In the lounge I spy a woman with two screens: a glowing tablet in her lap and a texting device in her hand. I decide I must approach this woman of information. All at the same time she is reading, treat texting someone and telling me, “I’m not actually all that technologically advanced” and suggests that I ask one of her close friends about her because they’d confirm to me that she is not that quick on the gadgets. Unfortunately, none of her friends are available for questioning here tonight since she is visiting from England. She lives in England, but she was born in Scotland, Morag is her name.
Like any other living organism, Morag continues to grow layers, sections, rings and cells of ideas. She studies anthropology and is enrolled at a Welsh university. The glowing screen in her lap is open to a manuscript from her course on “Cultural Astronomy and Astrology.” I ask her what the heck that’s all about and she gives me a simple noun: the sky. “Everything in the sky has impacted every aspect of our lives.” Morag explains that European cities have less sky and as a result many Europeans crave horizons. American cities have much more horizon, more space to be filled. She is nearly whispering and it is hard to hear her over the piano’s medley of Hollywood movie themes. I ask her in my usual highly audible volume, “Is that why Americans talk so loud?” Morag shrugs, “Well, you have more expansive personalities.” I agree with that statement with a great big “Mmmmm!” Perhaps too emphatic because Morag quickly corrects herself, “But that is a gross generalization of course!”
Ah yes, I remember now, generalizations are dangerous! Assumptions are dangerous! New experiences are the antidote to ignorance! Morag knows this truth by heart. She’s been to an ice bar in the Netherlands. An ice bar is a place where you get dressed up in wooly clothes; a full snowsuit and you are given a drinking glass hewn of ice. “Obviously you are drinking vodka,” she adds. “You pay by the hour, but no one lasts longer than an hour at an ice bar. And the whole while everyone there is giggling at you because you look ridiculous.” Aside from being a university student she is a professional costume designer for operas and ballets. She knows the fluidity of facades. Even her haircutter has a dual life as a creative writer. “Being a hairdresser informs her writing because she’s learned how to talk to people… perhaps you can relate to that?”
What the heck am I doing at the 23rd floor bar as a solo woman in her 20’s with no intention to drink anything stronger than tonic water? It’s 10 p.m., check all lights are mostly out, the voices are quiet, ice clinks. I am sober as a bar of soap and about to sit on a bar stool next to two strange men. Both are old enough to be my father so I decide to ask them about their lives. Recently someone informed me that asking a person about their life is a task more intimate than even hitting on them.
I pull out my notebook and start collecting the tidbits. Andy, the more talkative one describes his own city as “A rathole.” Alright, I envision a large burrowing variety rat.
The guy sitting with Andy also has a name and comes from a city other than Milwaukee. He has a face too, but he asks me not to take it with my camera because he claims he used to work for the central intelligence agency. I’m just going to call this person “Math Guy” so that I don’t cause any trouble here. As I sip my carbonated water, Math Guy informs me that he has been to “over 80,000 different bars” in his life. He repeats this several times so it must be fact. Andy guesses that 80,000 bars means Math Guy goes to three each week. Math Guy adds defensively, “That number includes restaurant bars!”
80,000. He just figured it out one day. Just like that? I ask him what prompted him to count. Math Guy takes a long pause and wears a wearied look, “I’m a weird person. A very mathematical person, but I’m not as good as I used to be. When I was younger I any time I entered any room I would immediately be able to tell you how many people are in the room and how many are women and how many are men.” Math Guy stands up dramatically and mutters, “Right now there are 24 people in this room,” before disappearing for the bathroom.
When he returns Math Guy starts asking me about my life like he wants to change the subject. I don’t want to change the subject and soon Math Guy admits that if he hears six people recite their phone numbers the next day he will be able to accurately remember each person by their phone number and not their name. He’s bad with names. Math Guy says being so mathematical has caused him great suffering. He says this slowly and with great hesitation. I don’t ask about the suffering.
Instead, I go home and tell my dad (another math passionate guy) about Math Guy’s 80,000 bars. My dad whips out a calculator and says, “If he is my age and he started going to bars at the legal drinking age, that’s 4.325 bars a day. That would mean some some days he goes to four, and some days he goes to five. All different bars? I don’t believe him!”
It is 2:21 p.m. and here’s what is going down: a recording of violin music saturates the air. Someone walks past hauling a 2.88 (or so) foot long camcorder. The fronds of a palm tree sensuously caress the south column. A security guard carefully explains how to get to the Metro Market to a hotel guest. I estimate the guest to be about thirty years old by the way he has trimmed his beard. Another man in a baseball cap asks me if I am typing a letter to my mother, cialis I am not. I am writing a letter to the hotel lobby, or rather what is happening inside it, since the lobby itself might not be sentient in the way that you and I are. If it were though, I’d feel sorry for the rug. Here is this exquisite rug placed on top of the ornate wall-to-wall carpeting and people just walk right over it without respectfully acknowledging the brief yet fantastic change of terrain.
This is a place where no matter where you look there is something that you can get lost dazing into. I am going to stop typing now so that I may enter reverie as I consider the spatial delights experienced by the light emanating from all the electrical fixtures. I consider the spatial tension that exists between the empty chairs at the top of the stairs. If you stick around in this place long enough you will hear each quarter of the hour marked by the dingdong chime of a grandfather clock. Today I’ve typed here long enough to see a ball bearing pop off my typewriter and roll down the marble steps. The steps here remind me of salami. How delicious!
