From The Editors

by Professor Mike Fink, Literary Arts + Studies & RISD

published April 4, 2019

We received the following letter last week, which felt urgent enough to share:

“A fortnight ago a handsome plaque or pennant appeared on the brick display wall overlooking the “farm”--the oval campus featuring a sculpture (by Gilbert Franklin) where Angell and Waterman converge at Benefit Street. It showed the logo of a pack of Camel cigarettes, with pigeons perching on top. Beneath that startling image there was a rectangle depicting the migration of springtime arriving birds. I took a break to search for my old-fashioned camera, but by the time I came back, that strange and wondrous and mysterious message had vanished into the void. I went into the student quarters of the refectory to investigate who had designed and displayed this cryptic address to the public passersby. Nobody knew anything about it, so I walked downhill to consult our Illustration Department. Its staff likewise was innocent of any knowledge of the origin or meaning of that “telegram” nor had anyone seen it! I am NOT hallucinating, I can describe each and every detail of the design. I have no concrete evidence to prove this tale to be true, nor any fellow witness of its very existence. As a very longtime professor here, I nevertheless ask readers of the April 5 issue of the Indy if anyone out there, out here, knows anything either of the artist who created the object or of any interpretation of the meaning of its juxtaposition of symbols. Camel cigarettes in that pack holds a nostalgic hint to me: my father’s favorite choice, no menthol, no cork-tip, no carefully chosen color scheme to imply the health benefits of nicotine, just an honest old-time recognition, frank and blunt, about the macho romance of a plain cigarette that can cure the common cold or its sore throat!!! But what of those pigeons or those migrating feathered friends? There is indeed a pigeon club (I am its founding faculty supporter/advisor.) just above the poster, if that is what it was. Which may in part explain the purpose of the surprise collage. I write this letter to inquire if whoever made it or placed it there can contribute a word of explanation to encourage my research, my inquiry, my quest, please e-mail me at [email protected] Thanks for rescuing me from my uncertainty and curiosity.”