Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gag Shop Stamps

Outside of some defunct addresses, you never know what thumbing through an old address book is going to turn up. Looking for a misplaced postcard in a drawer with old letters, I came across a small brown leather notebook that was my address book sometime in the mid-90s. I forgot about the errant postcard and spent the next twenty minutes looking over the old names and addresses. A good many of the people in that brittle old notebook are listed today in another updated book, but a few pages show names I look at now and wonder where they are these days.

The address book has a pocket on the inside cover for tucking slips of paper, namecards or whatever, and halfway looking through the old addresses I felt the thickness of something pushed out of sight in the bottom of the pocket. What I pulled out was a madcap blast from the past, a handful of ‘stamps’ purchased in a Los Angeles gag shop during the time I lived there years ago. Yellowed, stuck together, frayed and torn, the stamps are head shots of totally ordinary and anonymous American faces with weird, funny or outrageous captions below the pictures. Big risk that someone will find these gag stamps offensive, or perhaps insulting to contemporary people with similar looks. It’s my guess that nobody ever intended insult or injury.

Disregarding the captions, something about the faces reminds me of company advertising back in the 1950s, old photos of company sales staff or bank officers the kind sometimes seen printed on calendars or in brochures.


  1. Exactly why so many of us shove things in drawers and closets: for that time way down the road to come across something forgotten, something humorous or sad, and be instantly reminded via whatever touchstone of an earlier time in life

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America