It Is Time to Speak of Cake

I have some great stories to tell you all about some great Pfister visitors.

But not today. Today it is finally time to speak of cake.

It’s a languid summer day here at the Pfister, click and on days like this guests are relaxed and casual. There’s a couple of guys in the lobby nursing a mid afternoon brew, a lady has come back from a downtown jog, and then there’s the guy in dark glasses and beard who just got handed an enormous cardboard box and left the building (a box of puppies…maybe?). It’s what you might call sort of a “chill” day. It’s pretty glorious.

I found myself with a little spare time around the noon hour today, cialis so I checked with my friend Jimmy about an impromptu lunch date. I keep inviting Jimmy to the Pfister for lunch because I really want to see him eat The Senator’s Tuna. Jimmy and I argue about food (I’m pro Schnitzel, he is scared of it), but I know that he and I would have the same reverence for The Senator’s Tuna served so perfectly with its side cup of coffee.

But Jimmy suggested a lunch spot near his office a few blocks from the Pfister in downtown Milwaukee. I knew Jimmy had a finite amount of time for lunch, so I willingly obliged and departed the Pfister for our luncheon date.

And then I really screwed up. I had the kale salad for lunch.

Now there is nothing particularly wrong about having a kale salad for lunch, but when you have in your head that you could have had The Senator’s Tuna and a cup of hot black coffee, which is one of your all time favorite lunches, the kale salad just about kills you.

I made my way back to the Pfister feeling the sorrowful effects of kale–superior health, bursting energy, a bright sense of connection to the world. It was awful, I tell you, awful.

I had been having a “chill” day soaking in the vibes of the Pfister, so that Vitamin D pep of kale kind of bummed me out. I needed to do something to slide back into the swell and “maybe I’ll take a nap” sort of vibes of the day.

As I settled back into the Pfister after my short walk out into the city streets, I knew that action needed to be taken if I was to feel like a part of the cozy party taking place. I needed something to counteract all of that green goodness lunch, something that would actually make my heart swell, figuratively and maybe even literally.

And then there was cake. Ahhhhhh!

I am all for personal choice, but damn that all when it is time to speak of the Pfister’s Signature Cake. I would like to mandate that everyone everywhere should be eating a piece of this glorious cake right now. It’s like a cup of coffee with the perfect amount of cream and sugar and some caramel and a sprinkle of unicorn dust. It’s simply perfect in every way that cake should be.

I’m back to having a “chill” day after my afternoon snack, and I feel like the guy in the lobby in the blue baseball hat who has droopy eyes because he’s reveling in all the chill of the day trusts me a little more because I have cake on my breath and not the clean crisp scent of kale.

Carry…and cake…on, one and all.

 

Tickled Ivories and the Wisdom of Pearls

Sometimes when you think you’re part of the show, seek you actually end up spending some time in the audience. When you’re in the middle of performing and you get surprised by something that captures your eye that when things get real—and good.

I recently had the unique pleasure to visit with a group of journalists on a tour of Milwaukee who made a stop at the Pfister. Our Resident Artist Todd and I have a nice little dog and pony show worked up at this point for these types of occasions. Todd takes the lead with true aplomb talking about history of the art and architecture at the Pfister and I round out our talks with general information and some fun facts. Got a spare half hour or so? Todd and I would love to meet with you and gab on and on about the Pfister.

This was a particularly engaged group of journalists. They asked good questions, sovaldi sale had wide-open eyes, and were full of smiles. It felt more like an afternoon with friends than a tour with strangers.

We generally start in Todd’s studio and make our way across the lobby and then up to the second floor to look at the art collection. We stopped at the landing overlooking the lobby next to the elevators and Todd and I made the snap decision to head to the seventh floor with our group as we were having such a good time and none of us wanted it to end. We split up since our group was so big, and I headed up in the elevators first.

My small group arrived on the seventh floor and we were just chatting about all the fun weddings and luncheons and parties that happen there as we waited for Todd and the others to catch up. As we chatted I couldn’t help but hear a lovely lick of piano music playing behind me. I turned around and was instantly delighted to see that one of my group, an energetic and friendly lady named Rebecca, had seated herself at the piano and was tickling the ivories.

It was lovely, a real great afternoon treat.

