You see the woman in the nude shag dress?

When the professional ballroom dancers come en masse to the Pfister,

expect to find several crystals strewn across the bathroom floor,

shed from their glistening, parrot colored ensembles

that induce the ordinary citizens in the café around them to exclaim,

“Ah my god, I can’t believe it!”DSCN1320

I go up to the source, the infestation of music and extra bright spangles,

and experience a crescendo

starting from the cobblers

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The bottom of every shoe is made of rough swede to prevent sliding. This brush is sold so that you can rough up sole’s surface when it gets flat. It should not be used on cats. I asked.

moving to the bangle vendors,

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then racks stuffed with crinolines,DSCN1380 DSCN1321 DSCN1361 DSCN1316

the woman with two attendants lacing a thin string of diamonds across her back,

and climaxing to when I step into the ballroom

and watch three male dancers dragging a flashing blue pod onto the floor.

The pod unfurls revealing a woman wrapped in a blanket of LED lights.

They lift the woman high in the air,

and she raises the diode blinking blanket above her head.

After seeing that I stay, watching for hours.

Most of what I witness are eight to twelve couples

simultaneously dancing and competing

in fox trot, Viennese waltz, samba, cha cha, tango and swing categoriesDSCN1653

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I am given a guide that lists the expected components of each dance.

 

for one minute to randomly selected music,

sneaky, unpredictable music

ranging from Eurythmics hits, Country, Sinatra,

Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets,

Lady Gaga, Enya and metallic rock.

The dancers do not know what they are going to get song-wise,

and sometime it takes them several seconds of standing still

before they make their first timid move to the difficult tune.

A companion joins me and points out the various doctors

that she knows on the floor,

“You see the woman in the nude shag dress?

She was my fertility doctor years ago.

She usually wins too.”

My companion points to the dancer in a black and yellow dress,

“She’s a highly regarded dermatologist.”

I admit, the tango seems the most exciting.

My companion corrects me,

“No, it’s Argentine tango,

it’s very… alluring.”DSCN1476

DSCN1482Dancers cross the aisle in front of us,

obscuring our view of the dance floor

which gives us excuse to oogle their satin

dragon embroidered Japanese robes

that encase pastel petticoats.

A few of the women pin their ponytails

to their shoulder straps so that they do not budge

when they are flipped upside-down.

Another has a handkerchief attached via elastic

to her wrist, so that when she raises it,

it hangs whimsically, mournfully, pretentiously

so magnificently that I think to myself,

‘I am going to start wearing a handkerchief on my wrist like that.’

I stay until they announce the winners at midnight

My companion tells me that some of the dancers

I just watched have been performing since 7a.m.

In the elevator

a woman with red rhinestones

glued between each of her

eyelashes

speaks to me in a Russian accent

saying, “Maybe next year you will be competing,”

and the way she emphasizes “maybe” sounds prophetic.

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The Hard Part About Living In Costa Rica

I meet her in the elevator and she says she recently moved to Costa Rica. I ask the Costa Rican ex-patriot for a story and she tells me that she is not a very interesting, site story-rich person. I whine, “Come on, you live in Costa Rica! Haven’t you seen some crazy wildlife down there?”

“Oh yes, monkeys, sloths…” and lists a few other fantastic creatures I have never even heard of. Then she stops. She has nothing more to say. I ask her, “What’s the hard part about living in Costa Rica?”

 

The hard part about Costa Rica:

 

It is not the U.S.

You have to adjust what your cultural expectations are and accept what is different.

If you want to go to Costco it is a 3.5 hour drive.

It is warm all the time, clinic unceasingly.

 

The last point surprises me since the Costa Rican tells me that before she moved there she lived in Los Angeles, a place I would assume to be a year-round temperature inferno. I want to ask more questions and take her picture but she disappears. I wonder if I have disturbed a famous actress. She was casual but had an undeniably photogenic presence. Speaking of which, I think I see a large, multiple bride wedding photoshoot taking place on the stairs.

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I ask a man, standing apart from all the hubbub of mothers and aunts frumping their daughters gowns how many of these women are getting married today. He tells me they aren’t. It’s prom.

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I suppose they do look rather young. When I ask them what high school they represent they tell me “Pius.” My own alma mater! They are all junior girls, about to dance at the Renaissance Place. I instantly recall the picture of myself as a Pius junior attending the “Winterlude” school dance at the Renaissance Place.

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Outside the elevator I meet another young woman in a nice dress. “Prom?” I ask her. “No,” she says. She is volunteering for the Autism Society’s Gala. “This is just my sister’s Sadie Hawkins dress.”

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Near the ballroom I ask the woman in a nice hat how she became involved in the autism community. “I’m not,” she says. It turns out she is here for the Bel Canto Chorus’s 22nd Annual Fundraiser Gala. I can’t get anything right.

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So is she.

