New Orleans is in the house

I love New Orleans. I love the food, health the music, the architecture, but most of all, I love the resilience of the city. From a fire in 1788 that burned down the French Quarter to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, New Orleaneans are survivors. And this spirit of overcoming hardship combined with the rich history, Cajun/French/Creole/Haitan influences and indulgent decadence of the culture creates a fascinating, generic free-spirited group of people.

So when I was sitting at the Lobby Bar one Friday evening and overheard that the gentlemen next to me were from NOLA, I was ready to throw down mint juleps like we were on Bourbon Street for Mardi Gras.

Or, at the very least, sip a Miller Lite and listen to their stories.

David and Jay came to Milwaukee on business, treatment specifically to visit Johnson Controls. It was not their first time in Milwaukee, but their first stay at the Pfister.

“I like the ambiance here,” says David. “The people are great.”

Jay has lived in New Orleans for 14 years and David is a lifer.

“I’ve lived in New Orleans for 54 years, my entire life,” says David. “Born and raised.”

I ask them what it was like to live in a place so deeply affected by weather. High-profile hurricanes and malfunctioning levees have ravaged the city throughout history and some now wonder why anyone would live so close to a large, moody body of water.

“Well, you could freeze to death here,” says Jay.

Touche.

“I would be more afraid of tornadoes, like in Oklahoma,” says David. “In New Orleans, you have plenty of time to get out.”

Both David and Jay lost a home to Katrina. Today, they have new homes in the city. Jay lives in suburban Old Metairie and David lives in Lake Vista, about 100 yards from Lake Pontchartrain.

Both of them spend time in the French Quarter, which is arguably the heart of New Orleans but certainly the heart of the city’s tourism. David says he goes to the Quarter frequently, about once a week, but Jay, who still has young children, makes it there about once a month.

For visitors, they recommended Restaurant Stella, Bourbon House and Dickie Brennans, the birthplace of the flaming bananas foster dessert. For drinks and jazz, they like the Davenport Lounge inside the Ritz Carlton, the Absinthe House (also known as “The Pirate Bar”) for something different, and the Carousel Bar inside the Hotel Monteleone which features a vintage, 360-degree rotating, real carousel as the main bar.

“They should put a carousel bar in the Pfister,” says David.

Where’s the suggestion box around here?

I then ask them if Mardi Gras, which brings in hundreds of thousands of tourists to the city every February and March, gets annoying to the natives. They both say no.

“It’s a part of life, a part of the culture,” says Jay.

Jay participates every year in a parade with a group called the Krewe of Endymion, one of only three Super Krewes involved in Mardi Gras. A Super Krewe is determined by celebrity Grand Marshals for their spectacular floats. Endymion’s parade is also the largest of the 80-plus parades that take place during the celebration.

As a member of the krewe, Jay has to “mask” (wear a costume, including a mask that covers his face) at all times. The mask changes every year, depending on the theme of the parade, but are always made of a durable material in case someone throws something at your face.

“You have to be masked or you’ll get in trouble. No one can know who you are, it’s part of the Mardi Gras tradition,” says Jay.

The three-hour Milwaukeean

After I overheard – OK, online totally nosily dipped into – Mario Guerra’s cell phone conversation when he was sitting next to me at the Lobby Bar, I gleaned he had recently moved to Milwaukee.

“So how long have you lived in Milwaukee?” I asked Guerra, who was wearing a nice suit and drinking a Bud Light.

“About three hours, click ” he said.

That explains the Bud Light in MillerCoors Country, I guess.

But really, this was the perfect opening to what would become an engaging, two-hour conversation about Milwaukee, family, disappointment, successes and what led Guerra to the Pfister Hotel.

“Why am I at the Pfister? Because it’s the coolest hotel in Milwaukee. It’s Old Milwaukee, search ” says Guerra, who actually grew up in Milwaukee and moved away in 1989.

“When I was in high school, I played here for various MPS (Milwaukee Public School) functions and I was always in awe. My job takes me all over the world, India, Australia, London, and there is something about this hotel.”

The Pfister, in fact, was a beacon on the horizon for Guerra when he first moved back – about 180 minutes before our conversation. He had been living in Los Angeles, working for Prudent Technologies, and when the company signed a Midwest contract, he was the only employee who would even consider moving to Brew City.

