My Other Pen is a Hydro-cyclonic Ink Dispensing Thought Engine

I have never stopped going to the Pfister. I’m still there, buy cialis lurking among the new artists and writers and last night, I snuck in to lurk among the time-travelers and inventors. My confession is that I love the art/craft/clothing/mission/vision/literature that calls itself Steampunk. I’ve been known to lust after a pair of great goggles and as a renaissance faire actor in the summers, I’m no stranger to a good corset. I have long wished the hotel had airship parking.

So I dragged a friend out for a drink in the Lobby Bar—something she’s no stranger to as she was one of my partners in crime when I was the Pfister Narrator—and we looked at gears and hair fascinators and costumes. And we descended on the bar and had a Zaffiro’s cheese pizza, remembering my introduction to the family whose girls’ day out during the holidays included pizza in the lobby.

And there she was. I saw our new Narrator at the bar, watching the costumes stream out of the Steampunk party. She typed on her tablet, and I found that appropriate as Steampunk is about unique inventions and hodge podge creations and a tablet is the perfect contemporary hybrid to reflect that sensibility, even if it’s not from the Steam Age.

I’m curious if she spotted us, if she recognized me. I only knew her from her interview video and was happy to note that the energy that jumped off the screen and grabbed us in that conference room was pulling people toward her in the Lobby Bar last night as well.

The entire evening just reminded me (not that I needed reminding) that the Pfister captures more than just people. Seeing the turn of the century garb, met with visionary mechanical implements and jewelry, was surreal when the garb floated into the lobby. Our favorite may have been the gorgeous Victorian bustled dress with teal brocade that fit its bearer so perfectly we questioned whether her body, too, had traveled through time. My friend gasped when she looked up and saw the mistress being photographed by her captain on the glorious staircase. What better place to reconsider the turn of the century and the romantic lure of the past than a hotel that was created to capture the future the turn of the century would bring?

I’m so proud to be a part of the Pfister because the beauty and elegance of this place and its people lend themselves and open their doors to contemporary, unique events like the Steampunk ball. I was proud to see so many of the artists showcased at the event were not from Chicago, but rather right here in Milwaukee, proving again that we’re current, we’re cool and Milwaukee has its fair share of airship pirates.

If you pictured the art of Timothy Westbrook as textile manipulation and beautiful, you were correct. But if you’d never looked at his pieces in the gaslight of a Victorian evening or seen how their feel couples so wonderfully with an Oscillating Mechanical Stun Weapon particular to airships and rogue captains, the Pfister provided that for you. Again, I was amazed at how a place, rife with history and bursting with elegance is also a playful contemporary who is willing to embrace gears, gadgets and difference engines to prove how welcome we all are when we’re there.

Good luck, Jenna. I have not forgotten, nor abandoned my journey with time travel, facilitated by the Pfister and its staff; I crack the proverbial bottle of champagne over your airship for luck on your adventure.

Passing of the Pen

That’s what we’re calling it. The official sign-off, remedy hand-over and next phase of the Narrator position. I’m not eager to give it up, but when I see Stacie again today, I realize “how can I not?”

Standing in the middle of the hotel lobby, she’s the brightest thing there. She’s been through the PR ringer, having her poster made, providing quotes for a press release, learning the blog system and now, today, taking some photos with me. Her look is bright and excited, mingled with a bit of overwhelmed awe.

I take her to my favorite seat, the plush couch in the lobby bar and before I can even settle in enough to ask the questions I had on my mind—turning the tables one last time and choosing the writer as my subject—Val is there, describing the time capsule in the lobby and reminding us that the Marcus company is very into history and preserving generational linkages. I thought it was appropriate as Stacie and I build the first link in what should be a very long chain of storytelling.

I don’t have to ask her anything, actually. She just starts telling. I worry as I listen if she is a better ambassador than a writer. She’s already describing to me the room we’re sitting in, how she’d depict the feeling of the plush couch that hasn’t been replaced in a long time “Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s good. Good, really. Look,” she says, bouncing on the cushion “it’s what makes it so soft.” Before I can comment, she’s telling about the baseball fans she saw in the lobby the day she took some head shots there and just as I laugh and agree that I’ve seen many a sports-reveler in the hotel, she is on to the next subject.

