The Short Man

A guest in the lobby told the following story that took place over thirty years ago. He told me four other stories similar to this in the period of an hour.

 

I get a phone call from Short Man, troche he wants to see me. We were best friends in high school in the Carribean, he never finished and I hadn’t heard from him much since. He’s in New York. I was going from Europe to Miami but he changed my ticket for me. Three guys came to pick me up in a car at LaGuardia, they said, “We want to take you, the Short Man wants to see you.” It was the first time I was in New York. They took me to a place (I would later realize is called the Bronx) to a dilapidated building sort of like Cabrini Green. There wasn’t an elevator, they took me up these steps. We kept climbing up all these steps to the top where there was a big red door. They knocked a certain kind of patterned knock. A guy on the other side of the door lifts a flap, peers at us and says “Okay.” He moves a big steel cross from the door and lets us in.

 

From knee height all over the floor is only money, guns, drugs and people counting it, putting it in rubber bands. Short Man is running the operation. I’m told he will be here in a little bit. I wait and watch people counting and eating cheap sandwiches. As I wait they tell me that I’m welcome to any amount of money I want. “Just take it.”

 

I’m waiting and he’s still not coming. They ask, “Is there anything you want to do? Chase women? Play pool? Strip clubs?” I said I think I’d like to drink beers and play pool like we do in the Caribbean. I am to play pool against the bar’s resident pool master as my three friends (who I don’t really know) watch on and I break the shot. The pool master says, “Well, you know its $100 a game. We play for money here.” I said, “What? I’m not used to that.” My three friends said, “Don’t worry about it, we’ll pay for you, just have a good time.”

 

I accidentally hit some of his balls with the cue. He took my cue stick, threw it down on the table and shouted, “You lose! You’re not supposed to hit your opponents balls here, ‘house rules!’ Just pay me my money and get out of here!” My friends told me to play him again. So we start playing again. Now I try and get the white ball by going at an angle, but I miss the whole shot. I lost again. “We play the next one for $500 or you pay me my $200 and walk away from the table. I tell my friends, “I’m sorry I put you through this inconvenience.” They reply, “No, you’re okay, play again.”

 

By now I’m learning from my mistakes. I surround his balls very carefully with mine so that when he goes he had to make the same hitting violation as game one. When he does I declare “Aha! House rules!”

 

What happens next is unpleasant and I don’t want to repeat it. Eventually he connects up with Short Man and they go shopping together for eight days.

 

We kept going to the shops and whenever something costs $800, he says, “I’ll take that. I’ll take that.” I was ready to go home, about to take the airplane, Short Man begged, “I don’t know anyone in America, stay with me. I have a problem, I’m making so much money it’s like a garden hose with water coming through and I can’t shut it off. I don’t know what to do with it.” I asked him how much money he had and he said he was making two million a week and asked, “I have a question for you, you’re my only friend. Why is it you never took anything from me? No diamond, no rolex, money or camera?” So I said, “We are like brothers, there is no need for me to take anything. As long as you have something, I have something.” Short Man nodded his head and said, “That makes sense.”

 

The Pfister lobby, where incredible stories are told.

“What Are You Doing For Thanksgiving?”

 

The following people shared their Thanksgiving Plans:

 

Name: Ariana

Location: Artist studio

Context: One Pfister Artist Niki’s interns, drugstore Arianna spent her day crocheting condoms into upholstery for Niki’s fainting couch.

