In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream

OG and I were lounging after a long day at Oktoberfest, watching Aliens for the 37th time, when the phone rang. Blocked caller. Reluctantly, OG answered her phone and immediately looked like she regretted it. She grimaced. Waved her free hand in the air.

Yes. Okay. Understood. Those were her one-word answers as she listened to the person on the other end talking at a staccato clip.

I didn’t understand a thing, but from the look on OG’s face, I knew it was serious. Deadly serious. Like, “In space, no one can hear you scream” serious.

“We have an assignment,” OG said as she tossed down the phone. “We have to go. Now.”

“Go where?” I asked. “We haven’t even gotten to the part where where the alien pops out of Kane’s chest. That’s the best part.” I pleaded. I was whining. And pouting a little.

“SCHNELL,” is all OG said. I hopped up. Pushed pause on the movie. And grabbed my coat.

“Where are we going?” I gasped as I ran to catch up. OG was already sprinting down the stairs and vaulting into an idling SUV. One of those official-looking government vehicles. You’ll see,” she said, mysteriously. “You’ll see.”

An hour later, OG and I are in spacesuits on top of a hot rocket. We’re strapped in and ready. And at the last second before the technicians close the cargo bay door, Hal, the lead technician, leans in and hands OG a large mechanical device. “You’ll need this up there,” he says as he backs out of the capsule. “Take good care of it. We’re counting on you.”

And an in instant, they lit that candle and OG and I were blazing at warp speed out to the Kuiper Belt.

Robert Richter captured the discipline OG uses when she vacuums the Kuiper Belt

Turns out, OG and I were tapped to vacuum space. We had become internet famous for our YouTube channel, This Sucks, where we tested all kinds of home and industrial vacuums. One of our most-watched videos included the time we went to the original Legoland in Denmark and I lost control of a giant industrial vacuum we were testing, accidentally sucking up a million Lego bricks that were being used to build a replica of The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen. The Danes were not amused. But you really can’t tell with Danes. They have a particular way about them. They don’t react much.

OG and I were also were internet famous for using a Dustbuster to vacuum a 100km stretch of the Autobahn. We cleaned the lint traps in all the clothes dryers in laundromats in Brooklyn. And in our most famous test, we tried out 43 types of vacuums to clean up after a crafter in Tierra del Fuego dropped a bottle of glitter on her desk. Nothing worked. We failed. (An Argentinian PhD student did her dissertation on The Mathematical Distribution of Micro-glitter from Tierra del Fuego to the South Pole and the Effects of a Glitter Bombs. Trust me, glitter goes everywhere. Her research shows we all are likely to encounter that glitter sometime in our life. It’s more pervasive than stardust.)

JoAnn’s card commemorates when OG and I had our Star Wars-themed Oktoberfest in Space

After OG and I got done vacuuming the Kuiper Belt (I could tell you why we had to do it, and why so quickly, but that’s classified), we were granted a little time off. And since it was still Oktoberfest, OG and I thought it would be fun to meld our love of Star Wars with our love of dirndls and polkas. Plus, in space, no one can hear anything. (It’s the vacuum of space!) So we could blast our music as loudly as we wanted. What? Were our neighbors on Neptune gonna complain?

Ann Marie sent an illustration of OG and me having fun time at Moonbase

The best part about that cleanup of the Kuiper Belt, besides the fact we had a killer YouTube video to show, was that we got to stop by Moonbase on the way home. And I mean, Vespas are fun, and so is driving trains, but look at OG and me as we zipped around on those Moonbase Patrol Scooters.

Melissa sent this SST memory

Well, all good things have to come to an end. But as a special thank you, the People-Who-Called-OG-and-Will-Remain-Nameless asked us what we’d like to do back on earth. OG said she always wanted a ride on the Concorde. So they got one of the SSTs out of mothballs and gave us a ride. OG sat in the same seat where David Bowie sat years earlier. We ate canapés. And flew from New York to London and back to New York. Because…why not?

Betsy knew I admired Dick Tracy

I asked for a Dick Tracy watch. “Um, how about an Apple Watch?” said the head of People-Who-Called-OG-and-Will-Remain-Nameless. “More features than a Dick Tracy watch.”

