The Final Bow

This is my final thing to say as The Pfister Narrator…believe me, it’s not the final thing to say as Jonathan West.

I’d like to take you back to July 7th, 2001. On that hot summer day, a stocky, dark-haired figure sauntered into the lobby of the Pfister Hotel. His palms were sweaty and perspiration soaked his t-shirt. He was nervous, his stomach flipping with anxiety. The Pfister didn’t really feel like his sort of joint. His finances were stretched, work was weighing down on him, and a hand injury that he had suffered weeks before left him without feeling in two of his fingers; tough stuff for a guy who liked to write stories about his life and sappy love notes to the woman who had agreed to marry him. But underneath it all, that guy (it’s me, folks, if you were confused by the reference to dark-hair, something that I actually had back at the turn of the last century) was just another schlub who was easily distracted by grandeur and unnerved by the feast of the senses offered at the Pfister.

My trip those many years ago was made in anticipation of the single greatest day of my life. I speak of the day I stood in front of another group of people and said, “I do!” to a dishy lady who was not short on opinions and somehow could schedule her life and mine for the next 17 years while chatting with me on a 9-mile jog. Paula Maria Suozzi had stolen my heart, and because we were getting married in six days, I had come to the Pfister to buy a shirt.

I was lucky that a classy lady had agreed to marry me, so I had made my own decision to show up for my wedding day in a classy shirt. Back then, that meant one thing for a man of distinction living the large life in Milwaukee. “Get thee to Roger Stevens at The Pfister, sir!” was the herald’s call when a nice shirt was warranted.

I had saved up a few Lincolns…well, truth be told, a few Franklins…so I’d be able to pick up a swell shirt. I was not to stray, and my finances wouldn’t really let me, so my shopping list had one item on it, and one item alone. A pink shirt.

I probably should have seen it coming, the moment I walked into Roger Stevens. I immediately became distracted. No way was I getting out with only the new shirt I was going to have on my back. When I saw the wall of bow ties, I knew there was going to be trouble.

I’ve been a bow tie man for a long time. In planning for my wedding day, I had in mind a certain tie from my carefully curated collection that I would wear. But that plan vaporized when I got distracted by a simple, elegant bow tie that I knew would go perfectly with my soon-to-be-bride’s dress. I did a little quick math in my head, kept the cash I had in my pocket, pulled out a credit card stressed to the point of exploding, and bought a gorgeous pink shirt and a patterned bow tie with an elegant dark red, black and gray pattern.

The tie was ideal. It was a perfect accompaniment to Paula’s dress. We marched down the aisle, celebrated with our family, and capped off the day of our wedding by checking into the Pfister for our first overnight stay as husband and wife. Our marriage was off and running as we sunk deep into the luxury of the Pfister, a perfect couple stylish beyond belief and ready to tackle anything that came our way. My own distraction had worked like a charm this time.

But distraction wasn’t always so fruitful for me as we left the Pfister after our wedding night and started to live life. I had spent a lot of my life coasting by, indulging in distractions that were not necessarily the best or healthiest things for me. My distractions brought about a tendency towards bad planning and bad choices. Perhaps a smarter man would have learned his lessons earlier, but I kept getting distracted never really fully working towards the life I dreamed of living as a man, husband, provider, artist and first and foremost, a writer.

As my distractions diverted me from doing the hard work I needed to do towards all my life’s pursuits, my wife’s laser focus became sharper and sharper. Never one to mince words, Paula kept at me, verbally giving my keister a kick until distractions could no longer be a constant excuse I could hide behind. Paula, more than anyone, kept saying, “You can do this, you numbskull…just focus.”

Which leads me to today and the capstone on a most extraordinary year. A little over a year ago I had left a good job with a vague idea of “wanting to write more.” I was reminded around that time that the Pfister was in its annual cycle of looking for new candidates to fill the Narrator role. I had applied to be the Pfister Narrator a couple of times before, but in each attempt, I had done it sort of half-heartedly, pretty distracted by everything around me. When I mentioned throwing my hat in the ring one more time, who do you think was the first to tell me to step up my game, clear away all the distractions and get to work? I continue to call her the prettiest lady I know with the sharpest mind to boot.

