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


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | NOVEMBER 2016 | A Month of Gratitude | “Ten Thanks Per Day”





I am thankful for all the cherished, irreplaceable photos I have of current family and generations past.  I think my favorite are the old photos of my grandparents and my grandparent’s parents.  Nothing in particular–just the fact that their pictures still exist.



I’m most thankful for my husband and the fact that I have a good family.

[HIM: You don’t have to say that!]



And something intangible?  The character that my life has allowed me to develop.  All the traits and challenges that have made me who I am.




thought-bubble-student-think-bubble-clipart-free-imagesI overheard you talking to the pianist about what he’d give thanks for that you couldn’t see.  So I looked up this quotation in case you came around. It’s from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Without getting political, there’s a general undercurrent of people not accepting people for who they are, instead of one of love and openness.  It’s not just “me, me, me.”  It needs to be more “us.”



I don’t want this to seem shallow, but really, I am thankful for phones and computers–mobile technologies–that give us access to information, digitized photos, etc., and allow us to work remotely, travel the world, and so on–all at the same time.  Before you came over, for instance, I was sitting over there with my laptop doing some work in this beautiful hotel.


Well, this one’s easy: I’m most thankful for my wife.

[HER: You don’t have to say that!]

She keeps me grounded and helps me think about the world.  We often go through this exercise of gratitude where we try to list 10 things each day that we’re thankful for.  We don’t always achieve that, but we really try to because there’s so much to be thankful for.

[HER: Yes.  Whenever we have to stop being pissed about something, we tell each other all the things we’re thankful for–and we forget why we were upset!]





(don’t forget title!)

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | NOVEMBER 2016 | A Month of Gratitude | “Perfect Timing”

Sam only had a moment before his set was to begin the other afternoon to share a word of gratitude. He has begun occasionally substituting for Jeffrey “Doc” Hollander at the keys and is sure to delight guests in the Lobby Lounge!



I am grateful for my health and for having the love of a good woman for the second time in my life.  That’s pretty special.  She’s sees beauty and positivity in everything–and she came along at a time when I really needed it.

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | NOVEMBER 2016 | A Month of Gratitude | “Survival Skills”

A certain concierge whose name starts with an “H” and rhymes with “Selga” doesn’t like having her picture taken, but agreed to showcase her stunning elbow and, of course, share her gratitudes for November.

stick_man_clip_art_24915I am thankful for my two sons because–and I know this doesn’t sound that great, but—they never gave me any headaches.  Both of them were independent, creative, intelligent kids.  They still are, as adults.  I’m thankful that no matter what they do, they can survive on their own.  They never relied on society or anything or anyone else.  I love their independence–and the fact that they allow me my independence, too!



I am thankful for my studio and the art I create.  When I walk through the door, I just go “Ahhhhh!” and the world can go do what it wants.  I became an introvert–I know it sounds weird, but I am–and I lose all sense of time.  In my studio, I work a lot with clay, but I’ll do a little bit of everything in all kinds of different mediums.  If I get a blockage with one medium, I’ll try another for awhile.  My favorite items, then, that could fit in a box are always a new brush and a sharpened pencil.

thought-bubble-student-think-bubble-clipart-free-imagesPeace on earth, good will to men.  That’s all I want.  You don’t have to love everyone, but you should be peaceful, you know.  Don’t be mean.


HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | NOVEMBER 2016 | A Month of Gratitude | “If Not Now, When?”

I sat down with Helene Fischman, who spoke about the importance of stepping into another’s shoes and two of her inspirations: Hillel the Elder and Martin Buber.


?אם אין אני לי, מי לי? וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני? ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי


I am thankful for the words of Rabbi Hillel (c. 110 BCE-10 CE): “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?  But if I am only for myself, who am I?  If not now, when?  This is a core tenet of Judaism: the first question is about personal voice, the second is about community, and the last is about social action now.  I live and teach by this.