I’m convinced (not that I wasn’t prior to our ad hoc “all this is now yours” ceremony) that she’s the perfect heir to the throne. (I’m unabashed. It is a throne. It was such an amazing seat of honor, and not just because it was plush and well-worn). It’s not just that I’ve finally met a woman who talks more than I do (friends of mine will laugh at that; I think, after getting to know Stacie, I suspect friends of hers are giggling as well). But her talk is measured. She catches what surrounds us—from the bearded man who made an entrance and enjoyed his solitary glass of water in the lobby and mysteriously reappeared in the café when we walked through, to the staff and guests walking past us wondering about the cameras. She’s so full of things to say and so eager to not just say them, but write them.

That was the best part of talking with Stacie today. I had questions in mind, but all skirted the real subject: Writing. I was nervous to talk about writing. Writers are fickle (at least I am). It’s such a heartfelt, soul-releasing endeavor to mold words on a page and it’s so subject to critique that to discuss it raw and in the open is a delicate enterprise and Stacie has been reading my words. She’s seen my enterprise and now, she sits with me, suddenly there, gathering the words with me. We could both tell this story. Betwen us, it would be a choose-your-own-adventure and oh so different. Is the hand off today the doorway to a critique of what was experience as much as storytelling, craft as much as guest service?

When I interviewed for this position, interested parties asked me what I hoped to gain as a writer by the time I was done. I knew I wanted more stories than I could tell and more flexing of my pen than I could stand. I wanted to fatigue my muscles, douse the page in water because it overheated and beat my best time in a sprint across the sentences.

I reached many of those goals; I have measures of success ticked off in my notebook. But as I pass the pen, like a baton in a relay, I know that the next runner can be faster. Her way with words will reach different ends and move her to places I didn’t achieve during my residency.

Today we photographed me introducing Stacie to some of my favorite hotel staffers, my favorite hotel nooks and crannies and the memories of some of my stories. I tried to retell them but she already knew. It was a final tick in my notebook. Someone read my writing; someone is picking up where I left off.

It’s my turn to read, and I cannot wait to see how this story ends. Best of luck to you, Stacie, you have the pen that preserves the Pfister.

The Walls Did Talk

People watching is a skill. If you’re good at it (and I really want to believe I am) you can master blending in, even if you’re taking notes and keeping your eyes up, about and above your coffee. People often sit, trying to go unnoticed, and to do so, they revert to the childhood understanding that if “I can’t see you, you can’t see me” and bury themselves in their work, their food, their drink, their smart phone or even clean out the contents of their purse with such dedication you might wonder if they’d even notice a fire alarm.

Not me.

I keep eyes up. I don’t face front, I face all directions and turn frequently. I suspect people are wondering about me the same things I’m wondering (and writing down) about them, but after awhile, much like the cameras on Big Brother or any other mess of a reality program, they forget I’m there.

As your Narrator, I’ve had the great pleasure of being forgotten frequently. That’s when the magic happens. Once I’ve disappeared right next to someone, I’ve heard all versions of amazing, hilarious, sad and complimentary kinds of conversation.

The wisdom I’ve gained from this is important to us all. If you’ve ever wondered if you’re doing it right—life, that is—I’m here to say, odds are you are. Old, young, professional, career newbie, women, men, couples, singles, families—all of them engage in very similar conversations. People ask about others, share their concerns. People talk about common events. People discuss frustrations at work (and about co-workers). People express genuine thanks or appreciation to one another. Doesn’t matter who you are, I was an equal-opportunity eavesdropper.

But it was for your own good. What I overheard is evidence that we’re moving through this world, this cocktail hour, this hotel, this dinner, this town in very similar ways. We’re in it together, we’re getting it right.

So, below, I’m including for you as one of my last treatises to the ways the Pfister filled me up these past six months, a Mad-Lib of sorts of the random, detached comments I absorbed as an invisible observer in the hotel. They’re flying solo, detached from their owners and conversations, but you may recognize their themes and guess at which stories they fit.

What I hope you recognize is yourself.

I hope you see them as a story starter and that they inspire wonder and you create in your own mind the speaker and the connective narrative that surrounded these singular ideas. I know what they’re linked to. I know who said them. Those are my secrets, but I leave them for you to write your own story.

