OG: Original Geologist

Postcard about the world's first geologist
Reverse side of postcard about the world's first geologist

Message on postcard:
Hey Stew — Did you know? Wilma Flintstone was the world’s first geologist. Instead of a rock hammer, she had a pterodactyl who wore a crash helmet. “You think your job stinks!” he would say after pounding rocks with his head. Happy belated birthday, man.

One more postcard: 99-cent mammoth

Postcard collage of mammoth, aurora borealis, sea stacks, and a 99-cent price tag

Hello Johan! Thanks for backing my Kickstarter project and for sending along your address. I made this postcard between South Dakota and California in July. Now it’s November, and I’m heading north to Seattle tomorrow to visit my friends Megan and Reid for Thanksgiving. My family is scattered around the country in Colorado and Iowa and Massachusetts, so it’s nice to have friends in my neck of the woods. I’m glad I’m finally able to send this postcard; I like mammoths and this postcard is one of my favorites. Sorry for not reminding you to send your address; I should have sent an email! Hope you have a great holiday season.

Subscription postcards: Scrimshaw, chakras, and hyenas

Postcard about knives, scrimshaw, and declining American pre-eminence.

Hi Andrew — There is much debate these days about the signs and causes of America’s declining pre-eminence, but the popular discourse has completely overlooked a very important factor: The lack of consumer interest in scrimshaw, especially in knife handles. I am doing my part by owning a scrimshaw-handled knife and also using the word “scrimshaw” at every opportunity. It is a fun word to say. Scrimshaw.

Postcard about thoracic chakras and the Upper Sacramento River.

Hi Erin — How is Alberta? I hope it’s great. What you see here is a typical scene along California’s Upper Sacramento River. For years and years scientists searched far and wide for the elusive thoracic rainbow chakra. Then they got a hot tip from a grizzled old yogi to check the Sacramento River. And do you know what the crazy thing is? Once they got there, they found it — but only because it was inside them the whole time.

Postcard about extra smooth hyenas, and also owls.

Evgeniya — When I think of smooth animals, I don’t actually think of hyenas. In fact, they are probably some of the least smooth animals out there. They are constantly yelling and pigging out on dead carcasses. The wise old owl, now that’s a smooth animal. You look at an owl, you’re like, “What’s he thinking?” But you look at a hyena, you’re like, “Oh, gross, he’s binging on entrails.”

Subscription postcards: Geologically based soda names, lenticular clouds, and alpine fronting

Postcard about geology and soda.

Hi Beth — Before I glued a bunch of stuff to it, this was a postcard of Mount Shasta. Off the top of my head I can think of Shasta, Mountain Dew, and Sierra Mist when I try to identify mountain-related beverage names. As far as I know, mountains are the only geological feature to have sodas named for them. I am going to write the relevant authorities to petition for a High Plains Fresca and an Arroyo Twist Pepsi.

Postcard about math, lenticular cloud formations, and Mount Shasta.

Hey Jeff — If there are three things in life that make me happy, it’s basic math, lenticular clouds, and Mount Shasta. This postcard reflects my love of all three. The “serious” artists I know say that I need to stop being so literal in my work. I don’t know, maybe they’re right.

Postcard about Mount Lassen, gang signs, and street cred.

Hello Mollie! This is Mount Lassen. As you can see, it’s a perfect triangle. No, not really — don’t be fooled by the photorealism; it’s just a lifelike collage. When I hiked to the top of Mount Lassen in college, a kid was up at the summit with his grandfather, flashing gang signs in the pictures his granddad took. Nothing connotes street cred like flashing gang signs on a camping trip with elderly people.

Art by mail: Barney Frank, King of the Pacific Salmon

Postcard collage of Barney Frank (king of the Pacific salmon) and the coastline

Message on postcard:
01. Hi Iona! You requested a postcard “the weirder the better”, so you get Congressman Barney Frank, King of Pacific Salmon. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Frank while camped near the beach on a windy and moonless night.

02. Around three in the morning I was awakened by an otherworldly noise that seemed to rise and fall with the waves. A sound like the cacophony of ten thousand voices warbling and gulping in unison. Through the trees I could see an eerie light glowing where I knew the beach to be. Of course I went to investigate.

03. The noise got louder and louder. As I approached the beach I worried that I’d made an unwise choice. In the wan light I could see beads of sweat on my forearms in spite of the chill wind. Soon I reached a bluff overlooking the shoreline, where I saw countless thousands of Pacific Salmon gathered ’round what must have been millions of glowing fish eggs. On the periphery of the gathering was an old boombox sucking down D-cell batteries and blasting Foghat.

