From: Tom Collins
Subject: Oh dear
Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000

I think I’m in trouble with my taxes. I thought I had my W-2 form in my top drawer at work but I’m looking in that drawer right now and it’s not here. Oh man. Oh man. Oh man oh man I am so screwed. Where the hell do you get a copy of your W-2? I mean, I know you can go online to the IRS website and download the 1040EZ (and by the way it’s a little sad that I’m almost 30 and I still use the EZ form), so I’m not worried about that, but I think the numbers that I have to enter into the form are quite a bit more important than the freakin form itself. And what if I go home tonight and the W-2’s not there either? Tomorrow’s the 15th! Oh it better be there. It better be there or I am so very very screwed. Is there someone I can call about this? Like if I call the IRS hotline (and good luck getting through on that line the day before taxday), will they have a copy of it they can fax or email to me? Or will they be able to read me the numbers I need over the phone? Maybe I can get an extension. Is it too late for that?

Oh shit I just remembered I have to do the state tax form too. SHIT SHIT SHIT!!

Sincerely,

future convicted felon (tax evasion) Thomas Collins

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Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000
Subject: Songs in the Glee of Life

Dear McSweeney’s:

In reference to Ken Alper’s letter of March 23. Here are some more verses to the Diarrhea song (it is featured in the Steve Martin film Parenthood).

When you’re sliding into first
and you feel your stomach burst
Diarrhea
Diarrhea

When you’re pants are full of foam
and you’re heading into home
Diarrhea
Diarrhea

The other song he is recalling is:

Great green gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts
Chopped up baby chicken’s feet
something something something it fails me just now.

Another song he may fondly remember:

Did you ever think when the hearse went by
That you would be the next to die?
They wrap you up in a big white sheet
And throw you down about 6-feet deep

The worms crawl in
The worms crawl out
The worms play pinochle on your snout

They go in your ears
and out your nose
And eat the gook between your toes
And then you turn a grassy green
And puss comes out … like whipping cream

MMMMM forgot my spoon.

Can I have a strawwwww?

That’s all for now, folks.

Like an elephant they say.

Fondly,

Justine Hermitage

- - - -

From: “Gillian Beebe”
Subject: Adventures on the Job Hunt
Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000

My wonderful friend Jack now lives in Palo Alto and surfs every morning before work. You may be able to catch a glimpse up his nose or at his blond hairline if you view the La Jolla live webcam at camzone at precisely the right second, because the camera is attached to his office window. Yes, it faces out, stupid. Sometimes he just leans out the window and sticks his face in front of it. For fun, duh. He used to live in Brooklyn and he knows everyone (he is the former director of the Brooklyn Support Group). So, after my brief meeting with the Literary Agent at Galapagos didn’t work out, I begged Jack for help finding an exciting job in NYC.

Jack answered my plea for contacts in NYC by giving me the phone number for an editor at Maxim and telling me he was expecting my call Today. I have never looked inside Maxim, but I have touched it and I consider its texture glossier and its surface area larger than most other magazines. I tell the Maxim Editor that I think Maxim is “gorgeous.” He calls me on my flattery and confesses that he has never heard anyone describe it as “gorgeous.”

The Maxim Editor is very nice and was extremely helpful and generous with his advice, and I am sure I will enjoy delicious fruits from having him as a contact. Nevertheless, I cannot help risking our freshly sewn professional relationship by relaying to you the following anecdote.

The Maxim Editor {ME [I realize that abbreviation may cause confusion reading the dialogue below, since “me” usually represents the person using the first person, but my initials are GVB and that is what I will call myself]} described Circus Maximus as a feature that often publishes submissions from freelancers. His example of the type of writing they are looking for was from the Head-to-Head section:

ME—Have you seen the Head-to-Head column? It’s great. We recently had someone compare OB1 Kenobe to an OB Tampon!

GVB (remember, this is me)—[Trying to get along and make a good impression, I set aside the initial repulsion at such a banal concept and even more banal example of the manifestation of such concept, and even forget to wonder if this is a joke. I wrack my mind for a clever idea to match the genius of OB1 vs OB Tampon but only come up with] Oh.

ME—So if you can think of anything like that… you know, comparing two items that do not seem to have anything in common…

GVB—Well, there’s always the Pope and a Potato.

ME—[pauses, and then] Well, I don’t really see how that fits in…unless there are, um, more things in common between the pope and a potato?

GVB—I think there are. For instance [is this worth it?] …oh well. Anyway, never mind. It’s a Jack thing. I thought you might have heard of it. It’s actually pretty funny, um, I guess not what you’re looking for though. [And, still trying to please] I’ll try to think of some other things—it can’t be that hard.

ME—[blah blah blah]

- - - -

Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000
From: Mary Phillips-Sandy
Subject: Legal matters

Dear McSweeney’s,

The law is an interesting – though complex – thing. I work in a law office, and there I have learned things. Interesting, complex things.

For example: petty thieves often act while under the influence of alcohol. The intoxicating spirits loosen their inhibitions, perhaps, or cloud their thinking, thus enabling them to forget that bit about “you aren’t supposed to walk into stores and walk out again with products you have not paid for.” Also, “you are not supposed to break windows and climb into other people’s homes and take their television sets.”

Now. Here’s the interesting thing, the thing that launches the above fact well into the realm of “complex.” Not only do petty thieves often steal while intoxicated, a whopping 75% of the time they are drunk on one particular drink, namely cheap coffee liqueur.

You may think this is not true, but it is. People in my office have been collecting data on this phenomenon for years, and the evidence is clear. Cheap coffee liqueur aids and abets crime like no other intoxicant, at least in this small backwater region in which I live. Conclusion? If we banned cheap coffee liqueur, or raised the price so it was no longer cheap, we would see our crime statistics plummet like sparrows shot from the sky.

Interesting, isn’t it?

Sincerely,
Mary Phillips-Sandy

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Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000
Subject: jumping on the playground chant bandwagon…

And now, the complete text of “Down Down Baby,” as popularized by the movie “Big,” but also well-known as something to stand up and yell in the chow hall at Incomparable Camp Ozark, located in Mt. Ida, Arkansas:

Down down baby
Down by the rollercoaster
Sweet sweet baby
Never gonna let you go
Shimmy shimmy cocoa pops
Shimmy shimmy rock
Shimmy shimmy cocoa pops
Shimmy shimmy rock
I had a girlfriend
A triscuit
She said a triscuit
A biscuit
Ice cream soda pop
Vanilla on the top
Ooh, shanee-nee
Walkin’ down the street
Ten times a week
I meant it, I said it
I stole my momma’s credit
I’m cool, I’m hot
Sock me in the stomach three more times
(how many?)
Three
(count ’em!)
1-2-3
Woosh
Ha
Booga-la Booga-la Booga-la
Ha! and ha! and ha! and ha….

And now, an added bonus: the complete text of the “Miss Suzie” songs!

Miss Suzie had a baby
She named it Tiny Tim
She put it in the bathtub
To see if it could swim
He drank up all the water
He ate up all the soap
He tried to eat the bathtub
But it wouldn’t go down his throat
Miss Suzie called the doctor
Miss Suzie called the nurse
Miss Suzie called the lady with the alligator purse
Measles said the doctor
Mumps said the nurse
Nothing said the lady with the alligator purse
Miss Suzie kicked the doctor
Miss Suzie punched the nurse
Miss Suzie paid the lady with the alligator purse

Miss Suzie had a steamboat
The steamboat had a bell
Miss Suzie went to heaven
The steamboat went to hell—
0-operator
Please give me number 9
And if you disconnect me
I’ll chop off your behind—
the frigerator
There was a piece of glass
Miss Suzie sat upon it
And broke her little ass—
me no more questions
Tell me no more lies
The cows are in the barnyard
Making chocolate pies
and lemonade…

hope this helps,

thanks so much,

whitney pastorek

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From: “Ogilvie, Sara, ARV
Subject: Encrust this.
Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeneys:

Like Peter Bebergal, I have also had discussions about the word “encrusted,” though under entirely different circumstances. I would like to share the details of this discussion with him, and all of you.

We like to eat brunch, specifically Sunday brunch. All of my friends and I especially like this little brewpub not far from my house where they make world’s best Mimosas, and sport a quite nice Bloody Mary Bar, at which any of you is welcome to join us on any given Sunday. Anyhow, they also serve this dish we’re all afraid to order. It’s “Almond Encrusted French Toast,” and it’s probably wonderful, but who the hell wants to eat something that’s been encrusted? This leads to loads of lively discussion, none of which has ever included mention of barnacles. Next time, I will bring barnacles up and they will all be surprised.