Recently, Martin Buber has been popping up on my Facebook.  Rabbi Hillel’s questions are like Buber’s I/Thou philosophy. [Note: “Often characterized as an existentialist philosopher, Buber rejected the label, contrasting his emphasis on the whole person and “dialogic” intersubjectivity with existentialist emphasis on “monologic” self-consciousness.”]   I think about how I am a white woman, which automatically makes me privileged.  For others, being in the minority forces them to see from another’s perspective.  If you are in the majority, though, you don’t have to do that. You’ve already “won,” so you’re not expected to have to see from another’s perspective.  But you have to know who you are AND how others are.  You need to step into another’s shoes.  That’s what I/Thou is about.  If not now, when?

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | NOVEMBER 2016 | A Month of Gratitude | “Seeing History”

20161115_124734Recently, I met with Richard Klatte Prestor, author of the photography books Milwaukee Wisconsin and Langlade County (in the Images of America). He talked at length about his extensive collections of historical photographs that he uses to document our American past.  Richard also spoke about current projects, which include a photography book on World War II and a fascinating novel-in-the-works about backstage security at 1970s concerts, from Bruce Springsteen to Led Zeppelin.  He is looking for a talented fiction writer to take on this latter project (so if anyone has any leads, get in touch with me!). We’re here now, though, to share Richard’s gratitudes!  Without further ado:



Something that can fit in a box?  I would have to say my camera.  I started taking pictures when I was nine years old.  People can write big things about American history, but I like seeing it.  I like seeing people at play, at work, in their coffins.  I love old photos that people tend to throw away.  For instance, I have an extensive collection of circus photos, original photos of writers (my favorite is a young Mark Twain before his well-known white hair and mustache) and over 500 original photos from World War II, including early pictures of Hitler and Julius Streicher.  Apparently, when Hitler was let of prison in 1924, Streicher and a photographer met him at the gate.  I got these photos of Hitler from my father, a captain, who fought in Germany and found a room with several shelves of brass-bound binders of photos.  My dad grabbed a few dozen of these, which included a 1925 photo of Hitler on a couch with Streicher and pictures of Jewish men–just headshots–that Streicher used as propoganda to show how “disgusting” Jewish men were.


I’m thankful for my mother.  She suffered a lot–she lost lots of her identity when she got married in 1946 (on 4/6/46–it’s easy to remember her birthday!).  I grew up in the ’40s and ’50s, and dad was not always around.  It got to the point where one day she just said, “Whatever happened to me?”  Despite this, she was always there for me.


A big idea or value?  This one’s hard.  I’ll say honesty.  I was born on Abe Lincoln’s birthday (2/12/47) and back then we knew him as “Honest Abe.” My honesty, however, is something I’ve had to learn how to control: I tend to be up front sometimes and say what I think right away.  Not everyone likes that.  But I’d rather someone give me a suggestion about something I’ve said so I can fix it.  I will.


HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | NOVEMBER 2016 | A Month of Gratitude | “She Types Like the Wind”

A month of gratitude.

I will be asking Humans this month for three different kinds of gratitudes: 


Thanks for something that can fit into a 1’x1′ box.

Thanks for a human or group of humans.

Thanks for a something non-physical

whether it’s an idea, a value, a force–

as long as it’s something we can’t see physically.

stick_man_clip_art_24915Let me tell you: my wife has been a court reporter for 50 years.  She types like the wind, the wind in the trees.  She used to type on a Selectric typewriter, but she had to slow down because the mechanisms couldn’t go that fast.  So I got her a computer–you remember those box computers, right?  That was, say, 25 years ago.  But the spaces and line numbers were different than a typewriter.  So I finally got her set up to type on it, but it was too slow.  It was always two or three lines behind what she was typing and would have to catch up.  So I had to get extra memory to help out.

