Saturday, February 20, 2016

Weekend Postbox

I've said time and time again that the point of LetterMo for me is in the sending, not the receiving, but I would be a dirty lying rat if I said I didn't enjoy the abundance of mail I receive during the month as well. I've gotten a lot of great postcards, and don't want to wait until the end of the month to show them off.

Cary Grant, 1958, photo by Milton H. Greene
Um, wow. I don't even swing that way but that's a compelling stare there, mister. Swoon. They don't make 'em like that anymore. Ok, George Clooney approaches that Old Hollywood style of glamour, now that he's older, but I can't think of anyone else.

Sent by a friend before she took off on an amazing adventure - we are now getting more immediate updates from Myanmar when there's a wifi connection.

Illustration from The Macmillan ALICE by Sir John Tenniel
From the back:
"You seem very clever at explaining words Sir," said Alice. "Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called 'Jabberwocky'?"
Can I just say that it's taken me FOUR YEARS to notice that this blog has a quote box feature? I am a master of observation.

Robert Ellis, Motorway/City 1969

A postcard from the road! Tilly was on a business trip in New Zealand (jealous!) and sent this cool card. Check out that cute stamp! On the picture side, even! I thought maybe that's how they roll at the NZ Post Office, but apparently Tilly was just being cheeky. She's kind of a rule-breaker.

The sender is a professional photographer, and this is a picture of a nest from her yard, marred slightly by the mighty machinery of the USPS.

Buffalo @ Yellowstone National Park, Dawn Taylor
Another dear college friend, one with whom I managed to stay in contact for most of the intervening years, with a few absences along the way. 2015 was a rough year for Dawn: she was diagnosed with a brain tumor (which she's named Bob), and as a result has had her life thrown a bit upside-down. She started blogging as a way to document and share her journey, and this postcard includes the URL for her site, so I asked for permission to post it here. Her frankness, courage and humor make this blog a compelling read, even if you don't know her, or know anyone who is living with something most of us will (hopefully) never have to face.

Brain Tumor Life blog

Kate Newby, Don't act all scared like before (Louise), 2009
Another postcard from Tilly - one that includes an honest-to-god "Wish you were here"! At least I think so - I've always been pretty adept at deciphering handwriting, but Tilly's is probably the most cryptic I've encountered in all my born days.

I'm going to miss seeing New Zealand pop up in my blog stats - it was a sweet reminder that someone out there was looking for me. I asked Tilly to just pop back there every so often to click my blog link, but she demurred. I can't imagine why.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Ketchup, or the art of catching up

Here I was, feeling so fine with my LetterMo postcard method down, my several new recipients, and my pile of waiting postcards to send - and it's a week later and what have I done? For whatever reason, the long Presidents Day weekend throws a wrench into my rhythm. I managed to get through it without missing a day, but barely. I may have just gotten through today on a technicality, in fact.


Sent Feb 11:
After my grandmother's service last month, my mom gave me some more postcards from her travels with my grandfather after he retired - this is one of my favorites from that bunch. I'm sorry I'm not able to ask her about these trips anymore, but I love to sort through them and imagine what she saw in them. The sheer volume of postcards I just inherited is impressive. Collecting them seems to be hereditary.

It's worth noting that all of these postcards are probably from the '60s and maybe the '70s. Instagram just can't fully recreate the look and feel of photos from that era, no matter how many filters they give you.

Sent Feb 12:
News broke last week that the Art Institute of Chicago has created a room fashioned after Vincent Van Gogh's iconic "The Bedroom" painting, to be rented through Airbnb for a paltry $10 a night (good luck getting a booking). Do you have any idea how much I would love to stay there? Dang! As a reminder of life's cruelty and why I can't have nice things, I sent out this postcard instead, from a book of postcards I got at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2011.

Sent Feb 13:
This is as close to celebrating Valentine's Day as I get.

Bonus! Sent Feb 16:
ok, I'm not totally heartless! I included this gorgeous PaperMilk postcard in with an overdue present to one of my favorite couples. It wasn't my official postcard of the day, but I was grooving on that leftover romantic spirit.

For reals sent Feb 16:

Last August, I tried sending a postcard to SEV, an old friend I'd lost touch with. As I suspected, the address I had was outdated, and the postcard never received. But she signed up to get a postcard as part of this year's Lettermo! I selected this postcard for her, because it comes from a Frida Kahlo collection I've had since college, and there was a date inscribed on the other side, as if I had started writing but thought better of it. Based on the date (January 1994), it's quite possible that I had intended to send this to SEV all along. Circle of life, or something...

Sent Feb 17:
Claes Oldenberg, Pastry Case I, 1961-2
Oh, yesterday I was in such a hurry in the morning, and I didn't have the luxury of going in late - so I used the ace up my sleeve and grabbed this postcard, slapped a stamp on it, and wrote a postcard to my mom at lunch (because she's one of the few people whose address I know by heart anymore).

