Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Boring Postcards: The Text

The front side of a boring postcard is usually much more interesting than the back side of a boring postcard. Travel messages from one stranger to another can be spectacularly banal, and they have a depressing sameness to them.

We are having a nice vacation. Have had ideal weather, had a shower to-day. We enjoyed all the family here, had a big time. Love, the Smutz's.

Dear Folks, Arrived in Glacier last night. We're here a few days & then on to Westport, Wash, for some salmon fishing. How are you all? Lovingly, B & H
Since boringness is a quality we would celebrate in the postcard itself, it's kind of a contradiction that it doesn't excite us in the written message. It might be that banality is funny in an impersonal context, but kind of disturbing when it's attached to an individual life. I'm not sure.

Hi - Am here - arrived Thursday morning. Sure is beautiful over here. So many things to do & see, but I'll sure try to see it all. Not much more space so will close & write you later. Love, Vesta. P.S. Haven't seen anyone in knit suits yet.

But in a recent batch of cards, we found a message that, although still plenty depressing, was bracingly different from the others.

Dear Folks, Hope you are all well. Haven't heard from you. My husband died July 18th. I sure miss him, never knew it could be so lonesome. He died sudden, 1/2 hour in the hospital. The shock about kill me. Write me, I would like to hear from you. Love, Marie.

I can't decide if news like this on a tourist postcard is really poignant, or kind of weirdly hilarious. No reason it can't be both, I guess.

It's Thursday Quiz Eve!

...and tomorrow's quiz is a bit, um, wordy. There, I've warned you.


d said...

i hate it when people ask questions on postcards they're sending from some vacation spot. how're you supposed to answer?

i think neither poignant or hilarious just really, really sad.

btw you totally dissed me on the whole monday quiz exclamation points totals. i'm not sure i'm over it yet.

Anonymous said...

Boring backsides you say?

Postcard #1 -- I had never heard of New Philadelphia, Ohio. And the Smutzes had a shower, finally. Great news, as they were starting to smell smutzy.

Postcard #2 -- a beautiful stamp. A little-known fact is that B & H went on to found B & H Photo/Video/ProAudio, a mega electronics store with a huge mail-order business.

Postcard #3 -- "Haven't seen anyone in knit suits yet." In Pearl Harbor? What does this mean? "Not much more space so will close and write you later" is wonderful. It could be pre-printed on the back of every postcard.

Postcard #4 -- makes sense to me to use a 3-cent stamp to deliver the news. Cheaper than a phone call, and a good time to be frugal. I haven't seen the "Wichita 4" designation before / don't remember city-codes. I think Marie's point was that where there was once something monumental, there is now a valley.

Rebel said...

I want to get on Karma's postcard mailing list!

I think I wrote slightly more interesting postcards to my friends at home when I went to Europe. My goal was primarily to make them sickeningly jealous that I was on vacation while they were stuck in their work-a-day lives back in grey gloomy Portland.

I sent several to myself as well... it was a nice treat to come home to a mailbox full of trip memories (along with a months worth of bills & junk mail)

Michael5000 said...

@d: Dissed you? Details please. And, my condolences.

@karma: Excellent points all.

@rebel: "Grey, gloomy Portland"? Please. Portland is never grey or gloomy.

Almost out of space in the little box, so I'll write more later.

Anonymous said...

What I like about the first postcard is that, not only is it oddly signed, "Love - The Smutz's" but it is addressed to Mr. + Mrs. W.G. Smutz. I imagine an interfamilial rivalry seething beneath the bland text. "But we're the real Smutzes!" cry the recipients, and fire off an equally unobjectionable card attesting to that fact. Or, of course, the Smutzes might have been sending the postcard to themselves (a la Rebel). I had a housemate once who was in the habit of doing this. Her messages were generally affirmational, along the lines of "I like you, Elizabeth! Love, Elizabeth," as she was working through some issues at the time.

This topic also reminds me of older British postcards I've seen that indicate the required postage. It used to cost, I think, twice as much to send them "with message."

fingerstothebone said...

Hey, I send postcards to myself too! Mr. Fingers is always making fun of me for that. I like getting real mail when I get back, and they make a nice souvenir, with a pretty stamp and all.

The [Cherry] Ride said...

That last postcard is perhaps the most depressing thing I've read. Ever.

gl. said...

i'm a big sucker for people writing to each other, regardless of how banal it is. that last postcard is a very sad treasure, though.

Rebel said...

Mrs.5K... please explain again why *you* don't have a blog I could read everyday??????

Laura said...

"I haven't seen anyone in knit suits yet" is my favorite line, by far.

Anonymous said...

@rebel: unlike michael5000, I am neither a speedy writer nor a zealot for listmaking. Actually, I'm a bit of a ditherer. The demands of keeping up a blog would probably do me in.

The good news is, he says I've become a popular character on his blog, so he has no intention of bumping me off in the second season.

McGuff said...

#4 - heart-rending.

The Smutz's:

Something's wrong with my monitor. The sunset appears to be 1957 Chevy cherry red / nuclear glow. Did they return or was this their swansong?

Indian Lakes, OH = the vacation capital of west central Ohio.

New Philadelpia, OH = the vacation capital of east central Ohio.

The Schmutz's - pioneers of the timesharing industry.

3rd Google hit related to Russells Point, Ohio (Corporate Headquarters of Photo Inn, producer of the Shmutz's Indian Lake postcard): "10 registered sex offenders living in Russells Point (population 1619) in early 2007".

Rebel said...

LMAO - that's comforting to hear!

Michael5000 said...

@[Cherry]: Yeah, it's quite sad. For my money, though, this kind of thing works best for highly depressing reading.

@Laura: I like the way that line is a weird little surviving ghost of some unimportant conversation some strangers had fifty years ago. Of all the conversations that happened in the world that day, that one got referred to in a throwaway note, except it didn't get thrown away, and here we are talking about it now. What are the odds?

@Phineas: The Russell's Point Chamber of Commerce thanks you for the shout out!

And finally: Don't worry, everyone. Mrs.5000's place is secure, so long as the blog is hitting its readership numbers.

Running out of space; will blog more soon.

Anonymous said...

Only just read this today. I've been looking for a new knitting project, and now I have it: a vacation suit for my next trip to the tropics. I'll need everyone's addresses please so I can send you a postcard of myself wearing it on the beach. I'm sure if I take my camera to Kinkos Waikiki, they can run some off for me.

Bridget said...

M5K - not sure why, but this whole post was delightful . . . unexpected. Not that I don't expect delightful things from your blog, especially with Mrs. 5K as a recurring character! (note to producers: while this is a shameless plug for Mrs. 5K, I was not compensated for this commentary. nor am I a flirtatious dinosaur.)

And yes, I send postcards to myself, too. When traveling, I always come up with cool ideas and then forget them, lost in some journal somewhere. This way, they come back to me when I have a shot at doing something about them.