Wednesday, August 19

Writing Reboot

Something like this is what got me into writing letters all over again. In this photo, a hailstorm has temporarily knocked out power to the building. Lights out, computer down, I lit up a couple candles and penned a quick note to a friend.

Nearly two full decades ago, wen I was stationed in South Korea during my Army career, I had 30 active pen pals simultaneously. I don't even remember what I was writing to all of them: many were cute gothchicks I found in the back of Tiger Beat Magazine. A friend back in the States turned me on to that publication as a source for pen pals, and it was entirely valid when musical taste constituted a larger portion of what I needed to have in common with a friend. I wrote to these girls about my petty military exploits, asked them about the world outside, stuff like that. When I left Korea and started college my recreational writing activities rather dropped off.

It was only a few years ago, living alone in my apartment north of Uptown, that I got back into writing. A very good friend of mine, Angela, had enticed me to write a few letters back and forth. At first I was prone to procrastinating but she was persistent and eventually I got into the swing of it. That was what started my hands-on craft of making envelopes and stationery.

So when my neighborhood's Internet service was knocked out for a week, I used that opportunity to get back into letter writing. I sent out 40 postcards to friends, anyone for whom I had an address. About 20 of them came back due to postal errors (I included a return address, obviously, to initiate contact), I received eight responses, and the rest simply vanished into the ether or the recipients were too lazy to respond.

I resolved to assemble a better address book for all of my friends, gathering more information and storing it on a Web-based service rather than on my hard drive, where it could be locked up and lost to me. Yahoo and Gmail each have excellent address book systems, for instance. Now I could travel around the world without my hardcopy address book, hit an Internet café, look up my friends' information, and send postcards wherever I go. It's a good failsafe.

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