Thank-You notes from the Modern Gentleman come from a single box of stationary I purchased when I was at the University of Sussex in Brighton, U.K. The cards are blank on the inside and picture old advertising posters that were intended to entice Londoners down to the seaside.
But I currently only have one box of notes. It is reserved for the certain type of person who can really appreciate a Thank-You note. The kind of people from whom you will get a phone call from that day, thanking you for your Thank-You note.
However, not everything is a Thank-You note occasion. Some of the most routine transactions in our days are never acknowledged. Sometimes a quick email is enough. Most people do not like to be thanked into a corner.
This is why The Modern Gentleman has started sending out Thank-You Postcards.
If you ever have me over for dinner, I will send you a 3×5 of Mark Twain’s guest room in Hartford. These cards only take a few minutes to write, but I like to get very specific. "Thank you for the lovely chicken dinner at your house on Thursday. Tell Bianca that she cooks a mean potato, and tell her Grandmother that she brought her up properly. It was really great to hang out with you guys in real life, and not just in the nightlife scene…and you have such a lovely apartment. I hope you have a great life together and that I can return the favor very soon." I like to keep it fresh and simple and make many references to inside jokes that were born that night. This helps, especially if you were on a wine-and-dine rampage.
What is wonderful about these postcards is that they become notorious. Someone else will visit one of your hosts, see the postcard on the fridge, and say: "Let me guess, the Modern Gentleman stayed with you when he was in town last month?" And then there will be two people, usually ladies, nudging their husbands and asking why they never write thank-you postcards (ruffians). And on your next visit, you will find that your postcard never seemed to have left the refrigerator or the bulletin board at that particular house. How charming.
One thing the Modern Gentleman cannot stress enough is the fact that you needn’t have money or connections, or even the latest fashion styles to be classy, courteous and well-received. You do not have to come to every party with enough champagne for everyone. You don’t even have to have suit pants and a tuxedo jacket made by the same designer. But if you are having a wonderful time with someone, and you would like to do it again, a Thank-You postcard is all it takes to assure your next invite.
When I was at college I was very intimidated by him (he had that skulking presence of a writer-in-residence, which I had no idea came from being a defeated freelancer who was forced to teach creative writing). I sent him an email halfway through reading it to tell him that a certain passage really touched me.
SUBJ: I cried when Mike Stone died in your book.
And there’s another thing I forgot to tell you about this book of yours:
My good-for-nothing uncle read it soon after it came out (how he found it is a mystery) and decided that he was meant to go back to a magical place called school. That was probably back in 1995. His wife had just got back from another visit to Iraq. He announced that he was going to become a teacher, so he went back to school. Today he is in his first year as Principal of a k-6 near a shuttered factory. He loves it.
You really are a writer’s writer. I read these sentences and think, "How come I didn’t think to describe things that way?"
I’m going down to Elizabeth St. for dim sum now to celebrate being alive. Thanks
Never heard back.
And for good reason. I had cluttered his inbox (which was undoubtedly full of department meeting reminders and other work-related tasks) and I put him in the position of having to reply. Of sort of saying, "Thanks for thanking me." And no one wants that.
The other day when I finished reading his book, I took out a Mark Twain House Postcard (next month it will be something else depending on where I travel) and sent him a real note. It was written in my smallest, most satanic handwriting, and detailed the parts of the book that I loved. I also mentioned that I should have taken every class he ever taught and made him my advisor, but that I was too timid back then. I told him that I was really glad I got to spend the time with him that I did.
This is the kind of world I like to live in. I do not mind at all that a Thank-You Postcard automatically requires a Thank-You Email.
My hero from college and the man I hoped to become when I was only twenty years old sent me an email to say I made his day, which in turn made my day.
Example 2. At the Modern Gentleman’s birthday party this year, he met the most wonderful young woman. Through the magic of the internet he was able to discover, the next day, that the gorgeous woman he had spoken with all night was also a brilliant writer and a battle-tested model. The wonderful thing about a Thank-You note is that it’s a wonderful surprise every time. The Modern Gentleman knew that he would have a fabulous time with this woman…
We had dinner at The Modern, which is the bar in the MOMA where The Modern Gentleman goes when Jackson Pollack makes him hungry. We were greeted warmly by the maitre d’ and the chef came out from the kitchen to let us try his latest dish.
The Modern Gentleman knew he would have an unutterably wonderful time with this creature. But wouldn’t she have a great time with just about any man in a sport coat? What, if anything, could assure this creature that the Modern Gentleman was a man of serious taste, passion and exactitude?
While the lady was fixing her make up after the meal, the Modern Gentleman slipped a note in her purse (I would, of course, have just kept the note if she weren’t the wonderful woman I thought she would be).
"Thank you for such a lovely evening on Sunday. You were radiant company and it was the perfect end to a wonderful weekend. Meet me in Paris and we’ll do this full time." And I left my telephone number.
Suddenly her calendar started to free up and her other suitors disappeared. And therein lies the power of the thank-you note…