Who Says Skating’s Just for Kids? BluTending with Wisconsin Edge Masters Synchronized Skating Team

One man orders an Arnold Palmer, a dry vodka martini, and a Chardonnay. It almost seems like a test for the bartender, Nicole, who doesn’t know what an Arnold Palmer is.  He has to explain to her that an Arnold Palmer is half lemonade, half iced tea–no alcohol. He notices me noticing his test, then laughs and explains to me that if you add vodka, then it’s a John Daly, but he just wants an Arnold Palmer.  Both sound like summer to me. Meanwhile, Nicole, nonplussed, simply asks her fellow bartender where the lemonade and iced tea are.  She yells over to me:

“I’m doing two shifts tonight.  It’s terrifying . . . and fun!  Actually, it’s overwhelming!”

Despite being out of her comfort zone, Nicole takes charge behind the bar at Blu.  Yes, Nicole was helping raise money for the Wisconsin Edge Masters Synchronized Skating Team by volunteering to be a BluTender for a couple of hours.  It’s no surprise that she has the confidence of a pro–whipping out Arnold Palmers, nice pours of wine, and a strong New Old Fashioned (“That’s what the blood oranges are for!”)–because she is the captain of the Edge Masters team.

When her first shift is over, she slips onto the bar stool next to me and fills me in.  “Most people think of ice skaters as kids who stop when they’re adults,” she said, “but there are a lot of adult skaters in the metro [Milwaukee] area.  In fact, you have to be at least 25 years old to be on the Masters team.”  Nicole has been the captain for two years.  When I tell her that I’ve never heard of synchronized skating–and this is coming from someone who’s always loved watching skating at the Olympics–she confirms that not enough people know about it . . . yet.  “And the Olympics aren’t out of the question.  We’re working on it.”  She smiles.

I learn from her that each year, more and more people come out of the woodwork, as she puts it, people who used to skate when they were younger and who are looking to rejoin the sport, either for personal enjoyment or actual competition.  I didn’t get a firm handle on the timeline of synchronized skating (Nicole’s New Old Fashioned might have something to do with it–and I’ve never claimed to be a reporter!), but apparently (we’ll say “some time ago”) a “coffee club” of about ten senior citizens started taking to the ice together.  According to Nicole, their mindset was “We just want to skate.  We don’t care who it is, we just want to skate.”  And skate they did, replete with helmets and wrist guards.  This must have been a sight to see.  I muse to myself that I hope to be as tough as those senior citizens when I’m older.  I can’t even walk without falling sometimes, though, so I quickly abandon the prospects of being a tough old guy on the ice.

But it was “chaos,” Nicole adds.  “No one knew each other well.  There was a coach, sure, but no one really in charge.  But by the second year, it got more organized.  It was an evolving group.”  Many of the original “coffee club” members still skate, including 84-year-old Carl, who still skates and skis.  Inspired partly by these bold seniors, more and more adults in their 20s, 30s, and 40s started thinking about competitive skating again.  People started noticing who the “real skaters” were at open skates and through a mixture of personal and social media recruiting, teams started to coalesce.  And now there are Beginner, Preliminary, Pre-Juvenile, Teen, and Intermediate teams, too.

2015-16 Masters Team

According to their website, the Wisconsin Edge Synchronized Skating Teams “began with one team in 1985 under founder and coach Jon Sorkan. Within a short period of time, the Wisconsin Edge gained national recognition when the teams moved into the Pettit National Ice Center, one of the few Olympic Training Centers in the nation . . . In 1997, the Wisconsin Edge earned their first medal at the National Precision Skating Championships in Syracuse, NY after placing 2nd in the Intermediate division. Since then, Wisconsin Edge teams have gone on to medal at both the Midwestern and National Championships across multiple divisions of U.S. Figure Skating’s synchronized skating program. Most recently, Wisconsin Edge’s Preliminary team won the 2015 Midwestern Championships.”

While you can’t tell from the photo above of the 2015-16 Masters Team (with Nicole, I’m pretty sure, in the middle of the front row) is that the skaters range from 25 years to 60 years of age.

“In fact,” Nicole exclaims all of a sudden, “let me introduce you ‘Sparkly Jan,’ our 60 year old!”  As Jan and I shake hands, something in her beautiful 60-year-old face (again, you’d never know–that’s Jan in the first row, right!) strikes me as familiar, as does her first name, and I ask her if we know each other.  She smiles widely but says she doesn’t think so.

“Were you in a play with me about a purple kimono?” I try.

Lightbulb goes off: “Oh my god!  I was your wife!”

