So Ma, how did you get to be ninety years old?

Hello all, this intro is from your current Pfister Narrator, Jonathan West. It’s with the greatest of honors that I share with you this Guest Narrator post today from my immediate predecessor, the inimitable Anja Notanja Sieger.  While I was out of town over the holidays, Anja recently spent a lovely tea time with some special ladies who believe that celebrating a birthday is not merely a once-a-year affair, but something that you should put on your calendar at least every month.  I think you’ll enjoy Anja’s tale just as much as I did.

Every month Margaret’s daughters take her out to celebrate her birthday, because once you turn 90 you have to celebrate your birthday every month. This month they’re having teatime in Blu.

DSCN4114Juan, the tea master wheels a cart over to the party and initiates us:

“I am going to pass thirteen tea jars to you so you’ll have a chance to smell and select the one you’re going to be drinking.” He unscrews the jars and hands each to Margaret first, “This is the 1893 Rose Melange… Chinese oolong green tea, very light on the palate… German chamomile blossoms, a very soothing and relaxing tisane… Cinnamon plum… Hibiscus with a blend of berries and mango flavors… Tangerine ginger… Earl grey with a blend of lavender flowers along with bergamot oil essentials, it has a brothy flavor to it along with an amber color… This one comes from Sri Lanka, a Ceylon, stands very well with milk.

One of Margaret’s daughters interjects, “Which one goes best with champagne?”

 

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Juan smiles and continues, “A white tea infused with peach blossoms… A green tea from the region of Pu-erh… Chocolate chai, it has cacao nibs, coconut shea beans, yerba mate, dried dandelion roots, cardamom, vanilla and long pepper… This one here is making an appearance for the season, it is called: Cocoa mint… And lastly a black tea infused with sencha vanilla bean, very aromeric and flavorful.” I’m not correcting aromeric to “aromatic” as I relish how Juan jumbled the word into something more enticing and elevated to the world of the senses than the usual phrase.

DSCN4103I am one of nine women gathered for tea, and impressively, none of us orders the same tea, and Margaret doesn’t even want tea. After sniffing hearing the described virtues of all thirteen varieties she just wants a hot chocolate. After nine decades she really seems to have a grasp on what she desires and has no trouble asking for it. Meanwhile, Margaret’s daughters ask her, “So Ma, how did you get to be ninety years old?”

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“I got to go to college because in the summer I would work for a restaurant in the Wisconsin Dells.” Teenaged Margaret started work on the first day of the summer and for three months she’d never have a day off as a waitress. “That was the rule,” confirms Margaret. After graduating from The Milwaukee State Teachers College, she taught first grade for thirty years until she retired. Margaret taught jillions of kids how to read, including her own grand niece who had learning disabilities. She didn’t even quit her day job once she became a mother to Art, Jane, Tom, Nancy and Barb. There was only one bathroom, no shower. On Saturday nights the children took their weekly bath before shining their shoes.DSCN4072

Margaret liked to sew. She made Halloween costumes, a Santa Claus suit, lovely dresses for her daughters and granddaughters, teddy bears and kangaroos for students to hold at rest time at school, table runners, aprons, seat cushions, and matching swim trunks for her boys. They were striped and long before long swim trunks were popular, but they were made long so that they could grow into them.

DSCN4064Sitting beside Margaret is her great-granddaughter Lauren, who just turned 13. Lauren aspires to be a surgeon and likes going deer hunting with her brother, Margaret’s only other great-grandchild. In the summertime when Lauren was little she’d come visit Grandma Margaret on Lake Winnebago, a very algae ridden lake. “I’d come swim and then rake her seaweed,” explained Lauren.

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Margaret has splendid health, her only ailments being mild Parkinson’s and severe gluten intolerance. It is revealed that I am united with Margaret in that we both have celiac disease. She found out she had it when she was 70, and before the diagnosis they suspected she had intestinal cancer. After the diagnosis she got a bread maker and lived. I found out I had celiac when I was 21 and before the diagnosis I took three naps a day. After the diagnosis I spent year subsisting off of avocados and zucchini until my gut healed, and I too lived.

