Friday night my wife attended a get-together, so Gnat and I stayed home and put together a gigantic floor puzzle of the human body. It had two sides – the organs, and the bones. I went for the bone-option, since I don’t like looking at organs. Hypochondriac, you know. I see a picture of something, I get a pain. Or remember when I had a pain. Or think ahead to the day when I will have a pain, and that’ll be the end of it. All well. It’s been a good run. Sad, though, when you consider – oh, right, the puzzle. Gnat loves organs, though; she’s fascinated by the human body. Bones, guts, it’s all good. So we sat on the floor and let the iTunes 50s playlist keep us company. I never knew I had that much rockabilly. I never knew they made that much rockabilly.

Time for the Biannual Springtime Postcard Convention report. Get a paper bag handy, in case you hyperventilate from excitement.

It was held this year in Rosemount, one of those suburbs I never have a reason to visit. Way the hell out there. I ran out of highway after 20 minutes, and grumbled my way through Saturday-shopper traffic. It was the usual photocopy burb, with the Target and the Home Depot and the Krispy Kreme and chain restaurants arrayed along the road – but in a different order and configuration! Why, it’s like Bizarro land. Eventually I found the road I needed, which lead through the tiny downtown of a town that had existed on its own, miles from the Big Bad City, for decades. Not much there now, save a party store in the ground floor of a slumping heap of bricks, and a concrete bar across the street. But the community center up the road where the event was held was rather new, and huge. This was perhaps the biggest show I’d attended. I realized, with a sinking stomach, that I hadn’t brought enough money.

This was a two-hundred dollar room.

And you’re thinking: you, sir, are daft. Two hundred dollars. On postcards. Well, yes, if you’re lucky; if you find a dealer with a brilliant selection of old motel cards, and he hasn’t buried them the state-by-state boxes but broken them out as a separate category, and he’s pricing them at a buck a throw, well, I can hoover up a few score cards and have a few double-sawbucks left over for those rare things you never expect. Besides, this is work. This is tax-deductible; I have a monthly feature for the local glossy city magazine about old postcard views, and this is where I get my stuff. I was not in the mood to hunt for motel cards, since I do not want to go back and redo the sites already posted. (Much.) But I’m still looking for Fargo stuff for that eventual site overhaul. Besides, it was raining outside. No better way to spend a rainy spring afternoon, paging through the cards, listening to the requests of the hunters queued up behind you, looking for the item that will move their collection towards the unattainable perfection of Completion.

I’ve been around this hobby long enough to know that Completion is the worst thing that can happen to a collector. It’s invariably followed by Liquidation. People finish the job, and that’s it; they sell, they move along, they tire, they look at the books with all the pictures arrayed by date or artist or type or style, and something just gives way, and they can’t bear to have it any more. Out it goes, and a new collection begins.

“Got any lighthouses?” “Any military?” “Depots?” “I’m looking for clowns.” “Risque section?” There’s always a risqué section somewhere – 40’s era nudie-cuties, no pr0n, cheesecake from the I-love-my-wife-but-oh-you-kid era. One fellow on the hunt for Risque was, I learned, a photographer who did portraits of women in 20s / 30s lingerie and circus costumes. I saw an example: remarkably good stuff, and the women looked better than the women in the period photos by a factor of 9000X. (When you look back at the women considered “beauties” in early silent films, they look remarkably unremarkable, with few exceptions. If you dropped a modern beauty back in 1918, would she be shunned? Of course not, but it’s still odd; wasn’t until the late 30s that movie women attained a quality of universal & timeless beauty.)

Anyway. I had $120, and was down forty bucks after the first table. The man had a lethal collection, but he was shy on Fargo. Upon hearing my request, however, he pointed to a guy in the middle of the room. He was from Fargo. He’d have Fargo. I wandered over.

The man had Fargo. He had the grail, too: Real Photo shots taken by a guy who photographed Fargo in the earth 20th century with a large-format camera. Those cards go for twenty bucks a pop. I had to have a few. He also had something else:

Wrigley gum wrappers from 1932 with the NRA logo.

I think you know me well enough: I had to have those, too. And now, after decades of a mysterious life in someone’s drawer, saved for reasons we do not know, I present to the Internet:

Depression Gum.

I casually mentioned to the Fargo guy that I had given up trying to collect rare Fargo cards, since there was a fellow in a distant state with unlimited resources who bid everything up. He had the resources to assemble the Ultimate Collection, and was obviously intent on doing so. He was my nemesis. My Victor Von Doom. My Lex Luthor. Well, the Fargo Guy had dealt with Luthor Von Moriarity, it seems. Sold him a huge collection of Real Photos. To myself I conjured a sum I’d be willing to pay. He named the sum. Exactly what I’d thought. We are alike, I thought. In another time and place, I may have called him friend.

Then the Fargo Guy dropped the bomb.

“He stopped collecting Fargo. Donated the entire collection to the University. And the website, too.” The website? “He put his cards up on the Internet.”

So he did. And in one of those little things that brings it all full circle: he links to me.

I was down to my last dollar, but I came across some First Day Covers – those are the envelopes commemorating some obscure anniversary, with a special stamp and cancellation. I love those things – they’re usually cheap, and the engravings are wonderful, but I’d spent myself dry. Then I remembered the Emergency Twenty. A few years ago at an Apple Store I had filled out a survey, a rather retailed questionnaire about my Apple Store experience. After I was done the clerk handed me an envelope, and inside was a letter of thanks from Apple and a crisp Twenty. (Imagine that from Dell. Imagine that from any other computer maker. It was just so Apple, right down to the design of the letterhead, the spacing on the letter, the perfect 20.) I’d stowed it in the glove compartment, thinking it would come in handy on a rainy day. Well, this was that day. It’s pouring. I sprinted out to the car, got the twenty, and handed it over for a variety of items. I left wishing I could have spent more time and more money, but I had a sheaf of history in my pocket two inches thick.

I drove home through the rain, scanned everything that needed to be scanned, then took the most thick & delicious nap I’d had in years. (Stayed up very late watching “24,” got up very early to get to the show.) Tonight wife and child went to a movie; I stayed at home working on the material I’d found, having a happy zen night arranging content for the sight, designing this page, cleaning up some busted pages, periodically getting up and grabbing the guitar to play along with a song that came up on iTunes.  An ordinary day, but a good one.

Oak Island Water Feature update: well, of course nothing happened, since it was the weekend. Except one of the lights in the top tank stopped working.

That makes two.

New Quirk & Matchbook. (And Depression Gum, of course.) Redid the audio page as well, with links to all the old podcasts and Diners, if you care. Miserable tedious work, that, but it was a rainy Sunday and I hadn’t the head for anything substantial. To work! See you tomorrow.

c. j. lileks 2006. Email may be sent to first name at last name dot com.