Sent Feb 18:
I was in even worse trouble today - Tilly just got back from a long trip last night after a long international sojourn, so I was out of sorts this morning and even more rushed than yesterday. I took a stamped postcard AND my address book and tried to write a postcard during the day, and I just wasn't feeling it. I realized too late that today's postcard needed to go to a different person, but I had already started writing on the one with someone else's name. This left me in a bind - should I break my self-imposed rule about using the postcards on hand, or risk missing a day altogether?

I ended up coming home and finding a fresh (but not new! I already had it, honest!) postcard for today's recipient, and dropped it in the postbox just now. The mail got picked up hours ago, but I can truthfully say I wrote and mailed this today, so I'm calling it good.

I wonder how many years will pass before I find that first postcard again and decide to finish it?



Saturday, February 13, 2016

Punto Medio

Somehow it's the middle of the month already. The last two weeks have flown by, and I've done a much better job of posting mail than blog posting. Maybe it's time for a check in - how'm I doing on my goals?

  • Send at least one postcard every day: done! Writing postcards in the morning has helped the process feel more authentic, somehow. There was one morning where I was in danger of leaving the house without a postcard in hand, but I made myself stop to write one and went to work late. Priorities!!
  • A new recipient each day: also not a problem, although there are days when I'm tempted to sent postcards to everyone who responded, right that second, and I want to make sure I'm not scrambling for things to say and people to say them to on Day 29. Rest assured, if you told me you wanted a postcard this month, it's coming.
  • Send 5 for reals letters: oh geez. I knew this would be the hardest part, and it is. I did start a letter last week and, as often happens with letters, when I look back at what I've written I think it's dumb and want to start over. I think this is the true reason I prefer postcards - scribble something, pop it in the mail, done. No second guessing. But I've got a 3-day weekend ahead of me and plan to get at least 2 letters out the door by Tuesday morning.
  • Birthday cards, etc don't count: Dang.
  • Only use postcards on hand: I ducked into my favorite local bookstore last week and managed to escape with NO POSTCARDS whatsoever. It was painful. It did look at several, though. No promises come March 1.

Sent Feb 8:

Balthus - The Living Room, 1942
This does remind me a bit of the living room of my youth. I frequently read on a little rug in front of the fireplace, and there was usually a cat nearby. We even had a piano! And, while I don't think it was as true back in our formal living room in the '70s, my mom often falls asleep on the couch in her own living room now. Heh.

Also sent Feb 8:
A friend from the dance/performance community said that her daughter would love a postcard - I wasn't sure what to send, as I would see the child a lot in rehearsals, but not since then, so who knows if she remembers me. But My Awesome Sister got me a set of postcards from "Secret Garden", the adult coloring book that everyone was going batshit for at the end of 2015. So I sent one that was mostly blank, so the recipient could color it in herself.

Here's one that I colored and sent to Tilly back in January:

I'm an arteeest!

Sent Feb 9:
The first week in February I focused on people that I already correspond with, and this week have been trying to include those who signed up. This is just a fun image I got somewhere, some time ago. And this was the first recipient to let me know she received it (thanks!).

Sent Feb 10:
Louise Bourgeois, Untitled (from Ode á Ma Mère) 1995
My pal Dang Ramona has a fascination with spiders and frequently posts beautiful photos of them on her facebook page (to the horror of the arachnid-averse, I suppose). This postcard came in a packet from the Museum of Modern Art that a friend of a friend gave to Tilly - as soon as I saw it, I knew its eventual destination.

Speaking of mail, I should get writing to make the Saturday post...

Monday, February 8, 2016

Weekend Roundup

I know it's not the weekend anymore, but let's pretend I posted this yesterday, shall we?

I got my first mail of the month - not a postcard, but a nifty letter featuring Domo-kun. A highlight of watching the NHK Trophy figure skating competition every fall is seeing all the little Domos in the "kiss and cry" area where skaters await their scores after competing.





As you can see, this is one of those envelopes-and-letters-in-one, and I had a hard time opening it without tearing the edges. It's been a while, what can I say?

Mailed Feb 5:
Édouard Boubat, We Prefer Life 1968
Here's a great image that was almost wasted - I started writing to someone using this postcard way back in 2012, but only got about a sentence in. I kept this great image, though, so I decided to continue the correspondence and send it anyway this year. No big.


This is a map of the world created in the 1540s, I think. I've been reading a lot of historical adventure/exploration books lately, and it just amazes me how people made maps of the globe before all the major land masses were known. I mean, there are definitely some errors here - the USA was not connected to Russia and China 500 years ago, and I don't see Australia on here at all - but it's pretty amazing how close this gets, all things considered.

Sent to my niece, who is about to spend a semester abroad.


It was weird to not mail anything yesterday. Of course, I was going to get started on the letters portion of my month and didn't. I'm such a procrastinator.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Wedge

I used to be a person who slept well. Almost too well. Morningtime was this mythical Atlantis that other people told tall tales about and I was content to peer at the edges from a fuzzy distance.

