Let Me Help You Do Your Crossword Puzzle Through Deceit and Unfair Play

While it is true that guests come and go from the Pfister on a daily basis, order there are also plenty of good souls who you can classify as Pfister regulars.

The formidable Barbara Brown Lee who has knowledge about the visual art world that could fill many volumes of thick books (my predecessor Anja Notanja Sieger tells Barbara’s story beautifully) is a definite regular in the Café at the Pfister.

Barbara has her own table. She has no need to look at the menu to know what she wants to eat. She’s on a first name basis with the entire wait staff, and jokes fly back and forth with them all.

Barbara also comes in daily, picks up the newspaper (the real paper one, not a digital version mind you—that’s how regulars play) and does the crossword puzzle. She’s a champ and finishing the crossword puzzle is something that is not a miracle occurrence for her, but rather the daily expectation.

Having taken to sitting near Barbara on my daily visits to the Café, I have happily formed a friendly relationship with her. In that collegial role, I have recently become one of the people Barbara might throw a clue out to for help while she’s doodling on the puzzle. I suspect sometimes that she doesn’t really need the help, it’s more like throwing a dog a bone. I for one slobber all over that bone.

I’m always willing to step up and help a crossword puzzler to fill in all the open boxes. I like to give my fellow man or woman an assist, and it’s certainly great to entrench yourself in the fabric of the regular rhythms of life at the Pfister by showing one of the regulars some love.
So I help Barbara finish her puzzles whenever she throws out a clue. And to do so, I cheat real, real bad.

I’ve certainly been able to come up with a few words and ideas from time to time on my very own. There was the day that the word DAHLIA (a Mexican flower was the clue) came to mind and I was able to help Barbara with a vexing opening. But I’m often at the Café writing behind my open laptop that is connected to the internet through the glorious available WIFI. The temptation to reach into the vast Googly network of research available to me without Barbara or anyone really seeing me do so is too tempting.

Barbara threw out the clue, “Two letter Kipling poem,” and you would be amazed at how silently and stealthily my fingers typed KIPLING into my keyboard to get a list of his works. (The poem is called “If” by the way, and it is a good one.)

I’ve not told Barbara of my cheater, cheater, internet eater ways yet. For now, I’ll try harder to keep my hands off the keys and keep my brain in the game. Being a regular means living by a certain code, and I’ll be damned if 17-across will bring me to my knees.

When you look at some modern art it can stump you.

Barbara has been giving tours for the Milwaukee Art Museum over a half century.

“When I first came to the museum, there were eight employees.”

This January I started my fifty-second year.

I retired when I was 50,

but I’m still going in,

teaching and working

‘cause I don’t want to sit at home.

I train the docents

and they tour about 80.000 people a year.”

She’s taken 75 trips to Europe,

“I counted it all up when I retired.

England was the first country I went to.”

Last year she took her docents to Belgium and Holland.

And she made her own dress.


Being an art museum docent is hard.

“People expect you to know everything.”

When you look at some modern art it can stump you.

“Ellsworth Kelly’s “Red, Yellow, Blue,”

that’s one people have a hard time with.

Red, Yellow, Blue II

But you have to understand,

it was hand done,

he mixed the colors, that yellow

is the yellow he wanted,

he copied it from nature,

like a bird he saw,

he didn’t just go out to Menards!

How can I make these people understand?

Their grandchildren can’t do it!

When Kelly was in the war

he asked to be in the camouflage department.

Once in a while I’ll be lucky

and a student will be in

Ellsworth Kelly camo.

I’ve met Ellsworth Kelly several times.

He’s a very kind person,

a little on the shy side.”


What are Barbara’s favorite areas of art to talk on?

“American History and Decorative Arts

furniture, silver, ceramics.

My favorite is probably seventeenth century colonial.”


“Over the years a lot of people have visited Milwaukee

and I’ve taken them around,

Madame Chiang Kai-shek.”

(I hadn’t heard of her, so I looked her up,

former first lady of China, 1948-1975)


“David Hockney, I loved him.

“I loved this young man who is now a rock star, but when I met him he was just coming up, um, I can’t think of his name. It’ll come. He works on China, Africa and America… Kehinde Wiley!

Gilbert and George when they came from England,

I met Andy Worhol. He never talked. My brother had a friend who knew him quite well.

Mark Rothko,

Tony Randall of the Odd Couple,

he knew everything,

he was the smartest man I ever met.

I let him do all the talking and I did the anecdotes.”

Barbara has never watched Star Trek,

but she gave Dr. Spock a tour.

“He gave me a Dr. Spock ear,

I didn’t know what it was or what I was supposed to do with it.

Ginger Rodgers,

Ray Milland, he never took his hat off because he didn’t have his toupee on,

Vincent Price,


Sofa and Ottoman

di Suvero,

Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 11.38.44 AM
This is what googling di Suvero’s “The Calling” looks like.


George Shearing, he’s blind and I got a call from him asking to take him around.

A grandmother had the same thing, I took her around.

Gordon Parks,

and when the Beatles came to Milwaukee the first time,

I held the door to the war memorial open for them.”


“Excellent Broth! I’m going to have it every time I come.

I’ve been begging for broth here.

I like soup very much but,

I don’t like heavy duty,

I like to have broth.

It kinda curbs your appetite,

settles your stomach,

it’s good for your bones,

and I just love hot broth.

Right here at the café counter I met Shaquille O’Neill.

Right there!

He wasn’t feeling well.

I didn’t know who he was.”

Shaq’s manager worked on a crossword puzzle with Barbara,

and explained who Mr. O’Neill was.

Barbara gave Shaq a ticket to the art museum,

and he went.