For years I made it my business to design holiday mailers for my family and friends. I made the first one when I was still in elementary school. That one was a Santa Claus that flashed you. The edition size was 20. They were photocopies glued back to back, tinted with watercolor, and cut out. (Actually, I was 9 or 10 years old, so I probably cut the thing out, glued it, and then added color.) As the years went on my mailing list grew to almost 150 people. I’d get the cards printed in black and white, then color each one with markers. Maybe from all those fumes brain my damage comes?
When I moved to California I continued the tradition, though somewhat half-heartedly. As busy as I was in high school, Art Center was a different thing altogether, and spending a week coloring cards no longer seemed the best use of my time. After graduation, I spent my soggy year in exile and was busy not throwing myself off of Portland’s many fine bridges. Then came Maverick, where I channeled my holiday mojo into the Maverick Holiday sampler. My own Season’s Greetings that year aren’t worth showing.
But when I quit that gig following the release of the Solar Twins album in the fall of 1999, I suddenly had all kinds of free time! While that was a little bit scary for me as a person with bills to pay, it was a great time to restart the holiday cards.
Please note that the screws are all turned at different angles.
While growing up in Germany I’d always sent Christmas and Easter cards. I didn’t think too much about it. It’s just what everybody did. When I went back to the tradition I decided to switch to New Years cards for a few reasons. First of all, I’d already done over a decade’s worth of Santa and Easter Bunny stuff, and things were getting more and more farfetched. I also wanted the cards to be inclusive, but “Happy Holiday” cards are even harder to illustrate. How many variations on the snowflake theme can you do? Plus, I’m an atheist. Not that that was a driving force behind the decision—Santa and the Easter bunny belong to me, too—but it played a part. In the end, the deciding factor was time. The Year 2000 trumped just another holiday season. And with a Happy New Year’s card you’ve just added another week or two to your mailing deadline. Sold!
In the waning days of 1999 everybody was preparing for the impending collapse of the world’s electronic ecosystem. Everything with a chip would stop working, because programmers in the 1970s had only allowed two digits for the year in their code. At the stroke of midnight on January 1st, 2000 the machines would think it was 1900 again and go haywire. Lots of people made a lot of money on that one, and as I’m not writing this from my cell inside Thunderdome, I guess they earned their keep. Kudos!
But there was definitely panic. And I wanted to make fun of it. I figured that one gizmo that might survive the Y2K apocalypse was the pocket calculator. Hence “Hello 2000.” Initially, I simply scanned my calculator. That didn’t look very futuristic, though, or particularly sleek. So I traced the whole thing in Adobe Illustrator. Which was fun to do. Very zen.
Reality is just not as clean as I need it to be. I’m still using this calculator, though.
I had the cards printed at a small shop around the corner—Wood & Jones printing, now part of Typecraft Wood & Jones. I remember shelling out $600 for the run, which was a lot of cash back then. But the cards came out beautifully. I’d learn my lesson on cheap printing the next year. Looking at the card now, it would’ve made a fun poster, too. But this was all the paper I could afford then, and there is something nice about having the calculators appear on the card at their actual size.
What’s nice, too, is that we didn’t plunge into a new Dark Age that New Year’s Day. I wasn’t stocking up on canned goods, but I will admit that my folks and I stayed home that night. Why take a chance?