Encrustedly yours,
sara ogilvie

- - - -

From: “Dale Basye”
Subject: The unbearable lightness of being john malkovitch
Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeneys,

My name is Arnold Moskowitz,
I live in a museum.
I use an ancient artifact,
in which to steep my tea in.
If life is bitter consequence,
and verses vitriolic,
then nightmares are liqueur,
and, I, an alcoholic.

Dale Basye

- - - -

Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000
From: Adrienne Wong
Subject: playground chants

Sorry, but I have to set this straight for
Kathleen Senf

Subject: Playground chants

I remember the words to the song as this:

Great green gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts,
Turdy, wordy birdy feet,
Marinated monkey meat
Great green gobs of vomit down a hollow hole
And I forgot my spoon-
But I have a strawwwwwwwww!

There must be many versions of this song, and this is the Northern California version circa 1970’s.

Adrienne Wong

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Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000
From: Tom Stanley
Subject: Response to Johnston

Dear Johnston,

Eh, withering tone, yes, guilty as charged, eh…bla bla bla. Johnston Miller.

Best Regards,
Tom
Tennessee

- - - -

Date: 14 Apr 00
From: Thomas Gibbon
Subject: Too True!

Dear McSweeney’s,

On windy slightly chilly days I like to call in sick, put on a tie and a yellow mac, grab an armful of nautical charts and head off to the Financial District. There I wander aimlessly for an hour or two, pretending I am going to my solicitor’s to pick up my allowance.

Is that a hobby? I don’t know, but it sure is fun.

I am, as ever, a clo[u]d of extraordinary density, which you may call yours,
TGGibbon

ps- props to “Johnston Miller” for the heads-up. From now on I will sign my letters “T.Garrett Gibbon” or “C.K. Dexter Haven,” your choice, let me know.

- - - -

Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000
Subject: Something which has clearly upset me.

Hey. Well, something awful happened today, and I want very much to ask you all to print the following statement on your main page, so everyone can know about it, but I think I’ve been asking for an awful lot lately, and not just from you, but the world in general, and so I am resigned. Just print it somewhere. This is important.

And so because the late sometimes-great Cat Stevens said, “If you wanna sing out, sing out,” I shall. Here is what happened:

I went to Wendy’s today for lunch, the one on Broadway right above Houston. I don’t go to Wendy’s as much as I should, because the employees are surly and the lines are extremely long; understandably long, however, since where else can you get a cheeseburger, chili, and a frosty for $3.22? Nowhere, I tell you, and so that in and of itself is enough to cause certain levels of overcrowding.

But the reasonable prices do not stand alone. No, people, there is another feature of the Wendy’s fast food chain that has long gone without celebration, one which I believe is the true draw of this establishment: the change machines.

You know of what I speak. The metal box attached to each cash register, the one with rolls of pennies, nickels, et.al. that magically dispense to each customer their exact and unhandled-by-surly-wait-staff change. The ones that have fascinated me since I was a child, the click-karCHUNK-whirrrrrollll of the coins travelling down the unseen path to the reservoir at the end, perfectly sized for an 8 year old girl to scoop them out. That was always my job, scooping out the coins from the dish on the side of the cash register at Wendy’s. I think this is somehow connected to my life-long adoration of Skeeball, the noise from the released coins strangely reminiscent of the sound made when the wooden balls escape from the top of the little bowling alley. But that is neither here nor there.

So, yes, I love and have loved the Wendy’s coin machines for quite some time. I walked there today, fending off Hari Krishnas and tourists looking at sunglasses and various other forms of detritus one commonly finds on Broadway on a sunny Friday, and I walked past two sort of leery guys at the door, and I got in the (extremely long) line, and I ordered my cheeseburger and chili and frosty and handed the surly staffer a ten-dollar bill, almost holding my breath in anticipation of the click-karchunk-whirrrrrollll of my 78 cents in change…

And it never came. Silence, deadly, terrifying, the bell of technological change tolled in my ears, I may have screamed aloud. I craned my neck out over the counter to peer in the plexiglass shield of the change machine to see if perhaps my coins were not just stuck? and it was at that exact moment that the surly staffer handed me my change. From out of the cash droor.

Oh God, people, this was bad. All down the line, people were being robbed of their opportunity to share in the joy of the change machines, and that is wrong, wrong, wrong! And then I started to think, good gracious, what if this tragedy isn’t isolated to this Wendy’s—what if it’s a nationwide policy shift, what if, all over the country, change machines are being flung into Dumpsters with yesterday’s grilled caesar wraps? And then I fled that Wendy’s, oh, I fled; running like the wind past the leery guys (one of whom called out, “Damn! I ain’t never seen anyone get their food that fast!”), through the sunglass stands, back to my office to write this missive.

McSweeney’s readers, I appeal to you: SING OUT! Write to Dave Thomas, write to Wendy herself, go into your local franchise and stage a sit-in, do whatever it takes, but join with me now in demanding the return of the change machine! We are human beings, and we deserve to receive our change in a diverting and Plinko-like manner! Do not allow yourselves to be left with only Skeeball for that whirring feeling (and do not become complacent about Skeeball, either, as Chuck E. Cheeses are increasingly hard to find)! Stand together and fight!

To quote another sometimes-great singer: “Gonna make a change, for once in my life/Gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference/Gonna make it right…. I’m startin’ with the man in the mirror…” Michael Jackson clearly is a believer in the power of people, and so am I. Come with us, and we will lead you to a better place.

thanks so much,

whitney pastorek

- - - -

From: “Mcgregor Sainsbury”
Subject: Fun Decorating Idea
Date: Sat, 15 Apr 2000

Hi

Watching “Failsafe” on CBS the other night, I was struck with a decorating idea. I want about 8 large, black and white analog clocks on my living room wall. I want them all to be identical. I want brass plaques engraved with the names of major world cities underneath each of them. So far, I am thinking of Toronto, London, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Chicago. If I got to ten clocks, I might throw in Sydney and maybe Cairo or Tel Aviv. Or Cape Town. I am going to go with Toronto instead of New York for E.S.T. because I live in Toronto, and it might make me think I live somewhere incredibly cool. I might also put in St. John’s, Newfoundland, for humor value, as it is 1.5 hours ahead of Toronto. The St. Johns minute hand would be amusingly out of sync with the rest of the display.

Greg Sainsbury

- - - -

Date: Sat, 15 Apr 2000
From: Stuart Wade
Subject: Special Powers

Dear McSw’s,

All true:

W possesses the following Special Power: Using only the hunt-and-punch technique, he can type virtually error-free and surprisingly fast (40-plus wpm), until or unless someone he knows is watching.

K’s power: She has total recall of every meal anyone ever ate in her presence. K’s husband, A, will invite friends over for dinner. She’ll ask him what she should cook for them. He’ll suggest pasta with artichoke hearts. She’ll say, “Sarah doesn’t like artichoke hearts. Don’t you remember? When we went to Trattoria Farfalla in 1991, she picked all the artichoke hearts out of her salad.”

F figures out the endings of just about any movie or TV show. He says his wife hates this, and that he has been forbidden from using this Special Power aloud — although an exception was recently granted while watching “8MM.” (Similarly, J, when watching any sitcom with a sassy, colorful character — Carla on “Cheers”, for example — has the uncanny ability to predict the moment when said character will let loose with a withering wise-crack.)

Both F and B possess the following “internal clock” Special Power: each man can channel-surf during TV commercial breaks and intuitively return to his program of choice, just as it is coming out of the break. (Similarly, on any automobile cassette player, C can hit fast forward or rewind and — manually and intuitively — ‘find’ the silent moment preceding the next song on the cassette, within a 5% margin for error every time. She must, however, already be familiar with the song.)

While behind the wheel B, upon hearing a DJ say, “coming up after these messages, we’ll play some [insert band name],” reports he can predict which song from the specified band will play. He claims 80% accuracy, on any rock station anywhere he’s traveled. But if it’s Foghat, he says, it’s always a coin toss between “Slow Ride” and “Fool for the City.”

More musical powers: J will drive to work in the morning listening to a CD. He’ll arrive, park, cut the music, turn off the engine, go spend nine hours taxing the grey cells in various work-related ways. At the end of the day, he can return to the car, open the door, sit down in the driver’s seat, turn the ignition, and – before hitting “play” – miraculously begin humming to himself the music at exactly the place the song left off. (Similarly, if A reads from a book, puts it down for a week, then picks it up again, his eyes fall to the exact spot on the page where he left off.)

Driving: S can, at times, hit (or miss) every single green light along her route. She says she can interpret dreams exceedingly well and claims she can also sing the McDonald’s Bic Mac song, “Two all-beef patties,” etc., backwards. This rarely comes up in conversation anymore, she adds.

If there could be Negative Special Power(s), then P, when entering from the passenger-side door of a car with electric locks, can activate the door handle at precisely the moment that will prevent it from unlocking. No matter what time S turns on the news, she has missed the weather forecast.

