Nov 092009


Henry and I used to letterbox back in 2004. The definition of  “used to letterbox” can be loosely translated to mean: we did it 2 or 3 times in the span of a month before it made us hate each other even more.

Letterboxing is like the primordial version of geocaching, where you follow clues and natural landmarks to reach a treasure consisting of a tupperware box with a booklet and rubber stamp inside. Letterbox purists make their own rubber stamp to use as their signature inside each letterbox they find. You then scribble the date next to your marking and take the rubberstamp supplied inside the letterbox to stamp your own booklet. It’s kind of like getting a Passport stamped and using it to remember where you’ve been.

Maybe I’m making this up.

But the way Henry and I do it is this: pick a letterbox within Western Pennsylvania, print out the directions, argue the entire time about who’s right and who’s wrong and who should just get pushed into a ravine, find the letterbox and then remember how pointless it is when we:

  • a. don’t have our own stamp because I justcan’t find enough time to carve that intricate design of Satan with a vagina
  • b. always forget to bring a pen to write inside the booklet
  • c. remember that it’s not actual treasure we’re scavenging for

And then it’s always awesome when we’re looking for a box that was planted in 2004 and almost none of the natural landmarks are still there. “Look for the gray bunny standing next to the bubbling brook.” Yeah, sorry, that bunny’s long been filleted and skinned by a serial killer in-training.

But letterboxing is a good poor man’s hobby, and since we are a house of poor (wo)men I thought that maybe it would be something fun to do with Chooch, who only vaguely cared that we were searching for “treasure” and then stopped caring altogether when we passed a playground on the way to the pathetic bounty-hiding park.


I wanted to hug this tree and say, “Don’t worry, tree. I’m po’, too. So much that I had to ask to postpone my art show because I have no money to make anything to, you know, SHOW.”


The first letterbox we found (where “we” is a pronoun for HENRY who monopolized the directions as usual) was on the side of a hill. I’m sure in the summer it’s a cake walk, but autumn’s moist leaves could make an ant hill treacherous. It’s a good thing I have an itchy (camera) trigger finger, because I totally knew Chooch would fall.


I can’t remember the name of the “park” this was at, other than it was in Shaler, PA and it was less of a park, more of a great place to get yourself raped, stabbed, and then thrown over a waterfall. It had a very ch-ch-ch-ha-ha-ha ambiance that I loved/hated. The path was swampy from the rain we got the night before and mama didn’t like that one bit. I’m such an indoorswoman that the tiniest burr on my shoe has me shrieking “GET IT OFF!” And Chooch did just that, calmly wrenching the burr from my laces, but not without giving me an annoyed scowl full of incredulity.


There was a lot of aimless trekking, in search of a path that had two fallen trees strewn across it. We never found the fallen trees. BECAUSE A SERIAL KILLER HAD ALREADY CHOPPED THEM UP TO USE AS FIREWOOD TO FUEL HIS BODY INCINERATOR.


This is my favorite picture because it details Henry abandoning his family. Apparently Chooch and I are “annoying.” I’m sorry, but when you’re deposited within an enclave of trees, you scream as loud as you can. Everyone knows that. The Girl Scouts teach you that. So SORRY if that’s ANNOYING to you.


This was the second box we found. I had to stick my hand under a crappy wooden bridge and yank it out. It was horrifying and I kept waiting for a troll to bite my hand and give me HIV. This was about the time Chooch realized that, what the fuck, letterboxing is a fucking crock.


Henry is a rubber stamp enthusiast and likes to thumb through the booklets to admire all the handiwork. It’s something he got into when he was in THE SERVICE and all his SERVICE BUDDIES were out getting laid. However, I have no idea what that is in the picture. It’s definitely not a rubber stamp, and looks like some crude sex drawing scribbled by a passing-by serial killer.



This time, I at least had the foresight to bring some of my art cards with me, so I stuffed those in the Ziplock bags. Henry didn’t think it was a good idea, but whatever. He also didn’t like the way I jammed everything back into the baggie, left it unsealed, and then attempted to punch it all back into the letterbox.