Once he left Mitchell International Airport, while driving his rental car to the Pfister, it really started to sink in. He was living in Milwaukee again.

“I was like, ‘I’m really living here now. Ahhhh.’ And then I showed up at the Pfister Hotel and life is good,” he says.

Guerra was born at St. Mary’s in Milwaukee, attended Roosevelt Middle School and the Milwaukee High School of the Arts, and left in 1989 to attend the University of Texas.

A musician who plays keyboards, drums and “everything,” Guerra was in many bands. While in college, he worked in a dueling piano bar as a pianist. He also worked as a DJ in a strip club.

Guerra had big plans to be a rock star but decided to let go of the dream after choking down his thousandth packet of Ramen noodles.

“You ever been broke? It sucks,” he says.

Guerra also joined the Marines and served time in Afghanistan. Although he firmly believes in his mission as a Marine, Guerra suffered during his tour. He spent time recovering from emotional trauma in a military hospital and found out his wife had died in a car accident.

Today, Guerra is raising his 12-year-old son alone. The child is in California with his grandparents until Guerra can secure housing and determine where to send him to school.

“I had a great experience at MPS. I’m not sure where to send my son, though. He’s really into sports. I was more of an art kid,” says Guerra.

But for tonight, and a few more nights, Guerra’s happy just to be a resident of the Pfister Hotel.

“I have a lot of possibilities, but I just got here a few hours ago. Right now, I’m just trying to figure out where I’m having my next cocktail,” he says.

Guerra said he missed the food in Milwaukee the most  – specifically the barbecue at Speed Queen and Brady Street’s Emperor of China.

“Their fried rice is to die for,” he says.

But coming “home” to Milwaukee hasn’t been easy in some ways. The freeways are reconfigured. Some of his favorite places like the Brady Street Pharmacy are gone. (Guerra was, however, happy to hear that the iconic, quirky shop Art Smart’s Dart Mart & Juggling Emporium was still open on Brady Street.)

For Guerra, like all of us, life has taken some unexpected twists.

“I’m in my forties and I really don’t know everything I thought I would,” he says. “But I’m here, in the awesome Pfister, and I’m at a place in my career where I can be a little more funky. Finally sing the songs I want to sing.”

Brothers Reunite

All nine of them were huddling around the wide velvet couches like a football team reviewing the game-winning play.  Then, they broke up to line up like soldiers in front of the fireplace and posed for a picture. One slight problem, the gentleman who volunteered to take the picture didn’t realize the camera wasn’t on, so I quickly intervened.

After they saw that I knew how to work one, they all began handing me their own cameras. It was clear that this was a momentous occasion and they all wanted their own copy of the picture to prove that this reunion, with wives in tow,  actually did happen.

There was a chemical engineer, social worker, nurse, art professor and more among them. They were a sacred brotherhood, bound together for life by the glorious memories of college. University life has a way of creating fast friends and memories that last a lifetime. All of them attended Washington University together in the 60’s and haven’t seen each other since.

Doug was the ringleader, who had decided to convene the team for a long-overdue reunion.They all lived together the same dormitory – “Terry Hall, it was called. And then we moved into apartments together and we even had our own home brewing operation,”  Doug joyfully recalled. His fondest memory was watching the University of Washington win the Rose Bowl in 1961 “They played against Wisconsin and they just walloped them! It was unheard of because Minnesota and Wisconsin, they were all much better teams.”

After college, the group scattered to Wisconsin (no one in Milwaukee though), California and Minnesota. Some stayed in the Washington. “So how did you all end up here at the Pfister?” I inquired. John, who now lives in East Troy, recommended  that everyone meet and stay at The Pfister. “We thought Milwaukee in March might be nice and I thought these guys would really enjoy the Pfister.”

“I learned it had all this history and art – and it went through renvoations, it’s a very Inspirational building.”

“We gasped when we walked in the room. It’s like we’re young again, it’s like going back in time.”

People were chiming in with their own views of the Pfister experience.

They were rushing off to dinner at Karl Ratzsch’s, another Milwaukee landmark. They were clearly making their own University of Washington history right here in the Pfister lobby.