P keeps no record of the checks he writes or deposits, but knows exactly when he’s on the edge. Also, he doesn’t really make note of what foods he needs but claims he’s “an amazing and spontaneous, just-in-time provisioner.”

- - - -

Date: Sat, 15 Apr 2000
From: “D. J. Waletzky”
Subject: About my letter dated 28 March…

Dear McSweeney’s,

First off, thanks for printing my letter about the phones getting crossed at a Canadian university (dated 28 March, 2000). You have given my village a great honor by printing it (even though McSweeneys and I are from the same village).

Now, about this letter- there’s a slight technical problem which leads to a larger epistomological question. If I may quote myself for a moment, you’ll recall I wrote

“Caller: Is this the Legal Clinic?”

Now, for those of you reading this on the web, you read that sentence as “Caller: Is this the Legal Clinic?” and hardly blinked. However, this line bears a secret. It turns out (and this is probably my fault for not realising it) that I had actually written

“Caller: Is this the Legal Clinic?”

At first I thought, “That’s an odd thing for them to edit out.” Actually, what happened here is that everyone’s computer parsed that which was between the less than and greater than signs as an instruction rather than as text. It shows up when you look at the source code for the page.

Now, this isn’t such a big deal—you probably got the point anyway. But the interesting part comes up a little later in the letter, where I write:

“Caller: Oh . Well, what am I supposed to do?”

Now, I would have put in the actual expletive, except that McSweeney’s was going through a transitional period, so I didn’t want to put any undue burden on you good people who read letters. But as it turns out, the “” part got deleted itself!

Ironic, no?

Sincerely,

D. J. Waletzky

- - - -

Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000
From: Tim MacSweeney
Subject: Hello

Hello

Everybody is telling me how much they enjoy “my” magazine, which is quite surprising to me since I don’t have a magazine. Is this the “magazine in a box” I keep hearing about?

This is my poor little web page in progress: http://home.earthlink.net/~timmacs/

And my sister’s genealogy page so we can see if we are somehow related maybe: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Plains/8396/

Tim E. MacSweeney
CT, USA

- - - -

From: “Robert Beier”
Subject: From your office correspondent
Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Last week I decided that I was going to move. I spent all week cleaning the apartment and throwing out all of my accumulated junk. 10 bags worth. I then packed all of my possessions into boxes and stacked them in the front room. I bought two bottles of wine and got really drunk on Friday and walked around the empty place reminiscing about all of the time I had spent reminiscing about all of the times I had before I moved into the apartment. I passed out on my sheetless bed. When I awoke late Saturday afternoon I showered and then unpacked all of the boxes and moved into my “new apartment”. It is much cleaner and less cluttered. This is true spring cleaning.

Regards,
Bob

PS I am sending Stuff to people who would like it. Send your email address to me at darndest@hotmail.com to be on the list. Thanks to those who have already responded. You’ll be hearing from me soonish.

- - - -

Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000
Subject: Miniature Donkey Talk Magazine

This morning, I went to Google, typed in Talk Magazine and clicked “I’m feeling lucky.” (My work requires that I am knowledgeable about competitor’s online plays—I am not a reader of Talk Magazine.) And I WAS lucky for I was immediately delivered to http://www.qis.net/~minidonk/mdt.htm, home of Miniature Donkey Talk Magazine, a magazine dedicated to ALL SIZED donkeys. Apparently, if you are not a subscriber of Miniature Donkey Talk Magazine, then you’re not serious about donkeys. Knowing of your interest in a wide variety of trade magazines, I thought to forward this to you. I also thought you’d appreciate the irony of reader’s searching for Tina Brown’s publication being directed to Miniature Donkey Talk Magazine. In fact, the irony is so perfect I thought it might be a joke but a telephone call to Maryland confirmed that the magazine does in fact exist and has for approximately 15 years. You can order a sample copy for $5 each. But note: “You are not sent the current copy of the magazine but an earlier edition. Current copies are reserved for regular subscribers. Due to the overwhelming number of sample copy requests we receive, we can not send out free sample copies.” Take care,

Rebecca Petruck

- - - -

From: “Sean Gallagher”
Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000
Subject: Being Clever-

Dear McSweeney’s:

I was just reading your letters. I love your letters, and on some days consider them the high point of my whole day. I especially like the guy who says that he is looking for information regarding this person or that person for an impending biography. Not only is he very funny, I really like the fact that you never know who is going to turn up next. Might be that I may even show up in one of his letters someday. I would like that.

Anyway, that’s not why I?m writing. I am writing because one of your letters really tripped something in me, and I found myself with this very funny and clever story to relate here on paper, or electronically rather, which might be good for your letters column. Your letters column is very clever and entertaining, I find, and this particular thing is also clever, so why not send it? “Who knows?” I thought to myself, in fact I think I may have said it too: “Who knows?” At that moment, everything I thought or said seemed rather clever actually. Every letter I thought to write, some stories I was thinking, even a novel and a short treatment for a motion picture I had running through my head. All clever. Of course, I didn’t have any paper, or any means of recording my thoughts at all, so I quickly raced to a place where I might. This was not easy, because I was on a train, and I wasn’t driving at the time. If I was, I would?ve been breaking the speed limit. The train speed limit that is, because I understand that although they run on a road of rails (this is also clever: railroad—a road composed of rails) (and here’s another thing I think is clever, too—undertaker-one who takes you under, buries you. Clever.) they do have speed limits like normal vehicles. And traffic lights. Actually, I should say that they have speed limits like automobiles, because when you think of cars and trains, I guess trains are more normal, having been around longer and accounting for so much freight movement and commerce like they do. Also actually, I was on the “F” train which runs right near your fine headquarters, I understand. Since it’s so close to you, you probably take it all the time, so you must know how frustrating it is to be thinking something clever, yet having no means to write down or otherwise make note of your thoughts.

So there I was, riding the “F” train, racing along in my head, desperately trying to remember all these things I was thinking, the clever stories and film treatments and, perhaps a little more improbably, the novel. I exited the train at my stop and raced home, a distance of a few blocks, but I managed to retain everything, even the novel, which as I jogged along (for I cannot race as quickly on my feet as I can in my head) seemed to become more complex and admirable. By the time I reached my building and fished out my keys, I was grinning at the accolades I would surely be receiving, and it would all start with this very admirable and clever thing I would soon write to McSweeney’s, which is you. Up the stairs I flew, into my apartment, (hitting the cats with the door, again. “They’re not clever,” I thought, and then I told them-“You both are not clever”) and nervously tapped my foot through the startup process of my personal computer. This is because I was becoming overwhelmed with ideas, all of which seemed very good and worthwhile. (I even had an idea to write a whole screed about being “overwhelmed,” and how I had somehow managed to go from ?being able to handle it? (thus not overwhelmed) to “overwhelmed,” obviously skipping completely “whelmed” in the process. Then I grew sad at having skipped whelmed, because I thought of it as a very nice place where one has many ideas or things to do but can, through careful planning and meticulous idea tracking, eventually get them all down somewhere and work them all to fruition. See? Clever.)

I was tapping tapping, and burning to get these ideas written somewhere and then to send them to you, and to start my new life as a revered and wonderful writer lauded for his dearth of new ideas. As my trusty personal computer executed the complicated and necessary steps to finally allow me to type my ideas down, I realized that “dearth” means “lack,” or “an inadequate amount of.”

As a result of this sudden and heart-rendingly stunning epiphany, I underwent a series of collapses of confidence which left me breathless at my trusty and heretofore faithfully inspirational personal computer. It is after the previously mentioned sequence of confidence ruination that I write you, now. And I guess that all I have to say is that I am not, and probably have never been, clever. Therefore, I have nothing clever to say. I am sorry for wasting your time.

I remain,

Sean Gallagher

- - - -

From: Tom Collins
Subject: Dueling Proverbs
Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000

Which is more true: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” or “Out of sight, out of mind”? Someone I know is leaving on a business trip and I’m not sure how to feel. Please advise.

Sincerely, Thomas Collins

- - - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: living free in some kind of paradise
Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Gaywon Eidman is Molloy with pebbles. His fusty corn kernel scotched to a “surprisingly” barren wall with an “unnecessarily” long piece of “packing fillet” calls to mind a recent event of harrowing yet secretly thrilling inanity. Two weeks ago in Hudson, MA the director of a daycare center duct-taped an infant girl to a wall for most of an afternoon. “He thought the sight of the struggling baby was something of a hoot,” state officials reported.

In other relevant news, John Cederquist has made another of his chairs. This one looks like you can’t sit on it because of an upright saw blade on the seat. But don’t worry. It’s just an illusion. “Cederquist is a child of the 60s, steeped in the urban lore of Southern California replete with Beach Boy tunes, hot rods, Disneyland, and living free in some kind of paradise. He came of age in the tumultuous time of Cold War politics, television, rock ‘n’ roll, human rights struggles, Vietnam, dropout, drop-acid hippies, and the love generation.”

