I’m on a stakeout. Granted, I’m not disguised as a delivery person or hiding behind a newspaper. There are no binoculars or dark shades involved. No two-way radio tucked into my sleeve. Although the excitement tickling my gut might suggest that I’m crouched behind a dumpster aiming a telephoto lens, I’m actually perched on a low bench in Blu. It’s a handsome crowd and most are here to watch the fireworks. One person is here to rewrite history.
Larry is at a table with his girlfriend, Stephanie. I’ve known her for…
There are rules, and there are rules. The first kind, we largely agree to be hard fast: stealing is wrong, kindness is good, unhealthy eating creates an unhealthy body, and cutting off someone in traffic fills your rear view mirror with crude hand gestures.
The second kind of rules, even italicized in our minds, are the ones we might conveniently recast as “guidelines:” wearing a helmet, copying your supervisor on every email, visiting the dentist twice a year and waiting until Happy Hour for an afternoon cocktail.
I brush away these mental italics and sip my whiskey. It’s almost…
It’s like a Couples Wonderland in here tonight. Practically every chair in Blu is filled with someone’s better half or, perhaps, better halves to be.
Beyond the south wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, a starlit and indigo sky stretches across the view, mirroring the dim hues and flickering candles inside. I take a slow lap around the room and then stand by the bar. I greet the bartenders and wait staff as they flow back and forth, but keep a keen eye on the room. I’m watching for any movements to suggest the imminent surrender of…
This isn’t what I expected at all. Where’s the fast talking guy with the water purifiers? What about the charming woman in the quilted vest with the doggy spa? The tall, awkward man in a bowtie who brews “savory” beer?
When the elevator doors slip open onto the seventh floor ballrooms and the Tenth Annual Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference, I expected a labyrinth of skirted tables, exhibition panels, tabletop screens with looping videos and eclectic characters barking passionately about their business venture. Instead, I arrived to find 500 business suits listening intently to a tailored keynote speaker.
It’s early evening. The downtown streets are still basked in sunshine and summer dresses. Bursts of citrus colors, flirty fabrics and bare shoulders breeze past the open patio windows of Mason Street Grill.
Inside, the lounge hums with an eager energy. Friends fill the space with animated banter. The largest group, four well-dressed couples, cluster along the bar. I imagine them relieved to abandon To Do lists and attaché cases for the evening. Perhaps they’ll enjoy a steak dinner inside the restaurant. Maybe they’ll go dancing. However their night unfolds, it is clear they’ve decided…
“I’ve lived in Milwaukee my whole life and never been to the Pfister.”
This is how Dana and I became best friends. Okay. Not really. We were more like Spontaneous BFFs, the kind you experience at intimate intersections, such as the ladies room. What begins as a comment about hand soap, or the hour, or a fierce pair of shoes could bloom into a confessional, a counseling session, a health consultation or even a plot.
The Laws of the Ladies Room do not reflect those on the other side of our door. First of all, time stands still. We…
The steady pacing is a ruse. They navigated easily through an obstacle course of more than a dozen cardboard boxes outside the Imperial Ballroom. I’ve orchestrated large events and will confess that set-up never runs this smoothly without precision planning. I was, most certainly, observing a pro team of volunteers. The women floated amid the boxes like a quiet force before a storm.
Well, maybe not quiet.
“If we put the paperwork in first, the bags will stay open.”
“Only one perfume in each bag, not one of each perfume in each bag.”
“Watch out for the insecticide…
I sensed them before I saw them. A carbonated excitement that pushed aside the steady hum of the front lobby. It was a gaggle of girls, perhaps 10 or 11 years old. They had tote bags on their shoulders and duffle bags dropped to their feet. Their small group, roughly a half dozen, tittered blissfully, gazing up to the ornate ceiling, pointing to the chandeliers, looking around at the austere paintings on the wall. Nearby, two mothers are digging in their handbags and collating paper printouts, waiting to check in. A third woman stood with the girls. Her smile seemed…
As the minute hand makes its incremental sweep toward five o’clock, the atmosphere on the main floor swells with anticipation for the weekend. A boisterous cluster of men greet one another near the lobby bar. A young co-ed rushes to the concierge for directions. A preschooler fingers the pink sparkles on her princess shirt as parents carry her sibling up the stairs in a stroller. Perched on impressively high heels, a slender woman anxiously watches the revolving door.
