She had me at “cheeseburger”

Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for blondes, medical but something told me I was gonna love a certain couple of ladies who lunch.

You can tell just by looking at someone that they have that unmistakable something-something called soul. And you don’t get soul by shutting your eyes and putting on blinders. You get soul by keeping your mind and heart open to all the world brings your way.

The only way that Sally and Bea could have had more soul is if they had eaten one of their simply sensible shoes as a little luncheon amuse bouche. The smiling eyes on their full-of-life faces is what first drew me to their table. Their sass and charm is what kept me there.

“What are you eating?” I asked as they welcomed me over.

“Bea’s having a cheeseburger, look ” answered her friend Sally. “She’s staying with a vegetarian, so she really needed a burger.”

Bea added, “It’s a relative and I‘m treated so well when I’m a guest. But I really needed a great cheeseburger.” Bea’s clean plate confirmed the quality of the meat on the once present bun.

I considered grabbing the hand of this beautiful blonde with the smiling eyes who has high regard for cheeseburgers and rushing off into the sunset, but I remembered that I rushed off into the sunset with a beautiful BRUNETTE who has high regard for cheeseburgers when I got happily hitched years ago and just decided that Bea is one right proper dame.

The ladies were sitting tucked in close to the lobby bar fireplace. They were snug. They seemed as cozy as two friends can be. And there’s good reason. This wasn’t their first trip to the rodeo.

Sally and Bea tell me that they have been friends since growing up in the Washington Highlands area of suburban Wauwatosa several years. As a former Tosan myself, we trade memories of streets and lanes and neighbors. We’re a few years apart, these ladies and I, but something tells me that I would have done a fine job making a fool out of myself to win their attention if we had shared our youths together in the suburbs.

My jaw drops when Bea tells me the real reason she’s here. She is the sister of former Milwaukee Poet Laureate, Antler. Antler is a big deal for any writer, and frankly should be a big deal for any reader (there’s a link to follow in this post if you click Antler’s name and any reader worth his or her salt should do so right now).

Bea is in town from her home in California to attend the memorial service for Antler’s longtime companion and most recent Milwaukee Poet Laureate, Jeff Poniewaz. As Bea talks about her brother and the loss he’s feeling from his dearly departed Jeff, I can see Sally watch her old friend with the silent wonder you give to someone you really adore.

Sally and Bea will finish their lunch and then head up to the second floor where they’ll look for the painting that a long ago family member of Bea’s created. They’ll spend as much time as they can together while Bea is in town, and then they’ll spend as much time as they can on the phone always remembering that there’s a lunch in front of the fireplace in their future again. Sally tells me that she comes to the Pfister for breakfast a lot with her 95-year-old father-in-law and hopes that we’ll bump into each other again.

Hope springs eternal for me that I have a lot more Sallys and Beas in my life. And a few more cheeseburgers with world class blondes, of course.

Two Texans

Two Texans,

architectural engineers,

college students,

conference attendees

named Shannon and Michaela

want me to write them love letters for their boyfriends.

two texans
Shannon and Michaela

 

Shannon lovingingly describes her boyfriend, Ryan, as

“a sarcastic ass always picking on me and my big head!”

She goes on to say she met him at a country club dance hall

four and a half years ago

and she’s “still waiting for the proposal

and make sure you put that in the letter!”

I ask Shannon why Ryan is holding back

she says Ryan claims he needs to “make sure it’s the right go” first

and that he is “still checking things out.”

Ryans passions?

“Trucking, working, and mudding in his ’97 blue Ford.”

She also adds “Shiner bock” and “Ziegen Bock,”

beers you can only find in Texas, apparently.ryan

 

shannon

Michaela’s “goofball” is named Justin,

and he is “the weirdest person you will ever meet,

a shy country boy who loves hunting and fishing.”

A little over a year ago Michaela asked him out,

and later on she had to ask Justin

to confirm if we were dating,

and his reply,

“Do I really need to?”

Michaela and Justin have two dogs,

June and Avery.

Michaela tells me she imagines that her boyfriend

is crying in bed and holding June now

that she has been gone for two days.

Typical behavior for the industrial technology student

who loves Fords but hates his own Dodge truck,

who loves Ziegen bach and Shiner beers.

justin letter

I am given a third assignment,

to write a letter to their friend Tate,

a “ditzy fashionista,

the owner of a wiener dog,

a smart, outgoing blonde”

who’s also studying architectural engineering

in Kingsville Texas

and is planning for her elaborate wedding

“which is not happening anytime soon.”

Her passions:

Chic Fil A, naps, sushi,

her football player boyfriend, Max.

Tate gets mad at Shannon and Michaela when they jaywalk.

“Really mad.”

Lastly, Tate collects trays,

shabby chic vintage trays.

She has so many she stores them in stacks.

