… and One to Go

Tom and Marge are almost there. One kid is halfway through college and the other has just vacated the guest room.

“You’re not off duty when your kids turn 18,” says Tom. “Not even when they’re out of college. A good friend warned me long ago that 30 is the new cutoff.”

Marge is wearing an “Illinois State Mom” tee shirt, which is what initially caught my attention. I earned my undergrad degree from Illinois State University and was pleased to see the unexpected Redbird pride.

“Our daughter is studying communications,” she said. “She’ll be a sophomore.”

Their son, the firstborn, the graduate, had studied accounting.  After a prolonged search and a move back home, he recently landed an accounting gig, complete with an office to finally mount his well-earned degree. Tom and Marge tell me he was back home in Chicago –at that moment– unloading cardboard boxes into his first grown up apartment.

Marge is distracted by her cell phone. “It’s him,” she said, smiling down to the phone screen.

“Ask him if he saw Colvin hit,” Tom says excitedly across the table. She doesn’t reply. “Ask him about Colvin.”

Marge’s slender fingers are nimble across the keypad. He watches for a moment, waiting, but she doesn’t look up.  Tom turns to me and tells me about baseball, how his family loves the game, how he hopes to visit every major league ball park.

“Just visit and tour,” I ask, “or will it only count if you see a game?”

Tom pinches his face, disapproving of my absurd suggestion. “A game,” he said. “Gotta see a game.”

The Cardinals played the Colorado Rockies that night, I learned.  Marge rejoined the conversation, “He saw it. They took a break from unpacking.”

More accurately than “rejoined the conversation,” I should say that  Marge was finished with her text conversation.  She would politely engage with us when pressed but, mostly, she listened as Tom and I talked. Initially, I worried that she was annoyed with my questions.  Then, I thought she was feeling drained from a full day in the sun or weary due to the late hour. When Tom announced that it was their 27th wedding anniversary, however, I recognized Marge’s nonplussed posture as simply a patient immunity to her husband’s enthusiasm for talking to strangers.

“Twenty-seven years,” I say. “What segments were the hardest with your kids?”

“It was scary when they were learning how to drive,” Marge said without effect. “They’re a lot more fun now that they’re out of their teens.”

“The elementary years were my favorite,” Tom said. “It was seventh and eighth grade that frustrated the hell out of me.”

Marge looks up from a menu. “You have to pick your battles,” she said.

“Yeah, you gotta pick your battles,” Tom said, flinging his hands into the air for emphasis. “She would always tell me that, but it wasn’t always easy.”

His smile was at once sheepish and precocious. I could imagine their span of years punctuated with fits of laughter, tight-jawed debates, picnics in the living room, beers in the backyard, a four-bicycle parade through the park. I could also imagine a catalog of skinned knees, broken toys and near-disasters. Every family has them, especially families with children.

“I kept reminding my kids that every sly move they were thinking of, we’d probably thought it or done it,” Tom says. “Smoking, drinking, making out, fighting, all of it. Kids want to believe they’re so clever when they’re young.”

“Just like we did,” I remind him.

“They appreciate things now,” Marge adds.

Tom smiles at his wife, settled by some truism. “Yeah,” he says, his voice sloped at the edges now. “It’s a great feeling when they start asking for your advice again.”

Marge and Tom have another night in Milwaukee. Both have family within an hour of the city and have decided to include the summer drive as part of their anniversary getaway. I congratulate them on their celebration and on getting their kids safely into adulthood.

“Whatever will you do with all that space and free time?” I ask, teasing.

Tom looks to Marge and then turns to me with an all-star’s smile. He leans in, speaking slowly and deliberately: “Whatever we want to.”

Rocks in their Pockets

They were like the prologue for a coming of age film, an assuring glimpse at how adulthood will frame their childhood adventures. John, with his salted hair, and Perry, with laugh lines softening his eyes, fell into the couch beside mine talking and laughing with the fluid shorthand of longtime friends and the loosened inhibitions of Summerfest beer. They were neither obnoxious nor loud, but generated an energy that pulled me in like static.