When I think of my final bow as the Narrator, it’s a simple choice. It’s the one that I was distracted by many years ago here at the Pfister. Though I’m no longer a drinker, I proudly am tying one on in celebration of the Pfister, forever for me a symbol of incredible possibility, a place for great starts and legendary endings.

Thanks for reading. My heart is full with gratitude for a year of bliss.

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Selfies of the Selfless

There is the family you are born into, and then there is the family you get to pick throughout life. Today, I want to talk to you about a group of people who I am humbled to now call part of my extended family–the Pfister Hotel Associates.

I made a conscious effort this year to stay away from writing about my work colleagues at the Pfister because I wanted to spend my stint as the Narrator telling stories about guests and visitors. Believe me…it wasn’t easy. The stories the Pfister Associates have to tell are legendary, and they all know how to spin a yarn that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I’ve had the great fortune to work with interesting and dedicated people in a myriad of different settings throughout my career, but I cannot recall a group of people as kind, wise, full of heart, industrious and creative as the Pfister Associates.

It would be easy to just call the men and women who make the Pfister run like the finest of Swiss watches “the hotel staff.” That’s a cop out, though, because they are all so much more than mere employees. Associate is a winning title for each member of the Pfister family as it represents the idea that everyone has a unique and interconnected role in making each person who walks through the Pfister doors feel the full impact of grace, welcoming spirit, and real dedication to beauty and joy. The Pfister Associates do just that—they associate. With one another, with each and every visitor, always succeeding in making each individual’s experience at the hotel feel tied to a stronger sense of community than you will likely find anywhere.

I’ll miss seeing all the smiling faces of my friends who make each day great at the Pfister, the ladies and gentlemen who immediately made me feel like family when I began my stint as the Pfister Narrator. I hope you enjoy a few selfies that I took of some of these smiling faces as much as I have enjoyed seeing them throughout the year. I’ll hold onto something that Executive Chef Brian Frakes said to me as he shook my hand after he, Harold and I posed for a selfie. “You’re part of the family,” said Brian with a broad grin. Knowing that I’ve just added a whole new gaggle of brothers and sisters to all the people in my life that I love and admire reminds me that the greatest gift I’ve received this year is one of new friends who have given me more of themselves than I could have ever imagined was possible. Thanks friends. I do adore you all.

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My Favorite Place

This is the post that my children have been asking me to write for months.

I have been asked time and time again to answer one question about my experiences at the Pfister.

Where’s your favorite place at The Pfister?

I am not wishy washy on this question. There’s no doubt in my mind about how to answer. Ladies and gentlemen, might I introduce you to the Pfister parking garage.

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Behold the wonder!

You suspected I’d tell you that my favorite spot was Blu, a plush and sophisticated bar on top of the world? Maybe you imagine me claiming the Pfister swimming pool as my ultimate-ultimate? Lobby Lounge? Rouge? Well Spa? Mason Street Grill? Guest Room 1113? The secret vault where they keep all the snack mix? Listen, you can’t go wrong with any spot at the Pfister. It’s all good when you think about the Pfister spaces and places tour.

But that parking garage, oh, that marvelous parking garage. It’s the place where I’ve seen more stories played out as couples with happy smiles load up their overnight bags in the back of sedans or men and women torn asunder by a lovers spat silently slink into separate cars. I’ve narrowly avoided head on collisions, helped confused visitors recall where they parked their cars, and even woke up someone taking a car snooze. It’s a hub of activity and I love it all.

But more, so much more than anything, I will always cherish that parking garage as my favorite Pfister place because of one singular sensation. Or, rather, one singular sense.

The Pfister parking garage smells like delicious fatty bacon. Boom…mic drop…and out.

I noticed the perfume of pork almost immediately when I started parking on-site on a regular basis. Some days it was stronger than others, a shift in the wind helping to raise or lower the sniffability. I walked the ramp one day to see how far the scent traveled…fifth floor was the limit, but third floor was the peak of porkiness.