“Either you’re a Pfister person or you’re not”

“We become celebrity immune”

“Our Chicago friends don’t get it”

 “That’s the New York you’re hearing, honey.”

 “Is it too early for a cocktail?”

“The masseuse needs wine to see my body!”

 “I like your new look, it’s great!”

 “He wanted a martini, not a bloody Mary, a mimosa, something ‘morning’”

 “I like ‘em here.”

 “No, I’m waiting for someone”

 “You gotta kiss a lot of frogs, honey”

 “You hope the young people come, but…”

“I don’t get the Clooney thing”

“Frumpamuffin” (referencing Harrison Ford)

“If your dad and I ever hook up we could conquer the world!”

 “He used to ride.”

“Now, I’m not a marketing major…”

“You get the golden star!”

She’s a narrator, eh?” “There are a lot of other words for it…”

“Huh, Facebook.”

“Hmm, photographers… or really bad spies.”

 “It’s a made-up holiday—a Hallmark holiday…Now that’s marketing”

 “To get their favorite fix.”

“I have to have a wicked burrito from Taco John’s”

 “Mmm…it’s roastier.”

“We need another prohibition to get rid of this bad music.”

 “I can get that done for you.”

 “Ha! At two in the morning!”

“Well, we can wait at Blu!”

“Ha! The kids would never look for us there!”

“What’s your cholesterol?

“150.”

“Well, that’s good.”

“I wasn’t getting any action just on the mixer alone.”

“I’ll make you famous

I’m already famous; I was on three episodes of Dallas.

You shot JR?

No, but I met him.”

“Are you somebody?

No, I’m just the singer.” 

“She’s on the edge; she just needs to be pushed.”

 “I don’t know, will you write it?”

Yes. I loved writing it.

I’ll keep writing it. I promise.

Personal Baggage

         Sometimes I forget the Pfister is a hotel, click meant for housing travelers and providing room and board. So much else happens there that it becomes its own community of comings and goings, drinks and dinners, events and celebration. So of course it struck me when I was headed out through the lobby and saw a line at the registration desk.

            Sure, that’s what the desk is for—checking people into rooms—but more often I see the staff checking in on people, rather than checking them in. “How was the pizza?” “How was the show?” “Did you make it to the pool like you’d been planning?”

            The line today was full of order and patience and a stunning number of people who weren’t casting their eyes about. How can you not? The ceiling above the central desk alone is breathtaking. Yet, these road-weary travelers, each of whom seemed to represent a different happening at the hotel, were blinders-focused on the desk.

            I know that feeling, that need to settle in first. I forgave them that. But in reflection I have to report to them (hope you’re reading, guys!) what a fantastically motley crew they created. The line jutted out past the bell stand, near the stairs. Tromping down the stairs was one of the dancers in the annual ballroom dance extravaganza the hotel hosts. Her hair and make up were show ready. Her shoes—heels I wouldn’t dare touch—clicked down the stairs calling attention to her descent. Yet, her sweatshirt and jeans belied that she was about to swirl in gorgeous rounds on a dance floor. I was captivated by her, but the folks in line were dedicated to their task. There were even other dancers in line, waiting to get to their rooms to make ready to compete. They, too, were wearing the stiletto dance footwear that spelled only broken ankles to me, but perhaps a victorious foxtrot to them.

            After the dancer passes, I notice nothing else can turn the heads of those awaiting a golden key. Each methodically moved first their luggage, then their bodies forward toward the desk as a guest in front of them would clear. The routine shuffle was familiar to them all, and revealed that it wasn’t their first day traveling. Kindergarteners everywhere could have taken a lesson from the perfunctory straightness of the line.

            But what set each guest apart from the others was their luggage. Portable wheelie bags designed for carry on luggage—bespeckled with colorful tags and strings for distinction made way for my favorite bag in the line: A cumbersome old vinyl brown suitcase from decades ago. Even better, the case was transported by a gentleman who clearly was younger than the luggage. I liked the vintage appeal of grandpa’s brown suitcase partnering with a contemporary traveler in a historic hotel. Decades of adventure were well-represented in Samsonite.