Hmmm … what else? On the international front, daylight-savings time has been blamed for wreaking havoc on Mexican sex lives. Opposition Senator Felix Salgado of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution said the controversial switch to “summer time,” when clocks advance an hour, is straining Mexican marriage. “While most couples like to have sex at night, many of us prefer a zesty mananero (morning quickie). It’s no good when the women are gone in the morning to take the kids to school.”

Well, enough Monday,

Bryce Newhart

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Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000
From: “Amanda Summers”
Subject: Damn you, Vance Del Rio.

Hello McSweeney’s Letter Page,

It’s wonderful to be here. I hope you’re all having a great day, hunkered down in whatever airless cubicle has you encircled in its gray carpeted grip.

Vance Del Rio gave a link to some writing by a person named “Amanda Summers” and suggested that this writing by a person with the same name as me was written by me.

This is not the case. I am a different Amanda Summers.

You might wonder why it matters to me that a bunch of strangers who read a letter I wrote online might believe that I also wrote some simple poetry that they read online. The poetry wasn’t by me, but it might as well have been by me, for all the difference it would make to the average McSweeney’s letter page reader.

Conversely some people may have been amused by the perceived joke of simple childlike poetry ascribed to someone who reads McSweeney’s and is thus (presumably) beyond such things.

I guess it doesn’t matter. Let me put it this way. If it gave you any kind of pleasure to look at poetry by someone named “Amanda Summers” and believe that it’s the same person who wrote about schoolyard chants, puppets, and (long ago) Mystery Science Theater 3000 on the McSweeney’s letter page, then by all means go on believing that those Amanda Summerses are one and the same.

Otherwise please be advised that the poetry was not written by me.

I have written some truly embarrassing things that I would not like to see unearthed, and these embarrassing writings are in fact rather widely available on the Internet.

But the poems at http://www.frognet.net/~csummers/poems.htm are not among them.

Thanks; you’ve been great.

Amanda Summers

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Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000 (PDT)
From: Melissa Springer
Subject: Playground Chants

In an effort to help letter-writer Kathleen Senf, I offer the following:

Great green gobs of
Greasy grimey gopher guts
Mutilated monkey meat
Chopped-up baby birdy feet

Miles and miles of
Vomit running down the street
And me without my spoon to eat
I’ll have to use a straw…

Making the world a better place,
Melissa Springer

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From: “Clay Smith”
Subject: Quite possibly ineffable
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000

I am wondering right now why “Sarah M. Balcomb” needs that green pen that she was so desperately searching for.

Why, for that matter, would anyone REALLY need a green pen? What are the uses of a green pen? Why not a red pen? This seems to have much more validity, but perhaps she fears the self-indulgence and authority that a shade of such integrity carries.

I am awake and it is far too warm in here.

Clay W. Smith

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Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000 (PDT)
From: Matt Ware
Subject: I’m Still Waiting for my Robot Butler

Dear McSweeney’s,

Old black and white instructional movies were like a second and sometimes third set of parents to me during elementary school. Bathed in their flickering love, I learned the basics of good oral hygiene, earthquake prevention, and, of course, all the fantastic things that we could expect in the futuristic world of the twenty-first century. Oh sure, at the time I was skeptical when they told me that there would be computers that could talk to each other around the world, or that telephones would be able to get up and walk around with legs, just like giraffes and baby antelope, or that the century would close with one of the longest bull runs in history, fueled by unprecedented consumer confidence, declining inflation and the ritualized sacrifice of thousands and thousands of goats. But all of those things have come true! So why am I still waiting for my robot butler?

You may recall that in countless instructional movies I was shown in the first grade, the future clearly contained families being served their meals in pill form by a mischievous but endearing mechanical houseboy. I have yet to receive either a pill meal or the impeccable service of a robot butler. How I have longed for his crisp and sassy computerized banter and his deep knowledge of fine wines and the intricacies of baccarat. Every night I sit in my apartment and hope that the future will come knocking on my door. In robot form. But it does not, and I find myself alone again. Why has the future forsaken me? What wrathful gods have I angered to deserve this fate? I am also waiting for my flying car to arrive.

Your friend,

Matt

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From: Steve Tomsik
Subject: more about wolves
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000

I notice that some people say “wolves” like “wolfs”, replacing the “v” with an “f.” I like it when people do that. Try saying it. Wolfs, wolfs. It sounds great, and it feels so good to say.

Did you know that if a wolf attacks you, probably there are others there, waiting? In fact, the probability of a lone wolf attacking you is almost nil. But lone wolfs, they do exist. Whether they are loneLY, I don’t know. Once, I went camping and I thought I heard a wolf, or wolfs. Howling. But then this woman said it was just the dogs in a kennel near there. I don’t remember if I was glad about this.

Michael J. Fox was the worst wolf. My aunt thought she had lupus but it turned out her house was making her sick. Radon or something, maybe lead paint?

I know,

Steven Tomsik

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From: “Sean Gallagher”
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000
Subject: RE: Dog Food

Dear McSweeney’s

I am writing to respond to Leo The Guz Man’s dog food letter, wherein he theorized that dogs will eat anything but cigarettes. This, I am sad to say, untrue. A woman I lived with a few years ago had a dog which loved cigarettes. Yup, couldn’t get enough of them. Ate cigars, too, and even enjoyed a nice brandy afterwards. The dogs nasty habit even get her to quit smoking, whereupon the dog began eating her nicotine patches as well.

In my experience, the only thing a dog won’t eat is rutabaga, preferring instead turnip. Your guess is as good as mine.

Yours,
Sean Gallagher

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From: “Sean Gallagher”
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000
Subject: A quick note.

Note from Human Resources, where I sit dripping with sticky yellow notes:

If this phone rings once more, I will be forced to do something drastic. More on what that might be when it happens.

Thanks for your help,
Sean Gallagher

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Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000
Subject: Hi Mom, Hi Dad!!!

LOVE YOUR PARENTS
By Clay Hazelwood

As it is my mother’s birthday this week and as I was in contemplation of various gift options, I started to think about my mom and what kind of person she is and also what kind of person my dad is and basically how lucky I am to have such great and wonderful parents. Which is why this weeks’ “Meditation On Bio-Mechanics” will, instead, be devoted to the loving feelings of my parents and how that has made me feel truly grateful and just generally warm and fuzzy all over.

I learned from my parents that love is not a fair-weather thing, but rather something that is accepting and cherishing. Love not with a quick and passing love, but with a love that is a quiet place within one’s heart.

I learned from my parents to be thoughtful. To be aware of other people and their needs. To meet others halfway and, on occasion, happily go the other half.

I learned from my parents to be bold and not be afraid of the unknown. To meet each day with a smile, an open heart, and with joyful anticipation.

I learned from my parents that there is satisfaction in being part of something larger than yourself and that one’s life will be all the richer for it.

I learned from my parents to dance and to sing. That life is hard but that it should be taken on a day to day basis and after all is said and done one should leave time to dance.

And finally I learned from my parents that this is my life and that I should build it so that it has meaning and that it is a life I am happy with.

Thanks Mom and Dad. It’s been a good life so far.

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Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000
From: Jennifer Boyer
Subject: tristeza

I was heartbroken to read your cutting jibe at The Iceman Cometh. Kevin Spacey is, well, he’s very special to me. Okay, I have a crush on him. I saw Iceman on Broadway last summer. It was very, very good. The bartender was not being played by Tony Danza that night so I have no comment about Tony Danza. But Kevin? Kevin was very, very good. The writing? The writing was very, very good. The play is four hours long without intermission. There is a scene about three-quarters of the way through in which there is a long pause in Kevin’s speech. The theater was packed. You could have heard a pin drop on carpet during that long, long pause most of the way through a long, long play. This, I think, means it is a good play. I have a program Kevin signed but you can’t have it. It looks like a K, followed by a scribble, then an S followed by a scribble. You could probably forge it if you have a program for Iceman Cometh. I don’t know what Tony Danza’s autograph looks like. I am starting to feel better.

Jennifer

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Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2000
Subject: list

Dear McSweeney’s

Today I went to work. It was a fun day at work. I did a lot of things. Here is a list of things that I did:

—cut clippings about horror films from a trade magazine
—decoupage (add the accent please)
—hand delivered a large envelope uptown that would cost about $2.50 to send by mail. It took an hour and a half because there were no subways nearby.
—made coffee
—copied a script that was bound one page at a time at the most antiquated copying machine ever
—wrote an account of my workday

then i went home. later i might make a list of the things that the scary man on the train next to me was doing. he was picking out clumps of hair. and stuff.

xox
megan

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Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2000
From: Sean Gallagher
Subject: Is this love?

