HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | MARCH 2017 | Transitions Edition | “The Classic Look is Made to Last”

Today’s HUMANS OF THE PFISTER post is about “Transitions”–but also kind of an anti-transition story.  It’s more a story about endurance, about a stalwart establishment that has survived three transitions to become a 25-year staple of Wisconsin Avenue, just a half-block west of The Pfister. Meet the proud owner of The Sophisticated Man, Diane Hamiel, herself a sophisticated woman who was sporting sleek gold glasses that flared out to meet her delicate bob and a sharp black top with a poofy lapel, not to mention a kind, witty smile.

I owned the Leather Boutique for women when I first started.  It was mainly for women; the only things for men that we sold were wallets and belts.  The boutique was on 3rd and Juneau, near where they’re building the new arena.  But I lost the store to a fire.

However, that’s when I realized that men need help.  They need someone to help them get dressed up; they don’t have enough places to shop.  So I opened up my first men’s shop in the Prospect Mall in 1974.  We were such a small shop, and people didn’t think we’d survive.  But we were there until 1981 and moved to a bigger space in the Grand Avenue Mall, eventually moving to 322 E. Wisconsin, which is where we still are.

We sell classics.  One of the things I always say is “The man’s ideas may be changing fast, but the classic look is made to last.”  We still have guys wearing things they purchased 20, 30 years ago.  They come in and show you–and they come in with their kids now, too!   I feel like a big-time grandma!

I just love men.  At The Sophisticated Man, we love servicing men!  We can dress you up from head to toe: socks, shoes, underwear, shirts, suits, coats, slacks, hats, you name it.  We help them with personal attention. You can walk into the shop like that [gestures to my jeans and sweater] and you can walk out like you’re going to meet the President.  We dress all the sports stars–they come to us.

What would you hook me up with if I came into the store?

Like I said, we could dress you head to toe.  I mean, you can have your casual look [again, gestures to my jeans and sweater], but–you look like you’re a 15 1/2″ neck, probably a 34-35 long.  Yes?

Exactly.

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | MARCH 2017 | Transitions Edition | From Car to Carpool: A Chance to Relax & Regroup

At the end of January, I got in two car accidents in one week.  The first was snow-related: I hit the back of a bus, which had stopped in front of me.  I just couldn’t stop.  It totaled my car.  My dad was able to pick me up and let me use his car, a Mazda Miata that he had just bought and restored last year.  A couple days after hitting the bus, I got hit by a semi truck on my drive down to the Racine Art Museum where I work.  All of a sudden, the semi truck hit the back of the Miata, which swung sideways, and I was being pushed about a thousand feet on the highway.  All I could think was “My dad’s car!”  Of course, he was just happy that I was alive.  But I called my mom and she drove me to work, where my co-workers couldn’t believe that I had actually come into work after being hit by a semi!

At first, I figured I would get another car (the insurance check came in just a couple of days).  I went to the dealership and told the salesperson that I wanted to get another Prius (that was the bus car), but there were none available.  So I started to think about it: This is the first time I can actually carpool to work.  I mean, I could have in the past, but you know, I had my own car.  One of my colleagues lives in Riverwest, so I asked him for a ride.  Why not carpool with him?  Of course, I offered to pay for gas. It’s turned out really well.  If I have to stay late for a meeting or something, I’ve discovered that there is a bus from Racine to Milwaukee that’s pretty decent.  It’s only $3.50!  What’s the price of a city bus?  About $2.50?  Amazing.

And there are other ways I can get to and from work: my mom and step-dad live in Racine, so I can get rides from them; Lyft; Zipcar; and the Sturtevant Amtrak, which I can get a ride to if I need to.  There are so many tools for transportation!

I really like that the accidents made me think about my choices, my schedule.  I think about what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it. I am still very involved in the art community in Racine, Kenosha, and Milwaukee, but in the end, I find that I’m spending more time at home where I can relax and regroup.

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | MARCH 2017 | Transitions edition | Xenodocheio & Spiritual Connections

Last night I met Dean at the lobby bar, relaxing with a cocktail.  I had just asked the bartender, Shelby, for a cordial of wisdom and she had offered that her “life motto has always been that laughter is a cure for everything. And there’s something you can laugh at in every situation.”  Dean agreed with her, then asked me what I was doing.  I told her and she told me that she had worked for many years in the Spa as a hairdresser and that even though she has her own studio space down the street now, she still comes back to The Pfister for drinks because she loves the atmosphere.  Dean is the first of March’s Humans of The Pfister and without my having to announce this month’s theme of Transitions (the awkward meteorological transition from winter to spring we’ve been experiencing, with balmy weather one day and snow the next gave me the idea), she began with an etymological lesson about transience.

