A Haircut, A Soft Man From The Spa, A War Zone

Before.
Before.
After
After

 

I got an asymmetrical haircut at the Pfister’s salon. Carrie, medical my stylist said she had a barn growing up. It was mostly empty, so she and her brother would perform plays inside. Carrie had “an asthmatic horse named Blaze.” I didn’t know they made asthmatic horses, but Carrie tells me that it is a much more serious condition in horses. Poor Blaze had to wear an inhaler every day. Carrie had two other animals: a dog that she loved and a grumpy goat named ‘Butthead’ that she did not like so well. I have never been to a salon before, buy viagra so I was astonished to sit in the electric massage chair and get my hair washed.

I stared into the wall tiled with iridescent shells.
I stared into the wall tiled with iridescent shells.

 

“I don’t mean to be morbid, purchase but that would be a good place to die,” says a man who just got a massage in the spa. The relaxed man says that he, his mother and his girlfriend run a foundation together dedicated to the care and preservation of all 15 varieties of cranes. At a fundraiser last year he got to meet the world’s most famous anthropologist Jane Goodall. She sat at his table and gave advice to his girlfriend on how to proceed with their other fledgling project, a new animal care center. Goodall urged them not to lose vision and to keep going since there is no other organization in Wisconsin that currently spays and neuters cats as effectively as they plan to.

 

The man continues his conversation with me for an hour. I learn a lot about him including how he recently retired from a Milwaukee business his family has continuously owned since 1858, how retirement allows him to help produce off Broadway plays in New York, of years ago when he studied third world history in college, and that he’s “a soft man who cries a lot at movies,” preferring to watch animated movies over the action genre. He also tells me secrets in an auditorium compatible volume.

 

Eventually the man leaves the premises and another guy comes up to me wearing no expression on his face, asking me a lot of questions. His initial questions seem ordinary having to do about my role at the hotel, but then they get nosier: “Who was that guy you were just talking with? He was very open with you.” Only two kinds of grown people ask the things he wants to know, and guessing he’s unlikely to be a detective, I inquire if he’s a journalist. “Yes, my name is Barry Petersen and I am a correspondent with CBS, just back from Gaza. It was the worst war zone I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying a lot.”

 

Barry introduces me to his wife who is wearing a newspaper… a jacket made of crinkly fabric printed with headlines. Very convincing. Barry tells me that in Gaza “They tried to kill us all.” Now there’s a ceasefire there and Barry is safe inside the Pfister, finishing a cheese and fruit platter and about to have some carrot cake. Barry tells his wife that he had a contest with me to see who could find out more about the other. I did not know we were having a contest, but Barry definitively won. “I have always said that journalists are not interesting people,” claims Barry. He gives me permission to put him in the blog if I read five of his Gaza stories. I read of fathers burying children, 600 people taking shelter in a school and boys aspiring to become suicide bombers to get revenge.

Olivia turns 11 at the Pfister

The diversity of the guests at the Pfister always amazes me. I knew there were visitors from all over the world, look but prior to becoming the Pfister Narrator and spending so much time in the hotel, I didn’t realize how many guests were of different styles and ages, including children.

It’s certainly not Kid Central, but there are enough little people around to remind me how welcome they are at the Pfister. And they are always in awe of the hotel – including the lion statues, swimming pool, ceiling mural in the lobby and the chance to have a juice or soda in such a spiffy setting.

With this in mind, I decided to plan a Pfister birthday party for my partner’s 11-year-old daughter, Olivia.

She invited her dear friend, Indigo, and the girls started the celebration with a manicure at the Pfister Well Spa and Salon. They were thrilled with the massive selection of polish – Olivia picked “blue moon” and Indigo picked a silver sparkle – and they loved sitting next to each other, having their nails decorated and chatting with the really friendly nail techs.

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After the manicure, because it was Olivia’s birthday, they brought her a fruit and custard dessert with two spoons and “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate on the plate.

This was followed by a one-hour Downtown carriage ride from Milwaukeee Coach & Carriage that left from the hotel. Coincidentally, I bought this ride as a Groupon prior to even applying for the Pfister narrator position. I’m not sure what the girls loved more: the ride itself or getting to feed and pet the horse, Wilson, after we got back to the hotel.

Then, we had finger sandwiches and pickles – Olivia’s favorite – and opened gifts.

