Subscription postcards: Floating, whaling, and ruminating

Postcard collage showing an introduction to floating

Hey Bridget — I just drove into Portland from Seattle about a week ago in a 17-foot U-Haul truck with bad steering and a transmission that whined in first gear and squealed in second. Now I’m at my friend Tom’s house at a weekly get-together called Stringband. It’s a group of seven or eight folks who show up in Tom’s living room and play acoustic covers of folk tunes and old standards. There’s a banjo and a guitar and a mandolin and a one-string bass made out of a trashcan and broomstick and et cetera. A little while earlier they played “Drift Away” — you know the song, “Give me a beat, boys, free my soul, I want to get lost in your rock and roll and drift away.” One winter back when I was living in Iowa I walked down to the river while listening to Democracy Now and the music break on that episode was “Drift Away”. It was cold and overcast and snowy and the river was iced over, and also now that I think about it maybe the song was “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” … Anyway, the point is —

Actually I have no idea what the point is. A lot of my stories don’t go any deeper than “things remind me of other things”. Which is pretty much the only way I know how to understand the world; I remember as a kid being fascinated by the idea that every word in the dictionary was defined by other words in the dictionary that were in turn defined by yet other words in the dictionary.

Anyway. When I moved away from Iowa I took a fully loaded 30-foot truck to Seattle. Now I’m moving my stuff in a 17-foot truck. Which means that my life is now 13 feet of stuff more simple.

Postcard showing a bear on a toilet

Hey Steve — Greetings from Stringband! It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m at Tom’s house. Everyone is singing songs and being merry, and I’m sitting at the dinner table wondering how you get a bear to pose on a toilet for a novelty photo. The world is laden with mystery, Steve, and sometimes it is healthy and productive and necessary to ponder these mysteries. But sometimes it is counterproductive and isolating. “Ponder wisely and ruminate not,” says the man imagining Yogi the Bear mounting his porcelain throne.

Postcard collage about mountains and whaling and the Pacific Northwest

Hello Andrew! I grew up in Iowa, far from the ocean, but the natural history museum at the local university was lucky enough to have a whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling. It was an old skeleton, from back when whaling occupied a place in our culture that was as important to cable-knit sweater wearing Cape Codians as the Macarena was to everybody in the 1990s. No one could imagine life without it. But time went on.

We used to use whale oil in automatic transmission fluid. But the TV show Flipper changed American minds about sea mammals, and in 1971 the United States banned the importation of sperm whale oil. Soon thereafter American automakers began using entirely non-cetacean friction modifiers in their automatic transmission fluid. The 20th Century was a good one. It was the century when we stopped putting whale juice in our cars.

Subscription postcards: The Tacoma aroma, a giant cube, and alpine megafish

Postcard collage of Tacoma sunset

Hello Carmel! I drove through Tacoma, Washington on my way to and from Thanksgiving in Seattle. I’ve passed through Tacoma probably about a hundred times, but I’ve only ever stopped there once. Tacoma is famous for what they call the “Tacoma aroma”. To be fair, the smell is a lot less worse than it used to be, but the name has stuck around even if I haven’t.

Postcard collage of gigantic northwestern Rubik's cube

Hello Evgeniya! This postcard has a Rubik’s cube on it, but to me it looks like the Borg from Stark Trek. I saw a page on the Internet that described in great detail the similarities between the Bible’s description of heaven and the Borg. Heaven is, apparently, accordion to scripture I mean, a gigantic cubic city 1,500 miles per side.

There is a lot of interesting stuff on the Internet. I saw another page that purported to show telescopically photographed evidence of intelligent life on Jupiter. It would have been way more exciting if the evidence didn’t appear to have been created in Microsoft Paint. There’s such a fine line between the work of crazy people and that of Kool Keith.

Postcard collage of high-mountain alpine fishing

Hello Jeff! Greetings from the Pacific Northwest! There are a lot of annoying environmentalists out here complaining about our nearly depleted ocean fisheries, but you’ll never hear peep from these negative nellies about our mountain fisheries, which are doing fine. All you need to eat like a king for a year is to walk up to the top of a volcano — like Mount Hood, shown here — grab your fish, and return home as our fathers did and their fathers before them. These succulent fish are light, tasty, and delicious, and thanks to their unique ability to metabolize volcanic gases, a 10,000 kilogram specimen can grow to maturity in just three weeks. It is virtually impossible to deplete these fisheries, but you won’t ever learn about this amazing food resource listening to Ralph Nader or Rage Against the Machine. In fact, pretty much the only place you will hear about these alpine mega-fish is Lyndon LaRouche’s newsletter, to which I urge you to subscribe. LaRouche is doing a lot of good work right now. He is the only major political figure working to advance the idea that global warming is caused by emissions from the Crab Nebula, an idea that I regard as being highly plausible.