            It wasn’t just how they marched to the desk, waited in line, or shepherded various forms of clothing containers along with them…on this particular day, they were each there for different reasons and from different places: the dance competition, a visit with family, a business trip and more.

            The perfect diversity of this line of guests reminded me that while so many locals make use of the Pfister for its romance and ambiance, it provides shelter to so many from afar. I laughed at myself as I remembered the hand game we learned in school where you folded your fingers together, layering thumbs and pinkies properly and turned your hands inside out to reveal wiggling fingers, matched to the chorus “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people!” 

That’s the case at the Pfister. The doors are beautiful, the tower views breathtaking, but in the end, it’s always about the people.

The Inner Circle

So, drugstore I got to meet her: my replacement. There are so many lessons in life out there waiting for you and only a few you’re fortunate enough to catch. I am lucky enough to have started a project and to have the opportunity to hand it off. I’m not the CEO of some big company (yet), not an entrepreneur (yet) and not any of the other typically tenured folks in high ranking positions who perform very public changings of the guards. I’m no Tony Soprano, sitting at the head of the table, handing out orders.

But I was (am! Still am!) the first Pfister Narrator and I truly cannot decide which part has of the entire role has yielded the best life lessons. Right now, I’m realizing how completely unprepared  I was  for the process of watching other writers talk about writing and process and how they’d do it differently. I read other writers all the time, but I don’t often have breakfast with them.

Stacie Williams cannot be contained. After she was chosen, one of the persons who coordinated the interviews leaned in close in the hall and said knowingly, “Oh, you’ll like her, Julie.”

And I do.

 Even when sitting, listening, she’s the most active listener you’ll meet, though not in that disconnected Aunt Susie “mmhmm…mmhmmm..” kind of way. She buzzes and receives every word.

I felt like we were planning world domination when the hotel manager, PR director and Stacie and I huddled in a corner of the newly remodeled café. Our table seemed very VIP and in a very non-narrator, non feng shui move, my last-to-arrive status had me with my back to the room. So this is what the end feels like—my back to the room. In all my watching, and listening and talking at the Pfister, I’ve never seated myself with my back to the room.

Repeat after me: Change is good. Change is good. Change is good.

What offered the most comfort is, each time I opened my mouth to speak, Stacie had my words. I suspect Joe Kurth, our hotel manager, was really having déjà vu when she asked, in nearly the exact same phrasing, the same questions I did when I started. It wasn’t just asking about the rules or the limits. The morning was full of questions about possibilities. I wanted to point out the things I’d learned—stop by this corner on Tuesdays to see so and so. Make sure to eat the oatmeal. Ride the elevator in the opposite direction than you intend so you can ride it longer and chat with more people. Then, I realized, as I watched Stacie’s eyes constantly watching, her body positioned to see the entire café: she was already working; she’s already slipped right into the job.

Suddenly I felt like I was at Tony Soprano’s table, but instead of handing out orders, our inner circle of news, policies, information and process was much more ordinary. There aren’t a lot of rules. There’s one big general framework that we’ve been following and hopefully, been wrapping you—the blog readers—into. You create the stories, the feeling, the character. You have drinks here, you get married here, you stumble in after an amazing night on the town and wind down in the lobby here and you meet with clients right here on our couches. The best part of my role is realizing that the inner circle at the Pfister is you.

Promenading Through History

Everyone spotted them immediately (and I hope I don’t embarrass them by saying so). The young couple, and he matched her with a colorful vest and tie under his tuxedo, she was in the most amazing shade of teal green. Her dress fluttered against the floor and I was in complete agreement when the photographers posed them on the stairs to highlight its length and ability to cascade (it’s not too often in life you have the opportunity to wear a dress that “cascades” down the stairs).

It was prom night and after all the up-dos and gowns were assembled and the corsages (matched wonderfully, good job, boyfriends), the Pfister was the backdrop for the essential parental photo shoot. Two moms, armed with digital lenses, were squeezing this adorable young couple into every corner, every angle and every stairway they could find. The pair was truly promenading through the lobby. I was particularly fond of the impromptu shot taken on a luggage rack, squeezing the teens in close together. Camera clicked, photo taken, and the gentleman’s trusty cell phone came out and texting began. The scene was perfect.