 

tate

a despondent coffee bean anticipating its consumption

This hotel is rife with whiz-bang creators. At any hour someone with an opinion on Salavador Dali is likely to state it from behind a counter, pills since so much of the staff identifies with being an artist of some sort. Certainly, there is an official resident artist and an official resident narrator, but there are many more creative Pfister residents than just that. Take the three concierges: Peter is our resident costume constructor and actor, viagra Greta is our resident painting gallery owner and Roc is our resident live raconteur with a background in teaching English.

I have been here three months and I still haven’t met all of the musicians that lurk here.

I suppose if one hoped to find the classic bohemian employed by the Pfister, ed the most stereotypically logical place to look would be near the coffee in the café. Indeed, barista Adam identifies as a creative writer and a musician. He has the samples to prove it too, once, he handed me my receipt with two links to his work.

adamlink

The song “Coins and Bullets” on the bandcamp site is particularly evocative of late fall angst.

Adam reads this blog. One day he told me he wanted me to write him a letter and handed me my receipt with a request written in his precise and gentle script.

DSCN6790

 

This is the pinnacle of my life. This is the pinnacle of my usefulness.

The pulverization ritual is nigh.

The spiritual gain of the pulverization ritual???

To become grit and aroma,

I will vanish like steam on a hot day

like health from a hot dog

like they have always said oh,

thissucksthissucksthissucksthissucksthissucks

c e a s e l e s s  

w   o   e   b   e   g   o   n   e

so present

so nipsy

there is no other truth anymore

except: I am a bean and resemble a turd from an unidentified rodent.

Whims of taste supply and demand me to be shred, submerged, percolated, strained, stained, ingested, burped, excreted,

sold en masse

never remembered as the soul that I am

now roasting in a barrel.

This is my last moment to recall how

before my memory burns away

before I knew death would come

before I knew cruelty could happen at all

before all else there was gestation

soft pod skin seal,

ambition to make mom tree proud by my expansion,

“I’ll get so big that I’ll obscure our cacao pod neighbors!!!”

Ah, the laughter of caffeine cliques

so fruitless now

that we all

die.

DSCN6782

He liked it!
He liked it!

The Godfathers

The first time I ever went into the Pfister was when my godfathers (I have two) spontaneously invited me for a hamburger in the café. I didn’t know regular people from the local population could do that sort of thing, and I was nervous to be dining at an establishment I assumed (wrongly!) was designed only for travelers. That and I was wearing blue jeans and plenty of cheap plastic necklaces, which I feared (wrongly! So wrongly!) would prevent me from being allowed in. After that first time though, I did not hesitate to return when they offered me another hamburger at the Pfister.  Today, I’m strolling through the hotel on a docile afternoon hunting for a willing guest to chew the fat with and who do I spot?  The very men who first alerted me to the existence of this luscious lodge!

Godfather Bill Lemieux has shared meals in this hotel with John & Jackie Kennedy (for whom he worked), the Carters, Henry Jackson & Al Gore. He’s eager to share this fact with me as well as each passing member of the wait staff. He has also dined with Peter Yarrow from Peter, Paul and Mary several times at the Pfister. Another fact: Bill introduced Peter Yarrow to his wife. He won’t say how, but he does explain that in 1960 when Peter Paul and Mary came to perform in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, three young people from out of town asked him which restaurant they should eat at. He joined them and didn’t realize who they were until he went to the concert a few hours later and they greeted him from the stage.

“The most important thing in life is not that you have lived, but that you are living. All the things I‘ve done are yesterday. They are memories. Memories that are shifting.” Bill says this before taking a long silence. Godfather David Subat teases, “Then why do you keep talking about them?!” David tells a story of yesterday, thirty years ago in Oshkosh when he was a student. It was St. Patrick’s Day and there were cars turned over and burned in the street. Ruckus. Snowballs with stones in them were being thrown at the dorms. David turned his head behind him and saw 50-80 policemen in full riot gear, shields, clubs… “I told my friend Darren, ‘Darren, I think we should get the blank out of here.’”

And here we are in the Pfister, not on St. Patrick’s Day, not in the snow and not in danger of getting beat up. Relief, but only for a second before Bill brings the snow of Oshkosh back. “In college we had a massive snowstorm at the end of winter break. The roads were too perilous for many of the students to return to campus, but the president refused to close the college. I gathered everyone who was around outside the President’s building and we snowballed all the windows. The president came outside and said, ‘Alright Lemieux, I’ll close the college.’”

Bill starts to fabricate poetry on the spot, which he delivers aloud at a speed slightly too fast for me to record. It is meant to be heard only once, but that start of it goes, “In moments when sitting with a lady on black…” It was a very decent poem. I request another and beg him to include the topics of beavers and Mr. Pfister. Bill quickly recited a historically accurate account of Mr. Pfister admiring another man’s beaver skin top hat. “Memory is not consistent, it is constant,” says Bill.

 

 

Hey Historians Of The Future, READ THIS!!!

I am at my typewriter when a woman comes up to me with a request for a love letter. The reason for her love letter being ordered: the two of them are apart while her partner goes on an extended trip to Boston, Winnipeg and Lake Forest to pursue the subjects of their interest, gender queerness and poetry. While negotiating her order, the woman’s two young sons both wanted to play with my typewriter, ride the bell carts and slide down the railing.

