Date: Wed, 03 May 2000
Subject: Earning a Trip to Italy

Dear McSweeney’s,

In his message dated Sun, 23 Apr 2000, Demian Parker writes (body of message snipped)

Waitress: Would you like some more wine? Woman: Yes. I have to earn my trip to Italy tonight.

and asked for discussion, or explanation of the woman’s statement. It is my thought, since the kind of wine she was drinking was not specified, that the woman was participating in a promotional campaign put on by The Italian Wine Council:

Win an all expenses paid trip to Italy for drinking X bottles of our fine Vino!

(where X is a very large integer) and that very night was the deadline for racking up the points, bottles wise. Of course all this becomes moot if the wine was French or a perky little Californian…


Bridget Hamilton
(Who doesn’t know a thing about wine but would enjoy a nice trip to Italy)

- - -

Date: Wed, 3 May 2000
Subject: Mr. Glaxo Wellcome

Dear McSweeney’s,

Sigh. In response to your accusations, Mr. Glaxo Wellcome, if that is in fact your real name, which I don’t think it is, because it’s, well, lame-o, I have this to say:

1. My name is P-a-s-t-o-r-e-k. I am not now nor have I ever been related to anyone named Boris. Please make a note of this.

2. I’m curious as to what “shortcomings” you refer to. While not wishing to become hostile, I will make the point that it’s all well and good to sit in your little corner and judge me but until you get out on the field, pull up your skirt, and play the game, I can’t respect you.

3. “Rawr!” yourself.

4. Let’s review: an “ellipse,” or a series of dots […] in the midst of song lyrics or poetry is generally used to denote the absence of several silly verses involving chickens and coat collars that have no bearing on the point being made. So if you’d be so kind as to go back and compare my version against your own painstakingly correct one, you’ll find that I did not, in fact, misquote Mr. Jackson.

5. Following is a list of products purportedly manufactured by yourself, Mr. Glaxo Wellcome, or others like you. I have starred some that I think you may find of use. [note: Prescription medications should not be used except under the advice of a health care professional.] Anesthesia
Anectine® (succinylcholine chloride)

Agenerase™ (amprenavir)
Combivir® (lamivudine/zidovudine tablets) Tablets
Epivir® (lamivudine, or 3TC)
Epivir® HBV™ (lamivudine)
*Relenza® (zanamivir for inhalation)
Retrovir® (zidovudine, or AZT)
Valtrex® (valacyclovir hydrochloride)
*Ziagen™ (abacavir sulfate)
Zovirax® (acyclovir)

Lanoxin® (digoxin) Elixir Pediatric
*Lanoxin® (digoxin) Injection
*Lanoxin® (digoxin) Injection Pediatric
Lanoxin® (digoxin) Tablets, USP
Lanoxicaps® (digoxin solution in capsules)

Central Nervous System
Amerge® (naratriptan hydrochloride)
*Imitrex® (sumatriptan succinate) Injection
Imitrex® (sumatriptan) Nasal Spray
Imitrex® (sumatriptan succinate) Tablets
Lamictal® (lamotrigine)
Wellbutrin SR® (bupropion hydrochloride)
*Zyban® (bupropion hydrochloride)

Aclovate® (alclometasone dipropionate)
Cutivate® (fluticasone propionate)
*Emgel® (erythromycin)
Oxistat® (oxiconazole nitrate)
Temovate® (clobetasol propionate)
T.R.U.E. Test® (Thin-layer Rapid Use Epicutaneous Test)

Epivir® HBV™ (lamivudine)
Lotronex™ (alosetron hydrochloride)
Zantac® (ranitidine hydrochloride)

*Alkeran® (melphalan)
Leukeran® (chlorambucil)
Navelbine® (vinorelbine tartrate)
Zofran® (ondansetron hydrochloride)

Beclovent® (beclomethasone dipropionate, USP)
Beconase AQ® (beclomethasone dipropionate monohydrate)
Exosurf Neonatal® (colfosceril palmitate, cetyl alcohol, tyloxapol)
Flonase® (fluticasone propionate)
Flovent® (fluticasone propionate) Inhalation Aerosol
*Flovent® ROTADISK® (fluticasone propionate inhalation powder)
*Serevent® DISKUS® (salmeterol xinafoate inhalation powder)
Serevent® (salmeterol xinafoate) Inhalation Aerosol
Ventolin® (albuterol, USP)

Systemic Antibiotics
Ceftin® (cefuroxime axetil tablets) Tablets
Ceptaz® (ceftazidime for injection)
Daraprim® (pyrimethamine)
*Fortaz® (ceftazidime for injection)
Zinacef® (cefuroxime for injection)

Good luck with everything,

thanks so much,

whitney pastorek

- - -

From: “Timothy McWeeney”
Subject: A quickie missive from the mrs.
Date: Wed, 03 May 2000 GMT

Dear McSweeney’s,

You may think my husband is always out adventuring with a blowtorch and his pants on fire, marching into fancy bars and restaurants with a nervous backpack of arrogant highbrow rodents, but the truth is this. Usually he is right over there by the Pong table. I been in this lounge chair for months waiting for the lazy bastard to drift over to this part of the brothel and apply his balm to my raw flesh. And I ain’t talkin’ candle wax! I don’t even know what it would take to make me squirm no more. All I know is that I need that twisted horse face to squeeze it, rub it, kiss it, bite it, do a couple flips inside it, and perform that silly hop back and forth from one foot to the other while jumping up and down at the same time. Anything to show me that he’s basically a nice guy. One of those funny mechanical type guys. The kind with names like Billy. Anything to end these endless hours of sipping on stale coffee while my feet dance in fuzzy slippers on the linoleum floor and occasionally mount each other like rabbits.