I had to make sure my guess was right—the photographers were the mother of the girl and the mother of the boy, respectively. When I asked, they both agreed, though they took little time to talk to me as the students had just found a new perfect location and a photographer’s (mom’s) work is never done.

A few minutes later, more teen red-carpet readys came down the steps and now commenced group shots—with more moms.

I remember being photographed for my school dances—by both families. I remember feeling awkward and angry that it was taking so long. I remember wishing they’d be done with it already, the corsage was itchy, the boning in my dress felt strange and there was uncomfortable couples dancing (aka “swaying”) to be done. I smiled as I watched the young dates go through the same process—only the backdrop wasn’t a recently vacuumed living room, but rather a historic hotel. I wondered if I would have liked my photo sessions any better had they been at the Pfister. I wondered how many of the girls secretly thought “maybe this could work as a modeling shot?” I wonder how many will return, having made this memory. Tomorrow they won’t remember the hotel or the pictures as much as the dance, the dates, the snacks, the drama…but later, looking back, which part will stick? The grand staircases? Their mother’s excitement? The boyfriends may come and go, but these photos will be dragged out frequently. Their fiancé will see them; their children will take a look. The dresses won’t be in fashion anymore (though of course, once pulled out for their grandchildren, the style will surely have come around again), hairstyles will get a chuckle…but the Pfister will be the same.

I’m jealous of the girls who were being photographed on perhaps the most beautiful night of their lives so far. It was like a movie to watch them descend the stairs while the shutters clicked. I’m just as jealous of the mothers, though. They knew what they were doing. They know how to treasure a moment because they’ve had so many more than these young men and women. They didn’t feel awkward or embarrassed taking over the space. They didn’t mind telling the teens just where to stand. They knew just what they were capturing and years later, they’ll be thanked for it.

Anatomy of Giving

        My after work cocktail turned instantly into a lesson in event coordinating and I learned there’s no better school than the prep hour before a celebrity Blu-Tender event at the Pfister’s Blu. 

        I arrived very early and witnessed an incredible transformation. See, find I’m a part of many charity and fundraising events myself. I’ve been on the “Who has the nametags?” end of things, the “We need a 9-volt battery, stat” side of the event and the “What do you mean our host/guest of honor/celebrity’s flight didn’t come in?” fringe of fiasco. Now, here I was, witnessing the breakdown and build up of an event like a fly on the wall, ailment or maybe more like a monkey on the wall because I think my grinning and darting glances around the room at all the players and organizers weren’t too subtle.
        The ladies at the bar weren’t there for the autism event, they were simply sharing an after-work drink (and cholesterol numbers and worries, which I thought was perfectly acceptable as they sipped their red wine). The couple in the corner was enjoying the view and had bypassed the first few steps of having drink at Blu* and were easily engaging each other. The white-haired man in the pair talks with his hands and the story moves from wiggling fingers to double-handed expansive gestures which then incorporate his shoulders and he finishes with a head bob and a smile, purchase dancing through one fantastic tale of gardening. He moves on to the next topic, one hand paralyzed by the drink he holds, he executes the details with an overactive pointer finger. They are not there for the evening’s event. 

            The next couple that walks in is. And the next, and the next. The gorgeous pair in crisp summertime looks, egging on our warm weather and full of wishful thinking, sneaks in the back and the woman, tugging at the man, strides into the middle and looks cautiously around, asking “where are people?” and immediately answers her question with an outstretched arm and a dragged-along husband as she crosses the bar to the others who are now pouring in the main entrance to the bar. 
             There’s a singer. You’ll know her by her sparkle. Big jeweled, glittery studs adorn her cardigan and though she spends most of her prep time worrying about her three microphones, her voice, unamplified, booms through the room as she works the early crowd with jokes and pushes them to start drinking and donating. She’s a natural, and she’s not just ready to make a great evening, she’s clearly in it to fundraise. She’s got plans with the bartenders, the charity staff and more. She doesn’t just sing; she strikes a perfect chord with donors. 
            Men with pins start arriving with their wives. Lion’s Club, Rotary, American Legion and the blue autism support ribbon pin. Suit jackets and loafers and big grins and handshakes that come with pats on the back for free—the crowd is arriving. A battery for the microphone is found, the wireless mic is on the ready and the singer is threatening folks with it—order a drink (proceeds to charity) or she’ll be over to your table to incorporate you in her act. It’s ten minutes after the start time for the event and the population of the room has tripled. Ten minutes later, it’s a party. The bar top is full, literature on the cause is everywhere, organizers have passed out nametags and the bartending talent has arrived. This is the moment I love the most when it’s an event I’m organizing. It’s that moment where I step back and sigh and start having fun, that moment where it’s all worth it.
            I’m sure it will be worth it, too. The faces and eagerness of attendees were bright and ready. The cause was one everyone was ready to champion. The music, the drinks, the scene…all perfect. And just as I left them to their charitable partying, the sun made ready to set. 