Olivia received typewriter-shaped earrings made from Shrinky Dinks (she loves writing like her father and I), a tie dye kit, mesh Madonna-style gloves, a book of Madonna photos and a birthday book that provides insight into people’s personalities based on their birth date. (Of course she looked up Madonna’s birthday – which, for the record, is Aug. 16.)

I also gave her my skating Girl Scout patch that I earned when I was about her age. I have had the pleasure and the honor of watching Olivia transcend on the ice from wobbly to graceful, and so, as I told her in the card, she truly earned that badge.

At the end of the evening, Olivia gave me a hug and said, “Best birthday ever.”

This meant a lot to me. Being a “bonus parent” – I despise the word “step parent” and a friend suggested this term instead – is a fragile relationship. Much like ice skating, it’s a mix of wonderful and wipe out.

At the end of the evening, I was really pleased to have been able to provide her with a magical celebration for the magical age of 11 at a magical place like the Pfister.

In fact, the magic began on our way to the hotel.

Driving down Humboldt Boulevard, we saw seven or eight green balloons floating down the sidewalk. We had presents, cupcakes, kids’ champagne, cute napkins and plates – but no balloons. So my partner pulled the car over and much to her excitement and surprise, told her it was OK to get out of the van and chase down a few balloons. So she did.

“And green is my favorite color!” she exclaimed, beaming, holding an armful of emerald air-filled balloons.

A birthday present from the universe – on our way to the Pfister.

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Sunday at the Spa

What’s a better gift than comfort and relaxation? I’d argue that there’s none. While some people see it as a luxury, others enjoy massage therapy as a part of their regular health and wellness routine – lucky people indeed.  The waiting room at the Well Spa one Sunday afternoon was filled with new guests and regulars: an athletic looking man, an anxious couple, a mother-daughter duo, and an older woman pouring over a magazine. Everyone was whispering and slowly slipping away from the chaos of their own worlds in the solace of the waiting room, where the Well Spa experience really begins. I was cautious to interrupt people, so I began observing with my eyes behind a tattered copy of People and waited for an opportune moment to approach a guest.

As the sleek, all-black clad therapists cycled in and out to escort guests back to their private suites,  Ashley and Michael’s eyes continued to widen. They smiled and peered over each other’s shoulders at the surveys they were filling out detailing their preferences for the treatment. It was obvious that they had no idea what they were about the experience.

So I just had to ask – “Is this your first time here?” Ashely chirped back. “Oh yes, this is our first massage and we’re going in together.”  It was a birthday gift from Ashley to Michael, who turned 24 on Sunday. “Michael was having some back pain, so I thought this would be good for him.”  A romantic couples massage is a perfect gift, in fact, it’s two great gifts wrapped up in one, as the giver also benefits from his/her own generosity.

Ashley and Michael have been dating for five years and married for three. They’ve lived in Milwaukee all their lives, but they’ve never been to the Pfister Hotel. After their massage, they planned to  continue the birthday celebration at dinner.

As more guests circulated out from the suites back into the waiting room, they moved a little slower, stood a little taller and their skin looked a little fresher. They marched back into the real world, hopefully better equipped to combat harsh realities like the weather, work, and stress. Thankfully this harmonious oasis is open seven days a week.

welcome to the Well Spa
Welcome to the Well Spa

Fred Pfister: Part 2 of 2

“My grandmother used to save this stuff and my mother was a saver too. Now that I am all alone in the house, rather than just throw it away, I wanted a way to preserve it,” Fred Pfister said about the beautiful handmade clothing his grandmother created. We couldn’t be more flattered that he has entrusted the Pfister Hotel to preserve his family’s legacy. Before we tuck  away these artifacts for safe keeping, Timothy and I felt such unique, delicate garments deserved one more walk around the hotel. And lucky for me, they fit like a glove.

The maroon jacket, made from traditional linen with decorative, silk ribbon appliques, dates back to the early 1900s. The wicker boning on the inside was very rare for the time; most tailors used whale bone. Fred’s grandmother Margaret made the jacket for herself – she sewed all of her own clothes. Timothy helped me carefully place the jacket over my shoulders and immediately I felt like a character in a black-and-white photograph. The sophisticated bun perched atop my head, created by the WellSpa, solidified my look as a true Gibson Girl pin-up of the Belle Epoque.