I know most men were born on the back of a baby donkey covered in vomit and calamine lotion (the men, not the precious donkeys), but I thought that old Tim was a different sort. Thought I had me a Mexican steed from south of the border. Something small, brown, and more or less robotic. Something like a hobbyhorse on springs or a horny stud with mysterious red sores on his armpits. The type who comes home from a long business trip and knows how to make a woman feel guilty for neglecting the artificial plants. But it just ain’t true of old horse face. So I suppose I’ll be leaving the son-of-a-bitch. But not before a final sperm looting on the raw frontier of his hairy monkey satchel. Not before I use the Pong net to pin him like a circus freak and embed his measly excuse for a Civil War hero deep into the folds of my love wound. Only then will I be ready to slip into another world. One that is cute and lucky and far from this place. A region where spit smells like perfume and instantly turns into a fine gold vapor. Reno perhaps, or Milwaukee. Shit, better not let him catch me on his terminal though. He might get gamesome with the weed wacker again.

See ya,

Mrs. T. McWeeney

- - -

Date: Wed, 03 May 2000
Subject: playground chants revisited
From: paul rinkes

Dear McSweeney’s,

Re: all those childhood chants mentioned lately … we had one:

“You suck.”

Of course, I went to public schools. Oh well.

Paul Rinkes

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: This week in the news
Date: Wed, 3 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Britons are being exposed to lots of photos of unclothed posteriors and encouraged to talk dirty to overcome their natural reticence about bowel cancer, the deadliest form of disease in Britain. “We want to encourage people to be rude by discussing their bottoms, problems they have with their poo, and how often they go to the loo,” a spokesperson said. Londoners responded by mixing half a ton of custard powder with water in six cement mixer trucks inside the Millenium Dome. 3,312 custard pies were thrown in three minutes. “Our time as young hellraisers with no responsibilities is over,” said Oasis guitarist and ex-British pop bad boy Noel Gallagher. “I do bottle feeds but I am not the best at changing nappies.”

In Washington a fossil snake with legs was discovered gathering dust in a drawer. The snake’s legs aren’t really much to brag about, but like modern pythons which have a rudimentary claw of bone-tipped cartilage, the legs might have been useful for mating and fighting. “At last! Proof of Satan!” said the museum director.

More news to come,

Bryce Newhart

- - -

Date: Wed, 3 May 2000
Subject: Pre-occupied

Dear McSweeney’s,

There are two kinds of women in this world, those that spend their lives planning their weddings. And those that spend their lives planning their funerals.

I’d like to be cremated and spread over the beach in Pajaro Dunes, California.


Justine Hermitage

- - -

Date: Wed, 3 May 2000
Subject: Basta Cantada

Dear McSweeney’s,

The madness must end. We all remember certain songs, be it a school yard rhyme or a jingle from a commercial. But do we really need to relive all of those songs on your letters page?

I think not.

Thank you,

Justine Hermitage

- - -

Date: Wed, 3 May 2000
Subject: Sex Sells

Dear McSweeney’s,

You stuck your chocolate in my peanut butter.

You stuck your peanut butter in my chocolate.

All the best,

Justine Hermitage

- - -

Date: Wed, 3 May 2000
Subject: graves

Dear McSweeney’s,

i also visited the grave of jim morrison. i also got lost in that cemetery. however, while wandering past rows and rows of graves and statues, i looked down one row to see a man jerking off on a grave. he waved at us. we shrieked and ran up the hill. i thought of the movie “i spit on your grave”. speaking of graves, my parents have a dead skunk rotting under the cement porch of their home. the smell has permeated the house completely and you can taste it in the back of your throat. it will cost about $475 to extract it. my dad said “just get it the fuck out of here.” my mom said “why do these sorts of things keep happening to us?” i said “it smells a lot like lemon juice.”

kelly king

- - -

Date: Thu, 04 May 2000
From: Beau Teague
Subject: Regarding “Demian Parker” and Her/His Letter

Dear McSweeney’s,

I am of the opinion that a sixth option may apply to the situation of the woman and the wine order. Miles. By purchasing more wine, she potentially adds the proper number of credits/miles to her airline-sponsored credit card. This proper number of miles allows her to finally “earn [her] trip to Italy.”


- - -

From: “Andrei Sinioukov”
Subject: To: Williams, Sarah. Analyst
Date: Thu, 04 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

In response to Sarah Williams, Analyst.

On Tuesday, April 25 you seemed to be curious about other Sarah Williamses out there, and I have this to report:

I do indeed know a Sarah Williams , who, incidentally, (do I need more comas here?) uses “Hey” every time she can. In other words, she uses it often and is able to express an incredible range of emotions with the seemingly simply “hey.” This Sarah’s middle name is Bay and she uses it shamelessly Ð Sarah Bay Williams. I like introducing here like that, because it makes me feel special and sound like I know a thing or two about boats, which I don’t. Oh, she also says “anywho” and once wrote me an email with the subject line reading “snoooowy.”


- - -

From: “Dan Kennedy”
Subject: Let Them Know It’s Christmas
Date: Thu, 4 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I think we’re all tired of racism, and religious wars, and every other hateful thing that tears this world apart. Well, I have a solution that could mean world peace. I’m just pulling your leg, you guys. I don’t have a solution.

D a n K e n n e d y

- - -

From: “Dan Kennedy”
Subject: CHORUS: I’m sorry (so) sorry (so) sorry
Date: Thu, 4 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Earlier this morning I sent you a cruel letter. One that said I had a solution to the world’s problems of racism, and violence, and religious wars. The I pulled the rug right out from under your feet and told you that I actually didn’t have a solution. Doesn’t that make you want to kick the hell out of me?