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“I’m going to my fake aunt’s house. I actually met her on the bus, recipe the green line by the Pick ‘N Save on Oakland. I was wearing this fake fur coat (‘cause it’s like 0 degree here all the time) and she saw me and said ‘nice coat.’ We started talking and I said I’m from Baltimore, and she said ‘Well, I’m from Maryland.’ We started talking and going on, we talked about her kids a little bit, and about me and about where I go to art school, and we’re just talking and she says, ‘I really like that you’re an artistic person from Maryland, I’m really excited about that. Let me give you my card.’ And I say ‘Well, let me give you MY card, because I had just made business cards for an internship.’ So we exchanged cards, and I texted her immediately, and we’ve been friends ever since. This was in February. I just went to her kid’s talent show this weekend. Her kids are 11 and 14, and smarter than I thought kids could ever be. She’s the most extreme extrovert I’ve ever met. We’re going Thanksgiving hopping, which I’ve never done before. We’re going to one at one ‘o clock, and then another one at six thirty. I was like ‘Great,’ I was like ‘Sweet, I’ve never been to multiple Thanksgivings, I guess this is what happens when you’re like super cool and always talking to people.’ I’m hoping some of this will rub off on me. “

 

I ask Ariana, how many people she thinks her fake aunt has met on the bus.

 

“Her car was out, like in the shop, so she had to take the bus that day. But I think she does have approximately two other fake nieces and nephews.

 

 

Names: Tim, Carmella, Joe, Corinne

Location: VIP Lounge

Context: All four of them sitting around a table and conversing.

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“I’ve usually been a cooker,” explains Carmella, “Our children have all gotten older now and they’re all off doing other things, so we decided we’d go out and have fun!” Previously, they’ve stayed in their Chicago homes to celebrate, but tomorrow they will be at the Pfister for the feast. “We’ve never been here. We don’t know how it works. We’re going to eat at the Mason Street Grill, three ‘o clock Thanksgiving dinner.”

 

They all look the same approximate age. I ask if they are all family.

“Yes, brother and sister.”

“He’s our father,” one of the two men, points at the other, who replies, “You can’t blog ****content censored!!!!**** you.”

 

 

Names: Shosho (who declined to be pictured) & Abdullah

Location: The café

Context: Shosho is finishing her croissant, they are two of the most attractive people I’ve seen in the hotel all week.

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Both are from Saudi Arabia originally, but they met in Chicago. Shosho is getting her masters in Education, so that she can work in the field of Administration. She has never been to a Thanksgiving dinner before, and tomorrow will be just another Thursday in Shosho’s life. Abdullah, on the other hand, has attended a Thanksgiving dinner in the past. “To be honest, I didn’t like the turkey. It tasted raw. Next time I’m just going to get salad and other things.” Eloquently put! Abdullah just completed an English as a Second Language course a few days ago.

 

Sevens And Apples

 

Right now in the Mystery that is the Pfistery,

there is a basket out in the lobby

a tisket, a tasket of apples,

all sized small

enough

to keep inside my blazer pocket

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my pocket’s apple is named King David

cause I’m told these are King David’s Apples

an heirloom variety individually selected

by the hotel’s own king executive chef, Brian Frakes

who has decreed them the Hotel Apple

for the month of November you can taste

the Pfistery essence for yourself

it has a deep red flavor that doesn’t go all the way

down the dark path with declarations of feral passion

in the way heirloom red apples sometimes will,

this one stays sweet and neat, with a dry flesh

that would be good sliced thinly over oatmeal,

or as they do it here, served with duck

probably similar to the way my family served it

seven generations ago in Poland

I’m thinking of this ’cause

Chef Frakes told me King David’s sibling,

the Arkansas Black apple was discovered

in 1893, the same year this hotel first opened,

which was approximately seven seeds ago,

as he put it,

“If a seed is approximately 20 years,

we are now in the seventh seed at the hotel.”

I’m reminded of a poster in the bathroom

of my college’s liberal arts building,

that had a picture of wilderness,

and a quote about making all decisions

with consideration for those

who will live on this planet

seven generations from now.