The pink satin dress belonged to Fred’s mother, Helen. She loved to dance. The cool satin cascaded down my body, stopping to rest on each curve. As I slipped into it, I felt myself morph into Helen Pfister. Fred explained that his grandmother made the dress for Helen to attend a wedding party.  The above-the-ankle hemline and flared bottom allowed for movement when she would glide and turn. Helen loved to waltz, but she didn’t care much for  the flappers – she thought they were too risque. Helen waltzed right into the arms of her husband Fredrick Pfister at the Milwaukee Club (right across the street for the Pfister Hotel) and spent the next 60 years of her life with him.

Helen’s silk crepe blouse was originally black, but over the years, has faded to a rich olive hue. It’s embellished with iridescent glass beads and a high, pointed collar. Both the blouse and the dress date back to the late thirties, though paired with denim, the blouse looks contemporary and chic.

Thank you to Fred, who allowed us to revitalize these objects of art and preserve the memory of Margaret Faubel and Helen Pfister. Fred dutifully cared for his mother until she died in 2003 at the age of 94.

To see part one of the Fred Pfister story, click here. All photos courtesy of Carol Rice Kraco and Kraco Photography.

 

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Quietude

The first thing seized is the nose. The smell is, at once, familiar and exotic: chocolate, ginger, hyacinth, grandma’s house and ocean breeze. This must be the scent of ambrosia.

Next, the eyes take in the organic symmetry of the room: open and clean lines, recessed nooks and uncluttered walls, multiple sitting areas, oversized planters and ottoman.  The space is bathed in comforting tones of caramel and sand. Soft leather.  Textured fabrics. Brushed metals. Polished glass. The décor is resplendent refined, the livable chic of a Park Avenue apartment (or, I should say, how I imagine a Park Avenue apartment).

I’m in the waiting area for the Well Spa + Salon. One woman is waiting with me.  She is in a sitting area closer to the entrance,  pressing the keypad of her cell phone.  She’s cozy on her leather island and I’m comfy on mine.

A tall woman with the angular limbs of a runway model appears from a hallway. She is dressed in slim black pants and a loose black blouse draping from one shoulder.  Her heels snap rhythms against the hardwood.

“Collette?” she asks.  The cell phone woman is ushered from her private island into the salon behind a frosted glass door.

A young guy with a high and fanning mohawk saunters through the waiting room, his oil dispenser hooked onto one of his belt loops. His eyes face ahead of him, but he wears a faint smile, like it’s carrying a lingering joke. More therapists and stylists criss cross the waiting room: a short, dark-haired woman; a tall, pregnant blonde; a thick-hipped brunette; an average-in-every-way soccer mom; a long sculpted ponytail.  They all wear black. They all wear pleasant expressions. They all move swiftly. What’s most notable, however, is how they all make minimal eye contact.  Each passes with the quiet and deliberateness of a river ebb.

As each guest arrives, I wanted to ask a battery of questions, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to disturb this shared quietude to ask whether this spa trip was a ritual or a special treat. If there was a specific stressor they hoped to have kneaded from beneath their skin. If they were still searching for a stylist to call their very own. Did the therapists approach each landscape of skin with a different sense of adventure. How do they relax when they’re not shepherding clients into zen?

Years ago, I remember sitting in a nail shop, my feet massaged by bubbling jets and my nails drying in painted gloss. The salon hummed with luxuriating customers until one voice began to peel away the soothing ease.

He was perched in the high chair next to me, his girlfriend next to him. One after the other, to seemingly no one in particular, he lobbed commentary about the warm water, the antibacterial spray to his toes, the antics playing out on television, the storm forecast, etc.  I’m sure the couples’ pedicure was a great idea when his girlfriend first thought of it.

“First time?” I finally asked.

He nodded, broad smile.

“Very different from the barber shop,” I said, smiling back.  “You get to just sit back and relax.”

He looked around. The technicians and their clients were leaning in close to trade quiet conversations, if they spoke at all; a few customers bantered lightly across aisles; some murmured into cell phones; most flipped through magazines, sat quietly or gazed up to the television. Understanding dawned on my neighbors’ face. He leaned back and embraced the quiet.

Once again, here in the Well Spa, I share a rich silence with strangers. It feels sacred. Or, maybe, this “right now” is the blessing. Our intersection of lives might have in common a precocious toddler, a fiesty dog, a new lease, an ailing friend or nothing at all.

I retreat into my notebook, welcoming the ease of not having to fill my mouth with words or drawing reluctant sounds from someone else’s. We are cocooned here, soothed with calming sights and smells, cradled in a suspended stillness.  Though I won’t be guided into the skilled hands of a masseuse or a stylist as I leave the waiting room, I ascend the staircase into the hotel lobby feeling wholly renewed.