I’m Greek, and the Greek word for hotel is xenodocheio (ξενοδοχειο), which means something like “a place of strangers.”  That’s what a hotel is. They’re not about the locals–it’s a transient place.  And a hotel bar–it’s a real mix of everybody.

I’ve met so many people here at the bar–lots of celebrities, obviously, and, get this, I was Barbara Bush’s hairdresser any time she was here–but I really enjoyed Maya Angelou.  I was sitting her and she came up and sat next to me, just like you are.  And I fanned out on her!  But she was–just like she is.  Cool, laidback.  A guest just like anybody else.

She’s a spiritual person.  I’m a spiritual person.  So we connected spiritually.  If you connect with someone spiritually, then the subject of the conversation doesn’t matter as much.  We could talk about cars or politics or whatever.  But that’s all stupid.  Not stupid–I don’t mean it that way.  But insignificant in the long run.  What you will remember at the end of your life is the connections.

I wanted to capture Dean laughing.  Something was wrong with my new camera (well, it was probably me–I’m still learning about f-stops and low-light conditions and ISO settings!), but I kind of like how her photo turned out: a little blurry, a lot authentic, and even a little spiritual.

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | FEBRUARY 2017 | “First Loves” Edition | Musical Connections

I guess I was in junior high–7th grade maybe.  We had a co-ed gym class where we did ballroom dancing: waltz, cha-cha, jitterbug.  I think it was girl-pick-a-guy.  Well, I had a crush on a boy named Tom.  I was hoping he’d ask me, but I was too shy–and he did!  And we won Best Jitterbug out of the entire 7th grade!

Back then, we “went out” (not really “steady,” of course).  We were like boyfriend and girlfriend, but really we just hung out together.  I went to high school with him, too, and we became good friends.

Funny story: he ended up marrying a girl named Donna!  I think it was our 25th high school reunion when he introduced me to his wife . . . named Donna of all things!

Love goes with passion–for me–and that’s music.  Nothing will give me goosebumps more than performing with another person.  Periodically, it’s even a mystical moment, a synchronicity of what I’m playing and what they’re playing, when we’re unified.

All of a sudden, I’m off the page, not thinking about what’s on there, and it’s like something else is leading me.

It’s like that with my husband today.  Even with the mundane day-to-day, there are times when I somehow get out of my selfish part–and we’re a real pair.  Frankly, it’s otherworldly.

This is what differentiates us from the rest of creation.

(Rob’s instruments are his clarinet and his voice.  He has played in symphony orchestras like the Milwaukee Symphony and has played with individual artists as well.)

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | FEBRUARY 2017 | “First Loves” Edition | Throwing Rocks at Joey

My first love was in 4th grade.  His name was Joey, and I used to throw rocks at him to get his attention.  He was from the nicer side of the tracks than me (we grew up in Latonia, Kentucky, which is now Covington).  Joey was blue-eyed and had the house and the nice family.  But in 5th grade, I moved away.  Fast forward to high school, when Joey was the basketball star.  I had just moved back to Latonia and we got back together.  I threw a rock at him and he said, “I know you!”  So in high school, we were going out for a little bit–and then I moved away again, from ’76-’89!  When I returned, I “ran into him.” Actually, what happened is that I called a friend of mine and asked her how to track this guy down.  Fortunately, he was separated.  We got back together . . . and then he went back to his wife.  Then I left again.  I was always leaving . . .

After our conversation, Kathy and I trolled Joey on Facebook for a little bit. There were many guys with his first and last name, as can be imagined. Some of Kathy’s comments included “No way he’d make the Navy” (after finding a Joey who’s in the Navy) and “There’s no way he’d be a pastor.”  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | FEBRUARY 2017 | “First Loves” Edition | A Poodle, a Hot Teacher, and a Pork Chop

DEBBY: My first love was a copper-white, stray poodle.  I was 12 years old when we found her on a rainy, stormy night running around the neighborhood.  I had my dad chase her down.  She responded one day to “Bonita,” which means “pretty” in Spanish, you know.  She was like my first love and my first heartbreak, come to think of it.  We let her out one morning–but when I called her, she never came back.  But I guess if I had to say my first human love, it would be Mr. Duckler, my English teacher, when I was 11 years old.  I thought he was so hot.  I mean, he was so nice, for a teacher.  For a teacher to be so nice–was hot.

