How to be a lady

Elyse is only four years old and she’s sitting in the Pfister lobby with her grandparents, ambulance Irene and Keith Wells, learning “how to be a lady.” (Some of us are 40 and may or may not be clear on the details of lady-dom, but that’s another blog entirely.)

The Wells are from Sydney, Australia, but are here for their annual visit to the Midwest to visit their Chicago-based son, recipe daughter-in-law and two granddaughters. They brought Elyse, their eldest granddaughter, to Milwaukee via train for a two-day get-away.

Although staying at a nearby hotel, they chose the Pfister as their locale for brunch and lady lessons.

So what does it mean to be a lady?

“It means no feet on chairs. Sitting nicely in chairs. Not talking loudly. Not running in the halls. And keeping our fingers clean,” says Irene.

(Phew! Maybe there’s hope for me yet. I seem to do most of these things on a regular basis.)

But despite the “rules” involved in acting like a lady, the rest of their visit to Brew City is spontaneous and free spirited. The trio have enjoyed their time, going on “discovery walks” where they explore Downtown at their leisure.

So far, they have discovered, aptly, the Discovery World Museum, as well at the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, a Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra concert and the lakefront’s War Memorial. Consequently, Elyse is referring to her sausages as “soldiers.”

She is also quite fond of the “angels” on the ceiling mural in the Pfister’s lobby.

The Wells are in the United States for a month. Their son and his family visit them every year for a month as well.

“We do OK. We get to see each other quite a bit considering the distance,” says Irene. “And there’s always Skype.”

Keith and Irene’s son came to the United States on business 10 years ago. He met the woman who would later become his wife at church. However, his first visit to the U.S. was at age 15 when Keith and Irene took him to see the Sears Tower in, coincidentally, Chicago.

“Little did we know 20 years later our son would return and get married,” says Keith, a now-retired engineer who traveled to Milwaukee in 1992 on business to study the control systems at Rockwell Automation.

Keith went on to ask me a bunch of questions I could not answer about the Rockwell Automation four-sided clock, called the Allen Bradley Clocktower as well as “The Polish Moon” to locals.

I told him even though I could see the clock from my front porch, I had to consult with Google to answer his inquiries. Keith, I hope you’re reading this.

His first question was whether or not the clock was still the largest in the world. I knew it was not, but could not remember the details and rediscovered it was the largest in the western hemisphere until Abraj Al Bait Towers was built a couple of years ago in Saudi Arabia.

He also asked me the dimensions of the clock tower, which I did not know, either. But, alas, Google later told me it’s 281 feet tall.

Keith didn’t seem too bothered by my lack of information. I offered to look it up on my phone immediately, but he chuckled and shook his head softly. Elyse climbed on his lap and rested her head on is chest. He took a sip of his orange juice.

“I’m living the easy life now,” he says.

New Orleans is in the house

I love New Orleans. I love the food, health the music, the architecture, but most of all, I love the resilience of the city. From a fire in 1788 that burned down the French Quarter to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, New Orleaneans are survivors. And this spirit of overcoming hardship combined with the rich history, Cajun/French/Creole/Haitan influences and indulgent decadence of the culture creates a fascinating, generic free-spirited group of people.

So when I was sitting at the Lobby Bar one Friday evening and overheard that the gentlemen next to me were from NOLA, I was ready to throw down mint juleps like we were on Bourbon Street for Mardi Gras.

Or, at the very least, sip a Miller Lite and listen to their stories.

David and Jay came to Milwaukee on business, treatment specifically to visit Johnson Controls. It was not their first time in Milwaukee, but their first stay at the Pfister.

“I like the ambiance here,” says David. “The people are great.”

Jay has lived in New Orleans for 14 years and David is a lifer.

“I’ve lived in New Orleans for 54 years, my entire life,” says David. “Born and raised.”

I ask them what it was like to live in a place so deeply affected by weather. High-profile hurricanes and malfunctioning levees have ravaged the city throughout history and some now wonder why anyone would live so close to a large, moody body of water.

“Well, you could freeze to death here,” says Jay.

Touche.

“I would be more afraid of tornadoes, like in Oklahoma,” says David. “In New Orleans, you have plenty of time to get out.”

