Back in July Phil and I visited the Phipps Conservatory. Here are some pictures and a little sketch of an interaction we had there.
"Students?" he asked as he traced his finger over each of our tickets to verify our purchase.
"Where do you go to school?"
Phil and I looked at each other sheepishly. Both of us had graduated years past but Shepherd's unwise decision to issue student cards without dates on them had made for years of opportunistic but fraudulent student discounts.
"Shepherd University," I offered. "It's in West Virginia," I said, beating him to the expected second question.
"Oh yes, I've been there. In Shepherdstown," he smiled a sooty toothed smile. His blackened, jagged teeth clung to his gums like coal in a West Virginia mountain.
"A long time ago now, but yes, I've been there."
He wrote the words Shepherdstown, WV down on a small pad of paper next to Madison, WI and several other scrawled cities and states.
"I just like to ask where everyone's from. You know, keep track of where our visitors travel from. It's interesting you know."
His teeth had taken me aback, they had jumped out so suddenly from such a pleasant grandfatherly face. I struggled to recover as he moved on to the next question.
"So you must be photographers," he looked down at our loaded chests. "Well I'll tell you what you simply cannot miss. See this area here on the map where you go outside to the Children's Garden? Right well you can't leave the garden without seeing the hibiscus in the corner here. If you see nothing else today you have to see this. As big as dinner plates. Really!"
He walked us through the map, insisting we stay on the trail so as not to miss any gems, and then with one last coal mine smile he waved us in.