Peter’s Perfectly Pious Pius Pitch

They say that coffee is for closers. I say that cocktails are for charmers.

My Wednesday night plans this week involved meeting up at Blu with a group of writers to chat into the night like some sort of Cream City Algonquin Round Table. As I exited the elevator on the 23rd floor to meet my friends, ambulance I found myself walking right into the middle of a swinging party. And it was quite a rager for a school night.

That school night festivus turned out to be a mighty successful Blutender event for Pius XI High School. The smiling guests clinking glasses made the trip to the top floor bar to raise a toast and make sure a percentage of their cocktail dollars would go to support Pius’ Hank Raymonds Family Scholarship, and a designated pool of money established in honor of the beloved former Marquette University basketball coach that helps support scholarships for Pius’s student body.

Chatting up some guests at the entrance to that bar I bumped into Peter Reeves, who serves as Pius’ Community Relations Coordinator. It is clear upon meeting Peter that he also serves an extra special role as Charmer-in-Chief. Peter is the kind of guy who looks in your eyes, listens to every word you say, and then smiles back at you and easily gets you wrapped up in a zippy conversation. I made sure to stuff my hands in my pocket as I talked with Peter because I had this feeling that he had the power to chatter the few Hamiltons and Lincolns I had folded in wallet and add them to kitty for the Raymonds Fund.

Peter told me that over 70 percent of the students at Pius High School receive some form of scholarship assistance. He was clearly pleased with the evening’s turnout and told me it wasn’t just a night to raise some money, but also a night to raise some excitement.

I figured a guy like Peter had a great elevator pitch, some sort of thirty second speech that hit all the positive points about why someone might want to start throwing some shade his and Pius’ way. Peter did me one better than that, though. He gave me what he calls his airplane pitch. The guy is good, and like any charmer looking to garner support he had a twinkle in his eye that made me want to sign up for whatever club he’s a member of. I’m sure Pius High is happy to have Peter on their team, but if he ever gets his pilot’s license, I’m bouncing around some clouds with Mr. Charm.

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The Greatest American

A Republican presidential candidate rushed swiftly past me in the Pfister lobby today as I was writing and nearly stepped on my shoes.

Politics became really personal for me today. I mean I’m pretty concerned about the shine on my shoes, purchase you know.

Today, the Republican National Committee organized a ball at the Pfister in anticipation of the debate being held at the Milwaukee Theatre tonight. In addition to my near shoe scuffing affair, I started my day by bumping into another one of the gentlemen that will be standing on the stage tonight and wished him good luck on his debate performance, site which is exactly what I would say to anyone who has the chutzpah to stand in the public ring and talk about his or her beliefs.

And if you think this blog post is going to be the tiniest bit partisan, you can hold your breath until you turn blue, red and eventually some lovely neutral shade of purple before ever finding out.

What I’d rather talk about is the greatest American I met today. His name is Mark. I have decided to name him today’s greatest American because he exhibited a clear master level understanding of all the best lessons of kindergarten and democracy by sharing nicely with others. Sharing is caring, as I recall my kindergarten teachers singing to me in some sweet lilting voice. Mark shares. And he cares a lot. Especially when it comes to good chocolates.

In a hotel full of people buzzing about polls, caucuses and percentage leads, Mark softly and kindly displayed the sort of spirit that I really believe the founding fathers were fighting for when they argued and debated on how to create the world’s most significant political system. I found Mark sitting at the lobby bar with a box full of Kehrs chocolates in front of him. Now I’m a Kehrs candy fan of old, and I couldn’t help but say to Mark, “Have you finished that box of chocolates?”

Mark quickly smiled up at me and said, “No…these are for everyone. Would you like one?”

This wasn’t some creepy guy offering me candy. Mark was just a kind guy who happened to have a few extra bucks in his pocket, bought a box of chocolates to share, and was making quite a few people’s day slightly brighter by sharing. I noticed a couple other folks at the bar who had chocolates laid beside their drinks, one with an RNC pin decorating his lapel, one sort of blatantly chirping about her liberal soul. Candy is the great equalizer.

I accept the fact that there are complicated issues at stake in a presidential election, but I contend that Mark was displaying all the qualities of what it is to be a good citizen though his simple offer. Mark was civil. Mark was kind. Mark clearly cared for the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness through bon bons for others. And Mark’s altruism was devoid of any agenda. There was no question about who I was voting for, what the cut of my jib was, or which direction I felt the wind blows. He expected nothing in return, and only wanted those around him to prosper and grow (sure, maybe just around the waist, but it was growth). That’s America, right? I sure hope so.