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I admit I’ve always avoided teatimes because I assumed it would just be a sort of gluten fest, cookies, crumpets and lady finger sandwiches wagging at me in a taunting chorus, “No, you can’t have this, no, no, nyah-nyah-nyah!” So I am amazed when a tiny tiered platter of gluten free delicacies are set out just for Margaret. I am amazed again when she requests that I sit beside her and share the hors d’ouevres which were made specifically for her and none of which happen to taste even remotely gluten free. Thank goodness. Included on the platter are these pita slices with dallops of hummus, and the pita even has that powdery surface I recall from years ago when I last ate gluten. This is pure miracle.DSCN4081

Margaret goes straight for the chocolate covered strawberries, while I prefer the cucumber sandwiches and savory items. Margaret has a sweet tooth, and her favorite ice cream is white chocolate with raspberries from Kelley’s, a creamery outside the town of Eden that boasts something like 106 different flavors including chocolate covered potato chips and a thanksgiving dinner flavored concoction known as “turkey lurkey.”

DSCN4067After spending seven decades as a reading teacher and matriarch, it appears some caretaker instincts are ingrained, such as turning the platter just so that the very able bodied twenty-something kid beside her can have a slightly easier reach to the cream dalloped pastries. “Don’t burn yourself on this tea kettle, it’s hot,” Margaret warns me.DSCN4073

I am told that Margaret is having the time of her life. She plays dominoes, and is known as the “bingo queen.” She recently moved to her own condominium, and now for the first time in her life she lives alone and on her own terms.

We Ate Our Last Meal Together At The Pfister

We ate our last lunch together at the Pfister, buy cialis

my Grandma and I

and family,

I wrote a story about it the other week,

except then I did not know it would be our last meal

when I sat next to Grandma

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and we both ordered the salmon salad

from a booth in the café.

The nice thing about a booth

is that it allows multiple people to sit in the same seat

like a couch

like you’re at home

with grandma, patient

my last,

my matriarch

with the passion for hospitality.

She had been talking about taking us out

to a meal at the Pfister for weeks before,

a stupendous outing, a big to-do.

After our meal we slowly ambled through the ballroom

looking at the paintingsDSCN9018

as I carried her purse

which must have held fifteen pounds

of everything anyone could possibly ever want from a grandma.

Chickadee, find would you like a stick of gum?

Do you need a Kleenex, a dab of lip balm or lipstick?

Life savers, a wallet stuffed with family photos,

five dollars worth of change

and biscotti at the ready,

so organized

like her kitchen table

that three weeks after our last meal

has a stack of all her receipts

with the one from the Pfister on top,

obviously her favorite purchase

of the bunch,

an afternoon with the family

she loved so much

that she kept two refrigerators

and an industrial freezer

stuffed with chickens, soups, roasts

and ravioli at the ready

in case we all showed up

with a platoon of long-lost relatives

and their neighbors all

playing

a symphony of deep

growls,

howling stomachs

in need of their 88-year-old matriarch’s

wooden spoon and steel stew basin magic.DSCN9196

A month ago she cooked Christmas dinner for eight

with both conventional and organic broccoli

(just for me, the grandchild with a zillion food sensitivities)

“Well, I don’t want you getting sick, Anja-Mangia!”

And that same day just for her, I typed this poem:the existence of grand love

 

The Underwood Typewriter Girl of 1945

I am sitting at my Remington, clacking away at the lobby’s desk when a man approaches me. Chuck, a New York businessman, tells me about his mother, Anne Bernich, who served as Underwood’s Typewriter Girl of 1945. According to Chuck, “Although her typing skills were amazing, she was voted the ‘Prettiest Girl’ in Long Beach High School, class of 44′ which added to her qualifications I’m sure.” For years his mother kept a 16mm film reel that Underwood shot of her typing. A few years ago, Chuck rented a projector and they played it for the first time in several decades. And Chuck happens to carry a copy of it on his phone…

 

“The movie itself is rather boring, it’s a half an hour long and meant for schools and businesses,” Chuck claims.  So he and the AV guy from his work got together, edited it and started dubbing in voices to make it comic.