Save me, dear McSweeney’s, they’re at it again, full bore this time, piling on the mindless work, all neatly collected in identical manila folders (what exactly is a manila folder anyway?! Am I to believe that they still make the things out of hemp?) as they turn up the horrible hum of the fluorescent lights. Nothing like the hum of fluorescent bulbs, except they’re not dying, as I keep telling them, it’s just the ballasts! The ballasts I told them! And still they just keep changing the bulbs-bulb after bulb, my dear McSweeney’s, and through my loud and heartfelt protestings they keep changing the bulbs! And then, then, they pull out the piece de resistance, the horror of all horrors…Did you ever see “Twin Peaks,” and the little man from another place? That sound he makes like old time crazy kids playing cowboys and indians (can we still say that? Or is it “ranch personnel and Native Americans?”) with high pitched voice and repeated slappings of O-shaped lips, then brings his voice way down. This happens here, and I don’t know why they’re doing it. The people around here call it the ghost. But this building’s way too new, and I doubt there are any burial grounds which the subways wouldn’t’ve rooted out. I’ve a theory, McSweeney’s, and it goes something like this-it’s repair men, unscrewing something with electric drills. Sounds just like every electric drill unscrewing something I’ve ever heard. That’s fine, just people working upstairs. But EVERY DAY? How many things can someone possibly unscrew in the same spot over my head in one day

I’m telling you, chums, they’re out to drive me mad. Send help soon.

Thank you,
Sean Gallagher

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From: “Sarah M. Balcomb”
Subject: My brother told me not to refer to my poor memory as incipient Alzheimer’s because it makes people who have real Alzheimer’s feel bad
Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s:

I flex the muscles on my forehead, struggling to remember where I left the crabs. I know they’re here somewhere.

My date just pulled up outside in his yellow Gremlin. I can see the dark shape of him out there, the car door open a crack to turn on the interior light, probably adjusting his hair in the rearview mirror. I’d promised him crabs for dinner and I don’t want to disappoint, not on our first date. I try to retrace my steps, back to the time I brought the crabs into the house, but all I see is a big dark empty space. This void is the color of those new cars that look like they’re black, except when the light shines on them just right and you can tell they’re actually dark emerald green. The empty space in my memory is mysterious, enigmatic like that sort of cool paint job. Man, I wish I could afford a new car. There are other things I’d like to buy first, but a new car, wow.

I can recall certain events from earlier in the day. Going to the seafood store is clear. My barren wallet and being turned away empty-handed, like a pathetic beggar, is even more distinct. I remember sitting in my car alone, drinking can of beer after can of beer until my small cooler was empty. So many voids fill my brain. The sound of seagulls screeching rattles around in this space.

There it is, of course. I went down to the beach to get some more beer and decided to catch the crabs myself. Suddenly everything is there in my head, my whole day laid out in a perfect horizontal like those signs that fly behind airplanes, advertising the latest swap meet to the people on the beach.

I run out to the back yard with my largest lobster pot to retrieve the crabs and fling open the sandbox as fast as I can. It’s empty. Just when my brain finally felt full, I find another empty space. Those frisky little crabs must have clawed their way to freedom. I slam the lobster pot down and it ricochets off my big toe; it hurts worse than being attacked by a dozen angry crabs. Damn, if only they’d decided to attack me, their captor, seek out their revenge, rather than crawling off into the night like cowards.

As I limp back to the house, I prepare my apology speech to my date. But he hasn’t come up to ring the bell yet. No one is on the front porch with a bouquet of dandelions. I look out the window and see that the light is still on in his car. I wrap my pearl-beaded cardigan around my shoulders and go out to investigate.

Approaching the driver’s side of his little car, I see his leg hanging limply out from under the door. “Joey?” I say, hesitantly, but no answer. I’m afraid to look, but I force myself to proceed. His head is cocked backwards at an unnatural angle. When I pull open the car door with a squeak, a large pair of bright green fuzzy dice falls onto the asphalt. A hard eight. I smile to myself thinking that tonight might be a lucky night after all, but when I look up, all color, along with my hopeful smile, instantly fades from my face. A needle sticks out of Joey’s arm. A thin line of blood runs down his arm onto his pale blue pants. His pupils are as large as sausages and his face is as purple as the eggplant I was going to serve with the crabs.

Oh, well, at least I no longer have to worry about making good on my promises.

With bunkum,
Sarah M. Balcomb

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Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2000
From: Jesse Fuchs
Subject: Jef Czekaj

Dear MR,

Not sure if you’re aware of this, but Mr. Czekaj is the creator of the mini-comic “R2-D2 is an Indie Rocker,” which is actually about 10,000 times funnier than its unfortunate title and premise makes it sound. Kind of like Bosom Buddies, where the actual material and actors were much better than the supposedly hilarious macguffin. His last issue went to being a full-size comic now called “Hypertruck”, dropping the Star Wars shtick, and is not only even better than before but is also drawn disconcertingly like an indie-rock version of Little Lulu. Anyway, if you care not for indie rock nor Star Wars, you should check it out – e-mail him at jef@highwaterbooks.com, and I’m sure he’d be happy to send you a copy.

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Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2000
Subject: homonyms

The public radio show “Marketplace” is sponsored by something that I always thought had an odd name: “Corn Fairy International.” I had this wonderful image of slightly capricious homosexual commodity traders from Des Moines, but wouldn’t you know, I was visualizing its spelling all wrong. I guess it’s something like “Korn-Ferry.” To make it even more boring, I think they’re some kind of consulting firm.

No doubt I am not the only person misled by how their name sounds. Do you think they chose the name precisely to make people remember it and wonder if it would be rude to ask what exactly it means?

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Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2000 (PDT)
From: Nick Sweeney
Subject: in which Yoz Grahame is once more vindicated against the screeds of Tom Stanley

My passport is a shade of euroburgundy and, like an Anthony Powell novel, begins with the imprecations of Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State, who at this current moment is a petite and gnomelike Scot. He says “zed” in reference to the twentysixth roman letter, and I follow his example. My fiancŽe may be a sweet girl from Atlanta, with all the linguistic foibles of the Confederacy, but our children will say “zed” also. On alternate days. And in the relevant locale.

I pronounce the name of the Ziff-Davis web site as “Zed Dee Net”, obviously.

My point of departure: I preferred “The Fall Guy” to “The Dukes of Hazzard”. This was a major subject of contention at primary school, but may have been the result of early exposure to the opening scenes of “Deliverance” from my banjo-playing father.

And, most crucially, Yoz Grahame is male. Countless women can attest to this in intimate, complimentary detail. We, the remainder of that sex, are left mere eunuchs in comparison.

with fond regards,

Nick Sweeney

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Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2000
From: Paul Harm
Subject: A cop that doesn’t play by the rules.

Dear McSweeney’s:

Don Johnson played “Miami Vice” detective Dave “Sonny” Crockett.
Dave “Sonny” Crockett is a cop that doesn’t play by the rules.
Dave “Sonny” Crockett often wears espadrilles.
By his example, I often wore espadrilles, while in middle school.
I bought most of these shoes while on a school-sponsored trip to Italy.
The only other student from my school to go to Italy was my friend, Tom.
Two years later, Tom began a relationship with Jane, which lasted for a few years.
After graduating from college, Jane moved to California.
Jane took a job on the set of the television show, “Nash Bridges”
Nash Bridges is a cop that doesn’t play by the rules.
Nash Bridges is played by Don Johnson.

Best Regards, Paul Harm

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From: Melissa Springer
Subject: amazing feats of mouth
Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2000

Remember the show “That’s Incredible!”? This story my friend Amy told me about her husband Stew would have been perfect for it…

Stew has a long-running fascination with his mouth and food that goes beyond merely consuming such food. So he will try to stuff as much food into his mouth at one time (mini donuts, gum, saltines …). His other favorite trick is catching food.

Bored with merely catching food lobbed from couch to chair, he and his pals starting making things interesting. One time, they went to the PATH station (NJ-to-NYC subway), and Stew was able to catch a peanut from the bottom of an escalator while his friends chucked it from the top. Grapes were always his food of choice, however, and after doing a one-story catch, they decided to attempt one from the top of Dom’s apartment building. This was a five-story building, and he caught one on the first toss, in his teeth. (In retrospect, it was probably the only way he could have successfully caught it — I imagine the velocity could have caused some pain had it shot directly to the back of his throat.)

And oh, how many times since then have I heard him moaning the fact that this was not videotaped … his personal moment of glory, left merely to retelling and without visual proof to substantiate it ….