I’ve traced the source of the smell to the Mason Street Grill kitchen where meats are licked by flames all day and into the night. I can accept this plausible and very real explanation, but that really doesn’t matter to me. My favorite spot will always make my mouth water, licking my chops for salty, fatty, greasy satisfication.

Thank you Pfister parking garage. I love you and all your bacon ways.

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The Pfister Films: THE APPETIZERS

And so we come to the final film, a cheeky little ditty I like to call THE APPETIZERS.

I think it is fitting that THE APPETIZERS is the final film that I’m sharing with you all. It is in so many ways a celebration of the glamour, the sophistication, the romance, the surprise, and the charm that sparkles between so many people who end up falling in love at the Pfister.

THE APPETIZERS is also a tribute to one of my absolute favorite things about the Pfister. But telling you what that is now would be what the kids these days call a spoiler. You’ll just have to watch to find out what my great Pfister love really is.

And before I share this last film with you all, a word to you all about what this film project has meant to me, and perhaps what it can mean to you, dreamer, creator, human being.

Becoming the Pfister Narrator meant a lot of things to me as a writer. It filled me with pride and joy. I pinched myself almost daily, never really fully believing it was true that I was the in-house writer for a stunning historic hotel. I developed friendships that I will maintain and treasure for a lifetime, being afforded the chance to meet all sorts of fascinating characters from a wide variety of backgrounds. More than anything, however, becoming the Pfister Narrator reminded me that the best thing you can do to feel alive is to make things.

I’ve made a lot of things this year. I’ve strung together thousands of words and hopefully have helped readers understand that the Pfister is a truly unique place. Through it all, I was always encouraged to speak with my own voice, and take chances. Even with something as full of pitfalls as making four short films. I never professed to be a filmmaker when I came up with this idea, but I’ve always loved movies. And, for better or for worse, I thought, “What the hell!” As I come out on the other end of making these four short films, I understand that the great joy of the project was to get together a bunch of friends and make something that we all loved creating together and then share it with others. I hope you have felt a bit of the sense of play and wonder that we all had in creating these pieces, ones we finished and were bursting with excitement to share.

I encourage anyone reading or listening to these words to walk down a similar path. You don’t need to make a movie, but by all means, get your friends together, tell stories, have some laughs, and figure out the hard stuff you don’t know how to do along the way. If you’re shooting for perfection at the end of that road, I can tell you that you’re going to be disappointed. If you want to have an experience that you can cherish forever, I guarantee you’ll be paid in great memories over and over again.

I thank everyone who supported this film project for helping me indulge in a dream and open up a part of my creative soul that I hope I can build upon in the coming days, months and years. I’m not quite done with my writing as the Pfister Narrator as I’m taking full advantage of the fact that April has thirty days, but for now, I bring you the finale of my short film project, THE APPETIZERS.

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The Best Dressed Ladies at the Affair

I’m not ashamed to say that I love women. I think if the world were run by women we’d all get things done about 30 years earlier than we do right now and then we could just sit under trees and read books and eat waffles.

Two mere days away from the end of my year as Pfister Narrator I’m pleased as punch to write about two more women. I started my year writing about two female friends and I’m really pleased to come full circle with this nice little greeting story about Mary Beth and Sue.

I hosted a farewell event at the Pfister on April 22nd in the Rouge. For those of you who attended I hope you will agree with my assessment…it was perfect. It was the ideal culmination of a year of writing and I got to show the films I wrote inspired by Pfister experiences that talented actor friends of mine had graciously agreed to act in.

I had suspected that it might be a “friends of Jonathan night”, one of those evenings when I looked out at the bodies in chairs and saw friendly faces that I recognized from other walks of life. Indeed, there were plenty of friends in the room, but at the back of the Rouge where we were all assembled I noticed two superbly beautiful ladies. I didn’t know who they were, but I was determined to find out by the end of the affair.

At the close of my program last Friday, these two very well dressed ladies approached me as I huddled with my wife talking about how the event had gone. Paula noticed the ladies and sensing that they wanted to talk with me winked and said, “I think you have some fans.”

Mary Beth and Sue were decked out to the nines. It takes a lot for me to feel dressed down as I’m normally out and about in a suit, bow tie, and brightly shined shoes. But these ladies made me feel like I could have looked a little nicer for my finishing event as Pfister Narrator. They were runway ready.