Both David and Jay lost a home to Katrina. Today, they have new homes in the city. Jay lives in suburban Old Metairie and David lives in Lake Vista, about 100 yards from Lake Pontchartrain.

Both of them spend time in the French Quarter, which is arguably the heart of New Orleans but certainly the heart of the city’s tourism. David says he goes to the Quarter frequently, about once a week, but Jay, who still has young children, makes it there about once a month.

For visitors, they recommended Restaurant Stella, Bourbon House and Dickie Brennans, the birthplace of the flaming bananas foster dessert. For drinks and jazz, they like the Davenport Lounge inside the Ritz Carlton, the Absinthe House (also known as “The Pirate Bar”) for something different, and the Carousel Bar inside the Hotel Monteleone which features a vintage, 360-degree rotating, real carousel as the main bar.

“They should put a carousel bar in the Pfister,” says David.

Where’s the suggestion box around here?

I then ask them if Mardi Gras, which brings in hundreds of thousands of tourists to the city every February and March, gets annoying to the natives. They both say no.

“It’s a part of life, a part of the culture,” says Jay.

Jay participates every year in a parade with a group called the Krewe of Endymion, one of only three Super Krewes involved in Mardi Gras. A Super Krewe is determined by celebrity Grand Marshals for their spectacular floats. Endymion’s parade is also the largest of the 80-plus parades that take place during the celebration.

As a member of the krewe, Jay has to “mask” (wear a costume, including a mask that covers his face) at all times. The mask changes every year, depending on the theme of the parade, but are always made of a durable material in case someone throws something at your face.

“You have to be masked or you’ll get in trouble. No one can know who you are, it’s part of the Mardi Gras tradition,” says Jay.

A birthday celebration sparks good conversation with a banker

During my first month as the Pfister Narrator, I have already spent a lot of time hanging out at the Lobby Bar, Cafe and Blu, talking to guests and hearing what brought them to the hotel.

Recently, for the first time, I went to Mason Street Grill. It was my birthday and it seemed like a fun, celebratory place. Plus, a couple I interviewed for my second Pfister blog said it had the best happy hour in the city.

I do not take such words lightly. And so I went.

I ended up not taking advantage of the great happy hour deals which offer everything on the bar menu for $5, but sat in the restaurant side instead. You know, ‘cuz I was the birthday girl and all.

I’m not one to photograph my food for social media, but I was in cell phone shutterbug mode during my entire meal. The lobster and salmon were incredible and the barbecue shrimp appetizer – which was recommended to me by former Pfister narrator Jenna Kashou – looked like an art piece. The drizzle design reminded me of an intricate henna design an Indian bride might have adorned on her hands or feet the night before her wedding.

Somehow, after my meal, I found a small window between gluttony and food coma, and struck up a conversation with Mason Street regular and another happy hour enthusiast, Tracy Meeks.

Me: So what brings you here tonight?

Tracy: I’m here for happy hour. I love the food and the drinks here. And the music. I come once or twice a week.

Me: Do you work Downtown? (He’s wearing a very nice suit and tie.)

Tracy: I work at Seaway Bank.

Me: I know where that is. Next door to the Fondy Market, on Fond du Lac. So did you move here from Chicago two years ago when Seaway took over the space? (It was formerly Liberty Bank.)

Tracy: You know your history. Yes, I did move here two years ago from Chicago when the bank opened.

Me: How long have you been in banking?

Tracy: Since 1989.

Me: So why should someone consider banking at Seaway?

Tracy: It’s a small community bank. We’re friendly. We know our customers. And you will always get a person on the phone.

Me: So do you ever go to the Fondy Market?

Tracy: Every Saturday in the summertime.

Me: You a vegetable person?

Tracy: Yes. I love squash, cabbage.

Me: Do you like to cook?

Tracy: I do. I like to make lots of things. Especially crab cakes with asparagus and a glass of beer. Not wine. I’m a beer drinker. And I like Scotch.

Me: How was your transition, moving from Chicago to Milwaukee?

Tracy: It’s been good, Milwaukee’s nice. I call it a very northern suburb of Chicago. I love my lake view here in Milwaukee. I love the people of Milwaukee. It’s a northern city with southern hospitality. It’s a diamond in the rough. A lot of people who live in Milwaukee don’t know what Milwaukee really has to offer but those of us who come in from the outside really see it.