Down the hall in the boutique, an older couple selects a tangerine silk blouse for their theater outing. As they…
I feel enchanted tonight. Maybe it’s the night air, the saucy décor of Blu, the nighttime glitter of city lights or, maybe, it’s my first Narrator assignment. Yes, let’s go with that last one.
Excited, I take a seat at the bar and begin to survey the room. This, I’m good at. I wouldn’t say that I’m a voyeur, but I’ve always insisted that people watching should be an Olympic sport. I order my standard whiskey on the rocks, and observe.
Near the window, a cluster of women have landed on a…
It is the people who are the best at what they do who are the most difficult to write about. How do you document the seam which is so well constructed that it appears seamless? I’ve been trying to figure out a way to explain the concierge position for quite some time. Pfister Chief Concierge Peter Mortensen is a terrific storyteller, in addition to being an stellar concierge. Peter has a love for both the arts and Milwaukee history, both details which lead him to the story he tells below.
Peter and I traveled to record this piece…
That’s the best way I can describe this Narrator experience. My last few posts will be going live over the next couple of days and my successor will be at work getting acquainted with the speed and rhythm of this sparkling old gal on Wisconsin Avenue. From an artistic standpoint it’s been like getting to eat chocolate cake for breakfast every day. The staff have been great. They’ve been generous with information, gracious in introducing me to guests and other coworkers, and ever tolerant of my constant game of 20 questions.
Every day I’ve arrived…
This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of the Wisconsin Dancesport Championships. The company has a long history with the hotel as they’ve held the annual event at the Pfister all these years. This high-heeled party brings dancers from across the country to compete at their specialized steps.
It is interesting to see the dancers’ posture and gait change depending upon which dance is announced. For example, to an untrained eye (mine) the tango appears stiff and exacting. The foxtrot takes on a more sly, playful, and sensual body movement. During waltzes dancers’ bodies become languid and…
“I’m going to be 22.”
That was Joe’s answer when I asked how old he was. His response was shared with a grin in that adorable way that only people up to a certain age are excited to tell you how old they’re going to be.
Joe started with the Pfister as a busser at the ripe young age of 18. After time spent cleaning tables Joe moved on to being a food runner and from there he has become a bartender. Joe bartends upstairs in Blu on occasion but most nights you can find him downstairs…
We are proud to introduce Dasha Kelly as the fourth ‘Pfister Narrator.’ In the role, she will spend time in the hotel’s lobby, speaking with visitors and guests and sharing their stories right here on the Pfister blog. As narrator, Dasha will be posting blog entries at least twice-per-week over a six-month period.
“It’s an honor to be entrusted with a tradition that captures people’s extraordinary and everyday stories,” said Kelly. “I’m excited to join the history of this landmark as the new Pfister Narrator.”
Kelly is founder and director of Still Waters…
There tend to be patterns of why people live where they live. Often times they got a job nearby, or that’s where they went to school, or possibly their spouse’s family is from the area.
Roc is a concierge at the Pfister and his path to Milwaukee definitely did not follow any of these typical routes. Roc and his Quaker lineage hail from Northwest Indiana. In his home state Roc had been a teacher of Latin, German, and English before becoming involved in starting non-profit organization. The organization provided the beginnings of what we now know as…
I was sitting in Timothy Westbrook’s studio this afternoon. It is a few days after his first successful gallery showing and already the man is back at work. While Timothy constructed new fabric joining cassette tape and wool I listened to the repeating slick/slack/creak/crack sound of his loom in motion. With the new dress in the works I sat thinking about the ongoing, timeless, human dialogue we seem to have termed “The Great Conversation.” This may seem strange or lofty material to be considering at work, but when surrounded with artwork on every wall you…
A young girl
tells her grandfather
she’s learning to write.
the yellow pencils
and blue lined paper
She tells him she’s learned
how to write her name.