04. That noise — the fish were trying to sing along to Foghat. And in the center of the gathering was Barney Frank, perched atop a wave-lapped throne before the majestic, glowing eggs. Lit from below by the bioluminescent gametes, Frank raised a bejeweled scepter and began to chant: “Slow ride… Take it easy…”

05. It was then that my footing gave way. One moment I was nodding along to the chant, the next I was tumbling down the sandy bluff. When I came to rest on the beach all I could hear was the wind and the surf and the boombox. The chanting had stopped, and all eyes were upon me, broadcasting  a mix of piscatorial terror and anger.

06. But then a voice thundered out of the night: “Leave the surface-man be!” It was Barney Frank! I recognized his voice from C-SPAN, but something was different. I later learned that Barney Frank’s gill protectors, which he wears in public life but had removed for the ceremony, have a slight but noticeable effect on his vocal chords. “This intruder means no harm,” Frank continued, “and so we will teach him the secrets of our fishy ways.” The King of the Pacific Salmon waved his scepter, and a black mechanical whale breached the surface of the ocean. “Come, surface-man, and follow me Jonah-like to the deep.” And so I did, but secrets are secrets and I have to leave it there.

If Americans found no clear answers, they at least asked the right questions.

Detail from reverse side: Related text that I glued in.

Art by mail: Empty jacket

Postcard collage of an empty but human-shaped jacked in front of the California coast

Ruthie and Stu (and mostly also Arlo) —

I got your request in time to dedicate this card to your first child, Arlo. Welcome to the world, Arlo! Trust me, there’s a lot of it out there to see. Ruthie and Stu, I’m honored that you would think to ask me to help commemorate such an important event in your lives.

Arlo, when you’re old enough to read and understand this I hope you’ll consider some of the advice I’ve taken the liberty of dispensing here:

1. Have a dog. Treat him or her well. Don’t skimp on walks. Have a bucket list for the dog, and remember that it’s your responsibility to help fulfill it.

2. Being a teenager is rough. I don’t think there are any complete answers to the things that bother you as a teenager, but the good news is that you’ll eventually learn that these things have an extremely finite ability to cause distress and/or pain.

3. If you’re walking down the street in a big city and someone tries to scam you, never tell the person that you don’t believe their story. It only escalates the situation. Instead, say you have no money. I’m not sure what the future economy will look like, but from our perspective in 2012 there’s a good chance this will be true anyway.

4. Drive safely, try to be a good person, get plenty of fresh air and exercise. Read lots of books and don’t be rude to people online.

5. When someone does something nice for you, write a thank-you note. Seriously, I cannot emphasize this enough. People really appreciate it.

I hope this doesn’t sound too preachy. I’ve been traveling all summer long and most of my positive life lessons from this trip have their roots in my deep desire not to wind up living or feeling like people I’ve met along the way. Also, try not to be too cynical.

A few more postcard collages

These are postcard collages that went to my Kickstarter project backers at the forty dollar level. They also got a two-page letter and some zany crap I found while traveling.

Postcard collage of a critical car

Hey Reid — How are you? This postcard is from Redwood National Park, but I bypassed that particular destination on this trip. The last time I was there a drunk guy with no license and no insurance drove into my truck. And then when I got home my girlfriend broke up with me. This time around I saw the redwoods farther south, just off 101 on the “Avenue of the Giants”. This trip has been way better, with the exception of the fact that a pig tore up my legs and sent me to the hospital.

Postcard collage of a strange creature in the redwoods advertising five pro tips

Hi Pat — Here are five pro tips that I try to abide by:

1. ABC — Always be coureous!
2. Be good to dogs.
3. Drive at a safe and reasonable speed.
4. Eat three square meals a day.
5. Shower every morning (still working on this one).

I hope you’re having a good summer, and I hope you like this postcard that Amanda ordered for you!

Postcard collage of eohippus and old country house

Caption on back of postcard: Eohippus measured about 18 inches in length. Its back was curved and its legs and neck were short.

Hello Cheyenne! Isn’t this tiny prehistoric horse just cute as the dickens! This postcard pretty much describes the last few years of my life. I got rid of all my genteel trappings — country house, a horse barn built for non-cute, non-miniature, non-prehistoric horses — and traded it for … I don’t know what. Driving around in a van? Holy shit, it’s terrifying that this actually constitutes an upward trajectory to my life.

Postcard collage of Camaro with top secret answers

Hi Kelly — It’s August 19th, and I’m camped out in Trinity National Forest in Northern California. I found a little stand of big old trees with a clearing underneath, and I’m spending the weekend here. A couple folks have cruised by on four-wheelers, but otherwise I’ve had this place completely to myself. My friend Tom gets married in Portland next week … I don’t know why I just told you that.

Postcard collage of Pervez Musharraf contemplating space rescue in front of bison

Hi Kim! I hope you’re having an excellent summer. Mine has been peaceful and relaxing, with a couple glaring exceptions. In Santa Rosa this last week I met a crazy guy on a broken motorcycle who asked me first how he could end all the pain, and then to beat him up. I suspect the motorcycle was just out of gas, but that he was tweaking too hard to realize that fact. But overall mostly things have been good.