Me: What do you miss about Chicago?

Tracy: I still go there often. I miss the night life. Chicago is a fun city to enjoy yourself. But in Milwaukee you can really relax. And there’s good music here, too.

Me: What else do you like to do when you’re not banking?

Tracy: I like running, riding my bike at the lake. I like music a lot. Jazz, Blues. And I like to vacation. I’m not much of a sightseer. I like islands and resorts where I can lie on the beach and relax. I also have a 19-year-old daughter who’s a college student in Iowa. She’s staying with me this summer. She’s out with her friends tonight. And so I’m here.

Me: Do you like sports?

Tracy: I love sports. I’m a Bears fan, of course, but I bought season tickets to the Bucks. Great season. Ended too soon, but still a great season.

Me: Where did you grow up?

Tracy: I’m from Waterloo, Iowa.

Me: Do you still have family there?

Tracy: I was just in Iowa two weeks ago for Mother’s Day. Saw my mother and my grandmother and had some good home cooking.

Me: What kind of home cooking?

Tracy: Soul food. Duck, turkey. A lot of greens. Dressing.

Me: What’s one thing your mom or grandmother taught you that you’ve carried through life?

Tracy: Be respectful to your elders.

Me: What is one of your life mantras?

Tracy: Get out and have fun. You only live once. You might as well enjoy it.

Conversing with Joe about Latin American music, Playboy Bunnies and the days of yore

“I’ve learned a lot from people, thumb ” says Joseph Charney, who has been a regular at the Pfister since the ‘50s and still visits at least three times a week.

Charney, who is semi-retired from the real estate business, is usually at the Lobby Bar, drinking a coffee and reading his paper. But the drink and the news are just time-fillers between conversations.

“Wisdom does not come easily and wise people always look for good conversation,” says Charney. “When you’re living, pharm you’re always learning. It doesn’t stop in college or after college.”

If the Pfister awarded honorary degrees in conversation, Charney would deserve a doctorate. He has clearly met many, many people over the years inside the hotel and has forged long-term friendships with the concierge and bartenders.

“Have you seen her plaque?” he asks me, nodding at the bartender.

“What plaque?” I ask.

“Valerie,” he says. “Where’s your plaque?”

“It’s over there,” she says, pointing to a corner.

“It’s no good over there. Show her your plaque,” he says.

I look at the plaque. It’s a Best Bloody Mary In The City type plaque.

“Nice plaque,” I say, then turn to Charney. “You ever drink cocktails?”

“I’m not interested in drinking,” he says. “Until after 6 o’clock.”

“What are your favorite cocktails?” I ask.

“In essence, it could be anything from an Old Fashioned to a mint julep in summer. It varies so much. It’s what hits you at the time. I’m not one of those people that has a set way of eating. ‘It’s Tuesday and therefore I’m eating chicken.’ No, I’m not that way. Whatever comes up, comes up,” he says.

Charney is the same way with people. Whoever sits next to him at the bar is a candidate for conversation. He tells me about a couple who were at the hotel waiting on the completion of a railroad car they purchased.

He also spoke of a man who had recently switched careers.

“He had been working for a great diamond conglomerate, and they were always watching everyone. They would watch the person sent out to do the job and another person was watching that person. It was a very secretive corporation and they were rather stringent, always checking everyone all the time, and it got on his nerves and he finally left the company,” says Charney.

The man went to work for a large beer company and told Joe he had just returned from Russia, where he bought some breweries.

“Beer? In Russia? I thought they only made vodka,” says Charney, chuckling. “But even more interesting is he told me the hairs on the back of his neck weren’t raised up anymore because there wasn’t anyone watching him all the time.”

Charney grew up in Whitefish Bay and Shorewood. After he graduated from high school he went on a work study program overseas and traveled through Europe where he developed a deep appreciation for art and architecture.

He started coming to the Pfister in his twenties.

“I enjoyed the place immensely. They had real musicians rather than DJs. The Crown Room was on top of the hotel. I saw an up-and-coming Joan Rivers. And Jack Jones. So many great singers and performers. It was glorious,” he says.

Charney got married in the later sixties – his wife is now deceased – and the two often ate in the English Tea Room. Charney has one son who was married at the Pfister’s Imperial Room a few years ago.

“It was beautifully done. It was impeccable,” he says.