D a n K e n n e d y

- - -

From: “Robert Beier”
Subject: From your office correspondent
Date: Thu, 04 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I have noticed that most of the computers in the office I work in display pictures of nature shots when they are bored. I found this display disgusting. Lovely picture of waterfall dissolving into shot of alpine mountain, checkerboarding into an expanse of evergreens covered in snow, slicing into picture of verdant fields of mountain flowers. Disgusting. How could we be treated like this? Seeing pictures of places we would rather be. This doesn’t make me happy to see this nonsense. It makes me sad that I am in the antithesis of these places. The only woods here are the desks. I thought that it would be more appropriate to see a picture of a grey cubicle with a man, a sad man with bags under his eyes, leaning wearily into the cold metal of the desk then dissolve to a picture of a woman in an awful pink dress crying in a stall because her boss yelled at her slice to a picture of carpal tunnel syndrome, checkerboard to a shot of rows of computers glowing in a babies hypnotized and idiotic face. I gleefully went to my computer and set it up to do the nature shot screen saver so I could make fun of it in detail. I did so and waited for my computer to get bored. Much to my surprise when it became bored, it began by showing me a picture of a field in Colorado I had been in, then a mountain peak on Mt. Sneffles (the 24th highest mountain in the U.S.) that I had proudly climbed. I was astounded. I knew these places. These places existed. I had experienced those beautiful mountain wild flowers. A joke no more. I cried as I looked at the shot. I knew that the place on the screen, that beautiful and clean place existed. Not in a time past or in the future but now, right now. This world is amazing and beautiful with strange concurrences because we are the ones who bind it together.

PS For other Stuff send to

- - -

From: “Gillian Beebe”
Subject: Evil things kids do
Date: Thu, 4 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Yesterday my mother and I were driving to the emergency vet to pick up a puppy that had stayed there in an incubator for the weekend. We were talking about my cousin, Smith, who is the most wonderful guy. He is my age and simple and beautiful and after college he traveled around the world for a year and a half and now he works for an Internet company in California that promotes and offers forums for independent films. He was in NYC at a film festival last week, so he wanted to come by and say hello last night, before he went off to Cannes to live in some gorgeous apartment and wear a tuxedo and mingle with pretty people for two weeks. Sometimes I think I should make him marry me (we aren’t blood cousins, silly). Anyway.

We were talking about him and then my mother’s brother came up because we like to compare them. My mother’s brother was killed in Vietnam. That makes me so sad. And she suffers from it every fucking day. Anyway, she said she had been thinking of her brother, Bobby, earlier in a different context that was hysterical. She had been trying to justify not wanting to let our puppies go to families with little kids. Little kids are terrible with dogs. They are evil. And my mother knows this because she was an evil little kid. Her brother was younger, and the ultra favorite. She must have resented him and wished him dead and so she tortured him. One of the things she did, which is the point of this letter, is this:

She would take straight pins and needles and stick them in his bed sheets. So when he got in bed and squirmed around, they would poke and scrape him. Wherever he turned something would get him. He would wail and try to move and they would scrape him more, and he couldn’t figure out what was happening! Ultimately his mother would have to come and yell at him to go back to sleep, and she wouldn’t be able to find any pins, either. It would go on all night, until a pin was found. And then my mom knew she was in trouble, but not real trouble since the pins couldn’t be pinned on her—maybe they had just fallen there. Evil! I can’t wait to do it to someone.

My mother ended up loving her brother more than anything, but that was after making him suffer for being the favorite.

I’m off. Tomorrow I might be funny.


- - -

Date: Thu, 4 May 2000
Subject: Alex Squared?

Dear McSweeney’s,

In Tim McMaster’s recent letter, he notes that he and his friend (also a Tim) were often referred to as “Tim Squared.” This caused me to remember that when I was in high school, I was myself part of an “Alex Squared.” I still recall how much this mathematical inaccuracy used to bother me. One Alex Squared would be one Alex (or maybe one Aalleexx), not two Alex-es.

But that is not the point of this letter. The point of this letter is that while I remember very clearly being one half of an “Alex Squared” duo, I cannot for the life of me remember a single thing about the other Alex. Isn’t this strange? For eleven or twelve years now I have carried with me the memory of my irritation at being amalgamated with this fellow (with whom I obviously spent enough leisure time that my friend Kelly considered us two parts of one whole), and yet there is not one neuron in my entire head that can conjure up an image of him, or the sound of his voice, or even a last name. Am I so shallow that I have forgotten a bosom chum in so little time? Or was the other Alex a bothersome hanger-on, the memory of whom I have repressed? (Or was I the bothersome hanger-on? Certainly possible, as anyone who knew me in high school could attest.) If anyone reading this letter attended Firestone High School in Akron, Ohio, during the early nineties, perhaps you could offer some assistance.

Please subscribe me, sir,
Your obedient servant,
Alex Pascover

P.S. I’ve noticed at least two or three letters to McSweeney’s in dialogue form have appeared since my own using that idiom. Can’t you people come up with your own literary devices? Well, listen up. I’m going to submit a sestina in a few days, so you’d better start working on one right now.

- - -

Date: Thu, 4 May 2000 (PDT)
From: Chuck Easterling
Subject: Hanoi Hop

Dear McSweeney’s,

If I had talent and leather wallets full of money I would create a situation where Alice Walker was being tossed into the air courtesy of a big red blanket held by smiling Vietnam veterans.

And I don’t say that to fulfill any court ordered non-sequitur requirement. I mean it.

Planning to get a job as a Mother’s Day gift,
Chuck Easterling

- - -

Date: Thu, 4 May 2000
Subject: Weight Loss Plan

Dear McSweeney’s,

I found the following diet plan tacked to the wall of my daughter’s bedroom. Should I be concerned? Follow it myself? Sue somebody?

“Monday: breakfast-100 or less calorie yogurt; lunch-milk; dinner-1 apple and 2 glasses of water.

Tuesday: breakfast-3 glasses of water; lunch-bottled water; dinner-1 bowl of eggdrop soup.

Wednesday: breakfast-Toast (no butter); lunch-bottled water; dinner-Turkey sand. and water.

Thursday: breakfast-3 glasses of water; lunch-2 milks; dinner-Slimfast.

Friday: breakfast-100 calories or less of yogurt; lunch-bottled water; dinner-slimfast.