“Ours is a timeless tale,” John boomed when I asked them to tell me their story.  His smile was confident and his blue eyes were sharp behind his glasses.  That he answered me with his best movie announcer voice signaled that he was also a seasoned wise guy.

“Not timeless,” Perry said, admonishing John with a shake of his head.  They were both dressed casually in short pants and short sleeves. Perry’s shirt was neatly tucked. He turned to me to repeat, “It’s not timeless. You can’t say it’s timeless.”

“We’ve been coming up here for years,” John said, his thick hand slicing the air in front of him. “It used to be, like, an enormous pack of us back in the day.”

“Not a pack,” Perry corrected with a sideways smile.  “It was, like, eight of us.”

“Eight can be a pack,” John said, turning his shoulders to face Perry. After they exchanged a few rapid rounds, John sliced the air again, his vintage Schlitz t-shirt sloping the curve of his stomach “Okay,” he conceded, “we were a large group.”

They were practiced in this sharpening of one another, this joust. They’ve been friends for more than 25 years, meeting in high school at the northern ends of Chicago. They agreed that they had become instant friends.

Even after handing me this point of fact, I couldn’t help imagining much younger snapshots of them: knobby knees with scratched and examined scabs, bicycle races, rocks in their pockets, swapped comic books, and exploring together.  Always together.

“He’s been my best man twice,” John said.

“I did a pretty good job both times,” Perry said when I asked for which wedding he had been the better Best Man.  “Although, I might’ve done too good of a job the second time.”

Perry snickers at a memory and John cosigns by looking back over his shoulder and tossing a laugh to his friend.  John had been engaged in a separate lively discussion with the couple just joining our circle-of-couches community, but still managed to train an ear for one of their private jokes.  Always, always together.

Within the span of thirty minutes, John and Perry had turned our sitting area into a studio party. There’s a talent agent charting the arc of his career.  A young couple sighing that they’d been awkwardly confused as siblings all night. The mysterious would-be emcee wrapped in a head scarf and unseasonably heavy clothing. The managing editor with a love for comic books. And we’re all laughing. We’re all letting loose. We’re all at ease. We’re all drawn to the alchemy that is Perry and John.

When they return to their suburb, they’ll return to their very grown up selves as executives and family men.  They will commute.  They will negotiate.  They will work in the yard.  They will consume news and media. They will manage their expenses. They will plan for another summer.  They will navigate new scenes in their endearing, “timeless” tale. Always, always together.

The Society

There are rules, and there are rules. The first kind, we largely agree to be hard fast: stealing is wrong, kindness is good, unhealthy eating creates an unhealthy body, and cutting off someone in traffic fills your rear view mirror with crude hand gestures.

The second kind of rules, even italicized in our minds, are the ones we might conveniently recast as “guidelines:” wearing a helmet, copying your supervisor on every email, visiting the dentist twice a year and waiting until Happy Hour for an afternoon cocktail.

I brush away these mental italics and sip my whiskey.  It’s almost 2 pm here in Milwaukee, which means it’s almost 5pm in Portland. Or Reno. Or San Luis Obispo.  I sip, then, in solidarity.

Looking around the lobby lounge, I count two cups of coffee, one tea, one juice, two cokes and five bottles of water.  To my delight, however, a handful have also dismissed the italics to enjoy a midday toast:

Margarita

Mary is waiting for her airport shuttle.  She’s traveling back to Tucson where she works in TV advertising. “It’s the only thing I know how to do and, thank God, I do it really well.”

She is originally from Milwaukee, but hasn’t stood on the city’s soil since leaving 30 years ago.  A wedding -her favorite niece- lured her back, so she made a point of visiting her old Bay View neighborhood

“It turned out to be a highlight of my weekend,” Mary said.  Her skin was tan, her eyes were piercing and her dark hair was collected into a loose bun. “Milwaukee has turned into a hip, forward-moving city … but I can’t wait to get home to my own bed.”  We made a toast to Our Own Bed.