A couple hundred guests came from all over the country and they were surprised by the sophistication of Milwaukee, the beauty of the Pfister Hotel and the size of Lake Michigan.

“‘I thought you lived on a lake?’ a guest said. “But you live on an ocean!’ They couldn’t get over that they couldn’t see the other side of the lake from the shoreline,” says Charney.

Before Ben Marcus bought the Pfister Hotel in 1962, Joe tells me it was operated by a couple of businessmen from New York. Apparently they asked Joe, who was known for his savvy business practices, for entertainment ideas.

“The winter was terrible that year and I got a call from them and the snow was coming down and they said, ‘what can we do to bring people into this hotel and to liven it up?’”

Because Latin American music was very popular at the time, Joe suggested they go to Mexico and hire a great band with a dynamic lead singer and bring them back to the hotel. So they did.

“The group came here and the biggest snow storm hit the city you ever saw and nobody came to the first show,” he says.

A week later he got another call from the owners.

“We don’t have enough waitresses! We don’t have enough bartenders! The place is mobbed!” they said.

At one point in his life, Charney says he was offered the job as head of entertainment at a hotel in the Bahamas. He declined because he already had a successful real estate business as well as a family.

“It turns out they then sold that hotel in the Bahamas to a man. His name was Hugh Hefner. That was the time of the Playboy plane and the bunnies and he would take his staff and clientele and fly them down to his hotel in the Bahamas. Guess I missed out on that,” Charney says, smiling.

Then he stops talking and looks at me for a few seconds.

“You are going to be awed by the people who show up in this place,” he says.

I look at him for a few seconds. “I already am,” I say.

Jackie and Jim’s last hurrah

The Pfister has always served a special role in Jackie and Jim Green’s life. Mainly, pilule as a place for them to escape their kids.

The Greens live in Arlington Heights, a suburb just outside Chicago, and they have four children – two girls and two boys – ages 22, 21, 20 and 19. They are all in college – or about to attend college – in the Midwest.

I ask them what it was like when they were all teenagers.

“It was horrible, cialis ” she says. “The girls suck up a lot, they know how to play it. Actually, our two nicest kids are the ones we never hear from. Well, unless they need money. And our youngest – we can’t wait until she leaves. She’s a real pain in the neck.”

I tell her my kids are 10, 10 and 9 and I’m starting to feel a little unsettled about the years ahead.

“I wish I could tell you it’s going to be great,” she says, sipping her drink. “Sorry.”

“It’s refreshing to talk to someone who’s honest about parenting,” I say. “And I’m officially terrified.”

“I’m pretty realistic,” she says, laughing. “We’re actually here because they’re all coming home for the summer on Wednesday. This is our last hurrah.”

The Greens plan to go on a family vacation to Florida this summer. But they’re leaving two days before them to get in some kid-free time first.

Jackie and Jim first heard about the Pfister from friends who had their wedding reception in the Rouge Ballroom.

“How long ago was that?” Jackie asks Jim.

“100 years ago?” he says.

“25 years ago,” she tells me. “They told us about it and said we should try it. By the way, your dress is really cute.”

“Thanks,” I say. “My coworker said it looked like something Mrs. Roper from ‘Three’s Company’ would wear.”

“Oh, no! I noticed it right away and thought it was cute. And then I saw your face and I thought, ‘How do I know that girl?’ and then I remembered you from my iPad! I read about you on the Pfister web page on the car ride up here and then: here you are,” she says.

The Greens come to the Pfister twice a year, usually in the spring and the fall, and they spend most of their time inside the hotel. However, one year they went to see Aerosmith, and the night of our interview they were going to Ward’s House of Prime because they had a Groupon.

But most of their weekends are centered around the on-site bars and restaurants.

“We plan our entire day around going to Blu. If you get there too late, you can’t get a seat. You need to get there when it opens. At 5,” she says.

“Go early, stay late?” I ask.

“Exactly!”

The Greens have a lot of Pfister memories. Jackie celebrated her 50th birthday at the hotel. They also came last January when a burst pipe led to flooding in some rooms, including theirs.

“So we hung out in this bar for six hours until we could get into our room. It was crazy. It was fun. We love this bar,” she says.

I ask her if she’s enjoying her sea breeze cocktail.