Candlelight Vigil

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 chat with the associate, I follow the blouses, blazers, cocktail dresses, bracelets and chocolates to a table display of candles.  I recognize the round tins immediately. I’d received one as a gift last year, but had expected not to enjoy its scent because I’m not a fan of mint chocolate.  Turns out, I loved the candle so much I’ve kept the burned out tin as a reminder to research the maker and vendor.

Here they were. Voluspa Truffle White Cocoa.

A woman neared the table to examine other tins as well: Baltic Amber, Panjore Lychee, Dahlia Orange Bloom.

“This one,” I say authoritatively, “is truly divine.” I begin to tell her about my serendipitous discovery and realize that she already has a number of tins balanced in the crook of one arm.  With her other hand, she held a flute of champagne. We strike up a conversation about candles, the good, the bad, and the cheap.

“I’ve bought them for fifty dollars and I’ve bought them for five,” she said.  “The good ones are worth whatever you spend, if you like them. I like the ones with soy and natural products best, like these.”

My new candle sister’s name is Michelle, a Milwaukee-area native who travels the country as a real estate professional.  She picks up a few candles for her stash whenever she visits the Pfister’s WELL spa. She might burn candles at any time, she says, but always when she meditates, a practice she’s adopted in the past five years. I admit to her that I’ve only been meditating for a week, after Pfister narratorseveral failed and short-lived efforts over the years.

“It’s still difficult,” she laughed, “but, now, I can tell the difference when I don’t take the time to still myself every day.”

Michelle has become as equally diligent about balancing her busy world with regular exercise, girls’ outings with her sisters, spiritual readings, and treating herself to a massage.

“At the end of any given day, we’re responsible for dozens of decisions with serious weight and consequence. The reality of our lives can be immense,” she says. “I  do my best to live well in between it all.”

Michelle takes a sip of champagne and flashes a warm and brilliant smile.  I thank her for sharing her story and wish her an exquisitely quiet evening.  She raises her glass and I head for the lobby.  The bustle had thickened with friends laughing in the lounge, business women arriving with their roller bags, and couples in formal attire weaving through a crowd of dress slacks and denim.  It is definitely the weekend, but Michelle may be off to the best start.

 


Curtis from 97.3 Radio Now, Visit WELL SPA

Check out Curtis from the Connie and Curtis Show on Radio Now 97.3, sovaldi getting a well needed pedicure and manicure.

*Warning*

We love Curtis a lot, but the before video is not for the faint of heart. You may want to pay a little more attention to the after video. Well Spa really pulled a miracle on this one.

Before

After

Thank you again Curtis for enjoying your services from Well Spa + Salon.

Connie & Curtis can be heard from 5:30a – 10:00a on Milwaukee 97.3 Radio Now.

Elizabeth’s Tips: Three steps to Healthy Feet

Let the team at WELL Spa us help you take care of your tootsies.

Here are three easy steps to healthy feet.

1) Always dry your feet well after showering and check between your toes for cracks and dryness, which allows bacteria to grow, increasing the risk of infection.

2) Be sure to remove nail polish that is older than four weeks, or as soon as the polish starts to chip. Water may get trapped between the nail and the polish, creating the perfect environment for bacteria, fungus and dryness of the nail.

3) Moisturize your feet every night. This prevents problems with dry, cracked heels and peeling cuticles.

Don’t forget! Save 20% on oils and lotions in the Gift Shop including SpaRitual® Sole MateTM Hydrating Foot Balm through June 30, 2011.

Get your Feet in Check at WELL Spa + Salon

Get your Feet in Check at WELL Spa + Janice Salon [VIDEO]

With warmer weather and the festival season approaching quickly, ambulance their is a pressing need to go and get you feet in check for Flip-Flop season.

Follow Joshua Wolter as he checks his feet into WELL Spa + Salon at the Pfister Hotel.

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The Pfister Recommends: WELL Spa + Janice Salon [VIDEO]

Peter Mortensen, the Chef Concierge of the Pfister Hotel is full of amazing recommendations. This week, Peter stays close to home and gets his hair trimmed at the WELL Spa + Salon.

What hat should Peter pick to keep his head warm this winter? Be sure to cast your vote on our Poll on the right hand side of the Pfister Blog.

  • Baseball cap
  • Cowboy hat
  • Ushanka (Russian cap)
  • Fireman’s hat
  • Coonskin Cap