Going Postal: How I Intend To Thrive In A Post-Apocalyptic World*

April 7, 2011

The drumbeat that we, as a species, are reaching the closing credits keeps getting louder and whether we are or not is anyone’s guess.

I am now able to face such a dire proposition with a new-found sense of contentment and a plan for success in a brave new world.

I have seen The Postman.

I had seen a bit of Kevin Costner’s magnum opus years ago and had no intention of ever seeing more, but it was late and the pickings were slim.

“I know that Tom Petty’s in it,” I said to Paloma, shrugging, trying to feign a semblance of optimism.

(it was some of the best acting of the evening)

I have now seen it, though, and I am richer for the experience.

If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, it’s set sometime in the near future and there has been some disaster that has left civilization in ruins with pockets of refugees and a quasi-military strongman who is trying to consolidate power.

I’m not sure what the disaster was as Paloma and I were going full-freakin’ Mystery Science Theater on the flick. There was some comment about drought, but everything seemed pretty lush and well-watered to me.

Enter Costner, a drifter with a penchant for reciting Shakespeare, who takes refuge in a mail truck during a thunderstorm and dons the dead carrier’s garb. With nothing more than a bag of mail, a USPS jacket, and a rather snazzy cap, he becomes The Man.

Actually, he becomes The Postman.

Coming upon an enclave of survivors, Costner is met with the same fanfare which The Beatles received when they arrived in America.

He gets soup.

He gets a bath.

They throw some party which gives reason to believe that bad jam bands will indeed survive the apocalypse.

He gets hooked up with a fetching, young village lass.

The Postman is livin’ la vida loca and there doesn’t appear to be a dog in sight, but it’s not all seashells and balloons.

There is that strongman to contend with who doesn’t like the fact that The Postman is giving the punters hope that the United States is being reformed.

There’s also the sheriff of the village who is suspicious of The Postman’s credentials. Of course, said sheriff is actually Mr. Kruger from Kruger Industrial Smoothing, so George Costanza and the legacy of The Human Fund has obviously made him cynical toward do-gooders.

(that will make sense to Seinfeld fans)

The Postman must also contend with cavernous plot holes, inane dialogue, and acting that would mar a good sock-puppet production.

So, yes, he does have his hands full, but he also has soup, a hot soak, and a nubile companion.

He also gets to hang with Tom Petty, who is the major of Bridge City.

As Paloma reminded me, Petty also had a recurring role on King Of The Hill and, like that part, in The Postman he essentially seems to be playing Tom Petty. However, he gives a tour de force performance because, no matter how gifted an actor – DeNiro, Pacino, or whomever you might fancy – no one plays Tom Petty like Tom Petty.

Forget stockpiling bottled water or canned hams. I intend to thrive after armageddon using the lessons I’ve learned from Kevin Costner, I’m off to find a mail carrier’s jacket or a patch of the US Postal Service which I might affix to my Belgian army coat.

Here are four songs from the mail route…

Aztec Camera – We Could Send Letters
from High Land, Hard Rain

In late ’83, I was discovering alternative music with 97X and Aztec Camera’s Oblivious was a staple on the station. I was fifteen and Aztec Camera’s mastermind, Roddy Frame, was a mere four years older than me.

Frame was a prodigy and his songwriting skills were earning him comparisons to Elvis Costello. I owned all of Aztec Camera’s albums up through 1995’s Frestonia which, as it turns out, was the last release by the band-in-mostly-name-only.

We Could Send Letters, from that same debut as Oblivious, is melancholic but it alternates jangling passages with glorious vocals that evoke the best sunshine pop of the ’60s and ’70s.

Concrete Blonde y Los Illegals – Maria Elena (Letter From L.A.)
from Concrete Blonde y Los Illegals

Concrete Blonde was one of my personal favorites during the late ’80s and early ’90s. So, it was with sadness that I read reports of the trio’s break-up in 1994.

But, Blonde’s guitarist James Mankey and bassist/vocalist Johnette Napolitano reunited three years later, collaborating with Chicano punk band Los Illegals. It shouldn’t have been a complete surprise as Concrete Blonde had incorporated South of the border influences into their final (at that time) album Mexican Moon.

The grinding guitars of Maria Elena (Letter From L.A.) are hypnotic and the bi-lingual lyric offers a cautionary tale of life for an immigrant in East Los Angeles, warning those left back home to not make the trek.

