One stop we made in the Galapagos was the Post Office.
OK, Post Office is an exaggeration. It’s really just a barrel, standing on a post. The barrel has a small door, and inside are letters and postcards waiting to hitch a ride to their individual destinations.
It is actually kind of fascinating. The “Post Office”, located on Floreana Island, is just a few steps from the shore of the aptly named Post Office Bay. It’s been there for centuries. Established in 1793, ships would stop by the island and go through the letters in the barrel. If they, or any of their crew, were going in the direction of any of the addresses, they would take them. Their own letters would be placed in the barrel with the hopes that some future sailor would eventually deliver them. Whaling ships could be at sea for an inordinate length of time and this was the only way they could communicate with the rest of the world. If they were fortunate, it might only take a couple of years before their letter was delivered.
These days it’s more of a tourist curiosity and, luckily, we were tourists. After a brief history of the island, our tour guide reached into the barrel and read aloud the destinations of the postcards. If someone was going to the destination, they would be given the postcard to deliver.
We arrived on the island with three postcards. One to ourselves at our Water Island address. I don’t think that one will ever arrive. We addressed the other two to our grand-niece and grand-nephews. So one is addressed to Amy’s boys in Oakdale, and the other to AJ’s kids in Whitestone, Queens. They will probably have kids of their own by the time these are delivered.
Since we left three cards, we decided it was only fair to take the same number to deliver. It took a while for us to accumulate three suitable postcards, but we prevailed. All had convenient New York City addresses; the Village, East 64th Street, and West 35th Street. Of course, this excursion was in January and we wouldn’t be returning to New York for a few months, but we tucked them in our luggage and managed to put them out of our minds until we got home and unpacked.
Think about it. If someone rang your doorbell and responded to your “who is it” with “I have mail from the Galapagos”, you would probably call the police. We assumed that the person who sent each postcard forewarned the recipient, but I wanted to be sure. So I googled each of them, found their email addresses, and sent them an introductory email. I explained that we were recently in the Galapagos and picked up a postcard for them. I didn’t want them to think it was spam, like I was the Prince of Nigeria and needed their help getting my Irish lottery proceeds out of the country, so I included a link from the Washington Post which explained how it all worked.
The first card was addressed to Carol (I’m not using last names). Carol is a massage therapist, and I sent her an email through her website. The email bounced, but was kind enough to provide me with a working email. She responded quickly:
What a nice surprise! I know how the G.P.O. works, but didn’t know that it actually works. I’m cc’ing Ed (my husband) on this, too.
We are usually around Tuesdays through Fridays. I am here this week, but Ed, who is a travel writer, is out of town. We will both be here next week—he would get a kick out of it, I’m sure.
Since her postcard was signed “Love Eddie”, it must be from her husband. Because he’s a travel writer he has a complicated schedule, but after a little back and forth we were able to nail down a date and time.
We met last Tuesday in Union Square Park. I can’t blame them for meeting in a public place, since they didn’t know us from Adam, but at the same time it’s kind of a safe bet. I don’t think criminals go all the way to the Galapagos to get mail so they can rob people, it’s kind of an expensive way to find victims.
We met near the Gandhi statue and hit it off pretty well. We compared notes about our Galapagos adventures and generally enjoyed each other’s company. We had to beg off when they invited us to grab a cup of coffee because we had to deliver our next postcard in an hour, way uptown. They saw the name on the postcard, Camilla, and told us they were on the same trip as she was! Then we showed them our third postcard and they cracked up. All three postcards we took were addressed to people on their 10-person voyage. Small world. We took a selfie and headed uptown to meet Camilla.
As I said, the second card was addressed to Camilla. It wasn’t signed, and written on the back of the postcard were some nice sayings, telling Camilla how nice it was to be near water, to remember to relax, to enjoy life. Things like that. My googling revealed that Camilla is a very busy girl. She is a financial journalist, author, and runs a popular website. She also already knew how the Post Office worked, so we checked our schedules and easily found a mutually convenient time.
