From: “Michael Freedman”
Subject: An Open Letter to Mickey Kaus (or Neal Pollack)
Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999
In response to your query from last week, Walter Kirn was, at least at one point, Mormon. I don’t know if he’s Jewish now or not, but I thought you might find that interesting. Perhaps not.
New York City
From: “Cameron Blazer”
Subject: Open Letter Seeks Publication.
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999
You may recall a set of e-mails we exchanged earlier this year in which my boyfriend and I, to my current boundless shame, attempted to garner free McSweeney’s paraphernalia. You probably do not recall. This fills me with even more shame.
And yet. And yet. I come to you once more, this time with base humility and gratitude for services not yet rendered, asking that you give the following letter a worldwide forum.
In closing, I am pleased to report that I received only yesterday, as an early birthday gift, one of the Timothy McSweeney’s Cotton Undergarments I once so pitifully tried to extort from you. I did, as your advertisement said I would, weep at the sight of it.
Los Angeles, CA
[OPEN LETTER OMITTED]
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999
Subject: very “Jumping Jack Flash”
How people meet in this modern age. There is a suitably public space — park, bookstore, coffee shop, mall, national monument, museum, gallery — and they circle, each aware of the other’s presence (after all the meeting was pre-arranged) but not of specifics. One takes a SkyTel two-way pager and with one wary eye always on the crowd walks and at the same time taps out a message on its diminutive key pad. The message floats, shot in a burst up to a relay satellite — a true satellite of love at last, years after Reed’s heyday — and then back down to earth where the signal is made manifest in the warble of a Nokia; there on the phone’s display is truth.
“I am wearing a blue shirt.”
One looks up, phone in hand, and sees the other, blue shirted and with pager still in hand. It is very “Jumping Jack Flash,” very he’s reaching over her shoulder to type on her keyboard because she won’t turn around for fear of what the knowledge of his face and how it moves through three dimensions attached to the rest of his body will do to her, to them.
As the end credits on our branded scene roll, money shots of SkyTel, Nokia logos having been taken care of earlier, the soundtrack segues to Moby (something off “Play”).
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 1999
Subject: not very much in reference to ed skoog
Dearest Timothy or whoever,
So perhaps I’m bitter, and not solely because I was rated quite high on the (large and in-charge) Mr. Eric McHenry’s Zagat Survey of Friends, yet inspired no letters of my own, but because I, as the best friend for whom Eric could ask, have yet to meet Ed Skoog, or for that matter Steve Dubois. Or Kyle. Now, this is not me bitching. That would require much heavier and readily-availible-to-hurl-at-people objects than my keyboard. But I am feeling slightly out of the loop here. And, to be supportive, I would like to reassure the McSweeneys readership that there is a semi-intelligent (read:me) person out there who does not know Ed personally. And who has information about Heather O’Neill’s ass that she will never disclose, even under torturous conditions. And who is the damn best friend anyone could ask for, not a mafia daughter and (as previously NOT aforementioned by one Mr. McHenry) often wears large, strange and disconcerting hats. Three more of which she bought in Europe this month. But I digress.
Really, I think I’m suggesting a picnic. We all get together to meet and greet Ed Skoog (a suggestion I’ve made before, but only to Eric in private, and certainly to no avail). We can have a few laughs, roast a pig (of the homecoming queen variety or otherwise) and throw our not-strange-or-disconcerting Gap brand fisherman caps in the air in pure joy and glee. All the wondrous interconnections of cross-country friendship can be brought into the light, and not seem so hurtful anymore. We can all get along, and more importantly, we can all know Ed. Maybe even in the biblical sense, but you’d have to ask him about that.
Party’s At My House,
Date: Tues, 24 Aug. 1999
From: Neal Pollack
Subject: My Relative Obscurity
I’m sorry I didn’t address Pascal Thorp’s questions sooner, but I’ve been in Mexico soaking up inspiration for a forthcoming piece on Subcomandante Marcos. First, Pascal, I am not dead. That was merely a literary device that I borrowed from Carlos Fuentes and from Billy Wilder, the director of “Sunset Boulevard.” Every time you read “Secrets of the Mystery Jew,” I will live again. I encourage you to read it many times, thus granting me long life.
