A Mud Bath, Followed With An Insult


A few months into my job at the Pfister I learned something very interesting:

 

If you want, the spa will give you a bowl of clay to go with a hot steam shower. Yes, with this spa offering, you can temporarily remake yourself as an exquisite porcine figure, steamed on a spit, enjoying the mud bath of your life.

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I did not take pictures of this service, but I did experience it on Saturday. Actually, that’s not true, I took one photograph of the steam. My intent was to capture the breath of hell curling out of the shower door, but by the time I turned my camera on, the breath had transitioned from that scene of Hades unfurling to that of the whole bathroom being filled with a boiling fog.

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I could not see my feet. Actually, I could not see anything but the fog for the next twenty minutes. I relied on my sense of touch to carry me through it all.

 

After my shower I felt like a sedated lobster on a dinner plate. I went up to the lobby with my typewriter.  My  intention  was to document the fascinating phenomena of what it feels like to be a cooked crustacean, but I did not get the chance.   I smelled cigarettes.

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Before me were three pretty people wearing cigarettes as a lingering perfume. Voyagers from the land of Green Bay. To make conversation I inquired, “Are you in school?” The tall one replied, “No, none of us are. I make enough money so I don’t have to go to college.” The group of them came down for the weekend, never having been to the Pfister before, and very much enjoying their stay… except for Drake. Drake, the fourth element to their group was asleep, while they explored the city. He also did not join them for drinks last night. “Drake is always missing out on the fun because he works third shift at a cheese factory.”

 

Drake’s friends asked me to write him an insult letter. They handed me my tip and told me that when he emerges from his room later he wants to “meet chicks.” Tashina, the female in this group of friends adds, “He likes chicks a lot, but never sticks with them for very long.” As they go upstairs to admire the ballrooms, I write the insult.DSCN1041

They loved it!
They loved it!

Whispering, 1925

My term as Pfister narrator is almost up, so yesterday I finally booked a room.  My best friend Jessie drove in from Ann Arbor for the occasion.   Jessie promptly plopped on the plush puff bed as soon as we had entered and perused our room, #332.

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She then jumped to action and made us a to-do list.DSCN0458 DSCN0463We were already well on our way with task number three.

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The view from our window allowed us to spy on two of the kitchen staff taking their break in the sun.

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“Jessie, doesn’t the reflection of the hotel in the glass across the street trick you into thinking we are in Paris?”
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We watched this man for a while.  He looked very disappointed every time other buses passed.  He scrutinized a schedule, tracing his anticipated route with a finger.DSCN0482The windows are an excellent place to hide.DSCN0486Or to shock.

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We walked to Brady Street and saw this basking, busking cowboy.

DSCN0473Concierge Peter offered us a “poisoned apple,” but we did not bite.DSCN0464With elite guest access to the business center, I did as much business as possible with the opportunity.

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DSCN0496We inspected the “Under the Sea” gala for curing diabetes.DSCN0498

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Here is Chief Nursing Officer of Children’s Hospital, Nancy Korom (on the left) and friends.  DSCN0513

I found myself asking everyone I met if they had diabetes.

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The wife, but not the husband.DSCN0511

Both sisters do.
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Neither of these men are diabetic, but both are on diets.  White tie/black shirt Ryan is Paleo.  White shirt/black tie Sean is “plant based.”DSCN0539

Matt, server states, “I am a human tray at the moment.”  I wonder the maximum amount of drinks this tray can hold for his guests.DSCN0504

I admire, but I do not partake of the shrimp.
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We have dinner at the Mason Street Grill.  Jessie eats much faster than me, so she must carry the conversation by herself for ten minutes as I chew.
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We take turns petting the decorative moss between courses.DSCN0488

As the evening progresses our pictures get blurrier.DSCN0526

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I teach Jessie how to play Rummy in Blu.  DSCN0552
We play cards, drink and dance in our seats to the Jazz.unnamed-9

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I meet Pam and Bill from Janesville.  They are here to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. They remind me:DSCN0551unnamed-8

Jessie is a professional  statistician, but she can’t stand all the counting in this rummy game.  She asks to change the rules.   But I do not like to change the rules when I play cards.  
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 We agree to only play games without rules for the rest of the evening.

