Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My Pen Pal

I just mailed a letter to my pen pal.

Yes. A pen pal.

Does anyone remember those? In this day and age of emails, texting, blogging, and IMing, it's hard to imagine having a pen pal. But I've had a regular and constant pen pal for twenty-six years now.

We've never emailed and don't even know each other's email addresses. I don't know if he reads this blog or not (he's never mentioned it).

We write letters. Honest-to-goodness, handwritten, pen-and-ink-on-paper letters, snail-mailed with a postage stamp. We've been doing that, faithfully, since 1981.

Back then, I'd just left college and was living alone for the first time. I placed an ad in a world-wide pen-pal agency and got buckets of responses. I wrote to a bunch of them, but they gradually dwindled or we became disinterested.

Jim, my pen pal, lived in New York City at the time and I was hell-bent on moving there someday. We continued writing. And writing. Frankly, writing a letter is something I really enjoy doing and he apparently does as well.

He and his partner soon moved to Provincetown, then to San Francisco and he's been there ever since, working as a squash instructor and school teacher. God, I've moved so many times since then. It's a miracle he's kept up with me, but he has. I finally did move to New York ten years ago, but that was long after he had moved to the West Coast.

I doubt that we will ever begin emailing. Frankly, I hope we don't. It just wouldn't seem right and it would probably spoil it all. Sure, I love the ease and instant gratification of emailing, but there's something really special about opening up and reading a handwritten letter that just doesn't compare.

So, Jim, if you're reading this, "hello".

If not, that's fine too. He'll be getting a letter from me soon.



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