No internet. No smart phone. No apps or social networks. No laser printer, not even a clunky desktop computer running WordStar 1.0.
A typewriter, an ink pen, a can of Krylon, X-Acto knife and poster board. A trip to the printer, hand written mailing labels, postage stamps. These were the tools of the trade when my mother first published “Cook & Tell,” the newsletter she wrote and illustrated for 30-some years.
After the initial mailing to everyone on her Christmas card list, her readership grew in quantum leaps, eventually surging to nearly 10,000 readers across the globe. Subscribers sent letters and postcards, and sometimes grainy Instamatic photographs, posing in their kitchens. My mother delighted in making long-distance calls to random readers at suppertime, the long cord from the yellow wall phone stretching from living room to kitchen. “What’s for dinner?” she’d ask, then chronicle the responses in the “Meals Across the Miles” section of her next newsletter.
Some days, I dream of reviving that newsletter, of going dark, like so many friends have lately. To erase my cyber-presence, to escape political rants and hate and fake news where even emojis are too loud, to be unburdened by algorithms and likes.
Some days, I dream of returning to the days when writing—and people—felt more real. Of punching the dusty keys of the ancient Remington typewriter in my mother’s old studio, a jar of Wite-Out at the ready. Taking posterboard paste-ups to the print shop. Unloading the printed copies on the unwitting postmistress at the little post office—the island’s social network since 1878.
I am not lacking in experience, having entered the fray long ago with my own family newsletter, “The Purple Press,” so named for the pungent purple ink of the mimeograph machine my fourth-grade teacher let me use for copies.
And yet, here I sit, the irony inescapable, typing on a screen. A cog in the blogosphere wheel.