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.”

Breath of Fresh Biz

Spearmint or arctic blast—take your pick. The future looks good, here and boy, oh boy does it have fresh breath.

The MMAC (that’s Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce for all you non-commercial folk) held its Future 50 Awards Luncheon at the Pfister last week with a jam-packed affair in the Pfister’s Grand Ballroom. The innovators, the big producers, the great thinkers of the metro area descended to share salads and rub elbows all the while celebrating the fastest growing small businesses in the Milwaukee region. It’s a good list to consider, pilule and the MMAC shares some nice metrics on the power of these businesses on their website.

It takes a lot of breath to say all the words in the name of the sponsoring entity for the Future 50 Awards, that’s for sure. The mouthful that is the organizing group is Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and its Council of Small Business Executives. You can’t fault folks for simply using the acronym MMAC/COSBE, but that even produces a lot of spare wind whistling through the teeth.

Now, imagine what happens when all the charging-forward business leaders at an event like this, fueled by gallons of coffee and fast burning metabolisms, chat away about pushing industry farther in the region. Consider the impact of double latte halitosis filling the highly charged vibe of invention and exploration at an event like this. It’s not hard to conceive of some considerably less than sweet air being produced in such a frenzied environment.

That’s why I think a round of applause is in order for the event sponsors who coordinated (or perhaps converged through happy coincidence) a pro-breath mint schwag effort for the Future 50 Award luncheon. Well done, fresh breathers.

Sure, the event sponsors, all with their smart and neatly draped tables, did offer fine pieces of informational literature and well-designed ballpoint pens to luncheon guests. They covered the basics very well. Where the MMACCOSBEF50A-W-A-R-D sponsors hit it out of the park in a way that should rightfully garner praise from every dental hygienist and blind dater in the region is in the impressive stockpile of breath mints available for guests.

I like to think of this sort of schwag giving as prescient planning. The luncheon menu wasn’t drenched in garlic or sardines, but offered breath neutral dining options like lettuce, chicken and dinner rolls. But there’s no shame in admitting that the powerful people of the world take a big bite out of life at every opportunity and require a little assist on keeping the rarefied air around them smelling like toothpaste and sparkle rather than day old fish.

Fresh breath, it seems, comes in all shapes and sizes. Technology Resources Advisors kept it old school with a good old reliable live saving sort of mint.

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Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren opted for the rectangular mint cases with the rounded corners. All that you might expect from a well-heeled law firm…nothing sharp to cut yourself on so there’s no fear of a lawsuit.

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And it certainly was adorable that Park Bank provided a rounded mint tin that makes you think about a penny, nickel, dime or quarter.

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Clever from a solid financial institution, right?

No matter the mint, no matter the packaging, you can kiss the future hello after this event and feel a cool breeze of clean breath slapping a smile right on your face.

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Bag of Dreams

You would think by now that I would be unmoved by the sight of luggage in the lobby of the Pfister. Guests come in with bags, generic guests leave with bags. It’s all part of the hotel game. But when I see the hard working bell staff chugging back and forth with rolling carts filled with black bags that are being lined up with precision to form a sort of suitcase pond in the Pfister lobby, it’s worth a glance.

Having traveled with my mother and seen the carnage she can do at an airline baggage check-in, I first think that maybe the bags being lined up are filled with one lady’s collection of shoes. But as I get closer to the formation, I dispel that notion based on the fact that these black bags don’t bespeak of the high line of style that a lady in possession of 328 pairs of mule pumps might require for her steerage.

The moment that I see the luggage tag with a professional baseball team logo, I get it. The Pfister welcomes professional baseball teams from all around the country for their stay in town as they play at Miller Park, no matter how badly they beat our local Brewers. What I’ve come upon is the collective luggage for a traveling team who is checking out after rousting the Brew Crew during a recent home stand. Next year, by gum…next year our hometown boys will field an unstoppable team, for sure.

Rather than flipping over one of the suitcases so that the opposing team’s bags will all topple like some sort of Rube Goldberg dominos display, I stand in awe of the bags. I’m not one to kiss and tell (and don’t worry, I didn’t smooch any of the valises), so I won’t mention the name of the team that was responsible for taking out a majority of floor space with their matching suitcases. I also won’t note the bag tags of the famous players in the mix whose cases I considered grabbing and running away with to see if I could pick up a well-worn catcher’s mitt or even a lucky sweat sock because I’ve not been put on this earth to fleece ballplayers, just to admire their throwing arms and cheeks stuffed with wads of chewing tobacco.