She started court reporting typing manually on a typewriter, before printing and cheap copying like at, not Kinko’s but . . . ah, Pip Printing–remember that?  Then you could Xerox at a reasonable price.  And she had to use–what was that called?  The three pages that would give you three copies of the same–oh yeah, carbon copy.  Imagine having to type on carbon paper and then making a mistake on all three copies and having to make three corrections!  Although she barely ever makes a mistake.  And she doesn’t count in terms of characters per minute. How about pages per hour?!

My wife is the last one at the courthouse that still uses the old stenograph machine.  She’s retiring next year, though, since she’ll be 70 years old.  Even though she’s been working all this time–and she’s loved it–our life has been interesting and fun.  We’ve been married 41 and a half years!  We go to different things every day.  We’re actually known in Milwaukee as “The Dancers.”  Yes, you’ve probably seen us at Bastille Days, right up in the front, dancing.  We’re also folk dancers and she’s a belly dancer.  And you can often find us on Fridays with Phil Seed, dancing in the Mason Street Grill.  They call us “The Mason Street Dancers,” too.

We lived in Bay View for 18 years, then the last 22 years in Jackson Park, but, of course, we’ve been coming to The Pfister for decades because it’s like another one of our living rooms.  In fact, we have The Pfister to thank, too.  Two years ago, we were here around Christmas.  I had had a surgery to fix my vocal cords.  One day I just couldn’t talk–and I was a singer! It turns out only one vocal cord was working.  Anyway, there was the Narrator from that year, Anja Notanja, who was writing people “Letters from Santa.”  And we asked Santa to please give me my voice back.  Anja wrote the letter as a beautiful poem that we still keep underneath our St. Patrick statue because it helped give me the confidence to train my voice again.  I’ve had to learn to build up to a particular volume so that now–you can hear me, right?


HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | NOVEMBER 2016 | A Month of Gratitude


So far, HUMANS OF THE PFISTER has captured stories of life, liberty, happiness, augustness, education, and fear.  The Humans have been so willing to share their stories, whether happy or sad, simple or philosophical, funny or serious, unique or universal.  So I can’t wait to hear what they have to share with me and you this month.  Our theme?

A month of gratitude.

I will be asking Humans this month for three different kinds of gratitudes: 

lunch-box-clipart-black-and-white-clipart-panda-free-clipart-18i8wh-clipartstick_man_clip_art_24915 thought-bubble-student-think-bubble-clipart-free-images

Thanks for something that can fit into a 1’x1′ box.

Thanks for a human or group of humans.

Thanks for a something non-physical

whether it’s an idea, a value, a force–

as long as it’s something we can’t see physically.

If you don’t get a chance to come to The Pfister and talk to me, then please leave your three stories of thanks in the Comments Box below or on Facebook (my or the Hotel’s page).  I’ll publish them on the blog as they come in!

Without further ado, here are your first three thankful Humans of The Pfister:


This gentleman visited Pamela’s studio while I was there, genuinely interested in why she was intrigued by the architecture of the Hotel (he had stopped to read the sign outside her studio).  He was at the Hotel to volunteer at an entrepreneurship awards ceremony for BizStarts.

lunch-box-clipart-black-and-white-clipart-panda-free-clipart-18i8wh-clipartI give thanks to my eyeballs, my sight.  Just imagine trying to describe this hotel.  It’s so beautiful.  Try describing this, for example, to Stevie Wonder.  I don’t take my eyesight for granted.  One of the most beautiful things that I’ve ever seen?  Just people, I guess.  Just people.  And the act of love.


I give thanks to lots of people.  I was literally raised by Milwaukee.  I grew up in the foster care system, so I bounced around a lot.  Even as an adult, I struggled with homelessness.  But you know what?  There are a lot of good things in this world.  Even in the crevasses.


