How To Be A Parking Perfectionist, Or Using Your Social Ticks for Good in Moments of Great Distress

I am a creature of habit. There are certain systems that I have adopted in my life that help me to do important things like remembering to leave the house wearing pants.

I have noted with some particular interest that my habitual patterns shoot into hyper drive when my car pulls into the parking structure at the Pfister. I take my left hand off of the steering wheel to grab a hard plastic parking card that I keep in an indent in my driver’s side door, capsule swipe it in front of an electronic pad holding it vertically (never, never, ever horizontally) and then take faster-than-they-should-be turns around what I hope to only be two corners in the parking garage as I look for the perfect spot.

I then pray. I pray not for peace in the world and continued love for newborn puppies, but instead for that one angled parking spot on the 3rd Floor. It is my favorite, and when it is open, a sense of calm fills my very soul.

If my prayers are not fully answered, surely in retribution for forgetting to floss my teeth or some similar slip in the social contract, I might need to turn one more corner to find an open space. I may also be able to anticipate that my favorite spot is filled and park at a space leading up to that prized angled spot. Regardless of the exact place I claim as my car’s Pfister resting place for my visit, I always will drive slightly past the open spot, make a sharp left turn and then back my car between the yellow lines on the parking structure pavement that mark an open space. You will see more backsides of cars in the Pfister parking structure as you walk the ramp, but always, always, always when you come upon my compact micro minivan you will see the front grill of a car that says, “That fuel efficient number is clearly owned by a person with children.” It’s not a sexy car, no sir, but it gets the job done.

After my car is fully accounted for in its secured space, I grab my ever present Jack Spade computer bag and Sony camera, lock the doors with the key fob on my ring, and head for the elevators. It is at this point, as I find myself standing before the elevator waiting for the next empty car, that I perform the most important act of my obsessive-compulsive ritual. I grab one of the business cards that is displayed on the wall next to the elevator doors that indicate which floor I have just parked on and stick it into the breast pocket of my suit jacket. As the old grey matter inside my noggin gets closer and closer to matching the few wisps of grey matter on top of my head, I appreciate reminders.

You may scoff at my need for a daily note telling me that I parked my car on Floor 3, 4 or 5, but I had an encounter the other day that proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that concerning my parking ritual, I am the smartest person in the room. I wish those smarts carried over into algebra and simple tax law, but a guy’s gotta cherish what little victories he can claim in life.

After spending time in the lobby doing some writing and observing, I had finished for the day and made my way to Floor 3 of the parking garage via elevator. As the doors opened on my floor, I found myself face-to-face with a woman with an expression of terror on her face. She looked like someone had just stolen her ice cream cone. She was clearly not having the best of days.

“Is everything okay?” I asked. The poor soul looked like she needed a helping hand and I had at least two to give.

Her eyes met mine and with trembling lip she said, “I…oh, it’s so silly…I can’t find my car.” She quickly bowed her head, embarrassed and clearly having just been frozen in her tracks at the elevator doors looking at those parking card reminders thinking, “I should’ve, I should’ve… oh boy, oh boy, I really should’ve.”

I smiled warmly, and assured her I would help. I learned her name was Rita and she explained that she had been at the Pfister the prior week for a luncheon, and imagined that her brain was playing tricks on her about the actual time and place of the here and now.

“I feel so silly,” said Rita. “My daughters will have a field day with this one.”

I knew that I’d be able to help Rita, because if there is one thing I’m good at, it is walking slowly and looking at things. This skill, which I’ll admit is something someone should think twice about when considering listing it on a resume under “special skills”, would allow us to resolve Rita’s anguished error and confirm whether or not actual keepers-of-the-peace would need to be called in to report thievery. The odds were in my favor that the slow-watch-gaze that I boast about as one of my superior talents was about to give me a super sleuthing advantage.

