Subscription postcards: Exploding craters, an important message from Hubert Humphrey, and a bunch of chimps

Postcard collage: Diagram of lava exploding, with the text "How Craters Were Formed: Bubble Theory". In the background is Crater Lake.

Message on postcard:
Sacha — I’m here at the Tillamook Cheese factory in Tillamook, Oregon, where they have a kiosk that allows you to send “Cheese Mail”, a cheese-themed video postcard that will be warmly received by friends, family, and, if the amphetaminic Cheese Mail marketing is to believed, your coworkers. Three Cheese Mails cost just one dollar, so of course I was very excited to send out about fifteen hundred. Unfortunately, the kiosk ate my dollar and I left dejected.

Postcard collage: A drawing of Hubert Humphrey in front of a green wooden building plastered in quilts, with a word bubble saying "Hello Clear Skin"

Message on postcard:
Evgeniya — Gift shops are weird. I visited the Tillamook Cheese factory today and their gift shop only had one good postcard of the factory. But they did have copies of the books Life in the Goat Lane and How to Live with Teenagers. The cover of the latter book featured a crazed-looking teenager about to run over an old lady with his car. I’m not sure what it had to do with cheese or why the teen’s heart was filled with such malice.

This seems less like advice and more like a warning.

This seems less like advice and more like a warning.

It's also the title of a little known B-side by the Eagles.

It’s also the title of a little known B-side by the Eagles.

Postcard collage: A group of chimps in front of Crater Lake.

Message on postcard:
Elizabeth — Here is a picture of chimps using tools to get food. They stick twigs into dirt that’s full of bugs. Then they eat the bugs that are on the twig. People used to think that only humans use tools. Today we know that other primates (like chimps), birds, elephants, and even some insects can use simple tools.

Subscription postcards: Genius dog and a pizza paradigm shift

Postcard collage: A dog stands in front of a giant hand with mathematical equations written on it. Text reads "The Need to Succeed".

Message on postcard:
Jennifer — I hiked out to the end of Cape Lookout this morning. Cape Lookout is a promontory located in a state park which bears its name. Eponymous geological features are usually pretty good, and this one was no exception. To the north you could see the Netarts Spit, which I’d hiked yesterday, and miles of coastline were visible in both directions. The trail winds along above tall cliffs, grassy steeps, and a rocky cove. I took the dogs with me. They got really close to the ledges and it made me nervous. I told them to step back and that they have too much to live for. If humans were like dogs, we could save hundreds of lives by placing dog treats near emergency suicide hotline phones.

My dog Kaida eating grass at Cape Lookout.

Kaida, high above the Pacific and oblivious to all danger, browses on vegetation along the Cape Lookout trail.

Postcard collage: A horned mammal with prominent rear end kicks with its rear legs. The text "circles are the new slice" is overlaid above a cross-section of a ball bearing mechanism.

Message on postcard:
Erin — Last weekend, while hiking at Cape Lookout, I searched for a plaque in memory of a 1943 plane crash, but I couldn’t find it. The guidebooks didn’t say much about it, so I did a little research to learn more. A B-17 flying through coastal fog crashed into the cliff, just fifty feet or so from clearing the promontory. There was one survivor, who was thrown from the plane into a tree, hanging by his bootlaces and soaked in aviation fuel while a fire burned nearby. He went on to become an appliance salesman. It makes me think about all the ordinary people you see in the course of an ordinary day, and what kind of stories they might be carrying with them.

Learn more here.

Postcard collage: A bison stands in front of a cornfield, with text that says "PIZZA SLIDERS"

Message on postcard:
Mollie — Dateline: Tillamook Cheese factory! After camping at Cape Lookout, I’m here touring the Tillamook Cheese factory. They have big windows where you can look down at the factory floor. Blocks of cheese the size of small monuments zoom around single-file on a production line, where they’re cut into brick-sized units and slipped into colorful packaging. One of the workers would happily wave at anyone watching him. Another worker would only reluctantly return my wave. I think he wondered why a full-grown man touring a cheese factory would wave at him. I have no good answer and concede his point.

A worker at the Tillamook cheese factory acknowledges my presence.

A worker at the Tillamook cheese factory acknowledges my presence.