And the rest of the night is something of a blur (or at least I didn’t write much down after this moment).  Jan and I did, indeed, perform in a student-written and directed one-act play at Pius XI High School at least ten years ago.  We played the Japanese parents of a hefty son who reveals to them one evening that he likes wearing mom’s purple kimono.  Rave reviews.  Star on Hollywood.  All that.

She took a turn at BluTending:

Here, Jan looks like the stern wife she played in our one-act . . .
. . . but here, Jan shows a truer face: all smiles.

We eventually got a chance to talk.  In between reminiscing about our (or at least my) poor acting skills and filling each other in on a decade’s worth of life, Jan did add about her Masters team that it is comprised of so many kinds of professionals: “We have one stay-at-home mom, two PhDs, two nurses, one lawyer, one speech pathologist . . . They’re all so well-educated.”  I liked that she was proud of this characteristic.  And I loved that I was sitting with this classy, poised woman named Jan who is still doing what she loves.

I did meet Jan’s skating partner and Wisconsin Edge coach David, who told me that synchronized skating was invented by Dr. Richard Porter 53 years ago and that there’s a competition named after him in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  He told me that Jan had just passed her adult gold pairs test and that “for the last 16 years, I’ve been lifting Jan over my head and throwing her across the ice.”

I also met Jan’s daughter Angela, who is also a Wisconsin Edge coach.

I remember a fun conversation with David and his friend Josh, who was there to support the team, about death spirals and the impossible “Pamchenko Twist” from the 1992 movie The Cutting Edge.  We talked about a lot more that I can’t remember.  But it was fun.

At some point Jan, Josh, and I marveled over the little ditty about the Wisconsin Gas Light Building:

When the flame is red, it’s warm weather ahead. When the flame is gold, watch out for cold. When the flame is blue, there’s no change in view. When there’s a flickering flame, expect snow or rain.

At another point in the evening, I had a fun conversation with a Polish woman, dressed to the nines, about her fabulous life and her upcoming memoir, which I’m supposedly writing in 2017.  I took this picture that she really liked:

Very little of this is in the correct order, you should know.

I walked away from the beautiful Blu views with good memories, new insight, new friends, and a good buzz from the New Old Fashioneds (seriously, folks–The Pfister has it right!).

And a potential book deal for 2017???  Call me, whoever you were!

 

 

 

PLUME SERVICE II | December 10, 2016 | More “Hearing Voices”

Amy Miller finds a comfortable spot on the stairs to write.
Here, Amy listens intently as Morganne MacDonald reads her story.

As promised, here are a few more stories inspired by the paintings in The Pfister Hotel.  The first was written by Amy Miller–we squealed in delight at its ability to be both formal sounding and naughty.  The second is another by Amy, a letter from a character in the hazy painting who is barely recognizable at first.  And the last is mine, also a letter, based on the dark-haired woman’s gaze vs. the glazed eyes of the red-haired woman, the position of the old man’s hands, and the dichotomy of Catholic religious items and the reasonable scale.

“The Poppy Field” story is one of imminent marriage, “Moonlight Scene” is about a hoped for return to married life, and “The Fortune Teller” tells the story of a young woman looking for good fortune in the love department.

Enjoy!

“The Poppy Field” (Louis Aston Knight)
by Amy Miller

The sun was warm for late summer.  The scent of the flowers was strong in the air, delightfully suffocating in its heaviness.

Isabelle looked over at her sister Henrietta, already dressed in her best clothes and wearing an apron to protect against soiling.  “Dear sister, I am so happy to be here with you,” said Isabelle, plucking another perfect, pink bloom.

“Not as happy as I to have you with me!” replied Henrietta.  “Just to think, the two of us picking my marriage bouquet.  It will be as if you are holding my hand down the aisle.”

Isabelle could hear the joy in Henrietta’s voice.  It was heartwarming, even in the heat–and the dizzying profusion of color abounded around them.

“You have accepted a good man.  I’m sure he will bring you a happy life.:

“Thank you for your blessing, dear sister.”

“Well, it’s really his blessings you will be concerned with this evening,” said Isabelle with a conspiratorial nudge.  

Henrietta gasped and blushed.  “Izzy,” she cried, with playful horror.

“Well, Is it not true?  T’would be a sad life to be bound to a man who could not fulfill all his duties.”

“Izzy, I’m sure he will make me happy,” Henrietta said, dropping her gaze and blushing.

“Moonlight Scene” (H.M. Kitchel)
by Amy Miller

20 September 1872

Dearest Majorie,

I write to you by light of fire and full moon.  Camp tonight is by a small stream bed.  Work fills my days, but it is in the long, lonely hours of the night that my mind turns only to thoughts of you.