There was a part of me, the gallant in me let’s call it, that hoped that Rita and I would have to search high and low for upwards of 17 minutes to solve the mystery. But the truth of the matter is that as I joined Rita in walking the parking structure to find her car, we turned one corner, looked at all the cars parked side-by-side and found hers within a matter of moments. My four eyes had clearly come in handy.

Rita thanked me for helping her in her moment of need. “I was just about to head down to the front desk to ask them to call the police.” She grinned, grateful that the authorities had not had to be pulled into action.

I wanted to leave Rita with that sense of calm that comes from receiving a pearl of life’s wisdom from some great sage. And my heart was beating fast just bursting with pride that for one brief shining moment I was the windshield and not the fly just about to slam into it.

“You know, there are these great little cards right…” Rita cut me off before the full Tao of Jonathan could be laid out.

“I know, I know. Thanks again.” She got into her car, backed out of her space, and avoided a lecture on the correct manner in which to obsess over a 14-point place for proper parking protocol. Clearly Rita had learned her lesson. It seems some things are best left unsaid in the game of love and war and steering a Volvo in between the right lines.

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The Only Problem Is That the Water Cooler Might Be Used to Wash a Brush or Two

How many times have you looked at a piece of art hanging on the wall and said, “My kid can do that?”

And how many times have you taken brush in hand to find out that kids are cute, but making art isn’t for the feint of heart.

It’s with this sense of awe for the process of creation that I come to the continuing confirmation that the people who work for and support the Pfister and its parent Marcus corporation aren’t just pros of the highest degree, they are artists. In the case of a current display of talents in the Pfister’s Pop Up Gallery, this statement is both literal and figurative.

Last Friday the Pop Up Galley was the site of the opening reception of the Art of Marcus Show. This was no display of a group of disgruntled employees acting out their frustrations over a hostile work environment with tortured splashes of oil paint on a dirty cloth calling for overthrow of “the man.” No, indeed, the art on display showed that the concept of “Salve”, the motto of welcome hospitality for all prominently on display as part of the ceiling fresco art in the Pfister Lobby, has warmly wormed its way into the psyches of all the Marcus employees presenting art.

It’s not for nothing that a hotel that has its own Aritst-In-Residence and Narrator puts value on showing off the off hours talents of their staff. I get a kick out of the fact that the same bartender who mixes the world’s best Bloody Mary has an eye for landscapes. And this is no, “My kid could paint that,” kind of show, either. It’s a true celebration of how the people that make it their business to ensure a comfy stay for all our guests stretch their artist souls.

When, as a writer, I think, “Boy, I’m so busy…how can I produce anymore words?” I remember that Kurt Vonnegut sold Saabs from 9 to 5, Harper Lee punched a clock as an airline ticket reservationist, and William S. Burroughs was an exterminator. It’s my reminder to stop whining and sit down with pen in hand and start my real life’s work. Those notable writers didn’t just define themselves by their day jobs and clearly knew that being an artist meant more than dreaming about it—for all of them it meant showing up and simply doing the work.

Having seen the work of the Marcus employees, I will now take inspiration from their efforts and realize that while these hard working stewards could be kicking off their shoes and cracking a cold brew at the end of the day, they have chosen to take off their work clothes and put on that soft shirt that won’t suffer from a splotch of paint. I’m happy that visiting guests get to know our staff as more than champions of comfort and see that there are some real serious artists walking the halls of the Pfister.

I hope you enjoy these images of the Art of Marcus Show, and I hope you’ll stop by soon and experience these delights in person.

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Follow me on Twitter @jonathantwest for more smart remarks and snappy retorts.

Breath of Fresh Biz

Spearmint or arctic blast—take your pick. The future looks good, here and boy, oh boy does it have fresh breath.

The MMAC (that’s Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce for all you non-commercial folk) held its Future 50 Awards Luncheon at the Pfister last week with a jam-packed affair in the Pfister’s Grand Ballroom. The innovators, the big producers, the great thinkers of the metro area descended to share salads and rub elbows all the while celebrating the fastest growing small businesses in the Milwaukee region. It’s a good list to consider, pilule and the MMAC shares some nice metrics on the power of these businesses on their website.