I will remember Mark’s simple question and how it rose above the din of a hotel filled with the swirl of energy radiating from the charged air of presidential posturing.

“You want a chocolate?”

I’ll pass this time, friend. But thanks for showing up and ever so briefly being my greatest American.

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What Would Be Chapter One

I promise you, physician if I ever write a book that weaves together bits and pieces of prose into a narrative that tells a story about the many important and not so important moments I’ve seen, heard and experienced at the Pfister, this would be Chapter One.

The sevenish afternoon lobby lounge so and sos didn’t lift their heads from their draft beers because one of the women was a red head and the other was a brunette. They didn’t even shift their attention from getting a light buzz on before eating the fully expensed porterhouses they would charge to the home office because the terry robes hugged the ladies’ shoulders just right. It wasn’t even just because lady one and lady two were carrying a pair of the biggest cocktails any of the men had ever seen, stuff and that was saying something for a lineup heavy on traveling salesmen.

Truth be told, the casual head turns had to do with the whole package. That packaged deal could have been the start of a classic one-liner. “Two pretty ladies walk through the lobby of a swank hotel in terry cloth robes carrying a pair of perfect Manhattans…” There were literally hundreds of good ways to fill in a good punch line, but none of those would have landed the way the red head and brunette were killing it today.

It was a busy Thursday afternoon, and the front desk had a steady line of arriving guests checking in for a long weekend of work, play and all manner of diversions in between. Accommodation was the name of the game, and luggage was in need of toting as hospitality was served up with a genuine smile and just the right mint on a pillow. That sort of attention to detail required laser focus. Which is why the lightly clothed ladies who might otherwise stick out like some spa perfect sore thumb were not the main attraction on this particular autumn afternoon.

The men at the bar weren’t really even staring at the ladies as they made their slow walk across the lobby. They were a pack of kittens, nary a cad among the toothless middle agers, and too tame to be any sort of leering threat.

The corner of the eye of the home goods salesman from Topeka picked up that the red head had her hair up in a ponytail. He thought that was nice because as he was told and as was true he was basically a nice guy who always did actually finish last.

As the IT rep from Boise reached for a bar napkin to blow his nose, he saw the glimmer of the auburn liquid in the women’s icy rocks glasses and wondered what kind of bourbon was floating their boats. He desperately hoped they were Jim Beamers, not card-carrying members of the cult of Jack Daniels.

Noticing the daintily painted toes that the ladies flaunted on their flip flopped feet, the audit specialist from Nashville made a mental note to check out that sassy color when he got home for his own private spa night. Everyone has secrets.

If there had been spotlight operators working the lobby they surely would have tracked the ladies, hopefully picking them up with a beam of light softened by a gel in some charming shade of pink. For now, however, it was a step, a sip, a step, a giggle, a sip sip, and a sigh, all passing by all the passersby.

Hendricks stood at the farthest corner of the open space watching. It was his customary spot so he could see all there was to see and discreetly attend to anything that needed his carefully taught muted mitigation. He was a suit and tie guy who had long felt naked without at least three layers of cotton between his skin and the reversible belt he wore as part of his daily uniform. One thought pierced his brain as he watched the queens of serenity saunter the crowded space with nary a care for inquiring eyes as they enjoyed the comfort of robes and smart cocktails in public spaces.

“If I loosened my tie in the woods and no one was around to see it, would it make a sound?”

Deep flowed the rivers of the lobby’s steady suit and tie guy.

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Shop Talk Beyond the Shop

It’s time to talk shop…well, troche post shop.

Shop Talk was a live event that I hosted in my capacity as The Pfister Narrator on Friday, October 16th as a part of Milwaukee’s Fall 2015 Gallery Night. It happened in conjunction with our Artist-In-Residence Todd Mrozinski’s own special opening of the People Show in the Pfister’s Pop-Up Gallery.

This all speaks to the long and storied tradition of the Pfister being a nexus for celebrating arts and culture as an essential element of hospitable pride. Shop Talk was conceived as a chance for people in-the-know on some subject or occupation to get together in front of a live audience and, ed you guessed it, “talk shop.” For the first ever Shop Talk the topic on the table was one near and dear to my heart—the live theatre.