 

Anne was an assistant to the manager of Underwood’s typewriter division. She regularly attended business shows that had an array of sections devoted to different typewriter companies, mimeograph machines, and anything else that a person would use in a 1940’s business. Anne would be set up in the Underwood area always demonstrating the latest model for the crowds. Frequently these shows hosted contests in which young women would race each other to accurately type the most words per minute.

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Anne was very admired, as evident in this picture.

 

 

Chuck gives me his mom’s number. When I call her she tells me, “They would send me to different contests and I usually won because I could type very fast.” One time at a business show, a man who had been watching her work offered her a job at his brand new company. Anne politely declined, saying that she was very happy with her job at Underwood. She now regrets it, “This man was the man who started IBM! Thomas Watson! He was a delightful man. I can’t believe I said no to him, had I said yes, I’d probably have a lot more money than I have now.”

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Thomas Watson, founder of IBM is the smiling man in the hat immediately behind her.

 

I asked Anne what her word per minute was when she typed. “Oh, probably a hundred and something, I forgot honey, but it was a lot. I played the piano. I started lessons when I was seven. I think the fact that I played the piano made my fingers very nimble.” Later, I called Chuck and asked if he knew what his mother’s words per minute was.  He immediately told me “130.” At 88, Anne still plays the piano, and holds a job as a church organist.

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Nimble fingered Anne, at her current job.

 

It was Anne’s boss who suggested that she be the official Underwood Typewriter Girl of 1945. “I was petite and had blonde hair, and uh, I was nice looking. I guess that’s why they took me, they figured I’d be photographic enough.”

 

She kept the tin with the film reel in it for years in her file cabinet. “It took us a whole week to make it. I had to wear the same dress every day. It wasn’t washed or anything, we didn’t have a washer or dryer then. And the makeup was horrible orange, just terrible, and we’d go out for lunch between the takes and all and people would be looking at us, and me with this terrible makeup, I was embarrassed.”

 

Whenever a new typewriter came out, Anne would go to the factory that produced it and take a tour of the facility with the manager. “I don’t know why they had me go up there, but I did.” At one point they showed her an all-white (including the keys) portable typewriter getting packed up to be sent. “I said, ‘Oh, it’s beautiful, but why is it all white?’ And they said ‘It’s going to the Pope.’”

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Chuck about to show me the video at the Pfister.

“What Are You Doing For Thanksgiving?”

 

The following people shared their Thanksgiving Plans:

 

Name: Ariana

Location: Artist studio

Context: One Pfister Artist Niki’s interns, drugstore Arianna spent her day crocheting condoms into upholstery for Niki’s fainting couch.

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“I’m going to my fake aunt’s house. I actually met her on the bus, recipe the green line by the Pick ‘N Save on Oakland. I was wearing this fake fur coat (‘cause it’s like 0 degree here all the time) and she saw me and said ‘nice coat.’ We started talking and I said I’m from Baltimore, and she said ‘Well, I’m from Maryland.’ We started talking and going on, we talked about her kids a little bit, and about me and about where I go to art school, and we’re just talking and she says, ‘I really like that you’re an artistic person from Maryland, I’m really excited about that. Let me give you my card.’ And I say ‘Well, let me give you MY card, because I had just made business cards for an internship.’ So we exchanged cards, and I texted her immediately, and we’ve been friends ever since. This was in February. I just went to her kid’s talent show this weekend. Her kids are 11 and 14, and smarter than I thought kids could ever be. She’s the most extreme extrovert I’ve ever met. We’re going Thanksgiving hopping, which I’ve never done before. We’re going to one at one ‘o clock, and then another one at six thirty. I was like ‘Great,’ I was like ‘Sweet, I’ve never been to multiple Thanksgivings, I guess this is what happens when you’re like super cool and always talking to people.’ I’m hoping some of this will rub off on me. “

 

I ask Ariana, how many people she thinks her fake aunt has met on the bus.

 

“Her car was out, like in the shop, so she had to take the bus that day. But I think she does have approximately two other fake nieces and nephews.

 

 

Names: Tim, Carmella, Joe, Corinne

Location: VIP Lounge

Context: All four of them sitting around a table and conversing.