Pinot Grigio

Two young women, a blonde and a brunette, are curled to face each other on a couch. Both are attractive, both are in their late twenties and both had plenty on their minds. As I approach, their conversation feels dramatic but not intense. Facial expressions and hand gestures suggest the retelling of some unfortunate transgression by some unfortunate third party whose ears should be, unfortunately, burning at the moment.

The potential plot of their discussion exploded in my imagination once I learned they were political organizers. They met early in their careers during a campaign in Memphis. Brittany, the brunette, lives in Milwaukee now but hails from Seattle. Raven, visiting with her friend while in town from Washington DC, is originally from Houston.

“I’m sorry we were so cold at first,” Brittany said, reaching for her wine glass.  Raven only had water. “It must take a lot of guts to approach strangers.  Definitely wouldn’t happen where I’m from.”

“It’s true,” Raven said, mentioning a trip she’d made to Seattle. “They’re polite, but they don’t talk to anyone.  In the south, we talk to everyone.  The mix of those is probably why the Midwest is so confusing.” We laugh and toast Talking to Strangers.

 Beer

The couple chatted easily across their café table.  She had a tea and he had a tall stein of beer.  As I explained the Narrator appointment, Theresa listened enthusiastically. I quickly decided that joy and delight were essential elements of her world. She was effervescent, her eyes sparkling when she thanked the waiter, when her husband, Marty, described how they met, when they spoke of their children and, especially, as she remembered their travels.

“We’ve been to 70 countries,” Teresa said.  They live in northern Idaho out in the “extreme country.” Soft curls of honey wheat have been pulled away from her face.  She is a striking woman.  “Our kids have been to 22 or 26.”

“And 48 of the 50 states,” adds Marty. He is tall and bespectacled, sporting a boyish cut to his silver hair, and brandishing an endearingly mischievous grin. Turns out Marty is “America’s favorite veterinarian,” appearing regularly on Good Morning America and Dr. Oz. They’re visiting Milwaukee as part of a book tour.

Although they travel the world –logging Egypt and Bali as past favorites– they’re most looking forward to an extended family vacation in Oregon.

“We love it there. It’s beautiful and simple,” Teresa says. “Perfect.”  Toast to Simple and Perfect.

Malbec

When I explained my Five O’Clock Somewhere Sip Society to Don, he immediately raised his glass in a toast.

“To five o’clock!”

From Ontario, Don publishes a national magazine called Construction Canada.  He’d been pecking furiously at his keyboard when I started my Sip interviews.  I almost didn’t see his glass positioned behind the laptop.

“If you’re going to be parked somewhere working,” he said, “no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy a glass of wine.”

I told him of my nascent knowledge of wine, that I purchase bottles based on clever names or handsome labels. Don’s passion for wine was sparked by his passion for food.  He became interested in pairing wines after his first trip to New Orleans.

“Cajun and Creole foods were every bit as good as I’d heard,” he said, “and the flavors were even more enhanced by the wine.” Don and his wife have been students ever since: traveling to vineyards, attending classes, even making their own batches. They get together with friends often to enjoy one of Don’s gourmet meals and sample a complimentary, new wine.

“Wine is best when shared with people you love and care about,” Don said. He and his wife will be empty nesters soon and have been unwavering about maintaining balance in their lives.

“It’s all about quality of life and enjoying the life you’ve made,” Don says.  “At the end of the day, nothing else matters.”

I’ll gladly drink to that.

Enjoy The Fireworks In Blu

Once again, festival season in Milwaukee is upon us. It’s our favorite time of year! There’s nothing better than good food, good music, and to top it off, a great fire works display.

Are you ready to OOOH and AHHH?

Why weed the crowds, hunt for a good parking spot, or fight the heat and humidity when you can enjoy the fireworks from the best view in the city with a cocktail in your hand.

Join us in Blu for each and every firework display happening at the Henry Meyer Festival Park and throughout the rest of the festivals on the lakefront.

