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So I watched the first Sex and the City movie last Friday. But only because I was sick, in bed, in a hotel in Mississippi, and they didn’t have a Bravo channel on their cable.

OK, to back up just a bit: I went to Mississippi with Top Cat on a junket to Harrah’s casinos in Tunica, Mississippi (20 miles south of Memphis) and I caught a vicious cold on the flight from Islip, NY  and after a day of “doing” Memphis (subject of future post) I called it a day at 4 o’clock and crawled into bed with aspirin, decongestants, two bottles of Gatorade, and a box of Moonpies and hoped there was something good on TV. There wasn’t. So I watched the Sex and the City movie.

I’ve never seen an episode of the show but since I don’t live under a rock, I’m aware that these gals have pretty much set the tone for sex and city life for a whole generation of TV viewers. I know what a cosmopolitan is even though I’ve never drunk one, and I know Carrie from Miranda from Charlotte from Samantha, and I know about the tutu. Now, having seen the movie, I can say truthfully that I deeply respect that the ladies don’t play being in your 40s and 50s for laffs — don’t get me started on the many reason why I think Menopause the Musicalis evil, part of an American Taliban plot to trivialize womanhood, and another example of the general lower middle-class dumbing-down of culture (Sarah Palin).

But otherwise, the movie was not my cup of tea. Which, by the way, I would have killed for when I was sick in that hotel room in Mississippi, a good cup of tea from my own kitchen with the vanilla-flavored syrup I make specially to sweeten my favorite Assam teas. I know you all know this, but you really can’t get a decent cup of tea anywhere in America except in your own home, right? But I digress.

There was a scene in the Sex and the City movie that I, as a writer,  took particular note of. In this age of cell phones, it is very hard for certain genre writers — mystery, romance, and general fiction — to come up with ways that their characters can miss important messages/be unable to call for help/check rumors etc. You know, the usual ways for a plot to thicken, for suspense to build, for the necessary conflict to arise so that the book will have a reason to exist.

And since the plot of this Sex and the City movie hinges on Carrie and her fiance having a communication breakdown right before the wedding ceremony, it was interesting for me to see how the writers managed to carry that off (in this age of cell phones). In this case, there was a little scene where the three-year-old flower girl picks up Carrie’s ringing but unattended cell phone and hides it in her own purse. It’s not very believable (even three-year-olds these days know about answering the phone, and a gal like Carrie is not likely to let her cell phone out of her sight) but as a plot device it’s serviceable. I took note of it, in case I ever decide to write a piece of crap novel about people who care greatly about shopping and lunching and talking about the sex lives of their friends.

In this age of cell phones and Facebook and Google, can anybody ever again write a great story about the ways we miscommunicate? And I don’t mean in the ponderously boring linguistic philosophic psychological way. I mean in the literal, letters crossing in the mail/letters not delivered/messages sent too late way.

Like Northanger Abbey. Oh, the bliss of reading Northanger Abbey and all those messages and letters and cards sent and received with such bad timing…

I’m back home now, but I’m still under the weather (our first snow flurries today! ) so I’m planning to do  a ditto this afternoon and crawl into bed around 4 o’clock and watch Bravo TV for re-runs of the Housewives of Beverly Hills (I loathe Camille but doesn’t everybody?).

 Mail. It’s a great topic for a scrapbook or an art journal. Future generations will never know the thrill of receiving a letter, handwritten on paper, folded into an envelope, decorated with a stamp. We should fill them in.

Anybody got a good story about letters received, written, lost, or found?

12 comments to Please Please Mr. Postman

  • Nadine

    You must have been worn down to catch a cold, what with staying up at an emergency vet on Thursday night then flying out to Mississippi on Friday. It’s too much.

    I have never liked “Sex and the City.” It’s total crap. Having actually BEEN single in my 30s in the city, I never found anything or anyone remotely believable in that show. Nor do I know any Manhattan gal who ever watched it. I quit after 2 seasons.

    But I digress.

    The best piece of USPS mail I received recently was an announcement that one of my favorite couples eloped on 10/10/10 after 17 years together. The card design was understated and the message was beautifully expressed so that no one felt left out (they had no friends or family at the wedding ceremony). It wouldn’t have been the same if it came by email; here’s nothing to hold in your hand.

