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: Rock formations, primary functions, and life questions

Postcard with skeptical interpretation of "The Poodle" rock formation at Bryce Canyon National Park.

Jennifer and Anthony — This is a postcard I picked up back in April on my first trip through Utah. All the rock formations there have imaginative names that supposedly describe their appearance. This one is supposed to be a poodle. I don’t see it, but it’s probably good that someone with more imagination named these things. If it had been left up to me, every single formation would be named “Yet Another Rock Thing”.

Postcard with a bridge, a ship, the mightiest wind, and finding your primary function.

Hello Sacha! Right now my dog Skillet is chewing on a bone. He’s really getting into it, and it’s not even a real bone, it’s one of the fake ones from the store. But he still has this intense “I am fulfilling my primary function” thing going on. He seems really content. I should write a self-help book for the hyper-analytical called Finding Your Primary Function.

Postcard of pondering man: Man has a greater brain capacity, and can reason.

Hey Steve — Do you ever wonder this? I wonder this all the time. “What am I doing with my life?” I ask myself. And if only I was better at lying to myself, this question could get me really psyched up. In fact, I think that is probably how Dog the Bounty Hunter got so successful. Every morning he woke up believing he was a bounty hunter, and then he was one.

I am a bounty hunter. I am a bounty hunter. I am a bounty hunter.

Art by mail: Great Salt Lake

Postcard collage of Great Salt Lake and elaborate costume

Message on postcard:
Hi Sindre! Thanks for backing my Kickstarter project. I’ve had a great time traveling this summer, but since my wild boar attack the pace of things has slowed down while I recuperate in the Bay Area (the region around the San Francisco Bay). I was disappointed not to be able to send travel photos to all my project backers — snapshots of a friend’s apartment don’t compare well to the photos I took of the Badlands, for example — so I decided to work on a little mini-project while I’m convalescing.

Charles Schulz, the cartoonist who wrote and drew Peanuts, lived in nearby Santa Rosa for most of his career. After I got out of the hospital I visited the Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, and it was such a neat experience that I thought I would try to interview the museum archivist for my website. And tomorrow I’m interviewing not only the archivist, but also Jeannie Schulz, Charles Schulz’s widow. I’m super excited about this! I’m especially hoping that you enjoy it, because your avatar on the Kickstarter website is a very neat cartoon face.

I like Peanuts … I feel like Charlie Brown some days, and as the owner of two dogs I’m pretty much legally required to like Snoopy. Some of my friends don’t really care for the strip — not that they dislike it, rather they’re more neutral about it — which seems strange to me. I’m trying to segue into this story about the guest ledger at the museum, but I don’t know how to write a fluid transition, so I’ll just tell the story.

The guest ledger is this sketchbook with Charlie Brown on the cover, and inside people have written notes of appreciation and a few have drawn characters from Peanuts. On the cover, the smile on Charlie Brown’s face has a little downward dip at the end … it’s a little tiny pen movement that goes a long way. I think it shows some kind of anxiety or reservation in the character of Charlie Brown. And in a guest book entry, there’s an amateur attempt at Charlie Brown where he has a full-on smile, no hint of doubt to his happiness.

I think that particular amateur drawing is a great if unintentional interpretation of how Charlie Brown makes the artist feel. And it makes me happy that [an anxious, potentially depressed] character like Charlie Brown can make a person happier than Charlie Brown is.

Original and interpreted Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown as drawn by Charles Schulz, and Charlie Brown as drawn by a visitor to the Schultz Museum.


Art by mail: A dazzling wasteland

Postcard collage of Great Salt Lake Desert, woman, and fish

Message on postcard:
Hi Tara! When asked to choose between a kid-friendly and non-kid-friendly postcard, you specified, “Vulgarity, please.” So I am gosh dang happy to bring you the most foolin’-est vulgar postcard my pottymouth mind can muster.

My Aunt Christine keeps telling me, “Sweetie, you should use less profanity when you write! You’re too good a writer to use such a lazy trick.” And I’m like, “Dang it, yo! I don’t think you appreciate how flippin’ rough life can be, and how my unique blend of personal experiences has contributed to my one-of-a-kind street flavor. I love you, but you need to respect my fudging work, please.” And the truly sad thing is that when she steps with this bull hooey, she doesn’t even realize she’s instigating the kind of soul-wrenching internecine conflict that legitimates my casual use of profanity.

Anyhowski, take a peep at that map to the right and sit back while I regale you with tales of my fantastic voyage across the American West. It was hot as the blazes of heck the day I drove through the southern reaches of the Great Salt Lake Desert on U.S. Highway 50. Western Utah is home to a few rough-and-tumble street gangs, including the Wasatch Blood Donors and the much-feared Salt Lake Safety Razors. Tensions were running high during my visit, and earlier that week the two gangs had exchanged a particularly cutting volley of letters to the editor. If I broke down in the desert I would have to rely on my own wits and survival skills for up to forty-five minutes, which is how long the sheriff told me I could expect to wait before encountering a random act of good samaritanism.

“Shucks, sir,” I said to the sheriff, “I don’t think you realize what a bleedin’ tough son-of-a-good-mother you’re talkin’ to.”

But the sheriff was unimpressed. “Don’t be a silly fool, son. Stay the night in my guest cottage and you can chow down at the senior center spaghetti dinner tonight. My treat.”

Well, I knew better safe than sorry, so I looked him square in the eye and took him up on his hospitality. I learned a valuable lesson that day, I assume.

Map of Great Salt Lake Desert

The above-mentioned map of the Great Salt Lake Desert.