Today, no audio post that I create in my hackneyed semi-professional way (but with all the charm of some old time radio huckster, of course). No, today we leave the audio to the real professionals, the real radio men and women who elevate good discussion and tell us all things we did not know by talking sweet and low in that “lean-in” kind of style. I speak, of course, of the wonder of a local NPR Affiliate talk show.
I recently had the absolute delight to spend some time talking with Mitch Teich from WUWM’s Lake Effect about the Pfister Narrator Program and my plans for my time documenting the stories that happen around our grand hotel.
It is Memorial Day and I would like to take a moment to tell you what that has meant during the lead up week to this holiday at the Pfister.
Everyday when you pull into the Pfister parking garage, cialis a succulent smell of great cooking hits you as you open your car door. You are immediately happier, if not a little hungrier than you should be.
Early last week, a little girl sat dangling her feet in a chair across from check-in, stretching and striving to get her toes to touch the ground. She didn’t succeed, but I’m betting on her making it in a year or two.
Two friends reunited outside of the gentlemen’s rest room on the ground floor. Upon exiting the loo and bumping into his old chum, remedy a very effusive and smiley chap grabbed his friend’s cheeks and called him “bubbe.” And, yes, in all of his happy reunion vigor, he had thoroughly washed his hands.
During a mid-week lunch two ladies ate salads and chatted in the Lobby Lounge while also ordering lunch for two co-workers to enjoy when they showed up later. The older of the ladies departed before the others arrived, and the solo woman thanked her departing companion for picking up the tab.
In the Resident Artist Studio, Todd continued to dazzle guests and visitors as he added more stunners to his collection while his talented wife Renee contributed some beautiful concoctions of her own to the whole artistic aura in the building.
I took a moment to visit the alcove with the portraits of all the Wisconsin Governors and was quite taken by Walter Kohler, Sr.’s bow tie.
At the bar, Val has concocted a Bloody Mary mix that is infused with habaneros. A drop of it on the end of a straw is enough to remind you that you want to drink gallons of it for days on end.
A couple celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary found that the room that they were staying in was a tad too noisy for them, so the gracious staff found that it was possible to move them and upgraded them to the Presidential Suite because it’s the nice thing to do.
People looking for rest checked in for a calming retreat, regular Joes and Janes celebrating the special moments in life raised a glass and had a meal, and notable citizens, starlets and heroes found that being at the Pfister was a refresher course in modest grace done up right.
Memories were made without even trying. And it all happened against a backdrop of peace, freedom and choice.
In considering this Memorial Day and the Pfister’s place as a sanctuary built upon the ideals of patriotism and civility, I was taken by a passage I found in a 1910 edition of The National Magazine describing a visit to Milwaukee to celebrate the annual Field Day of the Boston Ancient and Honorable Artillery. The passage describes a grand reception of the Eastern visitors to Milwaukee, with dinners hosted by the Pabsts and greetings from Mayor Rose and other local forefathers and mothers of civic pride. The highlight of their trip, however, seemed to be their stay at the Pfister as described in these glad tidings.
Soon after the arrival of the company, the lobby was filled with gaily uniformed men who enjoyed themselves as genuinely as schoolboys out for a holiday. From the moment of arrival to the departure of the corps, there was always something to do.
Memorial Day is a time for us to reflect on all the glory and wonder that it means to be an American. Men and women throughout our nation’s history have defended and protected all the important tenets of our commonwealth, but also a child’s simple right to dangle her feet from a chair in a fancy hotel. The Pfister has thrived under a philosophy of “Salve”, a dedication to great hospitality for all,that embraces the best of our patriotic beliefs that we live in a nation that should be safe and full of possibilities for everyone.
Today, let’s all raise our own symbolic glass to those men and women who have done so much to make the idea of democracy flourish throughout the years. And if that glass is full of Val’s spicy Bloody Mary mix, I salute you.
Are you still feeling the glow of Mother’s Day? It was a glorious brunch filled day at the Pfister this past Sunday when good sons and daughters showered their moms with well deserved adoration.
Me? I was out of town, there and I’m not 100% certain that my Mom even had a good cup of coffee.
Lest you think I’m a terrible son, you should know that I did manage to arrange an early Mother’s Day lunch at the Café at the Pfister with my mother Judy. She’s a rock star of motherdom, and I wanted to make sure I had at least bought her a salad.
I also had an ulterior motive for our lunch date. My Mom has a great Pfister story that I really wanted to hear told to me at the scene-of-the–crime, as it were. This story is part of my family’s legend and lore, and I’m sure for those folks who were around the day it happened some 35 years ago, it’s still a memorable moment.