Rebecca explained that in addition to being a travel writer and journalist, she is a professional musician who plays cello in her own chamber orchestra back home in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We all gave Rebecca the applause she rightfully earned for her impromptu afternoon performance and went about the rest of our tour.

As Rebecca jumped in with the group she said to me, “Oh, don’t forget to have me tell you about these pearls.”

In a matter of moments I had gone from leading a group of people through the Pfister to being led by a new friend. A really good performer knows a secret trick: leave them wanting more. I certainly could have listened to Rebecca play for the group the rest of the afternoon, and now she had me on the edge of my seat wanting to hear the story about her pearls.

Our tour ended, and I had my chance. I pulled Rebecca aside and reminded her that she had a story to tell me. She did, and it’s a good one, and I’m sure my new friend wouldn’t mind if I share it with you.

Rebecca told me that when she’s back at home in Arkansas she is often invited to a standing ladies luncheon. One day the group’s organizer, a grand dame of the local luncheon set, pulled Rebecca aside as she entered for lunch and said, “I would like to speak to you privately once lunch is done today.” Rebecca told me she gulped her way through her salad, fearing the worst from her intimidating hostess.

Lunch ended, and Rebecca hoped that she might be able to secretly slip out without the feared discussion that she had been invited to at meal’s end. But the hostess had not forgotten the invitation and pulled Rebecca aside privately as all the other guests departed.

Rebecca stood silently, her heart racing as the luncheon organizer produced a black velvet bag. Speaking with purpose, the hostess said to Rebecca, “When you first started coming to our luncheons there was something that began to trouble me. You reminded me of my daughter, someone who I have not seen for many years because of our estranged relationship. But I believe I have a chance to have a connection with you that I wish I had with my daughter.”

She reached in the black velvet bag and pulled out a beautiful strand of pearls and presented them to Rebecca. As she gave them to Rebecca she said, “I want you to have these. I also want you to remember each time that you put these on that each of these pearls started off as something hard and ragged and after being tossed and turned and ground down over time, they were transformed into something elegant, smooth and beautiful.” Rebecca took the pearls, thanked her friend for this extraordinary gift and story, and left utterly speechless. Not long after this special moment, the hostess passed away. Since then, the pearls have been a permanent accessory in Rebecca’s wardrobe.

I sure like telling stories, and there is a real joy in seeing people lean in and listen to something you are saying. But communication is a two way street. It’s mighty nice to take a pause in the middle of telling a tale or two to be reminded by new friends like Rebecca that turnabout is the sweetest of fair play.

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This Side

Todd Mrozinski and Nina Bednarksi unveiled the delicious paintings that make up the Infinite Landscapes show in the Pfister’s Pop Up Gallery as their contribution to Gallery Night and Day last night. This story was inspired by their artistry and the alchemy of their talented eyes and I read it before a friendly crowd of art lovers with writerly glee. Enjoy. 