Saturday: breakfast-Shredded wheat cereal; lunch-bottled water; dinner-Ham sand. and water.

Sunday: breakfast-Shredded wheat cereal; lunch-Caesar salad with water; dinner-3 glasses of water."


- - -

Date: Thu, 4 May 2000
Subject: a response to the concerned Sarah M. Balcomb

Dear McSweeney’s,

Please relay to Sarah M. Balcomb that not only did I revisit Wendy’s today, I added a “Biggie” fries to my order. The total came to $4.33 and once again, the change was given to me by hand.

Thank you for your interest in my diet,

whitney pastorek

- - -

From: Greg Purcell – Contractor
Subject: America is large and multivaried
Date: Thu, 4 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I just wanted to say that there are a few notable differences between Seattle, the town in which I am visiting and working on a temporary basis, and my adopted city of Chicago, Illinois, which are provoking considerable post-romantic wonderments in the mind of the author.

If you travel to a high point in Chicago (i.e. a really high point, such as the John Hancock tower, where they serve drinks) you can, on a clear day, point out the states of Indiana, Michigan, and even Wisconsin. At least, I’ve been told one can see Wisconsin, from up there. I’ve never really looked. (Indiana is quite noticable, this I can vouch for. Gary is in such a notable proximity. This reminds me that a friend of mine once painted a picture and titled it It Is A Good Drive From Chicago Through Gary Into Michigan.)

Here in Seattle, you cannot even see Fifth Avenue from Fourth Avenue. Such is the terrain. But I’m not picking sides. In Seattle, the people are nice. Several strangers have sort of winked at me here—once, on the bus, and another time at a shopping mall. I guess that’s only twice. The point I’m trying to make is that this would probably not happen in Chicago.

There may be some flaw in my comparison. For instance, there is a clear ground-to-skyscraper distribution of bias. I don’t care. My vision of America is, as Wordsworth said, half-seen and half-created.

With Goodness,
Greg Purcell

- - -

Date: Thu, 4 May 2000
Subject: The Truth

Dear McSweeney’s,

Behind the Scenes:
Jesus and Lucifer Caught on Tape

Many of us have been led to believe the Fallen Angel and the Holy One ingested a feast of token stale crackers avec Ripple at that infamous soiree—let’s see—how many years ago; the Supper of all Suppers where the aquiline, rosy, William DaFoe-ish nose arose forever casting an infinite shadow on the sulking—yet muscular—shoulders of one notorious, plucked and vengeful wannabe?

Not true.

The signs have been there all along. Much like loyal newlyweds, I’m afraid a large majority of the western hemisphere has had their biblical blinders on…for centuries (perhaps the one exception being the Eighties’ New Wave pioneers XTC).

A strange twist of fate has enabled us to expose the great ballyhoo. Ironically, intern Diaz Nitz recently was in the midst of trekking his way through India on his own spiritual quest when he stopped to refuel with yet some more unidentifiable giblets; of which the consistency and texture was intriguingly and unexpectedly pleasant—where he was compelled to follow the peculiar scent of balsam and pansies to the back room of the back room of the labyrinthine tent somewhere on the outskirts of Bangkok.

With palpitating heart and goup-laden finger on the record trigger, Nitz spotted the two pranksters sitting down to dinner. Unfortunately, Nitz’s camera was later confiscated but his mini-cassette wedged nicely in one of his body cavities. The following is taken directly from Saint and Sinner:

" Lucifer?
Yes, Jesus?
Where are all the bread and butter knives?
I left ‘em on the back porch.
Yes, Jesus?
What made you think of the vomit?
What vomit?
From that movie.
What are you talking about?
The Exorcist. I’m talking about the movie.
Even though I missed the sequel.
Well, you know sequels.

Yes, Jesus.
Why are white babies so hard to adopt?
What’d you mean quiet?
Be quiet. You’re not supposed to talk like that.
Like what?
Yes, Jesus?
Why the pitchfork?
Oh, you started that one.
Yes, Jesus?
Can’t we ever be friends?
No, it’s not in the script.
But I like you.

Yes, Jesus?
Ice cream.
Yeah. Goes with gluttony.
And lobster.
Without butter it’s all right.

Yes, Lucifer?
How come we weren’t partners?
They wouldn’t let us.
Yes, Lucifer?
Then why’d you have to do it this way?
So we could be partners.
I guess so.

Yes, Lucifer?
I wanted to fly too.
I know. I know.
Yes, Lucifer?
Excuse my directness, but why’d you have to
Be such a tight-ass?
I am not a tight-ass.
Yeah, you get to run everything. You’re everywhere.
And you are the phantom.
Yeah, I guess that’s all right.
You gonna’ eat that?"

There you have it. Do what you will with your bibles, your Sundays, your rosaries, etc. As for Nitz, we regret to say he is no longer with us. In his honor, we’d like to supply just one last detail. Nitz claims that what is key here is the fact that the duo were seated at a table. A round table.

The Boston Groupie,
Carrie Gauthier, Esq.

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: More news
Date: Thu, 4 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

In Toronto on Tuesday morning, Homeless Sammy awoke to find his thumb chewed off. At the hospital he pulled the displaced digit off a necklace and said, “Must have gotten hungry.” Everyone started clapping so Sammy popped it in his mouth and swallowed. They were just gasping and yelling and clapping. What’s up Katy?

In other snooze, residents of Parsons, KS say a time-lapse photo of a tornado shows Jesus consulting a map while riding a merry-go-round horse. “He looks just like a little lost girl,” said the town’s mayor, Tom McLarty. Jesus was not amused and destroyed the town. He knew in advance that this is what Tom would say. McLarty’s wife was recently convicted of sending harassing unsigned letters and a stuffed Humpty Dumpty toy to the home of her son’s high school sporting rival.

