Dearest Darling

Dearest Darling,

Nothing fancy for today, just two of my favorite poems.  It’s been raining nonstop in New York all week, most consider this weather to be unbearable .  Me, I find it perfect motivation for staying inside to write letters and watch movies, not to mention catch up on all the books I’ve started but haven’t finished reading yet.

Hope you enjoy these words, ‘Streets’ (by Henrik  Nordbrandt) is one of my top five favorite poems.  Be well, speak soon.

Sincerely,

Yours Truly

Lady Fair

Lady Fair,

Please forgive the time lapse between when this letter was written and the time it has taken me to type and send it.  The original letter was written on April 6th, while I was on a brief trip north to Scotland.  The letter is as follows:

Mi Ami,

I am sitting in a pub in Edinburgh with a glass of red wine.  The bartender didn’t even seem to know what types of wine they offered, he simply knew them by color.  Did I want the white or the red?  I wanted the red.  Allow me to put this pub into context: I am the only person in it drinking wine (all others sip pints of beer), I am the only American (probably the only foreigner), and aside from one of the bartenders, I am the only female in the joint.  It almost feels like a scene from a Western, when an outsider walks into a saloon and everyone stops what they’re doing to size up the new guy, who then does something dumb like talk (so that you can hear a foreign accent) or order something that the bartender most certainly doesn’t have or doesn’t have the habit of selling.

Luckily for me there’s a Manchester United soccer game on and everyone’s attention was quickly diverted back to the screen.  Are men in Germany as obsessed with Soccer as the English?

Anyways, let me reverse and begin at the beginning.  Today, I took the train from London to Edinburgh.  It only took 4 hours 25 minutes.  I has assumed the trip would be quite picturesque, however it wasn’t until the last 45 minutes when we were significantly further north, and by that time, probably already in Scotland.

Not everyone on the train was going to Edinburgh, the train made several stops along the way.  At one of the last stops (York or New Castle I believe), an older Scottish woman boarded the train and sat behind me.  She made several phone calls on her cell phone; mi ami I swear her voice had the most soothing rhythm  to it, it was better then music.  I carefully listened to each phone call (she spoke mainly of doctor’s visits) and despite the topic being beyond dull I was absolutely over the moon for her voice.  I began silently pronouncing her words to feel the way Scottish English made my mouth move.  I think it may be my new favorite accent, with South African being a close second.

After we arrived I retrieved a map from the information desk and set out to find my lodging at the Lantern Guest House.  My room here is spacious and quite Scottish with a plaid (tartan) head board.  The building itself is a monstrous old stone establishment–the door is twice as wide as any I’ve ever opened of seen on a regular house and feels like opening a castle door every time I enter and leave.

Despite most of my day being spent in my seat on the train, I was quite tired when I arrived and my feet ached.  Nevertheless, I walked around the city center and browsed a few shops.  Tomorrow I’ll be more ambitious, getting up early to get a proper Scottish breakfast and then setting out to see the Edinburgh castle, Museum of Edinburgh, and the Botanical Gardens.  I’ve stocked up on apples and nuts to have small snacks help get me through the day so I won’t have to stop for lunch.  Now that I’m here, though, I wish I had at least one more day so that I might spend it on a day trip up to the Scottish Highlands.  When I travelled to Dublin I took a day tour outside the city to visit the surrounding countryside, and it was honestly the best thing I remember about Ireland since Dublin itself felt a bit lackluster.  I think what I enjoy most about vacations is stepping out into fresh air and wilderness.  Perhaps that means I should quit taking vacations to such large cities.  Next trip: Iceland!

Well m’lady, looks like the pubs about to close up shop now that the match has ended, so I’ll have to end this letter here.  Sorry I didn’t have time to tell you about London and all the fun things Mer and I’ve done and have planned for when I get back.  I’ll save those adventures for a phone call or another letter.  Hope you’re well, wish you were here.

Big Love,

Yours Truly

Mind the gap

Apologies for the extended absence; a vacation abroad and several out of towners greeting me upon my return are my delightful excuse for this blog’s neglect.  Update intended for next week upon the letter’s receipt in Germany.