I nodded. And OG looked over at me. “Wanna watch the end of Aliens?” I asked her. “Yeah, let’s do that,” OG said as she flipped on the video player in the Concorde. “In space no one can hear you scream.”

I Got a Rock

I have lots of phrases I say repeatedly, sometimes out of context. One I say is, “I got a rock.” I say it when we’re opening presents on Christmas morning. Someone else will say, “I got a sweater.” And another will say, “I got a video game.” And without fail I’ll say, “I got a rock.” There’s a reason why I say it (besides being my annoying self).

I absolutely loved Charlie Brown specials when I was a kid. I especially liked It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. That show is about Linus waiting in the pumpkin patch for The Great Pumpkin to arrive. While Linus waits, the Peanuts go trick-or-treating. And at each house, the kids reveal what they got.

I got a candy bar. I got three cookies. I got a rock.

That last one was Charlie Brown at every house. All the other kids got goodies. Charlie Brown got a rock.

Since I say I got a rock all the time, that’s what came to me when I looked at this set of incoming cards. But I said it with delight. I GOT A ROCK! Check these out. There’s a rock theme. Rock on.

Twin tunnels blasted out of sheer rock at Lake Tahoe’s Cave Rock
Blaize sent this card with some impressive rocks from the Salinas Pueblo Missions
Valery visited this impressive rock on her travels to Lake Baikal
Here’s another kind of rock from Jim — Peltier’s Marbles (I used to collect marbles and still have some)
Teresa sent this Ansel Adams photo of Utah’s Rainbow Bridge (that’s a big rock)
Devin says Stonehenge rocks. So does this round postcard, Devin.

Last little nugget: My last name — Roche — means rock in French. Yeah, I’m a little bit rock-n-roll.

Postcards from Africa

In Africa a thing is true at first light and a lie by noon; and you have no more respect for it than for the lovely, perfect wood-fringed lake you see across the sun-baked salt plain. You have walked across that plain in the morning and you know that no such lake is there. But now it is there absolutely true, beautiful and believable.

Ernest Hemingway, True at First Light

It’s funny how it works with postcards — one day getting a postcard from Africa is true at first light and no longer a lie by noon. It was no mirage that these four postcards arrived in my mailbox on the same day. And they’re all absolutely true, beautiful and believable.

Melissa’s husband travels all over the world. And I’m the lucky recipient of this card from Uganda.
When I interviewed Nikki Banz for E117 of The Postcardist Podcast, she described this scene she see from her windows.
Stamp from South Africa featuring the largest diamond in the world — the Cullinan stone.
The Kabaka’s Palce at Mengo, Kampala, Uganda
I need to experience standing on the equator. Check out this video about how water flows with the Coriolis Effect.

Words Endure

Colors fade, temples crumble,
empires fall, but wise words endure.

Edward Thorndike

Although we often think about postcards having an image on one side and a message side, there is a type of postcard I like very much: the word card. Here’s a set of seven recent incoming cards to demonstrate what I’m talking about. Each of these postcards has a particular message that was commented about from the sender.

Betsy offers some sound advice. I’ll keep this in mind in case I try to pull off a caper.
Simple and nice — a card from Dave that says everything in two words.
Jennie made me laugh with this one. The podcast is listened to in 55 countries. Ha!
Nikita sent this one as I was recovering from a surgery. Words can uplift.
Take a deep breath season. I love this one from Beck.
You’re free to interpret this as you like — good amazed or bad amazed. I think Nikita meant good.
IndySuz boiled it down to a single word. Ahoy! (My dad had a boatswain’s whistle, so quite a memory.)

Postcards in Toasty Tones

I was sorting through my stack of incoming cards today after I finished a podcast interview (I’ll publish that on February 9) and saw this grouping of colors on postcards that made this cold day much brighter.

First up is this postcard from Nan featuring a watercolor painting in such warm colors. The painting is titled Anza Trail-Coyote Canyon (1996) by Armand F Vallée. The postcard was published by the Anzo Borrreo Foundation.

Next, this Postcrossing meeting card from Kaluga, Russia sent by Valery. That town was celebrating its 650th anniversary and this card captures the warmth of that celebration.

Warmth…yes. What’s warmer than a pair of VW Microbusses on a Southern California beach, surfboards at the ready? And what we don’t see in this picture is Nikita ready to splash into the surf and own the waves.