Nearby in Tennessee, police nabbed a 5-year-old mugger. For the next 3 months he will lug around a 30-pound sack of flour in temperatures well below zero to learn about responsibility. The winds will be calm and the late-night polar sun will sit high in the sky. “If he’s lucky,” said officials. “This light will cast a small shadow that just might choose to keep him company, maybe even give him a hand.”

What do actresses Bo Derek, Melanie Griffith, and Griffith’s mother Tippi Hedren have in common? They’ve all been mauled by lions.

More news to come,

Bryce Newhart

- - -

From: “Sarah M. Balcomb”
Subject: Spring Cleaning: a letter from Bryce Newhart and Sarah M. Balcomb
Date: Thu, 4 May 2000
Organization: Artists Rights Societyt

Dear McSweeney’s,

Our first attempt to throw our shushes into the other room ventriloquist-like ended much like our idea of trying to play ultimate-frisbee with a piece of paper. So we weighed them down with our bitchiness and gave them another toss. It worked this time and we marveled at their movement through the air, but then nobody tried to catch them and they went right out the window.

“Ammonia Amigos!”

Vicious dust elephants have been levying to take over my office, reproducing beneath my desk with the swinging of my feet, nibbling my ankles. Yesterday we finally hired a professional. This cleaning lady has been doing battle through the night, ruthlessly eliminating entire generations of pugnacious motes with the brutal yet gracious stroke of her mop.

This may seem like a victory for our side, but as the front paused outside my door, I detected a new terror: the crippling smell of ammonia. This combined with the bloodcurdling screams and the furious mop lashing directed indiscriminately at any surface in sight was having it out with my senses. When I peaked out my door, the cleaning lady was mopping someone’s lap. I didn’t want to leave my ephemeral beasts to be massacred beneath the desk. Naturally I’d grown to love them like one loves an infectious rash. Once it’s gone, the magic is gone. But I had to get some fresh air before I slipped on my mouse pad and nodded out the window.

When I got outside I was so worked up with toxins that the street was tilting like a seesaw with the fat kid from my kindergarten class on the other end. I lit a cigarette. No sound in the ears either. They were not functioning. Instead, in the air, sound vibrations were registering up and down the street like yellow party favors. I managed to sprint a few laps around the block, ducking streaming ribbons from honking caps and chattering cellphone users, then dragged myself up the fire escape fearing that the office cleaning battle had mounted into something far too dangerous to reenter like a normal human being.

As I crawled in the window, I was not surprised to see the scrub woman standing on my boss’s desk with her head thrown back, swigging a bottle of ammonia like a cool glass of lemonade, or perhaps more like a drunk attacking her first bottle of bourbon of the day. I tried to silently roll back out, but I wasn’t fast enough.

“Shush,” the woman said, her eyes flushed with pink. “Come on in and share a drink with Mammy.” This was no ordinary cleaning woman. Her voodoo vibes made it impossible to resist. I went to her like a bird to a freshly cleaned plate-glass window. “Take a swig o’ dis, honey,” she said. “Bu, but I don’t drink,” I said, having already accepted the bottle and guzzled most of it. “Neither do I,” said the woman, producing another bottle, and rather than chugging it, simply swallowing it whole. Then she started flapping her arms, muttered something about lunchtime, and threw herself out the window. The window was clean, but closed, and she busted on through the glass and swooped across the street, down to Two Boots, where as usual, there was a line. She scooped a slice right off someone’s plate.

As she ate she made a few roaring passes by the Swatch Store with the slice in her gnarly beak, gnawing at it with no hands as she flew. Like her flapping arms, the electronic doors to the store flew open and shut each time she zoomed past. Then finally the doors got stuck and so did her voodoo. The woman was all grace, landing smoothly on her stomach and skidding along the ground, still gnawing like a vulture, finally coming to a stop in front of a couple Rastas on the corner of Bleecker and Crosby.

“Do that funky dance sista,” said one of them, himself doing a kind of gig on the rim of a trashcan. “You do it,” she squawked. She stumbled to her feet, still flapping her arms like a chicken. “I’ve got work to do.” The smell of the powerful cleaning agents rose up from her decaying flesh and brought out the proprietor of the stinky bodega several feet away. He stuck his head out the door and said, “Ah, a kindred spirit, please come into my grocery. Mean people call it the Smelly Deli, but I’m sure you won’t be offended by the aromatic experience. It’s just my kitty. He refuses to use his box. Nothing to fear in here.”

“Nothing to fear but the devil,” said the chicken lady. From the deep folds of her clothing, she produced a tiny doll which bore a striking resemblance to Donna Shalala. Then she lit a match and blew her ammonia breath on it, lighting the thing’s hair on fire like a handful of straw. As it lit up, so did the deli man’s head. One of the Rasta’s pulled out a blunt and used the man’s flaming scalp to light it. “Wanna toke?” he said to the woman. “I don’t smoke that caca,” she said. “But you might blow some of it into the deli to freshen the place up a bit. I’ve left all my cleaning supplies upstairs.”

Meanwhile, the deli man fumbled with the fire hydrant in an effort to extinguish his flaming head and a calico cat with one eye scurried out the door. The cleaning lady tucked away her doll and flapped her arms, preparing to return to work. “Wait, what about me?” said the Rasta. “Weren’t you going to set me on fire too?” Scaling up the man to perch on his dreadlocks, the cat said, “Yeah, what’s that all about? Don’t we all deserve a little cleaning?” Watching this scene from the safety of my office window, I had a similar thought. I decided to return to my game of ultimate-frisbee. This time I would let the elephants win.

Your unsullied filth mongers,
Sarah M. Balcomb & Bryce Newhart

- - -

From: “Tom Bartos”
Subject: Things I hold dear to me…
Date: Thu, 04 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

In no particular order…

sock puppets
your fine magazine
Harpo Marx
the sound of a lock opening/closing
comedians trapped in the bodies of infants
the well performed “double take”
a really good meal (bkfst/lunch/dinner, any will do)

Now, I am not a writer, but I’d be so very happy if someone could write a short little something for me involving these characters.