Sincerely,

Yours Truly

Dear Dad,

Today I went to my favorite used book shop in Soho.  I was feeling blue after our conversation, and figured looking at books might take my mind off of things for a bit.  I found a great young adult novel from 1941, “Junior Miss” subtitled as, ‘The heart-warming and hilarious adventures of America’s favorite teen-ager’.  The copy I bought is a small paper-back version of the book, which sold at the steep price of a full quarter in 1941.

While looking over the fiction section I spotted a book I thought you might enjoy as well and which I’ve included with this letter, “Pontoon”, by Garrison Keillor.  I can still remember you playing A Prairie Home Companion in the car as you picked me and my friends up from dance practice or the mall.  Mortified by the choice of radio stations you’d chosen to put on, I recall asking you turn the radio off, fearful of my friend’s judgement.  My opinion towards Keillor has since changed, however my earliest memories embarrassment at the sound of his voice remain strong as ever.

In any case, the book store certainly cheered me up.  Hopefully this letter and book can offer the same comfort to you.

Love always,

Yours Truly

My Dear Miss S

It has been entirely too long since we last spoke.  I’m sorry for not calling sooner, in fact, I imagine I’ll phone before this letter reaches you…which will make any personal update redundant.  Rather than run that risk, I will instead tell you about my day.

At this moment I am in Soho, sitting in a little Swiss Cafe that I sometimes like to frequent.  I had intended to go to my favorite haunt, an Italian bar/cafe just a few blocks from here, but I didn’t realize they don’t open until noon.  Since it was 11:30 I decided to come here instead.  I sat down, ordered a bottle of sparkling water, and very carefully poured over the menu.  More than anything I was thirsty.  When the waitress came back with the water I asked what kind of juices they had, then ordered a grapefruit juice–such a treat in the morning (afternoon).

The last time I came here I ordered an arugula salad that I thought sounded nice.  It arrived nothing more than a small portion of greens with olive oil.  A bit steep at $9, even for New York, I thought.  Remembering this, I hesitated, then simply ordered a croissant.  The croissant was as flakey and crumbly as they come, and I ended up covering the table, my book, my jeans, and the floor in a thin layer of croissant leaves, which continued to multiply and break into smaller pieces each time I tried to clean them up.

Did I mention how neat the water bottles are?  Their form sort of reminds me of a hot water bottle that you fill and put in a bed to heat it in winter.  It has one of those metal-top rubber stoppers, which of course makes it look very vintage, but smart.

The menu here is very meat heavy, which is a bit problematic.  I usually only come in for something small or for a warm drink and a place to sit while I read a book or write a letter.  The crowd is always a bit fashiony, sometimes trendy, and often foreign.  It’s hard to pin down, I don’t love it.  But there are small touches–softly sanded wooden chairs, oversized European posters, ceiling tiles that remind me of saltine crackers, thoughtfully designed water bottles–that make it feel homey.

I was hoping to read my New Yorker and finish up my Murakami book.  However, after my meeting at work my boss gave me a book he’s just finished and thought I might enjoy reading, “How to Live, or the Life of Montaigne.”  I’m not usually one for books on philosophy, however it’s a nice change from the books I’ve been reading lately.  Montaigne is a French essayist from the 16th century who wrote exploratory personal essays on things like Friendship, Cruelty, Coaches, and also on the Custom of Wearing Clothes, How We Laugh and Cry For the Same Thing, and How Our Mind Hinders Itself.  The author sets up the book in 20 chapters, each devoted around parts or anecdotes of Montaigne that explain his philosophy (more of his gained experience) on How to Live.   I’ll let you know if I learn any  tips on how to live a more articulate life.

Are you reading any good books lately?  One of my worst habits is reading too many books at a time.  I switch from book to book (have had an upwards of 10 books reading at a time).  This often causes me to forget characters, lose the plot, or miss over arching themes.  It’s a hard habit to break since I’m such an enthusiastic buyer of books and I like to read them immediately after purchase.

Enough about me, how have you been?  How is life in L.A?  I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I visited you out there.  I look back on that vacation as one of the best I’ve ever had.  Biking on Venice Beach was amazing, even if you fell off your bike 3 times, ha.  Will you be able to visit New York sometime?  I would love to hang out again soon, I will miss you until I see you again.

