Sunday, October 3, 2010

Postcards From The Thousand Islands

Boldt Castle, The Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence Seaway
(Photo copyright by Dory Adams)

Add one more item to the list of things being made obsolete by technology. I learned through the National Geographic blog Intelligent Travel that British Airways has launched a campaign to save the postcard. It seems that we no longer disconnect from our mobile communication devices long enough to feel the need to send postcards.

As much as I hate to admit it, that’s become true for me. Even when I’m trying to travel light, I still pack my Netbook and carry my cell phone (the cell phone I was reluctant to get, but was eventually forced into it because public pay phones have pretty much disappeared). Without even realizing it, I also stopped sending postcards. It used to be that when we were travelling I always sent at least one postcard – to my mom. Now Mom gets an e-mail to tell her when I’m going out of town and another one when I get back, to let her know to call my cell phone if she needs to reach me in an emergency.

I enjoy getting postcards, and still sometimes receive them (usually from writer friends who appreciate old-fashioned handwritten letters – you know, the kind of message that’s sealed in an envelope, stamped, and dropped into one of those blue metal U.S. mailboxes that also seem to be disappearing from street corners). According to Stephen Bayley’s article in High Life (which has details about the “Save the Postcard” charity auction of artist-designed picture postcards with celebrity signatures), only “11% of travelers still send postcards home while 60% use text.” He writes, “Facebook, email, texting and tweeting have deskilled communications and impoverished our visual culture.”

It may be true that Facebook has become the new digital age postcard. It certainly seems like everyone is trying to get me to join Facebook, but I remain a holdout. If anyone wants to know what I’m up to, all they have to do is check this blog. I’m not even willing to “tweet” or send a text message from my cell phone. I don’t even know how to text – and if anyone sends me one I just delete it without opening it. But, I’ve saved pretty much every postcard I’ve ever received, along with personal letters. They’re lovingly stored in a stack of pretty boxes that are stored on the top shelf of a closet. I suppose I’m expecting to read through all those letters again someday, as a way of remembering the past, when I’m too old and frail to do much more than that.

In mid-September my husband and I spent a week of vacation on a road trip with stops in Buffalo, the Thousand Islands, and Ontario, Canada. We treated ourselves to a stay at the Roycroft Inn for our wedding anniversary, and we did our usual offbeat things like touring the Buffalo Central Terminal and the Colonel Ward Pumping Station in Buffalo, and we watched the lakeboat Quebecois go through the final lock on the Welland Canal as it traversed from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. We also did a few touristy things: a boat tour of the Thousand Islands, a tour of Bodlt Castle on Heart Island, and even a stopover at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. No doubt I’ll be writing more about those places in future posts, but for now I’ll leave you with one more electronic postcard from the Thousand Islands.

Estates Small and Large, The Thousand Islands
(Photo copyright by Dory Adams)
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Frances said...

This sounds like a lovely trip. More details, please, as you hint you may provide. We still send postcards when we travel, but only to family.

Dory Adams said...

Frances, your family is lucky to get those postcards from your journeys. More blog postcards and trip details will be forthcoming from me -- maybe as part of an ongoing series.

Edd Fuller said...

If I recall correctly, Walker Evans was very interested in post cards and had a large collection of them.

As interesting as postcards can be photographically, the thing that I find fascinating is the message. What does one write in such a small space to make the effort of buying a card and finding a post office worthwhile.

Looking back, there is something poignant about "Having a wonderful time. Be home Sunday."

Dory Adams said...

Edd, yes -- I'd completely forgotten about Walker Evans' postcard collection. He had more than 9000 of them which are in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art collection. There is also a book, "Walker Evans and the Postcard" by Jeff Rosenheim.

My favorite message to write on postcards to friends stuck at their jobs: "Having fun on vacation. How's work this week?"