I have managed to capture an excellent harvest of valuable pelts.  If all goes well, this trip will buy us provisions for a comfortable winter.  We may even have enough to try buying seed to plant in the spring.  I know how pained you feel at the risk I take on these trips.  With any luck, this one may become the last.

I hold your handkerchief close to my heart each time I sleep, trusting your love and divine providence to watch over me and hold me safe from harm. I long for the day we shall be together again in one house, as husband and wife should be.

I will post this letter to you when I next arrive at a fort.  I hope it will find you well and safe in your father’s care.  Tell him that soon he shall have a son-in-law worthy of the title.

Yours in love.

“Beneath the Table” (inspired by Ludwig Vollmar’s Fortune Teller)
by Dominic Inouye

Dear Herr Vollmar,

I write to you today with a quite serious request.  Two days ago, I accompanied my younger sister–you’ll remember her as Lotta–to your home, despite my initial concern about two girls such as us visiting a stranger, let alone a man, in his private abode.  You must know that it was not without a moral struggle betwixt us that I finally conceded to this most curious venture–if only, I told her, to unleash my feminine venom should anything unseemly occur.

She sought your sage advice, believing you to be a man of both your word and a man of God, inspired by the holy scriptures.  Indeed, the icons and crucifix and prayer beads that hang on your wall seem to speak to this truth.  But, sir, I studied you, since I am an observant and cautious girl, just as my mother always taught me to be.  Your holy words, on the contrary, belied the archaic babble inspired by the arcana of your dusty tarot cards, hidden as they were beneath the table.  I was wise to your charlatanism, but refrained from intervening, as my sister had willingly clasped her heart over her ears.  She would have been as deaf to my plea for her to leave your foolery as she was deaf to your foolery.  You spoke no godly words, only ones of devils and towers, hierophants and suns–and the Hanged Man–which she no doubt heard as favorable signs gleaned from the Old Testament or, better yet, the Apocalypse, that her long months of pining for a certain young man, nay fool, would soon be over.

This is why I write to you now, in her absence, to insist that you never allow her to visit you again; neither will she procure your services nor will you promote them. For you have gained in coins what she has lost in faith and decency.  Yes, she has more hope now, but it is misguided, turned awry by a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  I promise to not be too slow to call your bluff and reveal you as the false prophet you are.  For now, she must not know I have made such demands on her behalf.  I trust you will heed this warning.  

Sincerely,

Neté Fuchs*

* In German, Fuchs means “fox hunter.”

PLUME SERVICE II | December 10, 2016 | “Hearing Voices”

What is “voice”?

It’s what comes out of our mouths when we speak, the reverberation of air through our vocal cords that makes particular sounds, with a pitch and a timbre, a tone and a frequency.  But is that all it is?

Is it the expression of our unique style, whether spoken or written (or even painted or danced)?  A feel, a beat; a rhythm, a pace?  The formality or informality of how we are communicating, indicated by our vocabulary and inflection and even our body language?  Is it our accent, revealing our genesis, a region whose inhabitants have trained their vocal cords to reverberate in “ahs” versus “ohs,” a drawl, a click, a cadence–to say “bubbler” instead of “water fountain”?

Is it a descriptor, as in “professional voice” or “stuffy voice,”  “silly voice” or “natural voice” (whatever that is)?  Is it our way of interpreting a situation in which we vary our vocal cords to fit an environment, like a “church voice” versus a “teacher voice”?

Or is it even bigger than all this?  Is it part of our identity, our very self . . . a power that we are given or that we develop or that we sometimes choose? And something that can be taken away in a suppressive and even oppressive way, as in “taking away someone’s voice”?

The six writers who gathered with me this past Saturday afternoon for the second Plume Service writing workshop determined that it could be all of the above.  While the first Plume Service asked participants to step into a painting and experience it on all five sensual levels–seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling–this second gathering invited the writers to try on a different persona and develop his or her voice.  No landscapes devoid of humanity this time.  Only paintings which featured humans or ones with humans distant or obscured and therefore unheard.  Their goal was to let these humans talk and to venture into the distance or through the haze to meet up with those humans who they could barely see.

The ultimate goal, as with the first Plume Service, was to amass creative pieces of writing inspired by the painting in The Pfister, from which I will be able to choose selections to accompany the paintings with placards and, I hope, audio.