Standing before the team totes, some far off voice calls to me. It’s my boyhood friend Ricky telling me to “look alive” as he slings a scuffed old baseball towards the ancient wooden bat in my hand. Seeing the bags, and realizing the team is on the move, I become a kid again, the one who spent summers oiling up his glove and visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY with my grandparents. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat with a scorebook and marked box scores, but there’s something about seeing the team’s bags bound together that makes me pause and remember a time in my life when a good day meant getting enough kids from the neighborhood to field two teams for a pickup game.

I share a smile and some words with the staff moving the luggage, but my mind wanders to the game. I’ll have to head out to catch nine innings before this season’s over. For now, I’ll recall the satisfaction of hearing the crack of the bat and dream about what’s inside those bags. The man in me knows that they’re stuffed with shirts and pants and shaving cream cans and socks, but the boy in me still hopes that those suitcases and filled with bats, balls, gloves and the hope for a sunny summer day when you share a soda with your pals even after they’ve scored the winning run by beating the tag at home plate.

Oprah’s Clothes Make Nice at The Pfister

I’m immediately interested in the event called Oprah’s Closet in the former Roger Stevens store at the Pfister. “What in the world does one of the most powerful women in the world keep in her closet?” I think. Is she like me and uses her closet to hang about 76 bow ties and a collection of suits that can be worn well into old man times?

I’m not surprised to find that the selections in Oprah’s Closet and Jonathan’s Closet don’t have a lot of common ground. Jonathan’s closet might have more sensible slacks in three shades of muted grey, viagra but Oprah’s Closet is a lesson in high design.

I’m welcomed to peek around for this one-day-only pop up fundraiser by a kind and smiling couple who are busily dealing with actual customers who have shown up to snap up threads that have been donated by the indomitable Ms. Winfrey herself. Upon entering the salon setting, I’m immediately struck that Oprah has impeccable taste, is not afraid of color and doesn’t mind a fur or two for the ladies.

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Shoppers are mingling and pulling out their wallets and the whole affair is humming along when I spot a familiar, cheap and might I say solidly handsome, face from my past. It’s golden-throated baritone Nate Stampley, a Broadway veteran who is in town working on Milwaukee Rep’s production of DREAMGIRLS. At an already swell event, Nate Stampley somehow is classing up the joint.

The fact that a sharp guy like Nate is at a fashionable affair at the Pfister is no surprise, of course. The room is filled with beautiful people who have come out to buy fashions donated by Oprah with the proceeds going to support Heritage International Ministries COGIC and their mission work in the US and Africa.

Nate and I chat and I learn why he is actually at the event. It is for the noblest of reasons—because of his mom and dad. Nate’s mom and dad just happen to be Dr. Nathaniel and Carolyn Stampley, the pastors of the ministry that this fundraiser is benefitting. I gather that they are the two people buzzing about the room making it run smoothly as this pearl of information drops in my lap.

Nate introduces me to his father, and I see that this whole enterprise is a family affair. There are cousins and uncles and aunts all around, lending a hand, making things happen. Dr. Stampley stands coolly in the middle of it all, a calming figure who, with the gesture of a hand or the lift of an eyebrow, has the commanding presence to get things done.

And gets things done he does. Dr. Stampley explains to me that the mission work he and his wife and their congregation does supports health and education efforts to those in need. The work is local, and the work is international. With a huge amount of charm, Dr. Stampley smiles at me and makes a grand invitation saying, “You should join us on a mission to Africa someday.”

Never mind the fact that I’ve just met the man, I start to consider his offer, such a powerfully positive man he is. I catch Nate again and ask if he can introduce me to his mother. He spots her as she is fully engaged in a conversation with someone who has come to do some shopping and brokers our greeting. Mrs. Stampley is immediately warm and full of heart, and it is evident that she is an equal part of making this event and the ministry sing. I’m a great admirer of her son Nate and daughter Malkia, a performer of great note in her own right who also happens to be appearing in DREAMGIRLS with her brother, and after getting to chat with Mrs. Stampley for a moment, I take her hand and tell her, “You have one of the greatest families I’ve ever met.”

I say my farewells, and I can’t help but feel inspired by the Stampley’s leadership, wisdom and spirit. Dr. Stampley had explained to me that this event came about because of his chance to meet Oprah when she had visited Milwaukee a few years back when she discovered that she had a half sister living here. That brief meeting turned into a special relationship that is ultimately helping others in need. I hope that my new connection with the Stampley’s bears the same sort of fruit. I may be passing by one of Oprah’s full-length fur coats today, but it’s not for lack of desire to help.   Watch what you say, Dr. Stampley, the day may come when I’m carrying your bags to Kenya.

