Hastily written postcard about frontier justice

I wrote this postcard back in October. Posting it today.

Hastily written postcard to Tom.

Hey Tom — Greetings from the gas station / post office / general store / restaurant in Fields, Oregon. I just sat down for breakfast here. I talked to a guy named Josh from Bend, and the waitress told me a story about a dude who showed up in town, stole a truck, and got his ass beat. Pistol-whipped, Old West style

Postcard to Vladimir Putin re: Pussy Riot

My postcard to Vladimir Putin re: Pussy Riot

Dear Vladimir Putin,

I am so disappointed in you for presiding over a system that could jail the band Pussy Riot. I think you seem like a bad person. I hope your mom isn’t proud of you, because if she is there’s something wrong with her too.


PS: It is okay if your mom loves you; she just shouldn’t be proud of you is all.

Subscription postcards: Governor Bigfoot, motivating achievement, and radical banana slugs

Postcard collage. Bigfoot in a suit, with the caption "California Governor". Above that is the phrase "The Most Impossible Job in the World".

Hello Sharon! You are the recipient of one of two Bigfoot postcards I’ve written this month. As you might have guessed, I really like Bigfoot and hope you do too. Did you know that modern political campaigning was born in the 1934 California gubernatorial race? Democratic candidate Upton Sinclair lost the race when Republican operatives launched a smear campaign asserting that Sinclair was secretly a Bigfoot who wished to redistribute the contents of California picnic baskets. Sad but true.*-Mike

*Not true at all. No Bigfoots ran for governor until the 2003 California recall election. Sinclair not smeared on Bigfoot charges. Learn more here: tinyurl.com/1934gov

Postcard collage: A little man grasping a gigantic yellow banana slug. Text: "Must-have products, promotions, and services to fuel an active lifestyle".

Hello Sacha! Ever since I arrived in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve been stocking up on the latest and greatest outdoor gear. I need it to keep weekend warriors from laughing at me. Last year the trend was using llamas as pack animals. This year the hot new fad is slug-packing. My new banana slug weighs 900 pounds and carries all my gear no problem. His name is Chiquita.

Postcard collage: A man with a weird helmet-and-camera face, in front of a waterfall, beneath the word "ACHIEVE" in all capital letters.

Hello Jeff! And happy New Year. Everyone is making New Year’s resolutions right now. (Mine: reduce Chef Boyardee intake to less than 50% of total diet, launch successful class-action lawsuit against ConAgra Foods). So I figured you might like a motivational postcard to help you succeed. Commanding you to achieve seems pretty motivational, so I am optimistic this postcard will help.

Important update: The oblong, flesh colored area in the middle of the above picture is not a male appendage. It is an abdomen. You can find the G-rated original image here. Sorry for the heart attack, mom.

Subscription postcards: Big money, big pills, Bigfoot

Postcard collage: A gigantic wallet in the sky above a sunset-lit Crater Lake. Text: The word "GOOD" in large, capital letters.

Hello Erin, and happy New Year from the United States! Do you have heavy-handed sarcasm in Canada? If not, congratulations: Upon receipt of this postcard, you will be the first Canadian in possession of this awesome new art form! Your friends will be wary; try to explain how great it is. Naw, just kidding. The secret purpose of this postcard is to illustrate my belief that utility is not equivalent to moral authority. Inanimate objects can not be good or evil; moral authority is derived from the proper exercise of individual agency blah blah blah should have sent you another Bigfoot postcard.

Postcard collage: Elvis and Nixon, with the text "Our Pill-Filled Lives" and an old-style TV set.

Hello Evgeniya! Fun fact: The Elvis-Nixon photo is the most requested document from the National Archives. If we lived in a fair and just world, the most requested document would be the photo of Jimmy Carter and Johnny Cash. Cash was married to Jimmy’s cousin, June Carter. What a family reunion that would be.

Postcard collage: Bigfoot in a suit, with the text "Elect Bigfoot" and another block of text that says: "Are we sliding into a period of moral anarchy? In at least some of the arts, society seems incapable of establishing standards adequate to its own protection."

Hey Steve — remember earlier how I was telling you how I try to send postcards that appeal specifically to you? As a fellow artist, I thought you would want to be kept up to date re: our slide into moral anarchy. I am not sure if the text in this postcard refers to Bigfoot’s campaign platform, or if it’s a commentary on Bigfoot’s candidacy, or if it is a criticism of this postcard itself.

Subscription postcards: Big strides, greywater reservoirs, and badgers

Postcard collage: A giant foot about to step across the Mississippi headwaters. Text: Award for stepping across the Mississippi River, Lake Itasca, Minnesota.

Hello Andrew! Here’s a postcard I picked up last summer at Lake Itasca, home to the Mississippi headwaters. Itasca is a made-up word, derived from the phrase veritas caput, Latin for “true head”. Apparently the actual headwaters of the Mississippi were a matter of some contention. While there I strode across the Mississippi with my dog Skillet. I was warned to be careful; if he peed in the river near the source he could flood New Orleans. A man and his dog, flirting with danger.

Postcard collage: A big sign that says "DAM" in front of a backlit sequoia.

