right?”

Her: “We just watched a documentary about China and Samoa and global warming.  A woman in the film was saying that there has to be a shift in our moral imagination if we’re to fix things and be happy.  She asked, ‘What do you want to do as a human being?  You’re an adult.  You have to make a human choice for yourself.  You need the personal satisfaction that you’re doing something morally right for yourself and the world.  Imagine, then, where you want to be morally, as a moral person.”

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER Teaser (Guess the Human!)


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I met some fun Humans today at Blu and the Lobby Lounge.

I’m preparing their stories for the next installment of HUMANS OF THE PFISTER (HOTP): LIFE, LIBERTY, & HAPPINESS,

but for now, here’s a preview of their beautiful faces.

Can you guess which of these HOTP said the following?

a. “I feel most alive when I’m at my peak, with my home life, my love life, my work life.”

b. “I just want to feel like I have a nice strong deck of cards in my hands.”

c. “Singing with the band was like my therapy.”

d. “My country song would be an adventure song, with travels, sunshine, and good people.”

e. “Our daughter was four years old when we moved from Milwaukee to Sussex.  At first, she’d cry and say, ‘It’s too quiet, mom.  Where are the sirens?’  She got used to it.”

f. “I’m a doo-wop girl.  Or a roadie.  I like to help people shine.”

g. “I love the beach because it lightens you, frees you, and oooh, it’s invigorating to me!”

h. “Life is about dancing and singing.  They’re the two biggest cures for illness.  If we don’t live, we’re not accomplishing anything.”

i. “I try to lighten things up.  I write a monthly newsletter–18 pages long–for the support group.”

j. “We just watched a documentary about how we need a ‘shift in our moral imagination,’ so that we can have personal satisfaction that we’re doing something morally right, that we’re doing what we want to do as human beings.”