Who Says Skating’s Just for Kids? BluTending with Wisconsin Edge Masters Synchronized Skating Team

One man orders an Arnold Palmer, a dry vodka martini, and a Chardonnay. It almost seems like a test for the bartender, Nicole, who doesn’t know what an Arnold Palmer is.  He has to explain to her that an Arnold Palmer is half lemonade, half iced tea–no alcohol. He notices me noticing his test, then laughs and explains to me that if you add vodka, then it’s a John Daly, but he just wants an Arnold Palmer.  Both sound like summer to me. Meanwhile, Nicole, nonplussed, simply asks her fellow bartender where the lemonade and iced tea are.  She yells over to me:

“I’m doing two shifts tonight.  It’s terrifying . . . and fun!  Actually, it’s overwhelming!”

Despite being out of her comfort zone, Nicole takes charge behind the bar at Blu.  Yes, Nicole was helping raise money for the Wisconsin Edge Masters Synchronized Skating Team by volunteering to be a BluTender for a couple of hours.  It’s no surprise that she has the confidence of a pro–whipping out Arnold Palmers, nice pours of wine, and a strong New Old Fashioned (“That’s what the blood oranges are for!”)–because she is the captain of the Edge Masters team.

When her first shift is over, she slips onto the bar stool next to me and fills me in.  “Most people think of ice skaters as kids who stop when they’re adults,” she said, “but there are a lot of adult skaters in the metro [Milwaukee] area.  In fact, you have to be at least 25 years old to be on the Masters team.”  Nicole has been the captain for two years.  When I tell her that I’ve never heard of synchronized skating–and this is coming from someone who’s always loved watching skating at the Olympics–she confirms that not enough people know about it . . . yet.  “And the Olympics aren’t out of the question.  We’re working on it.”  She smiles.

I learn from her that each year, more and more people come out of the woodwork, as she puts it, people who used to skate when they were younger and who are looking to rejoin the sport, either for personal enjoyment or actual competition.  I didn’t get a firm handle on the timeline of synchronized skating (Nicole’s New Old Fashioned might have something to do with it–and I’ve never claimed to be a reporter!), but apparently (we’ll say “some time ago”) a “coffee club” of about ten senior citizens started taking to the ice together.  According to Nicole, their mindset was “We just want to skate.  We don’t care who it is, we just want to skate.”  And skate they did, replete with helmets and wrist guards.  This must have been a sight to see.  I muse to myself that I hope to be as tough as those senior citizens when I’m older.  I can’t even walk without falling sometimes, though, so I quickly abandon the prospects of being a tough old guy on the ice.

But it was “chaos,” Nicole adds.  “No one knew each other well.  There was a coach, sure, but no one really in charge.  But by the second year, it got more organized.  It was an evolving group.”  Many of the original “coffee club” members still skate, including 84-year-old Carl, who still skates and skis.  Inspired partly by these bold seniors, more and more adults in their 20s, 30s, and 40s started thinking about competitive skating again.  People started noticing who the “real skaters” were at open skates and through a mixture of personal and social media recruiting, teams started to coalesce.  And now there are Beginner, Preliminary, Pre-Juvenile, Teen, and Intermediate teams, too.

2015-16 Masters Team

According to their website, the Wisconsin Edge Synchronized Skating Teams “began with one team in 1985 under founder and coach Jon Sorkan. Within a short period of time, the Wisconsin Edge gained national recognition when the teams moved into the Pettit National Ice Center, one of the few Olympic Training Centers in the nation . . . In 1997, the Wisconsin Edge earned their first medal at the National Precision Skating Championships in Syracuse, NY after placing 2nd in the Intermediate division. Since then, Wisconsin Edge teams have gone on to medal at both the Midwestern and National Championships across multiple divisions of U.S. Figure Skating’s synchronized skating program. Most recently, Wisconsin Edge’s Preliminary team won the 2015 Midwestern Championships.”

While you can’t tell from the photo above of the 2015-16 Masters Team (with Nicole, I’m pretty sure, in the middle of the front row) is that the skaters range from 25 years to 60 years of age.

