Monday, August 31, 2009

Six Degrees of Separation

Small world situations are always an interesting pleasure, no matter how often they occur. In this case, two women I know from completely different components of my life turn out to be best friends from high school. Somehow we all figured out our one degree of separation-ness.

Recently they had a mini-reunion in New York, enjoying eating their way through the city. They sent me this postcard from Balthazars. My favorite part of this postcard is the address: General Delivery, San Francisco. The truth of the matter is, it was sent electronically. But I love the general delivery reference as much as I love that they thought of me in the restaurant. Thanks, ladies!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Postcard Advertising - Hong Kong

Two from Hong Kong, one for ribbed condoms, one for a graphic designer and stylist.

I like the message on the back of the condom ad, graciously greyed down so you can write your own message over it.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Postcard Advertising

Here are two examples of postcard advertising from the 90s.

In bars, restaurants and coffee shops in major cities around the world were mounted postcard racks (usually in the halls outside the bathrooms) with free postcards advertising any number of products/services. It was a great idea, and an early example of viral advertising - a company distributes free postcards, usually with an interesting graphic, provocative message or, at minimum, extension of an existing ad campaign, and you pay out of your own pocket to mail it to other potential consumers (a.k.a. your friends).

A quick look for this company, Maxracks, suggests that the company continues to exist, but only to send virtual postcards. Now that I think of it, I haven't seen any of these racks in a while with the exception of in a Pasta Pomodoro, which had their own postcards only in these racks.

The postcards below, Mel for Tanqueray and Altoids "Curiously Strong", were both extensions of big, visible ad campaigns at the time.

Mel for Tanqueray Vodka was an extension of the more famous "Mr. Jenkins" campaign for Tanqueray Gin, but not nearly as interesting. Mr. Jenkins was quite popular. I remember one headline which read something like, "Mr. Jenkins regreted the demise of the macrame bikini" (may not have been exactly that, but close enough). In fact, Mr. Jenkins in many ways is the father of the current campaign for Dos Equis beer - "the most interesting man in the world". Mr. Jenkins had a very similar personality.

The Altoids campaign ran initially on bus shelters, with a number of different versions, all with the "Curiously Strong" tag line, all a lot of fun. This campaign really made that product the ubiquitous mint it is today.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Montana - A Better Example of a Postcard Shaped Like the State

Couldn't resist posting this right after Idaho's when I came across it.

It's such a better example of a postcard shaped like its state. I suppose it helps if you have a couple of right angles.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Idaho is probably starting to look like this right now, or if not, will soon. I like it when a state and/or country puts the shape of their geography on a card. And Idaho takes it one step further by creating a card with a shape at least reminiscent of the shape of the state.

We spent a week in Driggs, Idaho once. It is on the other side of the Tetons from Jackson Hole, Wyoming and a lot cheaper than Jackson Hole to live in. My friend, Michelle, and her family lived there.

The highlight in Driggs was a drive-in was called "The Spud". Parked outside the fence of this drive-in was a flat bed truck with a representation of a giant potato on it, one that spanned the length and width of the truck. On Wednesday nights, admission was charged per car rather than per person. Michelle had an old Winnebago one of whose purposes was to be packed full of kids on Wednesday nights, with everybody watching the movie from the roof of the vehicle. Inside The Spud was a ramshackle snack stand surrounded by broken down couches, so if you didn't want to sit in or on your car (or your Winnebago) you could splay out over the couches.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sheep in New Zealand

This must be one of the reasons there are so many bad sheep jokes about New Zealand. Three postcards, sent over a twenty year period, all featuring sheep. Close ups of cute little lambs, a view of a flock, and sheep as interest in the foreground of a shot of a distant mountain - a variety of ways to show pictures of sheep.

I've only been to New Zealand once, and it was on business, but I don't remember seeing a single sheep. What about all the gorgeous scenery, the outdoor extreme sports, the Maori culture, the geysers? Instead I was sent postcards of sheep.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mystery Sender Revealed

The mystery sender taunted me in this postcard. It took me a bit, but I found the clue. Notice the birds above the horse's butt. If you enlarge the postcard, you will notice that the birds have been drawn on so that they form the letters MM. I know who you are, MM, and should have known from the start.