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I am in my 27th year of life,

my seventh month

as the seventh Pfister narrator,

the voice the comes up behind

three guests from Dallas

to describe the Victorian painting they are looking at,

a scene, “The Eternal Apple of Eve,”

two friends peeling apples, peeling with laughter,

a painting that was bought by Guido Pfister,

the man who planted the first seed of the Pfistery

that feels so luxurious to explore on my own,

passing the rooms where meetings have been held,

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candies half unwrapped on the table,

notes taken on the complimentary pads,

complimentary pens strewn, chairs pushed back,

the intensity of multiple thoughts,

has yet to be swept away by the staff

I hear coming down the hall with their cart,

so I leave to inspect the 23rd floor

and run into the Dallas Trio again,

yes, I am the disembodied voice that narrates

the window view for these three flight attendants

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who are unaware that they are admiring the world’s only

inland freshwater sea.

These flight attendants take three-day trips every week,

before Milwaukee they stayed in Canton, Ohio,

“It was almost as good as this,

but this, is a step above even that.”

They tell me there is nothing so historically grand

in all of Dallas

the only thing that comes close

is the Pyramid Room,

a hotel still in its first seed.

 

I could end the story here

but then I’d miss how

on this day of apples and sevens

I was passing the elevator when

Peter, the concierge, asked me

if I was following him

to get his apple.

I did not know he had an apple,

he did not know I was thinking about apples,

but he stuck his arm out

as the elevator doors began to close

just his head and hand could be seen,

His head told me, “It’s a Jonamac!”

His hand held it out for me,

I accepted it so he would not be guillotined.

This is a comely apple.


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A Love Letter From the Man With a Kind Smile

One day I’m typing in the lobby when a man approaches me. He has a kind face, one that appears illuminated from within by what I’d guess to be a gentle, prolonged love relationship. He just looks easeful and friendly. He inquires as to what I’m doing with a typewriter. When I tell him that I write poetry and letters for people, he looks at me with approval.

 

The next day I’m typing again when the same fellow comes up to me. He explains how he is staying here a few days for a business conference and would like me to compose a love letter to send to his wife back in Detroit. After interviewing this man I learn that he’s been married fifteen years, has two kids and that his wife, Heather, takes care of them a lot. While he is on this trip, she is attending parent-teacher conferences. Heather has taught this man with the kind smile how to be more social, and to slow down so as to better appreciate life. He confesses he has a “type A” personality and has a hard time doing that. When he asks me when he can pick up the letter I tell him ten minutes. “Really?!” He looks surprised, but sure enough, in exactly ten minutes he comes back as I am typing “devotion,” the last word.

 

“Heather,

 

My succulent savorer

of all things living

of all things swaying

on this planet

made better, burnished deeper

by your focused listening.

 

Even me

even sharp toothed

quick bite and run type A me

even I can say “ahhhhhhhhh”

what a beautiful

lackadaisical daisy

scented thought filled

day it is,

one in which I am glad

to walk through

because I have you

and I have your lesson

mimeographed upon my lungs:

b r e a t h e, gasp, hyperventilate

b r e a t h e ,

there we go,

it takes practice

but it is worth doing

to please the kind woman

who has mixed within her own body

two children for us to share

with the whole world.

And while I am womflinkering along in Milwaukee

my thoughts are with you,

they are sitting beside you

in the empty chair

at the parent-teacher conference.

My thoughts pat the soft crowns

of our kidlet’s heads,

splendid children.

 

While I am away

I am in review reverie

of our fine fifteen years

and even more than that

I am scheming up

fine dreams

for future cakes of ardor

to serve you, my love,

in admiration

and devotion,”

 

I hand him my pen and make him sign since I don’t know his name. He signs it “Troy.”

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The Men Still Sit With Their Songbirds

Mauriah has asymmetrical green bangs, buy viagra

but you can’t see them too well

in the shady nighttime of Blu.

She orders a moscow mule and tells me

that she felt really safe when she lived in Taiwan.

Sure, scooters and bicycles got stolen

but even then the thieves were only borrowing,

what was yours got returned to you.