Theatre is a part of my DNA; it’s been my main profession most of my adult life. Along the way I’ve met some spectacularly smart people who have great knowledge about the theatre. I often take it for granted that I’m blessed to have first hand contact with such a unique gang of personalities, sickness and when you welcome a group of people who don’t necessarily have first hand knowledge of theatre to watch these types of folk talk intelligently about the theatre, you are reminded what a great set of perspectives they have.

I hope to host more Shop Talks in the coming weeks and months and take on more interesting topics (architecture is one that bubbles to mind, and think about the fun of doing that in such an architecturally significant place like the Pfister). I want to thank our esteemed group of panelists for this first Shop Talk who included Chad Bauman from Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Sheri Pannell Williams from Bronzeville Arts Ensemble, Suzan Fete from Renaissance Theaterworks, Tom Klubertanz, a popular local theatre educator and actor, and Dan Schley, one of the most dedicated audience members you’ll ever meet. Special props also to the Pfister’s Chief Concierge Peter Mortenson for great historic insight into the Pfister’s connection to theatre, and my cohorts for the evening Jimmy Kaplan, who is the swingingest house band ever, and Jason Economus, whose golden-throated announcer duties kept everything moving along at a great clip.

Now go ahead and click the audio link in this post and tune in, go for a walk, clean your house, cover your ears with headphones or listen with a friend as you enjoy Shop Talk.

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Reigning Cat and Dogs

Lulu was sort of tight-lipped when we first met. Not standoffish really, salve but I imagine people have always sort of thought of her as something of a big deal so she probably just feels she’s not the one who ever needs to make the first move. But I pegged her as more shy than anything, which, when you think about it, is sort of a surprise because it’s hard to take your eyes off of her when she enters a room. I know I immediately fell in love when I first saw her. That raven hair…those dark, deep-set dreamy eyes…the way she smiled when she got her belly rubbed.

No fears, friends…I’m not honing my skills as a romance novelist. I just can’t think of a better way to talk about one of the bells of a recent ball at the Pfister. If you didn’t know, the Pfister is a “dog friendly” hotel. You got a nice pooch that understands that plush carpeting and feathertop bedding does not a pretty potty make? Then your best friend is welcome to come for a stay. This past weekend, however, the Pfister went from “dog friendly” to “dog more-than-friends-yeah-its-serious” status.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 2015 Paws and Claws Gala from the Wisconsin Humane Society.

Let the oohing and aahing begin.

The Wisconsin Humane Society has been having their Paws and Claws fundraiser at the Pfister for several years, and it is, I freely and fondly admit, my absolute favorite thing that I have seen during my time as The Pfister Narrator. Come on, dogs in formal wear? You’re melting inside, right? I know I did.

There was Lulu the big dog. She’s the kind of canine that you could use as a blanket. Massive, sort of sleepy looking all the time and full of hair that surely ends up on a freshly buttered piece of toast even when she’s far from the kitchen.

Pretty puppy. Pretty hairy, too.

Lulu was lounging with her friend Schnoud who was blinged out from head to toe. Lulu was close to nap time it seemed. Schnoud was ready to party all night long.

Schnoud the Dude.

I’m always curious about the first and last moments a person experiences at a fancy event. Those are the critical memory moments, the first impression and last lingering thought for someone who has taken the time to gussy up in some fancy duds and use all their good manners at the dinner table. I wasn’t around for the final moments of the evening, but I can say that the Paws and Claws organizers found a secret weapon for making a great first impression and she is aptly named Sunny.

Smile…I dare you not to.

Look at that million-dollar smile. I mean…stop the cuteness, okay? Sunny’s owner explained that she is a “people person.” You can quibble over whether Sunny should rightfully be called person, but I can tell you that I am convinced I would rather spend many more hours discussing politics and the national debt with Sunny than quite a few persons of interest I know.

The whole gala is organized to support the Wisconsin Humane Society’s very humane efforts working with animals. No more clear picture of the success of those efforts can be seen than by watching Jasmine prance around the Pfister’s seventh floor ballrooms. Spry, spirited and sprightly, Jasmine doesn’t seem to ever consider the fact that she has only three legs. Her owner explained to me that as a puppy she had been abused and mistreated, and when she finally made it to the Humane Society the vets there decided the best treatment for her was to remove her leg. That move might have slowed down other dogs, but Jasmine has enough energy to light up a whole room, and she was doing that while she yipped and sniffed around all the good times on hand.