Sincerely,

Your Best Friend Since Seventh Grade

Dear Heathen,

I assume you received my last letter, despite the fact that I did not get a letter in return.  By the way, thanks for that.  Nevertheless I am sending you another letter for several reasons:

  1. Because of a resolution
  2. Because I think I’m interested in library science
  3. Because I bought a collection of Frank O’Hara poems.

Let me begin in reverse order, with point 3.  Thanks for introducing me to Frank O’Hara.  It’s somewhat embarrassing to be a poetry enthusiast and still not know or be able to recognize so many brilliant voices and poems.  I’m trying to remember what the first poem was that you sent me, I want to say it was, Having a Coke With You, or something by a similar title.  I recall you posting it on my facebook wall, if only I’d had it in writing.

(Rant: One of the reasons, among many, for quitting facebook is because I want more concrete-ness in my life.  No more veiled meaning status updates or wall posts or ironic photos with self-depreciating titles.  I want face to face or voice to voice interactions.  My new personal motto is going to be, ”Leave a paper trail.”  I think I’ll make buttons or stickers or begin tagging it around the city.  Cripes this is an obnoxious rant.  I’m like the crazy people babbling on the subway.  They deserve to be admired for their conviction, though.  It’s important to stand for something, even if it scares the rest of us.)

Revenons à nos moutons.  I’ve got Mr. O’Hara sitting to my left, which of course meant that I had to write to you.  I have decided that I should read more poetry, a little each day; like taking a vitamin.  I think I’ll take a morning vitamin and then read a poem.  Or, I’ll roll the poems up small and put them in my vitamin jar so they fall out with the vitamins.  Speaking of daily poems, are you familiar with the Writer’s Almanac?  It’s one of my favorite discoveries, found through a writing teacher.  WA is an online site that offers a brief 5 minute program everyday.  Each show begins with bits of literary history and is followed by a poem.  It’s ready by Garrison Keillor (squeal!) who has the most wonderfully old timey radio voice ever.

I’m hesitant to start in on point 2 so let’s skip to point 1.  One of my resolutions is to write at least one letter a week.  Deleting my facebook means devoting time and effort to maintaining my friendships,  I believe the people in my life deserve the care and attention of, in the very least, a well crafted letter.  This is not to say that all social media or networking sites are bad, only that my place is not among them.  All the better for you, now you get typed letters and poems.  Pas mal, n’est-ce pas?

Which brings us to point 2, which I must briefly address before signing off.  Might I ask for your advice about library science?  I realize that I love, more than anything else, books, pages, archives, research, quite spaces, long tables, cardigans, etc.  Most of the jobs that interest me are working at libraries or in an archive or assisting with research.  I’m hesitant to pursue this career path because I’m not sure what a typical day consists of, or that it might be boring or different then how I imagine it.  I also wonder about job prospects for library work.  Do you have any insight?  I imagine you do.  So, please write me back.

All my love,

Yours Truly

On leaving a paper trail, the necessity of handwritten tokens

Dear Friend,

This blog is an homage to the craft of handwritten (at times typed) letters.  Unfortunately, like many things now deemed obsolete, handwritten anything has suddenly become a thing of the past.  We no longer take the time to leave each other notes, letters, or even make actual telephone calls.  (A good friend of mine told me that aside from her mother, I was the only person who actually called her on the phone to talk.  She always knew if her phone rang it was either her mother or me.)

I’m filled with deep sense of regret and sorrow because the technology of emails, text messages, and voicemails (if anyone still calls you), block the human connection and romance of receiving something tangible.  I’m certainly more of a sentimentalist then the average person, I love rereading old letters and find myself squirreling away any tiny paper token that will remind me of the things I’ve seen and done throughout my short years.  Nevertheless, I’d like to have a more real sense of a relationship then a brief email or five word text message.  I believe letters offer us the chance to share and connect with friends in a meaningful and special way.  I’m no proponent against technology; however, I do believe there is something to be said for re-evaluating the amount of time we spend on sites which claim bring us closer and help communicate better with people.  These virtual forms of intimacy are the most traumatic lack of realness I can think of.

Until A Letter is a composite of letters and an ode to paper ephemera.  While posting this online feels a bit contrite, considering my embrace of communication offline, I hope that it may inspire a movement of letter writers, or at very least, admirers.  It is my hope to leave a paper trail, I hope might choose to as well.

Sincerely,

Yours Truly