Eavesdropping in the Pfister

I am sitting in Blu by myself so that no one will distract me as I eavesdrop in on the conversations. Some old ladies are giggling about martinis. An old man is taking all the plush chairs away from my table to build a nest for all his companions. One of them asks, decease “How was the wedding?” to another. She replies, “It was long. I never was to a Catholic wedding before. The organist played six or seven songs. I kept thinking ‘this is not over yet?’ It was so standard, the vows were by the book. And they do all the kneeling. The congregation must have kneeled three or four times. I grew up Lutheran, decease we get it over with. That’s more my kind of wedding, twenty minutes, BOOM, out.”

 

In the café I overhear two concerned mothers complaining about middle school girls trying to get the attention of clueless pre-pubescent middle school boys. “Sports bra, cheap that’s what she’s walking around in. What mother let’s their daughter out of the house like that? Unless she’s stupid, but regardless, they’re all together, they’re all close, they’ve been close since day one, since middle school, they are what they are. The one girl who’s taking up with them, she came over in one of those dresses that was up to her hootchy-hooch.”

 

In the café I also listen to two men discussing HSP, but since I don’t know what HSP is, I have no idea what it is that they are going on about, but it sounds atrociously banal.

 

Outside the ballroom I catch the following snippet from the National Philanthropy Day festivities. The trained voice of a news anchor from channel twelve proclaims, “She has been a sparkplug for a lot of philanthropy initiatives.” What high automobilic praise! Later I learn that Milwaukee’s National Philanthropic Day commands a larger attendance than even New York City’s. “That’s just what kind we are here,” the Milwaukee Philanthropist Day organizer boasts to a bellhop in the lobby.

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I enter the lobby lounge and am delighted to see my chum Jenna Kashou at the bar. Do you remember her? She was the Narrator about two years ago. I go up to say hey Jenna, but she is leaning her whole body into conversation about a corporate sponsorship brochure for the Black and Blue Ball, a benefit for Muscular Dystrophy. Jenna’s hands are zipping every which way. I take a seat on the sofa next to the fireplace. I never noticed before how inside the fireplace there is a motif of a racing chariot. A chariot of fire! I pick up the newspaper someone left on the couch. It says something about “Drones For The Masses.” Listening in on other people’s conversations is about to get a lot more high-tech.

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This Is His Fifth Wedding In Three Years

I’m drinking tropical hibiscus in the lounge

when a woman enters the vicinity clopping

her tongue like a horse

along to the ambient music.

I record this occurrence in my notebook,

take a swig of tea,

and stand

to meet the clip clop woman

so as to tell her how much I appreciate

triumphal people who enter rooms with song.

“I did?  I don’t remember doing that.”

says the lady who mere seconds ago

was a verifiable songhorse.

I wonder if any of the other loungers

here can recall it,

perhaps

I notice more than I should

like when I ask the man with all the loose leaf notes

and who is scrawling with an extra wide sharpie

what it is he is doing

and he says

“writing an obituary”

and then thanks me for leaving him alone.

Today I overhead a woman saying,

“A successful marriage requires falling in love several times.”

Plenty of advice like that can be overhead inside the Pfister

on the seventh floor

I overhear the rehearsal of marriage vows,

a man and a woman,

scripts in hand

“Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

(Which I still always hear as “Do you take this man to be your waffle-y wedded husband?” because that’s what I thought it was when my grandma and I played Barbies back in 1990 or so.)

Maybe it is none of my bee’s wax biz nizz

but I ask them if they are about to marry each other

“No!  That’s my sister!”

says the man named Jesse

who is an officiant for weddings.

This is his fifth wedding in three years,

he only marries close friends of the family.

“If I know them I will do it,”

he will marry them.

Jesse informs me that “you could even marry yourself if you want to”

or at least you could according to the Wisconsin state statue of five years ago

when last he read it

as part of getting ordained by the Universal Life Church

“I’ve paid my dues, Miss.”

His first wedding was up in the Porcupine Mountains of upper Michigan,

how waffle-y romantic sounding

I think

it is time to wish Jesse and his helping sister well

so that they may get on with the ceremony,

but there is no bride and groom,

no wedding party,

where are they?

Late.