Now. As for my medical doppleganger, Dr. Pollack, he does exist. It is truly pathetic that he brings up more hits on the Web than I do. This will change, eventually. I have been writing for many years, but unfortunately, most of my stuff has appeared in the Chicago Reader, which refuses to publish its authors’ works on-line. It is sad, to be sure, but we are all just candles in the wind anyway. I also have a Jewish nose and Jewish hair. My suit is not definitively Jewish, but I guess it could be.
Also, you are correct. I am not taller than God.
Thanks to Steve Gottlieb for the gefilte fish recipe. I knew those facts, of course. But like my death, gefilte naivete is another literary device, though more rarely deployed.
Nice to hear from Mickey Kaus, who I met long ago. I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.
I think that before this gets out of hand, I would like to offer my services as an mediator in the burgeoning Carvell – McHenry rivalry.
I do not live in a neutral city, such as Chicago or Austin, but I think residents of both Boston and Los Angeles dislike New York enough to remove any notion of bias. I am also convinced that I am right all of the time, so this should overcome any doubts about my lack of qualifications. It is imperative that Tim and Eric make peace before the entire McSweeney’s community is destroyed in the wake of their enmity.
Possible area of compromise: Tim could admit that Gap clothes are perfectly appropriate casual Friday attire, and Eric can concede that having to worry about “casual Friday attire” is an affliction particular to Gap-wearers.
Always willing to help,
Like most Americans, as the distribution date of McSweeney’s 3 approaches, I find myself committing more and more of each workday to speculation about what its title will be. Here are a few guesses:
Timothy McSweeney’s Millennial Bone-Road
Timothy McSweeney’s Davenport Lap Party
Timothy McSweeney’s Devil Dog or Demon Weasel
Sister Lovers / Timothy McSweeney’s Third
The White Issue
Timothy McSweeney’s Time Out for Teenie Little Tea Leaves
Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot McSweeney’s
Timothy McDonald’s Quarterly Pounder
Timothy McHenry’s Quarterly Concern
Eric McHenry’s Quarterly Concern
Timothy McSweeney’s Roof Is On Fire
The Roof’s Afire Review
The Hudson Review
Timothy McSweeney’s Roof Concern
Timothy McSweeney’s Tall Ship from Sheepshead
Tony “It’s My Life” Montaigne’s
If one or more of these is/are correct, please signal me by posting this letter.
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 1999
From: Tim Carvell
In reference to Eric McHenry’s letter of last week, I’d like to say this:
Bring it on, Gap-boy.
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 1999
From: “T. Faust”
On Sept. 1 my girlfriend and I will be travelling to France for a 10-day vacation. I was considering bringing along a copy of McSweeney’s and taking several photographs of it (alone or in combination with myself and/or my girlfriend) in various locales in Paris, Avignon and the French countryside. Then, the photopgraphs would be sent to the McSweeney’s offices so the entire McSweeney’s staff could enjoy seeing their fine publication in an international setting (other than Iceland, which I’m pretty sure is a U.S. protectorate anyway).
On further reflection, I wonder if this little experiment might be less than thrilling to all involved and just be a waste of film, time and money. Sure, maybe one or two photos would be fun, but wouldn’t this “evidence” quickly grow repetitive and tiresome? If there’s no identifiable French landmark I could be taking the pictures just off the Pulaski skyway for all you’d know. Even a really good photo would probably just get tacked up on a cork board and shortly obscured by a “really good” Dilbert cartoon.
Oh hell. Now that I’ve written this e-mail and lost the element of surprise, the chance of the photo(s) entertaining anyone is probably nil. God I wish you people would get off my freakin back!
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 1999
While at a bookshop recently, I spied a spanish edition of GQ (titled “GQ”) as well as a spanish edition of People (“People”).
Do you plan a spanish edition. You can call it “McSweeneys”
New Orleans, LA
Loved “Secrets of the Mystery Jew,” even though I croak.
Is Walter Kirn really Jewish?
Yesterday I read a great two-part story by renowned Jewish writer Neal Pollack. As with most of Neal Pollack’s work, the story was great. One thing disturbed me though — Neal is dead. This is awful. I will never be able to read another story by Mr. Pollack, unless he continues to release new work after his death like Biggie and Tupac do with new CDs every year. Also that new link at the bottom of McSweeney’s will have to be removed eventually.
