Archive for March, 2012

…And the first postcard goes to Isabelle Kosmala!

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In June of 2008 I got my first computer and my first online sport was to join  postcrossing.com .  I heard about it from a friend and loved the idea that although it’s an internet based project the end result is real handwritten mail! I already had a big stock pile of postcards from my travels and was intrigued to make contact with people all over the world. I clicked the magic address request button and that invisible wheel of fortune gave me Isabelle in Grevenbroich, a town near to Cologne in Germany. Her favorite type of postcard was one with horses so I sent her my one horse card which was a 100 year old real photograph from South Dakota. Seven days later she registered my card and sent a warm message of thanks and that was all. We did not continue to correspond until some months later.

The company where I worked was closing for 2 weeks between Christmas and New years eve so I started searching for a cheap airfare anywhere in the world during that time. I have to admit, Germany wasn’t my first second or seventh choice but the warm weather countries were not offering any deals. When Dusseldorf presented itself for $500 round trip, I said “So be it!” My friend and co-worker, Cassy, said yes to Germany without blinking or thinking. This is a girl who wears sweaters in the summertime but her desire to travel to another country prevailed.

We started planning our trip by each buying a German travel guide and meeting for dinner. We sat at a table near the window/doors that opened to the sidewalk. Suddenly, about ten people stopped, stared, pointed and proceeded to surround our table. A beautiful Bavarian accent said “Do you want to go to Germany?” They were a group of German students who insisted we must go to Munich. The whole scenario was too cosmic to ignore so Munich was a must!  We did end up staying there for two days but thats another story and off the postcrossing track….

I began to think it would be cool to meet up with someone from Postcrossing. I had not been corresponding with anyone beyond the official one card so I sent a message to a few people and Isa responded with enthusiasm. We had planned to start our trip in Cologne and she offered to organize a meeting of Postcrossers. The plan was set to meet on the left side of the giant Cathedral by the stairs, by a postcard shop. Great! We planned our itinerary, bought our train tickets jumped on a plane and arrived in the winter wonderland the day after Christmas.

The day came for our meet up and we arrived at the left side of the cathedral and found a shop that sold postcards by the stairs. There was more then one stairway but we were confident at first that we waited in the right spot. Alas, 15…20…30 minutes and no German postcrossers 😦  I told Cassy to wait there while I ran around the entire Cathedral trying to find these people! The other possible set of stairs was by a camera shop but I didn’t see anyone and I didn’t think they sold postcards. After an hour we decided to start walking around the area looking in cafes and card shops. I had seen a picture of Isabelle and another guy called Arcon who wears a black leather cape/trench coat and matching leather wide brimmed hat. There were a lot of shops and it was a big area to scour. It could have been a wild goose chase but we were desperate and kept looking. Then I saw him standing next to a postcard rack! It was Arcon in all his full length leather glory! I approached and asked “Are you Arcon?” (duh) He looked at me like I was insane and he didn’t understand so I tried rephrasing the question a couple more times and finally threw in Isa’s name. Voila! Yes, he was the man and someone went to fetch Isa. Yay, we found them. They had been waiting for us by the stairs next to that camera shop. The moral of that story is certain details can get lost in translation so next time a cell phone is the way to go.

The rest of the afternoon was spent shopping for postcards followed by sitting in cafe, talking, writing and signing many cards. Cassy was not a postcrosser but she got in on the signing and was thoroughly entertained! It was so interesting to have this whole experience sprout from a single postcard. Isa was and is a die hard member of the postcrossing forum and has gone to many different meet ups in Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Finland and all the way to Iran! She and her husband, Norbert met me once more in Antwerp in 2009 and we have stayed connected through periodic cards and emails. I’m hoping one day she will make her way to Chicago.  I will always have one eye searching for the perfect horse card that will have Isabelle’s name on it!

When I think back on this trip and all the beauty we saw in each town, I still feel that the meet up in Cologne was the highlight. Making friends will always outshine seeing the sights.

Chopped Liver

There were two 3 1/2″ square Kodak instamatic snap shots floating in and out of view for 40 years. Long fallen from their crappy magnetic page , they moved from one random homeless picture pile to another. Now they’re in California and I’m already forgetting some details.

#1 A very cute boy with long brown hair named Jacey.  He is leaning forward with elbows on knees, sitting on a lounge chair at the hotel swimming pool.  Sitting next to him is my mother. She is wearing a Dorothy Lamore-esque one strap bathing suit top. Her white scarf is a crown of flowery shapes on her head.  Was she trying to protect her bleach blond hair from the sun?  She is staring forward, lost in thought and unaware.

#2  A tall young woman in bikini also sitting on a lounge chair. Like a magician with arms extended and hands in pre death metal stance, she is casting the spell “Chopped Liver”. I don’t remember what that means but back then, it made me laugh a lot!

Laurel and Jacey were a sister and brother I met on family vacation when I was 12. I never saw them again but could not bring myself to part with those photos. In a new years cosmic fit of inspiration, I scoured the internet and found a possible Laurel, wrote a letter and mailed it with those pictures. The following is what I wrote:

January 2, 2012

“Dear Laurel,

My name is Felice and if you are the woman in the picture, fluttering fingers while casting the chopped liver spell then I met you 40 years ago at the Marseilles ( why a french name for a Kosher hotel?) in Miami. Yah, I know this is really random and unexpected  but I have held on to those pictures for a long time! I am very attached to personal history and fascinated with the idea of time travel and that’s what we’re doing now…reaching back to a frozen moment in our history.