Hello Mollie! I hope you like this postcard — I made it using a dam-awareness brochure I picked up in Minnesota last summer. Out here in the west all the reservoirs seem kind of low. I have been doing my part to help: I save all my used dishwater, and once a week I drive up to the mountains to dump it in the nearest reservoir. I am joining thousands of other planet-loving Americans in my quest for a greener earth. It must be working — when I turn on the faucet, the water comes out soapy and full of potato peels.

Postcard collage: A man in running clothes next to a tent and pine trees, with the text "All Natural". Behind him is a badger.

Hello Kathleen! Here is a postcard that I made last summer while I was in the Midwest. After I made this postcard I saw a badger in Iowa’s Loess Hills — another great case of life imitating art. For such fierce creatures, badgers sure are cute as the dickens.


ps: Did you know Wikipedia has an article titled “List of Fictional Badgers”?

Subscription postcards: Big trees, big bears, angry moose

Postcard collage: Man on ground in front of tree-trunk cross-section with date markers. Text: Class is now in session.

Hello Kevin, and happy New Year! Every January it is nice to look back across the years and take a gander at the soul-crushing march of human progress. And what better way to do that than in tree form? Class is now in session! You’ll need a notebook, work gloves, and a chainsaw. Excelsior!

Professor Tree

Postcard collage: Black bear climbing up sand dune. Text: Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan.

Hello Elizabeth! This postcard is from Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan. They are big hills made of sand, located on the shore of Lake Michigan. The dunes got their name from a Native American story. They say a bear and her cub swam across Lake Michigan. When they were done, they laid down on the shore for a long nap. It was so long that they got covered with sand, forming the big hills! According to the story, the bears are still down there sleeping.

Postcard collage: A moose sneaks up behind a man with a fish. Text: Moose on the loose.

Hello Carmel! This is a postcard that I made last summer while traveling in Minnesota. It depicts a moose sneaking up on a man to steal his lunch. According to the book Last Breath: Cautionary Tales from the Limits of Human Endurance, moose in the United States and Canada kill more people per year (six) than any animal except snakes (twelve). In Anchorage, Alaska, more people are attacked by moose than bears. An Alaska state wildlife biologist warned to “assume every moose is a serial killer standing in the middle of the trail with a loaded gun.” Personally, I think that makes Americans sound more dangerous than moose.

Subscription postcards: A cold glass of holiday delight

Postcard collage: Woman on surfboard in front of an oak tree backlit by sunset. Text: Don't run from the weather.

Hello Bridget, and welcome to 2013! I hope you like this card, it’s one of my favorites that I’ve done so far. Fun fact: The flower design on the left-hand side of this card is taken from the barf bag that sat next to my bed during last summer’s hospital stay. It’s probably the nicest barf bag I’ve ever seen. Supposedly it is even fire resistant. Which is good if you don’t like fire, but bad if you don’t like brominated flame retardants. If you don’t like fire or brominated flame retardants, it’s a mixed blessing. Life is complicated like that.

Right now I’m at the Stumptown location on Division Street in Portland, and the Paul Simon album Graceland is playing on the stereo. It reminds me of a 1999 Onion headline: “Burned-Out Coffee Shop Employee Just Lets Paul Simon Album Play for Fifth Time”. This is a special subclass of life imitating art: Life imitating art that really only made sense when compact discs were the dominant storage device for personal audio media.

This last summer I downloaded a mix from the Kleptones blog called “Paths to Gracland”, and I listened to it while replacing the transmission in my van. Look it up and give it a listen; I think you’ll like it. Anyway, there you have it, another installment in my series “Stories About Things That Remind Me of Other Things”.

On an unrelated note, I spent New Year’s Day in the Columbia River Gorge, hiking up to a place called Angels Rest. It was clear and cold and windy, and the dogs were with me and there were whitecaps on the water. Which reminds me of something I’ll tell you about later.



Postcard collage: Man on bench feeding pigeons while two gingerbread men fly above him. Caption: Pour a cold glass of holiday delight.

Hello Jennifer! The world didn’t end on December 21st like some of the doomsday-minded people had predicted. It was a letdown for eschatology enthusiasts but a good thing for everyone else. The problem with doomsday scenarios is that eventually the world is going to end — we can say this with pretty much 100% certainty — but so far all the apocalypse predictions have had a 100% failure rate. I’m pretty sure that scientists are right. One day the sun will expand, the oceans will evaporate into space, and eventually the Earth will be engulfed and incinerated. I’d put money on this prediction, but unfortunately I won’t be here for the one to five billion years it will take to collect on my bet. Jeepers, this is a bleak postcard. I should end on a positive note. Predictions for 2013: Humans will continue to love their dogs, and dogs will continue to love humans.

Postcard collage: Man with backpack walking toward cliff. Text: The natural genius. They say or hint yes, he walks away.

Hello Beth! Happy New Year, and here’s hoping that 2013 is a good year. I just wrote a postcard that dwelled too much on the Mayan calendar apocalypse hypothesis before I went on to ruminate about the fate of the solar system. I’ll try to keep it more upbeat here. When writing postcards, it helps to focus on more of a human timescale than a cosmological timescale. So here’s a list of things that help me to stay positive:

– Listen to the 1963 Lesley Gore song “Sunshine, Lollipos, and Rainbows”
– Bake cookies; eat some of the dough but not more than half
– Go to the public library, put inspirational notes between the pages of random books
– Write lists of things that help me stay positive
– Self-referentiality

That’s all I can think of right now. Happy New Year!