I decided to search the Internet for more of Neal’s work. I intended to write a book, “The Collected Work of Neal Pollack”, in which I would capitalize on the death of a great artist. That seemed like the right thing to do at the time, but I had been drinking a lot of coffee. I first tried Altavista. Altavista generally sucks as far as search engines are concerned, but in this case it was not good. The first link was to the homepage of Neal H. Pollack, D.O. The next seventy links were to a bulletin board in which users discussed the complexities of running the Solaris operating system on Intel based computers. I thought there must be a guy named Neal, or Pollack asking a lot of questions about Solaris, or maybe there was an Irish guy who kept saying bollocks. If this was the case his name was probably Sean, and Altavista was getting confused, because Neal is Sean spelled backwards, if you replace the “l” with a “s” and also you would have to switch the “e” and the “a” around. In any case I figured this guy was pretty annoying because he posted seventy messages to a bulletin board.
My next stop was Excite. Suprisingly, the first link was to McSweeney’s.
I didn’t click on it, but I thought it must generate thousands of hits daily from people searching the Internet with the keywords “Neal Pollack”. The next link was to the homepage of Neal H. Pollack, O.D. It had to be a sign, so this time I clicked on it.
The man in the black and white picture of Neal H. Pollack, D.O. had very Jewish features. A Jewish nose, Jewish hair, and a Jewish suit. At first I took this to be a coincidence, but I realized Neal Pollack is not actually a great writer, but instead a Board Certified Neurologist working for the Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center of Milwaukee. His personal bio contained very interesting information, including Neal’s special interests: back, neck and head pain. I pictured Neal yelling at people “watch out or I’ll break your neck!” and “I’ll break your head!” This was also probably a reference to his Mafia connections, or maybe he was a freelance hitman or one of those guys who beats of people in bars on the weekend. For a second I thought he might be God, but I remembered God is much taller.
I never found anymore stories by Mr. Pollack, and frankly I was disappointed with Neal by now. He was not really a great Jewish writer after all, but just an unsuccessful doctor working at a half-assed clinic in Milwaukee. I imagine Mr. Pollack was an aspiring writer, or maybe I can’t distinguish between good and bad writing, because neurologists aren’t particularly known for their literary skills or good handwriting or the ability to make sentences of words and vice versa.
We’d like to run your letter. Where do you live and what is your real name?
I live in Austin, TX, and my real name is Pascal Thorp.
From: “Henderson, Brian”
Subject: RE: Mike Topp’s “Greek Lineup”
Date: Fri, 20 Aug 1999
If I were manager of the Greeks, I think that I would play Pythagoras at first base, actually, instead of shortstop. That way he could engineer the apt yet elusive 3-4-5 double play.
From: “Andrew Wozniak”
Subject: The gift.
Date: Sat, 21 Aug 1999
I was having some fun surfing for my family(s) names and bounced into yours. My grandfather McSweeney was the Publishing Industry Association’s Man of the Year twice with an office on Madison Avenue, and his father was the Editor of the Boston Globe and a worker’s rights activist in Boston (in the late 19th century). Empiricist vs. Nativist, you’ve proven I am the former.
Thank you for the entertainment.
Drew Wozniak (wish I had the McSweeney Name, we were very close)
Date: Fri, 20 Aug 1999
Subject: gefilte fish
From: “Steve Gottlieb”
May I wish the McSweeney’s rep and Mr. Pollack a hearty mazel tov on the Mystery Jew piece. Educational, informational ‹ in other words, it was pure infotainment. If I may, I’d like to address the topic of gefilte fish. Gefilte fish is a combination of chopped-up carp, whitefish(?) and several (unknown to me) fillers. They are usually formed into long plumped egg-like shapes. Sometimes they are formed into a giant loaf (I have never seem patties). The loaf is then sliced and eaten. Gefilte fish is served cold. Once at a passover dinner an effort was made to encourage my Catholic-born girlfriend to partake of gefilte fish. They tried to compare it to sushi. I guess that is true, but only if the sushi you like is actually ground-up cheap fish that is then formed into large fishballs, cooked, chilled and served with prepared horseradish, stewed carrots and onions.
PS: Once I saw Sammy Davis, Jr. when I was very young.
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999
Have you noticed that Eric McHenry and J. Robert Lennon seem to have the same friends? I have. Perhaps Ed Skoog, Kyle Leiker and Steve DuBois are just very common names for people who are friends with each other, but I doubt it.
