Ah, the postcard show. Harbinger of Spring, fair steward of Fall. It seemed to be a bit under-attended this time, and I had the usual brain fog after an hour – all the cards look the same, and you began to wonder why anyone would ever buy a linen card of some rocks heaped in the desert, let along send it, let alone buy it 50 years later. I found a few things, of course; more motels, alas, which means more updating of the motel site. (Next summer.) More restaurants, hurrah, for the upcoming remade 50s restaurant site. A few more Minneapolis cards, some Fargo cards, and my new favorite genre: boring downtowns of bump-in-the-road hamlets.

Here’s a card of downtown Carrington, North Dakota. It’s the Buchanan Hotel.

I’m sure the building is still there. If I could I’d get in the Element tomorrow and drive there, just to see. It’s been too long since I wandered around the vast expanse of North Dakota, and fall is a good time. They’re all good, I suppose; North Dakota is one of those places that expresses all the beauty and bleakness of the world in the course of a single year. You stand at the crossroads of a small town in June and wonder why anyone would leave, and you stand at the same place in January and wonder why anyone would stay.

It yields details, as the best ones do:

Note the Coast-to-Coast sign. Or don't; it's not obligatory, I suppose. That's a chain I'd completely forgotten. It merged with others and joined the TrueValue conglomerate, a chain for whom Paul Harvey shilled for many a year. It's a reminder that the halcyon days of the Perfect Small Town, filled with Mr. Druckers running their own independent stores, dagnabbit, weren't so. The chains came early.


Barely visible on the left below, the old phone company logo. See, children, in the days before cell phones, you had to find a phone to make a call. If you couldn't find one you just had to shout.

Albuquerque. (Not boring or small, just in case any Albuquerquians are insulted.) I found this in a “Route 66” bin. Depending on the whims of the fellow selling the stuff, you could find it in New Mexico, Main Streets or YMCA or any other particular fetish people collect. The tall building is the old First National Bank Building.

I'd file it under Reddy Kilowatt:

Look at these details. Every city used to look like this. Now they all look like they hit the MUTE button.

This is just wild. More:

From the looks of the Googleye, the Bank Building is the only survivor.

Step right up and say hello to Pecos, Texas. Google-maps wise, it's one of those towns that looks better in maps view than satellite view. You'd like to think there were more flattering angles, but if so, why choose this?

You could get Marfak at Texaco in Pecos. Two-thirds of that sentence will be incomprehensible to most folk in fifty years, perhaps. 

Moose Lake, Minnesota:

See that yellow sign on the left? That's the Coast to Coast logo.

The old sign for the Fair Store; the Red Owl – it’s remarkable to think that places like these flowered by the hundred, by the thousands, all across the Midwest, and in every one of them people felt and though and wept and sang and worried and exulted and went about their days, remote from the big cities that occupy center stage in the history books. The sheer weight of human experience – however minor or rote – you can glean from one of these cards is almost overwhelming; you can imagine a novel’s worth of stories from one person glimpsed in a car at the edge of the picture, and extrapolate outwards until the volume of lives silenced by time becomes almost unendurable.

Good for us we don't have endure them, then. It’s not necessary to have one’s story remembered in order to justify your life. We don’t really need to know that Elmer Johnson, 51, shivered and cursed as he got into his car on the morning of Feb 21, 1962, and drove down to the insurance office to sign a policy before he headed to the bank. But you’d love to know what he was thinking. I’d love to know what they all were thinking. But those things stay on the private side of the bone.

Of course, these things are mysterious only because they're, well, mysteries. When someone actually types up those thoughts and put s them on MySpace, no one cares.


New Matchbook; I also redid Stagworld to fit the 21st century, and added a few things. See you at buzz.mn. Tomorrow: movies and The War.