I pulled aside Heidi Boyd who was working the event as a member of the Humane Society’s development team and complemented her on the whole glittery affair. I said, “Quite a night with a great bunch of dogs and cats, isn’t it?”

Heidi smiled warmly, clearly in love with the work she does and said, “Plenty of dogs, for sure. Cats, not so much.” Heidi confided in me that cats don’t do so well at events like this, but that I should look out for one super star cat, the Siamese named Coco.

Moments later I saw a gathering of scrubbed up party goers huddled around a carrying crate and I moved in to take a look at all the fuss. A few feet away, my nose started to twitch and I felt a series of sneezes coming on. My cat allergies were kicking in, and I realized that I had found Coco, the so called Super Star Kitty. I demurred from an audience with the highness of the hairball as I knew my allergies couldn’t handle the pressure and made my way for the elevators so the revelers could have all their fun. Besides, I didn’t want to ruin the bell of the ball’s night by “Achooing” all over her fancy dress. That, my friends, is a fate worse than using your date’s patent leather pumps as a chew toy.

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Live from The Pfister…Chatter and Paintings and Arias You Want to See

Not that I think there’s a lack of reasons to come to the Pfister on any given day (I mean there’s the glamour, the great service, the lush accommodations, and all), but I’m happy to be giving you some spectacular special reasons to visit 424 E. Wisconsin Ave. in the coming weeks.

This Friday, October 16th is Milwaukee’s Fall Gallery Night and at the Pfister that means one thing: WE’RE DOING TWO THINGS! I’m thrilled to host my first live event as Pfister Narrator when I bring together leaders in the local theatre scene for SHOP TALK, an engaging discussion that gets people in-the-know talking shop. SHOP TALK is a lively hour-long combination of interviews, levity and even some musical flourishes. I’m honored to get the chance to talk with Chad Bauman (Managing Director of Milwaukee Rep), Sherri Williams Pannell (one of the leaders of Milwaukee’s new Bronzeville Arts Ensemble), Suzan Fete (a co-founder of Renaissance Theaterworks), Tom Klubertanz (actor and epically popular theatre educator at Oconomowoc High School), and Dan Schley (local theatre audience member extraordinaire and all around greatest guy ever).

Chad Bauman Vertical
Chad Bauman is smart, classy, and dynamically leads Milwaukee Repertory Theater as Managing Director in partnership with Artistic Director, Mark Clements. You want to hear him speak…trust me.

I’m joined by musical sidekick James Kaplan and livewire announcer and partner-in-crime Jason Economus for an unforgettable evening. We’ll be in the former Roger Stevens space on the first floor and doors open at 6:00pm for a 6:30 show. This is a free-of-charge event, so plan on showing up early to snag a good space close to all the talking of shop. Learn more by visiting the SHOP TALK Facebook Event Page.

SHOP TALK is happening in collaboration with my ever active and pulsing with talent Pfister artistic colleague, Todd Mrozinski, our Artist in Residence, and his Fall Gallery night event. Todd has brought together a superb collection of artists for the PEOPLE show at the Pfister’s new Pop Up Gallery. The show features portraits created by some of the best and brightest local artists, and Todd’s opening on Friday evening will be an event par excellence featuring live music by Mississippi Sawyer and a poetry tour of all the artwork by my outstanding predecessor as in-house writer at the Pfister, Anja Notanja. You can get more details at the PEOPLE show Facebook event page.

The lovely thing about all this is that you can come to SHOP TALK and then take a few steps across the lobby to experience the PEOPLE show. Noshing and a cash bar will add to all the merriment. What a night!

Now that fills up your dance card for Friday night, but what about next Wednesday, October 21st? I know you’re looking for something to do on a school night, and I have the answer—Milwaukee Opera Theatre’s Voice Lab.

In the grand tradition of celebrating the arts at the Pfister, I’m delighted to host Milwaukee Opera Theatre for a Voice Lab on Wednesday, October 21st from 7:00-9:00pm at Cafe Rouge.

Voice Lab_MOT
Witness the artistic process up-close at Milwaukee Opera Theatre’s Voice Lab on October 21st at Cafe Rouge

What is a Milwaukee Opera Theatre Voice Lab you ask?  Voice Lab has been used by professional artists to prepare for auditions, try out new repertoire, and revisit old, familiar pieces.  Composers have used Voice Lab to assist them in the development of new work.  Voice Lab has been used by avocational singers to continue their practice, and by singers returning to music after a hiatus who want a safe place to try things out.