Subscription postcards: Bats, birds, and dogs that love math

Postcard collage: A bat flying in front of Crater Lake at sunset, with the text "Amazing Technicolor Brain"

Message on postcard:
Kevin — Today I was walking along the beach and I found a really long, rubbery plant with an air-filled bladder at one end. What is this thing? Is it kelp? I don’t think it’s kelp. I don’t know very much about ocean plant life, but I know this thing is interesting and disgusting. I think the whole plant is hollow. It’s like a hollow, rubbery rope. When the mutant apocalypse hits we’ll rename things after their new, post-industrial uses. These weird sea plants will one day be known as quick-rot hoses. But I want to know what we call them today.

My dog Skillet and a weird sea plant.

Skillet sits next to a quick-rot hose on Netarts Spit while staring at the ocean.

Postcard collage: A bird of prey with outstretched wings is positioned behind an "Iron Range" sign from Minnesota. A word balloon from the bird says "Come in".

Message on postcard:
Beth — Cape Lookout State Park is a popular spot for paragliders. Today I saw about ten of them flying around above the beach. They tend not to venture too far from shore. I’m guessing that one paraglider lost at sea was enough to teach everyone else a valuable lesson. People who can fall out of the sky don’t like learning the hard way.

Postcard collage: Tourists appear to lean to the side in a wooden shack called the "Gravity House". Text says "'Publish or perish' has become an axiom affecting the destinies of many scientists."

Message on postcard:
Hey Kathleen — Today I ate marionberry pie for breakfast. It’s my new favorite thing to do while camping. I didn’t know the difference between a marionberry and a blackberry, so I had to look it up. Turns out that the marionberry is a specific blackberry cultivar developed by the USDA at Oregon State University. In 2009 Oregon was going to name the marionberry our official state berry, but a farmer who grew a different cultivar objected and the issue was dropped.

The fracas generated a great headline: “Push to name a state berry starts rhubarb”. The story had a fantastic quote from Marion County’s state legislator: “I am not going to bat over internal disputes in the berry community.”

Learn more:

Subscription postcards: Impact theory, bird-emblazoned mountain scenery, and corrugated cephaloboxes

Postcard collage: Diagram of meteorite impacting moon to create a crater. Beneath it is a sprinting pig. Behind it are salt flats. The text says "IMPACT THEORY"

Message on postcard:
Sharon — Greetings from Cape Lookout State Park! I remember reading John Muir in my early twenties, reading his description of unbroken old-growth forests that used to carpet the Pacific Northwest … these days there’s not much of it left. Here at Cape Lookout all the trees seem to be second growth. But every once in a while you’ll see a massive old stump that’s about the size of a whale head. I’m camped next to one right now. It’s dwarfing my van.

Vanagon and tree stump.

My van parked in front of a gigantic, old-growth tree stump at sunset. The tree stump looks like a smokestack.

Postcard collage: Birds and reeds in front of a mountain landscape. The bottom of the postcard says "UTAH".

Message on postcard:
Carmel — Today I went for a hike along the Netarts Spit, a thin strip of land bordered by Netarts Bay on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west. The spit has an ocean beach and a long and tiny hill dotted with dead and dying trees. It also has a grass-covered mud flat that isn’t so much water-saturated dirt as it is earth-laden water. It’s pretty. I like it.

Postcard collage: A boy with a box on his head stands in front of an old-style race car on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Message on postcard:
Bridget — About a week ago I visited Cape Lookout State Park on the Oregon Coast. In the afternoon, before the sun went down, I walked a couple miles up the beach. Debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami is beginning to wash ashore. The best piece of debris I found was a big blue bucket. It reminded me of a bucket-related Meat Puppets song that I later listened to and enjoyed. This is the first and only positive outcome from the tsunami.

Below: The above-mentioned Meat Puppets song.

Tsunami debris sign at the Cape Lookout campground recycling area.

Tsunami debris sign at Cape Lookout campground.

Subscription postcards: Dirt and oil, bus of intrigue, babies of the nothing

Postcard collage of woman, 1972 Monte Carlo, and arid mountainside. Text reads: "Dirt and oil: The revolutionary way to mix and match."

Message on postcard:
Andrew — Last weekend I took part in the annual Worst Day of the Year Ride. It’s a bike ride that takes place during the part of February that is statistically the worst part of winter. This year we lucked out and there wasn’t any rain. In fact, we double-lucked out. The pre- and post-ride staging area had donut holes.

Donut hole nirvana.

Donut hole nirvana at the Worst Day of the Year Ride.

Postcard collage: Greyhound bus in front of leaf-strewn clearing in the woods, with the text "Designed to intrigue."

