The Thing came!
But first, I want to discuss the United States Postal Service.
I’m a little annoyed with them, but I can see how they made the mistake. Jenny put in a change-of-address request when she moved out, and Claire began receiving mail here. They just saw our last name on the change-of-address request, apparently, and began diverting all of my mail to Philadelphia! Or they thought about it — luckily, my obsession with The Thing led me to make calls to the local post office yesterday and today to track down my mail, which was waiting to be routed elsewhere. I got it just in time!
“Got what?” you ask…
I’m not done with the postal service, though.
I forgive them. I still love them. Ever since I was little, for some reason Getting The Mail has pretty much been a tiny highlight of every day (excluding Sundays and National Holidays, which, in result of the absence of mail, have an element of sadness attached to them). I know, I know — it’s usually bills and ads and credit card applications. But there’s always a chance that there will be something else — an actual handwritten letter, a magazine, some kind of package. And if these things seem rare, you can always invent new things to be excited about (like the patterns inside security envelopes). Volunteering for a scholarship foundation, and at a few jobs I’ve had that involved receiving Lots of Hand-Mailed Things From People, I’ve managed a pretty good collection of stamps (still on torn-off envelope corners), too. This is another Thing To Look Forward To.
I don’t know why. But last night I was reading a novel, Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love, and I found this:
I’m imagining your response as you read this letter — which by then will have spent a week or two sitting in this lagoon, then another month riding the chaos of the Italian mail system, before finally crossing the Atlantic and being passed over to the US Post Office, who will have transferred it into a sack to be pushed along in a cart by a mailman who’ll have slugged through rain or snow in order to slip it through your mail slot where it will have dropped to the floor, to wait for you to find it.
This is certainly part of it — my love for the mail.
It reminded me of some song lyrics that have been in my head a lot lately (from the Be Good Tanyas’ Littlest Birds:
You pass through places
And places pass through you
But you carry ’em with you
On the souls of your travellin’ shoes
You do carry places with you, I think. And things carry people and places with them. I think there’s power in things like relics, which so many people have traveled to see and adorn, like paraphernalia of famous people, and also of Things that belonged to people. It’s why I keep the crayons I colored with as a child at my grandmothers house — those inanimate objects, nothing but run-down wax and, in some cases, paper labels, carry my grandmother with them. And my five-year-old self.
E-mail is easy. I’m not saying the technology behind it is — not at all. But it goes from me to you in seconds (if that), a series of ons and offs. Snail mail? Snail mail involves so many people, so many systems. When I send a letter to Barrett in L.A., how many people handle it? Doesn’t it seem to carry energy with it, like some sort of talisman? Not only from the originator, but from everyone who touched it along its way?
My love of mail is perhaps why I sign up for things I don’t need. Like several American Library Association interests. Interested in social sciences? Of course! Humanities? Yes! Instruction? Naturally! And so I get their mail. I have pared down to two subscriptions: Artforum International and Everyday Food. Oh, and McSweeney’s and now The Thing Quarterly. But personal mail is best. And rarest.
The Thing is personal. It strikes a chord. I’m not sure what I will do with it.
I hesitate to write about what it is!! I feel like I’m spoiling the surprise, spilling the beans, divulging a secret. If this makes you uncomfortable, STOP READING NOW!!!
The thing came wrapped in an extraordinarily long tube. It was sort of funny, because the postmen would ask, “How big is the box?” and I would have to answer that I didn’t know. “Is it a long tube?” “Yes,” I would answer, having seen it on The Thing Quarterly website.
Indeed, it was a tube. And in the tube… A shade — the vinyl-type that maybe you had on windows growing up or in a cheap apartment. And on the shade, text (The Thing is meant to be a household item that incorporates text). Sad text. Text that I would like in a museum, but that I’m not comfortable showing off in my home or office. But it’s Miranda July Text — Oh, My Is It Ever. And I think she’s fantastic.
I wonder how many hands and places The Thing passed through on its way to me… Luckily, it came with a little sheet detailing all of the people who put energy into The Thing before it was shipped to me, from Miranda to the printer (Anthony, Felicity and crew), to the guy who bought the tape dispenser to dispense the tape with which it was wrapped (Daniel). To those named and unnamed, I like my Thing. Thank you.