Playing to my ego, Mary Beth and Sue asked if they could take a picture with me. I was eager and ready to smile for these ladies, but ever the inquisitor, I had to understand why they had showed up at this closing Narrator affair and why they wanted to flank me in a picture.

“We read about this show in the Pfister’s blog and thought it would be fun,” said Mary Beth. Sue jumped in adding, “We got all dolled up because it is the Pfister after all!”

The ladies were complete dolls and asked me to pose for a picture with them to commemorate the night. I obliged and heard them tell me about their first time at the Pfister for a prom, which Mary Beth arrived at after a lubricating trip to John Hawk’s Pub back in the days of younger drinking ages and feathered hair.

Mary Beth and Sue told me that this was a big night for them, an occasion where they could pull out their best dresses, make the drive from Racine, order a smart cocktail, and watch some unknown nerd in big dark glasses tell stories into the night. They shook my hand and invited to Blu for a cocktail, but tired old man that I was, I demurred and sought out my children and wife so we could tuck in for the night. I might have blushed realizing that I had met my first fans face-to-face, but I’ll always cherish those sweet faces as ladies who showed up just because the Pfister was doing something new and interesting. In the midst of a spectacular night, it’s always great to meet some supremely spectacular women.

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The First Forty Years

When you have been married to someone for 40 years, practical wisdom on how to really keep a marriage strong comes easy.

“Late at night when you’re watching television loud, make sure the room you’re watching it in is plenty far away from your wife so you don’t disturb her,” said Keith with an all-knowing grin. Sue Ellen, his wife of 40 years flashed her pearly whites in agreement. It seems he wasn’t kidding. Hearts and rainbows be damned, these love birds really got it going and understand the brass tacks of happy matrimony.

Keith and Sue Ellen had come to the Pfister this past week for brunch to celebrate their 40th Wedding Anniversary. It was a “to-the-day” celebration, coming to the Pfister on an overcast, slightly rainy day just like they had some 40 years ago. It was a trip down memory lane with friends, complete with a couple of special surprises.

The Pfister’s Chef Concierge Peter Mortenson proved once again that he has mad powers of astonishing force by researching the exact room that Keith and Sue Ellen had spent their wedding night in 40 years ago. Along with the couple’s married friends Greg and Sue, and Mary and Dan, I had the distinct pleasure to accompany them for their journey back in time.

Peter had kept the whole thing under wraps, and as the couple arrived prior to their brunch reservation, we greeted their wedding anniversary party so he could inform them that he had organized a little hotel tour prior to brunch. We all snuggled into an elevator stopping briefly on the seventh floor to visit the beautiful glittering ballrooms before our final destination, their bridal suite of years gone by. As we tucked into the elevator after our pit stop, Peter had a brief interchange with a fabulously mustachioed man sharing the ride up.

“Is everything set for the picture later today, Mr. Fingers?” said Peter, politely addressing legendary former Brewer pitcher Rollie Fingers, who still sports his trademark handlebar mustache, even if it’s a bit more salt and pepper these days than jet black like it was when he was throwing heat on a regular basis.

Rollie Fingers gave Peter a thumbs-up and exited a floor before our party. Keith and Sue Ellen, baseball lovers of note, arched their eyebrows and with looks of amazement said, “Peter, did you arrange for Rollie Fingers to be in our elevator, too?” Peter explained that it was just a chance meeting, but I’m going to chalk that one up to divine providence.

We arrived at the couple’s 1976 honeymoon suite and Peter explained that he had figured out which room Keith and Sue Ellen had stayed in and was delighted to share this treat with them as a special bonus for their day of celebration. I’ve seen some pretty appreciative people during my time as Pfister Narrator, but the looks on everyone’s faces that day will be burned in my memory forever. The sort of excitement that everyone was feeling as they stepped through the door made it seem like we were back in the bicentennial year when Sue Ellen had been decked out in an elegant frock and Keith and his groomsmen had sported red, white and blue bow ties that bridesmaid Mary had made for the boys.

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Peter, major domo master of revels, is high charm mode.

