Yes, Visible Woman is back after a long drought. I'm participating in Holidailies, a project courtesy of my friends Chip and Jette. Lots of other people are blogging daily (or some semblance thereof) for the rest of the holidays as a gift to themselves and others. So click through to the portal if you arrived at this new entry only to be bored with Visible Woman all over again.
Now onward to my first Holidaily of 2009:
This is a photo of Barbara Hammond and Colum McCann taken at Ulysses' Folk House in downtown Manhattan on June 16, 2009. I like the cigarette lighting ritual between these two friends. The point of using this picture today is just to show some interesting people to accompany this piece. These are some people I know a little. In Colum's case, I was introduced and that's it. (By Barbara.) In Barbara's case we met her at the Austin Film Festival and have corresponded and met up for some Bloomsday activities in New York, had some meals and drinks. (The picture was taken at one of the Bloomsday things at the Ulysses' place where we met Colum.)
How many people do I know? By 'know' I mean I have met them and, if we meet again, I will sort of know I know them and they might recognize me. Not celebrities or notables, local or otherwise, that would never in a million years be able to identify me. But people I am actually acquainted with and who would have at least a small possibility of knowing who I am, etc.
I doubt if Colum would remember me if we met again. Fact is I had to dig in brain and Internet to get his name right. I read this piece in the New York Times the same day I met him. He's a published author so there you go. But I'd forgotten his name's exact spelling and I haven't even read any of his books. Barbara is a playwright but we've exchanged enough e-mail and conversation that I feel like, more than that, she's a friend.
Through Barbara we met a talented niece of hers who happens to live in Austin. We had some food and drink together. We're facebook friends. I'd say I know her a little.
All these people. That one sort of 'knows.'
I have a database of contacts for mailing reference. There are 557 entries in it. I know plenty of people, some quite well, who aren't on this list because I've just never had snail mail correspondence with them or for some reason not added them to this database or had them on it and then deleted them because I lost track of their mailing address and other contact info. Then there are hundreds of contacts on my e-mail address book and some overlap with the mail database. There are facebook 'friends' (who are these people? I sometimes wonder). Based on this evidence I'd say I know a thousand people, probably two thousand counting spouses, children, dogs and hangers-on. Not that all of them could recall who I am, but most would.
Occasionally we need to canvas our 'contacts' looking for willing donors for some cause or, more often, to populate a social event. It's an interesting exercise to, for example, try to have a party for 10 people or 50. Who to choose? How many will say 'no.' How many will say 'yes' and not come? And we try to do an annual holiday mailing. When we moved in 2008, we did moving announcements. Then we have to choose who to create mailing labels for. We usually create 200-250 labels representing, I don't know, maybe 400 people.
This time of year I go through the over 500 names in the data base and adjust a column labeled 'XMAS' putting 'Y' in it or erasing it and thinking about the person or family. Who are they? How did I meet them? Are they still together? Are the kids still living at home? Did they send a card lately? And sometimes, sadly, I delete a name or an entry due to death. Or, if I don't hear from them often, I wonder...are they still alive?
At the end of the day, I think the holiday card thing is really just an attempt to come to grips with a certain group of people I know, reach out and receive the dreaded 'no forwarding address' for some and, for others, receive in turn cards, Christmas letters and who knows what. In today's world I guess it would be like writing on the wall of all your facebook 'friends' or something. Some cards go and don't come back but otherwise you have no evidence they've arrived.
My cards are out this year. There's been a certain amount of synchronicity. I was labeling one card to a relative's family when FFP came in with the mail from downstairs and there was a card from that family. I was reviewing a card address for a very recent widow when I realized FFP was speaking with her on the phone. I told someone Sunday night that I received their card and they said "I got yours! They must have crossed in the mail." I am more pleased with this than I have any right to be and my friend seemed to be, too. Makes no sense really. And I'm wondering what will replace that feeling when printed and stamped mail is well and truly obsolete.
In case you are still reading...here are some past thoughts on holiday cards and such: last year's holiday card wrap-up; a note after sending cards in 2007; a wrap-up for 2006. Anthropologists are welcome, in the future, to examine all this. There's more, too, buried in my old blogs. But it makes me tired seeking it out.