Thursday, June 3

An Extended History of Personal Correspondence

All right, if you're sick of hearing me go on and on about the wonder and miracle of Postcrossing, remember where you set your handbag down and finish your drink, because here comes some more.

I mean, seriously. It's so hard to find a good pen pal! My first was way back in first grade, when I wrote to my crush even though she was in my class and lived in the same town. The gesture was lost on her six-year-old heart and I believe I earned some mockery over it. The letter-writing process was educational on its own mert: in writing to grandparents I already knew I had very little to say (beyond "thanks for the Stretch Armstrong, I broke him already"), but in writing to Stacy Woods, the cutest girl I'd ever seen, I discovered I had absolutely nothing to say. I don't even remember what I talked about. Probably a moon rock I was convinced I'd found.

Then, when I was in middle school (Michigan) and was going to move to another state for high school (Wisconsin), I asked if I could write to my then-crush, Kim LaPlante. She agreed and I think we may have exchanged one whole letter. I wrote to her, she wrote back, and I wrote some stupid clueless drivel that was more my own mom's programming that she couldn't possibly be interested in me than any of the feelings welling in my heart for her. Never heard from her again. Yeah, I played that one wrong.

I did end up writing to my crush in high school as I went into the Army, and that only worked out because I was so reclusive in high school that when I opened up to her in letters I became a more interesting person. Kate was also very into correspondence and inducted me into the world of Friendship Books and Tiger Beat magazine, where people posted their addresses in the back so people with similar music interests could write to them. Our correspondence never turned into a romance, of course, but we are still friends to present day.

And once in the Army, plundering the resources Kate imbued me with, I spread my feeble, off-black tendrils around the nation I'd left behind (I was stationed in South Korea) and hooked up with three dozen gothchicks, all roiling in their own incurable depression, all nurturing their own impossible crushes on foreign band members. I got a lot of useful information out of those exchanges—all of it in music, none of it in how to foster healthful social relationships. Oh well.

Now, things are much better. I correspond frequently with my friend Angela, a DJ in Madison, WI; I trade postcards with Davide in Italy and Zatimi in Malaysia; and I just met this awesome character in the Netherlands. His postcard to me cracked me up, and everyone I've shown it to has insisted I need to cultivate him as a pen pal. I proposed the idea to him—proposed sending him some of my vintage stamps in exchange for his pre-Euro postage—and he wrote back:
It would be an honour, beste Christian, to receive a card from you, or clogs full of cards for my sake, with the stamps like you described. For a philatelist like me the promising lines which you wrote are like The Holy Gospel for the average Amish.
That's just his opening line. How could I not want this person on my side? He's a fun and able writer, the kind of person I need to keep in touch with. And I wouldn't have met him but for the Internet generally, but Postcrossing particularly.

1 comment:

Pyxichick said...

Thanks for the nod in your blog, Christian. I still have a couple of your many-page missives, which I always loved to receive and savored while sitting on a bench on the East bank of the Mississippi. It was a pleasure to get to know you through writing. I think there is something we reveal of ourselves through the written word that is unavailable through personal contact. I am happy to see that you are still gracing the world with your correspondence!
Namaste- Kate :)