I figured it out a while ago, but the postcards arriving on an almost daily basis are so interesting, so random, so fact filled (I never knew MM had so much data stored in his head!), I don't want them to stop. Please don't stop, MM. It's too much fun, and a little slice of sunshine every day.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Moscow, Russia

A few years back, I spent two weeks in Russia. My friend, Nelli, works for Intel and was based in Moscow for a couple of years, so I went to see her. We stayed in Moscow and then together took the train to St. Petersburg - she had business there.

Nelli's apartment was right off Trevskaya, which is one of the main streets in Moscow and runs right into the Kremlin and Red Square, no more than a 10 minute walk.

Until you see Red Square, it's impossible to imagine how huge it is. (Confession: I had no idea Red Square was outside the walls of the Kremlin. I thought the Kremlin was a building, not a walled fortress with multiple buildings, including a church, inside.) While I was there, Red Square was almost completely blocked off, as it was being prepared for a huge demonstration in celebration of the anniversary of the end of the Great War (Russian name for WWII). This vast emptiness devoid of pedestrians made the square seem even bigger.

Russian soldiers from multiple regions of the country were in town for this celebration, dressed in regional and/or historical soldier garb. The hats were probably the most exotic aspect of their uniforms, with most being made of some type of black and white fur or wool.

St. Basil's Cathedral is on one corner of Red Square. The above photo does not do justice to its brilliant colors, particularly the tiled domes. The domes and turrets looks like blown glass, especially on a sunny day. Most floors and rooms are completely accessible, and it's possible to wander throughout the church.

I grew up in the era of Russia (or U.S.S.R) as the evil empire, and communists as something the U.S. fought on multiple fronts throughout the world - athletically, scientifically, geographically, nuclearly, philosophically. The avid reading of spy novels and watching of James Bond movies merely amplified their enemy status. I added to my own existing mindset by reading The Charm School, by Nelson deMille, on the way over on the plane. It is a classic cold war spy novel, set entirely in Russia and much of that in Moscow itself.

The entire visit to Russia was mind boggling for me. As we drove around town, many of the landmarks and buildings and roads were familiar, from spy novels. But the bleak, everything grey and colorless, no products on the shelves images I had were blown away by a vibrant city filled with contemporary stores, well lit and graphically interesting advertising (!!), and energetic, excited young people everywhere. It was wild.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

New York City

I must have 100 postcards from NYC, but this is my most recent.

My friend Randi & I (with her two big dogs) walk in the Presidio every Wednesday morning. Last Wednesday she was eating breakfast in New York rather than walking with me!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Camino de Santiago, Galicia, Spain

The Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James, has been a pilgrimage route for a thousand years, or more.

I'd never heard of this before, but it's now appeared on my radar twice in the last 6 weeks or so. My friend, Jim who sent the card, is walking the route (or at least part of it) and my friend, Tim, spoke of it after his return from Spain for a wine research trip. Trend or coincidence? It remains to be seen.

In any case, it does appear to be a trendy quasi spiritual vacation and respite from modern life. I've always wanted to do so some sort of walking trip in Europe (Scotland? France? Italy?), so perhaps this could be an interesting alternative.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Montana, Random

My parents and my grandparents visited Montana when you could still stay in places like this with dirt parking lots. There aren't a lot of these kinds of places left, but the clouds in "big sky country" are still incredible.

I love the clouds in this postcard, the dirt parking lot, and the innocence and lack of slickness apparent in the copy describing the place. "Hunt Wild Game of all sorts or just Loaf". Both the language and the punctuation are of another era.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Akumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico

One of my favorite places on the planet - Akumal. Just the sound of the name relaxes me like aromatherapy does for others.

I've been visiting here since about 1985, and have probably been 10 or 15 times. The first time, we went for Thanksgiving. There were eight or nine of us, in two casitas. No phones anywhere in the little town, just a restaurant, the Cho-mak Supermercado, two dives shops and a small gift store. A local Mayan woman sold stacks of tortillas out of the front room of her home, but you had to bring something to carry them away in. Heaven.