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Long-Lost Sisters

Though we weren’t able to meet face-to-face during her stay, Simone Ingram shared her story with me via email. Here is her incredible story, in her own words…

One day, I logged onto Facebook and had a message in my inbox asking if I had a dad named Dennis Michael Cudmore and a brother named Jean-Paul. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I read it and re-read it a million times and didn’t know what to do.

It was my sister Ciera who found me on Facebook. I never even knew I had a sister. That evening I called my brother and asked if he was sitting down and if he had a drink in his hand. He replied yes to both so I told him the news – it looked like we had a sister in America. My sister Ciera DesJardins has a two-year-old little girl and just got engaged. We were both speechless. Ciera had been looking for us for as long as she could remember. Neither of us knew our father, she only knew about us from what her mum had told her, for which I shall be eternally grateful.

For the past three years, Ciera and I have mailed each other regularly and tried to Skype once, but we kept losing connection. I have been desperate to meet her since she first got in touch with me. This past year on my Christmas list, I put that I would like to meet my sister.  On Christmas Day, after we had opened our presents, my husband said that he had one more thing for me. I had always wanted to have a nice English afternoon tea at the Ritz and had mentioned this on numerous occasions, so when he gave me an envelope I thought, this is it, my tea at the Ritz.  I opened the envelope and could not believe what I saw, he had organized for the two of us to fly to Milwaukee for a week to meet my sister. As you can imagine the tears flowed with happiness and I just could not stop smiling.

My husband Ian had arranged everything with Ciera, she was in on it all along. Ian said that because this was to be a trip of a lifetime,  he had chosen a very lovely hotel for us to stay in. And The Pfister sure was lovely.  I had never been to America before. I’m from a small town called Barnstaple in Devon, England so to see everything supersize blew my mind away at times.

Ciera and I met at the airport. We just hugged and giggled nervously – my husband filmed it all. We spent the week together getting to know each other and finding out we have similar ways, likes and dislikes – neither of us like mushrooms or anchovies. Someone actually said we looked alike, in our smiles. We were both delighted, as I am 20 years older than Ciera – she’s only 23.

We also took a trip to Chicago, which for me was very special, as our dad lived in Chicago. The last known address I had for him was in Hinsdale, Illinois. Before I met Ciera, I always wanted to go to Chicago to see if I could find him.  Walking along looking at the sites side by side with my sister filled my heart. Knowing I was in the same city and walking the same paths he may have walked was enough. I had flesh and blood with me. In my mind and heart I confirmed I would never ever let this young girl be apart from me again. I felt warmth and love that only blood can produce.

My dad left England when I was about five. He was a top hairdresser and worked with Vidal Sassoon. My mum had always said he was a very talented hairdresser. Sadly though since he left England, I have only seen him once when I was 16. We exchanged letters on a regular basis but one day about 10 years ago, the letters stopped and we’ve heard nothing since. Ciera has never seen him, she has only spoken to him once on the phone. We are not sure if he is alive or passed on. A sad side to our story.

Everyone at the Pfister was so friendly, warm and welcoming. We felt like royals and particularly enjoyed time sat by the open fire listening to the wonderful pianists. And the breakfasts were to die for, they kept us going throughout the day. The hash browns are nothing like the ones we get, yours are much nicer. I also got my afternoon tea! We shared afternoon tea in Blu and it was a lovely – wonderful tea, beautiful food, fantastic harpist, and outstanding view, all capped off sat next to my sister, just perfect.

We had a very special week which was over too fast.  It was sad to leave Ciera, her fiancé Ross and my niece. We vowed we would both start to save so we could visit again. We had a few tears when we left, and  when I landed in England I had more again, as I felt so far away from her. I would love for Ciera to come to England so I can show her her roots and I know my brother would love to meet her too. I would also love my two girls to meet their auntie, uncle and cousin.

Ian, Ciera and Simone
Ian, Ciera and Simone

 

 

 

 

The Crystal Narrator

Do you ever wonder if walls could really talk? Or if paintings, sculptures and chandeliers could too? These are the questions I ponder, as the Pfister Hotel’s narrator charged with excavating the memories and experiences of guests past and present that are steeping in every wall, carpet and object in this place. I want to write about them and Stephanie Barenz wants to paint them.