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Southern Discomfort

I can’t help but overhear the fella at the bar with the full glass of Scotch placed before him at 2:30 in the afternoon on a weekday.

He’s a loud talker, try and the round sounds coming at the end of his sentences tells me that he has enjoyed his fair share of humid summers deep in the South somewhere.

I hear him bellow into his cell phone something about getting back to Memphis. I have no suspicions that this is some conspiracy theory Elvis sighting. Besides, Elvis was never as ear piercingly loud as this fine figure of a man.

The booming Southerner has two hands that are working overtime on this sleepy afternoon. The right hand holds the man’s ever present cell phone, a piece of metal I imagine is growing hotter in his hand as he blathers into it with a good amount of demanding zeal. The left hand is in charge of that Scotch, and by the looks of his grip, that left hand has had a lot of practice as Scotch delivery vehicle.

There are no other guests in the Lobby Lounge–it is a very slow late summer day when the folks who are at work are working and the folks who are at play are in the sun. I wonder if the Man from Memphis would dial it down as he barks about business matters to some unfortunate soul on the receiving end of his call if he found himself surrounded by a gaggle of guests. Something tells me that the answer would be, “Hell no, y’all.”

I’m on the edge of my seat to see if this fellow will start railing so hard about getting business in order that his face will turn the shade of a Memphis summer sunburn. But the Scotch seems to take a little edge off, if only to also take away all ideas in the man’s head that there is a social contract about volume in public spaces that sort of values the idea that cranking the dial up to eleven is a real no-no.

He’s a good show, sort of a modern day Tennessee Williams play with a smart phone. But good old Tennessee couldn’t have ever written a better ending to this Southern gentleman’s business call than what I hear as he wraps up his tirade.

“Get ‘er done! I’m counting on it. Oh, and I love you.”

Was it a trick? Did my ears deceive me? I lean in for more and watch as the man of the hour launches into a succession of similar calls to business associates. It’s the same pattern over and over. Screaming, cajoling, bulldogging, threatening, and then landing the sucker punch.

“Yep, love you. Love ya, I really do. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, and remember I love you. Love, love, love you!”

A rebel yell that trails off into the sounds of hearts and cuddly puppy dogs? I think I just saw the South rise again.

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The Birthday Girl Answers the Birthday Questions

My ears perked up the minute I heard Dr. Hollander playing the familiar strains of “Happy Birthday.” It’s certainly one of my favorite tunes, and and the venerable Dr. Jeffrey Hollander, our long-admired pianist in the Lobby Lounge, pounds it out well on the old ivories.

I scanned the bar for the person who looked the happiest to be alive. That’s what birthdays are about, right? A day when you get to be surrounded by friends and say, “Whew, I made it to another one!”

The smile across Shaundra’s face pegged her as the birthday girl right away. I’m not sure if she has a million dollar grin on days when she’s not celebrating her big day, but the lady with the drink in front of her that had been purchased by the friend at her side was beaming. It seemed to me like she was having one of the greatest birthdays of all time as I approached and introduced myself.

I wished Shaundra well and asked her about all the revelry she had packed into her day. Surprisingly she answered, “I hadn’t really planned on doing anything today, but my friend convinced me to stop by the Pfister for a drink, and here I am.”

It was likely because Shaundra hadn’t given the day much thought that she was having a hell of a birthday. Sometimes setting the expectation bar low pays off with huge dividends. So far she had gotten Dr. Hollander’s lilting solo, a free drink, and the adoration of her friend as well as a gentleman at the bar who I saw and understood was certainly taking an interest in getting to know the birthday girl a little bit better.

I believe birthdays are sacred days in a person’s life, calendar marks that should only be reserved for eating cake for breakfast and napping until someone throws you a great dinner party. I always love to see friends and family on their birthdays because a good pal of mine created what she likes to call “The Birthday Questions.”

The Birthday Questions aren’t overly complicated. They are simple and straightforward, but they cause a birthday celebrant to pause, think and reflect. Shaundra told me she was game to answer the Birthday Questions, so I leaned in and listened as this friendly and positive lady let me know a little more about her life.

Question #1: What is the thing you are most happy about from your last birthday to this one?

I’m so proud that I opened my own salon this year. It’s called Salon Cass and it’s right down the street from the Pfister. It was a lot of work…I MEAN A LOT…but it has been great. I’m really happy about that one for sure.

