The older and more decidedly rooted in my urbanity I become, the more sensitive I become to the growing separation between urban and rural America. Not exactly sexy Friday night stuff. But I missed my art house movie, so this is what's on my mind at the moment. If we're discussing institutions that remain to hopefully bridge that physical and metaphorical separation, none that I can think of have the singular and almost spiritual importance packaged up in the grand metaphor of the U.S. Postal Service. There's very little news in the statement that these are tough times for that institution. But this week's release of truly terrible numbers from the last quarter of 2011 adds fuel to the engine driving toward a major retooling of what we all get for the price of a stamp. In a nutshell, a $3.3B loss during what should be the biggest time of year for the people still using the mail means drastic changes are ahead. From here, the debate over what to retain seems in need of a modern King Solomon. But for me it provides a fascinating test for how rural history will continue to intersect with commerce all over the map. Soon the debate will arise in Congress for all those Constitutional originalists who also supposedly wear the green eyeshades of deficit and/or debt hawks. Article One, baby - it's in there. Beyond that, though, anecdotes do matter. What about all those mail order businesses in small town America - should they send their specialty wares out by email? And what about newspapers? Imagine a daily paper being delayed by a few days - at the earliest, if the stripped down system remains. I keep looking for a Solomonic way of reasoning for this "split the baby and deliver it on time" conundrum. I'm just riffing here, but what about if we partnered a for-profit business with the idea of keeping all those thousands of small town meeting places occupied? If you keep the buildings, they will come. So get cracking (and packing), America. I'd hate to think of a Starbucks on Main Street in every small town across the Land, but that may be what sort of outside the drop box thinking that's called for in these new times. All I know for sure is that if the Postal Service is shuttered, I'll be clamoring to open a franchise for some new sort of Pony Express. Just imagine the crowds of romantics - and hipsters - looking to reclaim this analog manner of communicating. It could be the cat's pajamas.