“It’s very good, but have you tried the Bloody Mary?” she asks me.

“No, but you are the second person today to tell me I have to,” I say.

“It’s amazing. Wait, I have a picture of it, on my phone. You have to see this,” she says, scrolling through the photo log on her cell phone. “Is it sad when you’re showing someone a picture of a drink on your phone?”

“Nah.”

“Oh, here it is!” she looks at it fondly. “The cheese. The pickles. The sausage!”

I like these people. They are easy to talk to; they are real. And I’m always happy when Chicagoans see beauty in Milwaukee. Certainly there are attractive old hotels in The Windy City: The Palmer House, The Drake. So why The Pfister?

“It’s the history. We love it here,” she say. “It’s the only reason we come to Milwaukee. Well, other than to get away from our kids.”

Seven sisters, seven crazy hats and one Irish blessing

It took me a Google search to remember this, pharm but “seven sisters” is the common name for the Pleiades, a star cluster named for mythological characters. Last night, I witnessed a version of this astronomical phenomenon when I walked into Blu and immediately was drawn to the seven Murphy sisters who were clustered in a cozy corner section of the lounge, shining.

Susan, Pat, Ann, Mary, Rita, Ruth and the “baby,” Jane, hadn’t been together in the same space for two years and they were clearly enjoying each other’s company.

There was so much laughing and talking and interrupting, sildenafil I imagined it must have resembled their dinner table growing up decades ago. Except for Jane (who will later bestow an honor upon me), I can’t even tell you who said what: there was so much banter that it melded together into one collective Murphy sister conversation and laugh fest.

Every two years, the sisters meet in the city of one sibling and catch up, reminisce and wear crazy hats. (More on this later.) This time, it was taking place at the Pfister. The sisters rented two adjoining rooms with a salon and they paired up in beds with their childhood sleeping partner. This meant the youngest who, as the seventh and the “odd Murphy out,” slept on a rollaway bed.

“Well, it makes sense because she was always the one in the crib,” says a sister.

In three short days, they would again part for another couple years and that reminded me of this Irish blessing:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Although they are a mix of nationalities, the sisters identify with their Irish roots, particularly because of their Irish last name. Jane’s oldest daughter married a full-blooded Irishman and her other daughter lived in Ireland, so she considers herself more Irish than the others.

I told them I am not even one percent Irish, but because my name’s Molly and my beer of choice is Guinness, I’ve often considered myself an honorary Irish gal.

“You’re in!” declares Jane.

“Hooray!” I cheer.

The sisters started the tradition of the biannual reunion more than a decade ago when they got together for their dad’s 80th birthday.

Their dad – to whom they lovingly refer as “not much of a speller” and the reason why they all have such simple names – passed away a couple of years ago, but their mom, who will turn 88 next month, still lives in Racine.

The family grew up in Racine, but now live all over the country, from California to New Mexico to Illinois.

The sisters also have four brothers.

When they were young, their dad owned a grocery store, which helped immensely with expenses, and later he owned a meat market, but they also remember their mom ordering four gallons of milk every other day and routinely baking four loaves of bread at a time.

“We were never rich but we we never went without. Dad always made sure the house was big enough for everyone,” says a sister.

There is a 16-year age gap between the oldest and the youngest sister and because of the age difference, half the sisters grew up in a different generation. At one time, the range of ages might have distanced the sisters, but today it just enriches their perspective.

And like all siblings, even though they lived under the same roof, they interpret family events in completely different ways.

“It’s fascinating,” says a sister.

Within five minutes, I felt temporarily absorbed into the large clan of ladies. And because I grew up with only one sister, I had a zillion questions.

Me: Did you share clothes? 

Sister: No, she stole my clothes. (Points at Jane.)

Me: How many bathrooms were in your house?

A few sisters in unison: Three! (Phew!)

Me: So Jane, as the youngest, were you spoiled or ignored?

A sister: She was spoiled. 

Another sister: She was fussy. We used to ask our mom to put her in her room at meal time.

Jane: I was neglected and abused consistently.

A sister: You got ice cream for breakfast!

But despite growing up in a very large family, and all of the sibling camaraderie, most of the sisters went on to have no more than two children.

“We did a lot of mothering growing up. Especially the first four of us,” says a sister.

“I changed her diaper more than anyone,” says another sister, pointing at Jane.