Yes, that’s the World’s Largest Swatch at Expo 86 in Vancouver, B.C. And Betsy was a little girl and got to see it. Lucky me, here it is on a postcard.

Life in the Adirondacks looks absolutely perfect around now, Joe. Look at that late summer sunset and the canoe on Canada Lake.

Clocky has a wonderful podcast called Sent from Disneyland. And sure enough, he does what he says — he sends postcards from Disneyland.

Last up on this technicolor extravaganza is from Joyce Miller, Joyce is a writer, and clearly creativity runs in her family because her cousin Bob created what he calls tessel-kaleidoscopes. This is a real beauty.

Hey, just a little request. If you like to get these posts in your email you can subscribe, then you can choose how often you’d like an update.

Big Fun, Best Pie, Bull Shoals

I collect Space Postcards. So, imagine my delight when Trish sent this one-of-a-kind card for my collection. I mean, I certainly don’t have anything like it. It’s big fun in Uranus.

The trifecta of T. Rex, Route 66, and Uranus.

But wait, there’s more. This one entertains the secret 12-year-old boy living inside me. Look at the description on the message side of the Having Fun in Uranus card. It says: Uranus, Missouri, on historic Route 66, is a family fun destination, world famous for its Fudge Factory and General Store. Explore Uranus in-person and online at Really. And go ahead and click on that link. Yes, there’s more. Here’s their postcard collection.

Yep, it says that. You gotta go look at their website.

Trish also sent this Orange Meringue Pie recipe that looks absolutely delectable. I mean, I feel like this is in my future. It looks crazy good. If I were a deep-space astronaut, this would be what I’d want for space food on a mission to Uranus.

Get in mah bellah!

Finally, a special one from Trish because she and her 91-year-old grandpa bought this one for me. Her grandpa lives near the Bull Shoals Dam. I’ve visited that area; it’s really pretty there. Thank you so much to both of you.

Bull Shoals –White River State Park

That Time OG and I Ran into David Bowie in Fez

Did I ever tell you about that? Nah, I probably didn’t. So, here goes.

Our adventure starts with OG and me as we meandered through the labyrinthine side streets of Fez, Morocco. We had just arrived in town a few days earlier after we spent a year working at an archeological dig at the Capitoline Temple in Volubilis. Our visas were due to expire.

I wanted to visit the Fez’s famous leather shops, and even though OG doesn’t like leather, she agreed to join me as long as we could do something to overcome the acrid smell of the tanneries. First, we stopped in a spice shop in search of ras el hanout — the exquisite Moroccan mix of salt, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, allspice, black pepper, and ginger. And, I was looking for mint sprigs to hold under our noses for the tannery visit. Alas, that would have to wait.

We heard a massive ruckus. Men screaming and cursing in Arabic and Berber and French. Children crying. And the thumping and crashing of pottery smashing on the ground in the claustrophobia-inducing bazaar. Just then, OG poked her head out of the spice stall we were in and yanked in a tall, thin man with orange hair who just a second before had been scurrying and scampering around the mass of bodies in the street.

The thin man went nearly vertical as OG pulled him into our shop. She directed him to scrunch down and urged me to help stack spice sacks around him. As I added the last burlap bag to obscure him, he looked up. The thin man had one brown eye and one blue eye.

A huge mass of people came dashing past, screaming and shouting. Ziggy. Ziggy. Ziggy. There were hundreds of them pulsing and pushing through the souk. Half a dozen of the crew crashed into the shop we were in.

Ziggy, they yelled, imploring us to tell them if we had seen the man.

Who’s Ziggy, OG asked, first in Arabic, and then in French.

Ziggy. Ziggy. ZIGGY, an unbearded man said, breathing heavily. Ziggy Stardust. ZIGGY.

OG shook her head. No. And she waved the mob off.

After another 15 minutes passed, the medina quieted down. OG bent down to let the thin man out from behind the spice sacks. He got up and brushed cumin from his hair. And dusted cinnamon from his shirt.

And just then, it dawned on me. The eyes. David Bowie looked right at OG admiringly and said this:

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day

David Bowie, Heroes

OG was a hero. And for her smart and strong move, we got invited to be on stage at the thin man’s concert in Marrakesh. And Bowie sent OG a poster to commemorate her heroism in saving him from the mob in Fez. Here’s a postcard OG made from that poster to help me recall another Adventure with OG.