It was a beautiful day, and we arrived at her apartment building right at our appointed time. The doorman said she was not in. I checked my iPhone. I had an email from her saying she was sorry, but she was out. We were about to leave her correspondence with the doorman when she arrived, out of breath. I think she forgot, and when I emailed her that we were on her way she flew to meet us. We had a nice chat in front of the building, taking our selfie while talking about our trips. She is lively, fun and upbeat.
She invited us up to her apartment, which was lovely, and told her how funny it was that we took three random postcards and they all turned out to be from the same group. She said she knew Fire Island well, having spent many nights in Davis Park with her family. She told us that her mother was a designer, and Mom’s architect friend “Hubby” had built many homes there. Hubby would ask them to spend a few nights in newly constructed houses in return for making some design suggestions. She mentioned Hubby several times. Finally George said “Hobby? Do you mean Hobby Miller?” Hobby is a legend in Water Island, he built many of the homes. His family still works here, in construction, home care, and real estate. And of course, Hobby was exactly who she meant. As I said—small world.
Finally, it was time to go. She said she knew the third postcard recipient, Wendy. “Oh, you’ll love her. She’s an internet superstar, she’ll probably have a camera crew there!” I smiled to myself, we kissed her cheeks, and then we were gone.
I had smiled to myself when Camilla mentioned Wendy because my attempts to reach her had become so strange. I’m going to have to walk you through all the twists and turns. Keep in mind that, in the end, we loved her. She does a lot for charities (I think). She is beautiful and charming. She’s just a rabid self-promoter. And good for her. I liked her, even though I didn’t think I would, mainly because of what I went through trying to meet her. And only thirty-some-odd emails later we were standing barefoot in her apartment.
Like Carol and Camilla, I googled her first. Lots of hits, I might have blown up the internet. Her focus seems to be dogs. Books, charities, reality shows. Her postcard was addressed to an address on West 35th Street in Manhattan, which is why we chose it—it was convenient. The postcard was clearly from a fan, it said: Wendy—Thank-you from the Galapagos for all you do to help animals and provide hope for the World! Don’t let the world/everyone down—your [sic] a voice to bring awareness! Dog bless you! It wasn’t signed, but there was a little symbol drawn on the bottom, ◊.
Arranging to meet her took many emails, some of which I’ve included. I don’t want to divulge her personal information, so let’s pretend her name is Wendy Darling and her company is Wendyco, just for illustrative purposes.
I couldn’t find her email address in my search, but I did find info for her “publicist”. So my first email went to the address listed under “Information”, email@example.com. I was careful at the beginning, in case she thought I was a deranged fan or something.
I’m trying to reach Wendy Davis. I have a postcard from the Galapagos. It’s hard to read the signature, but I hope whoever sent it told you it was coming, so you don’t think we’re crazy.
We were hoping to drop by and deliver it, and hopefully take a selfie while we’re in New York for a couple of weeks.
Here is how the Galapagos mail works: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
Let us know when we can deliver your mail!
Kyle & George
The response came from Missy Pringle.
From: Missy Pringle
April 28 11:09 AM
Wendy Davis? We have a Wendy Darling is this who?
So I had screwed up, right off the bat. Her name is not Wendy Davis. Wendy Davis is a politician from Texas, who I greatly admire. I should have said Wendy Darling.
April 28 11:15 AM
Yes! Sorry. Wendy Darling. Sorry, I type faster than my brain.
No response. So, I’m ready to just hand-deliver the postcard to where it was addressed, but about a week later I get an answer.
From: Missy Pringle
May 6, 8:53 AM
What days/times!? Happy to check her schedule!
To: Missy Pringle
May 6, 9:22 AM
We should be around next week, let us know what works for her (and you)
I kind of wanted to meet Missy Pringle, so I was hoping she would be there when we came by. I decided that she was young, due to her overuse of exclamation points, plus assistants are usually just starting out. I had this image of her with one of those ballpoint pens with a big, plastic flower at the end. I was sure she dotted her i’s with little smiley faces.
