Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer, you know

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.

Toodle-loo.

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.

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I am never going to write the full story of what happened in the kitchen at 11p.m. last Saturday. DSCN1643DSCN1628I 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.  DSCN1635Robert 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. DSCN1630 “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.

DSCN1640I 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.  DSCN1660Toodle-loo,

Anja Notanja Sieger.

P.S.  Stay tuned, the next post will be by JONATHAN!

 

 

 

The Hard Part About Living In Costa Rica

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.

It is warm all the time, clinic unceasingly.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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So is she.

 

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.

DSCN1276DSCN1278DSCN1279brittany

This Is Not The Real Dance

Sisters came in from New York

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.”

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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. DSCN1179
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.

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Luis, Ruben and Todd.

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.

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Bag of Cheese

 

 

Coke A Cola and the Meanderthal

When I first discovered Coke’s name

to be Coke,

I admit, I was taken aback

with the fact that it is the unusual title

for this amiable human

I often see in the lobby.

But Coke is used to the awe

of people discovering his name,

and ups the intrigue by telling you,

“Actually, I’m Coke the Fifth

and my son is going to be

Coke the Sixth.”

I remember asking him,

“Are you expecting?”

But no, Coke told me

he has yet to marry

but…

yesterday, a woman guest who takes note

of the nametags of the hotel staff

met Coke and told him,

“We ought to get married,

since my last name is Cola.”

Coke chuckled,

a soft, polite bellhop laugh

and admitted it would be a fitting match

since his middle initial is ‘A.’

Just imagine:

“Hi, my name is Coke A Cola.”DSCN9303

Unfortunately, Coke won’t be marrying her,

the reason being he doesn’t want

any last name but his own.

This surprised me,

because it seemed like a match made in heaven

for Coke who studied linguistics in college

and who alerts me to the existence of new words

such as “meanderthal,”Screen shot 2015-03-21 at 11.32.25 AM

usually after I have been walking

too slowly, oblivious to him and his bell cart

behind me.

coke poem
Today is Coke’s birthday.

 

Meandering on the seventh floor

I check out the set up for Make-A-Wish’s

superhero themed gala.

I am told by Rebecca, a Make-A-Wish intern,DSCN0445

that each table, set with flowers

and polka dot wrapped presents

is dedicated to fulfilling the wish of one

terminally ill child.DSCN0438

The interns tell me that most of the kids

want things that will benefit their whole family:

trips across the world to visit grandparents in the old country,

vacations to Disney World or Italy.

One girl is professionally recording and performing her own song.

One boy wanted a shopping spree in New York City.

Their lives are fragile, let them try what they like, yolo, yolo!


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Put on a mask. Fly.

I am inspired to do things I have always wanted to do

so on Thursday I walk fifteen miles from my home in Franklin

to the Pfister. It takes me 7.5 hours (not 4.5)

before I get to match the carpet at work.

15 miles later
Photo: Helene Fischman

Screen shot 2015-03-18 at 9.28.13 PM

Whispering, 1925

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.

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She then jumped to action and made us a to-do list.DSCN0458 DSCN0463We were already well on our way with task number three.

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The view from our window allowed us to spy on two of the kitchen staff taking their break in the sun.

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“Jessie, doesn’t the reflection of the hotel in the glass across the street trick you into thinking we are in Paris?”
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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.DSCN0482The windows are an excellent place to hide.DSCN0486Or to shock.

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We walked to Brady Street and saw this basking, busking cowboy.

DSCN0473Concierge Peter offered us a “poisoned apple,” but we did not bite.DSCN0464With elite guest access to the business center, I did as much business as possible with the opportunity.

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DSCN0496We inspected the “Under the Sea” gala for curing diabetes.DSCN0498

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Here is Chief Nursing Officer of Children’s Hospital, Nancy Korom (on the left) and friends.  DSCN0513

I found myself asking everyone I met if they had diabetes.

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The wife, but not the husband.DSCN0511

Both sisters do.
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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.”DSCN0539

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.DSCN0504

I admire, but I do not partake of the shrimp.
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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.
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We take turns petting the decorative moss between courses.DSCN0488

As the evening progresses our pictures get blurrier.DSCN0526

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I teach Jessie how to play Rummy in Blu.  DSCN0552
We play cards, drink and dance in our seats to the Jazz.unnamed-9

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I meet Pam and Bill from Janesville.  They are here to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. They remind me:DSCN0551unnamed-8

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.  
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 We agree to only play games without rules for the rest of the evening.

