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Send a Little Piece of Somewhere Else

August 11, 2008
Palm Springs

Palm Springs

I used to have at least five or six pen pals when I was in high school and junior high. Sadly, I have lost touch with all of them, although sometimes I think about sticking a few postcards in the mail to see if any of them write back.

With the end of the pen pal era came the end of fancy packages and envelopes marked with shiny foreign stamps of birds and crowns and mountains I’d never heard of. The older I got, the more mundane the contents of my mailbox seemed to be. Rory Gilmore was right, postcard writing is a dying art. I’ll send a dozen out to friends from everywhere I go, even if it’s just for lunch in San Francisco, and I’m lucky to get back two or three a year. Sad, really.

Over the weekend though, my mailman brought me a flat, square envelope, wrapped liberally in packing tape and decorated with five different stamps – two of birds, two of mountains, and one with some old dead guy. After much peeling and careful cutting, it turned out to be a CD and letter from my English friend Luke, who I met in Australia five years ago, and who is now in Japan. He’s an international jet-setter, in a starving student sort of way. It wasn’t my birthday or a holiday or any kind of special occasion. He just thought it would be fun to send me something and say a quick “toodle pip”. Because that’s how all English people talk. At least it is on PBS and in my head.

If you’re trying to make a small outing or staycation seem a little more glamourous, sending a few postcards can’t hurt. You’ll feel more like an international correspondent, the recipients will get the thrill of real mail, and if you send postcards to yourself, you can build up a fun collection of all the day trips, road trips, jaunts, meanderings and spontaneous acts of travel you commit.

An afternoon at the Palm Springs Desert Museum, for example, may not seem like a big deal while you’re there looking over Frido Kahlo’s work, but a note to yourself about the heat, the lizards outside, or the crazy thing your friends said or did will be fun to read 20 or 30 years from now.

Have you licked a stamp lately?

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