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1999
Subject: McHenry’s “Friends”
I’d like to officially thank Jonathan Goldstein for defending my ass. Well, not necessarily my ass, but all Heather O’Neill bottoms. We appreciate the support.
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1999
From: J Lennon
Subject: Mysteries Solved
Dear McS Rep: I’d like to clear up a few things here. First of all, all those Ed Skoogs—the New Orleans hillbilly, the K-State student body president, my friend—are all the same man. Second, I am not a grad student at Cornell, but last year I taught composition for a couple of semesters, which is how Craig Keller got hold of my misrouted mail. In fact, because of the troubles that led my mail to Craig, I was fined fourteen dollars for failing to return a short-term loan book to Cornell’s Olin Library, which fine I managed to sweet-talk the circulation desk out of charging me, thank goodness.
But what McSweeney’s readers’ research has failed to unearth is the fact that Ed and I are, in fact, ALSO the same man: or, more specifically, conjoined twins. This made his move to Louisiana very painful for us both. Also, he is so much taller than I, and we only have two or three outfits we can comfortably wear.
I’ve been wanting to talk about this but it’s so hard to find someone to trust. Thank goodness for the internet: technology really has brought mankind into greater harmony.
Also, if you happen to have A-positive blood and are of Italian, Irish or Swedish descent, and you can spare one and a half of your lungs, please contact Ed or me or our medical team.
J. Robert Lennon
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1999
Subject: Open Letter to Tim Carvell
Those interested in learning more about Ed Skoog should read his poem, “Autobiographical,” which appeared in a recent issue of Slate and is surely still in the magazine’s archives. Those interested in having their computers speak to them in the voice of Ed Skoog should, having located the poem, click on the appropriate audio icon. Regarding Kevin Guilfoile’s informative letter, no, I’ve never been bothered by the fact that Ed has a friend named Eric Henry, although I do find it slightly unsettling that he has a friend named John Lennon. And as for you, Tim Carvell, let me just say that if I see one more disparaging word about The Gap, I will seriously consider starting a bitter East Coast/West Coast rivalry with your ass, a rivalry that will not end until one of us, or both of us, move(s).
From: “Gary Thorn”
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 99
Subject: Neal Pollack
Neal Pollack is a genius. Please give him anything he wants to ensure his continued contributions to your fine publication.
From: “Gavin Bruce”
Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999
I read with amusement the exchange about towns with names like “scrotum,” and also I know Ed Skoog, too, having attended Topeka High School, Home of the Trojans. It seems, however, that your readers have overlooked several other places in America with names which sound a bit like body parts. There is, for example, a Urethra, Michigan. Don’t forget Melanoma Valley, California; Beloit College’s Hippo Campus; and Surgical Scar, New Mexico.
formerly of Topeka
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 1999
Subject: To clarify:
From: “America’s Sweetheart, Matt Fritchman”
Getting stung by a wasp = not funny.
Getting stung by the same wasp twice = funny (if impossible).
Getting stung by two wasps back-to-back = not funny.
Getting stung by a swarm of wasps = not funny.
Getting stung by a swarm of wasps after falling into a garbage can that contains a wasps’ nest = funny.
Getting stung by a swarm of wasps after getting one’s foot lodged into, say, a milk pail or paint bucket, which causes one to loose their balance and fall into or otherwise collide with a wasps’ nest while one’s foot is lodged in said milk pail or paint bucket = funny.
Getting bitten by a Brown Recluse Spider = not funny.
Ninjas, robots, monkeys = funny.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter,
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 1999
From: Misha Glouberman
Subject: Support your country and the arts!
America has two great loves: that of palindromes, and that of her presidents. It is for this reason that I have begun work on a project that I believe will be of interest to you. My intention is to compose a series of forty-two palindromes, each involving the name of one of this great republic’s chief executives.
I have several palindromes already finished or underway. As a proof of concept, here are two completed examples. Note that these are intended only to entice, and represent but a fraction of the work already done:1. Taft? Fat. 2. Smadam, I’m Adams.
As you can see, work on the project has thus far been going very well. However, in order to continue, I shall require funding in the form of a small stipend to pay my living expenses while I focus my full attention on this task. Given my success thus far, I am confident that, with the proper resources, I could complete the project before July 4, 2000.
