Monday, January 11, 2010

The Life and Times of Postcard Jack*

*in which the Bastard obliquely reveals his identity

In a comment to an earlier post, I wrote, regarding my father:

There are a couple of loose ends that I need to tie up (one will definitely be a blog post in the future, as my father had a secret identity- though I can't rightly say whether his alter ego was a superhero or a supervillain).

Well, my father was the incognito itinerant known to the people of Maine's Kennebec Valley as Postcard Jack, the man who inundated the Oasis Restaurant in Madison, Maine with thousands of postcards. The linked article references a post I made to an obituary site, a post copied in full below:

The most striking things about Dad were his intellect and his education. He was a brilliant Bronx kid who attended Fordham University under the ROTC program, received his law degree from Yale University, served his time in the U.S. Army, and then went on the Harvard University MBA program. His curriculum vitae included stints in such Fortune 500 companies as ITT, McKinsey, and Dun and Bradstreet. On the side, he taught at the Mercy College business school. As he himself would put it, “Busy busy busy…”

He also lived a double life… he was the shadowy figure who came to be known in Maine’s Kennebec Valley as “Postcard Jack”. Starting in the early 1980s, he began sending postcards, sent from “Jack”, to the Oasis Restaurant in Madison, Maine. My grandfather, who was raised in Framingham, was part owner of a cabin on the shore of one of the great ponds of Maine, and three generations of the family would go to central Maine to spend a few glorious days living without electricity and plumbing, away from the distractions of modernity. After a week without running water, a trip to Madison was a treat, and the Oasis lived up to its name- the hot water was every bit as important to us as the home cooking.

The career of Postcard Jack started out as a contest between Dad and Uncle Bill. For Uncle Bill, it was an amusing little contest that lasted a month, for Dad it became a lifestyle. During the height of Postcard Jack’s career, Dad quested after mailboxes like Captain Ahab quested after Moby Dick. Road trips took longer than they used to, as he enlisted his children to keep their eyes peeled for post offices. On a business trip to Los Angeles, he rented a car and made a circuitous trip to and from San Diego so he could send postcards from all the towns on the route.

The creation of the “Postcard Jack” alter-ego allowed Dad to indulge his impish streak. The serious human resources executive and erudite college professor took a backseat to the rogue adventurer, part Zorro/part Riddler. Like the master criminal in a movie thriller taunting the chief of police, Postcard Jack would send postcards to the Oasis from every town along the Kennebec- Waterville, Skowhegan, Anson, North Anson, North New Portland… After a meal in the Oasis, during which we were all sworn to a conspiratorial silence, Dad would round the corner, and send a postcard from Madison itself- the perfect crime, once again! Mary Dwelley, the proprietress, suspected that “Jack” was a lonely traveler. I have no doubt that she pictured him as a grizzled loner, rather than the guy surrounded by kids, whose mischievous blue eyes were securely hidden behind “serious guy” spectacles.

Dad worked on his last day- he attended a meeting of the Mercy College business school staff, and he passed away in the home in which he grew up. I have no doubt that he stopped by every mailbox between the Bronx and heaven.

Hilariously, my father's alter-ego gave his name to the winningest trotter in Maine harness racing history.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

That's all pretty awesome, BBBB.

(Except the part about Hahhvahd, but we all make mistakes.)

Substance McGravitas said...

That is indeed terrific.