Spring 2018–Winter 2019

Mail Trouble

A friend lends a hand

Matt Freedman

Once upon a time, we at Cabinet used to hand-deliver issues to subscribers who happened to live within easy walking distance of our Brooklyn office. It seemed absurd to mail an issue destined for someone living a block away. This practice stopped when a subscriber was visibly shaken by the idea of a magazine editor moonlighting as a postman; even the smallest of small magazines are not supposed to indulge in such artisanal delivery methods. A little while ago, one of our longtime collaborators, artist Matt Freedman, was unexpectedly afforded the opportunity for a similar experiment in peer-to-peer magazine distribution.

But first, the quickest of dips into the logistics governing periodical mail in the United States. Unlike many magazines, we have always taken care of all our subscriber mailings in-house. When the shipment containing a new issue arrives at our office, we spend a couple of days stuffing thousands of magazines into cardboard envelopes, which are then labeled in a particular order according to us postal regulations. We then take particular sets of these envelopes and bundle them together using a pair of thick rubber bands. These bundles are placed into barcoded mail sacks and we then drive these to a postal depot in Manhattan, from which they are sent to various mail processing facilities around the country. 
There, the sacks are opened and the various bundles forwarded to the appropriate post offices, where the mail carriers are supposed to unbundle the bundles, and deliver individual magazines to various addresses on their routes. Now you know!


In October 2018, Freedman emailed us to say that he was in receipt of a rare bundle that had somehow escaped unbundling. In addition to his own copy, said bundle contained five other nearby subscribers’ issues. What to do? Freedman is a man of action, and he suggested that he deliver the issues to these subscribers himself. Feeling nostalgic for the personal touch of our earlier hands-on delivery scheme, we gratefully accepted his kind offer.


In order to optimize his route, we suggested that Freedman spend some time studying the Traveling Salesman Problem, which has vexed some of the greatest mathematical minds for centuries. (See D. Graham Burnett’s essay on this topic in issue 47.) Enthusiastic about the possibility of two simultaneous modes of exercise—physical and cerebral—Freedman planned his itinerary and set off the next morning. Shown here are two pages from Freedman’s diary recording his adventure-of-sorts.


A final note. Dear Five Subscribers in Ridgewood, Queens: If issue 65 never showed up, it was not for lack of trying. Please let us know and one, or perhaps more, of us will swing by with another copy.


Matt Freedman is an artist, writer, and performer living in Queens, New York. His graphic memoir, Relatively Indolent but Relentless, was published by Seven Stories Press in 2014. He and Tim Spelios perform the ongoing talking, drawing, and drumming series “Endless Broken Time” at Studio 10 in Brooklyn.