Question #2: What is the one thing you wish hadn’t happened from last birthday to this one?

I wish my grandmother hadn’t gotten sick. She is a really special lady, and she has a condition that has confined her to a wheelchair. She still has a great attitude about life, but it is hard to see her sick like she is.

Question #3: If we see each other a year from now on your birthday, what is the thing that you hope you will have accomplished from this birthday to next?

I want to move to Las Vegas! I love it there. And I’d love to take my grandmother. We’d have a lot of fun. I can get help running my salon, but, yeah, Vegas is where I hope to end up someday.

Here’s to you on your recent special day, Shaundra, and may all your future wishes come true. I hope you’ll let me buy you a drink in the Lobby Lounge next year—that is if you can pull yourself away from the Vegas strip for a visit back home.

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One Night Only in the Lobby Lounge…DeLorenzo and Rivers!

Victor DeLorenzo and I share a few things when it comes to Milwaukee. One of those is history. The other is the Pfister.

Let’s get the history right out of the way, ailment shall we. Many years ago Victor and I first crossed paths when we had both been cast as performers in a play about how one man got swallowed up by the Nazi machine in 1930s Germany. Victor had been cast as the one Jewish character, and I had been cast as a Nazi. We had lovely times together in rehearsal until one day our director announced to the cast that Victor had gone to the doctor for a physical, feinted and broken his ankle in a freak accident. Victor was out, diagnosis I got promoted to his role, and because of his bum ankle I went from Nazi to Jew overnight.

That’s the history, and I was so delighted to see Victor again after many years when he and his musical partner Janet Schiff in the cello and percussion duo Nineteen Thirteen played for a recent art opening at the Pfister’s Pop Up Gallery. All of a sudden we had the Pfister in common, cialis and it felt nice to be in the same place with a man I admire for his many talents.

Then one recent day as I was passing Todd Mrozinksi’s studio at the Pfister I peeked in to see that Victor and Janet were getting their silhouettes traced by our Resident Artist for paintings Todd will include in his collection.

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I stopped in to have a chat with Victor and catch up since I hadn’t had an opportunity to do so prior.

I find more and more that the Pfister is a place for reunion, and when those reconnections happen in the hotel, the folks making contact again after weeks, months or years invariably have their own Pfister tales that they share with each other. It’s as if the walls just draw out the stories, and listen hard enough and you can hear some doozies.

Victor and I did the general catching up that men of our age do. This hurts, that hurts, getting older isn’t so bad. Victor also told me he had some great memories of years gone by at the Pfister with a twinkle in his eye saying, “But you could never write about some of those.”

One tale he did tell me is beautifully quaint. It is so sweet, and surprising from a man who was responsible for forming one of the hardest driving alternative rock ensembles of all time (The Violent Femmes for those of you who need a little refresher).

Victor explained that he grew up in Racine and always dreamed of trips to Milwaukee. But as a boy prior to having his driver’s license, those trips were few and far between. He longed for the freedom that a license allowed him, and had big plans once he could get behind the wheel and follow his own path.

As he dreamed about that new sense of freedom and discovery, he also reveled in the great entertainment of the day, and for Victor the greatest of the great was Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Victor explained that he was a tremendous fan of the former talk show host and would stay up and watch the show each and every night. From time to time Johnny would have a guest host fill in for him, and his favorite of all was the uncompromising Joan Rivers.

The time had come for Victor to test for his driver’s license and as he prepared he made a discovery. Rivers was scheduled to do a series of concerts at The Pfister’s old Crown Room, a classic spot for comedians and musicians. Through the grapevine Victor discovered that Rivers was also set to stay at the Pfister. With the blind resolve and confidence that only youth can bring, Victor made a decision.

“I thought to myself, I am going to get my driver’s license, drive right to the Pfister Hotel, walk in, and meet Joan Rivers.”

The plan seemed fool proof to Victor who couldn’t see any possible obstacles towards success. That’s the beauty of youth—anything seems possible.

Now perhaps because of timing, perhaps because of luck, perhaps because of a combination of lots of random factors, a miracle occurred.

Victor’s plan worked.