Leonard’s shoulders relaxed as he stood next to Jenny who was warmly wrapped in the terry robe she had found hanging in the hotel room closet while they stared out the window of their upper floor suite at the infinite landscape filled with the sight of puffy white clouds, cheap a perfect V-shaped formation of geese floating and flapping peacefully on the thin rarified air, one dynamic streamlining airliner making a white line in the sky as it headed to exotic lands, squared off fluorescent lights from the city’s swankiest apartment buildings and most imposing office towers glowing warmly in the dusky evening sky, that very same light pole that Gene Kelly danced around dripping wet from movie magic showers in “Singin’ in the Rain”, the extraordinary 957th homerun ball soaring over the center field wall that Slappin’ Joe McCracken had just soundly pummeled from his mighty seismic bat he cutely called My Girl Kitty, Joey Mason and Dottie Saldina sharing their shy and tentative first kiss stolen in the cool shade of the jasmine bush that Elmer Dill had planted back sometime in the early aughts just to see if he could grow something prettier than the rows and rows of cabbage in his garden that all somehow resembled the bust of William Henry Harrison, Drum Major Sal Temple’s twirling baton spiraling through the air just ready to drop into her waiting hand so the Moosetown Leather Heads could start their woodwind heavy version of “Louie, Louie” in sharp 4/4 time with a lot of gusto right off the bat because it “Wasn’t grade A until it was forte!” as Band Director Dr. Julius Hindin always reminded the freshmen through senior corps, the rocket’s red glare and the bomb pops of freedom bursting with red, white and blue sugary flavor on a sticky and humid August afternoon when it was better to chase the ice cream man’s ding-dong song than wade in the waters of the Stockton Civic Swim Center even though all the bathers religiously abided by the posted warning that there was no “P” in the “OOL” and everyone should always keep it that way, an awkward encounter between two pretty burly insurance salesmen as they both reached for the same double thick butterscotch malt when Ricky Steven’s cracking 15-year-old tenor that would soon drop into baritone was heard announcing the order from the red microphone at Narder’s Drive-In, you know the one that was just for people who had ordered sundaes or fountain drinks but definitely not double cheeseburgers and onion rings even though those were the specialties of the house and everyone agreed that Togo’s Sweet Shack was really the best place in town for ice cream, that tear-jerking moment of Ute Franz’s triumphant ascent of that Swiss Alp that wasn’t quite as big as Matterhorn but was surrounded by all the better fondue places so was the one that really mattered to anyone who cared about cheese which was really everyone because cheese is that one thing that should be loved and cherished like a newborn baby, maybe even more so because cheese sleeps through the night and has never cried over a dirty diaper, Rayburn Jessup’s blue ribbon steer once again somehow lifting the latch on the gate that led into Tully Arnold’s soybean field so the bull could saunter into a soft patch of soon-to-be-tofu leaves for a good lay down just because it felt so nice on his plump rump roast, a hot minute when Gwen Mitchell snubbed out a cigarette and declared “That’s it! I’m done, and this time I REALLY mean it!”, the exciting final results of the recent contentious election that proved that democracy sure wasn’t perfect but it was way better than whatever system of government they were acting out during this year’s Renaissance Fair that had just moved into town for a six-month set down since the Civil War reenactors had pulled up camp and traveled North for the summer, the telecast of the penultimate match between sisters Pluto and Nirvana Thomas that forever proved that Wheaties really did make you faster and stronger if your mom made you eat them every morning before curling practice, the heaven sent puffs of white smoke announcing the legendary and universally praised selection of Pope John Mohammad Tozen Bobo Marjorie Solowitz to lead the world towards enlightenment, peace and a refreshing hip hop approach to liturgy, Tarzan swinging from a tangled vine and swooping down to within inches of the jungle floor to grab Jane gently but firmly to save her from the razor sharp jaws of an advancing King of the Forest even while his monkey Cheetah sat in a nearby tree laughing like a hyena because the world’s smartest chimp saw that there was no danger since the advancing beast was none other than the Milwaukee Lion and everyone knew that it was nothing but a miniature horse out on a weeklong bender, that one really comfy afghan that Grandma had made that had gone missing for 17 months but somehow mysteriously reappeared in the family room when Uncle Timothy showed up that one night to crash for a few hours as he was trucking across America with a load of plump limes because it was Mojito season and the Southern Californians were getting thirsty, and a few other fuzzy shapes farther away that he couldn’t quite make out because it was time to get his eyes checked again and the sun had dipped pretty low beyond the horizon.

Leonard’s smile reflected back at him from the glass of the window as Jenny slipped her hand into his and rested her head on his shoulder to complete the sixth time in his life when he had felt he might have a glimmer of what the word “perfect” actually meant.

“Nice view,” he said softly to his love. “I wonder what it looks like from the other side?”

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Thanks for Keeping it Classy Northwestern Mutual Life

Northwestern Mutual Life…you folks really know how to keep it classy. Well done. Very well done.

I have so many nice thoughts from visitors I encountered who were in town for your recent annual conference. You do the city proud, treat and your glorious presence as a part of the heartbeat of the Pfister for several days was something to behold.

NML holds its annual conference in Milwaukee every summer, and it is a chance for reps from around the country to swoop into town and taste of the many pleasures Milwaukee offers with open arms. Right now all those reps all certainly looking at the cranes hovering over NML’s astounding downtown campus construction with eager anticipation of the completion. You can even catch that from the corner of Mason and Jefferson as you’re hanging out at the Pfister, view see what I mean?

DSC03163
Cranes mean big things.

For so many of the NML conference attendees, the Pfister becomes the place where they choose to rest their heads at the end of a full day for their conference stay. I was lucky enough to encounter a collection of friendly characters, and I’m happy to report that NML clearly employs the finest, brightest and kindest pros around.