It takes a lot of breath to say all the words in the name of the sponsoring entity for the Future 50 Awards, that’s for sure. The mouthful that is the organizing group is Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and its Council of Small Business Executives. You can’t fault folks for simply using the acronym MMAC/COSBE, but that even produces a lot of spare wind whistling through the teeth.

Now, imagine what happens when all the charging-forward business leaders at an event like this, fueled by gallons of coffee and fast burning metabolisms, chat away about pushing industry farther in the region. Consider the impact of double latte halitosis filling the highly charged vibe of invention and exploration at an event like this. It’s not hard to conceive of some considerably less than sweet air being produced in such a frenzied environment.

That’s why I think a round of applause is in order for the event sponsors who coordinated (or perhaps converged through happy coincidence) a pro-breath mint schwag effort for the Future 50 Award luncheon. Well done, fresh breathers.

Sure, the event sponsors, all with their smart and neatly draped tables, did offer fine pieces of informational literature and well-designed ballpoint pens to luncheon guests. They covered the basics very well. Where the MMACCOSBEF50A-W-A-R-D sponsors hit it out of the park in a way that should rightfully garner praise from every dental hygienist and blind dater in the region is in the impressive stockpile of breath mints available for guests.

I like to think of this sort of schwag giving as prescient planning. The luncheon menu wasn’t drenched in garlic or sardines, but offered breath neutral dining options like lettuce, chicken and dinner rolls. But there’s no shame in admitting that the powerful people of the world take a big bite out of life at every opportunity and require a little assist on keeping the rarefied air around them smelling like toothpaste and sparkle rather than day old fish.

Fresh breath, it seems, comes in all shapes and sizes. Technology Resources Advisors kept it old school with a good old reliable live saving sort of mint.

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Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren opted for the rectangular mint cases with the rounded corners. All that you might expect from a well-heeled law firm…nothing sharp to cut yourself on so there’s no fear of a lawsuit.

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And it certainly was adorable that Park Bank provided a rounded mint tin that makes you think about a penny, nickel, dime or quarter.

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Clever from a solid financial institution, right?

No matter the mint, no matter the packaging, you can kiss the future hello after this event and feel a cool breeze of clean breath slapping a smile right on your face.

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Bag of Dreams

You would think by now that I would be unmoved by the sight of luggage in the lobby of the Pfister. Guests come in with bags, generic guests leave with bags. It’s all part of the hotel game. But when I see the hard working bell staff chugging back and forth with rolling carts filled with black bags that are being lined up with precision to form a sort of suitcase pond in the Pfister lobby, it’s worth a glance.

Having traveled with my mother and seen the carnage she can do at an airline baggage check-in, I first think that maybe the bags being lined up are filled with one lady’s collection of shoes. But as I get closer to the formation, I dispel that notion based on the fact that these black bags don’t bespeak of the high line of style that a lady in possession of 328 pairs of mule pumps might require for her steerage.

The moment that I see the luggage tag with a professional baseball team logo, I get it. The Pfister welcomes professional baseball teams from all around the country for their stay in town as they play at Miller Park, no matter how badly they beat our local Brewers. What I’ve come upon is the collective luggage for a traveling team who is checking out after rousting the Brew Crew during a recent home stand. Next year, by gum…next year our hometown boys will field an unstoppable team, for sure.

Rather than flipping over one of the suitcases so that the opposing team’s bags will all topple like some sort of Rube Goldberg dominos display, I stand in awe of the bags. I’m not one to kiss and tell (and don’t worry, I didn’t smooch any of the valises), so I won’t mention the name of the team that was responsible for taking out a majority of floor space with their matching suitcases. I also won’t note the bag tags of the famous players in the mix whose cases I considered grabbing and running away with to see if I could pick up a well-worn catcher’s mitt or even a lucky sweat sock because I’ve not been put on this earth to fleece ballplayers, just to admire their throwing arms and cheeks stuffed with wads of chewing tobacco.