PJ Harvey – The Letter
from Uh Huh Her

When a track from Miss Polly Jean shuffles up on the iPod, I invariably ask why I don’t know her work more intimately.

Oh, I’m familiar with a good portion of her ouvre and I own a handful of her albums, but there’s been no period since she arrived with the opening salvo of Dry and Rid Of Me in ’92/’93 that I’ve spent with her music in non-stop rotation.

The thing is, I’ve loved most of the music that I’ve heard from Harvey. Much like Neil Young, she constantly surprises while still sounding like no one else, occupying her own astral plane. She has a voice that she can take from sensual whisper to banshee howl in a split second and her lyrics have an often feral beauty.

Planet P Project – Send It In A Letter
from Planet P Project

One-time Rainbow keyboardist Tony Carey got a lot of airplay on the stations in our part of the Midwest and notched some minor hits with songs like I Won’t Be Home Tonight, A Fine, Fine Day, and First Day Of Summer.

Concurrent to his solo career in the early ’80s, Carey was also releasing a pair of albums under the moniker of Planet P Project which is likely best remembered for the song Why Me?

Planet P Project’s output had a decidedly futuristic sound and lyrical bent – synthesizers and science fiction. Send It In A Letter is sparse and spacey with a pulsing melody that offered a glimpse into a future where electronica would become a mainstream genre.

*remixed and remastered from a post which appeared on April 21, 2008.

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Going Postal: How I Intend To Thrive In A Post-Apocalyptic World

April 21, 2008

The drumbeat that we, as a species, are reaching the closing credits keeps getting louder and whether we are or not is anyone’s guess. I, for one, am now able to face such a proposition with a new-found sense of contentment and a plan for success in a brave new world which doesn’t rely on AdSense earnings.

I have seen The Postman.

I had seen a bit of Kevin Costner’s magnum opus years ago and had no intention of ever seeing more, but it was late and the pickings were slim. “I know that Tom Petty’s in it,” I said to Paloma, shrugging, trying to feign a semblance of optimism. It was some of the best acting of the evening.

I have now seen it, though, and I am richer for the experience. If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, it’s set sometime in the near future and there has been some disaster that has left civilization in ruins with pockets of refugees and a quasi-military strongman who is trying to consolidate power. I’m not sure what the disaster was as Paloma and I were going full-freakin’ Mystery Science Theater on the flick. There was some comment about drought, but everything seemed pretty lush and well-watered to me.

Enter Costner, a drifter with a penchant for Shakespeare, who takes refuge in a mail truck during a thunderstorm and dons the dead carrier’s garb. With nothing more than a bag of mail, a USPS jacket, and a rather snazzy cap, he becomes The Man. Actually, he becomes The Postman.

Coming upon an enclave of survivors, Costner is soon more popular than Jessica Lange when she was rescued by that oil tanker full of roughnecks in the ’76 version of King Kong. He gets soup. He gets a bath. They throw some party which gives reason to believe that bad jam bands will indeed survive the apocalypse. He gets hooked up with a fetching, young village lass.

The Postman is livin’ la vida loca and there doesn’t appear to be a dog in sight.

Sure, it’s not all seashells and balloons. There is that strongman to contend with who doesn’t like the fact that The Postman is giving the punters hope that the United States is being reformed. There’s also the sheriff of the village who is suspicious of The Postman’s credentials. Of course, said sheriff is actually Mr. Kruger from Kruger Industrial Smoothing (this will make sense to Seinfeld fans), so George Costanza and the legacy of The Human Fund has obviously made him cynical toward do-gooders.

The Postman must also contend with cavernous plot holes, inane dialogue, and acting that would mar a good sock-puppet production. So, hey, he does have his hands full, but he also has soup, a hot soak, and a nubile companion.

He also gets to hang with Tom Petty, who is the major of Bridge City. As my girlfriend reminded me, Petty also has had a recurring role on King Of The Hill and, like that part, in The Postman he essentially seems to be playing Tom Petty. However, he gives a tour de force performance because, no matter how gifted an actor – DeNiro, Pacino, or whomever you might fancy – no one plays Tom Petty like Tom Petty.

Forget stockpiling bottled water or canned hams. I intend to thrive after armageddon using the lessons I’ve learned from Kevin Costner, I’m off to find a mail carrier’s jacket or a patch of the US Postal Service which I might affix to my Belgian army coat.

David Baerwald – The Postman

Aztec Camera – We Could Send Letters

PJ Harvey – The Letter

The Posies – Love Letter Boxes