Over the years, the entire coast from Cancun to Akumal (about 100 km) developed rapidly. Each time we returned, there were more resorts lining the coast, Playa del Carmen (half way point) had grown another X thousand people, and the highway went farther before it became two-lane. Akumal added a couple of hotels, a few more restaurants, and phones (at least on premise, if not in the casitas). But it's still a magical place. There's no night life, everything pretty much closes down by 9 or so, and the snorkeling/diving is spectacular.

The last time I visited, it was to participate in a Day of the Dead celebration for my friend's grandmother. Her ashes were brought into the country in a dive bag (they do sort of look like sand), and we prepared to distribute them in the bay. We created an altar, with some of her favorite things (chocolate and tequila), hired a local couple to prepare a fish feast for us, and later in the evening, we followed a Dutchman we had met who led us to the edge of the bay while he solemnly beat on a very large, empty Sparklets-type water container. Not a bad send off.

Another time there, we barely left the premises for almost two weeks. We dove twice a day, walked the beach at sunrise every morning, and read like crazy. Re-entry was extremely difficult that year.

I hope to return soon.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Paris At The Turn of The Most Recent Century

It's hard to remember the global anticipation, excitement and fear surrounding the turn of the century from 1999 to 2000, or Y2K as it was always called. Nowhere was this more apparent than Paris. There was a countdown calendar mounted on the side of the Eiffel Tower that started three years before the change. I traveled often to Paris during this time and always, even if I was in Paris for just a day or two, made a point of visiting the Eiffel Tower. It was exciting to see how the countdown clock had changed since my previous visit.

During 1999, there was another event marking the change in the form of a giant sculpture garden on the sidewalks along the Champs-Elysees. I was lucky enough to be there during this time.

Below is a description from the Paris Voice, with a postcard of one of the most famous sculptures to the left.

Even in the pouring rain people stop to look at the sculpture along the Champs-Elysées where more than 50 works by contemporary artists from around the world transform the famous avenue into a giant sculpture garden. This much talked about outdoor exhibition is being billed as a sequel to the modern sculpture show that drew record crowds in 1996. John Kelly’s “Cow in a Tree” has caused several traffic jams. The seemingly outlandish work is explained in simple terms by the artists who says “when it floods in Australia you often see a cow caught up a tree.” Another eye-catching work is “The Hotdog Vendor” by American artist Rod Grooms, who celebrates everyday heroes of modern life. The outdoor exhibit will be on view through Nov15. (

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Golden Gate Bridge

Another iconic landmark - the Golden Gate Bridge. I have driven across this bridge hundreds of times, and walked toward it on the famous Chrissey Field to the bridge and back path more hundreds as well. It never ever gets old. I love the perspective you get of this bridge when you come upon it from Marin Country. As you exit Rainbow Tunnel, one of the towers appears before you, with the sparkling white city behind it (assuming sun). Then a closer tower appears, boom, which can be a bit jarring and feels almost like an optical illusion.

My son, a native San Franciscan, got another tattoo this summer which is close to the version on the left, but reversed and with a bit of fog around it. It looks pretty good.

As I've been posting my postcards, I've been learning more about postcard collecting. Did you know there are websites for collectors whose subject area is so specific, it's amazing there are enough postcards to share? I came across one the other day whose concentration was interiors, 1950-1982. Something like that anyways. Other people collect only bridges, or only buildings, or only transportation vehicles. Makes me a bit of a dabbler, I suppose.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Great Squares of the World

I have visited some of the great squares of the world - Red Square in Moscow and Trafalgar Square in London - but I've never been to Tiananmen Square. It's definitely on my list of want-to-sees. The picture is my mind's eye is very specific, but neither Red Square (much bigger) and Trafalgar Square (smaller) didn't match what I expected. There must be other great squares of the world, but none comes to mind at the moment. If I can generate a list, I might make it a check list.

We tried this once with the great prisons of the world. It's not a long list, but start with Alcatraz, Tower of London, Lubyanka (I didn't really visit Lubyanka but I did drive by it), and the Bastille. Okay, the Bastille doesn't still exist but there is a sign on a street corner in Paris marking the spot.


1. Adding squares without searching the Internet as they come to mind: Union Square (San Francisco), Pershing Square (Los Angeles).
2. Duh! How could I forget Times Square?

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Huge thanks to my friend, Steve, who sent me a stack of postcards he collected, including some from the most recent Comic-con convention. Some of those will be posted another day.