Please get in touch so that we may discuss this matter further. I can be reached by telephone at the number below. Please do not call after 10:00 pm weeknights (11:00 pm, Fri, Sat)
In ref. to Eric McHenry’s “Friends” piece: I know a Heather O’Neill and she has a wonderful ass, full of personality.
Frankly, Ed Skoog could go to hell for all I care. He’s the Gap of friends, the Starbucks of McSweeney’s-readers’ acquaintances, and if I never read his name again, it wouldn’t be a moment too soon.
From: “kevin guilfoile”
Date: Tue, 10 Aug 1999
Subject: ed skoog
I was reading Eric McHenry’s recent piece titled “The 1999 Zagat Survey of My Friends” and when I came to the entry on Ed Skoog (“He can seem inscrutable, but only because he’s nuts… I highly recommend Ed.”), I felt a synapse fire. I’d heard this name before, but where? In a short time I found, buried deep in your newly christened Letters to McSweeney’s, this note from J. Robert Lennon of Ithaca, New York:
“I’d like to add to Christina Dixcy’s letter about Scrotum-like town names. There is a Scotrun in northeastern Pennsylvania, between my parents’ house in New Jersey and my own home in central New York, the exit sign for which my wife and son and I often pass in our car. While driving this route one day with our friend Ed Skoog, we discussed the similarity of this town name to the word “scrotum…”
Could this be the same Ed Skoog, friend to both Eric McHenry and J. Robert Lennon? I received my answer almost immediately, as Lennon closes his note with the observation:
“He is the only Ed Skoog in America, we think.”
I decided to test that hypothesis and headed directly for a nearby search engine, which pointed me, inexplicably, to a site devoted to New Orleans Hillbilly Music (http://mojono.com/mm/gigs.html).
However, a revised search directed me to an archived issue of a Kansas State University publication and a 1995 essay written by a former K-State Student Body President, named, of course, Ed Skoog (http://www.spub.ksu.edu/ISSUES/ v099B/SU/Preview/pre-column-skoog.html).
In the piece, Ed offers nuggets of advice accumulated over 23 years as a person and one year as Student Body President. On many topics, he offers good counsel: like reading Saul Bellow and not wearing ties and disliking Pat Robertson. There is a hard-to-follow tangent about pigs becoming homecoming queens – hard to follow because I’m not entirely sure if by “pigs” he means actual pigs or ugly women or even police officers – but based on the high personal ratings given him by Messrs. McHenry and Lennon, I can only assume he intended the remark as a bit of self-deprecating absurdity, and not a frat house rant about fat chicks..
The most interesting part of the essay, however, comes toward the end:
“My one good piece of advice on how to spend one’s time came to me from the pages of the Collegian my freshman year. A column from the inestimable Eric Henry, who later became, along with the great Dave Frese, my vice president. His column was about the Winfield bluegrass festival the third week of September, and how it is a good idea to skip class for a week and go down there. It was good advice, and I pass it on to you. I’m a teacher now, and I still skip class to fly down to Winfield, Kan. See you there.”
Could the “inestimable” Eric Henry, friend of Ed Skoog, be the same person as Eric McHenry, friend of the “inscrutable” Ed Skoog? J. Robert Lennon has already established that the Ed Skoogs must be the same. If the Erics are different, do you think Eric McHenry knows that Ed Skoog also has a friend named Eric Henry, and if he does not know, do you think knowledge of this coincidence would alter his opinion of Ed?
None of this has to do with my point, however, which is this. When I woke up this morning, I knew little about New Orleans Hillbilly Music and even less about Ed Skoog. Over the course of the day, I have grown fond of both. But in the last month, your web site has published at least two rave reviews of Mr. Skoog’s qualities as a friend. So high has the recent praise been for Mr. Skoog (and deservedly so, in my opinion), that I fear an Ed Skoog backlash, similar to that which has haunted the much-hyped Blair Witch Project and also Kurt Anderson’s novel Turn of the Century, which I haven’t read. For the sake of all of us: actual friends of Ed Skoog, humble admirers of Ed Skoog, and of course, for the man himself, please show some restraint in your future Ed Skoog coverage.