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This game is called: “Draw your spiritual self.”DSCN0595 DSCN0590 While I take a picture of this woman’s shoe, Jessie draws what she sees in front of her.DSCN0532DSCN0557DSCN0553The most meaningful thing happens to me three minutes to midnight. We are in the lobby listening to Dr. Hollander playing one of his final songs for the evening. The tune is something antique, soursweet and familiar. Like every time I am in the lobby and Dr. Hollander is there, I think I hear him playing it. I know he gives regulars and staff members theme songs, so I go up to him. “Is this my theme song?” He nods. He says he cannot remember the name, only that it was about whispering and it was released in 1925.

I found it, MY THEME SONG! Whispering Jack Smith – Whispering – YouTube.

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The magic continues: when we get to our room there is a plate of fruit we never ordered.

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In the morning I try out the complementary blowdryer since I’ve never owned one.DSCN0599Before brunch we stroll over to a bookstore to pet some cats.DSCN0612DSCN0610
unnamed-2 unnamed-3unnamed-5DSCN0616We return for brunch.  DSCN0622Matt!  Again!  Now he is our server rather than a tray.
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Talking art, storytelling and friendship

They weren’t sure if they wanted to talk to me and I don’t blame them. Their lives are busy and consequently they get to spend so little time together. And they don’t know me.

But slowly, carefully, Muriel and Susan opened up to me.

We talked about art, but mostly, about friendship. And like all cherished friendships, Muriel’s and Susan’s 22-year friendship is a mosaic of similarities and differences.

Muriel grew up in Wisconsin; Susan in Illinois. Today, Susan lives on the South Side; Muriel is in the North Shore. They have different marital statuses. Muriel is single by choice; Susan has been married for years.

But their similarities are plentiful. They both love visual art, writing, theater and …

“We both really like to have fun,” says Muriel.

On this particular day, the ladies are having fun in the Lobby Bar after a visit to the art museum. It’s become an annual tradition, one they usually do during Super Bowl season. This year, however, Muriel had family obligations and they had to postpone it.

They have other connections to the Pfister as well. They attended tea at Blu. They are also both fans of former Pfister Artist In Residence, Shelby Keefe, and visited her studio.

So what makes a good friendship? I ask them, after asking myself this very question a thousand times in the past three years when it came time in my life to reevaluate my relationships. (But that’s another blog.)

“Someone you can count on no matter what’s going on in your life not to judge you. Someone who is there to listen if nothing else, but even more than listen, to be responsive. It’s so basic. Just somebody you can count on,” says Susan.

“It’s really nice to have a girlfriend,” says Muriel.

“Especially when you’re married,” says Susan, laughing softly.

Somehow we start talking about the local storytelling group, Ex Fabula, and New York-based storytelling group, The Moth. We all attended storytelling events in the past – I actually competed in and won an Ex Fabula story slam earlier this year – and marvel at the newfound popularity of storytelling.

People are flocking to public spaces just to hear stories? This is wonderful, but a little suprising. Is it backlash to technology? Is it because people have forgotten how to really talk to one another? Is it because strangers, like us, don’t usually open up?

We live in a society based on asking forgiveness when we provide too much information and we watch reality TV but don’t want to disclose honest, personal information.

We post our breakfasts but not our fears on Facebook.

“I used to work here,” Muriel offers up at one point in our conversation. She goes on to share wonderful stories of working at the Pfister Cafe, then called The Greenery, in the late ‘70s. And then we share more stories, these were off the record. (Sorry.)

Oh, the things we learn when we listen. The things we say when we think someone is listening. Really listening.