Archive for April 13th, 2020

No Mail?

I shake my head a lot these days.

And swear. I have always cursed a lot, probably much more than is necessary under any circumstance. But these days, it’s been an unending torrent of blue language. I feel like a gunfighter with my hand forever resting on the six-shooter hanging at my side, all six chambers loaded with curse words of all sorts and in every imaginable combination. Hey, just because I’m crude doesn’t mean I can’t be creative.

But the past day or two, the thing that had me shooting that six gun into the sky is the current president*** and his desire to see the US Postal Service fail, saying that he will veto any emergency bill that adds funds for this most essential service, one that has seen a number of its employees stricken with the covid-19 virus.

There has long been a desire among some on the right to privatize the postal service. In fact, in 2006 under the second Bush administration that was gung ho on privatizing as many government services as possible, they enacted a mandate for the USPS that required them to prefund the employee retirement fund for the next 75 years with a ten year period. It was a measure that added $5-6 billion to the USPS budget each year, sending a service that ran, for the most part, profitably for ages into a financial freefall.

This mandate of funding retirements for 75 years– basically for a generation not yet born– is not done nor required by any or other government agency or any private company. Can you imagine a private company having to pay for the entire retirement of a new employee within the next few years? It is a ridiculous requirement and one that is intended to drive the USPS into insolvency, as it would do for any other company required to follow it.

Why would they do this? Privatization, as I said. There is a firm belief in many on the right that government is inherently inept and can do nothing efficiently. This always strikes me as being funny because these same people often believe that big government is involved in conspiracies that would require it to be the exact opposite of that. Privatization takes them off the books and, sadly, would make them a new vehicle for corruption.

The USPS is often maligned but they are still a wonder of efficiency in my eyes. Throw a letter in an envelope, jot down an address and add a stamp and stick it in the box at the end of the driveway. A person picks it up and a day or two later it is delivered anywhere in this country for 55 cents. The people who complain about this are the same people who bitch that gas doesn’t cost thirty cents a gallon anymore. To me, accessing the infrastructure that can do such a thing for less than buck is perhaps the best bargain around.

The infrastructure to do this is incredible, a force of 600,000 employees who have been the lifeline for many for most of the time as a nation. Some say that most of our messaging can be done via the web now or through private carriers such as UPS or FedEx. Of course, there is a profit necessary in order to accomplish it with private companies. FedEx would certainly never be able to deliver a letter for 55 cents. So, any increase in the price of doing such would be a de facto tax.

I am one of those people who have always loved the idea of mail. It has always been a part of my life, a first life line to the outside world when I was child living in the relative isolation of our rural home. I have friends that I still write to overseas that I befriended through the mail. While we now email more, the hand written letters and notes that I still receive mean so much more to me than a n electronic message read on a screen. The fact that the sender put it in the envelope and addressed it and a different person picked it up and inserted it into this incredible system to get to me makes it a small miracle.

The USPS can easily be saved. Of course, the forces that be and their wealthy friends see it as a cash cow to be exploited. Whether we let that happen is up to us. Call– or better yet, write– your representatives in congress and tell them to keep their hands off the post office.

Here’s an older blog entry about the prospect of receiving mail as a kid. I have done a few paintings that reflect this memory, including the one at the top from back in 2009.


For me, this painting reminds me of my childhood and the house I consider my childhood home, an old farmhouse that sat by itself with no neighbors in sight. Specifically, this painting reminds me of exact memories I have of trudging to the mailbox as an 8 or 9 year-old in the hot summer sun. There’s a certain dry dustiness from the driveway and the heat is just building in the late morning. It’s a lazy time for a child. Late July and many weeks to go before school resumes. The excitement of school ending has faded and the child finds himself spending his days trying to find ways to not be bored into submission.

The trip to the mail box is always a highlight of the day, filled with the possibility that there might be something in it for me. Something that is addressed only to and for me, a validation that I exist in the outside world and am not stranded on this hot, dry summer island. Usually, the tinge of excitement fades quickly as I open the old metal mailbox and find nothing there for me. But occasionally there is something different, so much so that I recognize it without even seeing the name on the envelope or package label.

It’s mine, for me, directed to me. Perhaps it’s my Boy’s Life or the Summer Weekly Reader. I would then spend the day reading them from front to back, reading the stories and checking out the ads in Boy’s Life for new Schwinn bikes. Oh, those days were so good. The smell of the newly printed pages mingling with the heat and dust of the day to create a cocktail whose aroma I can still recall.

But most days, it was nothing. Just the normal family things– bills, advertisements and magazines. Or nothing at all. The short walk back to the house seemed duller and hotter on those days.

That’s what I see in this piece, even thought it doesn’t depict everything I’ve described in any detail. There’s a mood in it that recalls those feeling from an 8 or 9 year-old, one of anticipation and one of disappointment.

Childhood days with no mail.

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