Already elbow-deep in pictures, paints and pencils, I sat down to chat with Stephanie in Timothy Westbrook’s studio as she was creating a painting of the Pfister Hotel’s lobby chandelier. I inquire why, of all the gorgeous relics, she chose the chandelier in the lobby. “It was a natural choice – it’s gorgeous and eye-catching, and it has the best vantage point. It’s the omniscient narrator, it sees and knows all of the happenings in the hotel.”

Stephanie Barenz
Stephanie Barenz

Stephanie is vying for the coveted title of the Pfister Artist in Residence to replace Timothy  in April. She stood out not only for her outstanding credentials, but also because of her proposal to incorporate the Pfister Narrator’s stories into her paintings.

Travel is a big part of her life and work as she explores how art changes perception of a place. She speaks of travel, not just the international type, but any path from point A to point B. She paints about place – series like Middle West, City Middle and Middle Kingdom (i.e. China) all showcase places she’s lived. You’ll see images of houses, suitcases, bicycles and cars – all objects representing travel and place.

Stephanie knows a thing or two about travel. She grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, moved to Wisconsin when she was 15, attended college in Minnesota, graduate school in Missouri, and lived stints in Italy and China.

“Culture shock hit me hard in China and it wasn’t graceful, but I grew so much and the Chinese people taught me so much about having a playful, whimsical nature that I’ve carried over to my work. They have an amazing outlook on life after going through all they did as a country.”

Stephanie admits that there were times when she took herself more seriously and then retracted: “Well I am very serious, so artwork is a way for me to get away from that.” She credits illustrators like Shel Silverstein for influencing her work.

“Matisse said something like ‘I want my art to feel like an armchair to a businessman at the end of the day,’ and that really stuck with me,” she reveals. Her muted color pallets are harmonious and quiet, subduing the flurry of activity often portrayed in her work.

Stephanie hopes to create a series of 20 to 30 paintings entitled “The Carriers” inspired from Pfister hotel guests and the stories that both she and the narrator uncover. She sees the objects in the hotel as carriers of the stories “silent witnesses to it all.”

Stephanie is creating detail and embedding images of the characters I've written about in her chandelier.
Stephanie is creating detail and embedding images of the characters I’ve written about in her chandelier.

We started to gab like two giddy schoolgirls dishing about their first crush. The prospect of collaboration excites me, though Stephanie’s potential tenure and mine would only overlap by one month. We envision a two-way process where the paintings inspire the characters and the characters inspire the painting. Stephanie also hopes to create a book with her paintings, with text written by the Narrator.

Find Stephanie and her work at Plaid Tuba (207 E. Buffalo Street, 6th Floor). And, be sure to vote here for your favorite 2013 Artist in Residence (whether it’s Stephanie or one of the five other amazingly talented artists) by February 14.

For the next three months, you can still find me pondering what lies beneath these walls.

The Modern Day Businessman

It’s a Tuesday night in November. Truth be told, there’s not a whole lot going on in Milwaukee. Luckily, there is always a friend to be found at the Pfister. It’s dinnertime, so I pop into Mason Street Grill.  A lone man drinking martinis – this must be the traveling businessman.

David Howard is on the road Monday-Friday almost every week selling natural beverages. Reed’s brand ginger beer is the flagship product. “No way, that’s one of my favorites!” I blurt out. He hates being away from his two little kids, but he tries not to focus on it.  He  pulls out his smartphone to brag, and rightfully so. Two pairs of enormous brown eyes stare back at me from the screen and I gush.

Originally from Detroit, David really likes Milwaukee and passes through a few times a year. This trip he is pushing Kambucha, that funny fermented drink that is taking health food stores by storm. He’s thinking of snow crab tonight. And about the great massage he just got at the Well Spa. Those are comforts a man deserves for a week away from family.

He puts a piece of shrimp on a bread plate and nudged it my way. “You must be Italian,” I say  “Well, Israeli” he replied. “Oh yeah, we Mediterraneans love to share food. I come from a long line of food pushers,” I admit.  We both crack up at the truth of that statement and reflect on our own families.

David is eager to hit the town and begins grilling me when I tell him I work for a radio station. I give him some suggestions for live music on the East Side and I am on my way. I didn’t want to bother David for a photograph so I am going to plug for his delicious Reed’s Ginger Beer, which aside from its healthful properties, is fantastic mixed with rum or whiskey.