Friends Forever,
Melissa Springer

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Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2000
From: Jef Czekaj
Subject: a small book you will not be publshing.

hello,
just wanted to thank you for the “runner-up” distinction in(on? at?) the recent mcsweeneys.net. from the congratulatory e-mail received, i’ve learned that many people that i know look at your web page on a (presumably) daily basis. this disturbs me somewhat.

i suspect i actually WILL write my silly t-shirt thing into a play, because i’m one of the those “creative” types like everyone else in cambridge (read: unfocused and willing to try anything given the slightest bit of encouragement). i believe you will be proven right regarding the “one good but small idea… stretched over two or three hours” aspect of it. and it does read like a twilight zone episode. but, really. theater. have you been to a play in the past five or so years? don’t bother. people talk loudly in plays.

thanks especially for spelling my name correctly.

jeffrey czekaj.

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Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2000
From: Suzanne Price
Subject: Johnston Miller’s letter

It’s funny, the ways in which people reveal they are a simpleton. Mr. Miller proves my point well, since I couldn’t stop laughing when he said he was matched with Shania Twain online. As if he could entertain such a woman without mentioning jokes, poetry, drunkennes, or puppets! I’d like to know how he would do that when he has nothing original to say. He should try the dog-matching quiz, because I think bassett hounds are right up his alley.

Sincerely,
S. Price

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From: “Paul Harrington”
Subject: Firecracker Alternative Book Awards 2000
Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2000

Hiya,

Congrats! McSweeney’s is a finalist in the Zine category of the 5th Annual Firecracker Alternative Book Awards.

The FABs are a grassroots award and party that celebrates publishing that does something that “other” publishing doesn’t…whatever, just something different. Apparently our nominating committee (that is made up by booksellers from book, record, & comic book shops, as well as reviewers) thought that McSweeney’s fit the bill.

Now, I’m sure you are wondering, “Just how do we attain this esteemed award?” Well, it’s simple: anyone can vote on the finalists. If you’d like I can fax you a ballot to copy and pass out to all of your friends (I’ve attached a Word version here, just so you can see what I’m talking about), or you can come vote online at http://www.thecomicstore.com. Now, get out there and vote, damn you! Vote! (You’ve got until May 5th.)

Each year at the national book seller convention, the Book Expo America, we have a big, stompin’ party, the FAB-Do!, and hand these suckers out. The MC for this year’s fete is Karen Finley. If you’re not going to be in Chicago on Friday June 2nd, you ought to have somebody who will be willing to go before 700 or 800 drunken book-people to accept the award on your behalf… just in case you actually win. You never know… If you’ve any questions, contact me (info. below). Again, congrats!

Paul Harrington, on behalf of the FAB organizing committee

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From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: People like to feed in groups
Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

In the plastic shingle development of my “salad days,” when my nickname was Lettuce Head, the only trees in my neighborhood were sticks hammered into the ground, some of which were made of rusty metal. At the heart of the sprawl lived the Fleers, a family never to be seen without their matching Blublocker sunglasses. The Fleers had two slutty daughters and a trampoline in their yard that my sister and I jumped on compulsively (the trampoline, not the daughters) until our father would climb from his bedroom window each evening and holler our names from the roof. He yelled them into a cordless phone which activated the payphone at the Jiffy Lube on the other side of the Fleers’ barbwire fence. And this prompted a scrawny grease monkey to slither across the oily parking lot and swat the phone off the hook. Then we’d hear the old man screaming, “Grub time!”

People like to feed in groups.

Once when I was jumping alone, an older boy named Scott Chumpy appeared from behind a shrub. He wrenched a stick tree from the earth and patiently stood by while I finished jumping. More than an hour passed and he never got bored, just hungry, I think. At one point while bouncing back and forth from butt to stomach, I saw him munching on the dirty roots. Finally I heard the phone ring and leapt in the direction of home. Scott grabbed me out of the air — he was much older (in graduate school) — and pinned me to the ground. “This one’s for river dog,” he said, cudgeling my face with the sapling, cryptically implying more bloody beatings to come. Then he kissed me and said, “See ya pal.”

Aside from a confederate who accompanies his buddies in their activities, such as a leather robot (you listening GGT?), PAL means: Paradox Application Language.

Naturally my mother strapped on her roller-skates and flew up the hill to have a few “words” with the father, Tony Chumpy. She knocked on the metal door in the crab grass leading to their underground home and Tony stumbled up in a maroon, insulated, puffy down bathrobe with a glass of scotch. He rubbed his hairy chest and grinned, proud, he said, that his son had finally taught that jellyfish namby a lesion. “Do you know what you can do with a lump a gold the size of a matchbox?” he slurred, ice cubes dribbling from his lips, some of which were made of plastic. “You can beat the fucking hell out of it is what. You can pound that lump into a sheet the size of a tennis court.” Naturally my mother was fuming, ready to explode, but Mr. Chumpy had now started his lawnmower and was pointing at his ears, shaking his head as though to say, “Sorry, can’t hear.”

Years later, pleasantly drunk at 4:03 AM on my mattress on the floor, staring at where the walls abruptly bend to make the ceiling, I imagine in silence my generally noisy neighbors, sleeping in their adjacent apartments in preparation for another day of sarcastic abacus work. In my mind’s eye — smoldering beacon that it is — I see them all as Tony Chumpy: Chumpy blasting loud R & B, Chumpy having at it with a nail, two domestic Chumpys in a relationship squall, etc. Sometimes if there’s excessive holiday noise outside, I imagine a whole parade of Chumpys, on their mowers, cooking down Eastern Parkway.

According to my mother, nothing has changed in the prefab hood. The trampoline is gone and the trees have grown into bigger size sticks, but the Fleers are still there, and across the street, scotch in hand, chest hair white, Mr. Chumpy still mows his lawn twice a day, following the old pattern, sweating profusely in the insulated bathrobe, sometimes on his hands and knees well into the night, clipping moonlit weeds that the mower didn’t catch, humming Waltzing Matilda and grumbling about hoof-and-mouth disease.

Speaking of golden circus bears (sorry), the other night a man approached me on 14th Street carrying a plate of enchiladas. He wanted me to help him finish. It was raining and the food was floating on the plate. “Go away crazy man,” I said. But then I decided to dive right in with my face. “Yummy, huh?” the man said, his silver teeth shining behind a big smile. I lifted my face and nodded slowly, cold cheese dripping from my cheeks.

Did I mention that the Fleers had daughters? Both of them whores? Last night I dreamt that I was supposed to check on something with them. When I got to their house, however, I had no idea what. The younger Fleer daughter was just pulling in with her pimp and Mr. Fleer was in the garage working on the birdhouse he was planning to move into. All of them were naked, except for the pimp. He had on a Kangol bowler, a purple tie and a hockey mask. When the front door opened, there was Mrs. Fleer, also in the nude, and the naked elder daughter, riding her mother piggyback. Surrounded by the whole naked family with no idea why, I felt like I was in fact naked. “So how is everyone?” I said, trying to be casual. Mrs. Fleer held out a trembling handful of pulverized peanut brittle. “That is not for you to know,” she said sternly. “Nor is it what you came to ask. Now go jump on the trampoline.” As I started to walk away, she added, “Lettuce Head.”

In my office above Madison Square Garden I can see people jumping on a trampoline on the roof of a building a few blocks north. From this distance it looks as though they are right on the edge of plummeting 25 stories to the ground at the slightest screw up, but maybe it’s me who’s at risk, here behind the Plexiglas. I wonder though, if they did fly over the edge, would they continue trying to do tricks in the air? If so, it would not be very impressive. All they seem capable of doing are splits and 360 spins. Nevertheless, faced with death, maybe they’d get a rush of courage, go for something more daring. What da ya think?

Did you know that there are intelligent people who actually believe that gravity is caused by the spinning of the earth? Truth is, if it weren’t for gravity, we’d spin into space like water off a basketball.

Many people never lose their fear of dying, or if they do, it’s because they’ve lived for so long that they’re ready to die. Men have nipples for a reason.

Yours,

Bryce Newhart

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Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2000
From: David Landreth
Subject: gopher guts followup

Dear McSweeney’s,

Since there has been a plea submitted to your (delightful) site for more details on this playground chant, I’ll gladly unburden myself of the following, which has been imperfectly suppressed by my superego lo these many years:

Great green globs of greasy, grimy gopher guts
Mutilated monkey meat
Fried alligator’s feet
Great green globs of greasy, grimy gopher guts—
And me without my spoon!

