Sunday, November 9, 2014

High Culture

It was a weekend of high culture around here. It started on Friday night when we attended a Guest House volunteer recognition at the Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. Donna was being recognized along with her friend Jill, and an attorney who has donated his services for the Guest House. For those who don't know, Donna and Jill are part of a large Facebook group that coordinate monthly meals for the guys at the shelter. They organize donations, cook the food and serve it every month. It is a lot of work and coordination and they are very good at it; good enough to be recognized for their efforts. I couldn't be prouder of both of them. Their hearts are huge and talents many.

If you've ever been to the Pfister you know its magnificence. It is a classic old Milwaukee hotel on the order of the Palmer house in Chicago. Crystal chandeliers, plush carpeting, ornate marble, beautiful artwork and details, details, details. If you don't feel rich when you're there, then you're probably not breathing. The place reeks of class and elegance. It's like stepping back in time. You half expect the elevator door to open with Marilyn Monroe walking out.

As part of the recognition there was a musical presentation by Cole Berger, a world-class pianist. Accompanying him was a very gifted flutist as well. They started the evening with some very difficult and, I would say, esoteric pieces. After a few numbers, the awards were presented and the performers started up again. I talked with Donna and the others and we all agreed that the music was hypnotic and captivating. We also all said that it was difficult to slow down our minds and lose ourselves in the music. We admitted to thinking about what we would do after the recognition or what our weekend would bring, or, or, or...

But all of us had the same response. We recognized the need to slow down and ENJOY the moment, enjoy NOW, right here. And when we did, it was really nice. Someone mentioned that the music took them skipping through fields of lilies. It is pretty amazing where the mind-on-music can take you. I don't recall where it took me, but it wasn't the ballroom at the Pfister. I was relaxed and removed. It was excellent. I know I did have time to reflect on how lucky I was to be in that place, on that night, on this day in my life. It was a magical night.

Then, on Saturday, we spent the day at the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books. This is an event with keynote addresses, presenters, authors, panels and books, books and more books. As I mentioned in my last post, I was on two different panels, Flexible Writer and First Time Authors. They were both given to packed rooms.

The moderator, Kathie Giorgio, did a wonderful job of keeping the panel peppered with questions. After a half dozen questions, she turned it over to the audience for questions. They asked engaging questions and were as gracious an audience as I've ever seen.

In between the panels I was lucky enough to attend the Michael Perry keynote address. He is one of my all-time favorite authors and a very engaging speaker. He had some great anecdotes and quotes. A couple come to mind. One was that two things come to mind when he's asked about the life he's been able to carve out of writing, speaking and farming and those are Humility and Gratitude. And these two qualities really show. He is the most down to earth "celebrity" I have ever seen. Just all real,

The other thing I remember, relates to the first one and that is his daddy always told that in life it was good to "run low to the ground so when you fall, it doesn't hurt as much." Again, humility and gratitude.

During his book signing, I asked if he would mind taking a picture with me. I had a woman snap a shot and then I offered him my book. I said that he probably had a stack a yard high by his bed of books people had given him. He said, "Ya know Jim, I get about 15 books a week." I laughed and told him that I'd consider it a privilege just to have it in his library. He thanked me for it and was deliberate in congratulating me in my own success. A class act from start to finish.

On top of this, I had great conversations with fellow authors, the public and even lined up my next potential speaking event at the Pewaukee Library in December. It was a day I will not soon forget to cap off a weekend of high culture.

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