The artists’ process is revealed for inquisitive onlookers during Voice Lab, and this free-of-charge event is also open to the public.  

And Milwaukee Opera Theatre is a group you should keep your eyes and ears on for invigorating culture and quirks. MOT, as they like to call themselves, considers itself a microbrewery of opera: Small batches, high quality, locally produced.  Their reputation for exciting approaches to classic operatic repertoire and new work has attracted the attention of audiences during their many sold-out performances around Milwaukee.  You can learn more about them at

I mean this when I say this…it will be a delight to see you at the Pfister for these events. It’s thrilling to make these sorts of discussions and events available to the public, and I do so hope you’ll join us for all the fun. See you soon…I’ll be the guy with the bow tie and big happy-as-a-clam grin.

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The Things A Fella Will Do for Frank

I wear bow ties because I believe that they are distinctive and stylish. Plus, doctor it is infinitely harder for someone to wring your neck when you are wearing a bow tie as opposed to a necktie.

However, there is one reason I will willingly pass up a bow tie for a necktie.

And that reason is Frank Lloyd Wright.

It is with that sartorial zeal that I reached into my closet this past week and grabbed my smart Fireplace Relief necktie with a design pattern taken from elements of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Los Angeles Hollyhock House, for sale you know the one built by Wright for Aline Barnsdale in 1921. I’m not talking about the Ennis House, the one across the hills that you can see from Hollyhock that they used in BLADE RUNNER. I mean, come on, let’s get things straight.

Okay, if it seems like I know a thing or two about Frank Lloyd Wright, the jig’s up. Before I was the Pfister Narrator, I blissfully spent a few years as Director of Communications for The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Back in May, I left the fine folks at the Foundation that Wright himself founded so I could focus more on my writing, and here I am following the goings and comings of folks visiting the Pfister.

When I made my departure, my co-workers sent me off with a lovely luncheon where they showered me with Frank Lloyd Wright schwag. I will note that in three years working for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation I wore nothing but bow ties. I also campaigned tirelessly to convince the two Directors of Licensing that I had the pleasure of working with during my tenure that a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired bow tie would be a big hit. Alas, my plan never took hold, so as I opened up one of my parting gifts I chuckled to myself as I considered the irony of the accessory that was now going to be hanging around with me for some time to come. My co-workers gave me a Frank Lloyd Wright necktie on my last day of work, the first dangling tie that I had gotten since that real skinny one I bought back in the 90s.

But there is something about Frank Lloyd Wright that makes it just peachy for me to choose to wear that necktie. I’ll share a secret with you…the guy was a genius. And when I heard from friends that I had known and gotten to work with from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy that they would be holding their annual conference at the Pfister this week, I knew my Fireplace Relief necktie would be getting a good wearing.

It makes sense that the Building Conservancy would choose to hold their annual conference in Milwaukee, and the theme of Wisconsin: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Laboratory reflects that. If you were to drop an architectural bomb on Milwaukee, you would effectively whip out a large percentage of Wright’s existing building work. I say building work because it’s important to note that Wright wasn’t only an architect, something I am reminded of by the nice folks I bump into attending the conference who are filled with opinions and reverence for a man that many of them consider “the master.” Writer, graphic designer, inventor, philosopher and iconoclast are a few of the titles that Wright could “Wrightfully” embrace (and yes, I did just misspell right on purpose because it felt like the Wright thing to do, so there…and yes, I see what I just did again).

The conference attendees are spending their time in Milwaukee discussing efforts to preserve and save Wright’s work. That’s the Building Conservancy’s main focus, and they are very good at what they do. They also serve an important role in educating the public about Wright and celebrating his achievements. Conference attendees are visiting local Wright sites in Milwaukee such as the Frederick C. Bogk House on Terrace Avenue and The American System Built Homes in Burnham Street Historic District. And just this year a Shorewood home that had previously been unattributed as one of his designs was revealed to be an authentic Frank Lloyd Wright creation. Milwaukee is covered with Wright’s fingerprints and conference goers that swarm around the 7th floor ballroom spaces are clearly happy to be in town to see these and other treasures.