From: “Bill Lammey”
Date: Tue, 10 Aug 1999
Having been an avid reader of the fantasy genre since before I was born, I have recently experienced a bleed-over into real life. It manifests mostly in the people around me, who I have come to believe are not all human. My wife, for instance, is clearly an elf. Tall, willowy, with wide, tear-drop shaped eyes, I am constantly monitoring her ears for emerging points. I always suspected I’d marry and elf, but have dated pixies and even the odd goblin in the past.
The receptionist at my current job is a dwarf. The lady down the hall near shipping is a withered old gnome. She gets a ride every morning from the two goblins who drive the Jeep Cherokee. They’re married, but their son is a human. I wonder if he knows he’s adopted.
My niece is every bit the half-breed you’d expect to be born of an elf and gnome marriage. She is lucky in that she looks more like the elf.
The distribution of species in my circle of acquaintances works out to be:
Of the lot, the humans are generally boring or overly humorous, the pixies mostly silly, and the dwarves inscrutable. The elves are elegant and moody, the gnomes standoffish and the goblins cheerful.
From: Douglas Wolk
Date: Tue, 10 Aug 1999
Subject: a dream
I dreamed this morning that McSweeney’s had been contracted to produce a special anniversary issue of the Wall Street Journal. In my dream, I saw this special issue at a newsstand, and bought it immediately. There was one article in particular that I wanted to read, but the editors had evidently thought it was poorly written, and had edited the entire article down to a single line—a string of abbreviations.
To: T. McSweeney
Date: July 15, 1999
From: Peter O’Reilly
Subject: Animal Rights Activists
Today, while negotiating a series of high speed hairpin turns through the slack-jawed proletariat lollygagging their way around the moronic inferno that is mid-summer Rockefeller Center (just tell me if I’m getting verbose), I was stopped in my tracks by the most radiant woman. She was holding up a sign with a picture of a mauled cat, and screaming “ANIMAL RIGHTS” every few seconds. She had no information, no flyers, no petitions to sign; though I would have joined the circus if this fine filly was recruiting. I stood face to face with her, beaming.
“Mind getting out of my face, [explitive deleted]?”
Now, whatever reservations I may have had leading into this incident were immedately quelled; not since Blue Velvet have I heard [expletive deleted] used as a noun, let alone a proper name! I’m in love.
“I’m not in your face.”
“ANIMAL RIGHTS!” she screams, as if I’m not even there, as if I’m invisible.
“Ever read The Sun Also Rises?”
“Hemingway was impotent.”
“So, you’re a fan.”
“[same expletive deleted; this time as an adjective] OFF!”
She swung hard, but being the shaved alley cat that I am, I managed to dodge her blow with ease, like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. I grabbed her flailing fists and blocked repeated attempts to knee me in the privates.
Luckily, one of Giuliani’s finest strolled along (always there when you need one in this fine city) and broke it up.
“What the hell is going on here?” Officer Timmy O’Houlihan inquired.
“I was simply walking down the street and this deranged woman accosted me unprovoked. Something about animal rights.” The cop’s steeley eyes narrowed, taking in the whole situation. Then he pulled out his cuffs.
“That’s it, lady. This is the last straw; you’re coming with me.”
“But, but,” she said, but it was no use. Officer Timmy O’Houlihan always gets his man.
I congratulated the officer on his urbane deportment and headed on to a group of Jews for Jesus splitting up flyers for distribution in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I slipped one the secret Jews for Jesus handshake. They were legit.
“Tell me, brother,” I said, “did you know Jesus was a Jew?”
“Good,” I said, and I grabbed some flyers. “Phil, you take Spanish Harlem and the Upper West Side. Harv, you’ve got Tribeca, the West Village, SoHo, NoHo and OnHo. Maurice, you take the East Village and Nolita, wherever the hell that is. I got Midtown. We meet back here at four. If I’m not back by then, call headquarters.”
“Headquarters?” Maurice enquired
“Great Jesus; this isn’t some kind of game, man. Headquarters. Call headquarters if I’m not back in an hour. Jesus, Phil, where the hell did you get this guy?” Phil rolled his eyes in that endearing way of his and I smiled at him as though Jews for Jesus were a very special secret between the two of us (kind of like bullfighting between Jake Barnes and Montoya in The Sun Also Rises); a rather shocking but really very real deep secret that we knew about. I always smiled as though there were something lewd about the secret to outsiders, but that it was something that we understood. It would not do to expose it to people who would not understand. It was clear that this rookie didn’t get it, but, hey, judge not, lest ye be judged…
So we huddled up and did the 1-2-3 break and we were off, but, alas, lunch time was over, and it was back to work for yours truly, just like every other Joe and Tammy Punchclock in this crazy city; pacing the cage; pacing the cage; pacing the cage; pacing the cage.