Standing before the team totes, some far off voice calls to me. It’s my boyhood friend Ricky telling me to “look alive” as he slings a scuffed old baseball towards the ancient wooden bat in my hand. Seeing the bags, and realizing the team is on the move, I become a kid again, the one who spent summers oiling up his glove and visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY with my grandparents. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat with a scorebook and marked box scores, but there’s something about seeing the team’s bags bound together that makes me pause and remember a time in my life when a good day meant getting enough kids from the neighborhood to field two teams for a pickup game.

I share a smile and some words with the staff moving the luggage, but my mind wanders to the game. I’ll have to head out to catch nine innings before this season’s over. For now, I’ll recall the satisfaction of hearing the crack of the bat and dream about what’s inside those bags. The man in me knows that they’re stuffed with shirts and pants and shaving cream cans and socks, but the boy in me still hopes that those suitcases and filled with bats, balls, gloves and the hope for a sunny summer day when you share a soda with your pals even after they’ve scored the winning run by beating the tag at home plate.

Tickled Ivories and the Wisdom of Pearls

Sometimes when you think you’re part of the show, seek you actually end up spending some time in the audience. When you’re in the middle of performing and you get surprised by something that captures your eye that when things get real—and good.

I recently had the unique pleasure to visit with a group of journalists on a tour of Milwaukee who made a stop at the Pfister. Our Resident Artist Todd and I have a nice little dog and pony show worked up at this point for these types of occasions. Todd takes the lead with true aplomb talking about history of the art and architecture at the Pfister and I round out our talks with general information and some fun facts. Got a spare half hour or so? Todd and I would love to meet with you and gab on and on about the Pfister.

This was a particularly engaged group of journalists. They asked good questions, sovaldi sale had wide-open eyes, and were full of smiles. It felt more like an afternoon with friends than a tour with strangers.

We generally start in Todd’s studio and make our way across the lobby and then up to the second floor to look at the art collection. We stopped at the landing overlooking the lobby next to the elevators and Todd and I made the snap decision to head to the seventh floor with our group as we were having such a good time and none of us wanted it to end. We split up since our group was so big, and I headed up in the elevators first.

My small group arrived on the seventh floor and we were just chatting about all the fun weddings and luncheons and parties that happen there as we waited for Todd and the others to catch up. As we chatted I couldn’t help but hear a lovely lick of piano music playing behind me. I turned around and was instantly delighted to see that one of my group, an energetic and friendly lady named Rebecca, had seated herself at the piano and was tickling the ivories.

It was lovely, a real great afternoon treat.

Rebecca explained that in addition to being a travel writer and journalist, she is a professional musician who plays cello in her own chamber orchestra back home in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We all gave Rebecca the applause she rightfully earned for her impromptu afternoon performance and went about the rest of our tour.

As Rebecca jumped in with the group she said to me, “Oh, don’t forget to have me tell you about these pearls.”

In a matter of moments I had gone from leading a group of people through the Pfister to being led by a new friend. A really good performer knows a secret trick: leave them wanting more. I certainly could have listened to Rebecca play for the group the rest of the afternoon, and now she had me on the edge of my seat wanting to hear the story about her pearls.

Our tour ended, and I had my chance. I pulled Rebecca aside and reminded her that she had a story to tell me. She did, and it’s a good one, and I’m sure my new friend wouldn’t mind if I share it with you.

Rebecca told me that when she’s back at home in Arkansas she is often invited to a standing ladies luncheon. One day the group’s organizer, a grand dame of the local luncheon set, pulled Rebecca aside as she entered for lunch and said, “I would like to speak to you privately once lunch is done today.” Rebecca told me she gulped her way through her salad, fearing the worst from her intimidating hostess.