 

To end my day, I watch resident artist Todd Mrozinski do an old school pre-camera photoshoot of Brittany-the-barista.  Before starting a piece, Todd rubs his hands together and whispers ” Hah hah hah hah hah” to himself.  As he paints there are a lot of noises that sound like a kindergartener scrubbing a marker against a rough piece of construction paper.  Two hours after the initial tracing, he is done.

DSCN1276DSCN1278DSCN1279brittany

25 Pedestrians of Milwaukee on a Friday at 4:30p.m.

On the twenty-third floor I go to the windows to learn about the pedestrians of Milwaukee.

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  1. A man is just off work from a job where they blast air conditioning, sick see his long sleeves? This man is free now but carries the burden of his day and his backpack as he wonders what lies underneath the manhole cover.

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  1. A car pulling into a parking garage politely avoids the fellow carrying a big soda.  Mr. Big Soda knows that though this particular car is polite, other cars might not be, so he must not sip his soda (no matter how massive it is!) until he is safely past the driveway entrance.

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  1. No hands.

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  1. Three friends all wearing plaid, blue jeans and backpacks. Very close friends. They also all appear to be very close in height and age.

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  1. Jogging man imagines he is Hermes with winged ankles, running through the Grecian skies with a news report for Zeus.

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  1. Woman just making sure the whole present is still in there. It would be terrible if she had forgotten part of it on the store counter when she bought all those rolls of tape.

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  1. He walks and texts, ignoring the sea of cement all around him.

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  1. A man jaywalks as bold and sure as the stripes on his shirt.

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  1. She walks so quickly she is almost out of the frame by the time my camera clicks.

DSCN588310. This woman has a water bottle that is so beautiful (of amber hue, with flower motif) that she carries it facing the hotel in the hope that the Pfister narrator will see it and extol its marvelous grace. Oh! And how I gasp!

DSCN588411. He thinks he can hide behind the “No Parking” sign, but he doesn’t know we can see his reflection in the window. Heh heh heh.

DSCN588812.  These two people don’t know each other, lead different lives and even walk in opposite directions in this realm, but in the land of the shadows they face the same way.

DSCN5889 13.  This guy has style.

DSCN589014.  This guy has an itch above his right ear.

DSCN589615.  I see so many people rolling luggage, carrying backpacks and bags downtown it appears as though there is a great migration taking place.

DSCN589916.  He doesn’t stop though he does consider the parking meter’s stasis.

DSCN590117.   Man clambers upon the motorcycle for a few thrilling moments and then gets off again. Its not his motorcycle.

DSCN590918.  Stylish bow tie fellow locks gaze with another man, as if to say, “You stay in the street. This curb belongs to me.”

DSCN591019.   Nice shoes, sir.

DSCN591420.  This guy knows that contrary to what the sign says, there is more than one way.

DSCN591621.  There goes number 21 and her green cell phone. It is amazing that I can see that she has a green phone all the way from the 23rd floor.

DSCN591722.  Woman has animated conversation with parked vehicle.

DSCN592023.  Everyone on this corner seems eager to leave it.

DSCN5927 24. This man takes wide strides as he walks.

 DSCN583825. Four people stop in the lot to pet this car. Good car, good.

October Gallery Night and “The Art of Marcus”

This October’s Gallery night was a particularly special one, not only for Timothy and The Pfister, but for associates across all three properties owned by our parent company, Marcus Hotels.

“The Art of Marcus”

Some incredibly talented artists from here at The Pfister Hotel, The InterContinental Milwaukee & The Hilton Milwaukee City Center gathered together on Friday, October 19th in the Rouge Ballroom for a special exhibit entitled “The Art of Marcus.” Featuring twelve artists, and over 40 pieces of work, this special exhibit curated by current Pfister-in-Artist, Timothy Westbrook.

Featuring work across numerous mediums from fabric, to ceramics to painting, photography and more – Associates had a chance to display an often hidden and unknown side of their talents beyond their roles as hotel employees and members of the Marcus Hotels family. We posted early about all of the participating associates here.

As part of the event, Timothy created 5 awards in the following categories that were announced by Marcus President & CEO, Greg Marcus towards the end of the post-Gallery Night reception:

  Viewers Choice –
 Best in Show, Pfister Hotel –
Best in Show, InterContinental Hotel –
Best in Show, Hilton Milwaukee City Center –
Best in Show, Overall –

Best in Show, Overall winner, Charles Nickles will have his own exhibit at Gallerie M in the Intercontinental Hotel in early 2013

Sponsors of the event included Utrect Art Supplies and Digital Edge Copy & Print Centers.  Prizes across the categories included a Utrect supply bag, gift certificates to Digital Edge, Profolio Art Portfolios and more.

In all, four individuals were thrilled to have been recognized in the award categories, including the Pfister’s own Alison Barnick as Best in Show, Pfister Hotel and Charles W. Nickles as Viewers Choice and Best in Show, Overall.

As part of his Charles’ awesome honor (and probably the part we’re most excited about), Charles will have his own exhibit hosted at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel.

Joshua Hunt took the award for Best in Show, InterContinental Hotel and Daryl Stoll won Best in Show, Hilton Milwaukee City Center. 