 

“I was really lucky to go then

because it is changing so fast, viagra

they just want west,

western influence

so the traditional way of life is just

d i s a p p e a r i n g

for example:

the older women still get up,

do their chi gong

and their exercise in the park

at 5a.m. they rise

and they do that,

and you know the men

still sit with their songbirds

in cages and play checkers

in the park all afternoon, online

but I feel like that’s the last

generation that’s going to choose

to be in touch with those sorts of things.”

 

Mauriah has lived in multiple Asian countries

beginning with the letter ‘T.’

 

“After ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ came out

I was living in Thailand

and we’d be going up north

and then down to the islands

and you could tell

all the women

of a certain age bracket

who had really been influenced

by ‘Eat, Love, Pray’

and they were traveling

through Thailand

a lot of them would have their books

but you could just tell

that they were like

on this like

self-discovery journey

and you’re like

…”

Mauriah ends her sentence by making a face,

it is a amalgamation of pity, disgust and

wry smile acknowledging all the struggling of humanity.

 

Mauriah’s vocation?

“I make dances.”

Her verb makes confusion

to those who are trying to grasp her

for the first time,

they want to know,

does making dance mean you are a choreographer

or just a dancer?

Perhaps it means anything,

arranging and rearranging

her body and of the bodies

maybe of her students

since starting next week she will sub

a modern dance class at the University of Milwaukee.

 

Mauriah is the pioneer

for her three younger siblings.

 

“All of my brothers are athletes

(and my sister, a six foot tall twenty-two year old who plays basketball for a women’s Green Bay team.)

and they started to get to

like Warrior and the Spartan racing

They’re both now nationally ranked

and sponsored by Reebok

and they don’t work

so all they do

is they live at home with my parents,

they train,

and every weekend they go to a different race

and they race for money

and they win.

Like my brother just won the one

at Miller Park last weekend.

It’s becoming a new sport

where there’s obstacles,

they run sometimes just a couple meters

or sometimes two or three miles

and then the tougher courses are in the mountains

or in a really hilly environment

so they’re climbing up and down ravines,

one obstacle a couple weeks ago

was two eighty pound bags of stones

slung over their shoulders and like up a mountain.

It sounds terrible!

And then they’ll have to do like these

monkey bar climbs

but its usually after

they’ve been in a cold, wet water sort of thing

so that they can’t grip onto the monkey bars,

just ridiculous things!”

 

Mauriah’s dad was a football player for the Bears,

her mom was a high jumper.

Mauriah negotiates

earning a living as a dancer.

 

Does she ever think about going after the career of her brothers?

 

“I don’t want to do that, it just sounds terrible.

The girls are just like BEASTS

and they’re extraordinary,

but I just have no desire.”

 

“Don’t worry, I’ll hold your monkey”


The following story was copied only by memory. Bob requested that there be no pictures taken of him or recordings of his voice. I did not have a pad to write on. This is not how I usually do things, ed but I liked the challenge.

 

Bob and his lady came down from Iron Mountain, a town in the Upper Peninsula this weekend to spend some time with his son, Adam who is a senior architecture student at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

 

Bob is telling everyone jokes and everyone is laughing very loud. That is why I chose to come up to them in the first place.

 

“A woman and her baby get on a bus and the bus driver gives them a filthy look. ‘That is one ugly baby, ampoule lady. Go sit in the back,’ orders the bus driver. Fuming, the woman and her baby take a seat in the back row. The mother complains to the rider next to her, ‘Did you just hear what the bus driver said to me? It was totally unacceptable!’ The rider pulls out an earbud and says, ‘Well, you should go back up there and take it up with him. Don’t worry, I’ll hold your monkey.’”

 

Bob tells another joke, but before he does, Adam complains saying “Oh, not this one! I don’t get this one.” That disclaimer merely peaks my interest. Bob says, “A troubled man finally starts getting therapy from a top rated psychologist. After six months of treatments the psychologist asks him if he feels he has made any progress. The man shakes his head sadly and moans, ‘I don’t know doc, six months ago I was Napoleon, but now I’m just a nobody.’”