Lunch ended, and Rebecca hoped that she might be able to secretly slip out without the feared discussion that she had been invited to at meal’s end. But the hostess had not forgotten the invitation and pulled Rebecca aside privately as all the other guests departed.

Rebecca stood silently, her heart racing as the luncheon organizer produced a black velvet bag. Speaking with purpose, the hostess said to Rebecca, “When you first started coming to our luncheons there was something that began to trouble me. You reminded me of my daughter, someone who I have not seen for many years because of our estranged relationship. But I believe I have a chance to have a connection with you that I wish I had with my daughter.”

She reached in the black velvet bag and pulled out a beautiful strand of pearls and presented them to Rebecca. As she gave them to Rebecca she said, “I want you to have these. I also want you to remember each time that you put these on that each of these pearls started off as something hard and ragged and after being tossed and turned and ground down over time, they were transformed into something elegant, smooth and beautiful.” Rebecca took the pearls, thanked her friend for this extraordinary gift and story, and left utterly speechless. Not long after this special moment, the hostess passed away. Since then, the pearls have been a permanent accessory in Rebecca’s wardrobe.

I sure like telling stories, and there is a real joy in seeing people lean in and listen to something you are saying. But communication is a two way street. It’s mighty nice to take a pause in the middle of telling a tale or two to be reminded by new friends like Rebecca that turnabout is the sweetest of fair play.

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All Eyes on Couple Number One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wine Is on My Side, Yes it Is

You may or may not have heard that there is a group of AARP eligible musicians playing in Milwaukee tonight at the Marcus Amphitheater. And lest you think that I’m hobnobbing with Mick Jagger, sales Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood right now, fear not. Those cats are too cool to hang out with some bow tie sotted slob like me.

But given that tonight marks the real rockin’ start of summer with the Rolling Stones in town and is the occasion for the biggest concert of 2015 in Milwaukee so far (I say so far because I for one am holding out hope that these reports of the death of Frank Sinatra from years back are merely a myth and he will rise again and surely kick off his concert tour in Milwaukee), purchase I thought it might be nice to share with you the story of one Chris Ganos.

You’re probably scratching your head saying, “Chris Ganos? Did he play tambourine for the Stones?” No, I’m afraid the Ganos name will never be found on the liner notes for Sticky Fingers or Let It Bleed. Ganos’ talents were more fluid. Specifically the fluid we all know and love called wine.

Chris Ganos was one of the first wine stewards at the Pfister, patient and he took his job seriously. He would work all day and then come home at night and study books on wine, fine-tuning his sommelier smarts. He worked with blinders on, committed to being the best he could be, offering guests at the Pfister an elevated and spectacular experience savoring the fermented grape juice. For Ganos, wine was what mattered, and in certain ways his world was limited to bottles, corks and glorious stemware.

Ganos lived a simple life. He was not a man of airs and for years he even took the bus to work everyday until he was convinced that it was okay for a family member to drive him. Approaching his job with dignity, he respected a higher code of hospitality and always worked to make guests feel like they were being treated like royalty while also helping to maintain a high level of professionalism in his place as a Pfister hospitality provider. He was a guy who cared, and he was careful to make sure that nothing went awry on his watch.

A day came during Ganos’ service when his mettle was tested. A group of men presented themselves and started to order some varying selections of wine. Their palettes were refined, and that impressed Ganos. What also impressed Ganos was the major tab they rang up as each new bottle was summoned forth. What was a little less impressive to the steward who took his job so seriously was their hair cuts.

Now remember, Ganos was a man who felt that the proper balance of refined service and hospitality with heart was essential. It took steely focus to do his job with distinction and to reach for the pinnacle of stewardship with each newly uncorked vintage. With that sort of resolve and dedicated drive towards a good experience for customers and hotel at stake, Ganos felt he had to discreetly bring the men to his boss’ attention.

“Boss,” said Ganos. “I’m a little concerned that those gentlemen won’t be able to pay their bill.”