What’s most unusual about my knowing this playground rhyme (and may account for the accuracy of its transmission) is that I learned it on no playground, amid the rough-and tumble of competing youthful voices, but from my father during one of his every-other-weekends. In fact, when I tried it out on my classmates the only one who was interested was Andrew Lapham, who had already learned a variant thereof from, I must assume, his father, a magazine editor popularly considered rather lugubrious, on whose character this detail may shed some new light should it not be necessary on McSweeney’s’ part to edit out any reference to such a rival. The other guys were all more interested in the adventures of Oomchuckawele, whom I always assumed was Polynesian but definitely had big testicles, which were the central motif of the many, many verses of that song. This was at a school entirely dedicated to boys (or possibly young gentlemen), so we didn’t have the same opportunities for the sitting-in-a-tree chants that are the hallmark of the coed playgrounds that other contributors have described.

My father also taught me the Marine Hymn; “Up in the Air Junior Birdman”; one ditty that went: Do your ears hang low?
Are they dragging in the snow?
Can you tie ’em in a knot, can you tie ’em in a bow?
Can you throw ’em over your shoulder like a Continental soldier?
Do your ears hang low?

which I realized in my later teens would work much better with “balls” substituted for “ears,” especially since one’s ears already are over one’s shoulders; and a version of the Battle Hymn of the Republic that went: Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He was bombing down the highway in a ’47 Ford
With one hand on the throttle and the other on a bottle
Of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer

before proceeding into the “Glory, glory, hallelujiah, teacher hit me with a ruler” choruses that I imagine most of your readers know. Once I had devoured these morsels of deviance, Dad apparently considered his mission accomplished, as I haven’t seen him since; but if any of y’all run into him, let him know I haven’t forgotten.

Ys. sincerely,
Dave Landreth

- - - -

Date: 20 Apr 00
From: Thomas Gibbon
Subject: Continental persuasion.

Dear McSweeney’s,

For some of us not ending up like Gary Coleman is a full time job. Mostly for Gary Coleman. I prefer to let Gary do it; he’s not very good at it but he’s got a lot of experience (one doesn’t want to have to train someone afresh). I have more important things to do. Like not ending up like me last week. Was that even only last week? Yes. Yes, Tom, it was. What an oaf and fool! Tout le bouffant! Tout le functionnaire!

Every time a certain friend of mine comes down from Boston (a slimy town with slimy legs that crawled the slimy sea) and I take him “out on the town” some woman always ends up dancing topless at the bar. Not the same woman. I wonder: does my friend have magical powers? Or is it because with out of town visitors I end up going to different [better] bars than I usually frequent and, in fact, topless dancing is happening -by the way, these dancers are civilians- in all the undives in New York? If the former: Holy cow. If the latter: Holy cow, this is surely the New Rome; whence the New Goths?

Yours, semicolonically,
T.G. Gibbon

- - - -

Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000
From: Rebecca Petruck
Subject: Lunch truck driver interviews

The New Yorker’s “Money” issue (Apr. 24 & May 1) features a section entitled ‘Day Job’ in which a street vendor of a coffee and doughnut pushcart describes his day. This is suspiciously like your interviews with lunch truck drivers. The street vendor is anonymous and makes some fairly strong statements by the end, leading me to wonder if a) the interview was ‘given’ by an M.R. or b) TNY lifted an idea from your site. Perhaps you should contact Dana Rouse to discuss posting her interview with the vendor on your site.

Rebecca Petruck

- - - -

From: “Timothy McWeeney”
Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

For better or for worse, I had to give that Eskimo bastard a dressing down. It didn’t take long before I was sick of seeing his smug little body strutting around my pet shop in a white tuxedo like a midget trying to look big in Rome. I’m no slave driver, but if three-piece suits are good enough for the other workers at Animals & Stuff, they’re good enough for that furry little Iwok son-of-a-bitch. I guess I should have known that the selfish little fucker would freak on me. First I caught him wearing the tuxedo again when I stopped by the shop on my day off. But then I drove by the store one evening after closing and I saw a light in the window. When I opened the door, there he was with his Eskimo family cooking up a dog. They had built a small barbecue pit and were roasting it on a spit. And I’ll be damned if all of them weren’t wearing tuxedos too. For Christ’s sake, what is it with those people? I know it’s like the Middle Ages up where they’re from — famine, pestilence, snow and what not — but that way of life just don’t excuse dressing up all fancy and slaughtering my animals for a cheap dinner. My God, at least they could act human. Cook the dog in a microwave or something. But no, they had to turn it into a spit roast. So what was I supposed to do? I couldn’t let them get away with that shit. I pulled out my shotgun and I had to get rough. I fired a few warning shots, making them scramble for cover. Then I opened up a few empty cages and told them to get on in there. I almost lost my temper and popped a few. Now I got some new animals for sale for those who want a very special pet. Make no mistake, these crazy little devils are bound to cause small dramas here and there, but as an Eskimo owner, it can be fun just to sit there and watch it all unfold. It keeps things interesting. Plus it’s fun to walk them on leashes, watch them feed on fish, and whip them into shape when they start getting high and mighty, wanting to dress up fancy and what not. Don’t worry about the cost, the cost is negotiable. I just want these asinine creatures away from my shop.

Up to my neck in this business,

Timothy McWeeney

- - - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: The World’s Tallest Man
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s:

The world’s tallest man: 342 pounds.

Yours,

Mike Topp

- - - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: Popcorn Glass
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s:

Popcorn glass isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Regards,

Mike Topp

- - - -

Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000
Subject: D.C. Book Tour event

Dear McSweeney’s—

It warms my heart to see that you’ve taken my advice and scheduled an event in the Washington, D.C., metro area. However, I already have plans that evening, so I will not be able to attend. Probably just as well, as I imagine the dialogue would be something like this:

Me: Hi. I’m Alex Pascover.

[M.R. looks puzzled.]

Me: I write letters to McSweeney’s sometimes. I was involved in that whole Robert Urich thing. Oh, and you put up my lunch truck interview.

M.R.: Yeah, huh?

Me: Well, OK, um nice to meet you.

M.R.: Sure. Uh, did you want me to sign something, or, uh….

Me: Oh, well, I already got the book, so no. It’s at home.

M.R. Yeah, OK. Well, there’s kind of a line….

Me: Sure. See you around.

As you can see, we’ll probably both be happier if I don’t show. Anyway, good luck.

As always,
Your servant,
Alex Pascover

- - - -

From: “Ronald Dawson”
Subject: crack and bowling
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000

This is just a public service announcement for you all: Crack is not funny. It is the scourge of the inner cities. Bowling is not funny. It is something the middle-to-lower-middle classes like to do, I’m told. Yet last night, on a blind date, I made a piercing comment about the state of the current cinema (which could be summarized as “Movies like Scream 3 and Scream 2 and the other Scream are ruining America by imposing on us a painful sense of self-consciousness and reflexivity which makes us incapable of true, honest, uninflected communication.”). This comment was met with two arched eyebrows and an imperious scoff from my date, to whom I was not remotely sexually attracted. (I just thought I’d make that clear right now.) “What are you, on CRACK?” she said, eyebrows still arched, her face contorted into a gruesome mask of haughty incredulity. “No,” I stated plaintively. “I am not on crack, thank God.” Later, she said, by way of describing her ideal birthday party (which is always a good tactic on a date, the realm of birthday-party fantasy, I mean; it brings a wonderful buoyant quality to the conversation, but it didn’t really matter, like I said, this girl emphatically did not float my boat), “I would do something wacky, like BOWLING or something. I get in a wacky mood with my friends and I love to bowl.” Now, here’s where the psychology really becomes subtle, because my next comment—“What the hell is up with you? Bowling is not wacky. Bowling is nothing in and of itself. Didn’t you see Roseanne or that episode of The Simpsons?”—I didn’t say but rather thought glumly as I glared meaninglessly at my ravaged tuna pita. Crack and bowling, crack and bowling. They’re not funny. One is tragic, the other is a rather banal leisure activity. What the hell is up with you? Are you some sort of…? Oh forget it.

My name is Benny Leverbaum. If any of you have any idea of the direction my life should take, write to me at alvinstraight@hotmail.com. Also, rent the film Mumford on VHS or DVD. I did, and I’m not sorry.

Benny Leverbaum
Manhattan, NY

- - - -

Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000
From:
Subject: sometimes

Sometimes when I glance quickly at your website, I believe for an even quicker moment that the black dot denotes Jewish content.

That cracks me up.
Robin Busch

- - - -

From: “Ara Vartanian”
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I would appreciate it if you would stop publishing at such a break-neck pace. Until I get my shit together, I would prefer it, in fact, if really all publications (of the ‘literary" variety) were halted. I would prefer it if no one smiled, no one joked, and no one thought of anything clever to say. I want someone to hit the PAUSE button on the history of ideas. I have been working on the same twenty pages of prose since McSweeney’s Issue 2, and the end is nowhere near. If Issue 5 is out, and I am still on these twenty pages (which, at the current pace, I figure to be), I will be heartbroken.

Please do not break my heart.

Thank you for your time in considering this request.