*it should be mentioned, all people who come into Blu perform similarly. Step 1: take a seat at the windows; Step 2: watch out the windows to the point of nearly fully ignoring your compatriots because the view is so amazing (but that’s ok, they’re ignoring you for the same reason) and Step 3: after the scenic sensory overload hits, then begin relaxing and enjoying your company.

Kevin Bacon Meets his Match

In three characters or less, can you connect yourself to the popular actor Kevin Bacon? How about if I give you six characters? Or, we can go back to the standard version of the game (that was actually made into a board game, by the way) and ask that you use six movie actors and their films to draw a line between Kevin Bacon and what ever actor whose name you draw.

The Pfister should design such a board game. They can give Mr. Bacon a run for his money as more than A Few Good Men have passed through these hallowed halls. I’ve met people in the hotel who have had life long experiences here—beginning as a child, they have had traditions built around pizza, the holidays, the lions (now available as stuffed souvenirs in the new gift shop), teas and brunches. I’ve met those couples who share a regular date at the hotel or who met there. Others are introduced to the space through work, and name badge still attached testify “oh, yeah, I’m glad they booked the program here! I’ve never been here before!”

But in conjunction with my plein air tribute to AIR Shelby Keefe, I have to say, my favorite “Six Degrees of Pfister’” comes when the six degrees unite Milwaukee, past and present, local and newbie, to the hotel from outside its walls.

 Recently, I’ve met a young woman who just moved here from out of town. I invited her to join me at a dinner for a group of the oldest women in town—oldest women’s group in town, that is. Since 1894, the AAUW Milwaukee Branch has been creating historic moments and hosting speakers.

As this Newaukeean met with those steeped in the city’s history, recommendations for where to go, who to meet and what to join flew. As testimony to her own efforts at building roots, the Newaukeean explained she had participated with another professional organization she’d joined in town…at an event at Blu, “at the Pfister Hotel, have you ever been there?”

I couldn’t help but smile. I shared my Narrator card. We talked about the beauty of an event that starts during daylight hours and extends into evening and what happens to you when you witness that from 23 stories above the city. There are no Tremors up there, but great stories about times when Joan Rivers and the gang got Footloose. I explained my role and all that I’d seen so far in my tenure—I warned her “Many who report to you on Milwaukee are Flatliners, but don’t believe them. Sit at the Pfister and watch how much we love our community and how many people continue to return to it time and time again.”

I realized it’s not my new city anymore, it’s hers.

The Pfister has been my Kevin Bacon. Either someone says to me “hey, have you ever stopped for a drink at the Pfister? We were just there, it was great” and I have to explain it’s my home. Or, I become the lever for someone else, “You work with the Pfister? I was just invited to an event there and I’ve never been!” It’s the perfect connector in the city and it’s never had a flop. I dare you to play the game—are you at least three degrees from the Pfister Hotel? What’s amazing is, whether or not you’ve realized it yet, you are.

Plein Air Office Space

I try not to write about the staff. They’re an easy target—each is polished, ampoule professional and full of juicy bits of knowledge. They’re the eyes and ears. But we, the “in-residencers” are also staff in a way, but with the very specific charge to engage and make the hotel colorful.

So, what I’m trying to say is, pilule I have to tell you about hanging out with Shelby Keefe, the new Artist in Residence. A program different (and longer) than the narrator, Shelby’s work life will live at the Pfister for a full year. She has a giant, glass-walled fish bowl to work in and be ogled, which is why I thought it was charming when she said “Where is your office?”