I’m thrilled when I enter the Conservancy’s silent auction and see tables of Wright memorabilia and fascinating books about Wright and his work written by fascinating people I had the pleasure of getting to know during my time firmly entrenched in the Wright world. There is, however, one piece that really catches my eye and seems to be the perfect treasure for a takeaway from the Building Conservancy’s stay at the Pfister. It’s a DO NOT DISTURB sign from the Imperial Hotel, a magnificent structure that no longer stands but was considered one of Wright’s most stunning creations.


I hold back from placing a bid. Leave this one for someone enjoying their Pfister stay—it’s sort of a precious recall to hospitality and grace in a place that specializes in hospitality and grace.

I look around and see that the room is filled with the leaders of public Wright sites, places like Fallingwater in Bear Run, Pennsylvania or the SC Johnson Headquarters down in Racine. The energy, vision and passion of these folks is present, forward, and always on point. They are tireless crusaders of the Wright legacy, for sure, and there is no doubt after a passing comment that I receive from a conference attendee that they all have impeccable taste and are whip smart.

“Great tie,” says a charming dark haired woman with a lanyard around her neck as she smiles at my Fireplace Relief necktie.

Thanks Frank. For you, and only for you, I’ll let it all hang out.

Apples of My Eye

After spending time with Brian Frakes in the bowels of the Pfister, remedy I am quite confident that I will have no need to visit any doctor for 96 days or so.

Brian, the Pfister’s Executive Chef, caught me in the Café drinking coffee like I was in a contest to see if I could ingest a day’s worth of caffeine that might rival Voltaire’s daily in take. (If you’re not a Voltaire freak like me, and I sincerely hope your nerd strains don’t run that deep, you should know that Voltaire reportedly drank up to 40 cups of coffee a day).

I believe Brian sensed from my cocoa colored skin that the benefits of healthy eating would be well served on me with a trip to his magical apple cellar.

Brian tipped me off that he had just received a sampling of apples from his pal Ken Weston at Weston’s Antique Apple Orchard. An apple break sounded grand to me. I was also curious to see what an antique apple actually was. My mind conjured the thought of a fruit wrapped in a doily. But Brian has a great palette and essentially defines “cool chef”, so I knew that whatever the case, the snacking was bound to be good.

I gulped a long final draw of black coffee and got up from my Café table for apple tasting time. It seemed like a perfect thing to do on the first acceptable fall day when I had slipped into a wool suit because the temps outside the Pfister have started dipping into those beautiful autumn levels that remind all our visitors that Milwaukee is a truly spectacular place to be this time of the year. Brian’s invitation was more than a summons to apple snack, it was a welcoming to leaves crunching under my feet and hearty cheers at a football game.

I’m an apple fan, so what Brian had laid out for sweet and tart tasting time was a slice of heaven. He explained to me that Mr. Weston had given him some samples in the past and ever since then has shown the Pfister a lot of apple love. Locally sourced, delicately handled, these apples were a visual feast and Brian’s rustic display looked magazine photo shoot worthy as my eyes popped over which red or green goodness to try first.

I followed Brian’s lead and took slices of different varieties and dipped them into light colored honey. As the crisp slivers of apple and sweet honey hit my tongue, the seasons changed before my eyes. This wasn’t just an apple moment, this was my chance to see how the Pfister shifts and shapes with each new turn of the calendar. It’s fairly splendid to imagine a guest chomping down on one of these spectacular pieces of fruit and in one bite experiencing a rush of nature that is both full of flavor wonder and seasonal peace.

Call your doctor, and by all means invite him or her for a trip down to the Pfister. The apples are coming and it means very good things for everyone.

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The Only Problem Is That the Water Cooler Might Be Used to Wash a Brush or Two

How many times have you looked at a piece of art hanging on the wall and said, “My kid can do that?”

And how many times have you taken brush in hand to find out that kids are cute, but making art isn’t for the feint of heart.

It’s with this sense of awe for the process of creation that I come to the continuing confirmation that the people who work for and support the Pfister and its parent Marcus corporation aren’t just pros of the highest degree, they are artists. In the case of a current display of talents in the Pfister’s Pop Up Gallery, this statement is both literal and figurative.

