Shanna Kelly | Seven Mile Satellite
Originally published 23 July 2019
Six blocks from Michael McGettigan’s house in Philadelphia sits what can be called “a first-class dive bar.” This isn’t the kind of bar with TVs plastered all over the walls playing sports games. Instead, it has one TV with jeopardy on, a wobbly legged table that’s been marked for years with a “Do Not Move” sign and a Bowie-centric jukebox.
“It’s not a bro bar, but it’s not an old man bar, but it’s not a hipster bar,” McGettigan said. “You don’t know what you’ll encounter when you go there.”
This made-for-anyone bar, was the place Pub Letters came to be. Four years ago, sitting in Doobies Bar, McGettigan came up with the idea for a traveling event that brings letter writing to bars — an idea that’s only fitting since historically, the first post offices in the U.S. were in taverns.
The event is held every Tuesday night mainly in the Philadelphia area, but tomorrow night, Pub Letters is coming to Avalon. From 7 to 9 p.m., Seven Mile Islanders will have the chance to have a beer and write letters in the Whitebrier Restaurant’s Motorboat Club.
“It’s really enjoyable to slow down and drink a beer, and it’s really enjoyable to do slow communication,” McGettigan said.
The event is free as are the stamps, envelopes, postcards and paper. There are even three paper options, which includes onion skin paper for those who’re nostalgic of the days when letters were weighed. As for postcards, there’ll be a few vintage Avalon ones, but be warned: Writers have to complete at least one letter to receive one.
Additionally, those considering attending shouldn’t worry about being boggled deciding who to write a letter to. A cheat sheet will be provided with addresses to people such as politicians, the president of the company that makes lava lamps and Ekapol Chanthawong, the soccer coach who was trapped with his team in a cave in Thailand for 17 days.
“We have the good, the bad and the ugly,” McGettigan said.
For those who choose to write to a politician, McGettigan’s recommends using a postcard since letters have to be scanned, therefore delaying them.
“If it’s a timely issue, and you just want to get your message out, put three sentences on a postcard and address it to that politician, it counts the same as a letter,” McGettigan said.
Since McGettigan has been hosting these events for a few years now, he’s managed to keep track of some of the locations letters were sent.
“The idea is, someday I’ll have a map, and I can show all the places,” McGettigan said.
In the past, writers have even received responses, including a machine-signed picture of the Pope from Vatican City.
According to McGettigan, letter writing isn’t as out-of-date as it may seem. He remarked on Barack Obama’s presidency when he’d respond to ten letters after every working day.
“He’s the first president, sitting president, to write a letter to a person in prison,” McGettigan said. “And he’s created a written record that’s going to last so much differently.”
McGettigan also always requests that writers add the date and location at the top of their page.
“Someone 100 or 200 or more years could find this,” McGettigan said. “It could fall out between two books or from between two hard drives.”
With that being said, Seven Mile Islanders will have their chance to sip beer and write down their train of thoughts tomorrow night. Who knows, maybe one of these letters will be a trace of history found years from now.
“It might take a few days [to mail], but it’s gonna stick around way longer than email letters,” McGettigan said.
Shanna Kelly is a writer and editor for the Seven Mile Satellite. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.