GENE: My first love was a breaded pork chop.  I was five years old, and that’s when I first decided that I wanted to cook.  I saw my mom make them all the time, but I didn’t like the way she did it: overcooked.  I had tried before to do it myself, but I used graham crackers and they tasted like shit.  One night, then, her and dad went to square dancing and I decided to make pork chops for the entire family of six.  I dug through the freezer to find some thicker chops, made the breading, and they turned out just right.  I got out the little electric skillet, put it on the kitchen table (yes, my grandma and aunt were nearby–practically next door), and now I’ve been a chef for years.  And I guess, like Debby, I could also mention Cindy in 5th grade: I remember she was blond with blue eyes and a little pug nose.  I lived six blocks away and at times it was torture.  She knew I liked her, but not how much!  She always did insist that I be her dance partner, however!

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | FEBRUARY 2017 | “First Loves” Edition

My first love was named Alisa.  She was a ballerina and danced in The Nutcracker.  We were five years old and kissed by 10s on the playground until we hit 60 times–all while Robin watched.

Ellie’s first love was Herman.  She tells us a little about him for HUMANS OF THE PFISTER’s “First Loves” edition:

Herman.  He was handsome and very nice.  And he played basketball and baseball.  My cousin liked him, too, but I won.  I liked him first.

This was maybe in 1960 because we graduated in ’64 and my parents wouldn’t let me date until I was 17.  We’d go to a lot of drive-in movies, but if my younger sister went, my other sister and I would have to go with her until was old enough.  So I went on a first date with Herman.  He had such gorgeous eyes.  We went to a show, but back then, we weren’t alone that long, so “it” didn’t work out.

In the end, I didn’t marry Herman.  But he had a service station for a long time, and I would visit him for many years.  He had a good body then, but . . . don’t write that next part.

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | JANUARY 2016 | “Trying New Things”

Dee did not think he had anything interesting to tell, especially about this month’s theme of Trying New Things. Surprise: “You got a story out of me. You’re good.”

you just have to grab it

Well, you know–I got a gym membership this year–New Year’s Resolutions and all–so I could lose weight and quit smoking.  I’m weak to an extent, but until you actually make up your mind to do something, no one can force you.  Then the goal is pretty much reached.  You just have to grab it, you know what I mean?

I’m weak to an extent, but until you actually make up your mind to do something, no one can force you.  Then the goal is pretty much reached. You just have to grab it, you know what I mean?

I know that working out with a group of people can be fun, but you have to be your own motivation.  You shouldn’t need someone to get you to do what you want to do, you know what I mean?

I work out at Experience Fitness, and they have a theater with cardio machines in a dark theater, and they play a different movie each time.  So you can just do your thing and get lost in the movie–and it keeps you focused.  I actually just reached a new record: one hour of cardio on the elliptical!

–Dee

 

 

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | JANUARY 2017 | TRYING NEW THINGS

HAPPY NEW YEAR, READERS!

My “Humans of The Pfister” took a hiatus in December, but the Humans are back! What better way to jumpstart HOTP in 2017 than with this lovely mother-daughter team.  I ran into Jayne and Grace at the hotel last week. Well, to be honest, I saw on Facebook that they were in the Cafe for lunch, promised them online that I’d be there as soon as I could, and got there in time to join them for a delightful conversation in the Lobby Lounge.

Grace graduated last June from The Prairie School, where I taught her senior English class.  She has completed her first semester at the Santa Fe University of Art & Design, where she is studying concept art and character design.  I remember Grace as a quiet, introspective student, shy in class but mildly bubbly with friends, more a follower than a leader. She was well known for her artistic abilities, though she never boasted, never made a big deal about it.  What I remember most about her, though, is that she knows what she likes and dislikes–and is not afraid to tell you, ever so respectfully.

One thing she likes is real life.  True stories. History. As a reader, not surprisingly, she tends toward nonfiction. So whenever I would introduce a new work of fiction for us to study, well, I knew it was going to be a chore.  She’d give it an honest go, I knew, but she wasn’t going to make it easy for me.  I came to expect, with every new novel, the calm but serious question: “So, why are we reading this?”  I remember, though, our interesting conversations–just the two of us, sitting in the Commons–about the role of fiction, the nature of “happening truth” versus “story truth” (terms borrowed from author Tim O’Brien), and so on.  I appreciated that she was willing to listen and debate and, even, willing to question my choices and objectives.

Another thing she disliked was writing.  If she could just tell me, why did she have to write it?  If she could just show me in a drawing, why did she have to write it?