After an insightful brainstorm around the definition of “voice,” the participants each wrote down three adjectives that they (or others) would use to describe them.  Then I asked them to ask themselves “Is this how I talk?” and “What does it even mean to ‘talk’ this way?”  For instance, I wrote down observant, gregarious, and kind.  One way, I told them, that I speak gregariously is that I use people’s names as often as possible, addressing them often and referring to them as examples (a skill I mastered while a teacher).  I also look people in the eye and try to engage them as interesting individuals worthy of my attention.  The examples they gave were all quite personal and revealing, almost confessional at times.  But we talked about what it means for someone’s voice to be “shy” or “sassy” or “anxious” and interrogated the validity or profundity of these meanings.

We could have talked for hours, I think.  But the paintings were calling out: “Hear our voices” (whisper) or “Hear our voices!” (cry) or “Hear our voices” (lament or plea).

And off they went to explore.  When they returned, I was surprised to learn that even more people had chosen to write about Charles Clement Calderon’s A View of Venice (note to self: Charles Clement Calderon’s A View of Venice is off limits for Plume Service III!).  I have already published three poems from the first workshop all inspired by this one painting.  I don’t know what it is about this painting: Is it enigmatic?  mysterious? inviting? soothing?  Is it that we all connect somehow with ships going out to sea and ships returning?  A coming and a going?  A longing for adventure and a yearning to return?

Whatever it is, I give you three more versions of Calderon’s oils.  The first is by Cian MacDonald-Milewski, a senior in high school, who writes an interior monologue in the voice of a man returning to his wife and child. The second, by Iris Geng, steps out of the painting and describes the scene from the Calderon’s perspective.  And the third is the first of a pair by Christina Oster: the Venice poem is in her father’s voice and a second, inspired by a different painting, is in her mother’s.

“Man in Tall, Docked Ship Thinking to Himself” 
by Cian MacDonald-Milewski

I am so glad to be home to see my wife and child.  It has been so long . . . I wish I wouldn’t have had to leave them for so long . . . When I left my child, she was so small, so bright, like a yellow daisy on a warm summer day in an open field.  I pray that they have not struggled while I was away. Now that I have gained enough coin from my venture to secure us, I hope I will not have to venture again.  I do not want to be ripped from my family because of finances . . . I will tell my wife the love that I feel deep inside my soul, this ember that has only been fueled while I have been away.  When I see my child, I will whisper in her ear and tell her promises of being there for her forever and always.  I long to embrace my wife and child and never part from their side again.

Cian

When participants heard Cian’s piece at the end of our workshop, they remarked at his vivid, poetic use of language and the formality of his thoughts, which, he says, he was trying to choose his words purposefully in order to replicate what might be a cultured voice from the late 1800s.

Iris’ poem chose a different angle with a short narrative from the perspective of someone observing the painter Calderon who was observing the scene on the water.  She captures nicely a potential disruption to an otherwise peaceful day.

“A Partly Cloudy Day for Painting”
by Iris Geng

It’s a nice, partly cloudy day at the dock of San Marco Square.  The painter had set up.  A schooner with massive sails toward the dock and a gondola with six guests tries very hard to row to get out of the way of the schooner.  The rowers sing out loud to coordinate and energize the gondola, but the three passenger couples are observant.  

“Watch out for that sailboat!” cries the man with a red hat and white gown.  

“No worry,” his friend says calmly.  “We have the right of way.”  

The fear on their women’s faces relaxes after hearing his remark.  

“What a gorgeous day to be on the canal,” the woman in blue chants.  “I am looking forward to our meal near the Riolto Bridge.”

Iris (left) and Christina (right)

This next Venice poem is the one by Christina Oster.  It is written in the voice of her deceased father, who succumbed to dementia, writing an imagined letter to his wife.  In a recent email, she shared, “Due to my father’s dementia right before he passed, they never had a chance to truly say ‘goodbye’ to each other.  This exercise proved the perfect way for me to bring closure of some sort to his unfortunate passing 6 months ago.”  The poem that follows is inspired by a different painting, Antonio Torres’ Grecian Girl, and written in the voice of her mother, writing to her husband.  Both are haunting and sad, but also, as Christina writes, words of closure.

“From Father”
by Christina Oster

Mother,
Demon vessels have demented my sails.
Waves crash, carrying away sediment filled with sentiment.
A mirage to think that my mast was made of steel.
It is not.
My mast is frail and feeble, getting weaker with the pelting storm.
But, my love, don’t ever question your presence through it all.
My view of Venice is not a blur.
I do recall.
I recall your beauty, your heart, your service.
I am soon approaching inevitable shipwreck.
But I will forever remember what the sea has forced me to forget.