  • 6/27 – The Big Bang
  • 7/3 – Lakefront Fireworks
  • 7/13 – 7/15 – South Shore Frolics
  • 7/19 – 7/22 – Festa Italiana
  • 7/27 – 7/28 – German Fest
  • 8/19 – Irish Fest
  • 9/7 – 9/8  – Indian Summer

(Fireworks start at dusk, times subject to change)

For reservations, please email Alicia or call 414-273-8222 x 2801.

 

We’ve Won the ‘Stars of the Industry’ Award

We’re proud to announce that we’ve won the national ‘Stars of the Industry’ award from the American Hotel & Lodging Association in the category of guest relations for a large property. The awards program recognizes lodging employees and properties that best symbolize the quality service of the industry.

“We are honored to have been recognized with this prestigious award, which is a testament to our dedication to service,” said Joe Kurth our general manager. “We’re proud of the unique guest programs we’ve incorporated over the past few years, and would like to thank our guests for their ongoing support.”

The award in the guest relations category is given for programs that develop a climate conducive to new or repeat business, create goodwill among guests, or provide special services.

We’re all very excited to win this prestigious award.

Prizes

It’s like a Couples Wonderland in here tonight.  Practically every chair in Blu is filled with someone’s better half or, perhaps, better halves to be.

Beyond the south wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, a starlit and indigo sky stretches across the view, mirroring the dim hues and flickering candles inside. I take a slow lap around the room and then stand by the bar. I greet the bartenders and wait staff as they flow back and forth, but keep a keen eye on the room. I’m watching for any movements to suggest the imminent surrender of a seat.

I soon spy a couple preparing to vacate their couch near the fireplace.  I weave through the room and deposit myself into their seat before the plush cushions can reshape themselves. My couch and another loveseat are positioned next to the featured musician, a singer and guitarist named Ryan McIntyre. I look about and see couples knotted together in various stages of flirt and familiar:

The Just Mets — she speaks without affect, but corrects her posture each time she pauses to touch her tall drink.  He is leaning forward, just close enough. He nods his head to her words while his eyes tour her face and hair.

The Torch Bearers — effusing a well-stoked passion, even in their casual affection. He cups the curve of her knee as he orders from the waitress and she twists the curls at the nape of his neck once his attention is returned to her.

The Favorite Sweaters — well-worn and familiar, they are comfortable in each other’s company. Her face glows blue from her phone screen, his expression is blank, content to have her tucked safely in the nook of his draping arm.

The lounge hums with conversation, clinking glasses, laughter and Ryan.  He strums the final chord of a John Mayer song and a sound of distracted applause ripples through the room.

“David Gray!”

Ryan had just begun the charming, between-songs banter, when the man seated on my neighboring couch blurts his music request. He is deliberate, his volume just decibels under shouting and landing squarely between the settling applause and throat clearing. He’s dressed in khakis, a striped button-down, loafers and a blazer (yes, blue) drapes across the back of the couch. His seatmate is dressed in a soft and scalloped blush colored dress.  He raises his eyebrows in her direction and she smiles back approvingly as Ryan starts the next song. This must be David Gray.

There was a lot of couch real estate between them.  I believe scoring her favorite song should’ve prompted a wink, a touch, a kiss on the cheek or, at least, move them closer together.  Instead they tap their feet, bob their chins and enjoy the music.

The couple behind them, however, is fully committed to a bit of PDA.  She’s someone’s bridesmaid, liberated from the pack. Her hero, dressed in jeans and a sultry fitted tee, leans across their small cocktail table for a long and fluttering kiss. The pair of couples at the table next to them surround a small fountain of chocolate fondue.  All four are dressed casually, but the fellas somehow strike me as the least likely candidates for fondue.  Watching them all smile and laugh and dip, I suspect the ladies are applauding themselves for introducing another good idea.

Cold Play! a voice calls from the other end of the room. As Ryan chats with the audience again, a man comes forward to drop a bill into a large glass tip jar. “Yellow” is Ryan’s next song.