Now? I wake up at 7:30am, with or without alarm. Many mornings (such as this one) I wake with a start long before the clock screams at me, and there's no sinking back into slumber. I am aided in this by a certain orange cat I call The Wedge, whose only true happiness is to lie on top of me and purr REALLY LOUDLY right into my ear. His refusal to be dislodged would be impressive if it didn't make me so cranky.

None of this has to do with postcards, other than I'm up earlier than I'd like and thus writing.

Almost a week down!

Sent Feb 2:
I am helpless when it comes to PaperMilk postcards. If I see 'em, I buy 'em. Aside from the groovy images, the postcards have a neat matte finish and appealing design on the business side. I'm a sucker, I know. But I'll need to avoid the stores that stock them if I'm going to stay in compliance with Rule #5.

Sent Feb 3:

Paul Gaugin, Still Life with Apples, a Pear and a Ceramic Portal Jug (1889)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ground Rules

This is my fourth year participating in the Month of Letters Postcards challenge, so the basic premise - send something in the mail every day in February with mail service - I've pretty much got down. There is inevitably one hiccup, but overall I always manage to send out as much mail as I planned. How, then, to make this year different?

Part of me chafes at the notion of having to constantly expand/improve (is this just a terribly American thing? We never seem to allow things to just be. Maybe I'm just cranky over having recently submitted my annual performance goals at work). But I also love a challenge and (annoyingly) thrive under structure. Last year I had some fancy notions of doing more, but they were just vague ideas so of course I didn't pay any attention until it was close to the end and too late to make them happen. With the idea of public accountability in mind, here are my 2016 Month of Postcards goals:

  • Send at least 1 postcard every day there is mail (easy).
  • Each day must have a new recipient. When I first started, this wasn't realistic, but it's totally doable at this point. I confess that by the end of the month I sometimes am feeling lazy, and it can be easier to dash something quick off to someone who already received a postcard (and thus might not mind a half-assed piece of correspondence) than to come up with something interesting for a new person. Also - last year I got mail back during the month, and wanted to keep engaging with those folks. Under this rule I can still send mail to previous recipients, I just have to do it in addition to sending a postcard to a new person.
  • 5 for reals letters. This is my challenge goal - last year I wanted to include letters but the month escaped me. I may not hit the targeted 5, but having this looming over my head should help me carve out space to write.
  • Birthday and other event cards and thank yous don't count. Dang. 
  • Use only the postcards on hand. This should be a no-brainer, considering that I've got enough postcards in my house to send every day of the year (at least), but I have a really hard time getting out of certain stores without at least a couple tucked into my bag. I keep expecting Tilly to stage an intervention. 

Maybe this will help, maybe I'll come back in March and laugh at my foolishness.

To kick off the month, here is the February 1 postcard - the only one I bought in Barcelona last month that wasn't mailed from Spain (and subsequently lost en route):

This is a sketch by Josep Maria Subirachs, an example of the style he and his team used for the Passion façade of the Sagrada Familia. which is the one thing everyone absolutely must-see in Barcelona. It's breathtaking, and amazingly still under construction. There wasn't a ton of difference between my last visit and this one, but it's the one tourist destination that I would visit each time I came to the city.

bonus photo of the interior of the Sagrada Familia




Until next time...




Sunday, January 31, 2016

Stop Holding My Breath

So much for the end of year - again. You'd think that I'd have lots to post about, since I'm a fan of sending holiday cards, but this year was, in the words of my grandmother, a "clutter-f".

I sent far fewer cards this year, in part because I took a trip in the middle of the month. I spent 5 days in Barcelona, a city I'd visited before, to watch the Grand Prix Final of figure skating. Yes, I traveled to Europe for less than a week to sit in an ice rink. That's what I do. I did get some exploring done, however, and I was so proud of myself for writing and mailing postcards while I was there. I made sure that the stamps I got were for international mailing, and consulted my travel book (and the maintenance guy at my hostel) to find a proper post box. I was already envisioning the post I would write once they were received.

Well, it's been 6 weeks, and I'm ready to admit defeat. No one has received any postcards from me from Spain, despite my best efforts. I was holding on to the outside hope that mail from Europe is just sloooooow, but I'm pretty sure the postcards from Beijing only took about 2 weeks. Sigh.

Here are the postcards that people would have received, had any arrived in the US:

This is the pier at the end of La Rambla, a bustling tourist destination. In 2011, I stayed in this area (mistake!), and spent way too much time in the mall on water in the modern photo, because they had free wifi and very few other places did. I was relieved to find that wifi is now plentiful in Barcelona. The smaller tower in the back is the start of a cable car up to the Parc de Montjuïc.

Posing the postcard on my Barcelona travel guide is a nice touch, no?


Another sight that I visited in 2011 but not on this trip - Antoni Gaudí's beautiful Parc Güell. If only all urban public spaces were so gorgeously designed!