“What?” said Ganos’ boss. “I don’t understand.”

“They’re ordering very good wine, very expensive stuff. I don’t mean any disrespect, but I think they’re a little shady looking.”

Ganos’ boss chuckled. Ganos was a top performer, he had studied hard, and he was an honest and gentle soul. But what he possessed in love of wine and vaunted service, he lacked in good old rock n’ roll know how.

“Ganos,” said his boss, “don’t you know who those boys are. They’re the Rolling Stones.”

Just goes to show…never judge a man by the cut of his bangs.

The Earl of Soggy Sandwich

“We have great meat in our sandwich, but the bread is pretty soggy.”

Now how can you fault a guy for eavesdropping on a conversation with that line?

One of the realities of being a writer who spends his time seeking out drama and intrigue and laughs and pretty bridesmaids in fancy dresses at a luxury historic hotel is that your ears are almost constantly tuned to any snippet of conversation that floats through the air. I’d stop short of calling this an on-the-job hazard. I mean I don’t carry a pick ax and a helmet into work–let’s be real.

But there is that slight danger in my line of work that scales in on the terror threat level of stubbing your toe of becoming a nosy snark. Listening in on other people’s conversations is something I tell my preteen daughter not to do because it’s a little rude. But listening on other people’s conversations when you’re a writer is noble and elevates the art form. I realize I’m a big old hypocrite, but hopefully I’m one who continues to learn better ways to tell a story while my hearing is good.

In the case of the man and woman who were dissecting the quality of a figurative sandwich while enjoying a spirited conversation over a late lunch (salads, not sandwiches, so I knew the bread and meat combo of which they spoke wasn’t listeral), I was just sucked into my actively passive listener mode because of that killer opener.

It’s easy to tell when to approach and engage, and when to let things flow naturally and to stand back and be a spectator. This was one conversation that I felt deserved a natural flow. That opening line seemed to suggest I was in for a doozy of a listen–some more great folksy charmers like that sandwich line seemed to be dangling at my eavesdropping fignertips. It was all too yummy for the writer in me.

I listened in with rapt attention, plucking the highlights of the volley back and forth.

“Crackerjack.”

“She’s the real deal, alright.”

“Gotta keep those folks engaged.”

“Embrace it.”

“Look for efficiencies, understand the market.”

And, finally, the big zinger.

“If you ever think about hiring a coach to work with folks, I love working with super stars to help them achieve their potential.”

These two very smart and accomplished people were kind and nice and lovely but left me with absolutely no clue as to what their well polished business speak meant. My ears had been faced.

Ultimately, I found out Benjamin and Amanda (I also found out they had names) were having a business meeting about education reform, so I was right. These people are indeed smart and accomplished and I bow to their noble and frustrating work.

Then I snapped their picture, asked if it was okay to use it in a blog post and walked away.

Lesson of the day?

Here’s what I learned.

When the meat is good in the sandwich, but the bread really is soggy, it’s probably best to wait for a slice of pie.

That and maybe I should start to think about cleaning out my ears.

Art and Stuff? I Mean, What Do I Know?

I’m not a cultural critic. I mean, treatment what do I know?

I’m just a guy who hangs out in classy hotels with his mouth open in awe most of the time.

Case in point…at the opening of Biography of a Stitch, the first show in the Pfister’s brand spanking new Pop-Up Gallery welcoming the world through inviting windows on Wisconsin Avenue, there my mouth was open, dragging on the floor, fully in awe throughout the evening.

This isn’t some kind of critique, remember. I mean, really, what do I know? I’m just a guy with an open mouth.

But if I were a cultural critic and if I knew anything about things of beauty, I would give this past Friday night at the Pfister and the work presented by Todd Mrozinski (our current Resident Artist) and Timothy Westbrook (our fourth Resident Artist who returns for an inspired visit) a resounding rave.

But I’m not a critic, so what do I know?

