Forged Document Received Yesterday
Roy Arenella sends me an interesting photocollage of a house skewered by a huge elm, and he entitles it “Hurricane’s Alphabet.” As soon as I saw the image, I thought, Isn’t that a picture of the aftermath of the Johnstown Flood. My wife Nancy saw the card on my worktable (which I should more properly call a pileofjunktable) and immediately noted that it was a picture from the Johnstown Flood.
Roy Arenella, "Hurricane's Alphabet" (5 Jan 2004)
Nancy and I are tied together in a number of strange ways. We both are descended from Swiss Stutzmanns, all of whom we trace back (or can almost trace back) to one small village in Switzerland. So we probably have a couple of joint ancestors from about 400 years ago. Also, we are tied together by a familial connection to two of the greatest disasters of a century ago: The Johnstown Flood of 1889 and the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906.
Nancy’s ancestors survived the Johnstown Flood, but witnessed the breaking of the dam high above the narrow valley cutting through the hill into Johnstown. Starting on page 99 of David G. McCullough’s Johnstown Flood, we find this description of Nancy’s great-great-uncle and great-grandfather:
George Gramling, who had a mill on Sandy Run, started off for the dam about eight in the morning along with Jacob Baumgardner [Nancy’s great-grandfather, whose saw we still use to cut wood] and Sam Helman. The Gramling mill was operated by a small dam which had broken about seven. If a small dam washed out that early, the men reasoned, what would a big dam do later on?
My grandmother lived through the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906. She was but six at the time, and she once told me that all she really remembered was sitting on the curb of the sidewalk after the earthquake. Her father, a printer turned mortician, was a well-known man in the Mission District and somehow was instrumental in bringing order back to the city.
So these two stories of two of the most famous American disasters—disasters at opposite ends of the country—tie Nancy and me together as if we were cousins, which we very well might be.
So Nancy and I realized the forgery immediately. “Hurricane”? We think not. I called Dan Rather of CBS news to ask him what to do in such situations, but he would not take my call. In the absence of any advice, I am unable to help Roy deal with this forgery. Instead, I present this information: This photograph is clearly a picture of the Schultz home. As a matter of fact, it is exactly the same photograph of this house that appears in the aforementioned Johnstown Flood. Of it, McCullough’s writes:
A favorite subject for the swarms of photographers who rushed to cover the disaster was the house belonging to John Schultz. It had been neatly skewered by a huge tree and then dumped down near the Point. Six people were in it when the wave hit. Miraculously they all came out alive.
Wait, wait, wait. What does all this have to do with mailart. Back to the card. Roy addresses me by an ancient, yet still current, familial nickname of mine, then thanks me for some recent mail. This card, created on 19 Sep 2004, is numbered 400 CXC (color xerox card). Let’s hope Roy isn’t tricked by any other forged captions in the future. (Okay, I know Roy wasn’t really fooled by anything. He just liked the idea of hurricane better than that of flood.)
When we arrived at this Adirondack camp tonight, planning to stay for two nights, I decided to place my clothes in a drawer in my father-in-law’s dresser. When I moved the socks in the drawer, I found a single postcard, published by the Johnstown Flood Museum: a different view of “Schultz Home—Main & Union Sts.”
Rebusing versus No Busing at All
kiyotei sends me a card cut out of a piece of cardboard, glossy and printed on one side, the side where he decides to place my address—atop labels atop the text of the card. On the other side—which I can’t decide whether to call the obverse or the reverse—he has outlined in pen and colored in pencil a simple humorous rebus.
kiyotei, [Time Weights for No Juan] (Sep 2004)
At qbdp Beach
Mick Boyle sends me yet another of his beautiful inkjet-printed cards. This one gives us a clearer view of a picture Mick sent in an earlier card. He has pulled the camera back and we can now see all these beach bums of qbdp Beach.
Mick Boyle, [qbdp beach boys] (Sep 2004)
Since we’ll be here, I won’t receive any mailart tomorrow.