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“I’ve usually been a cooker,” explains Carmella, “Our children have all gotten older now and they’re all off doing other things, so we decided we’d go out and have fun!” Previously, they’ve stayed in their Chicago homes to celebrate, but tomorrow they will be at the Pfister for the feast. “We’ve never been here. We don’t know how it works. We’re going to eat at the Mason Street Grill, three ‘o clock Thanksgiving dinner.”

 

They all look the same approximate age. I ask if they are all family.

“Yes, brother and sister.”

“He’s our father,” one of the two men, points at the other, who replies, “You can’t blog ****content censored!!!!**** you.”

 

 

Names: Shosho (who declined to be pictured) & Abdullah

Location: The café

Context: Shosho is finishing her croissant, they are two of the most attractive people I’ve seen in the hotel all week.

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Both are from Saudi Arabia originally, but they met in Chicago. Shosho is getting her masters in Education, so that she can work in the field of Administration. She has never been to a Thanksgiving dinner before, and tomorrow will be just another Thursday in Shosho’s life. Abdullah, on the other hand, has attended a Thanksgiving dinner in the past. “To be honest, I didn’t like the turkey. It tasted raw. Next time I’m just going to get salad and other things.” Eloquently put! Abdullah just completed an English as a Second Language course a few days ago.

 

A Love Letter From the Man With a Kind Smile

One day I’m typing in the lobby when a man approaches me. He has a kind face, one that appears illuminated from within by what I’d guess to be a gentle, prolonged love relationship. He just looks easeful and friendly. He inquires as to what I’m doing with a typewriter. When I tell him that I write poetry and letters for people, he looks at me with approval.

 

The next day I’m typing again when the same fellow comes up to me. He explains how he is staying here a few days for a business conference and would like me to compose a love letter to send to his wife back in Detroit. After interviewing this man I learn that he’s been married fifteen years, has two kids and that his wife, Heather, takes care of them a lot. While he is on this trip, she is attending parent-teacher conferences. Heather has taught this man with the kind smile how to be more social, and to slow down so as to better appreciate life. He confesses he has a “type A” personality and has a hard time doing that. When he asks me when he can pick up the letter I tell him ten minutes. “Really?!” He looks surprised, but sure enough, in exactly ten minutes he comes back as I am typing “devotion,” the last word.

 

“Heather,

 

My succulent savorer

of all things living

of all things swaying

on this planet

made better, burnished deeper

by your focused listening.

 

Even me

even sharp toothed

quick bite and run type A me

even I can say “ahhhhhhhhh”

what a beautiful

lackadaisical daisy

scented thought filled

day it is,

one in which I am glad

to walk through

because I have you

and I have your lesson

mimeographed upon my lungs:

b r e a t h e, gasp, hyperventilate

b r e a t h e ,

there we go,

it takes practice

but it is worth doing

to please the kind woman

who has mixed within her own body

two children for us to share

with the whole world.

And while I am womflinkering along in Milwaukee

my thoughts are with you,

they are sitting beside you

in the empty chair

at the parent-teacher conference.

My thoughts pat the soft crowns

of our kidlet’s heads,

splendid children.

 

While I am away

I am in review reverie

of our fine fifteen years

and even more than that

I am scheming up

fine dreams

for future cakes of ardor

to serve you, my love,

in admiration

and devotion,”

 

I hand him my pen and make him sign since I don’t know his name. He signs it “Troy.”

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I’m 90 Years Old and This is the First Time I’ve Mentioned It

Sophia and her mom live in Seattle, sale but every year they come visit with grandma for a few weeks because she lives here in Milwaukee. Julie, Sophia’s mom says that today she found out that her mother was elected high school secretary. Her mother, Eunice confesses, “I’m 90 years old and this is the first time I’ve mentioned it. I also had the lead in the school play. In fourth year English, I had to recite a poem in an Irish brogue accent in front of the whole school during the assembly.” The majority of the population in Gays Mills Wisconsin where Eunice lived were Irish. “Oh it was fun. I was so introverted I couldn’t offend anyone. I’m glad I’ve saved it till now— it won’t affect any of your lives now.” Sophia squeals with delight, “Heee, oh Grandma!” “We learned a lot today,” says Julie.