 

I laugh. Bob tells me that he “can remember a number from years ago, but not jokes.” So now he makes an effort to learn a new joke every day from a joke book he likes. “That’s cute, Bob,” says the lady whose name I unfortunately did not retain. “I’m training,” smiles Bob, “I’m training so that whenever someone comes into my office wanting more money I can just tell them a joke. They laugh and then leave my office forgetting why they came there in the first place.”

 

Bob talks about his four sons, the youngest is 14, “Little Chuck. Well, I guess he’s not exactly little anymore.” Former Little Chuck cut his knee on the edge of a stone slab when he tried unsuccessfully to leap over it. Bob shows me pictures of the deep wound, a gristly chunk of his knee missing. He proudly shows off a video to everyone of Former Little Chuck laughing and singing as the doctors sewed up his knee in the hospital. Bob also shows us the stitches and how once healed, the scar resembles a smiley face. While they chuckle at that, what Bob and his his lady cannot look at are these young guys we can see out the window. They are on the roof and too close to the edge.DSCN8139

The Newest American Citizen of All

Ilda became an American Citizen today in the courthouse across the street from the Pfister. She had to pledge her allegiance to the flag, and swear an oath and then was given an envelope that contained her official paperwork along with a letter signed by the President. It is 6:30 p.m. and she has been celebrating in the lounge with her coworkers since 11:30a.m. “They are my family in the United States because I don’t have anyone else here.” Ilda was born in Albania, physician immigrated to Greece with her family, and now lives in Oak Creek Wisconsin. She goes to visit her family back in Greece once a year. Her boss allows her one month’s vacation for this reason. Ilda is hoping to bring her mother over to America next year.

ilda
Ilda

 

In 2009 she won the green card lottery sponsored by the diversity visa program which allowed her to come to America. Ilda got a job working on the line at a bakery where they make garlic bread, french bread, breadsticks and frozen pizzas. At first she was miserable because the job was not challenging enough. She had always wanted to live in America, but had never thought of what she wanted beyond that, because she knew that just getting to this country would present her different opportunities. She almost quit, but decided to keep working there for a bit.

 

Some of the products made in the bakery get marked with the bakery’s own label, but most are made for private businesses and labeled with their brand. Roundy’s, Cisco, Target and Wal-Mart are some of the big companies that they work with. Their products are stocked in Safeway’s all over the nation. Today Ilda is no longer bored with her job because she has moved her way up to being the Quality Assurance Manager. She oversees two factories. She has to do all the research for determining what to state in the nutrition facts for all products at the bakery.  It is up to her to make sure that everything will be compliant with food regulation laws. Ilda likes how there are always new problems for her to unravel in her position. As a strictly gluten free person, I ask if they bake anything that is gluten free. “Not yet,” says Ilda, “In the near future. We will be non-GMO too. We are working on getting certified.”

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Best friends

 

Her best friend (who also works at the bakery) moved here from Mexico 21 years ago. “She’s like my only family here, and I’m her only family here besides these people next to us.” Ilda’s friend has two kids, one in high school and another currently attending Carthage college. “Sending your kids to college, that’s part of the big American dream,” she says. Next semester her son is going to study the Japanese language and international business relations in Japan.

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Ilda and some of her American family.

She Works 7 Days A Week As A Fashion Designer

“My biggest bugaboo is blue jeans, advice sweatshirts, flat shoes.

I can’t stand it.

Every time I get on an airplane,

I’m over in Italy,

I’m over in Paris,

I’m over London,

I can tell without even asking which gate I’m supposed to go to

where the Americans are

they have blue jeans, sweatshirts, flat shoes.

Now in Paris for example,

they have really good imaginations,

they dress up just to go to the grocery store.

High heels. Dress. Hair is perfect. Grocery store!

 

I design some things for men sometimes,

but men are so generic, I hate it.

I think anyone could do my job if they wanted to.