Last Friday the Pop Up Galley was the site of the opening reception of the Art of Marcus Show. This was no display of a group of disgruntled employees acting out their frustrations over a hostile work environment with tortured splashes of oil paint on a dirty cloth calling for overthrow of “the man.” No, indeed, the art on display showed that the concept of “Salve”, the motto of welcome hospitality for all prominently on display as part of the ceiling fresco art in the Pfister Lobby, has warmly wormed its way into the psyches of all the Marcus employees presenting art.

It’s not for nothing that a hotel that has its own Aritst-In-Residence and Narrator puts value on showing off the off hours talents of their staff. I get a kick out of the fact that the same bartender who mixes the world’s best Bloody Mary has an eye for landscapes. And this is no, “My kid could paint that,” kind of show, either. It’s a true celebration of how the people that make it their business to ensure a comfy stay for all our guests stretch their artist souls.

When, as a writer, I think, “Boy, I’m so busy…how can I produce anymore words?” I remember that Kurt Vonnegut sold Saabs from 9 to 5, Harper Lee punched a clock as an airline ticket reservationist, and William S. Burroughs was an exterminator. It’s my reminder to stop whining and sit down with pen in hand and start my real life’s work. Those notable writers didn’t just define themselves by their day jobs and clearly knew that being an artist meant more than dreaming about it—for all of them it meant showing up and simply doing the work.

Having seen the work of the Marcus employees, I will now take inspiration from their efforts and realize that while these hard working stewards could be kicking off their shoes and cracking a cold brew at the end of the day, they have chosen to take off their work clothes and put on that soft shirt that won’t suffer from a splotch of paint. I’m happy that visiting guests get to know our staff as more than champions of comfort and see that there are some real serious artists walking the halls of the Pfister.

I hope you enjoy these images of the Art of Marcus Show, and I hope you’ll stop by soon and experience these delights in person.










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The 27-Month Pregnancy of Elizabeth’s Baby Walrus

Elizabeth is happy. She’s holding her baby. Clutching it really. It’s almost like she’s going to crush it in her hands. Makes sense–it feels so good to see it after the 25 long months it has taken from conception to delivery.

You won’t be seeing Elizabeth on some reality television show about miracle moms. Elizabeth will leave the Pfister with her baby and spend time considering its journey, malady seeing how it has been shaped by friends around the country, and she will close one chapter on her life and look forward to the next. Elizabeth’s Baby Walrus has finally arrived, and the project is complete.

Please understand that Elizabeth will not be tethering up some snorting, salve mustached creature than tips the scales somewhere north of the preseason weight of a defensive lineman. Elizabeth does play mother to a panting, dark haired cutie named Hazel the Dog, who enjoys a fair share of kibble treats and cuddles, but Baby Walrus is a different kind of familial connection altogether.

Back in 2013, treatment Elizabeth conspired with a group of friends scattered across the country to participate in a communal art project. The idea would be to have each participant chose a theme and start the creation of a book filled with images, notes, and other creative ephemera. Each month all the books would be passed on in a cross-country daisy chain, and after 16 months, all the books would land back in the hands of their creator. Elizabeth picked the name Baby Walrus for this art project because the poor mother walruses of the world actually carry their babies for about 15 months, almost the same intended amount of time for the project to be completed.

The timing and the execution of Baby Walrus was a perfectly conceived plan that could not fail, until, of course, it failed. It has been 25 months since Elizabeth has last laid eyes on her own Baby Walrus, well beyond the proposed gestation time. Her other creative friends have long since had their own Baby Walruses back in their waiting hands. There are reasons for Elizabeth’s delay… some honest missteps in timing along the way because of unforeseen life events, creative ideas taking too long to execute, and a general laissez faire attitude about finishing the job from the final participant before her end-of-project pass off was rendered. But, after many months and many miles, Elizabeth has met with friends for a dirty martini at Blu to celebrate the culmination of lots of creative people leaving their fingerprints on something she dreamed up.

Elizabeth’s book explored the idea of FLIGHT, and I see the pages of the well-traveled book filled with images such as a hand drawn ostrich, elaborate calligraphy, and passages of prose. Elizabeth has traveled from her home in New York City to spend time in Milwaukee with friends before retreating to the River Valley area of Wisconsin for more creative experiences. A fitting way to follow her book…flying off on an adventure to wrap her arms around a piece she started and finished through a network of friends. Tonight, its time to sip a cocktail and finger through the pages of her book. The stars in Elizabeth’s eyes as she experiences the touches of wonder left by her friends is magic and celebrates the simplest joys of creation and makes her happy to say, “Look what I made.”