Several years ago both my sister and I received postcards from a young honeymooning couple we know. The front is an aerial view of a pretty town and the reverse reads, “Ciao! We traveled to this hillside village rich in history and surrounded by olive trees and vineyards. Our present location is Venice–a town w/many canals and walkways. One could lose themselves here. Italy is a wonderful and ‘sensual’ land. Take care, X & Y.” Even more than by the poor grammar, I was struck by its pedantry to such a degree that I was inspired to mimic it. On the reverse of a stunning photo of Motel 6, I wrote some lines about the weather and sent it to my sibling.
For several months we tried to outdo each other in the mundane. I recall receiving one giving tips for using the privy in a Midwestern winter. Then the demographics for a Wisconsin town. Oh, and the history of a meat factory. In return I wrote out all the dictionary definitions of the word ‘at’ that would fit on the card, the physical description of the common banana slug, and some of the compounds formed in the Krebs cycle. She retaliated with how to make glue and a card covered in stick figures.
This was so fun I started sending postcards to my son in college but I didn’t forewarn him. Instead, I hauled out the typewriter and put together a fill-in-the-blank vacation message: “Dear________, I am visiting ________. I _________ yesterday.” Etc. I filled it out like a Mad Lib, signed it “Clovis”, and sent it off. He couldn’t figure out how I had done the printing. During his 4 years in school I sent him many of these cards and duped him a couple of times, such as with the card which thanked him for applying for the position of City Manager of a small California town. I chose the ugliest, dullest, most throw-away cards I could so that the mediocrity of one side was only outdone by the prosaic nature of the other. Another card had directions to follow that would land him lakeside in Alaska. There was one in poor English requesting a large bank transfer. Then I sent him a recipe for jell-o salad. One was a complaint about rumors he had spread about me. I even sent one to his then-girlfriend, calling her Madge. She called my boy and said she’d received the strangest postcard from someone named Clovis. Even now she leaves me letters at the library addressed to Clovis and signed Madge.
I have begun mentally composing some cards to send on The Trip. No one wants a card with a beautiful vista and trite words, so I’m taking a pile of uglies with me to use. There’s a great card of a Union 76 station I can send. On the back I’ll draw an outline of the station and its proposed location on a beach in Fiji. I will be the stick figure on the sand next to it with a face like this: :-0. Or maybe I’ll send the card with the office building on it and write about the economy and make up some equations. No no no this is what they will all read: “Hi! We traveled to this far off island surrounded by water and other islands. Our present location is the hotel–a place w/ many hallways and stairs. One could lose themselves here. Fiji is a wonderful and ‘warm’ land. Take Care, X & Y.”