My wife Paula (a woman who is in the Top 2 of all-time great mothers on my “Mother’s I Love” List) was also included in our celebration of good mothers bread breaking because she somehow had never heard the story, and I’m also just rather fond of lunching with her.
My mom, Paula and I settled into a table in the Café right along the windows. It had been years since my mom had been to the Pfister, and as we took our seats she looked out the window as if looking back in time.
“It happened right out there,” said mom gazing at parked cars on the street. “Right in front of all the cab drivers. They had a good laugh.”
Over the years I’ve thought and thought about my mom’s story, and I’ve considered how different endings could have changed the course of my life in some pretty drastic ways. We’ve certainly laughed about it all over the years, but listening to my mom tell my wife the story put the whole thing in perspective for me once again and makes me think that maybe my mom had a guardian angel watching over her as she exited our family car to have the most eventful day ever getting her hair done in the Janice Salon at the Pfister (which has now blossomed into the full service WELL Spa® + Salon).
Paula leaned in as my mom recalled the day long ago when pants legs were flared and the music of your life had a disco beat. I was about 10-years-old and my brother was a mere toddler as my mom dropped us at a neighbor’s house so she could drive downtown to the Pfister to get her hair done, taking a well deserved break from her job at that time as a stay-at-home mom. We were a one car family back then, and my hard working father took the bus to work everyday as a tax attorney in a downtown office building a mere few blocks away from the Pfister.
Our family car was an AMC Green Hornet. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it did the job of getting us around town.
It also proved to be reliable for shuttling us back and forth to visit our family in upstate New York, a trip we made for the Christmas holiday and summers. That car was steady, and on our family’s modest budget it was a more than a-okay set of wheels.
Mom parked the Green Hornet on Jefferson Street right across from the lineup of cabs servicing Pfister guests in need of a ride around town. She filled her meter, dashed into the hotel, and went into the basement salon for a nice hairdo tune up.
As soon as she got settled in her stylist’s chair, someone rushed into the salon and said, “There’s a car on fire across the street!”
My mom gulped hard, panicked knowing that she herself had parked right across the street. Hoping that she heard red or orange or even brown, she asked, “What color is the car?”
“Blue,” answered the town crier who had given the car- -on-fire report. “It’s a blue car, and it’s up in flames.”
Blue was a perfectly fine color as far as my mother was concerned. It wasn’t green, the color of our sweet little ride, so she relaxed believing there was no need for concern and sunk into the stylist’s chair for one of the stunning cuts she always received, classic looker that she has always been.
As mom made her way out onto the street freshly coiffed, the news of the burning car had almost vanished from her thoughts. That is until she pulled her keys out of her purse and was stymied about how to unlock our AMC Green Hornet that was now charred and smoking parked tightly against the curb. Whether or not a Green Hornet burns blue when it bursts into flames, there had clearly been a mix up in making the announcement.
The cab drivers nearby had been waiting to see who the poor sucker was who owned the car. They told my mom that the moment she had walked into the lobby at the Pfister, flames had shot up from under the hood of the car. Had this happened a few moments earlier, my mom would have had no need for a cut and shampoo but my brother, dad and I might have had a great and powerful need for another lady who did a damned fine job of keeping us all together. It was, to say the least, the best bad timing my mother ever had.
My mom tells of walking to my dad’s office and announcing to my father that the car had burned up and that the fire department had smashed the driver’s side window when putting the fire out. I can only imagine the look on my dad’s face when my mom showed up that day to tell him that their only car was out of commission.
But here’s what I love about this story and my parents pluck and determination—we kept that car. My parents did what they could with the means that they had, and I’m happy to report that we had that little AMC for another couple of years. It even made the trip to upstate New York for Christmas a few months after the blaze. Of course, my brother and I huddled under blankets and my dad drove with mittens because heat rarely came from the dashboard after the accident.
Paula, my mother and I chuckled about it all over our salads, thinking about how crazy it was for my mom the moment she made her horrible discovery. I’m gladder than glad that no one, most of all, my mom, was hurt back in the day. I’m also proud to say that I know that standing before that smoldering Green Hornet in the afternoon sun nearly 40 years ago, my mom’s hair looked amazing.
I make it a habit to never ask another man in a suit if he’s packing heat. So far, sovaldi this choice has served me very well.
But it was hard, I mean REALLY, REALLY hard not to go up to the guy in the suit I noticed on the stairs overlooking the lobby and say, “Hey bub, are you packing heat?”