Yours,

Ara Vartanian

- - - -

From: “Keith Crouse”
Subject: Getting Started
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

It occurs to me that Mr. Joe Polevy might have some trouble getting started with his amazing new book, maybe a case of the Author Lottery Jitters. For instance, he might be thinking, what if I get out there and do these interviews, and one of the radiators blows up while I’m sitting there in the dark, and even though I manage to spirit my little Subject Q (“Cathy”) to safety with only a minor scalding, my writer’s pad is now decimated, sodden, and steaming? Now I have to start all over again! Mr. Polevy, you must stop thinking this way. It’s just holding you back.

But that electric boat book, it practically writes itself.

Praises,

Keith

- - - -

Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000
Subject: Dear McSweeney’s Representative…

M.R.,

I was one of the lonely souls who turned out for the Heartbreaking Work reading in Denver last night. It was to have been the highlight of an otherwise dreary week. (I concede that my love of Might, McSweeney’s, and all things Eggers likely borders on the unhealthy; I sometimes worry that I have become the neurotic, overeducated answer to the Star Trek nerd.)

Anyway. You should know that there were many sad faces at the Tattered Cover, few sadder than I. On my way to the reading, I stopped into the Men’s Wearhouse, where I purchased a bundle of socks — four pairs of fine, gray socks, with terrific ankle support. The socks were brought to the reading in an adorable sky blue “gift bag” stuffed with the softest, whitest tissue imaginable. Try, if you can, to imagine such tissue. Such whiteness. A magical moment was in the works.

Later that evening, I attended a performance of Dangerous Liaisons at the Denver Victorian Theater. I didn’t “buy” Valmont. Also, the blocking was awkward. Finally, Dangerous Liaisons is an incredibly stupid play.

Life is sometimes disappointing.

Matt Williamson
Denver, CO

- - - -

Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 (MDT)
From: Daniel Deweese
Subject: What you missed in Denver

Dearest M.R.:

Oh, you missed a wild fun fancy time in Denver!

As soon as we were informed that you would not/could not be there, we immediately expressed our extreme displeasure by overturning every chair and table in the place! We trashed it! Well…we didn’t exactly overturn every chair and table. But we overturned quite a few, until they restrained us! Well…actually, they didn’t have to restrain us. We didn’t turn over any tables and chairs. We turned TO the tables and chairs. We bought a latte and took a seat. That’s what we did, really. Just…sat down with an espresso drink. And looked at a magazine.

It’s a pretty big bookstore, though, and we browsed the hell out of that place, let me tell you! I, personally, browsed on all three floors! Coffee in hand! And I wasn’t gonna’ let nobody stop me! They don’t tell me what to do! Especially…when I’m looking at books. In their bookstore. They tend to not mind that, really, I guess. They even let you carry your espresso drink around with you. It’s quite nice, I suppose. Nice people there.

But we were outraged, I tell you, about your absence! We drove a full hour to be there, only to find out that apparently modern airplanes can’t fly in rain?! Are they made out of cotton candy?! Do they dissolve in water?! But anyway, after we had browsed Great God’s Whiskers right off of that darn Tattered Cover bookstore (Evan bought three books, two of them markdowns—he always finds the bargains), we proceeded immediately to a martini bar down the street. And this is where you really missed out, McSweeney’s Representative, this is the part of the story where you’ll really get jealous: Evan didn’t bring cash. So he started a tab on his credit card.

Oh, you should have been there! Because not only did we have drinks, but we had…appetizers! That’s right, it was still happy hour (which has apparently bloated to six hours now), and Evan is of that mindset that charges to a credit card are not real money, so we ordered two damn appetizers and two damn drinks, and weren’t nobody there stoppin’ us! Because we were on the town! It took a while to get our appetizers, though. I guess our waitress was pretty busy, what with the six-hour happy hour and all. At one point, I thought she’d forgotten us, but then she walked by and said, “Oh, shit—appetizers. I’ll be right back.” It only took like six or seven minutes after that. Some cheesebread and some chicken wings. They were okay.

The drinks were kind of small. Our table was the only one whose candle wasn’t lit. I don’t know why. The waitress never offered to light it. Pretty busy time. Pretty loud in there. There was a hockey game on the television up by the ceiling, but it was far away and I couldn’t make out the score. The Avs were playing, but it was way up high, and small, that television—not much use.

Then we went home.

Will you come visit us some other time? We like your work very much. You could go out on the town with us. We will put it all on our credit cards. We are wild and crazy wishful book tour attendees. It will be fun.

Sincerely,

Dan DeWeese

- - - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: Amnesia
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s:

I can’t remember the last time I had amnesia.

Sincerely,

Mike Topp

- - - -

Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000
From: Michele Searle
Subject: boyoboyoboy

Dear Timothy:

Hi. I thought you might be happy to hear that my pet tortoise is doing very well now and won’t be requiring that invasive surgery that seemed to loom so. The vet has advised that an ongoing exercise regimen coupled with a good steady diet of the white figs of Argenteuil will help more than any Cedars Sinai department. It seems that his shell has developed some deformity but the vet assures me that this is normal at middle age for tortoises and not to worry. I can’t tell you what a relief this is for me and I know that you were concerned and you know that really helped me, knowing someone, whom I’ve never actually met, cares.

There was much ballyhoo yesterday when my assistant, Judah, discovered some men chipping away at the rocks in a protected area just down the coast. I alerted the authorities but I don’t know whether anything was done about it.

We have hired a nice young man to work in the mailroom. He has quite the wardrobe.

The solarium is in fine shape this year and we are almost ready to open the third set of doors to the central area. I always get excited at this time of year.

You simply must come visit us, Timothy. Judah says we should call you Didymus. That Judah’s a smart one.

All the best Timothy, and thanks for your concern.
Sincerely,
Stephen McIlvenna

- - - -

Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2000
From: Postructuralism
Subject: Our Band Name Gets Misprinted All The Time

Dear Mcsweeney’s,

Our band name gets misprinted all the time. It’s not The Post-Structuralists. It’s not Poe’s Structuralists. It’s not The Pope’s Structuralist. Our band name is Post-Structuralism.

Regards,

The Post-Structuralisms

- - - -

Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2000
From: Scott Matthew Korb
Subject: Another late letter.

Dear McSweeney’s,

I wish I would have gotten around to this sooner. I did not. I doubt you have noticed this, but I have not been good about writing when my letters might be most appropriate. Like this winter, when it was so cold. I should have been more on top of things. Things pile up, though. And I get behind.

I should just say this—better late than never: That thing (you know, that thing about which everyone is so curious, or was so curious, rather, the thing, you know) is a magnifying device. It is a fine drawing of a scientific magnifying device. Put something underneath it and that something looks bigger, honest. Really, honest. I think it is a fine drawing. You should be proud.

Yours, as always, &c.,
Scott M Korb
Manhattan, NY

- - - -

From: Eric Johnson
Subject: Issue #3 Today/The Sky Clouded Up and Now We Expect Rain/Blazers in Playoffs
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000

http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/glimpse/presidents/html/mb8.html
http://www.cubs.com/history/dawson.htm
http://www.dragcity.com/bands/oldham.html

Dear T.M. & Co.,

I already have issue #4.

  1. was new to me.
    my friend in Chicago sent it to me.
    he got it at Quimby’s.
    I love Quimby’s.
    I love that friend.
    both issues are beautiful.
    I write this to thank you for making them.

maybe someday I will send
a mixed tape to you to show how much I care.
it would have some new songs.
the genre of those new songs is called indie rock.
but mostly it would have the old songs.
really it’s the old songs that break my heart.
it would probably have Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors” on it.
Not because it’s the greatest song,
and not that it’s not,
but because I just got an 8 track player
and I found that album of his
on 8 track for 49 cents at the same place
and because for some reason
that song keeps coming up in my life.
maybe the message is that I’m supposed to be
gettin’ some with a tender woman
or something else that I don’t yet know about or
maybe Charlie is long lost to me somehow.
either way he probably would be on it.
anyway, if you come to Portland again,
I promise to buy a round of beers
for most everyone in the entourage.
unless I am unemployed at that time,
in which case I would turn to you and politely ask,
perhaps with my hand resting on your knee,
to buy a drink for me.
don’t worry, I’d ask for something cheap.
like a Pabst Blue Ribbon or a Schlitz
if that particular bar had it.
and if not, I could get something else
or we could leave and go outside,
it’s pretty nice out, a warm coastal breeze,
in fact let’s just take a walk instead of boozin’ it up.
although tonight I’d rather be boozin’ it up,
what with the breakup and all, but alas,
I am broke and your here only for the evening,
so let’s make the best of it.
we should really take care.

(you might not believe it, but I am not nuts).

A sincere and entirely drawn out thanks,
Eric Johnson