On my way out, I stopped by the lobby bar and a traveling salesman of a whole different caliber stops me in my tracks.

“Oh hi, I saw you earlier. Yes, yes, it was you sitting over there, right? May I join you at the bar?” He didn’t even stop to take a breath and before I had time  to respond,  he was moving his things to the seat next to me.

Bayard offers me a handshake and a sip from his hearty glass of cognac. One sniff and I feel lightheaded. He drinks it with a side of tea, something I have never seen before.

Bayard sells insurance. Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls is one of his big clients so he likes to visit The Pfister when he’s in town. We talk about the opulence of the space and my role as the narrator.”Everyone is a storyteller,” he insists, which certainly is true.

From Conneticut, but born in Beirut, Bayard has a lot of stories to tell. I learn about how his great-great grandfather founded  the American University of Beruit in 1861. As his family history unfolds, he peppers it with words in Arabic and brags about how he can haggle with taxi drivers like a true Arab. His family continues to support work in the Middle East, but they are all back here in there states.

As the evening winds down, I bid Bayard adieu and he urges me to keep on telling stories. “It must,” I smirk, “You too – we are all storytellers, right?”

 

Timothy Westbrook Explores & Exhibits at the Geneva Lake Museum

The emphasis of the Artist in Residence program here at the hotel is to remind us all that art is living and breathing and not just another layer of wallpaper.

I have seen first hand how this program allows guests to get a hands-on experience of my work. I love to see guest reaction when they encounter my work up close and personal.

The best part of the studio is that you never know who will pop in. It continues to be one of my favorite parts of the experience.

Around the start of my second month, ed I had an epitomizing moment when Karen Walsh of the Geneva Lake Museum stepped into the studio. An instant friendship blossomed and a month later I showed an exhibit at their “History Loves Company Celebration.”

Not only were there replicas of 1900’s style Fire Stations, Law offices, buy viagra Schools, Farms, Kitchens, etc. but they also had displays of turn of the century home craft, photography equipment, dentistry, boating, and the military.

If you have a passion, obsession, profession, or hobby, they will have the turn of the century counterpart. It is worth it to see the history of your work in physical form. Google-ing it online can only take you so far, in the words of the new director of the museum, generic Karen Walsh, “If you touch history, history will touch you.”

Here are some of my favorite sights from the trip.

The "General Store" had a great collection of fabric and thread.
A wedding gown for the average early 1900's woman.
Display of turn of the century shawls in the "seamstress's room"
Skating is my second passion & these skates from the 1920's are amazing!

My exhibit for the “History Loves Company Celebration” was a miniature version of my studio in the Pfister.

My display in the museum.

My set up was a fun compliment to the fiber art display they also had in the museum.

One of my dresses and jackets inspired by the 1920's was also on display.

On semi-permanent display will be an exhibit of costumes that I’m making in the studio.

It was a wonderful experience and I hope to share many more during my residence. And, as always, please stop in, my door is always open.

– Timothy

 

 

 

 

Pink Frosted Dreams

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, clinic 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 Pfister narratorgirls.  Her smile seemed to relish the girls’ delight while her eyes were attentive to the other lobby guests.  Great instincts; she was not a rookie chaperone.

I offered to share cupcakes with the girls in the café while the mothers got checked in.  More great mother-chaperone instincts: she was listening for red flags and scanning my soul as I introduced myself.  I expected nothing less.  I asked her to join us and we all tumbled into the café.

They were a Girl Scout troop from a suburb of Chicago.  In addition to a camping trip, an excursion to a fancy hotel in another city had been their goal for this year’s cookie money and fundraising.

“This is SO cool,” said one, as we sat at a long table. They nodded to each other in agreement. They were a calico assembly of curls, ponytails, dimples, glasses, friendship bracelets and giggles.

I learned most of them were fifth graders as well as veteran Girl Scouts.  I asked what they liked most about being Girl Scouts.  They told me they enjoyed learning new things, going new places, and sharing a connection that was special from their “regular” classmates and friends.

“We only meet a few times a month, so it’s special when we’re all together.”

The girls admit that they’ve matured together too, learning how to plan things and even how to fight and make up.  When I asked them to describe themselves, they offered “funny,” “talented,” “loving,” “electric.”

