She introduced herself by saying, “my name is Kelly. I am on an adventure.” I noticed her the moment she entered the lobby. She moved through the room, her eyes wide with admiration, and her attention fixed to the mural on the ceiling. I watched her with a knowing smile; I understand what it feels like to let yourself be awed by the magnificence of the lobby. She snaked her way through the noon-time throngs, finally perching in a comfortable spot at the lobby bar. Fortunately for me, her adventure was not a solitary affair. She welcomed me to take the seat next to her, and for a brief time, I had the opportunity to share a bit of this lively woman’s day of new experiences.
Kelly was raised in Marinette, a place Milwaukeeans consider “Up North,” a part of our uniquely Wisconsin geography that designates the area of the state that is densely wooded and dotted with cabin-ringed lakes. Growing up, Kelly’s family would occasionally come to Milwaukee for vacations. The family would head to Brewers games and spend long days at the zoo, at times opting to battle what felt to the family like big city traffic to head downtown to visit the dinosaurs at the museum.
As a child, Kelly had heard about The Pfister Hotel, her father having stayed in the hotel once on a business trip. He would occasionally speak of it, and based on his description, she was certain it was the most elegant place in Milwaukee. Once she left home for college she would periodically return to the city with her friends, courageously conquering the traffic that terrified her parents with the confidence supplied by youth. She recalled summoning a bit of bravery to enter the hotel for the first time as a young adult. She pressed on beyond the intimidation she felt, eager to finally have the opportunity to see for herself the opulence her father described when recalling his time at the hotel. That visit, now a hazy memory, occurred sometime in the 1980’s. It was her last time at The Pfister Hotel, until today.
Her day of adventure included Downtown Dining week’s lunch offering in Café at the Pfister, her reason for being in the hotel. Allowing her to enjoy her meal, I excused myself when Kelly’s first course offering, a strawberry salad, arrived, encouraging her to seek me out after lunch for what I promised would be a treat worthy of her special day. When we reconnected after lunch, I took Kelly to the 23rd floor, to see the views from the top of the tower. The day was an ideal one for sightseeing: the cloudless sky was a brilliant blue and sunbeams danced across the lake. The city shone brightly for us as we took in the magnificence on display.
It was a delight to watch her drink in this view. She immediately began taking photos, equal parts surprised and delighted to have the city laid before her. I pointed out the notable buildings, sharing with her historic tidbits I had pick up along the way as she captured the panoramic vista with the continual click of her camera. We stayed until a patchwork of the skyline had been collected, one snap at a time.
We chatted breezily on our return trip to the lobby. When the elevator doors opened, it was time for us to part ways. While our meeting was brief, we both intrinsically sensed a handshake was too impersonal an ending for a midday jaunt into the unscripted, and we simultaneously opened our arms to offer each other a hug. Soon, she was down the hall and into the bright sunshine, off to continue her adventure.