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This game is called: “Draw your spiritual self.”DSCN0595 DSCN0590 While I take a picture of this woman’s shoe, Jessie draws what she sees in front of her.DSCN0532DSCN0557DSCN0553The 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.

I found it, MY THEME SONG! Whispering Jack Smith – Whispering – YouTube.

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The magic continues: when we get to our room there is a plate of fruit we never ordered.

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In the morning I try out the complementary blowdryer since I’ve never owned one.DSCN0599Before brunch we stroll over to a bookstore to pet some cats.DSCN0612DSCN0610
unnamed-2 unnamed-3unnamed-5DSCN0616We return for brunch.  DSCN0622Matt!  Again!  Now he is our server rather than a tray.
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A Psychometric Questionairre

Yeah, humans are social creatures

you know, we see faces

inside clouds, fungus and tea stains.

Children conduct full-length conversations

with “pet” rocks and plush dinosaurs,

then as adults, they still try to assign meaning

to their frighteningly mysterious days

through science, philosophy, religion,

art, astrology or psychology.

Pfister barista Desiree

longs to crack the code

of her workmates

through Myers-Briggs,

which according to Wikipedia is,

“A psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.”

She keeps the Myers-Briggs test page

as a favorite on one of the café’s

complementary iPads.

If a staff member lingers a moment

for conversation,

Desiree will ask them to take the test.

desiree
Desiree and her list of 39 people and their types.

 

When she handed me the ipad,

I had one question for her:

“Are you 23, Desiree?”

Desiree paused,

“Yes… how did you know?”

It was the year I was 23,

when everyone my age

(who I knew)

seemed to be into that test.

My result remains:

“ENFP” a.k.a.,

“Emotional Intuitive Feeling Perceiving”

myers-briggs
Found on ritholtz.com

 

so I’m just like Oscar Wilde.

Mister Wilde would fit in at the Pfister,

since according to Desiree’s list

of all the 16 existing Myers-Briggs types,

one quarter of the staff shares this type.

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http://www.truity.com/personality-type/enfp

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“This is not at all a statistically sound survey,”

according to my best friend Jessie,

the professional statistician who made this chart.

But-but-but—

Desiree discovered

that all five of the tested baristas

are Introverts.

One of the baristas, Toni is shocked,

“But we have to deal with a lot of people!”

True, but that wide marble counter

and plexiglass divider

protects a barista’s

tender auric fields.

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Desiree, behind plexiglass.

Two of the tested bellhops are ENTJ’s,

the type known as “the Commander,”

and all of the bellhops are Judging types,

that must be an asset for anyone who has to weigh,

organize, heft and swiftly deliver luggage for guests,

while maintaining safety for the contents within.bellcart

All the security guards on Desiree’s list are judging types,

maybe that is why they were paired up

to share a desk with the bellhops.

Her list also shows

there is no unifying factor

between five of the Pfister’s servers,

indeed,

introverts and extroverts,

sensing and intuitive,

feeling and thinking,

judging and perceiving persons

are all likely to take your order;

while those with management positions at the Pfister,

tend to be sensing rather than intuitive people.

On the official Myers-Briggs site,

they say people who are the sensing type think:

 

  • I remember events as snapshots of what actually happened
  • I solve problems by working through facts until I understand the problem.
  • I am pragmatic and look to the “bottom line.”

That sounds like a manager’s mind, all right!

 

But one in four of the staff are “champions”

with intuitive tendencies rather than perceiving.

For them, it is more common to think this way:

 

  • I remember events by what I read “between the lines” about their meaning.
  • I like to see the big picture, then to find out the facts.
  • I trust impressions, symbols, and metaphors more than what I actually experienced

 

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This is exactly the sort of brain that is critical in preserving romance,

by carrying forward the gilded service

that matches the gilded stairs,

that matches the truth:

there is no place in this hotel that is ugly

or even just plain,

there is more for the eyes to see here

than they could ever retain.

You could never figure it all out,

just as Desiree will never

figure her workmates out

entirely.

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Sam, a frequent cafe customer also took the test, becoming the only non-staff member on Desiree’s list.

 

When you look at some modern art it can stump you.

Barbara has been giving tours for the Milwaukee Art Museum over a half century.

“When I first came to the museum, there were eight employees.”

This January I started my fifty-second year.

I retired when I was 50,

but I’m still going in,

teaching and working

‘cause I don’t want to sit at home.

I train the docents

and they tour about 80.000 people a year.”

She’s taken 75 trips to Europe,

“I counted it all up when I retired.