“In fact,” Nicole exclaims all of a sudden, “let me introduce you ‘Sparkly Jan,’ our 60 year old!”  As Jan and I shake hands, something in her beautiful 60-year-old face (again, you’d never know–that’s Jan in the first row, right!) strikes me as familiar, as does her first name, and I ask her if we know each other.  She smiles widely but says she doesn’t think so.

“Were you in a play with me about a purple kimono?” I try.

Lightbulb goes off: “Oh my god!  I was your wife!”

And the rest of the night is something of a blur (or at least I didn’t write much down after this moment).  Jan and I did, indeed, perform in a student-written and directed one-act play at Pius XI High School at least ten years ago.  We played the Japanese parents of a hefty son who reveals to them one evening that he likes wearing mom’s purple kimono.  Rave reviews.  Star on Hollywood.  All that.

She took a turn at BluTending:

Here, Jan looks like the stern wife she played in our one-act . . .
. . . but here, Jan shows a truer face: all smiles.

We eventually got a chance to talk.  In between reminiscing about our (or at least my) poor acting skills and filling each other in on a decade’s worth of life, Jan did add about her Masters team that it is comprised of so many kinds of professionals: “We have one stay-at-home mom, two PhDs, two nurses, one lawyer, one speech pathologist . . . They’re all so well-educated.”  I liked that she was proud of this characteristic.  And I loved that I was sitting with this classy, poised woman named Jan who is still doing what she loves.

I did meet Jan’s skating partner and Wisconsin Edge coach David, who told me that synchronized skating was invented by Dr. Richard Porter 53 years ago and that there’s a competition named after him in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  He told me that Jan had just passed her adult gold pairs test and that “for the last 16 years, I’ve been lifting Jan over my head and throwing her across the ice.”

I also met Jan’s daughter Angela, who is also a Wisconsin Edge coach.

I remember a fun conversation with David and his friend Josh, who was there to support the team, about death spirals and the impossible “Pamchenko Twist” from the 1992 movie The Cutting Edge.  We talked about a lot more that I can’t remember.  But it was fun.

At some point Jan, Josh, and I marveled over the little ditty about the Wisconsin Gas Light Building:

When the flame is red, it’s warm weather ahead. When the flame is gold, watch out for cold. When the flame is blue, there’s no change in view. When there’s a flickering flame, expect snow or rain.

At another point in the evening, I had a fun conversation with a Polish woman, dressed to the nines, about her fabulous life and her upcoming memoir, which I’m supposedly writing in 2017.  I took this picture that she really liked:

Very little of this is in the correct order, you should know.

I walked away from the beautiful Blu views with good memories, new insight, new friends, and a good buzz from the New Old Fashioneds (seriously, folks–The Pfister has it right!).

And a potential book deal for 2017???  Call me, whoever you were!

 

 

 

Peter’s Perfectly Pious Pius Pitch

They say that coffee is for closers. I say that cocktails are for charmers.

My Wednesday night plans this week involved meeting up at Blu with a group of writers to chat into the night like some sort of Cream City Algonquin Round Table. As I exited the elevator on the 23rd floor to meet my friends, ambulance I found myself walking right into the middle of a swinging party. And it was quite a rager for a school night.

That school night festivus turned out to be a mighty successful Blutender event for Pius XI High School. The smiling guests clinking glasses made the trip to the top floor bar to raise a toast and make sure a percentage of their cocktail dollars would go to support Pius’ Hank Raymonds Family Scholarship, and a designated pool of money established in honor of the beloved former Marquette University basketball coach that helps support scholarships for Pius’s student body.

Chatting up some guests at the entrance to that bar I bumped into Peter Reeves, who serves as Pius’ Community Relations Coordinator. It is clear upon meeting Peter that he also serves an extra special role as Charmer-in-Chief. Peter is the kind of guy who looks in your eyes, listens to every word you say, and then smiles back at you and easily gets you wrapped up in a zippy conversation. I made sure to stuff my hands in my pocket as I talked with Peter because I had this feeling that he had the power to chatter the few Hamiltons and Lincolns I had folded in wallet and add them to kitty for the Raymonds Fund.