Dave Matthews. Michael Bublé. John Legend. Kings of Leon.

Between each song, men stand at Ryan’s tip jar in twos and threes, waiting to toss their tips into Ryan’s jar and win their dates’ favorite tune.  It reminds me of the carnival, when guys would test their skill and valor against moving ducks, falling balloons and stacks of milk bottles to win their ladies an over-sized stuffed toy.

My couch neighbors are smiling at one another again.  She sweeps hair from her shoulder, laying bare the sanguine curve of her neck.  He flags our waitress.  In the center of the room, The Worn Sweaters have tucked away the cell phone and cuddle tight on their plush chair. The Just Mets are still at the bar, facing one another on their stools now.  Her back and gestures seem more relaxed, his eyes are pinned to hers.  The Torch Bearers are gone.  She’d led him away long ago with barely the tip of her pinky finger.

My neighbors are on their feet.  We smile good night as they move past me.  I’m relieved to see him stop and deposit a tip in to Ryan’s jar.  Carnival prizes, after all, are never actually free.

Going Somewhere

It’s early evening. The downtown streets are still basked in sunshine and summer dresses. Bursts of citrus colors, flirty fabrics and bare shoulders breeze past the open patio windows of Mason Street Grill.

Inside, the lounge hums with an eager energy. Friends fill the space with animated banter. The largest group, four well-dressed couples, cluster along the bar. I imagine them relieved to abandon To Do lists and attaché cases for the evening. Perhaps they’ll enjoy a steak dinner inside the restaurant.  Maybe they’ll go dancing.  However their night unfolds, it is clear they’ve decided to do something.

The jazz trio reaches the end of its first set, and the crowd begins to thin. I notice them then, seated at a low table.  They are absorbing the entire room now: the mahogany paneled walls, the grand piano, the sumptuous curve of the bar, the glint of men’s expensive watches, the dimming light and the pervasive sense of Going Somewhere.  They were just a couple of teenagers.

Onteria and his girlfriend, Victoria, are graduating seniors heading off to college in the fall. They were being treated to a well-deserved celebration by one of Onteria’s mentors.

“I always knew I wanted to go to college,” Onteria tells me.  Clearly, having earned a full scholarship to prestigious Morehouse College in Atlanta.  He is handsome with an infectious smile.  He tells me he’d like to study Psychology or Physical Therapy.

“How about you?” I ask Victoria, who’s heading to Tennessee State University, another HBCU favorite.

“Nursing,” she says without effect, “if I don’t change my major or something.”

“Don’t stress about that now,” I say. “Sixty percent of college students change their major at least once.” The handy stat was lodged in my brain from years of delivering college readiness presentations to high schools and college freshman.

Victoria regards me thoughtfully.  She’s slender with elegant features.  Her eyes are sharp, and I’m not sure if she’s assessing or evaluating me.

We talk about plans for their last few months in Milwaukee before landing on the topic of all the uncertainties waiting for them at the edge of summer.

“I’m not sure what I’m afraid of,” Onteria says, that smile curling around his words. “It seems like we were just in 10th grade.”

Victoria considers before speaking, “I hope it’s all going to be worth it.”

Like 60,000 other Wisconsin graduates, Victoria and Onteria will decide whether their studying, late nights, aggravating teachers, deadlines, stressful rules, afternoons and weekends spent in workshops, tournaments and clubs and worrying about every possible thing in order to spend years away from home under grueling university study and agonizing personal reconstruction will, as promised, be worth it all.

Her statement hangs in the air.  Onteria looks at Victoria and Victoria looks at me.  This is not the time to fan out platitudes.

“I won’t lie, honey.  You might go through years of school and still not find a job. Or get a job you might have gotten without the degree.  But luck is really about being prepared when opportunities happen.  College puts you in the path of ‘lucky’.”

I pause.  She keeps her eyes on me.  I continue.

I tell her how the most fantastic lessons will happen outside the classroom:  dealing with that one chick in her dorm, negotiating extra credit, managing family drama from a distance, really stretching a dollar, surviving a breakup with the one, competing for internships and balancing heavier counterweights and freedoms.

