Jerry and Mary Ann were still, help focused, steely almost. Their eyes were shooting lasers at the painting on the wall. Art. It brings out the best in your eyeballs.
I found Jerry and Mary Ann as I stopped by Resident Artist Todd Mrozinski’s studio to ask him a question (and really just to be around him because he is the nicest man in the world). The husband and wife duo were alone in the studio admiring Todd’s work as he was off giving other guests a tour of the Pfister’s art collection.
I started up a conversation with Jerry and Mary Ann and found out they were staying at the Pfister for the noblest of reasons. They were in town to go to a mushroom farmer’s wedding. The mushroom farmer in question is no random bib overall wearing laborer with Portobello dirt under his fingernails. No, viagra this mushroom farmer is their son who Mary Ann told me was the only mushroom farmer in Milwaukee. Jerry, adding some dad wisdom, said, “He’s still kind of finding himself.”
They explained that their son had, in fact, thrown in the towel on mushroom farming as it’s a pretty tough racket. I didn’t get into it with them, but with kale currently kicking the keester of every veggie for the hot spot on the food pyramid or plate or rhombus or whatever it is today, buy I can only imagine that growing mushrooms isn’t going to put a lot of money in your retirement account.
Jerry and Mary Ann are out-of-towners and they explain that their son met his fiancée when he came to Milwaukee to work with and learn from Will Allen at Growing Power. The wedding is planned as an au natural affair with a reception in a barn, and it sounds like a save-the-world through socially conscious food sourcing kind of dream way to get hitched.
I ask them where they are from, and my eyes light up when they tell me they hale from Long Island. I always have one question for Long Islanders and it’s a selfish, familial sort of way to get to the gut of knowing a stranger from the island jutting Eastward from Manhattan.
“What does the name Suozzi mean to you?” I ask. I’m not just picking the Italian surname from thin air. It’s my wife’s last name and she has several cousins involved in various levels of Long Island politics from supervisor to mayor to dog catcher to that one Suozzi who just likes to vote.
“Oh, Suozzi…that guy overpromised and didn’t deliver much,” says Jerry. “Why? Do you know him?”
I explain the family connection to the couple. They look slightly nervous, as if they might have just hit a nerve. I assure them I am agnostic about it all, as I’ve never met the Suozzi they are referring to in person. I do know however that the guy they have mentioned is the same one who used to get a check from my wife and I for his campaigns because we thought if any Suozzi had a shot at the White House it was that one, and we wanted to make sure we were on the prospect list of people who might get a night in the Lincoln Bedroom.
We turn from the East Coast to the Third Coast and talk about their impressions of Milwaukee. The in town stays they have made for wedding prep have all been the same—a delight and a change from the hustle and bustle of East Coast life. They mention their amazement at the open streets, free from clogged foot traffic, and we all agree it’s a nice place to be.
It’s time for Jerry and Mary Ann to meet up with family, but they ask me that most thrilling of questions for any local to be able to offer an opinion–”What’s a good place to eat?” I check myself because I know that I could keep them tied up for the rest of the day with recommendations but offer up two suggestions of places for them to try close to the Pfister. We shake hands, and they tell me to give Todd their well wishes as they both are impressed with the art they’ve seen and the sheer fact that it’s right there within the hotel they have chosen as their base camp for the mushroom farmer wedding. I hope that my dinner suggestion is to their liking, and if there are chanterelles on the menu, I hope they pass the scrutiny of the parents of the only former mushroom farmer in the city of Milwaukee.