Peter told me that over 70 percent of the students at Pius High School receive some form of scholarship assistance. He was clearly pleased with the evening’s turnout and told me it wasn’t just a night to raise some money, but also a night to raise some excitement.

I figured a guy like Peter had a great elevator pitch, some sort of thirty second speech that hit all the positive points about why someone might want to start throwing some shade his and Pius’ way. Peter did me one better than that, though. He gave me what he calls his airplane pitch. The guy is good, and like any charmer looking to garner support he had a twinkle in his eye that made me want to sign up for whatever club he’s a member of. I’m sure Pius High is happy to have Peter on their team, but if he ever gets his pilot’s license, I’m bouncing around some clouds with Mr. Charm.

Follow me on Twitter @jonathantwest for more smart remarks and snappy retorts.

The Crumbs of My Shame

I just made a complete fool out of myself for the gazing eyes of the Pfister public, prostate and boy was it tasty.

Call it hubris, call it horrifying, call it so astonishing that you have to shake your head in my general direction. However you slice it, I’m relieved that I have worked through the inevitable so early during my time at the Pfister.

I didn’t split my pants or forget to zip my fly. No wardrobe malfunctions for me; nothing of that ilk. Instead, with no regard for my waistline, I consumed more bar snacks in the Pfister Lobby Lounge and at Blu than any self-respecting middle aged man should ever shove in his mouth.

I love lounging in bars, even though I’m a teetotaler. Though I don’t toss back drinks as I lounge, tadalafil I can eat bar snacks with the best of ‘em. I may be a little late to the party on this one, but, man, oh, man, there are some truly irresistible bar snacks lurking around the Pfister.

At the end of a busy day, I siddled up to a seat at the Lobby Lounge bar and, Mr. Excitement that I am, ordered a glass of ice water. I felt great as I sipped away at my cold and refreshing drink. There is nothing better at the end of the day than a nice crisp, clear, clean glass of water.

I’m lying, of course. Water is kind of boring. But it’s so good for me, and a man of my advancing years and baldness really must think about not drinking a 14th cup of coffee at the end of the day. Water is safe. No one has ever gotten into a bar fight because of overdoing it on H20.

Feeling like the model of health with my tasteless beverage, cialis I noticed a gentleman who took a place a few seats away from me and ordered two cocktails, one for himself and the other one for…well, for himself. Looking at the poor fella, it was clear to me that he had had a heck of a day. He was clearly in for the night and certainly seemed to be the perfect candidate to enjoy a couple of expertly mixed drinks before retiring to the comfort of his room.

I had chatted a bit with the bartender Katrina as I sat down, and with her great personality, warm heart and smile, she confirmed that everyone who works to serve the Pfister’s guests is delightful and charming. As the two-drink guy down the bar started to chat her up in a pretty friendly way, I was impressed with how she was able to redirect his cute come-ons into a fun conversation. It made the atmosphere at the bar even merrier than it naturally is on any given day.

It was a happy time, and my joy ramped up when I glanced down at the bar and saw for the first time the Holy Trinity of bar snacks in front of me. Triple snack choices were there before me in a silver container separated into three distinct bowls. In one, there was an assortment of crackers, in another, some sweet and salty nuts, and in the final, a mix of rice crackers, smoked almonds, wasabi peas, dried cranberries and other miracle bits so delicious that I almost faint thinking about them.

I reached into the bowl and grabbed out a tiny bit of the nuts. “Oh, my goodness,” I thought. “This is phenomenal.” My hand shot into the other bowls. Rapture. Bliss. It was heaven.

Something happens to me when I encounter a delicious snack. The rest of the world fades away. This is precisely what occured as I got cozy with the Pfister’s bar snacks for the very first time. There, in full view of the public, I showed myself for what I really am—a snack addict of the highest degree.