I joined the three of them for lunch in the café and we engaged in a conversation where I learned (and I would like to state here that this conversation was grown organically, and was not related in any way to the delicious Reuben sandwiches served) that artificial butter flavoring is lethal if inhaled. So lethal, that the workers who produce it must wear hazmat suits. Artificial butter like most artificial flavors is a byproduct of genetically modified bacteria. I did not know any of this. However, I do think I might have heard about human organs being printed out by machines and the human ears harvested on the backs of mice, both of which were brought up in this discussion. Side note: I hope the historians of the far future will one day read this blog.

This here is a hazmat suit.
This here is a hazmat suit.

After lunch, I went back to my typewriter to write the love letter. Something for you to understand is that the recipient of this letter is genderqueer and therefore gets a different pronoun than a man or a woman. In this instance they, them, their all refer to the recipient of the letter. Here is the letter:

 

Dear Winnipeg,

you have yourself a visitor

you have yourself a dragonfruit

you have yourself a starfruit

a bumbershoot

some reals bumblebee honey

a pouring

all across the gender queer conference

with their golden red

sweetness for hot toast

I miss them the most

in the morning

in the evening

in the allthetime.

My adrenals fatigue

without the jolt

of you entering the room

to sit down on the couch of my life

with the two jumping bean

boys a squirming

across the plush cushions.

And Boston, you lucky devil,

getting your back scratched

by the tip of their pencil

and comforted by the warm touch

of their working laptop!

I wish I were you, Boston.

I wish I were a carrot frying in their pan.

When they return, my eldest boy will help me cook the celebratory feast of stir fried Indian roti flavored hummus. All natural of course, no hazmat suit will be necessary.

I am committed to finding my love

inside the River Forest, inside the Lake Forest,

where trees are hewn from pure water,

fishes wishes and fishes kisses.

Breakfast

Screen shot 2014-05-18 at 9.40.29 PM

“Breakfast, pharmacy ” by: Léon Francois Comerre (born 1850, died 1916), Oil on canvas, 48” x 28”

There is a woman who continually offers me breakfast as I type at my desk. She always hangs behind my chair, oblivious to my working status.  She is confident that I have just finished a long slumber and am now in need of some gastronomical vivification. The expression of her face is set into a gentle greeting, sovaldi as if she knows she is the first person I have seen today, and also that my hair is still snarled by the bed raggles. She is glad to see me in my most unrefined state once again. That’s my loyal servant!

I usually pay brief attention to my servant, but today two sisters asked me to write them a poem with her in it. The sisters, Jill and Judy, gave me these other facts to work off of: they both grew up in Peoria, Illinois, one now lives in Milwaukee and one currently lives in Portland (“Oregon, not Maine!”), both are staying at the hotel because the Portland based sister came to Milwaukee to attend the first birthday party of her granddaughter. Jill and Judy saw me just as they were coming back from a walk along the lake. They claim the status of being “exercise fanatics.” Additionally, they wanted to know why my servant wears a gold headdress that appears to be from somewhere in Asia and is, as my mother would tell me, “awfully fancy for breakfast time.”

The rest of this blog post is a digital transcription of what I spontaneously typed for Jill and Judy:

 

Sisters,

Here, eat your breakfast!

A quart of sugared buttermilk

served in a silver pitcher

that tinges the thick nectar within

with the substance of metallic

responsibility to the day rising:

one in which 73,482,551,232,473 strides

will be stridden besides your sister

hip-to-hip see-sawing in time to the waves

that know Portland, Portland and Milwaukee well

enough to know you’ll need this roll

and empty cup of coffee for strength.

There’s just one roll here though, so half it

and half this smile from the French

woman in orientalist headdress.

Baubels and rectangles of gold

parting the lace of her face

and confusing her time period

of 1900 with that of 2084

when such temple bling

will be all the rage

amongst Peoria’s android

house maids.

And if you were born a year ago today, you may just live to see this fashion.

 

sisters

 

 

 

 

The Secret

 

A young girl

tells her grandfather

she’s learning to write.

 

She explains

the yellow pencils

and blue lined paper

 

She tells him she’s learned

how to write her name.

 

“Well that’s magnificent!”

he exclaims,

“I’d love to read your handwriting.

Will you write something for me?”

 

 

She shakes her head,

“But Grandpa,

you can’t read it yet,

 

“I’m just practicing.”

 

Her grandfather smiles

and leans down to whisper

gravelly grinning decades next to her face

 

“My dear,

that is the great secret.

 

Even when you get good

at handwriting, or anything else,

even when you grow up

and get big like your parents,

even when you’re old like me,

 

every shoelace

and every signature

 

is still

just

practice.

 

Let me show you…”

he explains,

wrapping his fingers

around the yellow Ticonderoga

#2

 

“We can practice

together.”