“No matter what happens, you will be more,” I say.  It’s one of my mother’s favorite affirmations. “At the end, you will know what you’re made of. You’ll have struggled, stumbled and stood up over and over again.  And, yes, you’ll make lifelong friends.  Job or no job, you’ve earned the chance to have a college experience strengthen you.  That, I promise, will be worth it.”

Those eyes, they were glistening now.

“Please tell me those are happy tears and I didn’t make you feel worse,” I say.

She finally gives me a shy smile.  “I’m okay,” she says.  “It’s just kindof a lot to get used to.”

“You will,” I say.  “No one expects either one of you to be expert college students in the first week.  Figuring that out is part of the journey.  Make sure you enjoy it, though.  College is your last stop before full-grown adulthood, and let me tell ya …”

We laugh and guide the conversation back to summertime, me eager to be the listener again. The kids drift back to their own conversation and I fall into one with the mentor. As she talks, I watch Onteria and Victoria chat and tease near the patio windows.  It’s dark outside now, yet they are still two bursts of sunlight.  They, too, are filled with a sense of Going Somewhere.

Super Speedway Screening Ticket Give-A-Way

Milwaukee Indy Fest is right around the corner. To get you in the spirit, decease Marcus Hotels and Resorts is giving away three pairs of tickets to the screening of Super Speedway on Tuesday May 29th at the Marcus Majestic Cinema.

This special event will give race enthusiasts the chance of a lifetime to meet Michael Andretti and New York Times Best selling author, viagra Jade Gurss.

Here’s how to enter…

1. Follow The Pfister Hotel on Twitter (@Pfisterhotel)

2. Tweet: “Hey @Pfisterhotel I want to win a pair of tickets to see the Super Speedway movie via @mke_indyfest #IndyFest ”

3. Keep tweeting. Enter once a day through Friday May 25th at 3pm CST.

4. We will select a random winner Friday afternoon and they will be notified via Direct Message.

Good luck everybody.

Congratulations Alicia

Meet Alicia. If you have dined in the Café Pfister over the last two years, sovaldi you may recognize her. She has been instrumental in helping us carry out the Salve motto, giving  our guests a level of gracious service indicative of the hotel.

Because of her great work, see we are proud to announce that Alicia has been promoted to Food and Beverage Manager. In her new role she will oversee Blu, the Lobby Lounge and Café Pfister.

We are excited to have her in this role because, she will help bring out the strengths in these three very diverse outlets, helping to create even more memorable Pfister experiences for our guests.

Currently, she is working closely with Chef Frakes on a new happy hour menu including our newest addition, Fondue in Blu as well as unique drink specials in Blu and the Lobby Lounge.

But don’t worry, she hasn’t forgot about the classics. With all the changes planned, staples like Blu’s extensive martini menu including Alicia’s favorite, Savior Faire, a signature martini featuring the sweet flavor of St. Germain balanced with the crisp flavor of blood orange finish, will still be a focal point of the experience.

And while some things may change, one thing is for certain; the view in Blu will always be the best in the city.

So next time you’re in Blu, the Lobby Lounge or Café Pfister, say hi and congratulate her on her exciting new adventure.

Congrats Alicia, we know you’ll do great.

Marcus Team Wins Awards at the WRA/NACE Tabletop Design Competition

In March, a team of collective Marcus foodservice and hospitality employees submitted an amazing tabletop design in this year’s WRA/NACE competition. We are proud to announce they have won two awards for their submission “Detection.”

The first award was for “Most Innovative” and the second was for “Best Use Of Theme.”

Drawing inspiration from Sherlock Holmes, the team wanted their piece to be a setting that was romantically mysterious ruse on the verge of being solved.

Congratulations to the entire team involved including:

  • Emily Rizzo
  • Kim Casey
  • Louis Williams
  • Maggie Fehring
  • Nicole Frederickson
  • Theresa Wolf
  • Tony Bilot