When I asked what they each wanted to be when they grew up, I was prepared for Doctor, Lawyer, Veterinarian, Police Officer, the short list of ambitions that we grown ups typically dispense to children.  My heart leapt with joy to hear, instead, Trapeze Artist, Interior Designer, Teacher, Viola Player, Pilot.

Of course, I’ll have no way of knowing if the girls will land on these goals 10-20 years from now.  Still, I was excited to hear that they were already dreaming outside the box.  Don’t get me wrong, there are phenomenal careers inside the box, but you have to admire the vast number of pre-schoolers who, according to a recent Forbes poll, intend to become superheroes and princesses. They’ll realize how competitive those gigs are, eventually. In fact, a survey on Salary.com reports that 70% of us changed our “dream job” once we became adults. (Although 60% of us still wish for those childhood ideals.) Realized or not, the point is to dream.

My merry band of cupcakes began to fall away into spirited side conversations.  All three mothers were with us now, the adult business of check-ins and room keys handled. Annie, my cupcake girls’ self-appointed spokesperson, explained that they were hoping to have two adjoining rooms separate from the mother-chaperones.

“I doubt that’s going to happen,” she said with a comical twist at the mouth.

“Probably not,” I agreed, giving her a wink.  “But it never hurts to dream.”

The Experience Only a Concierge Can Craft

 

Historic Turner Hall Ballroom very much alive on 4th Street in Milwaukee.

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 in Milwaukee’s historic Turner Hall Ballroom. Since this is the place where his story resides, I felt it impolite to leave the topic of our conversation out of the conversation. You may notice Peter’s voice has a deep echo, and that’s because we were sitting in the middle of the cavernous ballroom on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Below, Peter regales us with the story of how a man living in Milwaukee, in 1892, wrote the world’s first pop music hit. Here is an old video of the song After the Ball as introduced by the songwriter himself, Charles K. Harris. Then, to hear Peter talk about the music coming full circle one hundred years later with performers Joan Morris and William Bolcom was ice cream scooped onto the cake. Click play or download below to listen to these gems of Milwaukee’s past and present.

 

 

Like Chocolate Cake For Breakfast

 

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 at the hotel the guests, employees, and structure itself have all been potential colors across my palette with which to paint this experience. So here we are, having arrived at the point of final conclusions.

Well, fellow writer, here’s what I have to leave you with. My two cents for you to take or leave. The rabbit hole is in front of you. Do you take the red or blue pill? This is your garden to till, and you determine how fruitful the result.

* Get a gym membership. There are pastries all over this place. They taste too good. Too good! Hopefully your will is stronger than mine in the face of bakery.

* Tip well. Especially in the beginning. You will be loved even more.

* Conversation is give and take. The first part of that is give. Most people aren’t familiar with being interviewed but most everybody knows how to have a conversation. For people to get comfortable enough to tell you the good stories it’s often necessary to offer something about your life, sometimes before they do.

* Don’t get too over concerned about the writing. They chose you for a reason. Write it. Post it. Exhale. Have a drink.

* Don’t be afraid to ask. The more you engage the staff the more they will engage you. The people who have been here a long time are a wealth of knowledge. Several people have worked at the Pfister longer than I’ve been alive! But if you don’t ask they won’t necessarily offer their information. Some of them have seen decades of faces working here and it might take a while before they recognize yours.

* The concierge has a list of events for the week. I liked to ask what was coming up to be present for the ones which sounded the most interesting to cover.

* I’m pleasantly surprised there was a job to do and that we (as humans) haven’t entirely traded our social skills for laptop computers and backlit telephones. I wonder if after book publishing became widespread, social types feared the world would shove it’s head in a book and never again converse.

* My favorite meal is breakfast. Any time of day, breakfast feels like starting all over again. The Cafe at the Pfister makes terrific breakfast until 2pm.

* Guests will expect you to know about the hotel’s history, art collection, and surrounding downtown area. The more information you can offer, the more credibility it will provide the ethereal Narrator title when trying to answer the question, “So, what is it that you do here?”

It’s been a great fun half year. The experience has felt akin to being a part of a theater production, or a circus. Except the circus is stationary and the carnival-goers are the travelers who come to visit you. Strap yourself in and take the ride up that first roller coaster climb…