  • Nadine

    Well, no one else is posting so I hope I’m not boring anyone to continue . . .

    I just a few minutes ago came across the card mentioned above and re-reading it still makes me tear up. I love weddings and I always cry at them, and now it seems I’ll cry at wedding announcements, too.

  • The best letter I got this year was a check from the state of Montana. They held three dollars and change SINCE 1956 from a job I had for a few days. They tracked me down via my SS number. The check was for $56.00 !!

    I didn’t believe it, so I called the office from which it came, and the lady assured me they have been doing this. Imagine !

    State of Montana; thank you…

  • I forgot to mention: I have been married TWICE since then, and now I live in Pennsylvania.

    If you have a traffic ticket from Montana; look out.
    They’re going to get you.

  • Joan/Jesse

    I have carried on a letter/post card correspondence with an online friend who lives in AK for the past 3 years. We met in a quilting chat room in ’97, continued to email one another after the chat room folded. Got her interested in bird watching, soon emailing about the new common interest. Two years ago I flew to Reno to meet her face to face where we got on like long lost friends…she moved from remote McGrath, AK to Juneau where she no longer had internet access, so we took the the USPS…I have saved all her letters and post cards, why?
    Just to prove to my kids that people actually connected with one another in this way…even as far back as the .01 Cent postcard, first class letter, .03 cents. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

    Joan

  • Jennifer

    Wow. Funny that you mention mail today. This morning I decided to declare today and all following Mondays “Snail Mail Mondays” because it breaks my heart when I think of the lack of real mail being written and being received and saved. I will write real letters to family and friends. I will take the time, do it by hand, on lovely note cards or stationary. I sent out three today and I can’t wait to send more next Monday.

    My two favorite letter writing memories:

    1. Through my job as an audiologist I met Archibald Cox (who was the solicitor general under JFK and first Special Prosecutor for the Watergate scandal) and his wife. They were amazing, lovely people in their late 80s, had been married forever and still teased and laughed and shined in each others presence. I moved away though and in a few years I found out Archibald had died. I felt moved to write a very sincere and personal letter of condolence to his wife, Phyllis. She and I struck up and unexpected correspondence for several years. I loved to see her tiny, tiny writing and the Brooksville, ME address show up in my mailbox. I loved to write to her about music, nature, hiking, reading. I found out she’d died when her son sent a reply to one of my letters.

    2. In college my dorm neighbor’s older (gorgeous) brother helped her move in freshman year. Later in the year I met him very briefly and he decided once he returned to his own college to make and mail me a mix tape (talk about old school!) but would only give me the names of the songs if I wrote back to him. Although I only saw him maybe once after that, we wrote to each other almost weekly for 4 or 5 years….5,6, 7 page letters, front and back, with illustrations, envelopes made from NYT magazine glossy pages, secret tiny messages hidden under a the stamp…

    I still have boxes of all the letters from all the special people in my life. It makes me sad that no new boxes are getting filled. No one writes real letters anymore. It kinda breaks my heart.

  • Sallyann

    The art of letter writing does not need to be lost unless we do not participate in it.
    I love writing letters. I find as of late though, that when I write a letter and mail it off, the reply often comes by way of e-mail. While I am always glad to here from them, I am still just a little dissatisfied. People say they love the instant reply of e-mail but I have noticed that those I correspond with on a regular basis via e-mail often do not reply for days or even several weeks. So why not write it out and mail it??? My mother and I wrote to each other every week for years. It is one of the things I miss the most since she died.

    I will continue to look for those who are willing to write letters. It does NOT have to be a lost art.
    Sallyann

  • Deborah

    A letter I sent:
    When I was turning 40, I decided to write my favorite aunt a letter telling her how much I admired her. She told me later that she kept the letter in the drawer of her nightstand and liked to pull it out and re-read it.

    A letter I received:
    In graduate school at U of Iowa back in the 80′s, I became good friends with my office mate, Joyce. Joyce (and her mother and her unborn daughter) were killed when a drunk driver struck their car. This was in late March.

    In July, I received a birthday card from her husband, saying he’d noticed that Joyce had noted my birthday on the calendar, so he was sending the card & he asked that I let him know if & when I left Iowa. I did send him a note a couple of years later letting him know we were moving to Indiana. That was our last exchange.