On the first night of their reunions, the sisters always have an opening ceremony where they “honor their elders.”

And then there’s the hats.

The now ornately-decorated hats started out years ago as naked straw hats. When they’re apart, the sisters add adornments and, when they reunite, they explain the new additions. Basically, the hat decorations represent changes, achievements or struggles in their lives and serve as a vehicle to share information that might have been missed or glossed over during phone or email communications.

Plus, the hats are really fun to wear. Especially when wearing pajamas and drinking wine.

One time, the ladies let their brothers attend a reunion. The guys loved it – they even decorated cowboy hats to be a part of the hat ceremonies – but they’re most likely not going to be invited again.

“They’re jealous, but we gotta keep it a sister thing,” says a sister.

“A sister is as close as you can get to anyone,” another sister chimes. “It’s a true friendship.”

 

The Pfister Five: Meet international model Raengel Solis

Welcome to a new series on the blog called “The Pfister Five.” Occasionally, order I’ll post a five-question interview with a guest. To kick this off, here’s a chat with Raengel Solis, an international model who stayed at the Pfister recently. 

Raengel was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. Eight years ago, she moved to New York City and three years ago to Miami, medicine where she works as a model for the Home Shopping Network and on Telemundo Miami.

“I love Miami,” she says. “Winter’s just not for me.”

Now fluent in both Spanish and English, Raengel moved to the United States knowing very little English, but learned the language at Worcester Community College in New York and through her job working at a busy supermarket.

“It wasn’t hard for me to learn English. Once I put my mind to something, I do it,” says Raengel.

Molly: What brings you to the Pfister?

Raengel: I am here modeling summer clothes for Kohl’s Department Store.

Just before I came here, I was modeling for Queen Latifah. She has a line of clothing called “Queen Collection.” I was so excited to meet her and she is the best famous person I have ever met. She is the same in real life as she is on TV and movies. She is not a diva.

Molly: How long have you been a model and what do you like about it?

Raengel: I have been a model for 15 years and I love it. I like the feelings I have when walking down the catwalk. I have a very fun life. I get to travel all over the world: Spain, London, Milwaukee. (She doesn’t even chuckle when she says “Milwaukee” after the two Fashion Capitals of the World. For this, I like her even more and mentally make her an Honorary Cheesehead. Actually, with her stunning looks, she’s probably one of the few people who could truly rock one of those foam cheese hats. But back to the interview…)

Molly: You were born and raised in the Dominican Republic. What is one thing about your home country that most people don’t know?

Raengel: The people are really fun. And they are very caring. Here, if you live in an apartment, you might not know your neighbors, but there, if you have a problem, you knock on your neighbor’s door and they will help you.

Molly: What are your thoughts on fashion and shopping?

Raengel: I love fashion, like all models. And I like Prada, Dolce. But it doesn’t have to be expensive for me to like it. Fashion is about personal style, mixing it together, not matching.

I don’t like shopping at all. I get tired of taking clothes on and off all day as a model, so I don’t like to go to malls with my friends even though they always go. I only shop online.

Molly: What is one thing you want to do during your lifetime?

Raengel: My mom got a fever when she was six years old and she lost her hearing. She has been to doctors but they could not help her. I would like her to see more doctors. I want her to hear my voice someday.

Talking New York City, identical twins and happy hours with the McDonoughs

It was clear Mary and Tim McDonough were having Date Night at the Lobby Bar. Snuggled closely on the couch in front of the fire, rx Mary cradled a glass of Shiraz and Tim held a Sambuca with three coffee beans. Engrossed in quiet conversation, they paused only to laugh.

Of course, the only element missing from this romantic scene was a complete stranger with a serious case of the chatties. And so I provided that.

“Hi, I’m the new Pfister Narrator. Can I pull up a chair?”

They might have politely told me to get lost, generic but when I explained what I was doing, Mary’s entire face lit up.

“We love the Pfister!”

Their love affair with the hotel began 25 years ago, when they were first married and came as guests of Mary’s parents.

“Has it really been 25 years?” Mary asks Tim.

“It has,” he says, smiling, and then to me: “Our 25-year wedding anniversary is in October.”

Fulfilling Guido Pfister’s vision for the hotel he would plan but not see finished in 1893, the McDonoughs treat the commons areas of the hotel as Milwaukee’s living room, regularly entertaining groups of couples they recruit to join them from all around the city.