The point, by the way, is that if you’re going to try and woo the butch animal rights activist, don’t try and break the ice with bullfighting.
I hope this clarifies
From: Craig Keller
Date: Thu, 5 Aug 1999
Subject: This is a letter intended for printing.
Dear McSweeneys —
You can’t really be aware of how
much like a chat-room your letters page is! What do i find when reading the most recent one, but two letters from people who i knew who were affiliated in the past year or two with my alma mater Cornell! Hot fucking damn! And both of them had something to add about the same topic (scrotum-like town names), and i too have had an observation on the topic! Let me waste no haste in bringing you all in to what has become — up to this point — my own private delight.
Christina Dixcy, i think, is THOMAS Dixcy’s sister. She doesn’t know me, but i met her once for a few brief moments because i knew her brother because he lived in my friend’s house on Seneca Street for a month, and when he moved in he installed an air-conditioner in the room. Crazy, or what? Like, that’s the degree to which he needed “quality of living.” Also, in the room, he had rigged up an 18" RGB monitor specifically for playing PlayStation games
- and you -know there had to be enthusiasm behind that, because what a hassle it must have been to do! So anyway, one night my friend and i come in, pissed to the gills from a night “on the tiles,” and he invites us in to his room to watch Space Ghost. Far from the seduction scene you’re all by now imagining, Thomas simply wanted to offer us a taste from some madcap wheat-germ / blueberry shake he had whipped up. And despite what you might think, it was da veritable bomb! Thomas’s girlfriend Betsy had her own personalised concoction, but Betsy’s shake — and Betsy herself — are two different stories altogether. Continuing: so, Thomas feeds us this shake and then says, “I want you to try something — it’s really good.” He reaches into his freezer and pulls out a bottle of Samuel Adams Triple Bock. Now, this is the stuff that goes for $9 a pop, comes in a label-less cobalt blue bottle, and has Sam Adams’s “signature” embossed in gold on the side. Both my friend and i took a sip, and nearly threw up — it turns out Triple Bock tastes like a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, and beets! Fuck THAT!
The other person who i know is J. Lennon, who wrote from Ithaca. I believe he’s a grad student. I know of him because i used to work in the English Department, and sometimes when i had to sort mail, i would get an envelope with his name on it, and i’d have to look up what department he was in, because it had been misrouted — while i can’t remember what department he was in, i know for sure it wasn’t the English Department.
But how great that these people whom i marginally know have made the same observations! I’m giddy right now — so much so i’m eating marshmallows as i type this — and i’d like to share my own observation:
I’m originally from around Scranton, PA, and people often say: “Scranton? Scrotum.” Another good thing to say, that i’ve come up with, though i now know i may not be alone in doing, is that you can say: “Scranton? Scantron.” After the computerised system used for grading standardised tests.
Hail hail to thee — all!,
Fort Lee, NJ
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999
From: Demian Parker
I am sorry. It was a misunderstanding.
Wrong Glasgow Phillips.
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999
From: Demian Parker
Subject: more later
I have important news regarding your friend Glasgow Phillips, late of Marin County California. I will send it along after the lawyers have had a chance to look it over.
I must say that the idea of a “Mark O’Donnell Week” is simply sensational. Although my dad has the same name — which is cool also. However it should be Mark O’Donnell Week for ALL Mark O’Donnells because all Mark O’Donnells deserve just as much as the one the holiday was named after — just because they did not make it as big as the main M. O’Donnell
Animal sex stories involving my grandmother, Part 1
by Jamie Humphrey
My grandmother on my mother’s side, the one who used to chase me around her house with scissors threatening to cut out my tongue because I called her ‘Granny’, has a patio just off her living room with a sliding glass door. She likes to leave the curtains open so she can watch the birds.
One day there was a huge grasshopper clinging to the outside screen. I got closer and saw it was actually two grasshoppers, twisted around each other, shaking. Grandma and I watched in unashamed fascination. Eventually all the shaking made them fall to the sidewalk. Then grandma’s cat Smokey sauntered over and ate them.