Stuck on You

I got this triptych of sticker postcards Magda designed for International Sticker Day This is such a clever concept — leave space for stickering and then add your own stickers in the white space. (Although Maggie’s sticker game is next level and she added stickers all over the cards.). Too cute.. You can see all of Magda’s Designs at Travel Trinkets Canada.

Do you add stickers to your postcards? I finally organized my stickers. Cards like this prompt me to think more about adding fun little sticky goodness to my mail.

Little science fact because the stickers on this card led me to look up the stickiest substance on earth. Here you go:

The tiny water bacterium Caulobacter crescentus secretes a sugary substance so sticky that just a tiny bit could withstand the pull from lifting several cars at once. With an adhesive force of nearly five tons per square inch, this “glue” is nature’s strongest.

LiveScience and the National Science Foundation

Yes, I ended up looking up the slipperiest substance on earth, too. It’s called BAM. Don’t put that stuff on your cards or they’ll just be slip slidin’ away.

Flaming Flowers that Brightly Blaze

The artist Nikita Regina sent this Vase with Irises (1890) postcard that shows a Vincent van Gogh painting I was lucky enough to see in the Rijksmuseum once upon a starry, starry night. The magical quality of the card and Vincent’s work is beautiful, but Nikita’s needlepoint stamp outshines it all.

Flaming flowers that brightly blaze / Swirling clouds of violet haze / Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of China blue / Colors changing hue

Don McLean, Vincent (1972)
Vincent van Gogh features prominently in The Postcardist office

Besides having lots of Vincent paraphernalia in my office, I also could listen over and over to Don McLean’s song Vincent (which some call Starry, Starry Night). I had the original American Pie album, and that song concluded our 8th Grade dance. But it was Vincent that I listened to more often. That song sent me to the public library to learn as much as I could about the artist. What a bit of serendipity that I ended up living a 10-minute walk from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam many years later. Or that last October, I sat on a cushion at the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit in Minneapolis and watched that experience play through three full times.

I never forgot how that fascination with Van Gogh all started. With a song. This song.

Just look at how special this is. Nikita used my magic number for the stamp value. Thank you.

Look at the magnificent detail on that needlepoint “stamp” Nikita created

Postcards I Love in the Time of Corona

The Covid pandemic makes cholera seem almost quaint, doesn’t it? I wonder if Gabriel García Márquez would rethink Love in the Time of Cholera (El amor en los tiempos del cólera) if he were writing it in 2022. Nah, maybe not. There’s a wordplay in Spanish about the word cólera that has nothing to do with the acute illness caused by a bacterial intestinal infection.

And as horrible as cholera sounds (and it’s pretty bad), Melissa notes in this seven-card Covid series that it’s a rare-to-nonexistent postcard that contains the words “vomiting and diarrhea.” Yes, Melissa, I have to say this is the first one I’ve seen. We might need to get Mark Routh to comment on this. Mark has the world class, category-defining collection of Covid postcards and ephemera (approaching 5,000 items at last count).

Many thanks to Melissa for this series. (Images are from the CDC and the postcards were printed by NeckahNeck Forest Arts Collective.)

Did you read Love in the Time of Cholera? Or see the movie? Here’s the theatrical trailer.

Writing this made me think about all the hand washing I’ve done over the past two years of the pandemic. I commented in Episode 126 about how many people had died during the Influenza Pandemic of 1918, and somehow I got that number right (50 million worldwide; 675,00 in the U.S.). As of February 1, 2022, there have been 5.7 million people who died of Covid worldwide, with 881,000 dead in the United States. I’m gonna keep washing my hands, wearing my masks, and getting boosters. Meanwhile, I’ll stay home and look at these new additions to my Covid postcard collection.

UPDATE: Just as I was ready to push publish on this post, I got a postcard from Kristen that said “Wash Your Hands.” How’s that for timing? And that made me think I should make a demo about proper hand washing technique. So I did that this morning as a public service.

A reminder from Kristen H.

Pero si algo habían aprendido juntos era que la sabiduría nos llega cuando ya no sirve para nada.

Gabriel García Márquez, El amor en los tiempos del cólera