The McDonoughs’ visits to the Pfister ceased for a stretch of time during The Baby Years. The couple has three children: twin boys who are now 22 and a daughter, 19.

All of the children play piano and so when they got a little older, it was a special treat to visit the lobby and listen to long-time pianist Dr. Jeffrey Hollander.

“We would give him $5 and request ‘Clair de Lune’ – the kids loved ‘Oceans 11’ – or our wedding song, ‘Love Is Here to Stay,’” said Mary, her sparkly eyes softening with wistfulness.

Tim took their daughter to dinner dances at the Pfister when she was a little girl and they celebrated, with Mary’s parents, their sons’ high school graduation at the hotel in 2009.

The boys have since graduated from college and plan to move to New York which, coincidentally, is where Tim and Mary met a lifetime ago.

“We met in a bank and the rest is history,” Tim says.

The opening of the Mason Street Grill was significant to the McDonoughs’ social life and it now officially has their favorite happy hour in the city. They often share small plates of food or split a hamburger.

“We’ve explored many of the happy hours in the city and Mason Street’s the best,” says Mary. ”And we love coming Downtown.”

Tim owns a printing company on the far West Side and often works until 6, so the fact that Mason Street’s happy hour goes until 7 is particularly appealing. They now come about twice a month.

“It’s our little get away,” says Mary. “It feels like New York. And we love New York, because we lived there, and now our boys are going to live there.”

Their sons, who are identical twins, plan to work for different companies but both on Wall Street. One will do equity research and the other investment banking. Parenting twins, it sounds, is a truly unique experience.

“I could text them the same question and they could be in two separate places and I will get almost identical responses. It’s crazy,” says Mary. “And yet, even though they are identical, they are really different, too.”

“The hardest thing about being a mother to identical twins is there isn’t a moment you aren’t feeling a little bit worrisome for the other twin. It’s not the same as siblings or ‘Irish twins’ (siblings born in the same calendar year). Whether they play basketball or golf there’s always one that’s going to do better, even if it’s minuscule, there’s always a comparison even though you don’t want there to be.”

There’s a few seconds of silence. Mary takes a sip of her wine. I absorb the aftermath of her honesty, something beautiful and rare in the world of motherhood.

“I hope I did a good job with them,” Mary goes on to say, speaking from a place of love and doubt that every mother harbors.

Tim chuckles and says softly, “Oh, you have.”

Although the McDonoughs have never stayed overnight at the Pfister, it might be in their future plans. If their daughter gets married someday, they hope to have the ceremony or reception at the Pfister.

And there’s that 25 year anniversary coming up …

The three-hour Milwaukeean

After I overheard – OK, online totally nosily dipped into – Mario Guerra’s cell phone conversation when he was sitting next to me at the Lobby Bar, I gleaned he had recently moved to Milwaukee.

“So how long have you lived in Milwaukee?” I asked Guerra, who was wearing a nice suit and drinking a Bud Light.

“About three hours, click ” he said.

That explains the Bud Light in MillerCoors Country, I guess.

But really, this was the perfect opening to what would become an engaging, two-hour conversation about Milwaukee, family, disappointment, successes and what led Guerra to the Pfister Hotel.

“Why am I at the Pfister? Because it’s the coolest hotel in Milwaukee. It’s Old Milwaukee, search ” says Guerra, who actually grew up in Milwaukee and moved away in 1989.

“When I was in high school, I played here for various MPS (Milwaukee Public School) functions and I was always in awe. My job takes me all over the world, India, Australia, London, and there is something about this hotel.”

The Pfister, in fact, was a beacon on the horizon for Guerra when he first moved back – about 180 minutes before our conversation. He had been living in Los Angeles, working for Prudent Technologies, and when the company signed a Midwest contract, he was the only employee who would even consider moving to Brew City.

Once he left Mitchell International Airport, while driving his rental car to the Pfister, it really started to sink in. He was living in Milwaukee again.

“I was like, ‘I’m really living here now. Ahhhh.’ And then I showed up at the Pfister Hotel and life is good,” he says.

Guerra was born at St. Mary’s in Milwaukee, attended Roosevelt Middle School and the Milwaukee High School of the Arts, and left in 1989 to attend the University of Texas.