“From Mother”
by Christina Oster

Father,
Finally, our Parthenon crumbles to ruins.
The Aegean Sea sailed your ship to sunset well before I could perform a final tidy-up.
My exhaustion prevails, but faith through my passion and pain will pulse and persist until our life
Our structure
is someday restored. 
But for now, my love
I have poured my last service.

Christina

I am thankful that Cian accompanied his mother to this workshop and unabashedly shared the romantic words of the sailor.

I am thankful that Iris, who is Chinese, overcame her anxiety about her written English so that we could see the Venice painting (yet again!) from a new perspective.

And I am thankful that Christina felt empowered enough to share her work with six complete strangers, let alone see in the two paintings an opportunity for personal healing and growth.  In her words, “Thank you for reuniting me with a style of writing that I’ve abandoned for far too long. I often think I can only write a certain way – a more edgy, promotional, advertise-ish way. I forgot that the romantic, compassionate voice still exists.”

It doesn’t matter who you are: there is surely a painting in The Pfister Hotel’s beautiful collection that is bound to hook you, draw you in, transform your vision, and help you find (or reconnect with) your voice.  I hope you’ll consider joining me for Plume Service III.  The January date is yet to be determined, so stay tuned!

As always, thank you for reading!

p.s. More Plume Service II stories and photos to come–including my own!

p.p.s. And stay tuned, also, for a little post on a little thing that happened to me this past Sunday: I got married and had brunch at The Rouge with 25 of my closest family and friends! 🙂

BREAKFAST WITH SANTA | December 3, 2016 | What Do You Want From Santa? (Adult Version)

Breakfast With Santa, December 3, 2016

On the day after Thanksgiving, the Pfister Christmas tree was lit and Santa arrived to the applause of adults, the squeals of children, and the caroling of madrigals in the packed lobby.  But Santa didn’t return to the North Pole right away.  Instead, for the next three Saturdays, Mr. and Mrs. Claus (and a sledful of elves) are revisiting the Hotel at Breakfast With Santa in the elegant Imperial Ballroom.  To just call this “breakfast,” though, doesn’t do it justice.  I was able to get some beautiful shots of the holiday smorgasbord from the tiny balcony typically reserved for newlyweds, from which the laughter of families and the clink of plates blended harmoniously with the musical cheer resounding from the speakers.

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The excitement was palatable: trays and trays of delicious foods, crafts for the children, and jolly elves whipping everyone into a holiday frenzy.

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And then . . . “Can I have your attention, everyone?”  Concierge Peter Mortenson took center stage and entertained the crowd by pointing to a random breakfaster and asking, “Is that Santa Claus?”  The children, of course, yelled, “Noooooo!”  So if that wasn’t Santa, then, how could beckon him?  What else to do but to pick up a young boy, stand him on a chair, and announce that this boy had suggested singing a song.

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It worked!  In the middle of “Jingle Bells,” look who arrived!

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So, what’s a lowly Narrator to do when all the kids are sitting on Santa’s lap or making ornaments or decorating cookies? Interview the adults, of course, and ask them what they wanted from Santa.  Earlier in the week, I had gotten a glimpse of what of what kids at the tree lighting celebration had asked Santa for–electronics, toys, puppies, baby sisters, and the occasional selfless Milkbones for their current pets:
screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-9-11-54-amscreen-shot-2016-12-06-at-9-10-27-amscreen-shot-2016-12-06-at-9-11-30-amscreen-shot-2016-12-06-at-9-11-38-amBut this morning, I thought I’d talk to the people who would actually be trying to fulfill these children’s wishes for toys and siblings (by writing to Santa, of course, because that’s where all the toys and, er, children are made, right?).  Their responses didn’t surprise me, but they definitely weren’t all “I wish for world peace” beauty pageant types of responses.  Instead, they were down-to-earth, in-the-moment, and heartfelt.  Some wished for tangible things (some fantasies, others practical).  And some wishes were even a little fraught with anxiety about failing health and imminent births. Here is your Breakfast With Santa (Adult Version)screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-8-51-34-am

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May all of your wishes–whether you are young or old–come true in the new year!  Ho Ho Ho!

You can visit Santa this Saturday, December 10, and Saturday, December 17, from 9:30am-11:30am, in the Imperial Ballroom on the 7th floor.  Tickets are $45 for adults, $20 for children 3-10 years, and free for children 2 and younger.  Call 877-704-5340 or 414-935-5950 to reserve your spot!  