England was the first country I went to.”

Last year she took her docents to Belgium and Holland.

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And she made her own dress.

 

Being an art museum docent is hard.

“People expect you to know everything.”

When you look at some modern art it can stump you.

“Ellsworth Kelly’s “Red, Yellow, Blue,”

that’s one people have a hard time with.

Red, Yellow, Blue II

But you have to understand,

it was hand done,

he mixed the colors, that yellow

is the yellow he wanted,

he copied it from nature,

like a bird he saw,

he didn’t just go out to Menards!

How can I make these people understand?

Their grandchildren can’t do it!

When Kelly was in the war

he asked to be in the camouflage department.

Once in a while I’ll be lucky

and a student will be in

Ellsworth Kelly camo.

I’ve met Ellsworth Kelly several times.

He’s a very kind person,

a little on the shy side.”

 

What are Barbara’s favorite areas of art to talk on?

“American History and Decorative Arts

furniture, silver, ceramics.

My favorite is probably seventeenth century colonial.”

 

“Over the years a lot of people have visited Milwaukee

and I’ve taken them around,

Madame Chiang Kai-shek.”

(I hadn’t heard of her, so I looked her up,

former first lady of China, 1948-1975)

23325_web_ThisDay-Madame-Chiang-Kai-Shek-AP

“David Hockney, I loved him.

“I loved this young man who is now a rock star, but when I met him he was just coming up, um, I can’t think of his name. It’ll come. He works on China, Africa and America… Kehinde Wiley!

Gilbert and George when they came from England,

I met Andy Worhol. He never talked. My brother had a friend who knew him quite well.

Mark Rothko,

Tony Randall of the Odd Couple,

he knew everything,

he was the smartest man I ever met.

I let him do all the talking and I did the anecdotes.”

Barbara has never watched Star Trek,

but she gave Dr. Spock a tour.

“He gave me a Dr. Spock ear,

I didn’t know what it was or what I was supposed to do with it.

Ginger Rodgers,

Ray Milland, he never took his hat off because he didn’t have his toupee on,

Vincent Price,

Noguchi,

Sofa and Ottoman
Noguchi!

di Suvero,

Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 11.38.44 AM
This is what googling di Suvero’s “The Calling” looks like.

 

George Shearing, he’s blind and I got a call from him asking to take him around.

A grandmother had the same thing, I took her around.

Gordon Parks,

and when the Beatles came to Milwaukee the first time,

I held the door to the war memorial open for them.”

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“Excellent Broth! I’m going to have it every time I come.

I’ve been begging for broth here.

I like soup very much but,

I don’t like heavy duty,

I like to have broth.

It kinda curbs your appetite,

settles your stomach,

it’s good for your bones,

and I just love hot broth.

Right here at the café counter I met Shaquille O’Neill.

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Right there!

He wasn’t feeling well.

I didn’t know who he was.”

Shaq’s manager worked on a crossword puzzle with Barbara,

and explained who Mr. O’Neill was.

Barbara gave Shaq a ticket to the art museum,

and he went.

 

A Mom Letter and a Dad Letter

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I was taking a picture of the roses in the lobby when Val, the bartender summoned me over to see something. I took a stool at the bar and waited for a moment as Val rustled around in her bag, elbow deep.  At last she exclaimed “Ah!” and pulled out an envelope to show me. It was sent from a woman named Coco who came here for a birthday drink the other day, along with her baby. Coco’s friend and her friend’s baby joined her for the celebration.

coco

I took the contents out of the envelope and saw a most charming picture. Val got to know the two ladies and their babies quite well over a period of three hours, and asked, “Would you write this woman a letter back for me?”

coco poem

So I wrote Coco a poem on one of Valerie’s guest checks and sent it to the return address on the envelope.

 

Soon after Coco emailed me that she wrote a blog about getting a letter from the Pfister in the mail.  So,

IjustwroteheranemailthatIwrotethisblogaboutheremailaboutherblogaboutgettingaletterinthemailbecause,

shesentaletterinthemailaboutapleasantafternoonofpolitevalets,chattingandbabies!

Phew!!

 

Another day, another letter:

lydia's daddy

A father comes to me in need of his daughter’s forgiveness. In the city of Madison where he and his family reside, there is a highly competitive theater program for kids. His daughter, Lydia tried out for a production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” in hopes of being cast as one of the dwarves. Lydia, who is in fourth grade and has never had an opportunity like this before, was a nervous mess the morning of her audition. Sympathetic to her distraught, Lydia’s dad gave her a pearl of encouragement, “Don’t worry, everything will turn out just fine!”