Julie, Sophia and Eunice.
Julie, Sophia and Eunice.

Julie grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee.  “I got my haircut here in high school because Rosemary Ross, the TV personality would get her hair cut here. Twice a year. Once, I got a permanent wave here too.” Back when it was the peak of fashion, grandma Eunice would go get a permanent wave once a year, “About the time it started looking good, that’s when you had to get another one.”

Everyone is quiet for a moment and then Eunice complements my hat, lamenting, “I just wish hats would come back again. It was always the fun part of your outfit, when you were going to buy the hat.” Sophia adds,“You had a dressmaker too for a while. I think that’s the most awesome thing!” Julie looks at her mother and daughter in a moment of discovery and asks, “Why aren’t we wearing hats? We should be!” Sophia agrees so fervently that she erupts into a fit of giggles, “Yeah, hehehehe!”

Then there is silence for a while again, it is broken when Eunice points to the painting above the piano and sighs, “Isn’t that frame pretty?”

Julie and Sophia are at the end of their 2014 Wisconsin vacation. This time they went to Irish Fest, Wolf Peach— a new restaurant, and to Chicago a couple of times. “We’ve been visiting family mostly. We saw the Magritte show at the Art Institute of Chicago… it’s kind of dark.” I ask Julie if she means dark as in the subject matter of the art and Julie replies, “Well, it is, but I mean literally, the lighting was really low and everyone was very quiet. Subdued, and a lot of the pictures are spooky or kind of gruesome. It was a real experience to walk through. No one was talking.” Sophia agrees, “Yeahhhhh.” Summing it up Julie says, “It was kind of disturbing, we looked at the little doll houses after that to even it out.”

Swelling with Grandmotherly pride, Eunice tells me, “Sophia is celebrating, she just finished her Summer Intensive Ballet. Nine to five, six days a week in Seattle at the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company.” Sophia, who has been doing ballet for five years, speaks up, “It was really fun, I felt like I learned a lot.” Eunice, still glowing with her granddaughter’s accomplishment tells me, “She was told she has good stage presence.” Sophia, smiling, meekly tries to cut her off by shouting “Grandma!” But Eunice continues: “Compared to the rest of her class.”

Giardiniera

A yoga instructor and a fashion designer walk into the Pfister. They are from Portland. This is not a joke. Well, generic maybe it is. Kimberlee and Ashley pose with baby Quinn in front of the painting of kittens in a basket. Quinn wants to hold my hand (and her mother’s hand) so that she can walk down the hallway backwards. They inform me that walking backwards is a metaphor. Everything is a metaphor. I already observed and wrote about this (we think alike!), ed but they point out to me how the marble steps look just like salami. The meat steps look downright appetizing though they are vegans. “They just need to add some olives to these steps.” I think about the sandwiches my Italian-American mother packed for me as a kid and remember that there is an olive relish that tastes really good with this kind of salami (I have determined the steps are made of capicola my mother’s favorite salami, not genoa which is my favorite) but I cannot remember the name of the relish.

Hey, I need a refill on this tea I am drinking.

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In the café a woman wears a watermelon t-shirt and dines upon a fruit cup. On the table beside the fruit cup is a banana. Her sweater is pink and looks ripe. Her name is Donna.  She lives in Chicago but has come to stay at the Pfister every summer for the past 29 years to attend Festa Italiana. The woman is FBI, full-blooded Italian, third generation. She doesn’t know the language and has never visited Italy, but she does know that the fried calamari at Festa is delicious. But at Festa even the nightly fireworks are delicious.

Every summer she and her family will rent 3 or 4 rooms at the Pfister. This year her two daughters and their families will join her. A total of nine grandchildren will be present. To amuse the kids, Donna buys unusual graphic t-shirts (such as the watermelon shirt she currently sports that has tiny cartoon ants crawling on the sleeves) at Festa and only wears them once a year when she stays at the Pfister.