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | NOVEMBER 2016 | A Month of Gratitude | “Getting Down-to-Earth on the Hallway Couch”

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I saw this father-son duo running across the street as I was pulling into the parking structure today.  They looked like they were in a hurry to get somewhere.  Turns out, they were hurrying to this couch just across the hallway from the studio.  I happened to be sitting on the end, waiting for Pamela to arrive with images for our holiday cards (coming soon to the Holiday Marketplace btw), when they walked over and plopped themselves down next to me.  My first thought: “Really?  We’re all going to sit on this little couch together?  How about a little personal space?”  But they didn’t seem to mind, so I decided not to mind.

The dad kept checking his phone and the young man kept looking up and down the hall.  I thought they might be waiting for a family member, but it turns out they were keeping an eye out for, ahem, tall men who may or may not have been, ahem, basketball players.  Die-hard fans from, ahem, Illinois, who were going to the Bucks-Cavaliers game that evening.  After being warned by security not to accost the players for autographs and to just use their eyes, this Illinois duo and I struck up a conversation.  I decided to tell them about this month’s Humans of The Pfister theme (“A Month of Gratitude”) and they seemed genuinely interested in sharing.  The young man, a high school freshman, put on his thinking cap and offered the first down-to-earth answer:

YOUNG MAN

lunch-box-clipart-black-and-white-clipart-panda-free-clipart-18i8wh-clipartSo something that can fit into a 1’x1’x1′ box?  I’d have to say chocolate.  It’s a sign of love, right?  When you think of Valentine’s Day and teddy bears, you think of chocolate, too, right?  I mean, food is love.

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Can I say I’m thankful for my family as a whole?  Not just one person?  Ok, then. My family as a whole, including my younger sister.  I say my family because it’s like you have the older people, the parents, who are sort of guiding you through life.  And then I guide my younger sister.  It’s kind of like a chain where you’re learning from everyone.

thought-bubble-student-think-bubble-clipart-free-imagesI’m thankful for the value of loyalty, which is staying with someone even when stuff’s not going right.  For example, my basketball team wasn’t that great, but it’s not like I quit on them halfway through the year.  And eventually we got a little better.  Yeah, just a little better.  But I was loyal to them.

DAD

lunch-box-clipart-black-and-white-clipart-panda-free-clipart-18i8wh-clipartI’m going to say my phone.  It’s a good object that helps me see pictures of my family and allows me to communicate with people, stay in touch.  I know it seems pretty shallow, but as bad as society is with all this technology, I’m able to get in touch with someone at a moment’s notice, even across the world.  I have contacts in Israel, for instance, and they’re just a phone call away.  It’s a miracle–well, not a miracle exactly, but it’s still amazing.

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I’m thankful for my wife and the companionship it gives me.  We’ve been together since 1994 and have been married since 1999.

 

 

thought-bubble-student-think-bubble-clipart-free-imagesI’m going to say honesty.  It’s good to be honest, right?  I mean, without honesty, all is lost.  If there’s no honesty, there’s no trust.  Think about it: what kind of relationship would you have if there was no honesty or trust.  It’s necessary for every aspect of life: relationships, business, etc.  It’s about having integrity.

Plume Service Vol. 1: Sensual Perspectives of Time & Space, Cont’d

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In today’s edition of Plume Service Vol. 1, you’ll read different stories inspired by the same painting.

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A View of Venice (Charles Clement Calderon)

The Olive Branch and Stone 
by Zoë Lindstrom (aka Countess Zoëlla Germaine)

Blue wind,
Yesterday you were our enemy.
We rolled our hearts
with the old sea–
salt monster–
the nets yielding unspoken things.
Ochre sun and stone,
such strangers you became–
the church bells chime,
olives and grapes and girls are crushed
and waiting.
Too rich a lie, too small and shrill and bustle–
this land.
Welcome to shore
my ghost captain,
though you belong only
to the line
between sea and sky.

A View of Venice
by Alexa Hollywood (aka Madam Odohata)

As an old woman, I live as much in my reveries as my real life.  Venice . . . a friend once called it a beautiful city and an open sewage system. I remember Venice, indistinct, as if in a haze.

In this painting, I see the ship, Venice as a major power, a crossroads of civilization.  And I remember the Doge’s palace.  I remember all of the Hieronymus Bosch paintings.  One of the most powerful men in the world collected and contemplated visions of Hell.

I walked the narrow sidewalks along the canals, crossed the tiny bridges.  For the uninitiated, it was a maze to get lost in, briefly recover, and get lost again.  The sidewalks were wet, sometimes with dog poop, sometimes not.

I was with two Jews.  They did not want to visit churches.  I understood.  I also understood the Renaissance and earlier about art in churches.  I missed so much.  But I reveled in modern-day Venice.

