When they asked me to put together mock-ups of the postcard idea — Elvis next to a plate of his favorite food, recipe floating in the upper left-hand corner in an unobtrusive sans serif font from the Graceland-supplied catalog of eight authorized fonts — I jumped on the project. A combination of candid Elvis headshots next to tender roast beef would certainly rocket off the racks on Beale Street. More importantly, the cards would jump-start the “Print World, While It Lasts!” portal of my admittedly slim online design portfolio.
I suppose postcard recipes are what happens when you’re faced with a finite amount of material to promote. There’s nothing new on the way. You work with what you’ve got, exhausting incongruous combinations as long as they sell, or until the market, or simple probability, conspires to prove to you that this is it: the end of the line. If Belinda in product development craved Elvis-food-themed postcards, as if all the references to Elvis and overeating and excess were wiped from our cultural memories in one swift editorial karate chop, well, so be it.
But after nailing, just nailing, two postcards — roast beef: intense eye contact, hint of mirth lingering on the lips, unlaced blue top, arms crossed, slab of cooked beef (cut and grade unknown), diabolically red tomatoes, five-line recipe, outlines of musical notes floating in the background; and cherry pie: same background, same format, big smile, hands open, Elvis wanted this pie, you can tell, he was smiling so much, I made it that way on purpose, you will want to try this recipe, I am that good at postcards — I came to an uncomfortably long spaghetti recipe and only had one decent remaining sample image to use. Same background as the roast beef card, but with red-orange hues to play off the saucy plate of noodles and meatballs. Elvis’s white shirt popped, too, and his ascot, with rich Cabernet tones, introduced a level of gravitas not found on the other cards.
However, this was a Pensive Elvis shot. You know the one. He wasn’t challenging me, guarding the last hunks of roast beef, and he wasn’t ecstatic, as with his sickly sweet cherry pie enthusiasm. He stared to his right, not at the pedestrian plate of spaghetti but somewhere above it and five thousand miles away. Like something was chasing him, as if the recipe wasn’t there and this whole endeavor was about flight, not feasting, this was about running and running and running as long as you can and right then as I had that thought…click. I closed my Photoshop window and shivered.
I called up Belinda at Graceland and left a message on her clunky answering machine, “I’m afraid I’m too busy to work on the postcards. You should probably assign that whole deal to someone else, someone less busy and preoccupied as myself, as I seem to be. Thank you and goodbye.”
Belinda returned my call while I was out running sprints at forty-five degree angles across the park and she requested all the files back, told me to delete everything I’d worked on, if I’d worked on anything, and I did, sweat still dripping from my chin on to my keyboard, I deleted it all, even the draft version of Pensive Spaghetti Elvis and I swore I’d never look behind me again not like that not like he did because we all know what happened don’t ever look back because there’s only one thing after you I mean really after you in the strictest meaning of the phrase like what comes after you and that is nothing nothing nothing.
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