“Well that’s magnificent!”
“I’d love to read your handwriting.
Will you write something for me?”
She shakes her head,
you can’t read it yet,
“I’m just practicing.”
Her grandfather smiles
and leans down to whisper
gravelly grinning decades next to her face
that is the great secret.
The Medici Family were bankers from Tuscany, Italy. Their initial family monies were made in the textile industry and they were influential in developing the double entry bookkeeping system. During the renaissance they owned Europe’s largest bank.
I’m sure their advances in bookkeeping are fascinating but that is not generally why the Medici name has survived throughout history. The Medicis were great patrons of the arts and sciences. Artists so highly regarded we don’t bother speaking their entire names; Masaccio, Donatello, Brunelleschi, da Vinci, and even Galileo.
The first time I saw a concert in Summerfest…
You work at a hotel. A man checks in to the hotel with arms in plaster casts sticking straight out from his body. Later in the day the man calls down to your desk and explains that he’s not certain how to get himself dressed for the day.
What do you do?
Concierge Roc tells the story of how he teamed up with Annie, the Pfister’s Head of Housekeeping, to satisfy the needs of a guest in a whimsically compromising situation. No matter the job at hand, they’re always glad to serve.
Travelers. Travelers everywhere. Transient folks of every stripe walking, running, sitting, working, swimming, eating. Carrying luggage. Grabbing a cup of coffee. Adding sugar to their tea. En route toward somewhere. Arriving from someplace else.
Ah, airports. All of humanity distilled to a small area becoming a sudden, immediate culture. Unique and specific to that individual moment. The energy of not knowing what awaits on the other side of the tarmac touchdown chirp. I haven’t seen an airport in awhile but all the travelers inside this hotel make me feel as though I’m spending my time in a…
The Pfister specializes in weddings. They seem to happen here every weekend, sometimes a few concurrently. Here’s a poem about something we’ve all seen at weddings: The Generations Dance. You know, the one where all the married couples get up and gradually leave as the number of years they’ve been married are ticked away by the announcer.
* If you’d like to hear a spoken recording of this poem, please scroll to the bottom to listen or download *
Without further ado…
After the bride and groom
their first as
man and wife…
As mentioned in an earlier post I’ve put considerable thought toward how to chronicle Jeff, his playing, and more specifically his playing at the Pfister Hotel. There are several occasions when I’ve left the hotel and driven home in silence because after hearing him at the piano anything on the radio sounded like a frivolous muck.
Different ways to “capture” Jeff battled with one another in my head. Photographs, photographs of his hands, photographs of his facial expressions while playing. Brief videos of the way his hands dance across the keys. Recording the audio of him playing…
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post I was able to see Wild Institute founder Chris Heeter speak during UW-Milwaukee’s Women Leaders Conference. Chris’ speech struck a chord with me on many levels and I knew I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to document a few of her philosophies for the blog.
Assuming her canine companion would like some grass respite I suggested we walk four blocks to the Lake Michigan lakefront. While walking I did the best I could to record our conversation, not trip on Tuu Weh’s leash (Chris explains her name…
This is the one I’ve avoided writing. The elephant in my room. The profile I’ve put off for five months while I watched and listened quietly in the background, leaning against a column with my arms crossed wondering how it happens and how to write about it.
Every time I’ve listened to Dr. Jeffrey Hollander play the piano I’ve had a clear desire to write about him, to chronicle the man and his work. I’m a music fan but I’ve never been a musician. I can converse in a limited manner regarding jazz…