And thus began the explanation of how I don’t have walls to paint or works of art to hang…and only for a minute did I feel a bit strange explaining my office was in the bar…because truly, it is. Have notebook will travel…but that’s not all that different from this woman who also conducts most of her art work in the outdoors.

Shelby was moving into her new studio and it’s a world apart from the life Katie brought to the space. You’ll notice immediately the change in subject matter and color. Shelby chose the same direction for her easel and stool, however, and I wondered if it was naturally feng shui or just the most convenient corner of the space.

What you need to know about Shelby, however, is how ready she is for this gig. She’ll be there late. She’ll be there often, she’s not afraid of the people, she can’t wait for them (or, so she thought until she gulped and realized the very next day they’d be arriving). Her work is full of color and the day we chatted her shirt matched at least three of the paintings on the wall, which made it feel like when I stepped in to introduce myself amid her hammering and unpacking, I had fallen into a color palette. She laughed at what I noticed, given what I suspect was a talented artist’s version of “oh, this old thing?”

She’s eager. She’s also ready to show you what her art means; she was bursting with energy as she explained how she enjoys people watching her art demos and what her performance painting would be like. (I got to see the special brushes. I’d say you could be jealous, but you can see them too—just stop in her studio).

Shelby was a lot like me. I felt that vibe, that readiness. I hope she knows just what she’s gotten into, because what she’ll get out of it is more than she’ll ever know.

In honor of Shelby, who I found has a friend in common with me—another unique performer in the Milwaukee area—I think I may adopt some plein air writing to match her painting. I end up having the best conversations with guests on the elevators and in the parking garage, why not out in front of the hotel on warm spring days? Come find me there next week and we’ll capture the open air joy of the Pfister and its amazing and colorful staff, and welcome, Shelby!

Scaling Forward

I’m a Libra. Some of you may have already guessed as much. One of our best qualities is indecision. Our symbol is the scales because we try to be fair and just.

I was happy to share indecision Thursday with my colleagues at the Pfister as we looked at the six finalists for the Narrator position to begin in May.

Choosing your replacement is a difficult task. Many of us would choose…well, medicine us.

But I’ve heard, and believe it’s true, that “if you’re not replaceable, you’re not promotable.” But of course, this is where our debate formed. Who is promotable? All of the candidates were writers, storytellers and engaging people, illness in a word, all could narrate. Who should get promoted to Narrator, however, was the big question.

There were so many amazing things to see and read. I loved the videos of the candidates, not just for their film quality (thanks April and Pete; and by the way candidates, they made you look fantastic) but because for weeks, we’ve only known these people on paper. We’ve conjured images of them in the lobby, we’ve envisioned them drinking one of Val’s bloody Marys, retelling (or trying to) her amazing recipe. We’ve seen them on the threshold of a summer wedding gala, documenting it all.

But we never saw them in person. Here they were, up close, chattering, nervous, excited and to their credit…bursting with ideas. That alone became a fantastic qualifier for each of them. Do we choose based on who is bringing profile-writing experience, literary experience or pure unadulterated energy to the position? Or should we evaluate based on how they talked about the hotel? Do they like the art, the history, the beauty or the things it houses?

I think the committee members should each be responsible for a blog too, or we should have been filmed (I’m cringing as I say this… unsure if I’ll keep my new friends when this gets published). Facial reactions, oohs and ahhs, “great idea” “I didn’t think of that” “oh, I like her” and more resonated from our select corner of the newly remodeled café where Starbucks flowed among us but the really energy came from drinking in the vibrant options before us.

We just couldn’t choose.

That’s a compliment, candidates.

For me, listening to their plans and ideas was rejuvenating and hard—there’s so much left to tell and my time is growing short. That’s the beauty of it though, there’s no shortage of stories. The Pfister provides: in every guest a novel, in every event a sense of scene.

We did choose. We chose well; and we considered the charming smile, the great colors, the wonderfully themed sample piece, the pictures, the youth, the wisdom, the experience, the salesmanship, the recommendations, the effervescence, the technology, the reading list, the Pfister favorites, the drive, the energy…the embodiment of a Narrator.

This Libra is proud to say her scales of indecision, out of balance all afternoon, finally teetered into agreement. Soon, you too will meet our Narrator and see just how decisively she will compliment the hotel and document its story.