Subscription postcards: Bigfoot, science, and a mess of eggs

Postcard collage of hungry Sasquatch about to eat footballer

Hi Erin — Greetings from Seattle! I got this postcard at a gas station along Interstate 5. Gas stations are where you can get some of the best Bigfoot swag. Do they have Bigfoot in Canada? I hope so. Last summer a guy in Montana was killed while he was trying to do a Bigfoot hoax. He was dressed in a ghillie suit, trying to scare motorists on a busy highway. Then a teenager ran him over. The police said the hoaxer had probably been drinking. I am skeptical, though. I want to believe that a real Bigfoot caught him hoaxing, and was so enraged that he ran over the hoaxer himself. Then the cops had to do a cover-up to prevent mass panic over Bigfoot’s vehicular homicide. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. I think Bigfoot would probably drive one of those cars like Fred Flintstone has.

Postcard collage explaining the science behind Mount Saint Helens

Hello Beth! Greetings from Seattle, where I’m spending Thanksgiving. This postcard is billed as a before and after shot of the Mount Saint Helens eruption. I think that’s misleading. Really it’s a before and during comparison.

Postcard collage of Washington State Thanksgiving

Hi Kevin, and greetings from Seattle. I’m up here for Thanksgiving … and to move a truckload of stuff out of my friend’s house. Yesterday I picked up the rental truck from U-Haul. You will be happy to hear that the truck was in excellent condition, and the gentleman working there absolutely did not appear to be as high as you can be while still barely performing your work obligations at a U-Haul franchise. When they asked me to record any problems with the truck before I left, I wrote down “damage to all surfaces”. I figured that would cover any normal wear and tear.

Subscription postcards: Washington State, where specialists can help

Collage made from Washington state postcard

Hello Mollie! Greetings from Seattle. I’m visiting the city for Thanksgiving. Here is a short list of things you can buy in Seattle:

– Sleepless in Seattle shot glass
– Space Needle T-shirt
– Kurt Cobain memorabilia
– Coffee

I am always worried about a big earthquake hitting Seattle. My friend here has a magnetic knife holder in his kitchen. I asked him if the knives would fall off in a strong earthquake. Would it be safe? He said his plan is to be in another room.

Postcard collage of cartoon dog overflying Mount Saint Helens

Hello Elizabeth! Greetings from Seattle. Seattle is a city in Washington state. There are mountains on one side and water on the other. On the way here I passed Mount Saint Helens. It erupted in the year 1980. That was 32 years ago. The top of the mountain came off in the eruption! Thankfully, scientists told everyone to go somewhere safe before it erupted. Smaller eruptions are making a new mountain inside the crater from 1980. Mount Saint Helens is very neat. I climbed to the top once. It was cold and snowy up there!

Postcard collage about mountains

Sacha — Greetings from Seattle! I’m up here for Thanksgiving. It’s a little late in the year to visit St. Helens if you’re not climbing it. I climbed it on Mother’s Day in 2003. The tradition is to climb the mountain wearing a dress. I had a frilly yellow tutu on over my pants. There’s an extra incentive to be safe when you climb in a tutu — it would be embarrassing for rescuers to find your ridiculous-looking, tutu-clad body at the bottom of a cliff.

Later that year I duct taped the tutu to a satellite dish I found on the curb. I dragged the tutu-satellite-dish combo behind my truck while I drove down a forest service road. I wanted to see what would happen. I’m not sure what I was expecting.

As an added bonus, here are some pictures of the above-mentioned satellite dish and tutu. Here you can see my friend Tom helping to set up the experiment, plus a live shot of the test rig.

Subscription postcards: Mammals, spiders, and the Internet explained

Postcard collage of hamster, house, and Crater Lake

Hello, Sharon! This is a postcard that I picked up back at Crater Lake in October. I had some animal adventures there: There was a mouse in my house. In fact, I had two mice in my house … they were living under the back seat of my van. I was concerned that they would chew through the wiring and leave me stranded, but I was more worried that the dogs would see the mice and chew up the van trying to get at them. Fortunately, my dogs, though lovable, are neither observant nor smart, and I was able to trap the mice without their knowledge.

Postcard collage of Mount Shasta and the Internet

Hello Kathleen! Remember when people didn’t know what the Internet was? Now everybody knows and it’s everywhere. I need to find out how that happened, because I want everybody to know about and have access to a 1975 AMC Pacer. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all had 1975 AMC Pacers to go with our Internet?

Postcard collage of Mount Saint Helens and gigantic spider

Hello Jennifer! It is spider season in the Pacific Northwest. From October through about January big ugly spiders — approximately the size of Mount Saint Helens — start getting chilly and they look for new winter homes indoors. The best defense against the winter spider season is to live in a house owned by a landlord who hasn’t lost his will to live and let the ever-encroaching Northwest vegetation engulf the home over a period of many anhedonic years.


ps: Once my dog Kaida ate a spider and her head swole up to the size of a basketball. She was fine, though.

The reverse side of the spider postcard.