There was the joker I bumped into in an elevator clutching the most massive attaché case I’ve ever seen. My eyes most have been popping wildly as the gent noticed my interest in his briefcase.

“That is the most impressive briefcase I’ve ever seen,” I said.

“That’s because it’s filled with all the money I’ve made selling insurance.”

I was tempted to follow him off the elevator as he departed with a wave and a smile onto the third floor of the parking garage to pick up his car, surely a Tesla or a Bentley or some vehicle made of solid gold since he was so flush with cash.

There were the folks who were still planning and plotting deals during Monday’s cocktail hour up in the Pfister Club Lounge. A group of business women and men sipped strong scotches and brimming glasses of wine over animated discussions of business to broker and contacts to follow up on when the conference was complete. One fellow filled a plate full of fried cheese curds from the Club Lounge spread and returned to his table explaining to his visibly aghast mates, “This is what you do in Milwaukee…dig in.” They did, and they were immediately happy brokers all.

Then there was Joe.

Joe is kind and gentle and an NML sales monster.
Joe is kind and gentle and an NML sales monster.

Joe is a broker from Oklahoma City whose comfy Southern twang makes you feel like you’re talking to someone who invented good manners and graciousness. I ran into Joe and his family as they were eating lunch on the patio at Mason Street Grill. Joe had the NML Conference lanyard dangling from his neck, complete with some special “flair,” the additional award badges brokers receive for their good work in the field. Joe was humble when I asked about what his awards meant. He shyly said, “This one has something to do with sales over $10 million during my career.” Nice try keeping it on the down low, Joe, but I was impressed.

Joe told me he had been coming to the conference for years, but this was the first time he had brought his family. His wife Tracy and kids Caroline and Landon looked happy and relaxed telling me that they had loved their visit to Milwaukee, and especially an extended stay at the Pfister. Caroline and Langdon jumped in to tell me that swimming in the Pfister pool was a really cool thing to do, and Joe smiled, clearly happy to have his family with him during this big gathering. I asked Joe why he chose to stay at the Pfister and his answer summed up the feeling I think many repeat visitors have.

“The Pfister is my home away from home,” said Joe. “It wouldn’t be a visit to Milwaukee without staying at the Pfister”

That’s the spirit, Joe. Good sales to you, and we all hope to see you and the family next summer.

Nobody Ever Writes About the Travel Writer, so I’m Writing About the Travel Writer

One of the great joys I have as a writer is to meet other writers. Typically a writer meet up is filled with quotable quips, diagnosis hair-pin turns of phrases, and good humored word-wise one-upmanship. It’s the literary equivalent of dogs sniffing one another’s behinds.

So like a happy, fluffy puppy, I was very excited to have the chance to meet writer Amber Gibson as she made a recent trip to the Pfister. She describes herself as a travel and food writer, as well as a model. I describe myself as a writer, raconteur and great eater of meat. As you can see, we’re basically the same person.

Our Resident Artist Todd and I met up with Amber to give her a brief tour of our treasured art collection and chat about the Pfister’s Artist-In-Residence and Narrator programs. That is to say, advice Amber was given a really fine tour by Todd, and I accompanied him to try desperately to serve the role of witty wing man. Todd needs no addition of wit, but when the chance comes for a writer to write about another writer, you’ll have to physically restrain me from putting pen to paper.

I’m always curious about how other writers view the process of writing and how they go about getting their work seen and read. Amber is an impressive young lady, the valedictorian in her class from Northwestern University’s journalism school. No slouch in the word department is she. When we meet and I see the grace with which she presents herself decked out in a silver ensemble that looks runway ready, I also note that she can easily fall back on that modeling part of her vitae when writing gigs are slim.

We begin our visit in Todd’s studio with handshakes and pleasantries and immediately the bond between us all is evident. We’re all creative types who like hanging around hotels, and because of the good graces of the universe, we all get to follow our passions daily.

Amber asks Todd and I about being the Pfister’s current in-house artist and writer. She is curious about whether or not we live at the hotel during our stay. Todd and I share a glance and I can tell he’s thinking the same thing I am. “Oh, what a fine, fine idea, Amber. I’ll take Room 2012, please.” We explain that we both have homes here in Milwaukee, but that it is difficult to pull ourselves away from the luxury and elegance of what we each blissfully get to call our “office space.” Amber gets it in spades immediately. Her eyes are full of wonder noting that the Pfister’s dedication to arts and culture is unique.