So what did I learn about this quiet, young contrarian on this December afternoon?  It’s not box office material, but here’s the movie script:

INT. THE PFISTER HOTEL - DAY

DOMINIC sits down with his former student GRACE and her mother JAYNE to catch up on the last six months, especially with GRACE, who has been at school in Santa Fe.

DOMINIC
What program are you in again?

GRACE
It's focused on concept art and character design.  

JAYNE
She's really doing what she loves.  

DOMINIC
(looking at GRACE)
And you get to do it in the background, behind the scenes, in a sense.  Right?  

GRACE
(nodding)
Yes.  

DOMINIC
How are your roommates?

GRACE
I live in my own place, which is nice.  But the people I hang out with, they just sing--all--the--time.  I don't mind it.  They're fun.

JAYNE
It's an arts school.  So there are so many students studying music and theater and musical theater.  But Grace.  You know how she's always been kind of shy.  But because of the program she's in, with films, and all the new people she's around, she's already designed a movie poster for one short film and now she's acting!

GRACE
Yeah, I keep being asked to be an extra.  It's weird.  I've been a 911 operator, a news reporter, a background laugher . . .

DOMINIC
I can see you being a background laugher.  Always smirking at something.

JAYNE
(eagerly)
Tell him about your Mary Jane.

GRACE
I will.  Being an extra is one thing, but I've never acted and the director wasn't sure if I was going to work out, but we tried it out and he liked me, so I got a role as Mary Jane--

JAYNE
From Spider-Man.

GRACE
Yes, you know, Peter Parker's girlfriend.  I am still shy, but doing all this really boosts your confidence.  

JAYNE
You did all that Irish dance for so many years, so you were on the stage all the time.

GRACE
Yeah, you'd think that that would've helped.  

DOMINIC
But it's different when you're dancing with a team.  I know why you'd get nervous on the stage.  get nervous.  And I can't stand a camera on me!

JAYNE
She'll get used to it.  I think she's being open to all the possibilities around her.  Like, you know, she never liked to write--

DOMINIC
No kidding.  It was like pulling teeth.

JAYNE
Well, her teacher had them write a research paper on anything they wanted.  And you know Grace--if she's not interested in it, it's going to be very hard to get her to write about it.  So I made a huge list for her and--

DOMINIC
Oh yeah.  That's when she wrote about Tim Burton, right?  

JAYNE
She's been fascinated with him for a long time.  

DOMINIC
This is just like I let her write about the Old West for her Senior Capstone project because that's what she wanted to research.

JAYNE
Yes.  Her teacher liked her research so much that he entered it into a writing contest.

DOMINIC
(smirking at GRACE)
Too funny.

JAYNE
So anyways.  When I finally move out there next month, I want to start getting extra roles on campus.  I could be the "adult woman" or the "old woman" whenever they need an adult woman or old woman.  I am looking forward to moving and returning to the southwest. You know me--I love to hike and fish, I love the mountains. I'm looking forward to all the museums and Navajo jewelry and rugs and art.  I'm just tired of how "American" things have gotten here.  I mean, there are still places I like to go in Milwaukee, but there's just something. Maybe it's how modern things have gotten . . . or it's how busy everyone is, everyone on their phones.  Out there, it's quieter.

GRACE
Yeah, everyone's calm and nice.  No one hustles.  

JAYNE
And that's what I'm seeking.  I don't know what it's going to be like out there.  I have a job or two lined up in my field, but everything else is new.  I'm excited to start exploring again, creating a new life.  And slowing down.

DOMINIC
And it'll be nice, I'm sure, to be close to Grace.  You both get along so well.  

(They both nod in agreement)

GRACE
It's so calm and nice that I don't even watch the news.

JAYNE
She doesn't even watch the news.  I have to tell her what's happening around her.

GRACE
There was supposedly a mountain lion lurking around campus.  I didn't know about that.  And one day we saw smoke coming from the mountains and thought it was a forest fire.  It was a controlled burn.

JAYNE
I had to tell her about those things.  If it weren't for me, well . . . she has to be careful.  Tell him about the barracks.

GRACE
Ok.  So there's what we call "the barracks" and it's an abandoned part of the school.

JAYNE
Back from when it was St. Michael's College.  It was probably where all the priests lived.  It's all fenced off and Grace and her friends found a way to kind of wiggle under it at night.

GRACE
(leaning forward, face beaming)
The barracks are really cool.  It's one of the movie sets for Manhattan.  It turns out lot of movies are made in Santa Fe.  Like Tina Feys's Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.  And many are shot on our campus. We had to use our phones because we didn't have flashlights, and there were all these rooms with surgery tables and things, probably old movie props.