I give thanks to Love because when you think about it, what’s life without Love.  I mean, even Hitler loved somebody.  Didn’t he love that one woman?  You know, people in the urban community have a saying: “Love, bro.  Love.  Just Love.”  I don’t know, we just say it to each other.  Maybe that means solidarity?  I deal with a lot of non-profits and their favorite word is “unity.”  Everyone’s about unity.  And that’s because you need love.  Even though yesterday I was dealing with some stuff, telling myself “You don’t need love,” I know that I really do need it.  Think about it: when you were two years old, you couldn’t do anything.  You needed someone to love you, right?


This gentleman just lost his mother last week and was dealing with a viable mixture of grief and regret and second thoughts.  At the time I approached him, it was difficult for him to open up, but he did share a “stick figure” gratitude about his mother.  There is more that we talked about that is not recorded here.

stick_man_clip_art_24915I give thankfor my mother.  Over the past year, I realized that one of my main personality traits is that I love helping people.  I’m a software engineer by trade, but now I’m what you could call a sales engineer.  I’m the “architect” that helps engineers with their problems.  My mom, well, she touched a lot of people, too.  I have five biological siblings and count thirteen total as my brothers and sisters.  But all told, I’d estimate that she had at least twenty-five foster kids over the years.  She was a good person.


This gentleman was volunteering for BizSmarts.  Alex introduced me to him.

lunch-box-clipart-black-and-white-clipart-panda-free-clipart-18i8wh-clipartI give thanks for belts.  You know, we need a belt to hold our pants up.  You present yourself as an example to others when your pants are held up.  There are some people, though, who walk around with their pants down, pants sagging.  In other people’s eyes, they lose respect, even if they don’t deserve it.  I don’t disrespect people who don’t wear belts, but perspective is a big thing.

stick_man_clip_art_24915I give thanks to my mother, my father, and God.  If these didn’t exist, I wouldn’t exist.  The greatest thing they have given me is my life.


thought-bubble-student-think-bubble-clipart-free-imagesI give thanks for my visionary thoughts.  I think outside the box.  I think of the impossible.  If someone says “No” I say “Yes.”  I do almost the opposite.  If someone says “Why can’t we do this?” I say “You’re not doing enough.”

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | OCTOBER 2016 | Fear Edition | “Through Thick or Skin”


I really hate seeing anything pierce through skin.  Of course, I date a medical resident who loves watching videos of anything gross.  And he does surgery 4 or 5 times a day.  But even when I get blood drawn, I don’t care about the pain–just don’t let me see it.  Like in the first episode of LOST when Kate has to sew Jack’s arm–ew!

My biggest fear, then, would be having to pierce myself somehow.  I know–this is more of a selfish fear, but it’s still scary.


I fear death in general.  Everyone does, don’t they?

I haven’t had any close calls with death or anyone close to me die yet.  I just don’t like it.  It scares me, the idea of not having someone there anymore, not existing.

Recently, we moved into a new house.  We talked to our neighbor a handful of times.  And then just a few weeks ago, I came home from work and the cops were there and a white van was outside her house.  They think it might have been . . . it’s just sad.

And sometimes, now, I’ll look over at her house–and there’s a light on.

HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | OCTOBER 2016 | Fear Edition | “Conquering Fears”


A good story about fear–well, it’s kind of vain–is about when I was 21.  I conquered a lot of fears by going to school in London.  I was going to UW-Parkside and found a study abroad program through UW-Platteville.  I really had no monetary understanding or issues; I just didn’t care.  I just knew I was going to do this.

But I was scared shitless.  For one, I didn’t know anyone in the program because I was at a different school.  I just wanted to get out and do stuff–and I knew I’d have to conquer any fears.  When I was there, I had to figure out the Underground by myself–I did that.  And one time I figured out how to see four plays in one day!  LENNON, 42ND STREET, GIGI, and LES MIS–seriously, the opening night of LES MIS in London!  

When I came back from London, however, all the normal fears came back, especially since I didn’t feel, from London, like I had to make any real decisions.  But of course I did.

I want this kind of experience for my daughters.  I want them to experience a different culture and conquer their fears–at least temporarily.