Timothy Westbrook, Artist-in-Residence

All the while curating and coordinating the “Art of Marcus” event in the rouge, Timothy’s studio was jam packed through much of Gallery Night as visitors stopped in to see his progress to-date.

Featuring several of his dresses from the RunUp 2012 event at the Pritzlaff Building a few weeks earlier, and his in-progress unicorn costume for Halloween, there was really no shortage of conversation to be had for visitors to the Westbrook studio.

A personal highlight by many were the awesome PBR shoes that Timothy had made for a PBR Art Show that occurred on the same night as RunUp 2012.

 

All and all the evening made for a fantastic turnout, with arguably the best Gallery Night reception we’ve held at the Pfister yet.

You can check out our full gallery of photos from the “Art of Marcus” event over on our Facebook page (and you don’t need a Facebook account to see them). 

Promenading Through History

Everyone spotted them immediately (and I hope I don’t embarrass them by saying so). The young couple, and he matched her with a colorful vest and tie under his tuxedo, she was in the most amazing shade of teal green. Her dress fluttered against the floor and I was in complete agreement when the photographers posed them on the stairs to highlight its length and ability to cascade (it’s not too often in life you have the opportunity to wear a dress that “cascades” down the stairs).

It was prom night and after all the up-dos and gowns were assembled and the corsages (matched wonderfully, good job, boyfriends), the Pfister was the backdrop for the essential parental photo shoot. Two moms, armed with digital lenses, were squeezing this adorable young couple into every corner, every angle and every stairway they could find. The pair was truly promenading through the lobby. I was particularly fond of the impromptu shot taken on a luggage rack, squeezing the teens in close together. Camera clicked, photo taken, and the gentleman’s trusty cell phone came out and texting began. The scene was perfect.

I had to make sure my guess was right—the photographers were the mother of the girl and the mother of the boy, respectively. When I asked, they both agreed, though they took little time to talk to me as the students had just found a new perfect location and a photographer’s (mom’s) work is never done.

A few minutes later, more teen red-carpet readys came down the steps and now commenced group shots—with more moms.

I remember being photographed for my school dances—by both families. I remember feeling awkward and angry that it was taking so long. I remember wishing they’d be done with it already, the corsage was itchy, the boning in my dress felt strange and there was uncomfortable couples dancing (aka “swaying”) to be done. I smiled as I watched the young dates go through the same process—only the backdrop wasn’t a recently vacuumed living room, but rather a historic hotel. I wondered if I would have liked my photo sessions any better had they been at the Pfister. I wondered how many of the girls secretly thought “maybe this could work as a modeling shot?” I wonder how many will return, having made this memory. Tomorrow they won’t remember the hotel or the pictures as much as the dance, the dates, the snacks, the drama…but later, looking back, which part will stick? The grand staircases? Their mother’s excitement? The boyfriends may come and go, but these photos will be dragged out frequently. Their fiancé will see them; their children will take a look. The dresses won’t be in fashion anymore (though of course, once pulled out for their grandchildren, the style will surely have come around again), hairstyles will get a chuckle…but the Pfister will be the same.

I’m jealous of the girls who were being photographed on perhaps the most beautiful night of their lives so far. It was like a movie to watch them descend the stairs while the shutters clicked. I’m just as jealous of the mothers, though. They knew what they were doing. They know how to treasure a moment because they’ve had so many more than these young men and women. They didn’t feel awkward or embarrassed taking over the space. They didn’t mind telling the teens just where to stand. They knew just what they were capturing and years later, they’ll be thanked for it.

Historic Lens

As promised, Amanda has forwarded the photos from her  and Dan’s photo shoot.

It’s incredible to have lived the experience with them, but then to see some of the chosen photos and the angles and moments their photographer, Chloe from Life Tree Photography captured recreates the experience in an entirely new way.

I hope that’s what the blog does. I know what it’s like to talk with guests about my little notebook, their vacation, their work, their families and traditions. I know what it’s like to say “But the Pfister is just beautiful!” But even better, experiencing it yourself and seeing the recanted tales must double the power of memory, experience and more.

Some of her photos capture only a glimpse of the hotel, which is what is so intriguing to me. The patterns on the floor stand out to me because that’s what I’m attuned to seeing. Yet, in the photo, it’s Amanda and Dan who steal the scene.

Engagement photos at the Pfister bring a Coke and a smile.
The infamous balloons--charming, but a far less glamorous photo than Chloe's.
The Pfister as backdrop for creating a memory…
The balloons we saw Dan walking down the street with weren't the important part here.

 

Seeing them in period garb also enlivens the hotel. My favorite is the photo of the pair exiting the hotel and the large revolving doors behind them. Though the photo was taken in 2011, they could have been walking out of this very same Pfister 60 years ago.

Enjoy some snippets from another perspective and relish with me what it’s like to experience the hotel twice–from different angles, through a different lens–and then come down and capture your own moments, because if you haven’t figured it out yet, there are doors and floor patterns and chandeliers aplenty for you to sneak into your memories.