But I reveled in modern-day Venice.  The Venetians could be rude.  We jumped on a water taxi.  The operator closed the gate as someone tried to jump on.  One Venetian began to argue with another Venetian about civility.  Drifting down the canals, we could see the magnificent palaces.  Now, I wish I had visited Peggy Guggenheim’s palace.  It seems visual art is a recessing gene in me that has emerged in old age.

And so this is Venice, to me, an old woman and a diarist.  And the old woman notes the artist’s lifeline: 1870 to 1906.  Child, what could you have become?

Here’s one more inspired by a more zoomed-in Bondietti painting of Venice’s canal shoreline:

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Venice (H. Bondietti)

Venice
by Aimee Sellon (aka Salvadora Hemisphere)

Venice is sinking, you know!
And yet so much has remained
the same–

happy bird stalking tourists,
children refusing to end their play,
young ladies deep in conversation,
ocean wind and a pleasant salty scent
with the hint of fresh fish.

Although the sun shines,
the air is cold.  But this place is
warmth.  The buildings are
kind, the water is
honest, the stone streets
remember your face, the wind
knows when you are feeling
sad, and will gently touch your hand
until you are feeling better.

Coming soon: Men curl, kittens mew, and moonlight  pierces the night sky!

The next Plume Service will be Saturday, December 10, 12-2:30pm, in the Mezzzanine!

Sign up on Facebook (search “Plume Service”) or contact me at hotelnarrator@gmail.com

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | NOVEMBER 2016 | A Month of Gratitude | “Ten Thanks Per Day”

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HER:

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I am thankful for all the cherished, irreplaceable photos I have of current family and generations past.  I think my favorite are the old photos of my grandparents and my grandparent’s parents.  Nothing in particular–just the fact that their pictures still exist.

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I’m most thankful for my husband and the fact that I have a good family.

[HIM: You don’t have to say that!]

 

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And something intangible?  The character that my life has allowed me to develop.  All the traits and challenges that have made me who I am.

 

 

HIM:

thought-bubble-student-think-bubble-clipart-free-imagesI overheard you talking to the pianist about what he’d give thanks for that you couldn’t see.  So I looked up this quotation in case you came around. It’s from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Without getting political, there’s a general undercurrent of people not accepting people for who they are, instead of one of love and openness.  It’s not just “me, me, me.”  It needs to be more “us.”

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I don’t want this to seem shallow, but really, I am thankful for phones and computers–mobile technologies–that give us access to information, digitized photos, etc., and allow us to work remotely, travel the world, and so on–all at the same time.  Before you came over, for instance, I was sitting over there with my laptop doing some work in this beautiful hotel.

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Well, this one’s easy: I’m most thankful for my wife.

[HER: You don’t have to say that!]

She keeps me grounded and helps me think about the world.  We often go through this exercise of gratitude where we try to list 10 things each day that we’re thankful for.  We don’t always achieve that, but we really try to because there’s so much to be thankful for.

[HER: Yes.  Whenever we have to stop being pissed about something, we tell each other all the things we’re thankful for–and we forget why we were upset!]

 

 

 

 

(don’t forget title!)

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | NOVEMBER 2016 | A Month of Gratitude | “Perfect Timing”

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Sam only had a moment before his set was to begin the other afternoon to share a word of gratitude. He has begun occasionally substituting for Jeffrey “Doc” Hollander at the keys and is sure to delight guests in the Lobby Lounge!

 

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I am grateful for my health and for having the love of a good woman for the second time in my life.  That’s pretty special.  She’s sees beauty and positivity in everything–and she came along at a time when I really needed it.

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | NOVEMBER 2016 | A Month of Gratitude | “Survival Skills”

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A certain concierge whose name starts with an “H” and rhymes with “Selga” doesn’t like having her picture taken, but agreed to showcase her stunning elbow and, of course, share her gratitudes for November.

stick_man_clip_art_24915I am thankful for my two sons because–and I know this doesn’t sound that great, but—they never gave me any headaches.  Both of them were independent, creative, intelligent kids.  They still are, as adults.  I’m thankful that no matter what they do, they can survive on their own.  They never relied on society or anything or anyone else.  I love their independence–and the fact that they allow me my independence, too!

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I am thankful for my studio and the art I create.  When I walk through the door, I just go “Ahhhhh!” and the world can go do what it wants.  I became an introvert–I know it sounds weird, but I am–and I lose all sense of time.  In my studio, I work a lot with clay, but I’ll do a little bit of everything in all kinds of different mediums.  If I get a blockage with one medium, I’ll try another for awhile.  My favorite items, then, that could fit in a box are always a new brush and a sharpened pencil.

thought-bubble-student-think-bubble-clipart-free-imagesPeace on earth, good will to men.  That’s all I want.  You don’t have to love everyone, but you should be peaceful, you know.  Don’t be mean.

