I've been fetching my mail from my home every day and carrying it to the house where my family and I have been staying for the last three months. In case you're all thinking that some sort of war or ethnic cleansing has been taking place in Echo Park, Los Angeles, worry not. We've been having our kitchen renovated or redone or remodeled. I'm a guy. A cabinet's a cabinet. Actually, the kitchen is quite lovely. Mind you, there is a sort of ethnic cleansing going on but it's entirely economic. I found out today how much the developers of a block of condominiums is asking for the cheapest of their wares. Now, be aware that Echo Park was, even when we moved in seven years ago, a questionable neighborhood. You still hear gunfire often enough to believe that you live in a really cool area. These condos are going for $750 000 at the low end. Anyway, the mail, the post, the old fashioned envelope and enclosure. I remember when I was hugely excited at the arrival of the mail. I have lived much of my adult life a long way from the place I was born and grew up and, despite these distances, have kept in very close touch with my family and all of my old friends. A letter, that thing written in pen, stuffed into an envelope and sent thousands of miles - to Israel, Athens, Istanbul - was a link to what I still consider home. All those crossings out and indecipherable phrases were somehow heartfelt and all that manual labor just to get thoughts down on paper and then a stamp stuck on it takes it all that way, just to tell someone that mom is OK, dad's fit, your best friend from school got arrested, got married, had a kid, even got a job. I'd read those letters over and over just because they came from home and even though I had no desire to live back there again and all the people I would see only once in a very great while, it mattered that I knew where they were and who they were with. Of course, it still matters, but now there's e-mail. Instant messaging, Facebook. And I love e-mail. I just got back in touch with a friend from my last year of living in England - an unending year of misery that encompassed the Falklands war, but, as ever, good friends were made. I love the internet and its instantaneous effect. However I miss the envelope and the ink and the emotional impact that a letter has. When I go to the mail box now I dread the bills because that's about all that comes that I don't immediately throw away. I could write letters myself and I occasionally do but the electronic vice is hard to break.
I had another brush with youth and all that we half remember the other day. I saw a picture of Medvedev and Putin being installed as dictators of the New Democratic Russia - don't you just love how the Russians just love being told what to do - and they were framed alone against a massive set of red carpet-lined steps. Most significantly, they were both wearing suits that looked as though they didn't fit. That was the most noticeable thing about the Old Russians - Brezhnev, Gromyko etc., other than the blood on their hands - they wore the worst looking clothes. After selling off the oil, gas, coal, trees, dirt, tractors, newspapers, television stations, all the radio and all the radio spectrum, all the false teeth, all the garden hoes, all the uranium, gold,diamond mines ..... you'd think they could get better tailors. Is it some Hillary Clinton-like ploy - Hey, I'm just like you, look, I wear crappy suits, too (Hill wears pantsuits, of course because she's embarrassed by her ankles). Maybe it's a reminder that Russia is now back where it was, ruled by a few ex-KGB hatchet men and the suits are simply an outward sign of that.
I noticed something else today while I was looking at Facebook. I tried to hate Facebook because it has an intrusive quality to it but now I find it's a bit like those old library index catalogues where everything was on 3x5 cards and you'd be searching for "Darwin, On the Origin of Species" (note correct title, significant, for any creationist morons out there). Before you got to Darwin you'd hit some intriguing title and it would make you wonder if that book might be just as interesting as Darwin, who was very, very interesting let's admit. The most significant thinker/scientist of the last thousand years. But then I, quite seriously. consider Elvis Presley to be the most significant artist of the twentieth century. Note the use of the word, "significant". Not "greatest" (though he may well have been). Not "deepest". Just "significant". So, I'm looking at Facebook, where you can make these odd connections because someone happens to know someone who knows someone else and I notice that "cl" in the font the site uses closely resembles the letter"d". At least to my aging eyes. Here's what I saw: "Reach your customers before they start searching. Pay per click." However in their font it looks like "Pay per dick". I must now retire and ponder this.