A musician who plays keyboards, drums and “everything,” Guerra was in many bands. While in college, he worked in a dueling piano bar as a pianist. He also worked as a DJ in a strip club.

Guerra had big plans to be a rock star but decided to let go of the dream after choking down his thousandth packet of Ramen noodles.

“You ever been broke? It sucks,” he says.

Guerra also joined the Marines and served time in Afghanistan. Although he firmly believes in his mission as a Marine, Guerra suffered during his tour. He spent time recovering from emotional trauma in a military hospital and found out his wife had died in a car accident.

Today, Guerra is raising his 12-year-old son alone. The child is in California with his grandparents until Guerra can secure housing and determine where to send him to school.

“I had a great experience at MPS. I’m not sure where to send my son, though. He’s really into sports. I was more of an art kid,” says Guerra.

But for tonight, and a few more nights, Guerra’s happy just to be a resident of the Pfister Hotel.

“I have a lot of possibilities, but I just got here a few hours ago. Right now, I’m just trying to figure out where I’m having my next cocktail,” he says.

Guerra said he missed the food in Milwaukee the most  – specifically the barbecue at Speed Queen and Brady Street’s Emperor of China.

“Their fried rice is to die for,” he says.

But coming “home” to Milwaukee hasn’t been easy in some ways. The freeways are reconfigured. Some of his favorite places like the Brady Street Pharmacy are gone. (Guerra was, however, happy to hear that the iconic, quirky shop Art Smart’s Dart Mart & Juggling Emporium was still open on Brady Street.)

For Guerra, like all of us, life has taken some unexpected twists.

“I’m in my forties and I really don’t know everything I thought I would,” he says. “But I’m here, in the awesome Pfister, and I’m at a place in my career where I can be a little more funky. Finally sing the songs I want to sing.”

The Hello Campaign

Hello and goodbye: two of the most powerful words in the English language. Everything begins and, case as we all know from life and perhaps the words of Robert Frost, nothing gold can stay.

Hotels are the epitome of greetings and farewells. Guests arrive brimming with excitement and anticipation and then, a day or a weekend or a week later, pharm they put their belongings back into their suitcase. And they say goodbye.

This week, I got to say hello to my position as Narrator at the Pfister Hotel. I cannot fully express how meaningful this is to me. I am filled with excitement and ideas and yet, cialis also a little nervousness, hoping I can splatter-paint new life onto an already vibrant scene.

In the last couple of days, I have also had the chance to say hello to so many people at the hotel, including guests, staff and Pfister artist-in-residence Stephanie Barenz, with whom I look forward to working in a variety of creative endeavors.

Over the years, I have had the chance to greet so many interesting and inspiring people through my job at OnMilwaukee.com. I have also said hello to two sons, one who I traveled to Guatemala to greet and one who I met in the hospital, still connected to me.

I said hello to a partner who makes me feel alive and his beautiful daughter who sweetens my life.

This week, I also said goodbye. Over lunch on Saturday, I hugged farewell previous Narrator Jenna Kashou who, after a successful six-month tenure, passed me the torch (in the form of the Pfister Hotel parking pass).

Jenna said she was excited for me, but she was going to miss spending time in the hotel and seeing the staff and guests on a regular basis. I get this.

I have said good-bye to so many people and pets and things, including a parent, a 13-year marriage, a bandana-necked Chocolate lab with peace signs for eyes and – not in the same category but still – a beat-up, burgundy Cadillac Deville that was the first car I ever loved.

My father was an extremely nostalgic person. He often made the joke that he pined for events before they happened. I don’t want to be like this, but I did inherit the potential to be. So I am going to focus on the hellos even though I admit I have already acknowledged how quickly this time will fly by.

But I have six months before I have to proverbially pack up my Pfister suitcase. And in the meantime, I plan to savor every day of this experience and say hello to as many people as possible. So today, I am officially starting my “hello campaign” to the stunning Pfister Hotel and to its guests from around the world.

Aloha. Salut. Konnichiwa. Guten Tag. Ellohay. Hola. Namaste. Shalom. Dia duit. Buon giorno. Witaj. Jambo. Tja. Sawa dee-ka. Xin chào.

And, of course, as it reads in the Pfister hotel lobby, Salve.