If someone ever asked me to weigh in with a critical eye, I guess I would have to talk about things like texture and how Todd’s paintings of clothing have a vibrancy because of the dynamic layering of the paint he applies to canvas. I guess I would talk about how I love that he made an image of his dad’s favorite tie into a very personal work of art. I’d talk about how images that could verge on sappy sentiment never veer into that realm, but end up becoming vivid and uniquely personal stories for the eye.

If I had a critical bone in my body I would probably also be pulled into speaking about Timothy’s clothing designs. I might mention that Todd Mrozinski’s wife Renee Bebeau was resplendent in a Westbrook gown that seemed to be tailor made for her even though she had simply slipped into it earlier in the day upon Timothy’s urging. Perhaps it was because the designer intuitively knew that he had found the perfect model for that particular divine pearl colored frock. Perhaps it is because Renee’s joyful heart and easy, honest beauty make Timothy’s clothes soar when she wears them they way they are to be worn. Perhaps it’s a combination of all those reasons.

But what do I know? Right?

Maybe being a cultural critic would also require speaking about the stunning Westbrook combo worn by Deb, Timothy’s figure skating instructor. Maybe I’d write about the special alchemy Timothy seems to have as he weaves together the magnetic tape from old cassettes used in past figure skating routines, a retired scarf from a belly dancer, and someone’s recycled clothing from Goodwill into an ensemble fit for a rock star.

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Deb. Skating Instructor. Model. Rock Star.

But, I don’t know anything about clothes. I just keep my mouth open with wonder.

I’d also probably be asked to weigh in on the music, food and service as an opinionated cultural critiquer. But how many ways are there to say “stunning” about Janet Schiff and Victor DeLorenzo of Nineteen Thirteen providing the ideal musical track for the evening, a pitch perfect spread of gallery noshes, and smiling bar service that submitted to my request for extra cherries and grenadine in the sodas I ordered for the three children smacked with artistic wonder that I brought to the event? I’d struggle with how to address that, I’m sure, because, let’s face it, what do I know?

I guess I do know that Todd Mrozinski and Timothy Westbrook’s creations are on display in the Pfister’s elegant Pop-Up Gallery on Wisconsin Avenue right now. And maybe, just maybe, if you want to know a thing or two, you’ll stop by.

How to Dig Yourself Into a Hole of Uncomfortable Depth in Under Sixty Seconds

The standard question to ask when you see a gathering of three young ladies in the Lobby Lounge with a few drinks backed up in front of themselves and one of those young ladies is wearing a bridal veil is, stuff “So when are you getting married?”

I asked the standard question.

The standard answer you hope to receive to the standard question is, “In two weeks! I’m so happy and in love!”

I didn’t get the standard answer.

I got something better, view and here’s what it was.

“Oh, I’m not getting married. My dad just got remarried.”

The standard follow up to the nonstandard response to the original standard question is, rx “Oh, were you in the bridal party?”

I asked the standard follow up question.

The standard follow up answer you hope to receive to the follow up question to the nonstandard answer is, “Yes, I adore my new step mother! I’m so lucky—now I have two amazing mothers!”

I once again got something other than the standard answer.

“Oh, no. This didn’t come from my dad’s wedding to his new wife.”

Of course, I’m always game to dig the whole a just little deeper. The standard follow up question to the follow up answer to the follow up question to the original answer to the original question is, “Really? So where’s that bridal veil from?”

I’m nothing if not focused and purposeful. I asked the standard follow up question to the follow up to the follow up.

That follow, follow, follow answer you want to get at this point goes something like, “This is the bridal veil I know that I’ll wear on the day I take my great life’s love as my husband. I was inspired by all the love my dad showed to my new step mother yesterday.”

This will probably be no shock to you, but I didn’t hear those words. Instead, these were the last ones that I heard that really mattered.

“This was the veil MY MOM wore to my dad’s first wedding to HER. She thought it would be a riot if I wore it to his wedding. Like it?”

And scene.