Wednesday, May 21

Postcards for Humanity

Postcards, my friends of the pen. What are postcards? It's a small rectangle of cardboard with a short note and address on one side and a picture or even more note on the other side. They've taken many forms: you could write on a clean slice of cardstock and slip it into an envelope, and that was a postcard. In the late 1800s, in the U.S., it was not uncommon at all to bring your family to a portrait studio, have a photograph taken of your ensemble, and receive prints of your images in the form of postcards to distribute to family and friends.

Postcards were printed up for hotels, to distribute as mementos of your overseas vacation; postcards are the stock souvenir merchandise in every major metropolis, city, museum and gas station wherever you go. You can even make your own, if you want; find an interesting picture (or a lot, for a collage) and paste it to a stout piece of paper, writing all the usual stuff on the back. Make sure the destination address is lower than any other address on the card, if you're sharing your new address with friends, for example, and leave enough room at the bottom for the processing label.

Saturday, May 10

Moving Day and Blank Vintage Postcards

Once again I'm moving from apartment to apartment. It seems I can't stay anywhere longer than two years. But here are a few things that have come out of my semimigratory condition.

I now have a full list of everywhere I've lived since 1996, when I moved from St. Cloud State Unversity campus to Minneapolis. This is important because occasionally some stupid insurance form or credit card or whatever else needs an excruciatingly complete background of all the places I've lived. In the course of moving I tend to discover heaps of paper that have not been touched in years, and these may include junk mail or official mail that it turns out I don't need to save. On these, of course, are all my old addresses, so in the last three or four pages of my Moleskine address book I have recorded all of my past addresses in chronological order, for my own reference. This has proven to be handy on several occasions.

As well, among the long-neglected property I'm turning up are boxes and envelopes of antique documentation and photos. These are material my mother asked if I would scan and preserve digitally, as once upon a time I attempted to break into genealogy and that's who she thinks I am now (which is cool, because now I have a lot of military certificates from the Civil War). Also, I salvaged a box of old photos my wife's family was going to throw away, when we moved her parents out of their Wisconsin home and emptied the house for resale. In this lot I'm finding amazing old photographs of Russian and Polish immigrants, mounted on dense cardboard or particle board squares. I can't understand how her family would be so cavalier about these treasures!

This latter thing has turned into a small project, into which I've plunged all my energy as a time-killer and a distraction from packing. I'm terrible, but at the same time, observe: blank postcard backs. Through the miracle of Picasa I've digitally removed any writing and produced an empty postcard, upon which anyone who cares to may write over through their own graphics program, for purposes of novelty over social media. I'm not explaining myself very well, so here: when you upload an image of writing to Twitter, you can use way more than 140 characters:

 Alton Brown turned to this format when fans criticized his typos, and he instead hand-wrote notes on Post-Its®.

So if you'd like, here are five blank postcard backs from vintage postcards, from (as far as I can tell) three different nations. Fun, eh? I hope so.