The postcards today are from a collection of gunfighter paintings from Knotts Berry Farm, some time ago. Again, no dates on the cards, so it isn't clear when these postcards were created. However, on the back of these cards, is reference to "Joe's Saloon" where these pictures "looked down at you from the walls". Joe's no longer exists or may have been reincarnated as the Calico Saloon in its more modern iteration. In addition, I can find no reference to the artist, Leo F. McCarty, either on the Knotts' website or, for that matter, anywhere else on the Internet, with the exception of on, which has some of his postcards for sale in its "western" section.

Knotts Berry Farm was originally an actual berry farm, which morphed into a western ghost town attraction, before becoming the roller coaster and water park it is today. The history is pretty interesting, but the sanitizing of much of the old west flavor is sad.

On the back of one of these postcards it mentions that the gunfighter era was only 20 years long. Given how many classic western movies were made with gunfighters bursting through the swinging doors of saloons or facing off in dusty streets, it seemed to have lasted a lot longer.

Old Man Clonton

The Youngers

A.M. King

Clay Allison

Jesse Chisholm

Wyatt Earp

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Balboa Island, California

My mom is one of my most consistent postcard suppliers. She always has sent postcards from her travels, but she's upped the amount, now that I'm posting postcards on this blog.

These arrived yesterday. She's staying on Balboa Island with one of her oldest and dearest friends, who now lives in Texas. But when they were growing up in Southern California in the 30s and 40s, they spent a lot of time together on Orange County Beaches, including Balboa Island. As she writes on one of these postcards, she learned to swim there.

I spent a lot of time here while growing up as well. I remember one Easter Vacation, in a small rental apartment with The Ogdens, with whom we frequently took beach vacations. They later lived on the small island (there are two, always knows as "the big island" and "the small island"). It rained the entire time and our Easter egg hunt had to be inside. If we'd be there for the day in the summertime, it was a big deal to have dinner at The Jolly Roger (pirate theme before pirates were ubiquitous). I wonder if it's still there? On main street was one of the first "make your own bikini" stores, where there were a variety of tops, bottoms and materials, and you put them together in the way that worked for you.

When I was in high school, friends' families had beach houses here and/or rented houses here, and I was lucky to be invited to stay at many of them. Many of our classmates would be on the Island, particularly in August, and there were lots of parties, and lots of walking around at night, stopping in at one or another house to visit. Lots of "shenanigans", as my Dad would have said. Especially at Chris's house. Her family's house was right on the bay on the small island, and had their own dock. Even if the front house was rented out, there was a back apartment, so we could almost always stay. We had a lot of fun there. A lot.

One of my summer jobs was taking care of kids whose families had houses at the beach. Often, my responsibilities included taking care of them during the day, but having the nights off. At one of these jobs I had a sting ray bike to use. Once the kids were in bed, I would ride this bike around Balboa Island, racing through back alleys, long blond hair flying, tan glistening. This memory is visceral - I vividly remember feeling very free then.

I was too chicken to jump off the Balboa Bridge into the bay, but my friend Michelle (the one with two "l's") wasn't. You had to race to the bridge, scramble up on the ledge, and jump, fast, before the harbor patrol or cops came by. Depending on low or high tide, it was probably 25 - 40 feet up.

During the day, we'd take the ferry to 8th Street, on the Newport Peninsula. There must have been a reason we went to 8th street, but there would always be a group of kids from our high school at this spot. The beach is incredibly wide on the Newport Peninsula, and if it was a particularly hot day, you'd have to employ the towel throw to get to the edge of the beach without burning your feet - throw the towel, run, stand on it for a minute while your feet cooled off, repeat. Multiple times. If the waves were up, we'd head to the Wedge, just to watch. We had a friend who worked on the ferry, and he'd often let us cross for free. This same ferry is still in use, even though only three cars are allowed at a time. The view is spectacular. You approach the peninsula looking at the Balboa Pavilion (seen in the postcard, lower postcard on leftt), boats bobbing and dodging the entire way.

I don't remember the docks being quite as decked out as they are in the photo above - a fancy private dock at that time meant a pot of flowers on the posts, and that was it. Other than that, the place hasn't changed much over time.