Talking art, storytelling and friendship

12 Jun, 2013

by Molly Snyder

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They weren’t sure if they wanted to talk to me and I don’t blame them. Their lives are busy and consequently they get to spend so little time together. And they don’t know me.

But slowly, carefully, Muriel and Susan opened up to me.

We talked about art, but mostly, about friendship. And like all cherished friendships, Muriel’s and Susan’s 22-year friendship is a mosaic of similarities and differences.

Muriel grew up in Wisconsin; Susan in Illinois. Today, Susan lives on the South Side; Muriel is in the North Shore. They have different marital statuses. Muriel is single by choice; Susan has been married for years.

But their similarities are plentiful. They both love visual art, writing, theater and …

“We both really like to have fun,” says Muriel.

On this particular day, the ladies are having fun in the Lobby Bar after a visit to the art museum. It’s become an annual tradition, one they usually do during Super Bowl season. This year, however, Muriel had family obligations and they had to postpone it.

They have other connections to the Pfister as well. They attended tea at Blu. They are also both fans of former Pfister Artist In Residence, Shelby Keefe, and visited her studio.

So what makes a good friendship? I ask them, after asking myself this very question a thousand times in the past three years when it came time in my life to reevaluate my relationships. (But that’s another blog.)

“Someone you can count on no matter what’s going on in your life not to judge you. Someone who is there to listen if nothing else, but even more than listen, to be responsive. It’s so basic. Just somebody you can count on,” says Susan.

“It’s really nice to have a girlfriend,” says Muriel.

“Especially when you’re married,” says Susan, laughing softly.

Somehow we start talking about the local storytelling group, Ex Fabula, and New York-based storytelling group, The Moth. We all attended storytelling events in the past – I actually competed in and won an Ex Fabula story slam earlier this year – and marvel at the newfound popularity of storytelling.

People are flocking to public spaces just to hear stories? This is wonderful, but a little suprising. Is it backlash to technology? Is it because people have forgotten how to really talk to one another? Is it because strangers, like us, don’t usually open up?

We live in a society based on asking forgiveness when we provide too much information and we watch reality TV but don’t want to disclose honest, personal information.

We post our breakfasts but not our fears on Facebook.

“I used to work here,” Muriel offers up at one point in our conversation. She goes on to share wonderful stories of working at the Pfister Cafe, then called The Greenery, in the late ‘70s. And then we share more stories, these were off the record. (Sorry.)

Oh, the things we learn when we listen. The things we say when we think someone is listening. Really listening.

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About the author

Molly Snyder

Molly Snyder has lived in Milwaukee her entire life. She started keeping a diary when she was four and published her first poem at age 10 called “The Unicorn” in the now-defunct Shorewood Herald. Today, she writes less about mythical creatures and more about Milwaukee people and places. She is a senior writer at OnMilwaukee.com, where she has worked for the last 12 years. Telling people’s stories is her passion.

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