17 September 2013

Real Mail Week, Part 1: What It Looks Like When You Get 116 Color-Coordinated Postcards

Be careful what you wish for. You may be an aficionado of old-school mail, for example, but if you publicly proclaim yourself as such, and ask people to write to you, well ... 

They will.

That's only a fraction of the correspondence. Specifically, the fraction representing the number that will fit on my coffee table for photo-documentation purposes. I'm gonna need a bigger coffee table.

You people. You impress me. Your letters. Postcards. Homemade aerograms with elaborate collages. Correspondence from every continent except for the one covered in ice, which is considerably trickier in every way, and I'm not even sure if it's possible for people to send postcards from there (and my book hasn't yet been translated into Penguin, so none of them have written to me yet).

As for my own impressiveness ... well, it doesn't measure up, I'm afraid. I'm way behind in my correspondence--and "way" in this case means, oh, "In some cases more than a year." I'll just repeat that for purposes of full public shaming: Over. A. Year. Behind. I'm sorry. Really. Truly. Sure, I've got excuses. Which one do you want? I've been beyond busy. Had a book published. Went on book tour. Was a guest speaker on a big ol' ship for four weeks. Got more assignments, which I had to juggle with my day job. Moved. Planned a wedding and then, last month, got married to an amazing, wonderful woman (our vows were adapted from our early love letters to each other; she's also a fan of old-school correspondence). (Wedding pic below, BTW.) 

But still. I've been remiss. So this week, I'm catching up, at long last. I'm putting pen to paper and writing back. And I'm also putting pixels to ... well, pixels, as I also finally catch up on posting photos of some of the highlights of your correspondence. 


Today: The Great Pantone Conspiracy

As noted previously, shortly after I put out the call for correspondence, a couple of years ago now, I started getting Pantone postcards--that is, postcards that looked like giant swatches from the color company Pantone. To date, I have received at least 116 such postcards, from strangers and family and long-lost friends, from Indonesia and Switzerland and Morocco and Chile and Cuba (!) and other places near and far.

The pace has slowed down since the early days of the Pantone Conspiracy, but they keep trickling in--as you'll see, I got two more yesterday.

So here is what 116 postcards look like: 

Except, wait, right after I took that photo, I looked on the floor and saw that I forgot a few:

So, okay, HERE'S what 116 Pantone postcards looks like:

That monster on the right is pasted on top of a Pantone postcard. Or maybe the
monster ate card. Either way, it's a pretty sweet little beast.

It's a pretty inspired campaign, this Pantone conspiracy. The culprits deny everything, but I know who they are, and I salute them. In particular, I'm impressed by the breadth of their reach. They tracked down my friends at the Key West Literary Seminar. They got Pam Mandel in on the conspiracy. They mailed these things from Minneapolis to acquaintances all around the world, who then mailed them back to me in Minneapolis. All for the sport of it, all for the sake of amusement and wonder and delight. 

An email that bounces around the world? Not impressive. A postcard, though--that's pretty fantastic. 

As you can see, some people personalized the color swatches. And many, of course, got creative with the backs. Here are some of my favorites, either for the distance traveled or for the inspired content. 

It started with the postcard on the left, its ransom-note style sending
a chill up my spine as I wondered what lay in store.
From my friend Vaughn in Cambodia--a tough guy to track down
but a good guy to know.

From Icelandic friends.

From my father-in-law. The drawing is by a colleague of his, based
on my author photo in Venice.

From (former) Pope Benedict, evidently. Which seems somewhat unlikely,
but check out the stamp, which also seems far-fetched but is completely real.

Composed by my wife on a bus in Guatemala. She wrote this without my

From my mother-in-law's preschool class.

The most recent arrivals came Monday, from our friends in Sweden. 

And, finally, my favorite. This card arrived with a slight tear--actually, not even a tear but a scrape. See that little bump on the right side, above my name? That's it. For this, the USPS felt obligated to put the card in a large envelope emblazoned with an apology for causing such harm to my mail. My only guess--literally the sole reason I can think of for this extraordinary measure for such marginal wear-and-tear--is that an especially superstitious employee spotted the handwritten note: This. Is. Witchcraft. Be. Very. Afraid. You don't want to take chances with that.

The note was written by my friend Arijit, one of the finest, funniest people I have ever known, who died of colon cancer this spring. I'm keeping the envelope--and the card, obviously--as a memento of him.

Oh, and a while back, the conspirators sent another package: my very own box of 100 Pantone postcards. 

So. Who's in? 

There's way more to come this week. We've just gotten started with the creative correspondence. Still to come: postcards galore, crafty aerograms, and the letter-writing idea that just might change the hostel experience as we know it.


Also, this has nothing to do with postcards, but here's something that happened last month.

Photo by Bree Allen

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