I’ll be the first to admit I have no idea what I’m going to do with the mailing list I just started. That being said, I’ve written at length about how I love making lists, and I’d love it if you’d sign up. Seriously, go here and do that thing. I’ll wait.
“So, what have I just gotten myself into?” you might be asking yourself. I don’t know; I’m kind of figuring that out myself at the moment. I think it goes back to waiting for the mailman. (Which is, of course, an outmoded and sexist way of putting it, especially considering that our current postal carrier is actually a very nice woman. But I long for a word or phrase that combines the same singsong character as “mailman” with the all-encompassing nature of “postal carrier.” Let’s work on that, folks. Meanwhile, moving on!)
Where was I? Right, the mail. I’m old enough to remember when hearing from someone meant one of two things: They either called you on the phone (expensive, especially if they were out of town; you got charged per minute, kids, even if they didn’t live out of the country!) or they sent you a letter (maybe a postcard if they were on vacation or didn’t have a lot to say). This was under fifty cents. It still is, even! (Barely, but still.)
When I was in my twenties, at the tail end of undergrad and then during my first few jobs, when I was living in St. Louis and didn’t know anybody except the people I worked with, I became the sort of person who checked the mail whenever I was coming or going. No lie, I’d look out the window of my third-floor apartment and if I saw the mail van parked on the corner, I’d wait to hear him downstairs in the lobby, and then I’d go down and check my box. Granted, most of the time it was bills (that I couldn’t pay) and circulars (for stuff I couldn’t afford). Every once in a while, though, there’d be a letter—from my brother (rare) or a friend from either high school or my first year of college back in New Hampshire. The mother lode was, in fact, from my mother, when my parents were stationed abroad and we’d trade fairly long letters filling in everything that had been going on between monthly phone calls.
Now, it’s really rare that I get letters in the mail. My friend Keith, though, recently sent one that was funny and unexpected. (Unexpected in it’s arrival, that is, not in its humor. He’s a funny guy.) Before that, I got a fantastic letter written by a group of friends from grad school, written the day after a wedding party (I detected notes of hangover) that also included the following picture:
I want to get back into the habit of writing letters. I’m kind of surprised this hasn’t become a hip new-old thing to do again. Or maybe it has and I just haven’t noticed.
Anyway! As things tend to evolve, now that sense of expectation has shifted from my mailbox to my inbox. Most of my e-mails are, obviously, from companies, applications, and things that are other than human. So when I get a message from a real, live human, it’s the sort of thing I save to enjoy after going through all the other crap in the inbox, which is the equivalent of the wad of circulars that makes your mailbox look full but is worthless.
I also look forward to things like Queen, periodic dispatches from writer Alex Chee that are a bit longer than a blog post and feel, well, a bit more personal, to be honest. (There’s an archive of them here; check them out and you’ll see what I mean.) It feels different than getting an e-mail notification that there’s a new blog post or seeing something pop up in a Facebook feed. (Don’t get me started on Facebook. I’ll have more to say about that later.)
So, basically, I want to feel like I’m talking directly to people, and maybe it’ll feel that way for you. Maybe you’ll be inspired to hit “reply,” and then we really will be talking directly. If you like reading stuff from me, that may be enough. Every once in a while, though, I might offer you something free. I don’t know what, but maybe a story, a piece of advice, a discount on something. A heads-up on something coming out before everyone else gets wind of it. That sort of thing.
*And when was the last time you thought of Hall & Oates?