Now I go back to filing.
Tom Bartos

- - -

Date: Thu, 04 May 2000
From: Jennifer Boyer
Subject: Weirdness

Dear McSweeney’s,

Okay, so, a couple of people have written about my saying I liked Kevin Spacey and I liked Iceman Cometh. One of them I couldn’t make heads or tails of, but I think he disagreed with me also. Admittedly, it’s kind of odd for me to write to publications when I disagree with them, it’s not a practice I made a habit of, but I just really like Kevin, and I liked Iceman. I was compelled to write and defend them, and people (person?) were compelled to write and re-crucify them. I’m not going to go into a defense again, but I will say that I’m pretty sure the play got some pretty good reviews from “highbrow” people. Plus, I was able to see it for a student rate of $20, which works out to about $5 an hour, which is pretty good for a live Broadway show with an Oscar winner. A damn sight better than “Cats”.

Anyway, I think it’s also odd for people to respond back to me, thereby agreeing with the original stance, such that it was, taken by McSweeneys, but that’s okay. I’m not one of those people who has to have the last word or anything. Well, okay, maybe I am, I dunno. But since these conversations are mainly bickering over taste, I wanted to invite anyone interested in discussing Kevin or Iceman or other interesting topics to email me instead of conducting it via the McSweeneys medium. But be nice; rude emails will be deleted and I will shake my head at you.

Oh, yes, I really like the story using the Ralph Lauren paint colors. It’s a cool idea. The Glidden chips that we used, not being in Mr. Lauren’s income bracket, had the color names in English and Spanish. Somebody could definitely do something with that. I’m also going to start writing down things my dad says. He says lots of bizarre things but right now the only thing I can think of is how he gets excited when he finds a diet Coke coupon. He says, “It’s like money in the bank!” I think my dad would get on well with Melissa de la Cruz’s dad.

Jen Boyer

- - -

Date: Thu, 04 May 2000
Subject: Manifesto to Katie

Dear McSweeney’s,

I have gone off people. They are a big pain in the ass. If I don’t like them, they are pains in the ass and if I do, they’re still pains in the ass. And why is it that people I don’t know seem so much more interesting than people I do know, but I just want to hang out with people I do know? Ok, I like my friends, but not always. And I DESPISE my roommates who aren’t Julie. Julie being the only technical roommate since we share the room, the others being suite mates or flatmates, but if I say flatmates, it sounds really poncy, like americans who say cheers. But whatever. Ok, so here’s my manifesto to Katie.

The Katie Manifesto

When in the course of human events, two people are picked to live in a dorm room together for somewhat arbitrary reasons, then it is imperative for the two to compromise and attempt to reach a living situation optimal to both. When one or both party(ies) does not keep this pact, relations will degrade. Over the course of 8 months, Katie has shown a consistent lack of interest in maintaining our relationship, or this apartment. These transgressions include:

**Not cleaning the bathroom once all semester, despite the fact that the girl manages to get some weirdass brown gritty shit all over the tub whenever she uses it, which is rare as she doesn’t believe in PERSONAL HYGIENE and has a tendency to leave her toilet items where they fall

**overflowing the toilet and not telling anyone

**consistently stealing groceries, specifically the last slices of bread and Dr Pepper and not telling me about it, and consistently lying (only through much stealth did I determine that she, in actuality was the culprit)

**sneaking into my bedroom when Julie is in bed and I am gone, and when going through my drawers, claiming that I gave her permission to borrow something. When confronted on this, swearing it never happened. [Note, I have given up any attempt at consistency in form. Please disregard. It’s not like I’m being paid.]

**When she does borrow things, not actually returning them, thus causing us to resort to searching her room to find them.

**Bringing her boyfriend with his ridiculous rich right wing mentality, yet still thinking that he is a liberal, and his misinformed opinions that when cornered on, will cause him to start humming really loud rather than continuing the discussion like a normal mortal,

**Dropping out of my shoot the night before it happened

**attempting to give me any advice about anything,

**Letting her socially inept friends have free reign in our room, causing one to call his sister in France on our phone, then get angry when we come home and want to, oh, use our room, and the other to show up semi naked in my roommate’s bed when she was not keen on the idea (God knows I wasn’t either, this is the same friend who got a little excited one day when left alone on the couch while watching American Gigolo),


**Jumping into the Hudson and East rivers in the winter, within a month of one another (ok, so this really didn’t do anything to me, but I just hold it against her anyway)

**throwing out the Milk Manifesto (my masterwork)


**eating the food for my crew the day of my film shoot, leaving me with a lot of cold cuts and no bread,

**has spent hours cooking for her boyfriend, but has yet to clean the kitchen and usually ignores her dishes. When she does wash them, she will not dry them, but allows them to do so in the cabinet, on the dry dishes.

**Leaves crap all over the living room. Doesn’t clean that either (pattern).

**acting sweet and nice when she’s really a bloodsucking evil leech.

Ok, a warning to all and sundry. She looks sweet and cute. She is not. If you disbelieve me, I urge you to move in with her. Though I will say that she does listen to boys more often than girls, who she seems to have no use for. Unfortunately, that includes me. With that, I conclude my manifesto.

Thank you for your indulgence.

- - -

Date: Fri, 5 May 2000
From: Amie Barrodale

Dear McSweeney’s,

Can we agree that all objects should be vaguely fierce? If they’re going any good, that is.

Last night I told Mike Toppp he smelled like my grandfather, which was to say clean. I tried to explain, but his friends were laughing so hard he couldn’t hear me.

100% true.

Everyone should remember I come from the South. We do things different there. Example: we name our offspring.


- - -

Date: 05 May 00
From: Thomas Gibbon
Subject: Closing in.

Dear McSweeney’s,

It’s cinco de mayo and I haven’t prepared at all. I’m screwed. I really don’t think, at this late day in our late capitalist, post-modern lives, we can take the chance and delete love from our lives. I know I can’t. And I bet Sean Carman can’t either.

