By Mike Crawmer
Thursday evening I’ll be packing for a beach vacation. Into the suitcase will go my swimming trunks, sandals, shorts, t-shirts, suntan lotion, paperbacks, umbrella (the advanced forecast isn’t very promising!) and, paper-clipped to a list of names and addresses, some postcard stamps.
Yep, I send postcards. An anachronism, I know, but I haven’t come up with a good reason for ending an old habit. It all started the summer I spent with an aunt in Tucson. It was my first long-distance trip (via un-air-conditioned bus in those pre-freeway days) and my first exposure to an exotic land. My family probably got tired of the same scenes—cacti, old Spanish missions, cemetery in Tombstone—but I never got tired of sending postcards, filled in tiny script with my latest adventures.
I also like to receive postcards. Travel by proxy, you could call it. At a holiday party last December I met some Pitt researchers who were traveling in January to India for a conference. I discovered that one of them shared my love of postcards. She took my address and promised to send me a card. It arrived in late February. It was a standard view of one of my favorite buildings, the Taj Mahal; the card is tacked on the corkboard above my desk.
While in the military, I graduated from postcards to letter writing. But many letters I sent included postcards—think of it as a photo attachment to an e-mail message, only slower in delivery and touchable. Back then my handwriting was legible, and I had more to say than would fit on a card. One letter about a trip to Italy ran 12 pages long. I had fun writing it, though I’m not sure anyone but my Mom ever read the whole thing. (I’m not even sure she did.)
On last month’s bicycle ride around the Finger Lakes, I stopped in an antique store in Trumansburg (near Ithaca). The owner, who remembered me from my first visit there in 2005, told me (again) that he didn’t have any egg cups (which I collect). Why don’t I collect something else, he asked, leading me to several trays filled with antique postcards. (How did he know?) I walked out a half hour later, the proud owner of two 1907 views of downtown Pittsburgh. One card set me back $7 because all the vehicles on Fifth Avenue were horse drawn—no cars yet.
Any other postcard fans out there? If so, and you want a card from sunny (or wet) Carolina Beach, let me know. More than happy to add you to my mailing list. And if you’re taking a trip to an exotic land (any place outside southwestern PA qualifies), I’d love to get a card from you.