The friends all gathered together and reminisced about the day. Sue Ellen’s bridesmaids Sue and Mary recalled that the newly married couple left their reception without any of their wedding gifts. I learned that the bonds of friendship amongst the group had been formed over 40 years earlier prior to the wedding when all the couples had lived in the Normandy Village apartment complex west of downtown Milwaukee. Jokes flew through the room the way that they do between people with an easy shared shorthand, and it was clear that these six had surely had some high times together over the years. I took cameras and snapped pictures back and forth, the girls together, then the boys, then all the couples, with smiles growing bigger and bigger on each shot we took.

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Keith, Sue Ellen, Sue, Greg, Mary and Dan…friends for life.

I couldn’t help but notice that the room we were in was set up with two double beds separated by an aisle. It seemed oh so 1950s television for a honeymoon suite. Teetering towards an indelicate question, I asked Keith and Sue Ellen, “Were there two beds in this room the night of your wedding?”

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The married couple bridging the divide.

Keith and Sue Ellen smiled devilishly at each other, and gave me a laugh. “No,” said Keith. Sue Ellen finished his thought saying, “I remember that there was only one bed back then.” Forty years and counting, and all the memories of brides, grooms, wedding parties, and the secrets of pillow talk are absolutely keeping the love fires aflame for this happiest of happy couples.

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It’s Great! What More Do You Need to Say?

We all stood in the hallway shoulder to shoulder. Smiles all around. There was a feeling of shared hoopla on a recent Friday night as I stepped into a ground floor elevator with a band of gals and guys who were out on the town making mischief. You could see the revelry in their eyes, and, sure, I might have also been able to smell it on their cocktail scented breath.

Heather flashed a big smile my way and said, “I love your bow tie.” I thanked her for the complement and she then fished around to see what my deal was, why in the world were she and her friends trapped in an elevator with a dork like me in a suit and tie. I told her I was a writer, the guy who got to tell the stories of the throngs of men and women who came to the Pfister for merry good times full of cheer. It was as if I had dropped an exuberance bomb for our ride 23 floors into the sky.

Heather and her pals Jackie, Ted, Chad and Amanda lit up like Christmas trees on fire, ready to talk, squeal and scream about all the good stuff in the world. Well, not so much Amanda. Amanda was playing it cool. Super cool, and you don’t need to try too hard when you’re super cool.

I asked the game of friendlies where they were from and almost in unison like they had been given five-dollar bills by the local convention and visitor bureau they proudly announced their Milwaukee hometown roots.

To a person I could tell they all loved Milwaukee, so I asked them all, “What’s your favorite thing about Milwaukee?”

Out came a strong a unified message, surely pitched with just the right tone to make me see that it was the truth, and nothing but the truth.

“It’s great!” exclaimed Heather.

“It’s great!” belted Jackie.

“It’s great!” hollered Chad.

“It’s great!” tooted Ted.

Amanda raised an eyebrow. When you’re cool as a cucumber, your brows can do all the talking. I could tell hers were saying, “It’s great!”

The walking party bus was headed to Blu to continue their Friday night fun night, and when we arrived at the 23rd floor they poured out of the elevator and almost cartwheeled right into the bar. They beckoned me to follow, but I realized I had left a notebook on the ground floor, so I waved goodbye and headed back down. I planned to travel back up after retrieving my notes, so I suspected our paths would cross again.

With notebook in hand, I caught another elevator and made my way to the sky. The doors of my elevator car opened on the 23rd floor, and who do you think greeted me tumbling in to make a ride back downstairs but the fun bunch I had just left at Blu.

I asked them what was going on and Heather, by now their legitimate spokesperson, said, “That bar is not our scene. We’re headed out. Maybe we’ll see you around!”

The doors closed and I knew things would turn out okay for Heather, Jackie, Ted, Chad and Amanda out on the streets of old Milwaukee. After all, as I had just learned from one of Milwaukee’s finest happy times teams, “It’s great!”