Message on postcard:
Jeff — The foul weather is still plaguing Portland, but lately we’ve been getting a really nice day every couple of weeks. These are the days when cool old cars emerge from hibernation. All winter long these quasi-reliable beasts of old are hidden under garage roofs or rotting tarps … but when the sun comes out, so too does (for example) a blue 1978 Dodge van whose owner will talk to you at length about important van-related matters while you stand in the street taking photographs, blocking traffic.

A blue 1978 Dodge van.

Riding in style.

Postcard collage: Baby animals and an upside-down bat. Text says "Babies of the NOTHING".

Reverse side of postcard: "If anybody wants to have an itch, I'm ready to be a scratcher."

Message on postcard:
Steve — I found this in a newspaper sitting on a table at a coffee shop.


Subscription postcards: Hot Pot, Pluto, cultural advancement

Postcard collage of surfers paddling in front of Mount Rainier and an American flag, with text reading "the wild in mind"

Message on postcard:
Hello Sacha! I am just back from a camping trip. It was a lot of fun — I walked behind waterfalls — but I think my favorite part was eating dinner back in town after the trip. I went to a place called “Hot Pot”, where there’s a big simmering pot of broth on the table in front of you, and you order food to dunk in the broth and cook. I guess it’s like Chinese fondue. Anyway, it’s good.


Postcard collage of woman churning butter in front of a depiction of Pluto and Charon

Message on postcard:
Hey Kathleen — Did you know that scientists discovered two more moons around Pluto? The SETI Institute is doing a survey to name them. I chose Acheron, the real-life “river of pain” in Greece that’s said to lead to Hades, and Lethe, one of the five rivers of the underworld. Go vote!


Postcard collage of prominently displayed breasts in front of Crater Lake in winter, with text reading "school for cultural advancement"

Reverse side of "school for cultural advancement" postcard

Message on postcard:
Hello Jeff! I posted a scan of the last postcard I sent you on my website. My mom saw it and was alarmed that it appeared to show a crotch shot of a man. I want to clarify and emphasize that this is NOT the case. I am sending you this postcard to restore balance to the universe.

Subscription postcards: Geopolitics and waterfalls

Postcard collage of a gunfight at a card table, with text reading "U.S. attempts to restore peace in Vietnam were rebuffed by the powers in Hanoi"

Message on postcard:
Hello Kevin! It’s Superbowl Sunday, but I’m at Silver Falls State Park here in Oregon, miles from the nearest big screen T.V. I’m not much of a Superbowl fan. Probably this is because I’m not a football fan to begin with. But today I like the Superbowl more than ever, because it is keeping the crowds away on this beautiful (by Oregon standards) winter day. It’s a pretty good deal; I can’t complain.


Postcard collage of dapper gentleman relaxing in front of mountain, with text reading "a superior mountain"

Message on postcard:
Hello Beth! Dateline: Silver Falls State Park, Oregon, today. I walked behind some waterfalls. It was super neat. I don’t know how to make a story out of this, because there’s no conflict or resolution, so I’ll just say it again. I walked behind some waterfalls. It was super neat.


Postcard collage of woman swimming with dolphins, surrounded by fall leaves, with text reading "high-speed Internet"

Message on postcard:
Hello Andrew! I’m in the lodge at Silver Falls State Park. There’s an old stuffed mountain lion in one room with a collection of skulls — animal skulls, I should clarify — and there’s a fire in the fireplace. This is an old building constructed by a C.C.C. work camp in the 1930s. Near the fireplace there’s a binder full of xeroxed correspondence from the park’s founder. In one letter he talks about his suspicion that there are caves in the area, because he thinks the ground sounds hollow beneath his feet. Neat guy.


North Falls at Silver Falls State Park.

North Falls at Silver Falls State Park. The trail follows the bottom of the canyon on the left-hand side, passes behind the waterfall, and then ascends to the right-hand canyon rim and follows it back the other way.

Middle North Falls in Silver Creek Falls State Park.

Middle North Falls in Silver Falls State Park.

The trail behind Middle North Falls in Silver Creek Falls State Park.

The trail behind Middle North Falls in Silver Falls State Park.


Subscription postcards: The continuing search for knowledge, no bull

Postcard collage of David Hasselhoff in front of sunset, with text reading "the continuing search for knowledge"

Message on postcard:
Hello Jennifer! Last weekend I went camping on the Oregon coast, and on the way there and back I passed through Astoria. The city gives me the willies. It’s a bunch of steep hills right next to the water. You’re either vulnerable to a tsunami or a landslide. THERE’S NO ESCAPE. There is, however, the Oregon Film Museum, located in the old county jail. I didn’t visit, but I heard that the museum is devoted mostly to Kindergarten Cop.


