A Postcard From Martin
February 13, 2008, 4:25 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Last week I went by the library to find a book to read, as one does at a library. After realizing that I’ve read nearly every interesting book there is, I remembered several recommendations for Don DeLillo’s “Underworld.” Apparently, it’s his magnum opus. Frankly, I find it a little forward for Mr. DeLillo to show everyone his magnum opus. Seems a bit scandalous. ANYWAY.

With modern American fiction not at the top of the library circulation list in New Zealand, a helpful librarian of middle age found a copy buried deep in the annals of Dunedin Public Library. Books about cricketers and eco-tourism abound, but you can’t get a seminal work on modern Americana on the available shelves in New Zealand.

But what should I find but a handy little bookmark in the form of a postcard within this buried text. Being in the intimacy-starved state I’m in, I was overjoyed to have a window into somebody’s correspondence. On the front of the postcard was a black and white picture of an aquarium janitor squeegeeing an underground see-through window of the whale pool.

Wicked intense and interesting, eh? Well, not really. It’s an untitled photograph from Garry Winogrand from 1963. It’s a Winogrand! A Winogrand! No, I don’t know who Garry Winogrand is, either. I’m just trying to spin a yarn here. 

The postcard is addressed to:

The Keans

448 Highgate

Maori Hill


New Zealand

The postcard is dated 7 June, 1991 and was stamped in London. The text is as follows:

“Hi there! Thanks for your card from Honolulu, hope you get a nice tan! Did you go back to that bay where we went snorkeling? Can you send me Rosemary’s address? Mike — I’m half way through a letter to you — thanks for your last one. Dad — it’s too late for the stuff to be organised for Andrei and Inga, they are leaving here in a week with as much as we have organised — They should be alright. But they may pop in for a visit if they get to Dunedin. I’m still cooking and doing a bit of law clerking for solicitors. Doing some more lighting for plays, too, and starting to edit Cakekitchen video. More soon, love Martin.”

Ok, so nobody is admitting to murder, talking about a lost love one or venting about heartache, but I found this long forgotten memento fascinating if only for one reason.

This postcard was mailed in 1991. “Underworld” was published in 1997. So, for six years The Keans kept this postcard to remind them of something or someone. Probably Martin. Rosemary was probably his stepmom. Dad is dad. Who’s Andrei and Inga? Who’s Mike? What on God’s green earth was the Cakekitchen video? More importantly, why did this postcard matter?

Well, memories are funny things aren’t they? I’ve made no secret of my own difficulties with dealing with loss and moving on. It’s not so much that I don’t want to move on, it’s just that anything can set off a memory. A familiar smell, a long lost love note, a blanket, a pair of pants, a picture or perfume. They’re all an immediate transport to somewhere else. Without moving on, life can be suffering and stagnant. But then again, throwing away pictures, gifts and memory saturated THINGS doesn’t feel right either. It’s almost sacrilegious. It’s some holy shit. Like chucking a Bible in the trash.

When Ms. X and I worked our way through the final stages of separation she asked me how to stop remembering things we went through together. Every memory and familiarity had immense context. While I’m no shaman, what I said was fairly prophetic and accurate.

To paraphrase, I said “to move on we can’t sit and think about how we’re dealing with the past. We can’t make coping a conscious choice. We can’t actively forget each other. The only thing we can do is to totally look forward and let new experiences replace our old memories.”

For my own poetic peace of mind, I’d like to think that Martin never came back to Dunedin. Something happened. He fell in love…or into a coma and never returned. And for years, Mike, Rosemary and Dad suffered without him and kept this postcard to remind themselves of their beloved son, cousin, brother or friend. But at that perfect moment, the one only fate can decide, the attachment to his memory was dissolved and “Underworld” was returned to the library and somebody was OK with forgetting to snag Martin’s postcard.

See, coping with loss isn’t about defining and ordering what happened in the past and coming to some kind closure.

 Nah, it’s about finding something better to think about.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This is more maudlin and myopic than my epic novel The Menstruations of Metostpholes. This blog is more torturous than Torquemada. :::Snort:::

Comment by Blessington

Memories aren’t tangible things. Things remembered are only remembered once. Each subsequent recollection is merely a remembrance of a past recollection. Memories aren’t like computer files that can be opened and closed, seamlessly without corruption. They are more like analogues of each other. Linear, iterative, each with its own history.
Forgetting is quite the opposite. Forgetting is the same every time. As a memory fades and we struggle to recollect something that once may have been so familiar, so vivid, and so clear, pieces of the cerebral puzzle simply erode, unseamlessly and often against our will. And the worst part is that a memory never fully disappears. Even that which we can no longer truly remember leaves behind a sort of mental palimpsest as a reminder of that which we have not been diligent enough to hold on to.
There’s an emotional component to this process as well. We struggle to let go of the memories we want to put behind us, often because of some kind of rooted guilt or self-pity and often simply because of the intangible quality of memories that lets them intertwine with so many things. A smell, a color, or déjà vu often trigger a recollection unasked for.
It’s a serendipitous twist of fate that you found that postcard inside of a Delillo novel. Maybe it was a setup. I’m pretty sure you’ve read the Prologue to Underworld in the form of “Pafko at the Wall.” The entirety of the book, for me at least, is about the linkages between consciousness and memory, fading and forgetting, and the inevitability of our memory files corruption.
I can’t wait to hear your thoughts about Mr. Delillo’s “opus.”

Comment by ryan

Put all the shit that reminds you of her in a box and hide it away somewhere. Don’t open it until all of the negative feelings have gone away. When they have, break it out. I’m sure you’ll be able to look back on the memories fondly, without jealousy or bitterness.
Try it, it may take a few years, but you’ll be glad you did. Right now being reminded of those memories is ruining it for you and for her with your ever growing resentment…

Comment by Heather

I am glad you have friends who give good advice.

Comment by Ilana

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