 

The two of them stayed up late, awaiting the phone call to let them know if Lydia would be expected to come back in for call-backs the following day. It was so late by the time the phone finally rang, Lydia was already put to bed. She was wide awake when her father came in and told her the answer was no. Lydia sobbed, dampening her pillow. Her dad assured her that she was younger than the rest of the kids who had tried out, and that it was likely that she would be cast in the coming years, then said goodnight.

 

The next morning, as Lydia glumly ate her cereal she told her father, “You lied. You said everything would be fine, but everything is not fine.”

 

The statement unsettled him, and the combination of his daughter’s broken heart and distrust in his word tarnished his entire day. So much so that when his job brought him to the Pfister hotel and he met me, he asked for a poem of encouragement (not from him or his perspective!) to give his child.  lydia

This is Howard. I just met him in the kitchen.

Anja: How long have you worked in room service?

 

Howard: Nine months.

 

Anja: What does that all entail?

 

Howard: Well… amenities, hospital doing orders, and uh, being very uh… kind and gentle with guests hospitality wise. You make them feel wanted, and if they want anything, you do it with care and grace! (Howard giggles a high-pitched, masculine giggle.)

 

Anja: How does this job make you feel?

 

Howard: Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…………. happy to even like, tadalafil just grateful that I even have a job, like…

 

Anja: What was before this?

 

Howard: What was before this? I worked at Menards. (giggles)

 

Anja: This is a step up.

 

Howard: Yeah it is! I worked at Menards, that was my second longest job, which was three months! Heh heh. Yeah, I worked at Menards as a cashier… the only male cashier.

 

Anja: Oh wow!

 

Howard: And there were about fifteen cashiers there.

 

Anja: Geez.

 

Our conversation is interrupted when we have to both scrunch against the wall in order to let a cart of cupcakes through the corridor. The cart looks to be about six feet tall, and features tray after tray of what I am informed to be flourless chocolate cupcakes.

 

Anja: What have you learned since your time here?

 

Howard: …

 

Anja: About LIFE!

 

Howard: To be on time, hee hee hee!  Because when I was a little bit younger, in 1919, I looooved to purposely procrastinate, because in my mind I knew I would get it done right before the deadline, and I never did. (Laughs.)

 

Anja: You have a very musical laugh.

 

Howard: Yeah? What does musical laugh mean?

 

Anja: I don’t know! You hit many different notes… (Anja and Howard both titter) …when you laugh!

 

Howard: I just joined an acting class last Thursday!

 

Anja: Nice!

 

Howard: For like community theater. First it was just going to be like monologues, but it turned into community theater because the school that did monologues cancelled because there weren’t enough people.

 

Anja: Are you going to be in a play now?

 

Howard: I, eh, um, this is my homework: I have to come up with a stage name and uh, ten accents. That’s a bit much isn’t it? I thought of Southern, Italian, uhhh Latin, like Mexican, Mexican like Chollo though, you know, like the hood,…. annnnd British? I don’t know, people have been giving me suggestions, but it’s only been like four or five so far.

 

Anja: Don’t forget you can do Wisconsin.

 

Howard: Right, right, right. I went to Florida one time, when I was in High School, and we went to go talk to these lovely ladies—hee hee hee, at South Beach, they were in the Ocean, you know, the water, and one lady was from New York, and you can clearly hear she’s from New York with the Bronx, you know, accent, so then they asked, “Where you from, Wisconsin?” And we were like, “WWWWHHHHAT? How did you know that?!” I guess we have accents! I did not know that.

 

Anja: So what makes for a good stage name?

 

Howard: Whoopi Goldberg? Heh heh heh!

 

Anja: What was the last thing you dressed up for Halloween?

 

Howard: I’ve never even participated in Halloween until last year.

 

Anja: Really?!

 

Howard: Yeah, and I’m 21.

 

(Howard and Anja emit peals of laughter.)

 

Anja: Was it not allowed in your house?

 

Howard: Yeah, exactly— or I just didn’t catch the vibe, like Valentine’s Day. So, I just, I just bought a Michael Myers mask and wore that to a Halloween party, an adult Halloween party, and they told me immediately to take it off because I was scaring people. Because when I walked in I didn’t say a word. These are like my friends, and I’m just standing there like Michael Myers would do. The guy whose house it was came up to me and said, “You don’t have to pretend anymore, you can just take it off. You’re kind of scaring my girlfriend.”

 

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