Sometime in my younger days, when I was living with relatives in St. Charles, Missouri, I got it in my head that receiving mail was a grown up thing, and that it was prestigious to get something in the mailbox with my name on it. Particularly if it said “Mr. Brian Noggle” on it. My Uncle Jim got stuff all the time like that, and I hoped he was impressed when I did. Hey, I was twelve years old, and it was seemed like a good idea at the time.
I managed to mail away for some anti-abortion arm bands that Jerry Falwell was sending out, and once you’re on Jerry’s list, you can plan on being Jerry’s list for a long time. I also found a religious magazine, the Plain Truth, that mailed out free booklets on request, so I got a good helping of those sorts of things. For a while, I was reading quite a bit of religious material. Strange, when you look at my general lackadaisical religious attitude these days, that I was quite a conservative little guy, almost, at one time.
Well, through my various machinations and an abortive flirtation with subsidy publishers (I was going to send in my first volume of poetry by December 1984, I seem to recall–I was still twelve years old, but ambitious), I managed to get myself onto a number of mailing lists. Hopefully my uncle was impressed, but then I moved out of his house and my love of receiving mail followed me to Murphy, Missouri. I was still getting stuff from The Moral Majority, but eventually they realized I was broke and/or disinterested so their trickle ceased altogether. Somewhere along this time, I sent my first short story, “Cricket: A Dog’s Life” to McCall’s magazine, or maybe it was “A Walk in the Park” to Hitchcock’s, but the transition began.
Soon the only things coming in the mail were the usual money-bearing cards from relatives for holidays, but when I started to send my works into magazines, there started a new flow of –well, rejection slips for the most part, but with each article in the mail, there is always the hopes of publication, and those self-addressed stamped envelopes could be the bearer of wonderful news. The beauty of this, I suppose, is that the possibility of money from heaven (or at least the Postal Service) all year round, but then it is based on my ability and not the duty of relatives–and so far, the return has been so nil that I often question my ability. But, with each new piece and each new mailing, there is new hope, so I continue on.
There is a half hour to go until today’s delivery. What could it bring? Well, it is the end of the month, so at least there won’t be any bills–which, as a full adult, I have come to recognize as a majority of modern mailings. I even look forward to bills, probably for some deep philosophical reason that they affirm my objective existence or something. I could, in theory, get an acceptance letter from a magazine–I currently have several submissions on the wing, er, on the postman’s back. More likely than not I shall receive at least four rejection slips, which would be fine, too. I only have a rejection slip from one of the five magazines, and the other four would be wonderful additions to my rejection slip collection.
I could, in theory, get a letter from one of my friends or my brother in Hawaii, but I just visited Missouri in June of 1993, and so no one would be writing me this soon. The possibility exists, though, and anticipation is tickling my stomach.
I could also get some little catalogue of something strange and wonderful- -such as the Firebird Arts and Music Catalog that I get every season even though I have not actually purchased anything from them in five years or one of the computer catalogues that have discovered me. Probably, though, if I get anything, it will be a notification of the urgency of a sweepstakes entry or the application for an American Express card–if there is one constant through life, it is junk mail. It has lost its relevance in my life, but it keeps on coming.
But, I must say, it makes me feel like a grown up, and an objectively existent one at that.