Sunday, November 06, 2016

"Special Delivery"

Chicoan Marcia Myers is a fan of "real" mail. "Ink from your pen touches the stationery," she writes, "your fingers touch the paper, and your saliva seals the envelope. (Sealed with a kiss!)."

In this country the agency responsible for getting those letters where they ought to go is the U.S. Postal Service, and Myers, who wrote two "My Hometown Chico" books under the name of Marcia Myers Wilhite, has produced a beautifully crafted coffee table book full of facts and stories about the storied institution.

"Special Delivery" ($59.95 in hardcover from Marcia Myers Publishing, ranges from the Pony Express, the development of postmarks, and postal vehicles, to painted mailboxes, stamps, and the first airmail delivery (in 1859, by balloon).

There's a spread devoted to what Myers describes as "the most expensive commodity in the world by weight," the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta. The "octagonal faded scrap of one-inch paper" was purchased by shoe designer Stuart Weitzman in 2014 for $7.9 million.

In the pages devoted to post office art, the author writes that in Chico "we have own own post office mural on the downtown corner of 5th and Broadway. Created by Ray Handy Crane in 1988, the Pony Express thunders across the exterior wall of our downtown post office."

Then there are famous pen pals (Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln; Groucho Marx and T.S. Eliot) and some not so famous. In high school the author would write messages on the chalk in the room. The teacher missed it, but "not the boy who attended the same classroom earlier in the day."

Myers notes that she experimented sending "naked mail" through the system, including "a potato, coconut, flip flop, cowboy hat, plunger, … and a can of sardines." Put on enough postage, a clear address, and off it goes.

This captivating book, designed by Connie Ballou, is printed on matte paper with a sewn ribbon marker. The official book release party is Thursday, Nov. 10, 6:00-9:00 p.m. at Beatniks in Chico. The Christmas preview is Sunday, Nov. 20, from 4:00-8:00 p.m. at Zucchini and Vine, and from noon until 2:00 p.m. at Magna Carta in Chico Friday, Nov. 25, and Saturday, Nov. 26.

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