Last night I went to a fancy party. It was so fancy. So fancy they had an Elvis Mitchell impersonator. I wasn’t convinced but I appreciated the effort.

If you are into making a spectacle of yourself, and I know you are, here’s a bad idea: Walk down (dine) the street with your eyes closed. The trouble is you can’t see the looks on the faces of the squares as you blow their minds.

Here’s some Anglo-Saxon poetry:

wit unc in thaere burnan bathodan aetgedre

It means “we two bathed together in that stream.” It is beautiful. I will never forget it. You know how much you adore Pilate in “Master and Margarita?” You know how sympathetic you are for the white colonel in “Chapayev” when he plays the piano sonata in c-sharp minor? That’s how I feel about Jesus when John says “wit unc in thaere burnan bathodan aetgedre.” More than anything else this one line made me feel the full measure of my alienation. This one line made me realise what it meant to no longer be a christian. The poem is called “The Harrowing of Hell” and the author is unknown. It’s a really cool number. Ever wonder what Jesus did for those three days? Ever wonder what happened to the Old Testament prophets when they died? Jesus kicked ass and brought ‘em back alive. It’s totally Rambo.

Wit unc in thaere burnan bathodan aetgedre, but now I take showers, and, I am sorry, but it is better that way.


ps – James Coco is dead, Richard Dawson is British.

- - -

Date: Fri, 5 May 2000
From: John Davis
Subject: what do i do?

Dear McSweeney’s,

Yesterday, after seeing that my two previous letters had been published on your website, I notified several friends, who are the sort of people who would likely enjoy your website for more than merely my two letters. Which, I suppose, is a really clever and fantastic way for you to ensure that you get a lot of “hits” to your site. Man, McSw., you are one clever devil. I think I will name my first child after you. If it’s a boy, I’ll name him Timothy McSweeney Davis. If it’s a girl, probably Tamera McSweeney Davis, although Tamera has absolutely nothing in common with Timothy. But I don’t want my kids to be playground laughingstocks, and they’ll have enough going against them already, being my kids and all. Ah, but I digress. To return to the main point of my correspondence, one of the above mentioned friends met with me later in the evening and the topic of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency came up.
“So, did you check out that site I wrote you about today?”
“Nah. Too busy. Boss is on my case about surfing while at work.”
“You didn’t have to surf; I sent you a link to the page.”
“I mean he doesn’t want us on the internet.”
“Why doesn’t he restrict access? Or better yet, why doesn’t he get rid of internet access altogether? It’s save him some money.”
“Well, sometimes, not often, but sometimes he wants us to check out stuff on the web.”
“How often?”
“Once or twice a day.”
“So he doesn’t want you one the internet, but he has you go on the internet once or twice a day?”
“So maybe, while you’re online for one of these assignments, you could, you know, pop over to McSweeney’s site, check out what I wrote?”
“So, they published you, huh? And that one guy is the editor?”
“That one guy?”
“You know, the guy who was on that show a few months back, who wrote that book about his life and it has footnotes and stuff in it.”
“I don’t remember any footnotes.”
“So he published you?”
“Well. Um. You see, it doesn’t work like that. You mail stuff to the “letters” page and they post it."
“So. They didn’t publish you then.”
“Well, I don’t know.”
“What I want to know is, if and when anybody else actually publishes you, can you write in those little About the Author blurbs that you have been published by McSwaggert’s.”
“Whatever. Can you?”
“I don’t know. That’s not really why I sent the letters in the first place.”
“Uh-huh. Do you want them to publish you?”
“Sure. They’re pretty well respected. I like the stuff I read in there, mostly.”
“So. Instead of writing a genuine story, you wrote these little “letters,” which are really stories, sent them in, and waiting like a week to see them on the web page. You’re not getting paid. You can’t tell me if this is actually going to make you more attractive to companies who pay writers to write. God. I need a beer. Buy me a beer."

We talked some more, but nothing else regarding McSweeney’s was mentioned, only some discussion about the fact that neither of had seen any movies in a very long time, and in fact didn’t know which new movies were supposed to be good. So, my question, McSw.: can I put these letters in my little author bio, should anyone else bother to publish something I write? What would I say? How ought I phrase it? Something like: “He has been a regular contributer to the McSweeney’s website?” Is that misleading? Perhaps: “He has sent some letters to the McSweeney’s website, and they were posted there?” Nah. Help.

Confused in Chicago.

- - -

From: “Robert Beier”
Subject: From your office correspondent
Date: Fri, 05 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I can’t believe that one fell down and the frown was long and it whispered.



- - -

Date: Fri, 05 May 2000
Subject: Hey the air-condistioning hasn’t been activated on the subways yet!
From: Turk

Dear McSweeney’s,

Have you noticed how it has got all hot helluva sudden?

Here I was all dressed up in my new H&M cheap cotton sweater that I saw on a street ad, all ready to get on the subway and start staring, and here is this moment where I go outside, and I’m like sweating and there is no overcast anymore. I mean, I’ve asked about it. The Better Business Bureau of Bergen County, and the National Employment Hot/Support line for Computer Paleontologists. My good friend Scott’s naughty shrink and lover, Joivie Rangokov. Her Orange Palm Pilot that doesn’t understand speech yet, and its fake Pac-Man program inside called “Circle with a wedge carved out Digital Occular (iridescent) Protagonist (DiOiPo), who need sustenance, he needs to eat, and can be sponsored daily for about the price of a token (you can get 26 tokens for 5 dollars!) a day, you might think that this is some kind of scam and that there really isn’t a real DiOiPo, that it’s a front and that somehow much of the worth of the token gets spent on middle managers, cell phone reversal charges, grit, extra-marital fruits and cakes, lobbies, lobbed Night-Glo * tennis balls and various accompanying accessories, chastely designed office furniture, self-replacing lightbulbs, nocturnal amazements, and other various intangibles. Well I can assure you, as the DiOiPo’s creator (Sam) that these issues are false. I mean look at him, he needs food, he is being chased around by carnivores who only seek to eat his flesh, like hungry ghosts that they are, they will never stop. So go ahead, feed him. It won’t take away from the kid’s college fund too much. I mean, what do you spend those tokens on anyway? C’Mon. He really needs it man.” which was of no help either.