I like to call it the Pfister Blessing, sort of the stroke of good things that can and do happen to you once you make a decision to walk through the door. On that day so many years ago Victor climbed into a car with his shiny new driver’s license, drove North from his Racine home to the Pfister, walked in, and moments later met Joan Rivers. He tells me that she was an absolute delight and spent the evening in conversation with him, a moment he will never forget. It certainly couldn’t have played out better for Victor if he had tried, but I did forget to ask him one essential question, something I’ll have to clear up next time we see each other. I gotta wonder whether the former queen of runway commentary had anything to say about teenage Victor DeLorenzo’s haircut. That’s another Pfister story that I for one would love to hear.

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The Golden Tee Time of My Life

Right now, seek there is literally nothing in the world that can contain my joy and happiness. I just had, to say the least, a great moment at the Pfister.

Today I itched my thirteen-year-old boy scratch at the Pfister. And no, I didn’t finally get up the nerve to ask Jenny to the school dance. Instead, I took some time out of my day to play a video game.

Smiles all around, shall we? It’s a good day when a grown man in suit and tie plays a video game. Somehow the world wins.

For the past day I have been peering into Rouge at the Pfister to stare in awe at a glorious arrangement of tables and chairs and general flim flam finery that has been magically pulled together to serve as Fiserv’s Championship Experience Hospitality Suite. This suite experience is being offered for Fiserv’s friends who are here in Milwaukee to attend the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

The room is lush. There are sofas. There are snacks. There are television screens showing moving images of men and women in pastel colored golf attire. But that all pales in comparison to the real hammer drop of entertainment and joy that is available for Fiserv’s guests.

There is Golden Tee.

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There in the middle of one of the most elegant rooms ever was sweet, ambulance sweet, Golden Tee, the top arcade choice of bad golfers and mildly competent video gamers worldwide. I got all weepy when I saw it glowing at me like a beacon of amusement.

Golden Tee combines two things that I have been doing since my teenage years–playing golf and trying to master video games. In that time, I have achieved absolutely the same level of dexterity and accomplishment on these competitive diversions. I’m unbelievably terrible at both of them.

I sauntered into Rouge before guests were arriving to ask one of the friendly Fiserv event attendants about the Golden Tee game. I had to know, “Have there been some fierce Golden Tee matches going on?”

The answer I got surprised me.

“Well, actually, I don’t think I’ve seen more than a handful of folks play yet. But we’re here until Monday.”

It was one of those lightning strike moments for me. The game had been lightly played. There was no line of waiting gamers. Because of Fiserv’s generosity, you didn’t even need a quarter to play. It was a magic moment.

“Can I play?” I asked the warm hearted Fiserv attendant.

She looked at me with a sweet smile. “Sure, it’s okay with me.”

Little did she know but she had just cleared the path for me to make one of my all time dreams come true.

I was going to get on the leaderboard of a video game once and for all.

I squared up my stance in front of the Golden Tee console. Feet shoulder width apart, a little bend in the knees…you know, just like the pros do it. I hit the START button and the machine came to life with a greeting from the friendliest of sportscasters ever, the incomparable Pat Summerall. I said a little silent prayer to the late great Summerrall who died in 2013, but also squealed a little realizing that this was a classic Golden Tee, no hackneyed imitator.

Golden Tee takes a certain level of hand eye coordination and mechanical agility. I have so little of any of those skills that I actually had to look up those words to understand what they mean when I wrote that last sentence. I lined up my first shot, spun the track ball controlling Player One’s swing and let ‘er rip.

A thirty-yard drive dribbled forward onto the screen. I had to face the facts. In pixels and in life, I’ll never be a long ball kind of guy.

Undeterred by a middling start, I continued to push that little white ball down the virtual fairway. I impressed myself that I was able to make actual divots on the game screen and prompt Pat Summerrall to shout out voiced over warnings like, “Look out! Watch your head!”

After making my way through two holes, a flashing screen suddenly appeared pushing out the image of a greenery and a golf man in comfortable slacks and short sleeves.

LEADERBOARD!

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There it was. And it had only taken me 23 strokes to get there.

My 11 strokes on the first hole and my 12 strokes on the second hole were good enough to offer me an onscreen prompt to type in my initials so the whole world could know that one JTW was a winner. There are big moments in a man’s life…marriage, birth of his child, the day you just give up and shave the few remaining hairs off of the top of your mostly bald head—but adding your name to the leaderboard of one of the greatest low-tech video games of all time is, without a doubt, a moment of true of true victory.

Fiserv’s guests started to arrive just as I finished adding my initials to the history of video gaming, and I quietly stepped away from the machine. I’m not one to show off, and I really didn’t want to intimidate anyone else who had an eye on the Golden Tee. I walked away from Golden Tee with a new notch in my belt and a belly full of pride. I can only imagine that the folks watching me swagger out of Rouge were thinking to themselves, “That guy’s arms must be really sore from taking all those shots, but boy does he look like a winner.”