I get my first travel tip from Amber as we talk about some of the most interesting and beautiful places she’s covered. She mentions that she did a video report for Yahoo! Travel on Fogo Island off of the coast of Newfoundland, Canada and that it is a breathtaking and remote location to visit. Amber’s story and video prove that point, and I encourage you to check out her full portfolio for more engaging work at her website at ambergibson.com.

A gentleman never asks a lady’s age, so I refrain from saying to Amber, “How is it that a kid like you is such a seasoned traveler?” Amber is bright eyed, inquisitive, and blessed with the glory of youth. She understands that she’ll never be mistaken for some road weary writer who longs for the homely comfort of a typewriter, but maybe for a teen who is waiting for her parents to join her for a 24-course tasting menu at some storied restaurant she’s writing about. She embraces this challenge with youthful energy and is full of story ideas and pitches that turn editors into employers.

As an intern during college, Amber worked a plum internship for Time Out Chicago. Pushing and pitching to the editors she worked with there led to her first assignment doing a feature on creative cocktails in the Windy City. That story kicked off an impressive run of features covering eye-popping destinations and mouth-watering food.

During our visit together, I’m looking for that connective tissue between Amber and I that confirms our shared membership in the Writers of the World Club. I latch onto it when Amber and I start talking about horses as Todd shows us an oil painting from the Pfister’s collection that features a majestic steed.

“I love horses,” says Amber. “But I haven’t really ever had any riding lessons. I have always just hopped on and figured it out.”

Amber tells me that once when she was pursuing a story, she was given a horse and allowed to roam free on 2,300 acres of a Montana ranch. And yet, she admits, she has never really been trained on the ins and outs of horse riding. She tells me that she’s never shirked from trying something new, and horse riding, like writing, takes a lot of belief in your ability before experience ultimately catches up with aspiration. It’s not really “fake it until you make it”, but it’s evident to me that Amber and I are cut from the same cloth: live it, write it, share it—that’s when you get to call yourself a writer.

Amber is one of those people I know I can turn to in the future for tips on where I can avoid spending travel money. She’s spent enough time chasing through airports to catch connecting flights to be a bit of an expert. She tells me that last year she spent a total of 48 hours in Chicago during March and often ended one trip at O’Hare to begin another a few hours later as a new flight took off.

Her time in Milwaukee will be a tad more relaxing. She’ll spend the rest of the weekend dining at Sanford and Ardent and soaking in the pulsating life around the Pfister. We finish our visit because Amber’s got a quick trip to the Well Spa where she’ll get a stylish treatment done for her long, silken hair. This is one traveler who knows how to enjoy the ride, and the fact that she is a card carrying member of the grand and benevolent fellowship of writers makes me happy to be part of that same club.

A Few Words for the Milwaukee Lion from the Pfister Lion

BREAKING NEWS: The Pfister Lion has released this statement in response to recent reports of Milwaukee citizens sighting what has been dubbed The Milwaukee Lion.

Dear Sir, site

How dare you! How dare you, I say!

This temerity must end, and it must end now!

Your audacious behavior, now, during Milwaukee’s well-deserved salad days of summer is beyond the pale.

You, sir, bring shame to the mane.

Prancing and flouncing about the city streets of Milwaukee like you are some kind of royal isn’t noble. It’s tacky.

Royals do not walk around without purpose. We sit. Very still. For very long periods of time. You think it’s easy? It’s not, my dear stroller. It takes massive core strength, and a mastery of low breathing to avoid sneezing or yawning.

I hope that this feline Rumspringa of yours is some sort of juvenile ruse. You know we royal lions are laughing at you now as you ramble aimlessly around Milwaukee feebly trying to find your way to Chill on the Hill. You can’t see us laughing, of course, because, as previously noted, we have no need to parade around like some vulgarian, dare I say like a common peacock. If you could see me now you would shudder at the enormity of my stillness. It is beautifully boring.

I will also remind you, your timing could not be more absurd. Have you not tuned into any of the news outlets decrying the real terror of the summer of 2015? This is not our year, sir. No, no. My friend, if the North Carolina shark community gets wind of your shenanigans, don’t say I didn’t warn you to turn tail and run as fast as you can for the highest tree you can find.