So then he would have to yank it off me, take everything out and start from scratch. I wish he were that precise and anal about HOUSECLEANING and peeing INTO the toilet.


There were a lot of little bridges there. I think maybe that’s why this particular Letterbox locale was called Little Bridge something or other. Maybe? Yeah? Chooch almost fell off this bridge while I was snapping away. Don’t worry, he probably wouldn’t have died.

On the way back to the car, I was trailing back slightly and kept tapping Chooch on the head. He’s like Henry and has a strong threshhold for ignoring me, but eventually he cracked, spun around and yelled, “Would you stop doing that??”

“It’s not me, it was the man who was walking next to me,” I shrugged, like it was natural for a strange man to fall into cadence next to me without me screaming my face off.

“Oh, Chooch, we know that’s a lie, because if there was some man walking next to mommy—”

“I’d have run off with him by now,” I finished for Henry.

There was a moment of silence as Henry considered this. “Yeah. I guess it could go that way, too.”


I’m determined to plant my own letterbox someday, probably just in my backyard so I can sit on the porch and wait for idiots to come digging. The directions will be so simple:

  • Start at Robin’s Meth Lab
  • Walk approx. 100 feet
  • When you hear what sounds unmistakably like a murder between brick walls, turn right down the driveway
  • Pass the carelessly strewn hypodermic needle
  • If you stumble upon a pretentious kerchiefed hipster wearing peddle-pushers and planting carrots in her trendy Devendra Banhart-soundtracked garden, you’ve clearly gone too far. (I really hate the girl two houses up from me, FYI. She is single handedly spearheading a movement to bring back the Donna Reed mentality in women and I’m just not down with that bullshit at all. I hope she rides her fucking vintage wicker-basketed bicycle into a goddamn cyclone that’s en route to 1959 where she can cook a meatloaf for someone who cares and let me stew in my anti-domestic bliss. FUCK GODDAMN SHIT.)

  13 Responses to “what poor people do for “fun””

  1. This is effin fantastic! I have never heard of this hobby, but now I’m determined to find some way to drag Paul out on some creepy box searching expedition. There’s plenty of places around here that are good for dumping a body.

  2. I really like your photos; I think your photography has really improved over the years. One day, I really want to teach myself photography too. What kind of camera do you use lately?

    • Thanks, Pauline! I use a Canon Rebel XTi and highly recommend it. I used to just use regular point and shoots before and never realized how much better a dslr could be. The Rebel is a good starter because it’s fairly easy to pick up on through trial and error rather than taking classes.

  3. Meth Lab meets Donna Reed. What could be better? You know I LOVE “meeting” your neighbors.

  4. I’ve never heard of letterboxing, it sounds fun, even after reading this post. Ha.

    Chooch is getting more handsome every day.

    • Thanks:)
      Letterboxing is fun, I recommend it if you’re looking for something different, cheap, and a reason to be outdoors. Which most people apparently don’t need a reason, but I do because I get bored!

  5. Oh god I know exactly how the fights are doing this kind of shit. Me & my Sam went geo-caching a couple of times & it was fucking crazy. The giant spiders, the potentially lethal Aussie snakes, the mozzies…. ack!

    Chooch is a cutie ♥

  6. I love your photos, especially the last one of Henry & Chooch on the bridge. I’ve never heard of this, but it sounds like it would be fun! I haven’t taken a walk in the woods in such a long time… thanks for reminding me how beautiful it is.

  7. “Henry is a rubber stamp enthusiast and likes to thumb through the booklets to admire all the handiwork. It’s something he got into when he was in THE SERVICE and all his SERVICE BUDDIES were out getting laid”


  8. Wow do you think anybody in PA actually letterboxes anymore? That kind of activity got killed by geocashing here, which is a crock because letting a mobile phone do all the work for you is lame.

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