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Showing posts from 2012


In my mind, I'm superimposing a 30-year-old snapshot over the scene actually taking place. My father is prone on the carpet with my sister, two daughters and I sitting in a semi circle around him. A deck of playing cards has been shuffled and divided among us. My father is holding center court, explaining the game of Dirty Hearts like he was a reading an excerpt of the Illiad.

I remember this.

My father is hardly a florid or theatrical man, but has a way of making explanations seem monumental and deconstructing abstractions, like love or racism, into black and white grids of logic. After his military career, I hoped Daddy might become an educator. I could imagine him as the unyielding middle school teacher pushing unsuspecting underachievers to unexpected personal heights.  Or the college professor with "sold out" course sections every semester. Sadly, he wasn't the least bit interested in classrooms or lecture halls (he also has an exhausted tolerance for insolence a…

Standing and Waiting

I always felt for the kids who were picked last for everything. Even now, my chest will ache at some silver screen footage of kids hoping for a pudgy finger to point in their direction, of them standing and waiting for someone to call their name and rescue them from another gym class Debacle.

In school, I was seldom among the first kids to get picked for kickball teams and group projects.  I was rarely the last kid standing, either. Falling in the middle, and playground politics being as volatile as they were, I could never be sure if "today might be the Last Kid day." It wasn't until I was finally making my way to one team or the other that the adrenaline and waves of anxiety would subside and I could, once again, acknowledge the existence and plight of other human beings. Relief was quickly replaced by pangs of guilt as the remaining cluster of classmates awkwardly stood and waited for someone to call their name, for someone to rescue them from Last.

I thought of this …


We both pull a foot back up to the curb, calculating the narrowed opportunity for dashing across the street. The oncoming cars do not lurch forward. They are not as impatient as us. I look quickly to the traffic sign, for the little LED pedestrian guy. He's flashing red. I look back to the traffic, at the headlights pulling ahead, and acquiesce.

"It's not worth it," says the woman who had gauged her traffic-defying potential beside me.

"This would be the night we slip and fall," I say, shaking my head. Cars snake across our intersection.

"That would be an awful way to go," she says.

This strikes me as funny, for some reason. "Yeah," I say. "I'm hoping to give my people a better story to tell at my funeral."

We're both peeling back the beginning of a laugh.  Her voice is chiseled, textured. The caliber you wouldn't want firing threats or reprimands.

"I read about an actress who took a bunch of pills, and they …

Pfister: Laws of the Ladies Room

Laws of the Ladies Room “I’ve lived in Milwaukee my whole life and never been to the Pfister.” This is how Dana and I became best friends.  Okay.  Not really. We were more like Spontaneous BFFs, the kind you experience at intimate intersections, such as the ladies room.  What begins as a comment about hand soap, or the hour, or a fierce pair of shoes could  bloom into a confessional, a counseling session, a health consultation or even a plot. The Laws of the Ladies room do not reflect those on the other side of our door.  First of all, time stands still. We can exchange full biographies, transcribe a complete cell phone directory, or annotate entire relationships in the time it takes to tinkle, lather, primp and adjust our pantyhose.  Second, judgment and the concept of “TMI” is suspended, like zero gravity on the moon. Finally, as quickly as we are seized with the pull of “sisterhood,” we accept that the bonds will fall from us like whispers once we toss our paper towels and exit. I …

Pfister: "Chatter"

Chatter The steady pacing is a ruse.  They navigated easily through an obstacle course of more than a dozen cardboard boxes outside the Imperial Ballroom.  I’ve orchestrated large events and will confess that set-up never runs this smoothly without precision planning. I was, most certainly, observing a pro team of volunteers.  The women floated amid the boxes like a quiet force before a storm. Well, maybe not quiet. “If we put the paperwork in first, the bags will stay open.” “Only one perfume in each bag, not one of each perfume in each bag.” “Watch out for the insecticide.” They fall into a rhythm, a walking assembly line to pull items from open boxes, place  sponsor swag into cloth totes, and move each large bag to an expanding sea of black canvas. “How’s Amanda?” “Did you enjoy the Chicago trip?” “Your daughter is done with law school already?” The next day’s luncheon is Go Red for Women, Milwaukee’s celebration in the American Heart Association’s national campaign to galvanize communiti…

Pfister: "Pink Frosted Dreams"

Pink Frosted Dreams I sensed them before I saw them.  A carbonated excitement that pushed aside the steady hum of the front lobby.  It was a gaggle of girls, perhaps 10 or 11 years old.  They had tote bags on their shoulders and duffle bags dropped to their feet.  Their small group, roughly a half dozen, tittered blissfully, gazing up to the ornate ceiling, pointing to the chandeliers, looking around at the austere paintings on the wall.  Nearby, two mothers are digging in their handbags and collating paper printouts, waiting to check in.  A third woman stood with the girls.  Her smile seemed to relish the girls’ delight while her eyes were attentive to the other lobby guests.  Great instincts; she was not a rookie chaperone. I offered to share cupcakes with the girls in the café while the mothers got checked in.  More great mother-chaperone instincts: she was listening for red flags and scanning my soul as I introduced myself.  I expected nothing less.  I asked her to join us and we …

Pfister: "Candlelight Vigil"

Candlelight Vigil As the minute hand makes its incremental sweep toward five o’clock, the atmosphere on the main floor swells with anticipation for the weekend.  A boisterous cluster of men greet one another near the lobby bar.  A young co-ed rushes to the concierge for directions.  A preschooler fingers the pink sparkles on her princess shirt as parents carry her sibling up the stairs in a stroller.  Perched on impressively high heels, a slender woman anxiously watches the revolving door. Down the hall in the boutique, an older couple selects a tangerine silk blouse for their theater outing.  As they chat with the associate, I follow the blouses, blazers, cocktail dresses, bracelets and chocolates to a table display of candles.  I recognize the round tins immediately. I’d received one as a gift last year, but had expected not to enjoy its scent because I’m not a fan of mint chocolate.  Turns out, I loved the candle so much I’ve kept the burned out tin as a reminder to research the ma…

Pfister: "People Watching"

People Watching
I feel enchanted tonight.  Maybe it’s the night air, the saucy décor of Blu, the nighttime glitter of city lights or, maybe, it’s my first Narrator assignment.  Yes, let’s go with that last one. Excited, I take a seat at the bar and begin to survey the room.  This, I’m good at.  I wouldn’t  say that I’m a voyeur, but I’ve always insisted that people watching should be an Olympic sport.  I order my standard whiskey on the rocks, and observe. Near the window, a cluster of women have landed on a topic that pulls them toward one another, gesturing passionately as they talk.  Behind them,  a lively team of conference attendees are chattering when, much to the group’s delight, a dark-haired man stands to add elbow antics to the discussion.  Neither of these groups need their rhythms interrupted by me.  Not now. An attractive, mature woman enters the lounge with a  tall, sturdy man following closely behind.  Like popping corn, my mind springs with questions as I watch them cro…