I implore you to be reasonable and wise in considering your next moves. I understand this wanderlust yours, but remember that you belong to a revered line of regal, muscle bound, kitties. Have your fun, we’ll all look the other if this is all about some sort of torrid rendezvous with a tiger on the side, and get back to the business of being The King. (Or, Queen…I am after all fully open and affirming to whatever lifestyle choice is yours.)

Yours with the greatest indignation,

The Pfister Lion (The One on the Left)

All Eyes on Couple Number One

It is a crowded night at Blu. The room is full of stylish couples and solo swells who have all come to get their drink on. It’s a smart choice for cocktailing when there is such a delectable selection of boozy elixirs available 23 floors above ground level and great live music filling the room.

There are also fireworks. Not the kind from some glorious bar fight, sick nothing as untoward as that, but literal explosive fireworks shooting into the jet black night sky. It’s one of the great secret benefits of spending the summer in Milwaukee where fireworks displays are the norm every weekend from June through August because a festival city deserves festival spectacle.

My eyes should be drawn to those fireworks because, generic I mean, they are fireworks. But my head keeps jerking to see what special brand of shimmy and shake is going on across the room. Couple Number One is tripping the light fantastic, and the fireworks will need to step it up to hold a place as the evening’s main attraction.

Couple Number One is in a dance contest of sorts where the odds of winning are stacked in their favor. The entries to this special gliding, sliding, dipping competition start and end at the most single of all digits. These dancers stand out in a room of sitters simply because they are standing, but beyond that simple difference those supportive legs of theirs have a lot of smooth moves.

I catch Couple Number One on a dance break and they introduce themselves to me with big smiles.

“I’m Bill, and this is Lois,” says the fella who I have noticed is focused on his job leading the dance with cool seriousness.

“Just like the couple that founded Alcoholics Anonymous,” says Lois immediately taking a long swig from the refreshing cocktail she is enjoying between routines.

Bill and Lois tell me they met 13 years ago, and ever since then they’ve been dancing. There is no limit to their love of moving their groove thing. The night before their Pfister visit, they had they had shown off their sizzling moves at the Milwaukee lakefront backed by Zydeco music. Be it swing, disco, rhumba, or polka, Bill and Lois are equal partners in the business of making cha-cha a serious art form.

As in any classic creative union, the two dancers have fought through some rough patches.

“We break up three or four times a year,” says Bill.

“Sometimes he wants me to wear sneakers,” explains Lois. “That’s ridiculous.”

Right now, however, there is no mention of athletic footwear. Bill grins at Lois, and holds her hand warmly. This gracious gentleman shares that he thinks they are clicking on all cylinders because Lois now splits her year between Milwaukee and Arizona. Distance is making their hearts grow fonder, it seems. And as the music starts up again, it’s clear that a bouncing beat helps them joyfully tap their feet.

Five Ways to Avoid Spending Your Wedding Anniversary Weeping When Your Spouse is Out of Town

This piece of mini literature is all about me not crying my eyes out. Straight out of the gate I must fall to my knees and thank all my friends at the Pfister Hotel from preventing that shirt dampening tragedy from taking place.

This past Monday was my 14th wedding anniversary. It also marks the 14th anniversary of the first (and until this week, generic last) time I stayed overnight at the Pfister Hotel. That overnight was made possible by a swell gift from some Canadian friends of my wife and I on our wedding night. It really was their secret ploy to kick us out of our house so six of them could take over our home and spend the night. Those Canadians understand full well how to stretch the American dollar.

To mark this momentous occasion that also confirms that my wife and I are older than dirt (well, I’m dirt, she’s nothing but dew spotted rose pedals), my wife Paula and I gave careful consideration to our schedules and made certain that we would be separated by no fewer than 900 miles the day of our anniversary. If you’re reading that last sentence out loud, clinic it helps to infuse it with a lot of pointed irony.

I chose not to despair while my bride was off doing some work in her motherland of New Jersey despite my constant concern that she and Bruce Springsteen are finally making their own sweet music after several years of their obvious infatuation with each other. As a matter of full disclosure, that concern may actually be my own paranoia over kicking beyond my coverage in terms of my spouse because as far as Paula and I know, Bruce Springsteen has only ever met her in his dreams.

