For nearly three weeks, Derek Wong, the author/photographer of Straight, No Chaser, has been waiting for his Portra to be returned to him from the lab that developed it. In a recent message to me, he said he thought it was lost in the mail, though the lab notified him when it was mailed to him. I can imagine the sinking feeling that he has whenever he remembers that his Portra is probably gone forever. That’s Portra damnit! No one buys Portra just so it can be lost in the mail.
There is a cider mill in Penn Yan, NY where I grew up, that had the best apples I’ve ever eaten. A couple decades ago, after I had received two previous shipments of the apples, I had another case of them shipped to me. After shipment the apples seemed to have been sucked into a void or at least the hold of a slow boat to China. I was convinced after three weeks that they’d been the source of enjoyment for one or two postal employees. After coming to that conclusion, the case suddenly showed up on my doorstep. Great! I was really looking forward to eating the best apples in the world.
When I opened the case, it became apparent that my slow boat to China theory was not far off the mark. The apples, which looked so promising before I opened the cardboard case, were destroyed. It appeared that during their three week journey they had been routed to California via Tierra Del Fuego on the tip of South America. They had been cooked at the equator, frozen in the approaches to Antartica,then shipped back across the equator, then loaded onto a special postal train and cooked across the Colorado and Mojave deserts for good measure.
The loss of my apples, wonderful as they might have been, is nothing compared to the loss of Portra. Even one roll. Those are photographs that can’t ever be duplicated and knowing Derek’s work, they were no doubt wonderful photographs.
But having said all of the above, I still consign packages to the US Postal Service (given that the alternative is UPS, United Parcel Shredders, and where the hell is the FedEx office, anyway). Taking packages to a Post Office in Riverside is a pain in the posterior, primarily because of the time lost. Most POs in this city will waste your time as if you are a comrade in the former Soviet Union. But I have a not-so-secret workaround. I go to the old Post Office downtown, which has few customers. I’m not sure why the walk-in traffic is so light there. It is also a nice change from the soulless and more modern Post Office structures, since it is like the ones I remember using in the 1950’s and ’60s. I just like the building because it simply feels right to me.
These photographs, taken inside the PO and outside in the downtown area, were made with the Pentax IQZoom 835 on Ultrafine Extreme 400 film.