Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's in the Details - Day 3 - Minden

Some days it really is all in the details.  This morning started off that way. I had one foot in the 30s and in another in the 80s in a letter written by a woman to her grand-niece travelling in the UK.

 "Yes London is fun and exciting, well do I remember in 1936 being there caught in the “great strike”—very little transportation—everyone with a car was so kind picking up strangers —which in 1983 would be unthinkable—I had one whole week of opera escorted by Cousin of the Scottish Cousins. His Uncle had sent tickets from Edinburgh some how or other, with money to entertain the “Prairie Flower” which they all called me. What a treat. We had to dress for dinner & opera so I was forced to buy an extra evening gown. One was short and heavily beaded—the age of the flapper. During the day all by myself I visited galleries and of course the museum—besides shopping for ideas— and buying beautiful silk & woolen undies which I wear to this day during the winter. They are so beige and pretty. — Wish they made them there now. A few were made in Switzerland, but the English know how to shape woolly vests and panties."

 Later, I was backpacking in Asia, in the late 70s.
"I sent some record albums home from Taiwan – hope they made it without breaking or warping. They are only cheap quality though and can only be played once or twice before static sounds come through. If you want to use them be sure to tape them the first time, then only use the tapes."  

I love it when I can find clues to help me date a letter. A frosh student apologizing for not writing sooner because he has “been very busy: partying the first week and doing homework this week “ could be any era. Read on and you learn of an initiation ritual involving naked guys, a chair, a rope, shaving cream and an elevator in the girl’s dorm. Sounds like hazing to me, so that puts it back a few years.

Living with his pals is "OK though". They “laugh constantly and blast the Stones, the Who and the Beatles, all the best music, on all our STEREOS all the TIME.” This helps narrow down the timeline. And two paragraphs later the mention of Harry Chapin, Rough Trade and Doucette as upcoming concerts (don’t worry...not together) brings us closer to a date; that is if you have a mind for the details given. ( Please comment below if you know the date - All I've got  to go on is September 16th.)

A letter where the writer reports a recurrence of his colon cancer and the advances in medicine in the 17 years since his first treatment is out of my realm. But a physician would know when Brachytherapy was” a relatively new type of radiation treatment”and we’d be able to date the correspondence by the details because there are no character limitations on letters!

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