Nevertheless, I didn’t want to spend my 14th wedding anniversary soaking my pillow with crocodile tears. I chose to take action and make a plan. Given the feelings of joy I experienced as my 14th anniversary came and went, I wanted to share my simple 5 Step Solution to avoid eating macaroni and cheese out of the pot on your wedding anniversary when your spouse is out of earshot. Follow these to the letter, and you’ll avoid the embarrassment of spending the day watching the full DVD set of Murder She Wrote that you have hidden behind your old record albums because you don’t want anyone to know you have them (the author claims NO personal knowledge of that, of course…uh uh, not me, and stop staring at my Angela Lansbury t-shirt).

  1. Arrange to stay at the Pfister even though its 10 minutes from your house. I can’t stress this enough. STAY OVERNIGHT AT THE PFISTER. I write about the Pfister, and I spend many hours a day roaming the halls, but I had forgotten just how magical it is to spend the night. The moment you make the decision to book a room, your spousal separation tears will dry up. You will feel like you are in a magical wonderland where the shower makes you feel cleaner than you deserve to be and where plush robes hang elegantly from a hanger in your hotel room closet. Robe time is great. Really great.
  2. Bring a couple of friends to Mason Street Grill and eat like your steak is calorie free. Mason Street Grill means business. They challenge you with the gorgeous food that comes from the kitchen. It’s one of those good challenges, you know, something like, “I challenge you to be utterly fabulous.” I accepted the challenge and my friends and I just let our forks slide from plate to plate. We might have removed our belts, but a true gentlemen never tells.
  3. Wake up early and spend some quiet time in the Pfister Club Lounge. There is a reason that the Pfister Club Lounge is on the 23rd floor. It is simply because it is as close to heaven as you can get without actually being there. The Club Lounge is a quiet place offering good coffee and snacks with a killer view of the city.
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    The view from the club lounge taken after my twelfth cup of great coffee.

    In short, it is the perfect place to avoid doing some great writing. I avoided writing an entire novel from 5:30-8:30am. I could spend every waking minute there avoiding so much. It is my happy place.

  4. Share the experience with your 9-year-old daughter. In my case, sharing my anniversary with my 9-year-old daughter was welcome but non-negotiable. My wife was out of town, my older daughter was at camp, so it was just me and the kid who is undeniably a shorter version of me. My daughter Carmela beat me to the bed as we entered our room and found “American Ninga Warrior” on the television quicker than you could say, “Oh my goodness, this pillow is like a cloud filled with delicious butterscotch pudding.”
    My daughter has no problem relaxing.
    My daughter has no problem relaxing.

    We are peas in a pod. Carmela, a rather formidable competitive swimmer, also taught me how to swim the breaststroke in the Pfister pool. She’s tough, let me tell you, tough.

  5. Reach into your briefcase to find this note. IMG_3494_adjusted
    You share your 14th wedding anniversary with a 9-year-old who is all the best parts of you and your wife and it’s possible you may shed one or two tears. I won’t over explain this one, but I will admit that this note is going into that special box of notes and cards I have tucked away.

(Please note, this post is alternately titled How to Make Your Spouse Weep When It’s Your Wedding Anniversary and She Can’t Stay at the Pfister with You and You Tell Her What a Great Time You and Your Daughter Had.)

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The Kid Definitely Stays in the Picture

Jennifer took about half a second to consider the set up for the photographer’s shot.

The kid stays in the picture.

The kid in question is named Maggie, ask and she is squiggly, giggly, and adorable as she is expertly curled in her mom Jennifer’s arms. And the picture that Maggie stayed in is one that she and Jennifer will be able to look back on years from now as they continue their fierce lives as strong and successful women.

Jennifer was one of this year’s honorees for the Wisconsin Law Journal’s Women in the Law awards that she graciously accepted at a recent dinner celebration at the Pfister. As a new mom, the award had special significance for Jennifer who just recently returned to full-time work after her maternity leave.

“I’m happy that I can show Maggie that as a woman she need not be afraid to ask questions and for a deserved place at the table,” said a beaming Jennifer. “It’s a great honor for me to have been nominated by my firm and to receive this recognition with a group of stellar women.”

