Good morning and greetings, NBA lockout fans. Well, last week, NBA
Commissioner David Stern canceled the first two weeks of the regular season, which means basketball fans won’t have the chance to see billionaire owners overpaying millionaire players to play a game that I would play for just a jersey with my name on it and
a kosher pre-game buffet.
So now we can focus on other important issues, like the NFL and new fall TV season, and try to answer the question that has been asked of philosophers and theologians over the centuries, why did “The Playboy Club” get cancelled after just three episodes?”
But today, we are not talking TV, but a much more mundane experience. In my younger days, I used to be excited when I skipped to the mail box. Who knew what delights awaited me. Postcards, letters from old friends, the new Victoria Secret catalogue, it was a cornucopia of delights. Today, times
have changed, as the mail is dominated by one thing. Junk.
Let’s start by taking a look at our very profitable United States Postal Service, which came up $8.5 billion short last year. This means that the USPS will be cutting Saturday delivery, which I can live with, and 220,000 jobs, which is not so good. We’ve come a long way from the Pony Express’ “The Mail Must Go Through” to today’s USPS motto, “We May Be Through.”
Last year, our mail and female carriers delivered through snow, sleet and purple rain over 82 million pieces of junk mail. This total was up 3% from the year before, as advertising mail now makes up one half of all our mail. As the Black Eyed Peas asked, “what are you gonna do with all that junk inside your trunk?”
In comparison, first class mail dropped 7% last year and 26% over the last four years. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been receiving those “Dear Geoff, I met you nine months ago” letters. And the even better news for our faithful letter carriers is that first class is expected to drop over 50% over the next ten years. Why waste the ink when one can send an e-card, Facebook, Twitter, carrier
pigeon, email, skype, gripe, hype or message in a bottle?
So the postal service is now running a series of TV ads, urging and Menachem begging businesses to send more junk mail, with the reminder that mail rarely gets spammed. They are encouraging this barrage of pulp fiction because a catalogue is a lot harder to delete than an email and chances are, although Amarillo slim, that you’ll sit at home and Flip Wilson through it. Personally, I live for the words of Ed McMahon, “you may already be a winner.” Thanks, Ed and “H e-e-e-e-re’s Johnny.”
So you may be wondering, does anyone still order from a catalogue they didn’t request that came in the mail? Well, according to my anonymous sources at NBC News, only 1.5% of households buy after receiving a mailed ad, and even fewer, .05%, buy from an email ad. And although those numbers don’t make the Postmaster General do cartwheels, they do get in on a little of the package mailing action. Yup, there’s nothing more exciting then when that smoked turkey arrives, loaded with enough preservatives to take down a water buffalo.
And I don’t know about you, but my day isn’t made until I check my mail to make sure that Chase, Capitol One or some other outstanding company is offering me the opportunity of being pre-approved with no annual fee for the priviledge to pay 0% on purchases and balance transfers until 2031.
Now, thanks to Chris Moran from the pages of the quarterly newsletter of the Santa Cruz Public Works Department, here are some fun facts about the our friend, the junk mail. Or in the words of the late, great Johnny Carson (or was it Dana Carvey), “I did not know that.”
For starters, and I usually like the stuffed mushrooms and calamari strips, every adult in the U.S. receives about 40 pounds of junk mail a year. 59% of that is discarded without ever being opened. According to Forest Ethics, which is not be be confused with Forest Gump, Forest Lawn or Wake Forest, “100 millon trees and a mulberry bush are logged each year to produce the unending stream of junk mail that ends up in your mailbox.” Myself, I could never see the Sherwood forest through the trees.
Each week, on the average, we receive 16 pieces of junk mail, 1.5 personal letters and 1 envelope addressed to someone who moved out a decade ago. So we’re talking about 104 billion pieces of junk mail that are delivered each year, which in their creation and shipping produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 9 million cars and a Dodge Ram Truck. Throw in the 28 billion gallons of water that are wasted to produce and recycle junk mail each year, which coincidentally, is the amount I use when showering yearly, and in
the words of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, “You’ve Got Mail.” So that’s just a little something to think about next time you wonder how many calories you’re consuming when you lick a stamp.
For today’s photo road trip, we are heading down to lovely Big Sur, that 90-mile stretch of spectacular coastline between Carmel and San Simeon. We are cruising on Highway One, which is flanked steak on one side by the Santa Lucia Mountains and on the other by the rocky Pacific Coast. The Gilbert family was riding the Marrakesh Express on our way to Shell (Pismo) Beach, so we decided to take the coast and go through the Foghat, as it was a “slow ride,” so we “took it easy.”
Highway One was completed after eighteen years of construction, and who doesn’t savor a byway that was built with convict’s labor and love. It was declared California’s first scenic Highway, and is as visual a journey as one gets treated to along the Pacific Coast. In the words of landscape artist Francis McComas, the Big Sur Coast “is the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world.” It’s one of those intense driving experiences, with majestic beauty, dramatic scenery and very few red lights.
As you can see in photo number four of the Big Creek Bridge, this crown jewel of highways hugs the coastline the same way I hugged my mother at my nursery school graduation. After driving through more twists and turns than a Agatha Christie novel, we ended up at Piedras Blancas Beach, home to an elephant seal colony. Since it was early fall, the beach was as sparsely as populated as a Florida Marlins game, with mostly juveniles and other delinquents sleeping in the sand. Some of these youngsters were among the 4,000 born here back in December and January, just in time to catch the Packers winning the Super Bowl.
At this time of year, the adult males and females are at sea, bulking up for the birthing and breeding season, when they will not snack or eat. The males have to put on enough blubber to fast for three months, while the females have to nourish their bodies for
the stresses of giving birth, nursing and playing canasta. And like what I go through on a yearly basis so that my pants fit right, both males and females lose up to a third of their body weight during these months of fasting. For more info on these incredible creatures, just head up to Ano Nuevo and tell the first male elephant seal you see that you’re lonely.
On to the late night. “Sarah Palin gave a speech in South Korea. Just what the Koreans needed: Two crazy dictators in fashionable lady’s glasses.” –Conan O’Brien “Today New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced that he’s endorsing Mitt Romney for president. It’s good news for Romney. I mean, you always want Chris Christie on your side. Unless you’re in a canoe.” –Jimmy Fallon “Herman Cain was in 2nd place in most of the national polls, behind Mitt Romney. Apparently his message of ‘less government, more toppings’ has been well received.” –Jimmy Kimmel
“Here’s why Sarah Palin says she won’t be running for president. She says she can be more effective at getting others elected by not running. And I thought, well, that’s true, because in 2008 she got Obama elected.” –David Letterman “Palin said she could help the country more by not running for president. Today, John McCain said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me that three years ago?’ Sarah Palin announced she’s not running. Finally, a Palin who pulls out before it’s too late.” –Jay Leno
“Some protesters brought their kids to the demonstrations of Occupy Wall Street. Some of the kids got bored and decided to occupy Sesame Street instead. There’s a bill in Florida to repeal the state ban on dwarf tossing. Is this what Republicans mean when they say they want smaller government?” –Jimmy Kimmel “Hey, Congratulations to Donald Trump, who just welcomed his fourth
grandchild! You could tell it was Trump’s grandchild because as soon as it came out, it demanded to see its own birth certificate.” –Jimmy Fallon
So another week is in the books. Color is returning to the western skies, as I shot a couple of pretty sunsets last week. So you’ve been warned. We’ll catch you going deep to left. Aloha, mahalo and later, Nelson Cruz fans.