Anyone can start a line of clothes if they want,

just get some capital together.

Some people have these talents buried in their brain

but they don’t try things so they stay working at K-Mart, Wal-Mart,

talented people!

It’s a shame.

 

My contract says I’ve got to work out every day,

two, three times a day,

gotta be able to get into these outfits,

and the models, I tutor them,

I’ve got four degrees,

two BS degrees, a masters and a PHD.

Physiology, Earth Science, Curriculum and Development for schools

and my PHD is in History.

To be honest I never really used them much

except physiology, I still use that.

We went through that phase where the models were getting too skinny,

we told them so now they look a little more normal.

It’s a struggle for them,

I’ve seen them take some real tumbles with those six and seven inch heels

on the marble runways.

 

I don’t set career goals,

that is a sure tool for disappointment and failure.

 

I also work for the government

I was appointed as a legislative advisor

in 1999, I just got a letter in the mail

I didn’t apply for the job

I get this letter

it says ‘we want you to be a legislative advisor

there’s only 200 of you in the country

we’re going to send you all the bills

you critique those bills

you make corrections

you’re a conduit to the public

find out what the public wants,

then you correct them and send them back

and give us your opinion.’

In addition to that I got special projects for them,

like I was the one who did the autism research.

I can’t believe the power that we have!

 

You know the stuff you see on the news?

Most of it is just pure crap.

It’s all funneled,

Washington is so corrupt,

they’re all members of the Illuminati and the Free Masons,

all the parties behind closed doors figure out who gets the money,

the power and the World Order.

If you want the real news go to the BBC station.

People think we’re #1 in healthcare,

but we’re 29th!

You know what country is 28th?

Barbados.

 

Here’s what the other countries do:

they put everything on a referendum.

You get to vote.

When did you ever have a chance to vote

about anything or any issue?

The wars?

If you’re in a democratic or republican district

and you’re in that district your whole life

it’s possible you can go from birth to death

and never be represented.

You go to church, you got a job, you pay your taxes, you fight in wars,

but you don’t exist.

So what we’re doing, the other 200 people,

we’re writing letters and campaigning,

we want everyone a chance to vote on every issue,

on every issue majority rules.

Now if it all goes to hell it’s our fault

we voted for it, right?”

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So He Traveled Around Basting Turkeys

Harold & Laura came into town to visit their son Michael who is graduating from the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s mechanical engineering program. The three of them took advantage of Doors Open Milwaukee to tour the tallest skyscraper in Milwaukee, then the Groehmann Museum where they met the real, living Mr. Groehmann in his office and then of course they had to see the Pfister Hotel. Concierge Roc had just taken them upstairs to see the grand ballroom when I met them.

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Harold, Laura, Michael and Roc.

 

Two years ago over in Germany, on a Friday evening after school, Michael made sweet potatoes served with mini marshmallows. That’s sweet potatoes “Wisconsin style” he tells me. There was “three-bean casserole, three turkeys and I’ve never done that…”

“Wait,” I ask him, “THREE TURKEYS?”

“We couldn’t find huge ones, and we had some pretty small ovens in our apartment.

So I had to do one in my place, one in my friend’s place and one at another friend’s place.” Michael’s mother adds to his explanation, “So he traveled around basting turkeys.”

 

There were about forty people over for this Thanksgiving dinner in Germany, fifteen Americans, two French foreign exchange students and a number of Germans. His mother asks Michael whose idea it was to throw a thanksgiving dinner in a foreign land hoping to get her son to admit that it was his. Michael declines the opportunity to claim it was his own brilliance by explaining that it was a group decision. Laura, determined to make her son shine asks him, “But who made the gravy?”

“Well, I already had the turkeys going, so…” he made the Thanksgiving gravy.

 

Michael facilitated the whole forty-person Thanksgiving.