It wasn’t a set of steely eyes or some Derringer shaped bulge in his jacket that piqued my interest. It was the coiled cord snaking up his neck to an earpiece that was obviously feeding him key coordinates on the safety of our nation that caught my eye.
The fella looked like he could have been a Secret Service agent, pills save for one small item. He was smiling and looked like he was actually having a good time. That sort of ruled out anchorman, too, as I couldn’t recall the last time I had seen a real live anchorman in the flesh without a desk between the two of us. And this guy’s smile was so nice; not painted on like a slick newsreader.
As I watched the man I assumed was clearly securing life, liberty and happiness for all of the Pfister’s guests, I noticed that he was not alone. There they were, perched on the stairwell, cheap looking over the balcony, an attentive smattering of men and women sporting earpieces, sartorially suited as a crack crew of defenders of justice.
I once heard the President of the United States speak, and I was so close to him that I could have just about reached out and pinched his cheek to say, “Nice speech!” I’ll never forget the moment that the speech was done and the President left the podium to make his way to a waiting car, or airplane, or submarine or whatever it is POTUS travels in these days. He was flanked by a team of guardians-of-goodness in their suits with their earpieces, and as they made their way past me, I found myself leaning into the superstardom passing before me. I felt the seismic power of someone who lives to serve and protect as an arm came out and blocked my lean forward. The lesson that I learned that day is that when you see the earpiece, you can be pretty sure you’re dealing with a leather tough man or woman and its best to leave them alone to be the heroes that they are.
But, I’m a curious lad. So I couldn’t leave well enough alone. It was this sense of curiosity that drew me to the 7th Floor ballrooms of the Pfister as I noticed lots of comings and goings of men and women in suits, including a few earpieced toughies. I’m a suit and tie kind of guy myself, so it was as if I was being summoned to join my tribe as I entered the elevator that would take me to the ballrooms.
I exited on the 7th floor and as I wandered the halls, I noticed a display that the organizers of the event had set up featuring pictures of Abraham Lincoln. There was one of him with his young son on his lap, a picture of a gathering of people listening to him speak and an image that was labeled to be his final portrait before being assassinated. Whatever was going on in the ballroom at that moment, these folks clearly loved our nation’s 16th head of state, and that was all good by me.
I glanced up from the display and there he was, the earpiece man who had first drawn my eye. He was looking at another part of the display, studying the images with a casual intensity.
“Excuse me, I couldn’t help but notice your ear piece.” It wasn’t my best opening line, but it was probably better than succumbing to asking if he was actually packing heat.
He looked at me intently, trying to size up whether or not I was a threat to international peace. I clearly passed some sort of “too nerdy to be a threat test” when he smiled back at me, willing and open to chat.
He introduced himself to me as Derek. Derek explained that he and the rest of his crew were at the Pfister to provide security for the Annual Meeting of the Seventh Circuit Bar Association. With absolute discretion he explained to me that there were “important people” at the gathering, and that the security he and his colleagues were providing was an added measure of comfort for all the lawyers in attendance. We shared a look that said, “Yeah, I know lawyers get a bad wrap, but you saw those pictures of that entirely noble dude Abraham Lincoln, and remember he was a lawyer, too.”
Derek tells me that he is pretty impressed by the grandeur of the building he’s gotten to spend time in as a security presence. He tells me hasn’t been to a ton of nice hotels in his life, but is clearly taken in by today’s job site. Derek also says he isn’t very well traveled but mentions that he has done some work in Sierra Leone, so maybe Derek and I have a different definition of being a globetrotter.
Another suit wanders over to us as we talk. His earpiece is a little different, a little sleeker, but somehow a little more in your face. I introduce myself before he gives me the, “Can I help you?” question, and he smiles brightly and tells me his name is Wayne. I ask Wayne if he works with Derek, and Wayne says with a smirk, “No…he works for me.” Hats off to the Seventh Circuit Bar Association for hiring the friendliest security team around.
Wayne leaves Derek and I to finish our talk, as he moves on to other business. Though Derek has only spent a short amount of time at the Pfister, he has quickly grown attached to its history. There is one particular aspect of the hotel that has really captivated Derek–the Pfister time capsule. Derek asks me if I know what’s sealed in the time capsule and I shake my head, as I have no idea myself. The time capsule won’t be opened until 2093, and Derek clearly wishes he could be there to see what’s stored inside.
