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Wednesday, April 23, 2008


The Lonely Mailbox

Can I just say how much I really kind of hate the age we live in? And I'm not even talking about the truly evil aspects of our times, like terrorism and Bush and climate change and Dane Cook. I'm talking about the simple fact that we have lost the art of letter-writing.

I've written about this before. I've made, as the previous links will make patently clear, half-assed attempts to get correspondence started, if only as part of an attempt to use stamps before the price went up. But it didn't stick. In this day and age, nobody even knows that you're referring to the U.S. Postal system unless you use the derogatory phrase "snail mail." Well, fuck you, I like snails!

I've had this debate going with my buddy Keith for awhile. He points out that a conversation that takes a matter of minutes with a few traded e-mails would take weeks and weeks if you posted letters. To which my response is always, "Yes, but when Ken Burns' great-grandson does a documentary about us a hundred years from now, he won't have B-list celebrities doing voice-over readings of our I.M. messages."

We have truly lost something. Our culture is greatly reduced by the simple, sad fact that we communicate in short, to-the-point electronic messages (most of which feature spelling by way of Prince song titles, but that's a whole other grumpy post) that take none of the thought and eloquence that goes into a letter.

I bring this up because I spent a few hours this week looking through a box of correspondence that I've kept since I was a teenager. Pretty much every letter that's ever been sent to me is in this box. It's been sitting, sealed up, in my closet since we moved from Seattle seven years ago. Opening it the other night was like stepping into a time machine. And not in the Ray Bradbury, stepping-on-a-butterfly-and-changing-history sort of way, either. In the good way.

There were letters from my Grandma, who's been gone for a few years now. Reading these letters was kind of like talking to her again. I hadn't remembered how much she wrote to me when I left Ohio, but there it was, on paper.

There were letters from my friend Cliff Bailey, with whom I corresponded weekly when I first moved to Phoenix. I'd forgotten how close we were, but these letters reminded me, "Oh yeah. This guy was one of my best friends and now I haven't talked to him in a fucking decade."

There were letters and cards and notes and poems from my wife, way back in the beginning of our relationship. I even found the infamous Letters from Seattle. See, a little over a month after we started going out, my wife went to Seattle for her sister's wedding. She was gone for a couple of weeks, during which she wrote me twice, affixing each letter with a "Love" stamp. Now, rationally, I could have figured out that she used these stamps because there were a ton of them around the house after her sister had sent out wedding invitations, but fuck rationality, I chose to think of it as a coded message. Actually, reading through the letters, there's not a lot of mush. Fondness, yeah, but nothing gushing.

There were even a bunch of letters from the afore-mentioned technophile Keith Marsteller, proving that he once knew the value of putting pen to paper and then stuffing that paper in an envelope and shoving the envelope in a mailbox. The letters very nicely captured Keith's twisted and kind of frightening sense of humor.

The point of all this is that I would like, even as busy as we all are today, even though it's not the most convenient way of communicating, even though stamps are about to go up in price again (seriously, what the fuck is wrong with these jackholes?) I would like to start writing letters again. I would like to have physical, tangible proof of my friendships. I would like to sit down and actually think about what I'm writing, instead of pounding out three lines of terse verbiage. I would like to correspond.

Not with you, necessarily, but in general.

I went to camp for several years as a girl and into my teenager-dome and I had one particularly wonderful correspondence that did eventually dwindle off after those years had passed, but blessed be, she is a blogger now too.

The propensity to write is manifest in our blogs, and these are our letters.

I hope that didn't sound like I was trying to be profound, 'cause I ain't.
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