Mind you, I was sitting next to a man who had just ordered two drinks, seemed beaten down by the day, and was making goo goo eyes at the bartender. A stranger coming upon this scene might have thought, “Oh, poor guy…that’s a little sad.” But, no…this guy had pulled it together. He was suave, in control, not abusing alcohol, but slowly savoring his drinks while having a delightful chat with our bartender. I, on the other hand, was scarfing snacks like a dog and dropping crumbs all over my suit.

As I rapidly emptied the snack bowl, I sensed that the gentleman down the bar was looking at me. It was the sort of look you give a kid who has been given permission to eat all of his or her Halloween candy in one sitting. His eyes said, “Oh, little boy, how sweet that you can fit all of that into your mouth. Good luck to your poor tummy!”

I knew it was time to move on, so I gathered up the pen and notebook I had been writing in while I hypnotically ate all the bar snacks before me. I had to get away, and I was silently grateful that the man next to me seemed concerned that I might start eating my water glass. Crisis averted.

Now when you find yourself unable to stop eating all the delicious bar snacks in the lobby bar at the Pfister but don’t yet want to leave the Pfister, what’s the best thing for your no-will-power self to do? Why go to the Pfister’s other bar, Blu, for a Blutender Celebrity Bartender event where the tips support the United Performing Arts Fund.

I entered Blu and noted that a mime was serving drinks.

Someone to tell your troubles to over a drink who will never talk back.
Someone to tell your troubles to over a drink who will never talk back.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get him to speak. I tipped him a few bucks for his steel jawed silence, but I also gave his competitor, a stocky guy wearing a tutu, a few sheckles for style points.

I then settled in to enjoy the view and another glorious glass of locally sourced Great Lakes tap water. My smiling waitress swiftly and promptly brought me a tall glass of water and made me feel like I had just ordered a bottle of the finest French Champagne. She leaned in with a smile as she served me, and as she pulled back, I noticed that along with the glass of water, she had left me another surprise.  A fresh bowl of snacks.

Reflecting back on the moment, I realize now that the smart thing to do would have been to focus all my attention on the mime bartender, the mixologist in the tutu, the gorgeous view from the windows at Blu, or Greg Marcus who was taking a turn at the piano (who, by the way, has some real swinging chops). But the first step towards recognizing you have a problem is to admit that you finished another bowl of snacks in the Blu bar and then said, “Yes, please!” when your bright and attentive waitress offered you what turned out to be your third bowl of snacking delights.

The third bowl just about to be killed.
The third bowl just about to be killed.

My salty fingers and crumb-flecked mouth caught the eyes of the folks enjoying their tony cocktails as they basked in the glorious sun streaked early evening. It wasn’t my worst moment, but I pray that anyone who caught me doing damage to those snacks didn’t think that I was training for a professional eating competition.

This is all to say that the problem is mine, and I own it fully but will lick it somehow. For the rest of you enjoying the Pfister…dig in. Your belly will be glad you did.

Celebrity BLUtender – Jason Wilde [VIDEO]

GreenBay Packer beat writer and ESPN 540 radio personality Jason Wilde stepped behind the bar at Blu to become our inaugural Celebrity BLUtender. After a quick training, from BLU manager Adam Jones, Jason was turned loose to sling drinks to the crowd at BLU and took to it like a pro. His hard work and efforts behind the bar helped raise money for the MACC Fund.

Now it’s your turn. Nominate, delegate or simply embarrass your coworkers, boss, birthday girl–or anyone for that matter–to be a Celebrity BLUtender!

They’ll jump behind the bar for a quick tutorial in the fine art of bartending. Then watch as they display their skills and serve drinks for you and your friends for the next hour.

But the Celebrity BLUtender will not go home empty handed. To reward their hard work and effort, each Celebrity BLUtender will receive $25 bar tab and a plaque to commemorate the experience!

CELEBRITY BLUTENDER

WEDNESDAY NIGHTS IN BLU, 5PM – 6PM

To Nominate a Celebrity BLUtender, contact Adam Jones at AdamJones@thePfisterHotel.com.