JAYNE
Grace is the ringleader.  Everyone else was scared of ghosts, but not Grace. What she should have been afraid of were bats . . . or rats.

GRACE
(chuckling)
There was that black widow.

JAYNE
See what I mean?

GRACE
(smiling)
There was an Italian kid.  He got bit by something, but we didn't know what, but after two days he called 1-1-9.  Yep, he's from Italy and got the emergency number backward.  But eventually his mom came from Italy and he had to go home.

So there you have it.

Quiet, graceful, gracious Grace who used to turn her nose up to fictional characters is now

  • learning how to create concept art for fictional films,
  • laughing for filmmakers,
  • joining the ranks of Kirsten Dunst as Spider-Man’s girlfriend,
  • leading a risky gang of trespassing, singing art students through abandoned buildings,
  • braving the lions and bats of Santa Fe, and
  • chuckling at the misfortune of black widow-bitten Italian boys.

I never would have guessed.

Maybe she’s realizing that a little bit of make-believe isn’t such a bad thing.  Especially if you’re doing something you love.

If only we had let her do more of what she loved when she was in high school–right, Grace?

 

 

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | NOVEMBER 2016 | A Month of Gratitude | “Getting Down-to-Earth on the Hallway Couch”

20161129_151036

I saw this father-son duo running across the street as I was pulling into the parking structure today.  They looked like they were in a hurry to get somewhere.  Turns out, they were hurrying to this couch just across the hallway from the studio.  I happened to be sitting on the end, waiting for Pamela to arrive with images for our holiday cards (coming soon to the Holiday Marketplace btw), when they walked over and plopped themselves down next to me.  My first thought: “Really?  We’re all going to sit on this little couch together?  How about a little personal space?”  But they didn’t seem to mind, so I decided not to mind.

The dad kept checking his phone and the young man kept looking up and down the hall.  I thought they might be waiting for a family member, but it turns out they were keeping an eye out for, ahem, tall men who may or may not have been, ahem, basketball players.  Die-hard fans from, ahem, Illinois, who were going to the Bucks-Cavaliers game that evening.  After being warned by security not to accost the players for autographs and to just use their eyes, this Illinois duo and I struck up a conversation.  I decided to tell them about this month’s Humans of The Pfister theme (“A Month of Gratitude”) and they seemed genuinely interested in sharing.  The young man, a high school freshman, put on his thinking cap and offered the first down-to-earth answer:

YOUNG MAN

lunch-box-clipart-black-and-white-clipart-panda-free-clipart-18i8wh-clipartSo something that can fit into a 1’x1’x1′ box?  I’d have to say chocolate.  It’s a sign of love, right?  When you think of Valentine’s Day and teddy bears, you think of chocolate, too, right?  I mean, food is love.

stick_man_clip_art_24915

Can I say I’m thankful for my family as a whole?  Not just one person?  Ok, then. My family as a whole, including my younger sister.  I say my family because it’s like you have the older people, the parents, who are sort of guiding you through life.  And then I guide my younger sister.  It’s kind of like a chain where you’re learning from everyone.

thought-bubble-student-think-bubble-clipart-free-imagesI’m thankful for the value of loyalty, which is staying with someone even when stuff’s not going right.  For example, my basketball team wasn’t that great, but it’s not like I quit on them halfway through the year.  And eventually we got a little better.  Yeah, just a little better.  But I was loyal to them.

DAD

lunch-box-clipart-black-and-white-clipart-panda-free-clipart-18i8wh-clipartI’m going to say my phone.  It’s a good object that helps me see pictures of my family and allows me to communicate with people, stay in touch.  I know it seems pretty shallow, but as bad as society is with all this technology, I’m able to get in touch with someone at a moment’s notice, even across the world.  I have contacts in Israel, for instance, and they’re just a phone call away.  It’s a miracle–well, not a miracle exactly, but it’s still amazing.

stick_man_clip_art_24915

I’m thankful for my wife and the companionship it gives me.  We’ve been together since 1994 and have been married since 1999.

 

 

thought-bubble-student-think-bubble-clipart-free-imagesI’m going to say honesty.  It’s good to be honest, right?  I mean, without honesty, all is lost.  If there’s no honesty, there’s no trust.  Think about it: what kind of relationship would you have if there was no honesty or trust.  It’s necessary for every aspect of life: relationships, business, etc.  It’s about having integrity.