Donna’s husband is a retired restaurateur, but she says he is running a stand at Festa that sells military sweatshirts (he donates the proceeds to the USO), stuffed olives and giardiniera. GIARDINIERA! Hey, that’s the name for the stuff that I was thinking of a half hour ago! If you are like me you are wondering if the restaurant that Donna’s husband owned served Italian cuisine. It did not. He owned Moon’s Sandwich Shop, a popular inner city Chicago diner that has been around since 1933. It has 18 stools, a line of people waiting to sit on those stools and closing time of 2:30p.m. “It looks like a broken down pawn shop, but they make everything fresh everyday,” Donna reassures me.

How Young Paul Got His Name

One day I plop down on the couch near a woman and her family because they look like they are having a riotous conversation and I want in.

The woman is having tea with her former boss and her children. She cackles at my idea of him as the father of her children. “He’s actually the son I gave up for adoption many years ago.” Ah! That was my other thought, the significantly older brother to Jennifer’s teenage children. But no he’s not, he’s just her old boss. When Aaron, the old boss gets up to use the bathroom, Jennifer tells me, “I don’t know if you’re seeing anyone, but he’s available.”

Jennifer and her kids live in North Prairie. I ask, “Where’s that?” It’s in Waukesha, a suburb of Milwaukee. Her daughter, Joy says, that when they took a cruise of the Mediterranean she just told everyone that she was from a place near Chicago. “Overseas all people know about America is Chicago and New York,” Joy says matter-of-factly. Jennifer looks with surprise at her daughter, “Not L.A.? Don’t they know about L.A?” Joy says no, she knows what she knows. She’s been around the world and is well-read. She wants to write young adult half fantasy half sci-fi novels when she grows up. Jennifer pipes in, “Post-apocalyptic so your mother will read them!” Joy doesn’t want to write post apocalyptic, there is enough of that already. “Why not pre-apocalyptic?”

To me, pre-apocalyptic means non-fiction coverage of current events, just like I am recording in my notebook right now. “Maybe one day you will be the Pfister’s Narrator too.” In response Joy says something very non-sequitur, she says, “I think the world is based on Hindu philosophy, resting on the back of four elephants.”

Paul, Jennifer’s other kid is very different from Joy. “Paul is very mechanical,” explains his mother.   Paul was named after Jennifer’s Austrian grandfather, Pius (pee-use) who hated his name. He was always the only one around named Pius, so he changed it to Paul at the start of his American life. He got a job at a shop on Mason street right by the Pfister. He sold wigs, cut hair and gave permanent waves. “They charged $1 a curl. That was really good money. Women would get 80 curls and that was rent back then,” notes Jennifer.

Another thing of note about Paul’s great-grandfather Paul: he pretended to be French when he moved to Iowa because it sounded classier. Classier than to be from Austria where he remembered a loaf of bread literally costing a bushel of money. At one point Paul’s cousin in Austria was captured by the Americans and transported to captivity in the states. Paul visited his cousin until the war was over and his cousin was allowed back home.

The conversation turns to explore Jennifer’s artistic streak, “I think I got it from my Uncle Paul who was a carpenter. He made signs and polished stones.” He learned how to polish stones shortly after joining the army. “He also got married right away so that he could get a toilet to himself. He couldn’t poop with the open toilets.” Jennifer went to art school at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design back when it was in a different building. “They had an elevator that would get stuck once or twice a week for like an hour because those Otis guys were sloshed.”

Jennifer, her boss and children consent to me taking a group picture.

The Godfathers

The first time I ever went into the Pfister was when my godfathers (I have two) spontaneously invited me for a hamburger in the café. I didn’t know regular people from the local population could do that sort of thing, and I was nervous to be dining at an establishment I assumed (wrongly!) was designed only for travelers. That and I was wearing blue jeans and plenty of cheap plastic necklaces, which I feared (wrongly! So wrongly!) would prevent me from being allowed in. After that first time though, I did not hesitate to return when they offered me another hamburger at the Pfister.  Today, I’m strolling through the hotel on a docile afternoon hunting for a willing guest to chew the fat with and who do I spot?  The very men who first alerted me to the existence of this luscious lodge!

