Eavesdropping, postcards and the lost art of film cameras

06 Dec, 2013

by Molly Snyder

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I love a coincidence. I really do. I might even take it one hippie-sandaled step further and think about some things as more than a coincidence. But that’s rare.

Recently, I experienced a good ol’ fashioned coincidence at the Pfister Lobby Bar.

I was sitting at the bar, talking to the bartender, Joe, about the group of people who recently stayed at the Pfister to attend the Historic Hotels of America’s annual conference. The event brought more than 75 historic hoteliers from across the country to Milwaukee.

I had the pleasure of chatting with these passionate folks at a social gathering during their stay and learned more about their hotels. (For the record, I now want to go to every single one of them.)

After they left, I wrote a haiku about each hotel and then sent the haiku on a Pfister postcard to them as a thank you for coming to Milwaukee.

I spent an entire Saturday doing this. It took me 13 hours. I did not change out of my skull pajama pants. I became a human haiku factory. I loved every minute of it.

Here’s one of the haiku I wrote. This one’s for the historic Hershey Hotel in Hershey, Penn.

Chocolate check in

At the sweetest place on earth

History unwrapped

I was telling Joe all of this and more, and suddenly, I sensed the woman to my left was deeply engrossed in our story. She was even smiling when he or I cracked a joke.

This does not weird me out. I, too, am an eavesdropper. A dipper. A nosy Nancy. So I turned to her and introduced myself.

She told me her name was Cindy and she couldn’t help overhearing our conversation for two reasons. One, because she often comes to the Lobby Bar to listen in on conversations and two, because she has been working on a postcard project for years.

She went on to tell me her postcard project features hand-colored black-and-white photographs of famous Milwaukee buildings and locations, from the Domes to the stained glass window in the children’s section of the Downtown library.

“I love postcards,” she said.

“So do I,” I said. “And I love listening in on conversations.”

We looked at each other for one second longer than strangers usually look at each other. Then she told me that she feels displaced, maybe even unappreciated (my words, not hers), about being a photographer because, well, everyone is a photographer these days.

Because of this, she really doesn’t dig digital photography and revisited the hand-coloring art form because it’s not as easy to do as whipping out an iPhone.

I told her about when my partner loaded his manual camera with film and the kids gathered around him, fascinated by the process. Later, we got them disposable cameras and when my 9-year-old son accidentally took a picture of his feet, he handed me the camera and said, “How do I delete it?”

“You can’t delete it,” I said. “It’s a film camera. We will drop the camera off at Walgreens and wait a few hours and then go back and look at the photos printed on paper. Some will be good, some will be terrible. We will probably throw those out but that’s part of the fun.”

Cindy looked at me again. This time, maybe, two seconds longer than people usually look at each other. She took a drink of her coffee beverage and said, “Yes. It is fun.”

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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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