A man descends the stairs and I notice that he has clipped his sunglasses to the backside of his turtleneck collar. I have never seen anyone keep their sunglasses snug against their neck vertebrae like that before. Someone loudly asks, “Anymore gifts?” Their companion loudly replies, “We are up to $1500,000 now.” People wheel their baggage through. It is funny to think about how 20 years ago all this luggage would have been lugged in without wheels. When I was a kid it still had not occurred to society to put wheels on suitcases. We have come a long way. I leave my typewriter to go sit by the fire for a while. My eyes close. Val, the bartender asks if I want anything, but no, I just want to sit by the fire. “That’s fine, people have been doing that since 1893,” says Val. As I sit I hear a pair of middle-aged women in the midst of some profuse giggling. I walk over to them. Pam & Kate explain how they just got back from a Photoshop conference and are now feeling giddy. The Happy Hour has descended. Roc at the desk has told me that the lobby bar is where Marilyn Monroe liked to sip her drinks. The stairwell is where Elvis Presley stood to graciously wave at everyone. Roc himself spent an hour and a half discussing international politics with Margaret Thatcher. Roc also said, “The hotel never used to allow dogs in here like they do now. Dogs love the elevator here! Each floor has it’s own bouquet of smells that the dog catches whiff of as they go past in the elevator. I wish you could interview a dog and get them to tell you what it is that they smell on each floor.” Hmm, good idea.
Today at the Pfister there were five marvelous maidens and two dapper dandies preparing to promenade. I observed much fluffing and adjusting of sequined petticoats that resemble floor-length tutus. Their parents were there too, health but in a separate camera flash filled cluster. Initially, I was planning on just walking past them all, but then realized that it was impossible to just walk past them without also immortalizing myself inside of some stranger’s prom portrait. So instead, I got out my camera and took my first picture.
The picture was of Tara and Carl, both juniors at South Milwaukee High School. They met because Tara likes hanging out with the hockey players, and Carl is a hockey player. They are in a long-term relationship, having been dating for six months now. Carl asked Tara to prom by scrawling in the dirt of her car: “Will you go to prom with THIS guy?” Along with this question he also included an arrow that pointed to the roof of her car where he sat atop, waiting to see what her response would be below. She answered by buying him a pair of new tennis shoes and including this note: “I am so glad you walked into my life, sole will you kick it at prom?”
While Tara and her fellow females got the majority of the parental paparazzi fuss (posing in various formations on the staircase), the two fellas stood out of the picture looking, frankly, dejected. The shorter one wondered aloud when he could get a turn to be included in a staircase shot. After talking to him a bit I learned that he is a freshman and therefore lucky to even be dressed up for prom along with the others. Freshman can only attend prom if a junior or senior asks them out. London, a junior asked him out “with noodles.” He’s known London his whole childhood, they grew up together. One day she arranged her pasta dinner into a one-word question, “PROM?” and texted a picture of it to him. He says he looks forward tonight to grooving-and-a-moving.
Now, a brief note from Anja Notanja: Hello! I am your new Pfister narrator. I am sole delighted and frambibulated to have promenaded into this new & spangled vocation. I do not know what all is actually going happen as your narrator, so if I were to write another sentence after this one I’d probably just be fibbing something up. Dingal zingo mumuti florex!
At last everyone got to be included in a stairwell shot.
We are absolutely elated to name Anja Notanja Sieger as our seventh “Pfister Narrator.” In this role, she will spend time in the hotel’s lobby and public spaces, typing letters and poems on site, speaking with visitors and guests and sharing their stories right here on our award-winning blog.
“I will write personal letters for visiting strangers, and contribute to the Pfister’s blog,” said Sieger. “I hope to also host public story slams and literary readings featuring local talent, as well as to publish a book by the end of my incumbency.”
Sieger received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in printmaking and creative writing from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2009. Her performance writing art service “La Prosette” has been featured on the front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA Today Online, MSN Hotmail News and Yahoo News. La Prosette is a one-woman typewriter service that allows clients to choose from the following options: Poetry, Love Letter, Insult Letter, Letter of Recommendation, Short Story, or Letter from a Pet. Writing letters requires her to pretend for the duration of the composition that she is “Not-Anja,” but the client. Her live stories have won Milwaukee area slams held by Ex Fabula and the Pfister Hotel. Sieger is currently an Artist in Resident at In Tandem Theatre and a Writer in Residence at Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee.
Sieger was chosen to serve as narrator based on her writing style, professional experience and personality. She was selected from a large pool of qualified applicants by a review panel consisting of local writers, editors and representatives from the hotel. She will be replacing Molly Snyder, who has been blogging for the hotel since May 2013. Sieger will begin her residency as narrator on May 1, 2014.
“Anja brings creativity, enthusiasm, and a fresh perspective to the Narrator program,” said Paul Ohm, general manager of The Pfister. “We think our guests are going to enjoy her presence at the hotel and look forward to seeing how her personal interactions with them unfold on the blog.”