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The Pfister Films: THE OTHER SIDE OF DOWN

It’s a bittersweet week for me as I look at the calendar and realize that there are only thirty days in April. As I draw to the end of my year as Pfister Narrator, I find myself wishing that we would all discover that 2016 was some sort of triple secret leap year where the fourth month was extended to 187 days. Alas, I’m unable to find even the most open sourced of Wikipedia entries on Hurdle Year (catchy name, no?), so I’m resigned to the fact that my year is almost up.

At the onset of this great adventure I had outlined some plans for things I was going to do to leave my mark as the Pfister Narrator. One pursuit that excited and terrified me all at the same time was to write and produce four short films inspired by my experiences at the Pfister. I admit to everyone now that it was one of those things that sounded great when I said it out loud, but as I thought about how it would actually happen, I found myself saying, “Oh my goodness…what have I gotten myself into here?”

But here we are almost 365 days later, and I’m extraordinarily pleased to announce that I did what I said I would do and wrote, directed, edited and produced four short films. And you know what? This project was an absolute joy to tackle and stretched me in ways I never dreamed possible. Every day this week, I will share one of those films with you, and I hope you’ll then share them with others because I’m proud of them all and believe that they succeed in showing different bits of the magic that is the Pfister.

As with any pursuit such as this, there are so many people I need to thank for helping make the ideas that bounced around my head and ended up on paper come to bristling life. You’ll find all the names of the immensely talented actors and actresses who volunteered their time acting in these short pieces in the credits of each film. I’m so grateful to Cassy Scrima, the Marcus Hotels Area Director of Marketing and the best boss in the world, for helping me with coordination of spaces and places to shoot. And if I don’t thank all the Pfister Associates who gave me a smile and lent a hand in the heat of the moment, I’d be nothing but the world’s biggest jerk. Thanks team…you are the greatest people I know.

So, enough of the platitudes, on with the show.

Today, I give you THE OTHER SIDE OF DOWN. I got the idea for THE OTHER SIDE OF DOWN on one of my first days as Pfister Narrator all the way back last May. It was a quiet weekday and I was hanging around near the concierge desk listening to guests chatter away, trying to get a sense of any stories that I might capture. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a woman who had entered the building from the Mason Street entrance. It was hard not to spot her because she was clutching about four-dozen helium balloons in her hand. She sauntered down the hallway leading to the lobby and stopped at the bank of elevators directly across from the Artist-In-Residence Studio. An elevator arrived, the woman stepped inside with her balloons, and I watched as I assumed she ascended to a party or event on an upper floor. I immediately made my way over to the elevators and caught another car, hoping to follow her and find her so I could learn more about why she had all the balloons. I never did find the lady or her balloons, but she left me with a tremendous gift instead–the idea for my first Pfister Film.

Here’s the first of four short films that I’ll be sharing with you all this week. I hope you enjoy THE OTHER SIDE OF DOWN.

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We Are The Sesame Street of All Hotels, People

I am a man of a certain age who is able to proudly claim to have been raised in part through the counting, alphabetizing, and sharing lessons regularly doled out on the standard bearer for all great children’s programming, good old Sesame Street. Even into my forties, I still have bold images of the residents of Sesame Street, the flesh and bones ones as well as the felt and fake-hair ones, playing and working side-by-side.

I found myself thinking hard about what made Sesame Street such a magic place as I enjoyed a recent Pfister event. Our new Artist-in-Residence Pamela Anderson recently kicked off her year in the studio with a sparkling night of art and celebration. One of the highlights of that night was a performance by a group of young artists from The Florentine Opera.

Outside of the obvious talent displayed by these singers as they filled the Pfister’s Rouge salon with soaring melodies, I took note of something else that was special about these performers. They all might have shared the same megawatt capacity for smiling and charm, but the faces that displayed those smiles did not all share the same pigment of skin. I find myself thinking more and more about race in this country as discussions come front and center about how we as a nation can work and play better together now and into the future. That’s why it’s nice to know that right here at home at the Pfister Hotel, the spirit of Sesame Street and all its lessons of inclusion feels alive and potent.