Godfather Bill Lemieux has shared meals in this hotel with John & Jackie Kennedy (for whom he worked), the Carters, Henry Jackson & Al Gore. He’s eager to share this fact with me as well as each passing member of the wait staff. He has also dined with Peter Yarrow from Peter, Paul and Mary several times at the Pfister. Another fact: Bill introduced Peter Yarrow to his wife. He won’t say how, but he does explain that in 1960 when Peter Paul and Mary came to perform in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, three young people from out of town asked him which restaurant they should eat at. He joined them and didn’t realize who they were until he went to the concert a few hours later and they greeted him from the stage.

“The most important thing in life is not that you have lived, but that you are living. All the things I‘ve done are yesterday. They are memories. Memories that are shifting.” Bill says this before taking a long silence. Godfather David Subat teases, “Then why do you keep talking about them?!” David tells a story of yesterday, thirty years ago in Oshkosh when he was a student. It was St. Patrick’s Day and there were cars turned over and burned in the street. Ruckus. Snowballs with stones in them were being thrown at the dorms. David turned his head behind him and saw 50-80 policemen in full riot gear, shields, clubs… “I told my friend Darren, ‘Darren, I think we should get the blank out of here.’”

And here we are in the Pfister, not on St. Patrick’s Day, not in the snow and not in danger of getting beat up. Relief, but only for a second before Bill brings the snow of Oshkosh back. “In college we had a massive snowstorm at the end of winter break. The roads were too perilous for many of the students to return to campus, but the president refused to close the college. I gathered everyone who was around outside the President’s building and we snowballed all the windows. The president came outside and said, ‘Alright Lemieux, I’ll close the college.’”

Bill starts to fabricate poetry on the spot, which he delivers aloud at a speed slightly too fast for me to record. It is meant to be heard only once, but that start of it goes, “In moments when sitting with a lady on black…” It was a very decent poem. I request another and beg him to include the topics of beavers and Mr. Pfister. Bill quickly recited a historically accurate account of Mr. Pfister admiring another man’s beaver skin top hat. “Memory is not consistent, it is constant,” says Bill.

 

 

Hey Historians Of The Future, READ THIS!!!

I am at my typewriter when a woman comes up to me with a request for a love letter. The reason for her love letter being ordered: the two of them are apart while her partner goes on an extended trip to Boston, Winnipeg and Lake Forest to pursue the subjects of their interest, gender queerness and poetry. While negotiating her order, the woman’s two young sons both wanted to play with my typewriter, ride the bell carts and slide down the railing.

I joined the three of them for lunch in the café and we engaged in a conversation where I learned (and I would like to state here that this conversation was grown organically, and was not related in any way to the delicious Reuben sandwiches served) that artificial butter flavoring is lethal if inhaled. So lethal, that the workers who produce it must wear hazmat suits. Artificial butter like most artificial flavors is a byproduct of genetically modified bacteria. I did not know any of this. However, I do think I might have heard about human organs being printed out by machines and the human ears harvested on the backs of mice, both of which were brought up in this discussion. Side note: I hope the historians of the far future will one day read this blog.

This here is a hazmat suit.
This here is a hazmat suit.

After lunch, I went back to my typewriter to write the love letter. Something for you to understand is that the recipient of this letter is genderqueer and therefore gets a different pronoun than a man or a woman. In this instance they, them, their all refer to the recipient of the letter. Here is the letter:

 

Dear Winnipeg,

you have yourself a visitor

you have yourself a dragonfruit

you have yourself a starfruit

a bumbershoot

some reals bumblebee honey

a pouring

all across the gender queer conference

with their golden red

sweetness for hot toast

I miss them the most

in the morning

in the evening

in the allthetime.

My adrenals fatigue

without the jolt

of you entering the room

to sit down on the couch of my life

with the two jumping bean

boys a squirming

across the plush cushions.

And Boston, you lucky devil,

getting your back scratched

by the tip of their pencil

and comforted by the warm touch

of their working laptop!

I wish I were you, Boston.

I wish I were a carrot frying in their pan.

When they return, my eldest boy will help me cook the celebratory feast of stir fried Indian roti flavored hummus. All natural of course, no hazmat suit will be necessary.

I am committed to finding my love

inside the River Forest, inside the Lake Forest,

where trees are hewn from pure water,

fishes wishes and fishes kisses.