I google everything and everyone. But I couldn’t find anything on her. No Facebook matches seemed to work. Same with Linked In, Instagram and Twitter. I even checked Etsy. Nothing. I googled her name with wendyco. A few hits, but nothing substantial. She’s listed as the Press Contact on some press releases, and a Zoom Info page. But that’s not social media, and anyone under 29 is all about social media. It didn’t add up, and I was a bit suspicious. Her existence was officially in doubt. Of course, you can’t prove a negative, but I was on the case.
From: Missy Pringle
May 6, 9:32 AM
Weekend? For how long – just a meet and greet?
A meet and greet? Really? A meet and greet is something politicians, rock stars and celebrities set up to get through as many fans as possible. Basically they take a selfie or shake your hand while an assistant stands at the ready with a huge bottle of hand sanitizer. I’ve been to a few in my life. Once we were invited backstage to meet and greet Ann Margret (she was lovely), and when we went to a fundraiser for Al Gore we all lined up on one side of a velvet rope while he walked the line and shook each person’s hand. (I knew I only had a moment with him, and I wanted to get his attention, so I thanked him for sending us his annual Christmas Card. He smiled and said we were welcome. “Did you get ours?” I asked. “And I saved every one!” he shot back. It was a moment.) Anyway, I thought it was kind of grand of her to think I was stopping by for a meet and greet. And since I’ve decided Missy might be a fictional character, I figured Wendy was sending these herself. I was fascinated.
So, instead of googling Wendy Darling, I googled the address of her “office”, which was apparently also the address of her “publicist”. Hundreds of different businesses were listed at this address, on this floor. Clearly it’s one of those addresses you rent, they collect your mail and forward your phone. OK, not a big deal, lots of businesses are run this way, but it did support my theory that Ms. Darling was making herself seem bigger. And, seriously, I’m OK with that. When my book came out, I did the same thing. I sent out my own press releases under a pseudonym, and it worked! I didn’t take it as far as Wendy does, like setting up “meet and greets”, but still I did it.
To: Missy Pringle
May 6, 9:39 AM
Not around during the weekend, but here next week. This should take all of two minutes.
From: Missy Pringle
May 6, 10:21 AM
Easy! So you can do next Thursday at 8:30 AM
To: Missy Pringle
May 6, 1:27 PM
That works, see you then…
From: Missy Pringle
May 6, 1:54 PM
Can you meet Wendy at Starbucks on 59th and 9th?
That’s pretty inconvenient for us. I picked this postcard because of the address. Of course, I realized, she can’t meet me at 35th Street because it would expose that she doesn’t really have an office. But why go through this? I’m just a dumb guy who’s trying to deliver a postcard. I can see playing this charade to get press, or other business purposes. But for some schmuck delivering mail? It seemed over the top and unnecessary.
All of this correspondence happened before we met with Carol and Camilla. When we met with Camilla, she had said that Wendy was an internet superstar and would probably have a camera crew. I had a feeling they knew each other better than Camilla let on, and I was right. Now I googled BOTH of them in the same search, and it turns out they have known each other for years. Camilla goes to Wendy’s press events, and is listed as one of the celebrity guests, and they reverse rolls at Camilla’s press events.
But, if they are friends, why didn’t Camilla just say so? The plot thickens, but it was easy to surmise that they were traveling to the Galapagos together. Did they send each other the postcards? Eddy sent one to Carol, and they were clearly traveling together. We sent one to ourselves, too. I picked up the postcard addressed to Wendy and reread it:
Wendy—Thank-you from the Galapagos for all you do to help animals and provide hope for the World! Don’t let the world/everyone down—your [sic] a voice to bring awareness! Dog bless you! ◊.
I was now officially obsessed.
To: Missy Pringle
May 6, 2:33 PM
The day before the appointed meeting I sent “Missy” a reminder.