I have made it a habit when I enter the Pfister to look up and see the SALVE motto hovering over the lobby, the hub for all guests as they arrive and start a visit. SALVE, that “all are welcome” ideal, is not just a gilded adornment that floats in the air at the Pfister. You realize it is a real boots-on-the-ground reality as your eyes descend from the heavens and you see that the mix of men and women who make up the life of the hotel as guests, drop-in visitors and associates is as varied, ecletic and diverse a gathering as the mind can conjure. Walking through the Pfister lobby on any given day is sort of like taking a stroll down the best kind of Main Street, USA, one where you only take a moment to think about race and gender because you pinch yourself and say, “Wait a minute…I’m somewhere where I’m not thinking about race and gender.”

That sort of Main Street, USA reminds me a lot of Sesame Street, a place where no one cared what you looked like, where you were from, or how fat your wallet was. I’ve met many spectacular individuals as I’ve enjoyed being part of the fabric of the Pfister, and I realize now that I’m struck by how little time I spent recognizing their differences but instead focused on all our shared similarities. The Pfister’s doors are literally open around the clock to anyone, no matter what step they take in the grand walk of life.

Pamela’s opera singer friends presented a showcase of mixed repertoire to kick off an evening of artistic joy, but I was really swept up by their opener, a German language version of “Happy Days Are Here Again.” Somehow it all seemed so right, a quirky mash up of something that was unexpected but familiar all at the same time. The tune had a “life is good in this place” sort of feel about it as the room filled with cheer. It’s a feeling that I have every time I’m at the Pfister, and one that I fondly carry forward into adulthood with a full heart of acceptance and appreciation that first started to glow in my youth when my some friends from all different walks of life told me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street. I never expected it, but I’m sure happy that I’ve stumbled upon Sesame Street at 424 Wisconsin Avenue in my dear hometown.

I hope you enjoy this musical ditty as much as I did.

If You Got ‘Em, Do Not Smoke ‘Em

I am continually impressed and inspired by the innocence of youth. It helps old cranks like me to avoid the creep of sour thoughts when the eyes of bright young women and men focus on the purity and wonder of the world, leaving all the other stuff out of focus.

I had parked my car in the Pfister parking lot like I’ve done probably hundreds of times this year. I locked up and made my way to the elevators that would take me to the lobby and the bustle of a new day. It is a walk that I feel I can probably do with my eyes closed by now.

This is one of the reasons I’ve started to sense that I’ve entered a sort of “take things for granted mode” some days when I come to the Pfister. For me at this stage of my year-long appointment as the hotel’s in-house writer, the questions of elegance, charm, comfort, hospitality and occasion have all been answered. I can essentially always rely on those and many other good-life qualities being covered during my weekly visits.

So, without a great sense of fanfare, I entered the elevator behind a mother and her two daughters. I knew in a second that if this wasn’t their first time to the Pfister, it was a visit that could be counted on one hand. The place was still fresh for them all. Their eyes were peeled wide open to all the details that surrounded them. They seemed unwilling to miss a moment of what their day would hold at the Pfister.

The youngest girl in particular had a sense of curiosity that seemed to radiate hotly as we took our short trip from parking garage to lobby. I noticed that she was looking hard at the elevator doors, seeming to scan them for hidden clues to buried treasure or a secret message written in invisible ink by a fellow past guest.

As we made our descent, the girl turned to her mother and said, “Mom, that sign said the hotel is ‘SMOKE FREE.’ Does that mean that people are going to be smoking all around us?”

Her mother looked at her worried little face assuring her, “No, sweetie, ‘SMOKE FREE’ means people aren’t allowed to smoke. We don’t have to worry about that.”

The girl looked back at her mother with a relieved grin. “Thank goodness,” she said. “I thought ‘SMOKE FREE’ meant that if you had cigarettes or something you were free to smoke.” With her big worry of the day abated, the girl burst through the elevator doors as they opened delivering us to the ground floor.

I watched the young lass scurry into the lobby, scanning all the architecture for some hidden curiosity, the key to unlocking a place of mystery in her mind. She laughed and twirled as she took in the soaring open space between ground and sky. The view was blissfully free of smoke for this child and the rest of us, but I was reminded that the things we all take away from each Pfister visit are also free of all boundaries.

And you can surely put that bit of wisdom in your pipe and smoke it, thank you very much.

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