I almost say, “Well, break a leg!”

but that’s not quite appropriate,

maybe “Go jump the broom!” is better?

Jesse recommends, “I hope you’re sure!”

or if the conditions are right, “I hope this is the last one!”

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Jesse and his sister Valerie rehearse the ceremony. They came in from Green Bay, Wisconsin.
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“I’m getting concerned that no one is up here,” says Jesse regarding the wedding party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Walls Did Talk

People watching is a skill. If you’re good at it (and I really want to believe I am) you can master blending in, even if you’re taking notes and keeping your eyes up, about and above your coffee. People often sit, trying to go unnoticed, and to do so, they revert to the childhood understanding that if “I can’t see you, you can’t see me” and bury themselves in their work, their food, their drink, their smart phone or even clean out the contents of their purse with such dedication you might wonder if they’d even notice a fire alarm.

Not me.

I keep eyes up. I don’t face front, I face all directions and turn frequently. I suspect people are wondering about me the same things I’m wondering (and writing down) about them, but after awhile, much like the cameras on Big Brother or any other mess of a reality program, they forget I’m there.

As your Narrator, I’ve had the great pleasure of being forgotten frequently. That’s when the magic happens. Once I’ve disappeared right next to someone, I’ve heard all versions of amazing, hilarious, sad and complimentary kinds of conversation.

The wisdom I’ve gained from this is important to us all. If you’ve ever wondered if you’re doing it right—life, that is—I’m here to say, odds are you are. Old, young, professional, career newbie, women, men, couples, singles, families—all of them engage in very similar conversations. People ask about others, share their concerns. People talk about common events. People discuss frustrations at work (and about co-workers). People express genuine thanks or appreciation to one another. Doesn’t matter who you are, I was an equal-opportunity eavesdropper.

But it was for your own good. What I overheard is evidence that we’re moving through this world, this cocktail hour, this hotel, this dinner, this town in very similar ways. We’re in it together, we’re getting it right.

So, below, I’m including for you as one of my last treatises to the ways the Pfister filled me up these past six months, a Mad-Lib of sorts of the random, detached comments I absorbed as an invisible observer in the hotel. They’re flying solo, detached from their owners and conversations, but you may recognize their themes and guess at which stories they fit.

What I hope you recognize is yourself.

I hope you see them as a story starter and that they inspire wonder and you create in your own mind the speaker and the connective narrative that surrounded these singular ideas. I know what they’re linked to. I know who said them. Those are my secrets, but I leave them for you to write your own story.

“Either you’re a Pfister person or you’re not”

“We become celebrity immune”

“Our Chicago friends don’t get it”

 “That’s the New York you’re hearing, honey.”

 “Is it too early for a cocktail?”

“The masseuse needs wine to see my body!”

 “I like your new look, it’s great!”

 “He wanted a martini, not a bloody Mary, a mimosa, something ‘morning’”

 “I like ‘em here.”

 “No, I’m waiting for someone”

 “You gotta kiss a lot of frogs, honey”

 “You hope the young people come, but…”

“I don’t get the Clooney thing”

“Frumpamuffin” (referencing Harrison Ford)

“If your dad and I ever hook up we could conquer the world!”

 “He used to ride.”

“Now, I’m not a marketing major…”

“You get the golden star!”

She’s a narrator, eh?” “There are a lot of other words for it…”

“Huh, Facebook.”

“Hmm, photographers… or really bad spies.”

 “It’s a made-up holiday—a Hallmark holiday…Now that’s marketing”

 “To get their favorite fix.”

“I have to have a wicked burrito from Taco John’s”

 “Mmm…it’s roastier.”

“We need another prohibition to get rid of this bad music.”

 “I can get that done for you.”

 “Ha! At two in the morning!”

“Well, we can wait at Blu!”

“Ha! The kids would never look for us there!”

“What’s your cholesterol?

“150.”

“Well, that’s good.”

“I wasn’t getting any action just on the mixer alone.”

“I’ll make you famous

I’m already famous; I was on three episodes of Dallas.

You shot JR?

No, but I met him.”

“Are you somebody?

No, I’m just the singer.” 

“She’s on the edge; she just needs to be pushed.”

 “I don’t know, will you write it?”

Yes. I loved writing it.

I’ll keep writing it. I promise.