    (not a letter, but more of that story) . . . fast forward about 12 years, finding me living in Flint, MI and teaching at GMI (now Kettering University), an engineering college. Teaching was not going well, and one day I found myself asking out loud what the hell I was doing there. A week or so later, one of the gawky guys approached me timidly after class, “Uh. You said you used to live in Iowa City? Did you know a Joyce Moeller?” Turns out he was best friends with one of her sons, so I learned that the sons were doing well and that Tom (Joyce’s husband) had just remarried. It felt for all the world like the answer to my question: so that’s why I was there.

  • I miss letters so much. My two best friends and I became close through writing letters (now it’s all e-mail). My aunt and and I wrote weekly for a couple years until her unexpected death. This correspondence with her remains one of my favorite memories.

    At a reading some years ago Nick Bantock (author of the Griffin & Sabine books) told the audience that he was inspired to create the books because someone with a postoffice box next to his received the most wonderful mysterious looking piece of mail. “I want to get a letter like that,” he thought to himself and so he set out to create the correspondence he would’ve like to receive.

  • Jacquelyn

    Mr Postman has delivered to my PO Box the complimentary Bloomsbury book, A Small Furry Prayer. A Christmas present…thanks to you, Kotler and Bloomsbury.
    My snail mail correspondence has increased since my best friend from 5th grade and I turned 70 and she lost her husband. We and our familiars write and share our daiies from our kitchen table and across the continent and each of us has at least a letter once a week. We have been writing tho since college. FIFTY years!.
    I guess the best thing letter writing wise, for me, was when I received a box full of all the letters I wrote home (to my mom) when I left California, traveled for 2 years, and then settled in Oregon to raise my family on a farm.
    These span the period of 1968 thru early 80′s….
    I have to say I have always loved the post office, mail call, mail boxes at the end of a road, stamps, stationery, and a good fine tip pen. Oh, and of course, opening a letter to read with feet up, a cup of tea…..
    I am re-reading them this winter………

  • Mel

    Long time reader, first time writer here.

    For years after we met in college 30 years ago, a friend wrote letters that no matter the subject — and there were many within a single letter — were a pure joy to read. Anything and everything. A day scoping out Manhattan water towers. A Julian Schnabel sighting. (It failed to impress.) Children’s shoes or mittens found on her street. The joy of dancing to — and with — The Jam. Details gleaned from between the lines of the Times’ wedding announcements. The letters would arrive in the mail and I (and in time, my husband) would plop down on a couch and read. It was like jumping in to the latest issue (then) of Spy or (later) The New Yorker.

    These letters were always handwritten, never typed. Her print was small, the lines close together, perhaps coiled that way so that the thoughts could spring from the page with all that much more force. The occasional tiny dab of Wite-Out might appear, but mostly, these 4 and 6 page letters (both sides) were delivered in a clear voice, with nary an “um” or “er..” There was a forthrightness of thinking. And a wickedly sly sense of humor. Sometimes they would be accompanied by line drawings.

    The only challenge was in responding. Never mind that I don’t draw; the very writing of the letters back became such an exercise in never-gonna-write-something-that-good. (Much agonizing over an opening line. Profligate crumpling of paper. And I needed a roller to apply my Wite-Out.) Nonetheless, despite my pallid efforts, her letters kept coming. I saved them and have them still. They are a thick sheaf, a few inches tall.

    For a few years, we lost contact, cos the old address didn’t seem to work anymore. About half a decade ago, I searched her name online but the only current thing was an ad for a dominatrix on the other coast. (Didn’t look like her. I had to check. ) Because her handwritten and handdrawn letters had been a thing unto themselves, I wondered if my friend, out of principle — and she had many — couldn’t make or wouldn’t make the transition to going online. I wasn’t even sure she knew how to type.

    Then three years ago about this time of year, a holiday card arrived. The familiar handwriting. The line drawing and watercolor I may’ve even said something out loud walking back from the mailbox, addressing the return address. The card brought news on several fronts: She was alive and yes, quite well, and married now (which explained the address change). And she’d found a publisher who had the wisdom to bring her work in to print.

    As for whether she knew how to type and be online … that answer is before us every couple of days here.

  • Deb

    I found letters my mother left for me when she was dying. She hid them behind my highschool diploma and I found them years after she died when I really needed her advice. Weird, I know.

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