 

Last year, Michael’s Thanksgiving was with his family back home in Gaylord, Minnesota. Three of Michael’s German friends flew in and joined his family over at Laura’s sister’s farm. After dinner they played Michigan rummy (a board game with cards) for hours. “We normally wouldn’t have stayed that late, but you guys were really having a good time, heh, heh, heh,” said Laura. Michael also took his pals to New Ulm, Minnesota, which is a “real traditional German town in Minnesota thirty miles from us.”

Harold, who is a Preacher at a 150 year-old church says, “Thursday morning they had to go down in the morning and listen to me preach for Thanksgiving Day. Probably the first Thanksgiving sermon they ever heard.”

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Harold’s face has had mutton chops ever since he got out of the air force in 1974.

 

I ask Harold how close Gaylord is to lake Woebegone, “Oh just over the hill. Everything in Minnesota is real close to Lake Woebegone.” His wife is more serious and tells me, “You know actually, maybe an hour and a half to two hours. It’s north of us, but you know it’s mythical.”

 

I’m 90 Years Old and This is the First Time I’ve Mentioned It

Sophia and her mom live in Seattle, sale but every year they come visit with grandma for a few weeks because she lives here in Milwaukee. Julie, Sophia’s mom says that today she found out that her mother was elected high school secretary. Her mother, Eunice confesses, “I’m 90 years old and this is the first time I’ve mentioned it. I also had the lead in the school play. In fourth year English, I had to recite a poem in an Irish brogue accent in front of the whole school during the assembly.” The majority of the population in Gays Mills Wisconsin where Eunice lived were Irish. “Oh it was fun. I was so introverted I couldn’t offend anyone. I’m glad I’ve saved it till now— it won’t affect any of your lives now.” Sophia squeals with delight, “Heee, oh Grandma!” “We learned a lot today,” says Julie.

Julie, Sophia and Eunice.
Julie, Sophia and Eunice.

Julie grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee.  “I got my haircut here in high school because Rosemary Ross, the TV personality would get her hair cut here. Twice a year. Once, I got a permanent wave here too.” Back when it was the peak of fashion, grandma Eunice would go get a permanent wave once a year, “About the time it started looking good, that’s when you had to get another one.”

Everyone is quiet for a moment and then Eunice complements my hat, lamenting, “I just wish hats would come back again. It was always the fun part of your outfit, when you were going to buy the hat.” Sophia adds,“You had a dressmaker too for a while. I think that’s the most awesome thing!” Julie looks at her mother and daughter in a moment of discovery and asks, “Why aren’t we wearing hats? We should be!” Sophia agrees so fervently that she erupts into a fit of giggles, “Yeah, hehehehe!”

Then there is silence for a while again, it is broken when Eunice points to the painting above the piano and sighs, “Isn’t that frame pretty?”

Julie and Sophia are at the end of their 2014 Wisconsin vacation. This time they went to Irish Fest, Wolf Peach— a new restaurant, and to Chicago a couple of times. “We’ve been visiting family mostly. We saw the Magritte show at the Art Institute of Chicago… it’s kind of dark.” I ask Julie if she means dark as in the subject matter of the art and Julie replies, “Well, it is, but I mean literally, the lighting was really low and everyone was very quiet. Subdued, and a lot of the pictures are spooky or kind of gruesome. It was a real experience to walk through. No one was talking.” Sophia agrees, “Yeahhhhh.” Summing it up Julie says, “It was kind of disturbing, we looked at the little doll houses after that to even it out.”

Swelling with Grandmotherly pride, Eunice tells me, “Sophia is celebrating, she just finished her Summer Intensive Ballet. Nine to five, six days a week in Seattle at the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company.” Sophia, who has been doing ballet for five years, speaks up, “It was really fun, I felt like I learned a lot.” Eunice, still glowing with her granddaughter’s accomplishment tells me, “She was told she has good stage presence.” Sophia, smiling, meekly tries to cut her off by shouting “Grandma!” But Eunice continues: “Compared to the rest of her class.”