If ever there were a day to revive the lost art of the handwritten note, Feb. 14 is it. No eCards of love, please. Actual folded, creased-paper, handscribed with words of love (or lust, or like) in genuine ink are mandatory. Anything less than that is a bloody crime.
However, since we don't use fine paper goods like this very often, one is not to be faulted for not knowing where to get such antiquated things. Let me point the way.
May I make a bold pronouncement of love? I adore Paper Source (1911 Calle Barcelona in Carlsbad), the most wonderful purveyor of things of paper. It has an actual bricks-and-mortar post in the Carlsbad Forum shops, a weird strip mall filled with the best kind of chain stores (Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Apple). I'm smitten with this shop not just because of the pretty papers, but also because of the inspiration that abounds—there are always beautiful examples of kooky, yet well-done, crafts in its catalog, and the store brings these crafts to colorful life. I flipped over the kid kits, which elevate the schoolroom Valentine into so much more than a Justin Bieber bookmark. I'm sweet on the cleverness of the cards, each one funnier (not har-har, more snicker-snicker) than the next. Paper Source also has a really terrific assortment of what can only be called gifts—the kinds of things you don't ever buy for yourself, you only buy for other people. Maybe we need to buy ourselves more gifts. We can at least start with a self-addressed hand-written card. The kid in me wants the scratch-and-sniff stickers; the adult wants the letter-pressed cards featuring an octopus and the words “I'm a sucker for you.”
I haven't visited the mouthful that is With Love, a Gift and Paperie by Bel Age (1620 W. Lewis St. in Mission Hills) since one of my early columns, but there's no doubt that February is the month to return. This store screams “love,” from the name to the intricate and astonishingly beautiful displays. I'm not sure what I'd do with a zillion glittering drink umbrellas, but in this store, where they're displayed like a sparkling tropical tree, I want them. I want them now! Ditto for the weird bird in the tiny sardine can. More literal is the “LOVE” banner, which is gorgeous, but what exactly do you do with it? Hang it on the fridge? Over the mantle? Use it like mistletoe and kiss every time you walk under it? Odd. But I do know exactly what to do with the love medallions— little pink-and white pins in cute boxes that mimic the shape of a medal of honor. I'll buy them for everyone I know and care for. There are also walls of card displays, very pretty jewelry (including a necklace fitted with a tiny gold envelope that opens to reveal a tiny gold love letter) and a ton of glistening pink things.
I hate to repeat myself, but it happens: I'm getting old. And, really, some of the places that I mention (maybe a little too often) are amazing places for Valentine's Day cards: Make Good in South Park for handmade pretties, Progress just across the street for letter-press cards and The Grove, also in South Park, for the bookish. Pigment in North Park for the cards that make you scratch your head a little, and Cathedral in Hillcrest for the stunning stuff. Next door to Cathedral, at Babette Schwartz, you'll find the tacky and loud. Hit up Warwick's in La Jolla for the classic and Noon in Ocean Beach (and Solana Beach) for a modern take on pretty. Paper Tales in Point Loma is great for the raw goods so you can make your own.
But, hey, even if you end up at a florescent-lit Hallmark, it's better than a flash-driven dancing bunny eCard delivered to my—ahem, any—inbox.