It’s more like a fascinated hunger than nostalgia. It causes a deep sensation in my brain and my stomach, teasing my ability to perceive what is hidden, or for that matter what is plainly on view. This postcard was written in 1908, by Arthur R. to Mrs. Julia Baker. The message: “Am back again in NY.” Arthur, where had you been? And who is Mrs. Baker? Your aunt? Your secret lover?
The postcard was a gift from my own sweetheart, so perhaps that speculation is way off track. And yet, the image is wildly romantic … and haunted. A full moon, over the “Venetian Gardens” at Coney Island, but a Coney Island that is empty, except for the six-piece band playing away on the veranda. And then there is the handwriting, which you just have to look at for yourself because it’s so amazing. And the simple, simple address. We are so far from this world, so far from both the practical details and the aesthetics of how we communicate.
The bittersweet coda: I just decided to find out about the Venetian Gardens. Turns out that this postcard is a popular item for sale online, prices ranging from $7.99 to $20. The first one I saw was from a daughter to her parents in Poughkeepsie, a freaky moment, as I lived there for more than a decade. The Gardens were part of “Dreamland” – fifteen acres of recreated wonders that burnt to the ground, overnight, in 1911. While gaining lots of “information” something precious was lost. What I longed for was the mystery and the romance.
Catherine Rutgers © 2013