We shake hands as we depart and Derek jokes about how we should figure out a way to be around in 2093 for the opening of the time capsule, but we both know that’s going be a tough one. Guys in suits, the ones with or without earpieces, have a shelf life. I wish for Derek’s sake that his curiousity could be satisfied, because he is truly a good guy and he undoubtedly packs a lot of positive heat.
My term as Pfister Narrator is about to expire. A bell is sounding. A cane is coming to pull my waist off the stage. A gong is sounding. Ladies are booing, children are throwing popcorn at me, but I do not want to leave my flaming hula hoop.
I still wanted to tell you the story about Pfister engineer Matt. One time Matt showed me these wild photographs that his grandpa took of factory workers and machinery in the middle of the last century. His grandpa started out as a photographer in WWII working on sites where they needed to get rid of land mines. I find it interesting that Matt works with some of the same mechanical things that his grandpa would have captured. Recently, Matt promised me that he would build me a theremin one day. The first time I ever talked to Matt he called my arms “buggy whips.” These are the sorts of friendships I have made at this hotel. Of all the people I met, I cherished most my staff interactions.
I am never going to write the full story of what happened in the kitchen at 11p.m. last Saturday. I was interviewing Robert who has been a Pfister cook for 14 years. He has also done this martial art called “Wing Chung” for about 14 years. Robert explained Wing Chung as “other martial arts are more, uh, if one person is stronger than the other, they’re going to win. In Wing Chung you don’t have to be as strong as your opponent. It is more about technique and knowing what your opponent is going to do.” As he told me this three orders of atlantic salmon with chorizo mashed potatoes with red pepper sauce and asparagus were created. “The baseball players are here tonight and you know, they want all the steaks and the fish,” said Robert. Every seven years Robert does something called “iron palm,” to harden his fists. “I have to hit four bags of rocks for one hundred days.” He has to do this four times per workout to get the front, back and side and heel of the palms.
I want to tell you more, like the real estate lady who tried to sell me a house in the hallway, but I haven’t any more room, I haven’t time. Jonathan West is coming. He is nice, he is dapper and I know you will like him. The other day I met up with him and Molly Snyder, the narrator whose job I stole a year ago. We all stood together, a Pfister Carol with Narrators Past and Present. Toodle-loo,
Anja Notanja Sieger.
P.S. Stay tuned, the next post will be by JONATHAN!
I meet her in the elevator and she says she recently moved to Costa Rica. I ask the Costa Rican ex-patriot for a story and she tells me that she is not a very interesting, site story-rich person. I whine, “Come on, you live in Costa Rica! Haven’t you seen some crazy wildlife down there?”
“Oh yes, monkeys, sloths…” and lists a few other fantastic creatures I have never even heard of. Then she stops. She has nothing more to say. I ask her, “What’s the hard part about living in Costa Rica?”
The hard part about Costa Rica:
It is not the U.S.
You have to adjust what your cultural expectations are and accept what is different.
If you want to go to Costco it is a 3.5 hour drive.
The last point surprises me since the Costa Rican tells me that before she moved there she lived in Los Angeles, a place I would assume to be a year-round temperature inferno. I want to ask more questions and take her picture but she disappears. I wonder if I have disturbed a famous actress. She was casual but had an undeniably photogenic presence. Speaking of which, I think I see a large, multiple bride wedding photoshoot taking place on the stairs.
I ask a man, standing apart from all the hubbub of mothers and aunts frumping their daughters gowns how many of these women are getting married today. He tells me they aren’t. It’s prom.
I suppose they do look rather young. When I ask them what high school they represent they tell me “Pius.” My own alma mater! They are all junior girls, about to dance at the Renaissance Place. I instantly recall the picture of myself as a Pius junior attending the “Winterlude” school dance at the Renaissance Place.
Outside the elevator I meet another young woman in a nice dress. “Prom?” I ask her. “No,” she says. She is volunteering for the Autism Society’s Gala. “This is just my sister’s Sadie Hawkins dress.”
Near the ballroom I ask the woman in a nice hat how she became involved in the autism community. “I’m not,” she says. It turns out she is here for the Bel Canto Chorus’s 22nd Annual Fundraiser Gala. I can’t get anything right.
To end my day, I watch resident artist Todd Mrozinski do an old school pre-camera photoshoot of Brittany-the-barista. Before starting a piece, Todd rubs his hands together and whispers ” Hah hah hah hah hah” to himself. As he paints there are a lot of noises that sound like a kindergartener scrubbing a marker against a rough piece of construction paper. Two hours after the initial tracing, he is done.
to attend the wedding and to show off their Wedding Dance.