Postcard collage of man opening door to reveal cowboy riding a bucking bull

Message on postcard:
Hello Carmel! Last weekend I went camping on the Oregon coast. On the way home I stopped in Astoria and had Bosnian food. I had no idea you could get Bosnian food in Astoria, but let me tell you, it was really good.


Postcard collage of spray-painted, stenciled office worker holding a paddle and kicking tennis player, with text reading "no bull"

Message on postcard:
Hello Mollie! Today on a hike at Silver Falls State Park I saw a ton of owl pellets on the trail. Based on my observations, I think owls must feel constantly sick to their stomachs. I am glad I don’t eat mice, and I’m not a big fan of mice. So I guess I’m glad that owls are out there eating mice on my behalf.

Subscription postcards: End of the line for Lewis and Clark. Also, kale.

Postcard collage of people walking on a road above a town, with text that says "experiment"

Message on postcard:
Hey Bridget — Greetings from Fort Stevens State Park, located at the mouth of the Columbia River. January is not exactly peak tourist season on the Oregon coast, so it’s peaceful and quiet here and also a little rainy and cloudy and windy, but it’s pretty in its own way.

This is as far west as Lewis and Clark made it. After hitting the coast they said “fuck it” and turned around and went home and got real jobs. Clark made his fortune on the professional lecture circuit, but Lewis had a career flame-out and disappeared from the public eye for a while. He resurfaced a few years later in New Orleans, busking in the French Quarter. He became America’s first underground folk-rock superstar, but died of an opium overdose at age twenty-seven after releasing just three wax cylinder recordings on the Smithsonian Folkways label.

So I reckon I should turn around and head home and figure out what the hell I’m doing with my life.


Postcard collage of dog head in front of badlands with text reading "a question of scale"

Message on postcard:
Hello Sharon! Do you know what makes winter camping on the Oregon coast tolerable? KALE SOUP. It takes a rainy, windy excursion from soggy to spectacular in just one spoonful. Maybe after reading this you will want some kale soup, too. If so, here is my recipe.

  1. A bunch of kale.
  2. Other soup ingredients, e.g. carrots, beans, broth.
  3. Heat

I hope you enjoy it!


Postcard collage of ballerina in front of badlands, with text reading "summer season"

Message on postcard:
Hello Evgenyia! I’m sitting in my van at the mouth of the Columbia River, looking across what is kind of a huge bay thing at some rain-obscured green-gray hills in Washington State. There’s a parking lot next to the beach and there are about two cars here at any given time. Someone will drive up, get out, get back into their car, turn around, and drive away. Then the process repeats itself. I’m listening to the wind and the rain and the surf and enjoying the view through my windshield, staying dry.

Subscription postcards: Horses, pigs, chicken heads

Postcard collage of horses in front of Crater Lake

Message on postcard:
Hello Elizabeth! Did you know that pioneers crossed the country on horses over a hundred years ago? It took months and months for them to cross the country. Today you can fly across the country on a jet in six hours. A horse can gallop at 30 miles per hour, but a jet can fly at six hundred miles per hour. Jets are cool!



Postcard collage of skeletal bird flying in front of Mount Hood

Message on postcard:
Hey Steve — Greetings from Fort Stevens State Park. I’m here at the mouth of the Columbia River, on the Oregon coast. Fort Stevens was originally built to defend against British attack during a dispute called the Pig War. The Wikipedia article on the subject says it was a bloodless dispute, but it was triggered by the shooting of a pig, which I have to imagine was pretty gruesome. I guess they mean human blood when they talk about bloodless conflicts. As I am sure you can understand, I am fine with sending pigs into war to die in lieu of men.


Postcard collage of cellist in front of Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, with text "No Chicken Heads, Feet or Intestines"

Message on postcard:
Hey Erin — Greetings from the Oregon coast. I’m at Fort Stevens State Park, near the wreck of the Peter Iredale. It’s an old steel-hulled boat that ran aground in 1906. Most of the wreck was cut up for scrap, but for some reason the bow was left intact. They say it’s good luck to kiss it at low tide, but so far my luck is unchanged and my mouth tastes like salt water, rust, and barnacles.

The wreck of the Peter Iredale at Fort Stevens State Park

Here is what one hundred and six years of Oregon weather will do to a boat.