This is what I looked like:

I was 12 years old and carrying a recorder that I did not actually know how to play. It was a gift from my sister and it made me feel cool to pretend like I knew how. Back home I had not yet discovered my cool potential. I was unique but had not found my groove. Clearly, I must have met you at the pool and I don’t remember how but I was thrilled that these amazing older kids were interested in me! I didn’t feel awkward around you or Jacey. You invited me to go out with you and your friends for the evening and I remember sitting in a restaurant. We got back kind of late and my dad who could be scary was pissed and may have yelled at you 😦 ! That is all I can remember and I don’t know if we hung out all week or just one day and night.

I will say that the encounter was pivotal for me and I returned home a more confident girl:

I figured out how to work my differentness to my advantage and started to make friends. I mean, what the fuck? If I could impress three supremely interesting older kids,  how hard could it be to become a grammar school icon?

Now it’s 2012 and I was weeding out pictures of the forgotten but I looked at yours for the hundredth time and thought “Google”. There is one Laurel that is the same age, an artist which seems right with a picture that says “This could be my girl!” If I have found you I wonder if you will remember me? If not, that okay. It doesn’t change that you were important in my growth. I would love it if you will write me back.

Peace, love and happiness, Felice”

Some time passed and just when I was starting to think I had the wrong person, I got a message and it was HER and she did remember me!!! Laurel had grown up to be a talented and successful illustrator and I will attach a link to her website as soon as she gives me a thumbs up. Jacey became an Orthodox Rabbi, moved to Israel and had 10 kids. Not in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that path from the photo 🙂

So far we have just exchanged a few emails but I have high hopes that we will have ourselves a little reunion one day. The moral of this story for me is it really does pay to reach out and follow through. Every connection has some meaning and you never know where it will take you or maybe the whole point is letting someone know that they were important and remembered.

Still life with squirrel

The other day I got inspired to make a Collage postcard for another one of those “unmet friends” from  postcrossing.com . Tanya from Ukraine has a squirrel eating out of her hand in her profile picture and given my recent squirrel history it seemed like the right thing to do.

Autumn is my favorite season and while many Chicagoans are mourning the loss of summer with the impending doom of winter, I savor the moment. The city is brilliant in it’s red and gold decay.  Everyday, I’m on my bike with camera collecting leaves and images that might make it onto postcard. Mostly I am hunting for a house that show’s an example of local architecture combined with the seasons best decorations. Last year while riding though Lakeview I spied a porch with the best display of squash and pumpkins. As I got closer, I thought “Oh look! They even added that fake squirrel that’s perched on top, dead center.”  A little closer…. Holy shit, it’s the real thing! Omg.  Don’t move squirrel!  I took a million pictures while the thing was petrified and motionless.

I was so excited but then ultimately disappointed with the composition. The house in the background was distracting but I printed the picture with Collage intent. Because of Tanya, squirrel and squash were amputated from their front porch constraints and transported to the best dusk sky I’ve ever seen in Andersonville! And the huge looming bird? Don’t you worry. It is a Lovebird (if that counts for anything) and I think, it  thinks the squirrel is fake 🙂

I love postcards!

In 1974, at age 15 I officially became a treasure hunter. My main interest was collecting vintage clothing, hats and jewelry from the 1930’s and 40’s. My mission was to look different than all the other high school clones. My quest: extreme coolness. I started as a lone hunter until I met Janet Berger.  She became my friend and kindred spirit in garage sales, flea markets and the exotic world of vintage clothing stores. Our collectible good karma magnetically attracted scores of 1940’s dresses, blazers and rhinestone jewels. We were scavengers of the under appreciated  and could deftly sniff out a beaded sweater in the sea of stale reeking garments at Amvets. At the time I was more consumed with the glitter and dazzle of alternative fashion to notice a pile of vintage postcards.

One day I scored a most unusual and down right gaudy shoe clip. It was shaped loosely triangular, sporting red and green curved beads that had the look of imitation short curly hairs. In a moment of adolescent brilliance, we called it “Liberace’s pubic hair”.  Years past and Janet moved to Colorado but we still had a special place in our hearts for Liberace.  Then in 1983 I received this card postmarked from Denver with the message:

“Dear Felice, This is a real 40’s card (not a punk shop replica)….”

Caption: Palm Springs, California

Home of Liberace

I did not know it but this was the beginning of postcard love.  We got 36 years worth of mileage out of that Liberace joke and even if it isn’t REALLY that funny to others, we will, no doubt,  be cackling about it when we’re crusty and old.

Then a few years later I received (again from Janet) this card from Paris:

Nothing says Paris more then a guy with a paint brush wearing a beret! It was 1988 and I had also begun my romance with this amazing city and it’s many antique markets. This is where the postcard really got my attention and besides the markets, great cards could also be found among the booksellers on the Seine. I started collecting ladies in crazy hats:

As beautiful as the image,  is the artful calligraphy on the flip side with ancient stamp plus postmark. These postcards are little pieces of time travel, a frozen moment in someone’s long gone life, immortalized. Beyond the people they are a historical reference for fashion, advertising and lost architecture. Although many contain messages with small talk about the weather on vacation, others tell stories or even show proof of  love.

These days I’ve lost interest in vintage clothing although my eye will occasionally get snagged on some sparkly jewels. On the other hand, my postcard obsession is alive and well in all it’s neck bending, chiropractic disastrous glory!