They are choreographing their piece right now
on the exquisite carpet that urges all who come here
to at least sashay at least slightly
even if it is so slight that no one notices
because you are an adult.
The younger sister warns me
not to succumb to any false illusions,
“This is not the real dance.”
I agree to accept the following staged movements as not real,
and then I stand back to accept them
whatever they are.
Their mother tells me that the older sister, who leads,
is enrolled modern dance classes
and the younger one, who follows but also improvises
is currently taking interpretive dance.
Yes, I can see the professional training
in their deep dips,
the poised regal avian gestures
of two students who absorb
what they are taught.
“This was not the real dance,” the younger sister reminds me,
after their performance,
but it was very good,
so I tell them,
“No, what I just saw was real.”
Maia has come up from Chicago for the weekend. I am told she will be eight soon. She wears a wristband because today she explored “The Streets of Old Milwaukee” at the Milwaukee Public Museum. When Maia types, she does so with only her right hand. Her Grandma watches her through the window of Todd Mrozinski’s new art studio in the Pfister.
Todd lets both Maia and I type in his studio. Maia does not want to leave the instant clack-word device. She is writing a story. Her mother has to call her three times before Maia gets to the part about “The End.”
By hanging out in Todd’s studio I meet a lot of interesting people, like Luis and Ruben from Los Angeles.
Luis and Ruben are artists for Kohl’s Department Stores. Their apparel design work has brought them to town. Pictures of Ruben’s private art portfolio are kept on his phone. He does oil paintings. The one I see depicts a motorcyclist. He had to come in here to the artist studio and show us his work. He also shows us his big bag of cheese. Tomorrow Luis and Ruben are going back home, and they are taking back as much gouda and cheddar of Wisconsin as they can fit in their suitcases.
My term as Pfister narrator is almost up, so yesterday I finally booked a room. My best friend Jessie drove in from Ann Arbor for the occasion. Jessie promptly plopped on the plush puff bed as soon as we had entered and perused our room, #332.
She then jumped to action and made us a to-do list.We were already well on our way with task number three.
The view from our window allowed us to spy on two of the kitchen staff taking their break in the sun.
“Jessie, doesn’t the reflection of the hotel in the glass across the street trick you into thinking we are in Paris?”
We watched this man for a while. He looked very disappointed every time other buses passed. He scrutinized a schedule, tracing his anticipated route with a finger.The windows are an excellent place to hide.Or to shock.
We walked to Brady Street and saw this basking, busking cowboy.
Concierge Peter offered us a “poisoned apple,” but we did not bite.With elite guest access to the business center, I did as much business as possible with the opportunity.
We inspected the “Under the Sea” gala for curing diabetes.
Here is Chief Nursing Officer of Children’s Hospital, Nancy Korom (on the left) and friends.
I found myself asking everyone I met if they had diabetes.
The wife, but not the husband.
Both sisters do.
Neither of these men are diabetic, but both are on diets. White tie/black shirt Ryan is Paleo. White shirt/black tie Sean is “plant based.”
Matt, server states, “I am a human tray at the moment.” I wonder the maximum amount of drinks this tray can hold for his guests.
I admire, but I do not partake of the shrimp. We have dinner at the Mason Street Grill. Jessie eats much faster than me, so she must carry the conversation by herself for ten minutes as I chew.
We take turns petting the decorative moss between courses.
As the evening progresses our pictures get blurrier.
I teach Jessie how to play Rummy in Blu. We play cards, drink and dance in our seats to the Jazz.
I meet Pam and Bill from Janesville. They are here to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. They remind me:
Jessie is a professional statistician, but she can’t stand all the counting in this rummy game. She asks to change the rules. But I do not like to change the rules when I play cards. We agree to only play games without rules for the rest of the evening.
This game is called: “Draw your spiritual self.”While I take a picture of this woman’s shoe, Jessie draws what she sees in front of her.The most meaningful thing happens to me three minutes to midnight. We are in the lobby listening to Dr. Hollander playing one of his final songs for the evening. The tune is something antique, soursweet and familiar. Like every time I am in the lobby and Dr. Hollander is there, I think I hear him playing it. I know he gives regulars and staff members theme songs, so I go up to him. “Is this my theme song?” He nods. He says he cannot remember the name, only that it was about whispering and it was released in 1925.
The magic continues: when we get to our room there is a plate of fruit we never ordered.
In the morning I try out the complementary blowdryer since I’ve never owned one.Before brunch we stroll over to a bookstore to pet some cats. We return for brunch. Matt! Again! Now he is our server rather than a tray.