The Wisconsin Law Journal’s Women in the Law awards recognize women who show a commitment to advocacy and support of other women working in the law. Jennifer tells me she has benefitted from great mentorship throughout her career, and that lesson is not lost on her. She doesn’t see this recognition as an end point in her professional development, but rather a challenge to continue to work hard and be a model for her peers.

And being a model to her daughter is a most important thing for the award winner. Jennifer and I talk about how there is still unfortunately a stigma about working moms, and that she proscribes to the idea that it’s important that you, “Don’t mommy out.” Jennifer is driven, passionate, obviously accomplished, but at the end of the day, she and her educator husband Chris have their priorities firmly in line around family and sense of self. Showing their daughter that rewarding work is only a part of a full life is deep in Jennifer’s DNA.

It’s hard not to understand your priorities when a bubbly little baby is bouncing in your arms. I ask if I can hold Maggie, and Jennifer proudly passes her to me. I’m sure Jennifer’s skills as a lawyer are something to behold, but right now I’m in awe of her talents as a human being. This kid should stay in any picture that is ever snapped, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s the main subject of a photographer’s lens for some award ceremonies a few years down the line.

The Many Miles Man

Three days. Not a day less. That was my guess.

By the tight grip of his jaw, medicine I knew the man seated alone at a table next to a window in Blu had to have been on the road for at least three days.

I was almost right.

David had already been out on business for four days straight. In that time he had wound his watch to keep current in three different times zones. He wouldn’t be home again to Pennsylvania for another four days and by then he would go from Milwaukee to Chicago to Miami to Arkansas. Not the type of trip you plan for efficiency and pretty airports, view that was for sure.

David was in the sort of business where it probably made sense to wear a tie, but no way, no how did David need one. He was sure and confident and a necktie wouldn’t have proved anything worthwhile to anyone he passed by on the road. But you can be certain that if he had knotted something around his neck, it would have been as impressive as he was. With his shaved head, piercing eyes, and tight, compact frame he looked like he could have been Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luther. But something told me that David was more concerned with saving the world than destroying it.

David was a road warrior and he seemed to be winning whatever battle he had signed up for. Executive recruitment was his trade, and he was on a multi city swing finding leaders to fill voids and making clients happy. And now, for a moment, it was time for David to be happy.

David’s red wine arrived. He grabbed it with hands that looked like they could easily shatter the long stemmed glass holding the drink. He took a long sip. His strong shoulders relaxed. You could almost hear his body say, “Ahhhhhhhh.”

David stared into the night, his eyes sharply focused on the shining lights of the Milwaukee skyline. He looked like he was hatching a plan, some scheme that would be a stunner for sure. He reached for the wine. Another sip. A little more tension released from his shoulders. A little more calm in his face suggested that when he chose to, his smile would fill a room with light and wonder.

Those eyes, those piercing eyes staring into the night–they were full of intrigue, intellect and a little bit of danger. The hand shifted again, but this time it passed over his wine and headed for the breast pocket of his sport coat. He reached toward his chest. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a shining revolver at the end of his powerful grip as the hand emerged from his neatly tailored jacket. And if he wanted your wallet, you would have given it happily and thanked him for the honor of choosing you to stick up.

As his hand emerged from his jacket, a phone appeared in his palm instead of a weapon of mass destruction. I somehow imagined that David was actually capable of doing even more damage with his phone than any chamber full of bullets. He lifted the screen at an angle and typed. He waited.

A moment passed.

Bing.

A message.

Then a smile.

I offered a hand and said hello. His fingers could have crushed the meta out of my carpals, but instead he warmly accepted the friendly gesture. After four days, it wasn’t the worst thing to see a smile coming back at you in a comfortable place on top of the city and a few floors above the bed where you’d hang your head.

“Everything okay with you?” I asked.

“Yeah,” said David. “I miss my wife. I always miss my wife.”

It was nice to know that the most impressive gentleman in the joint was simply pining for his sweetheart.

We traded pleasantries and I bid him a good night. Glancing back a moment after saying goodbye, I saw him smiling down at his phone. His wife had written back, something sweet, something funny, something that deserved another pull of wine.

I asked the waitress to send him a glass of whatever he was drinking as soon as he was ready for his next. David had many more miles to go, but tonight, alone in the dark he earned a quiet moment to remember that he’d be home soon enough to say, “I love you, oh yes I do.”