To: Missy Pringle
May 13, 4:32 PM
Just to confirm, Starbucks on 59th and 9th at 8:30 in the morning
And now Missy drops away, and Wendy sends the response:
May 13, 6:47PM
Hi Kyle! Yes happy to meet for a coffee – question by chance can you do earlier? If not 830 it is!
May 13, 8:11 PM
We’re on the lower east side, so earlier won’t really work. I hope that’s OK. Sorry
May 13, 8:13
Are you here this weekend?
May 13, 8:27 PM
No, we’re not, sorry. Listen, we can just put it in the mail, it’s really not a problem.
May 13, 8:41 PM
How’s 215 tomorrow at the waldorf?
The Waldorf. This is changing by the minute. Now I’m just a little pissed off and more captivated than ever. Does she have ADD? The Waldorf? George pointed out that we had planned to be on the Upper East Side anyway, so I responded:
May 13, 8:44 PM
Sure, sounds good.
May 14, 9:35 AM
I would love to have my dog meet you – see below facebook [her Facebook link is included at the bottom]– can we meet instead at 3:15 [she gives address]? Will meet you downstairs! Be fun to promote Galapagos! Do you have pets?
I’m worn out. I must to meet her. I have to meet her.
May 14, 10:52 AM
You are hard to pin down! Same time?
By now you might be bored with this back and forth, but I don’t want you to skip her response. Here you go:
May 14, 10:57 AM
Google me u will smile I help the world! Is 315 OK? Do you have pets?
I help the world? Who says that? I’ve known quite a few people over the years who do God’s work. Not one of them would use such a phrase. It’s a charming thing if someone finds out about your good deeds by accident, but if you have to shove it in their face, well, it’s the opposite of charming.
May 14, 11:26 AM
Let me check with my husband, but please, this has to be the last change. You’re a tornado!
You are pre-googled, which is how we were able to email you in the first place. You and Camilla sure are busy. We delivered her card on Tuesday.
We do not have a pet at the moment, but we’ve had many many rescue dogs over the years. Right now we travel too much, but as soon as we slow down we are sure some little creature—usually needing an immediate five thousand dollars in medical care—will limp into our lives again.
I’ll get back to you on the new meeting place and time.
May 14, 11:34 AM
Forgive me! Now at a conference at the waldorf so sadly made this am impossible! Hope so!
It made this morning impossible? Wendy chose the date and time. Just yesterday she said she would make our 8:30 rendezvous if I couldn’t change it. What, was there a last-minute, emergency conference at the Waldorf only she could handle? She weaves a tangled web.
I was all ready to not like her. Walking down her block at 3:10 I said to George “If she’s five minutes late, we’re leaving the postcard” and he agreed. She was 5 minutes early, just like we were. And we really enjoyed her. Chatty, going a mile a minute, but still fascinating. And gorgeous. Especially her big blue eyes. She invited us up to her apartment and we accepted. We talked about dogs, Galapagos, life in New York, life in general. And we took our selfie.
She gave me an autographed copy of her book. As I leafed through it, I could hear George in the distance saying “So we figured that you and Camilla sent your postcards to each other!” I also heard her hesitate before she agreed.
While they were talking I found the autograhped page. Not only did the handwriting match the postcard, but she penned “Dog Bless You” and, next to her signature, was the symbol. ◊. Her trademark. She had sent the postcard to herself.
I can only think that she was trying to impress the deliverer of the postcard, whoever it was, by making them think a fan sent it. But we had stumbled onto the indisputable fact she sent it to herself.
It’s OK, we enjoyed meeting her, but I’d really like to tell her she doesn’t need to go through all this to impress people, especially people she doesn’t know and doesn’t need to impress. She’s impressive without setting all this up. Write a postcard to yourself, sure, but gushing and lavishing praise on yourself? A little weird. Besides, isn’t that what she pays Missy Pringle for?
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© 2015 Kyle Merker