Posting vignettes based on great postcards found in my mail box and elsewhere.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Being a member of Postcrossing, is a wonderful way to meet and greet other postcard collectors (or accumulators, as some would say). The project is quickly coming on 20 million post cards sent and received. I have just passed 300 cards sent and 300 received.

This latest card was sent by Esjr (Ester in English), from Holland just outside of Rotterdam. This image of a red postal collection box is striking. I like it because it draws attention to a mundane thing, something we might see each day but think nothing of. How many things do we "see" and not really see?

Esjr is a postwomen so she is very familiar with these red boxes. She also told me she has three children and loves to ride her motorcycle. Her profile picture, a bit too dark for much detail, shows her straddling her motorcycle in a knee-length black coat. Her legs are bare and her toes pointed to reach the ground.

Seeing great post card images and reading but a few details about the people who send them sometimes will inspire me to write a poem as I did here.


Against the hardness of bricks, this red box
stands out, upright, a cast iron solider at attention,
ready to receive orders, even desperate news.
I think of you on your rounds, approaching each box,
kneeling on one knee, catching the eye of a male
passing by, as you unlock the rib plate,
scooping out all the words from its world
and stacking them just so into your shoulder bag.
Re-securing the box for the millionth time,
you stride to the curb, straddle your bike,
give it one hard kick and with a puff of blue exhaust,
you speed away, taking with you some of the vital
and frail news from this hard, hard world.


You can find more of my poems at my poetry blog, Fresh Bean Sprouts.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Food storage is important if you want to eat after the growing season ends. Most people in the developed world have freezers and refrigerators. Their food is kept for them in warehouses until they do their weekly shopping. In less developed areas, like bush Alaska, people must store their own food and so they rely on a food cache.
These are often built on stilts and some sport sod roofs which help keep them cool in the shoulder months before and after winter. The stilts make these structures more difficult for bears to get at the doors. For the most part the cache is used to store caribou or moose meat over the long winter months.
This post card image of a cache near a body of water is not specifically identified. The photo was taken by Mel Anderson for Alaska Imp Prints, which does not have a web presence. It was distributed by J&H Sales of Anchorage. My best guess is this card was produced in the 1970-80s.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

FORD FUTURA: Car that didn't make the future

Ideas About The Future Are Always Out There
This photo postcard makes me think how goofy all ideas about the future really are.
Of course we don't know what the future will look or feel like because our ideas are, as always, locked in the assumptions of the present. The future tends to pass us by, especially our technology. Perhaps if we could time travel we might be able to go forward into time and see the future but then our own travel to the future would alter the past and the future simultaneously, so that might preclude us from knowing the future especially if everyone wanted to travel to see it and of course they would. So time travel might not work as a way of smoothing out the journey.
Then too, there is the issue of acceleration. The speed of change is increasing exponentially. How can anyone keep up with that? No one has a clue of what might happen?  In a way, we're all dumb animals running into the street without the slightest idea that a car could come along, strike and kill us. We learn very slowly. I suppose you could say this fatal ignorance gives life its poignancy.
End of pondering our species limited knowledge. Now the short history of the postcard car.
This was Ford Motor Company's car of the future. Somehow the future arrived and passed this winged monstrosity behind. The car here looked a little like an Edsel on steroids, another Ford dinosaur. They called the car the Futura, not to be mistaken for the Ford Futura produced for the Australian market between 1962 and 2008. That car was a BF Series Ford Falcon, a much smaller car that morphed into the current Ford Fusion. The model shown here looks like what an engineer in the 1960's would think the future would look like -- sharp lines, wings, wrap-around chrome and big -- gas guzzling behemoth. It never made production, fortunately.
Thanks Rick B. for the great postcard. Yes, I think it will be a "smash hit."

Friday, August 16, 2013

Poet T.S. Eliot said, April is the cruelest month. In Alaska, August is the wettest month. Along with the damp weather comes cooler temps and leaves turning color. My birch trees are starting to show a hint of yellow. Before you know it we'll be getting out the boots and parkas.
The tourist shops sales are beginning to rev up all over Alaska. Now is the time for deals. I bought a few wooden postcards showing Humpback Whales on sale last year at this time. The ink on wood (balsam, most likely) softens the image and gives it almost an airbrush look. The wood is odorless, unlike the birch and cedar postcards in my collection.
The "card" was produced by National Novelty Products, Inc,. U.S.A. in Los Angeles. They appear to be out of business. The card mails with a first-class stamp.

Thursday, February 28, 2013


What Do You Call A Poet?
Julie Jordan Scott, self-described storyteller, poet, performer, mommy and lover of life, sent this fabulous homemade postcard. The photo was taken at a park near her home. She took the photo and placed some backing on it and sent it along with interesting comments. Julie loves to write -- a blogger, a life coach, a teacher, a speaker, and an author of many poems. I like to visit her blog, Julie Unplugged, which contains wonderfully uplifting stories and ruminations from her life of writing. Her casual intelligent writing style is refreshing. I have nothing but admiration for brave souls like Julie who chuck the corporate drumbeat and set out on their own to create a meaningful life.