This Week Everyone Looks Great in Spandex and Running Shoes

Picking someone to talk to in the Pfister Lobby who is decked out in spandex shorts and isn’t afraid to sweat a little is like shooting fish in a barrel for the next few days.

Milwaukee seems to be the fitness center of the world this week, medical and the Pfister is a sort of hub for tons of athletes who have traveled from near and far to test their mettle in feats of daring do, strength, and distance. I’m a suit a tie guy myself, but these sporting Joes and Janes give performance gear a good name as they wander the hotels halls stretching hamstrings and the like with their gazelle like strides.

This Olympic sized effort to make Milwaukee the epicenter of athletic achievement for a span of several huffing-and-puffing-to-the-finish-line August days started early this week with the 2015 JCC Maccabi Games. The Maccabi Games is the largest Jewish youth event in the world with young athletes coming to Milwaukee from around the globe to compete in a myriad of sporting events and build strong global community connections. We’ve had a fair share of folks with JCC Maccabi Games t-shirts relaxing in the Lobby Lounge while they aren’t cheering for some match or trying to kick the winning goal reminding everyone that a healthy body and soul go hand in hand. The JCC Maccabi Games produced this clever video for their Kickoff at the BMO Harris Center this past Sunday. Local bigwigs like Mayor Tom Barrett, no rx County Executive Chris Abele, and a cowboy hat sporting Sherriff David Clarke make nice cameos welcoming visitors to Milwaukee. Give it a gander…I think you’ll smile.

But right now we are on the cusp of what I believe is one of the most grueling sporting events that any group of overachievers could ever think up.

It’s triathlon time.

Triathlon time means a lot to me because my very own wife is one of those mad women…er, overachievers…who love the sport of triathlon and think that going out for a swim isn’t enough so it makes perfect sense to tack on a bike ride and a run to round out a day of exercise.

My wife won’t be participating in the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals this weekend in Milwaukee (don’t worry, she’s not being lazy, she’s actually flying to Seattle to run a half marathon), but there are plenty of fit and fiery competitors prepping for Saturday and Sunday’s tri activities who have checked in early at the Pfister.

I came upon two such athletes tucked into plush sofas in the lobby reading the newspaper on a quiet morning. I spotted their USA Triathlon sweatshirts, but I could have picked them out as triathletes even in civilian clothes. They looked like ladies who did not wilt from challenges, and their lean and strong physiques were like a warning to avoid challenging either of them to an arm wrestling match.

Pat and Nancy are from Massachusetts and this is their second time to Milwaukee and the Pfister for this race. It is not, however, the duo’s second time in the triathlon ring. When I ask them how many tris they’ve completed they casually say, “Oh, maybe a hundred or so.”

This is the thing about triathletes. They have this sort of laid-back attitude about pushing their bodies to the limit.

Case in point. I asked how each of the ladies got into triathlon. Nancy told me, “Well I ran marathons, but the running was too much for me after many years, so I switched to tri.” Now, for those of you who are still a little shaky on the actual order of events in a triathlon, first you swim, and then you bike, and then YOU RUN. Nice try, Nancy, but I chalk that one up as a well played humble brag.

Pat did her own stint with marathons by qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon three times. She did her first triathlon after watching one in Massachusetts. She looked at the competitors and thought, “Gee, that looks kind of fun, I think I’ll give it a shot.” From that meditation on competition, Pat soon found herself crossing the finish line after 140.6 miles at the granddaddy of all triathlons, Iron Man Hawaii. Pat and Nancy have been to this rodeo a few times before, and by now the horses are eating out of their hands, it seems.

This year, they’ll take part in the sprint distance triathlon at the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals. They’ll dip into Lake Michigan for a nice morning swim and will the stride across the finish line about 16 miles later. It’s not Iron Man, but it’s no walk in the park, either (that is unless your park has water stops and a place to change your swimming suit).

I’m always curious about what a triathlete wants to do immediately following a race (I would eat four whole pizzas, I believe), so I ask Pat and Nancy what their plans are post event. Pat tells me, “Well this year we splurged and had our bikes shipped fully in tact so we won’t have to rush back to our hotel rooms and take them apart.” Sounds like a fair and reasonable concession to make in a long triathlon career, and don’t worry ladies, I’m pretty sure no one is saying, “Pat and Nancy are shipping their bikes? What slackers!”

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

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.