 

Plume Service Vol. 1: Sensual Perspectives of Time & Space

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About a week ago, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, fifteen people participated in the first ever Plume Service writing workshop, the first in a series of monthly writing experiences whose goal is to bring The Pfister’s paintings to life.

We gathered on the mezzanine, with a view of the lobby below and an ear to the flurry of activity into which we would soon enter (or from which we would retreat, as it were).  A beautiful spread of tea sandwiches, wine, and other beverages promised to keep us satisfied for the following two-and-a-half hours.

Participants wore nametags with their real names and their noms de plume, which included delightful disguises like “Lelia Allen,” “Lady T,” “Alexis St. Amand,” and “Salvadora Hemisphere.” I invited them to unveil and reveal the stories in the paintings they would view today, whether in the lobby, the 2nd floor, the 3rd, or the 7th.  Their methods: use their senses and their perspective.  Today, they would–not literally, of course, I warned them!–hold their ear up to a painting and listen to what the subjects were saying or enjoy the waves lapping onto the shore.  Today, they would lick the paintings and taste the apple or the cold, thick air.  They would sniff deeply to detect the flirtatious perfume or Venetian river banks, reach out and pet the hunting dog or the delicate dress, and, of course, observe closely or from far away. They could, too, if they were careful, step into a painting and become part of the landscape or join in on a conversation–or eavesdrop.

Their range of observations, I told them, did not have to be limited to the framed space that each artist had offered us.  Instead, they could imagine what was to the left or the right, above or below, in the foreground or the background.  They could, too, unstick the paintings from time and travel to the moment prior or just after, or three years before or two days after.  They could focus on the entire painting or just one part, one just one painting or many.  And they could choose to write in any form they wished: narrative, poetry, monologue or dialogue, pure description.  The operative word was “could.”  No limits, no rules.  Just use their senses, play with perspective–and don’t touch the paintings! 

I certainly got my exercise trying to find the fifteen writers all over the four floors.  At first, some of them dispersed in pairs or small groups, but eventually I found almost all of them in various states of contemplation: sitting on the carpet in the long second floor hallway in front of an intriguing painting, lounging on the chaise on the grand landing, scribbling prodigiously while standing, or relaxing in the lobby or the mezzanine.

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We talked about each painting briefly: about the sensuality of Love’s kiss or where the woman with the empty basket was going. About the longing gaze in one or the surprised expression of a monk as he witnessed the canoodling of two lovers.  About the three women in the sea of curling (as in the winter sport) men or the composition of the hunting dog painting.  Each participant had found his or her writing home for an hour or so, had taken that time to escape from the hecticness of their own lives to contemplate a work of art and be moved by it to tell stories.

When we reconvened in the mezzanine, they spent some time sharing their writing with their fellow participants.  Few instructions were needed–they leapt directly into the experience with positive, affirming, interested attitudes.  In one corner there was laughter about a witty poem, in another there were nods of approval and insight.

20161112_134156 20161112_134133 20161112_1341340Finally, to cap off our first Plume Service, we retreated to the plush white carpet of the Pop-Up Gallery (many with wine in hand–white wine, not red!) and gathered in a circle for an informal reading of our work.  Each new work was greeted with snaps or claps and often words of praise.  You can tell by the photos that much fun was had as we honored each other, each others’ writings, and the paintings that inspired them.

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Over the next week or so, I will be sharing excerpts from some of these writings for your reading pleasure.  After the workshops are concluded in early spring, I will be working with The Pfister to create placards to accompany some of the paintings and an audio tour that will enliven guests’ stay at the Hotel.

The next workshop will be held Saturday, December 10, again from 12-2:30 pm.  Same goal, different focus: VOICE.  Please sign up on the Plume Service Facebook page or RSVP at hotelnarrator@gmail.com.  I hope to see some of the same faces–and new ones–next month!

For now, enjoy a little literary Plume Service!

consuelo_fould_reverieReverie | Zoë Lindstrom aka “Countess Zoëlla Germaine”

Stay–
he said it once to me,
in a simple garden
before corsets
crushed the colors
of my breath.

Wait–
he placed a raw hand
on the ivory roses,
tinged salmon by the evening,
caught in their last pure meaning
before the frost.

No, I did not–
I did not linger then,
though later I pricked my fingers
with the thorns of privilege
in the grey garden of another.

Now
I wait,
I stay,
seeking to look again, with clear girls’ eyes,
at that moment.
Was it you I loved–
or the image of petals
left in mercy on the flower?