The purple placard in this photo postcard gives synonyms for the word poet (bard, minstrel, rimer, rimester, versifer, troubadour, singer, minnesinger), and some definitions.  The spelling of some of these terms is archaic -- rimester today is spelled rhymester and rimer is a tool for shaping the rimes of a ladder -- but it's a noble idea that a municipality has attempted to elevate the level of discussion on what constitutes poetry. I think it a good accessible poem of a contemporary poet like Ted Kooser or Billy Collins would have given the public a better idea of what a delight a good poem can be.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Month of Letters

A Month of Letters Participant
Today A Month of Letters Challenge began. If you hurry you can still join. Mary Robinette Kowa, an award winning author and puppeteer, is the architect for this challenge to send a piece of mail, anything really, to some one during the month of February.
Mary, like us postcard hounds, loves to send and receive snail mail, especially hand-written, that reminds us that someone thought of us and cares enough to take the time to send a note -- be it a postcard, letter, a swath of fabric or surprise package. Introducing her challenge, Kowa said, "I find that I slow down and write differently than I do with an email. Email is all about the now. Letters are different, because whatever I write needs to be something that will be relevant a week later..."
She's spot on. Our writing changes depending on the medium we are using. Content follows form. When I sent my first "letter," a postcard, I ended up writing an eight-line, rhymed poem based on the postcard's image contrasting the climate of the addressee. It was creative fun. 
So Are You Ready For A Challenge? Here's how Mary set it up: 
 "In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch
Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items.
All you are committing to is to mail 23 items. Why 23? There are four Sundays and one US holiday. In fact, you might send more than 23 items." 
You can find out a lot more about the challenge and register for it at Mary's site here. At the site you will find all kinds of great ways to interact with other letter writers in the challenge. She even has badges like the one above and other achievement badges you can download to your blog or web site to show your are a man or women of letters.

New US Postal Service Rates

The  price of US stamps went up January 27th so don't forget if you are mailing from the US you'll need a little more postage. This is the third increase for postcard postage in less than two years. I'm glad I stocked up on Forever stamps back in April of 2011. Back then postcards were only $0.28. I'm still buying extra one, two and three cent stamps on the specialty postcard stamps from that time.
The frequent rate increases have become a regular small hassle. I do wonder when the US Postal Service (USPS) will, if ever, get out of hot financial water. The quasi-governmental agency did better with packages in 2012 but still sees a  steady decline in first-class mail. Officials are quick to point out that pressures such as less mail in the electronic age, higher fuel and labor cost negate the possibility of even modest gains.  For more on that click here

Here are the new rates:
Postcards go up one cent from $0.32 to $0.33.
First Class letters also increase one cent from $0.45 to $0.46.
Most significant, International-bound postcards are now $1.10.
Remember when these were $0.98?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Trabants Still Rolling

Cut away view of the Trabant
a car produced in the former German Democratic Republic
Here again I'm writing about cars.
This postcard was sent via Postcrossing Project  by Laura from Germany. She affectionately called the Trabant a "Trabi." These much-loved cars were the "cars of the masses" in The German Democratic Republic (Soviet controlled East Germany) from 1957-1991, and remains the car of choice for many Europeans.
I road in one while in Bulgaria years ago. Peter, the driver we hired swore by them. He drove it on the streets and country roads like a racer in the final laps of a Formula One race.
I found the tiny car interesting and could imagine that, like England's Mini Cooper, it had advantages. For it's time, the Trabant's 1043 cc engine was easy on the gas, 34 mpg. Like the MG Midget I once owned, it was very quick off the line and very nimble to steer -- an advantage in congested cities.
I suppose the car is remembered fondly by some because it represents a bygone era. It offered simple, bare-bones economy. If you can change a spark plug and air filter you can maintain this little car.
Despite its ultra compact size our Trabi in Bulgaria held three suit cases in the trunk along with the spare. Perhaps its greatest selling point is that following the reunification of the two Germanys you could buy one for next to nothing.
Peter also told me he liked the Trabant because it sported a paper body and he said these were flexible and held up better in light collisions. The car wasn't exactly made of paper. The body was made of recycled cotton and sometimes paper wastes with a phenol resin. The resulting product was a plastic called Duroplast. The body consisted of Duroplast panels overlaid on a steel frame. The Trabi does have the distinction of being the first car body made from recycled material.
On the down side, the beloved Trabi being a two-stroke without an oil injection system required adding oil to the gas at each fuel stop. Refueling consisted of opening the hood to a small tank located  over the engine. The location was necessitated because the car lacked a fuel pump so the fuel system was gravity fed. Another drawback was the two-stroke smoked considerably and produced noxious exhaust. There are some later model Trabis made with a four-stroke engines that run considerably cleaner.
Today the Trabi still has a loyal following. You can still buy them from Trabi dealers here in the US, Europe, England and Canada. (Scroll down the Canada link and click on the picture of the motor to hear the engine.) If you're in Krakow, Poland you may want to hire Crazy Guides tour company. They will show you the city in a brightly painted Trabant.
In 2009, an updated Trabant nT model was shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show. This model sported an environmentally friendly  45kW synchronous motor with a range of 100 miles. Price tag is projected at $29,000 US. This model isn't in production yet, so if you're interested in a Trabi you can still pick up a used one dirt cheap.

Let me know if you've spotted a Trabant lately?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The MG Midget: Small, Sporty and Nimble

My friend Rick recently sent me several advertising postcards like this one of various MG automobiles. He remembered that I owned one once and of the cards he sent this one most closely resembled the car I drove in the mid 1970's. Mine was orange and was a great car because at the time it got an unheard of fuel economy. I loved my MG despite the fact it was continually going out of tune. It handled corners like a pouncing cat. I liked that it was so different than any car on the road and that people at stop lights would look down from their enormous American made autos -- in what I call the Big Steel Era -- and point and laugh. Many times in the summer with their windows rolled down I would hear, "Is that a real car?" I had a number of pat answers ready. One was, "Why no, it's a toy but I couldn't part with it since childhood." Another was, "Absolutely, it's the car of the future." I like to think I was ahead of my time driving my MG Midget. Though the cars were taken out of  production in 1979, they did point to an era of smaller and more economical cars that many of us Americans began to buy in the latter half of the 20th-century.