12 December 2011

Postcard Gallery: Bangladesh, New Zealand, epic four-page letter

Forgive me, Postcard Gallery--I have neglected you too long. But even though I'm a slacker, my mailbox runneth over. Highlights include a homemade postcard from Bangladesh, a note from an actual postcard archivist (!), and a four-page masterpiece of a letter, written in dip pen and featuring a half-page illustration. It's glorious. Click on the images for higher resolution.

From Renee in Bangladesh (who took the photo on the front):

Yes, this is the first postcard I've received from Bangladesh. Thanks, Renee!
From Eva Holland way up in the Yukon, where it's been snowing since, like, August:

The "historic Minneapolis train bridge" is the Stone Arch Bridge, one of
my favorite spots in the city.
From Debra Gust at the Curt Teich Postcard Archives, which is apparently a real thing and which I must visit at once, at the Lake County Discovery Museum:

From ... I honestly don't know who, other than someone channeling Garrison Keillor while driving through Saint Peter, Minnesota (although the picture is of Denmark):

From Jane in New Zealand (who also sent me that delightful bear-o-gram a while back; the bear has settled in among the travel books on my shelves and seems quite content, although it does occasionally commandeer my computer to look up the latest news about the All-Blacks):

And, finally, the letter. Now, let me introduce this by saying that I get giddy every time I see a piece of paper in my mailbox. Few things (chocolate croissants, for example) make me happier than getting a postcard or a letter, even from people I know (hi, Mom!). But. There is still something particularly wonderful about getting mail from absolute strangers, especially when they've clearly gone above and beyond in the effort. Every now and then, I get a letter that makes me not just smile but do a little jig right here in the post office--or, in this case, basically sprint outside and do a triumphant, sprinting lap around the building.

Brendon Ly is, I hereby decree, the coolest 15-year-old in Ottawa. He's the one who sent me the postcard from there a few weeks ago, the one beginning, "Hello, Stranger." When I opened his latest letter, this was the first thing I saw:

Crappy picture on my part, but you get the idea.
An authentic, mint-condition vintage air-mail envelope. Unused. Just ... for me to add to my collection (or, you know, send to someone). And then there was this:

A four-page letter. In old-style script writing. (Note at the top of the first page: "Pre-script: Usually I print.") Needless to say, no e-mail could possibly convey the same sense of personality and, well, charm as this letter, and even a high-resolution scan can't capture its nuances and details. Like the ink. As he notes on page three, "By the way, if you run a finger over the words, they will have a raised texture to them. I think this Chinese ink has shellac in it ... The thickness added by the shellac also helps it cling to dip pens, but will apparently clog up a fountain pen." Sure enough: it's raised. (NB: I had no idea fountain pens and dip pens were not the same thing. When I read that, I wanted to click over to Google to do some quick research--ignoring the rest of the letter for a sec, as I would have if it were an e-mail, only to return to it half an hour later after getting hopelessly distracted--but, this being a letter, I couldn't just move my mouse a few inches and click away. I couldn't be distracted. Score one more point for letters: they're more immersive.)

That blue pen you see above is a calligraphy pen, just to show off the differences in texture and stroke and style.

Finally, on the last page, the show-stopper. A hand-drawn illustration perfectly sized to make into a postcard. Included in the envelope was a piece of card stock with a the back already formatted.

"You know the rest," he says. "Send it to whomever you want to."

In other words, continue the cycle. Keep it going. Keep writing. Keep sharing. Not in the easy, mindless digital form--"sharing is caring," says all the 18-point Arial above a row of icons for FaceTwitPlusWhateverElseWasInventedYesterday. But in the more tangible, more physical, more personal sense. More texture, quite literally.

What a joy to get this letter--any letter, any postcard, of course, but especially this one.

And, yes, I will send the postcard on to someone else. Part of me wants to keep it for myself and not take scissors to paper. But that would defeat the entire point. A tear will trickle down my cheek as I release it into the mailbox, just like in those Disney films, the ones with the whales or the lions or the what-have-yous, and the benevolent caretakers who know the animals must be returned to the wild. Go free, young postcard! Venture forth! Godspeed! Find your place in the world! 

Keep writing.

So. Thanks, correspondents! Much appreciated. My own stamp-affixed messages are already en route in some cases; the rest will be on the way in the next day or two--although, Brendon, it might take me a bit longer to come up with something to match your awesomeness.


  1. Brendon, I am in awe. You give me hope for the written word. We have three postcards in progress on our dining room table, so you know we are serious postcarders, but yours gets a star.

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    I don't know what to say about your awe,but Thank you for the star.I can't say I'm the most frequent mailer, so I might spend abit more time when the occasion arises. And at times I find myself writing small on postcards so my message can be longer. I'm not sure if the written word is floundering, just "going through a phase" as adults might say of those younger than them.

    Dear Mr. Mack,
    I'm glad you've enjoyed my letter. I was a bit guilty from my lateness of reply and I didn't feel like removing the staple, so I decided to use all four pages. Would you like a second airmail envelope? I'll be awaiting your letter/postcard/aerogram/whatever of reply,

    Brendon Ly

  3. Also, I've noticed that someone else has been using "Hello Stanger". Interesting.

  4. Ok Brendon, I'm inspired. I'm headed upstairs to pull out my dip pen and write a letter to someone.

  5. Nice collection is this. This post is really interesting.

  6. It isn't just letters and postcards - books! You can't beat the feel, touch and smell of books - especially new books!


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