Grandma said, “Well. They had their fun and now they’re gone.”
This incident + parochial school = no sex until many years later.
Which McSweeney is your favorite? I like Rebecca.
I recently purchased a copy (two actually, just in case) of the first edition of your lovely journal. While reading it on the 4 train this morning, I noticed something in the letter from Don in Arizona (world’s worst cities if they are named after local landmarks). Of course there is no “Scrotum, Connecticut.” BUT there is a “Scotsrun” (maybe spelled with two ’t’s ?) in either CT or NY (it’s a town i’d pass on the way to school, in NY, from my parents’ house, in CT). INVARIABLY when passing the interstate exit sign advertising the town, one reads the name of said town as “Scrotum.” This was first noted by an ex-boyfriend & it has held true over the years.
When I first read the letter, I thought Don had made the same mistake. I read further & learned it was fiction. But what a fortunate coincidence!
I have nothing of wit to say at this moment, but was honored to see that the city of my upbringing and its inherent moped problems have gained your attention.
What happened was this. The printer (dot matrix, not daisy-wheel) gets jammed and then I have to send away to Indo-fucking-nesia for a new ink cartridge, only it turns out they no longer make ink cartridges at the place I have to call, they like only make fly-wheel casters (for fly-fishermen I guess – have you ever gone fly-fishing? fucking waste of time) and when I ask for the customer service representative, they put me into some voicemail chamber of horrors that keeps kicking me into and out of something that I later learn is called subroutine Zelda, in which muzakked versions of recent rap and hip-hop tracks play backwards, giving the listener (me) the distinct impression that he is sussing into some undiscovered Pink Floyd tunes recorded around the time that Syd Barrett went totally ape-shit nuts. And so but I finally talk with some guy in (get this) Madagascar, which is apparently where they take care of most of the customer service complaints in the world (look it up – IBM, Microsoft, Nike – they all have banks and banks of customer-service phones run entirely by prisoners in and around Antananarivo) and so this guy tells me that while they no longer support printers of the type I own, they do offer a service whereby a guy will come over to my house and rip out any and all jammed pieces of paper, will rebuild the ink cartridge by hand (presumably using time-honored methods known only to Antananarivians and their ancestors, or was it the Malagasy? who the fuck knows…), and will make me a traditional home-style meal (as you can probably guess, I have no idea what tradition that might turn out to be at this point). So I agree. And this guy (turn out to be Norse – who knew?) shows up at my house like FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER with a bunch of tools that I’m pretty sure are for leatherworking, but OK, he’s gonna fix my printer and so I go to watch the Lakers game in the living room and pretty soon I smell smoke (and not the kind you’re thinking). So I jump the fuck back there and the guy is nowhere to be found, and my bed is on fire, and my printer has been taken and replaced by an elaborate cardboard cutout of a printer, done in really detailed trompe l’oeil style s.t. I can’t even tell it’s gone except that it changed model numbers from HP 870C to HP 870Cse. And so then I’m down a printer and the Lakers lose and I find in the smoldering wreck that was once my bed a bizarro burnt offering that looks like the skull of a lemur or something (native only to Madagascar, if memory serves) and at this point I decide it might be better to scrap the entire letter I had already written (35 pages in verse) and start again on my computer at work. So I hope you aren’t offended. The proverbial plums of literary procrastination, which I know you wanted to eat yourself, were delicious.
I’d like to add to Christina Dixcy’s letter about Scrotum-like town names. There is a Scotrun in northeastern Pennsylvania, between my parents’ house in New Jersey and my own home in central New York, the exit sign for which my wife and son and I often pass in our car. While driving this route one day with our friend Ed Skoog, we discussed the similarity of this town name to the word “scrotum,” and Ed shared the following facts: that 1) there was a town near his home town in Kansas called Seaman (I may be wrong on the spelling here), and 2) Ed’s high school’s athletic team name was the Trojans. According to Ed, the local newspaper made good use of the coincidence, indulging in headlines like “TROJANS BLOCK SEAMAN” and “SEAMAN PENETRATES TROJAN DEFENSE.”
If you doubt me, ask Ed. He is the only Ed Skoog in America, we think.
J. Robert Lennon
Ithaca, New York