Earlier this week my amazing grandmother, Pat Wild, sent me an email about the late cartoonist Bill Mauldin, who has been honored with his own postage stamp. A few days later I was corresponding with a lovely pixel pal of mine, a distant relative named Annie Richtel, and she also told me about the Bill Mauldin stamp. The coincidence made me take notice. Apparently Mauldin was a World War 2 infantryman and cartoonist for Stars and Stripes, a newspaper for the U.S. military that is still in publication. Since he was drawing from the trenches, so to speak, his perspective on the hardships of war was very specific- he knew exactly what his readers were going through. And they loved him for it.
OK, the crazy thing is that this stamp came out over a year ago but these two women, who don’t know eachother, both brought it to my attention this week. I would never have paid attention to Bill Mauldin and his stamp if I didn’t correspond with people who are of his generation. And the association is even closer for Annie. One of Mauldin’s recurring cartoon characters was modelled after a soldier named Irving Richtel, her brother in law.
Even though I love receiving paper mail from my grandmother (usually carefully cut out clippings from her local newspaper) I am so impressed with her for embracing email. While my grandfather continued to use his typewriter until his death last year, Grandma made the digital transition for herself and her peers years ago. She started a computers for seniors program on Cape Cod that was a huge success and she is now developing a program to encourage seniors to use social networking to offset their isolation. Annie, who is 94 years old, seems pleased as punch to be corresponding by email. Perhaps she has been influenced by (or has influenced) her grandson, Matt Richtel, a technology writer for the New York Times. This experience has made me even more committed to inter-generational correspondence, in any medium that works.
Annie and Pat, when I am your age I hope to be as receptive to new technologies as you two are. I also hope my grandchildren reply promptly to my paper mail.
My son made these envelopes for a dinosaur art envelope contest that was hosted by the dinosaur illustrator James Gurney. They were fun to make and mail and Gurney returned the favor by sending my son a package that contained some self promoting material and a dinosaur doorknob hanger. It reads, “Do not enter. Violators will be eaten.” and is currently hanging on my son’s bedroom doorknob but I just ignore it.
This has got me thinking about hosting a Viva Snail Mail envelope art contest. Wanna? I am imagining envelopes adorned with hand written praise for postal workers, watercolor illustrations of mailboxes, love letters drawn on the outside. First 20 submissions win a pony? Or some envelopes? Please hit me with some suggestions of how to actually do this. And if you work at an art space, can we hang our envelope art show on your walls in 2012?
Thanks to extremely rapid digital technology I am posting this photo that my pal Randi Cecchine took in Philadelphia today, the city where our postal service got its start way back in 1775. I am certain that if Ben Franklin, the inventor of the USPS and our first Postmaster General, were transported to now, he would be fascinated by the internet. How could he not be? He would be googling for days! But after the novelty wore off a bit I think he would also take some time to write and send paper mail, for old times sake. The price of postage would be a shock but then he’d recover and drop some postcards in this mailbox to his 16 siblings, telling them how insane and amazing the future is and how much birth control has really changed things.
Hey guess what? Viva Snail Mail was included in a round up of analog love in New York City in this week’s New York Magazine. I loved reading about the other users and enthusiasts of pre-digital technologies, because my analog appreciation extends beyond paper mail. I am also a fan of film cameras, vinyl records, letterpress, bookbinding, pinball, and typewriters. Let’s face facts. I kind of want to be this lady, but with fluffier hair.
Analog love from 1947. I found it at the New York City Public Library Picture Collection but don’t know who the photographer was.
Summer is here and Viva Snail Mail proposes this:
Redirect your status update from Facebook to Postcards!
Reconnect with the lost sensation of writing and mailing postcards while on vacation. Your friends and relations will love to receive a little slice of summer from you.
Some tips on how to actually make this happen:
1. Order stamps from USPS.com and keep them in your wallet. Or if your vacation is somewhere with a quaint post office, go in and buy some stamps as a way to absorb some regional flavor. In the recent past post offices were a social network in their own right. Some still are.
2. Put some important mailing addresses in an easy place to find. A piece of paper folded into your wallet, next to your stamps. In your address book on your smartphone. In an email that you send to yourself.
3. Buy postcards as part of the fun of your vacation. Tacky souvenir shop. Antique store. Truck stop. Flea Market. Museum.
4. Find a spot to write your postcards that’ll be much sexier without wi-fi. On the beach. In a hammock. At a soft serve shack. Under the stars.