I told her on the way out not to leave her Palm on her dashboard or it would melt, and that I didn’t need any fashion advice, mantras, or other assistance. Other than a nice tall glass of iced Chai Tea from New Jersey exactly the way I wanted it.

Turk Alexandra
Riverfield, Long Island

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: We are bombarded with “news” all the time. It’s really not my fau lt.
Date: Fri, 5 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

A two-ton seal is crunching cars, trailers, and trees with his hindquarters in a parking lot in New Zealand. He is smashing down on fenders, bumpers and mirrors. Thumping, squashing, mashing.

The editors of Playboy would like to apologize to Romanian women. Apparently Balkan men just don’t understand that something like “How to Beat Your Wife Without Leaving Marks” is obviously an April Fools’ Day concept.

For example, just across the Black Sea in ex-Soviet Georgia, police are hunting for a six-foot-tall Ronald McDonald statue stolen from the country’s only McDonald’s restaurant. The smiling red-haired mannequin is usually chained to a bench so clients can come and be photographed with him. He will be missed.

In Russia, four people were jailed for killing one of their “friends,” chopping him into pieces, and trying to sell his flesh as stewed meat.

Then there’s Turkey where burly men covered in olive oil continue to grapple with each other in leather pants, frequently putting a hand down one another’s trousers for a better grip, complaining all the while about the gay men who come from around the world to watch.

On a lighter note, a gang of 30 heavily armed masked men came down from a hillside Rio de Janeiro slum, stole cars at gun-point in the middle of a busy avenue, then flaunted them in a drive down the beach.

This while Polish youths marked Drenching Monday (St. Drencher’s Day) by hurling water at unsuspecting passers-by in a Polish courtship ritual first conceived of centuries ago.

They made a tortilla big enough to choke King Kong. In Mexico that is, giant 250-year-old worms are living 1,700 feet below the surface of the Gulf. This convenient arrangement will not last long, like babies who are born small, who researchers say “may earn less later and tend to have lower-paying blue-collar jobs.”

Finally, in a hideous recycling of long-forgotten e-mails, I should note that on West 20th Street, in the bowels of the venerable fascicle factory, a young Ill-a-delph is slowly rotting from within. Or so he claims. Or claimed one afternoon. Perhaps some day he will make for a nice duffel bag. That is certainly better than I can claim for my own damn self.

Does this sound bitter? Maybe I am an annoying, horrible, pretentious bastard. How am I supposed to know? I am honestly just trying to entertain you people, whoever you are, really.

Tortillas normally fit in the palm of one’s hand and are topped with meat and salsa.

Bryce Newhart

PS. For logophiles looking to learn new words: anacoluthon.

- - -

Date: Sat, 06 May 2000
From: Ron Dulin
Subject: Last Night

Dear McSweeney’s,

Last night I went to see some “live music” as the older generation like to call it. While I was standing around and waiting for the show to start, I noticed this Guy From Work. I don’t actually work with him anymore because I recently quit, and I didn’t want to talk to him as I knew the conversation would consist of questions to which my only answers would be “not much” and “pretty good.” So I pushed my way into the crowd to avoid him.

I ended up standing next to this couple – him with that leather jacket/dress shirt/glasses look that is all the rage here in San Francisco, her a sort of hippy-ish girl. They were talking.

HER: So, I need to figure out my world view.
HIM: Worldview?
HER: Yeah, like my value system. I don’t have one, and I really want one.

At this point they immediately started making out. Not just kissing, but violently kissing. And nipple-pinching. Then they just stopped and cuddled for a minute, and their conversation continued.

HIM: Your hair smells like the outdoors.
HER: The outdoors?
HIM: Yeah, you know, like ozone.
HIM: Hey, I know that guy.

He then proceeded to call over the Guy From Work who I ended up having to talk to anyway.

After the show I missed the bus, and so I started walking. I was thinking that I should have talked to the Guy From Work some more because he has a car and probably would have given me a ride home. Then, out of nowhere came this old man on a bike. He rode by me, using both hands to light a pipe of the drug-dispensing variety. As he passed I noticed that he only had one leg.

Ron Dulin

- - -

Date: Sun, 7 May 2000
Subject: No Subject

Dear McSweeney’s,

I think that it’s a cool trick to have a letters page all written by one person and then sign all the letters like they’re from different people. that’s funny, the way you do that.

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: Who will take responsibility for the young sprouts of companies?
Date: Mon, 8 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I too am tired of hearing about the cigarette puffing child, which Norwalk Police report, “The way he was smoking it, clearly it wasn’t the first time.” Also, enough of Boeing 757 nose wheels falling from the sky near LA, bouncing through parking lots, jumping into cars in which customarily, one will find a woman at rest after the better part of a morning spent shopping with a knife stuck into her neck, unbeknownst to her, by a college student not allowed to change majors despite his impressive tainting of a roommate’s pillow with radioactive materials. The fisherman in Brazil, a fish jumped into his mouth. Not expected he would choke to death.

Near Lyons, as reported by the widow, “We were going up a hill behind a large lory when its doors flew open and all these round things tumbled out and came onto our car. I thought they were billiard balls, that leisurely after-dinner game for gentlemen, and when I looked over, Rene was buried up to the top of his head in them. Oh the horror, a single ball perched on top.” How could I make this better? These balls were in fact frozen bulls’ testicles.

Prone to clustering in scatters, deaf-mutes are lured to France by the prospect of selling trinket for “Les start-up,” now called “jeunes pousses d’entreprises” (young sprouts of companies). On the grounds of Miami’s Art Deco City Hall they are strewing bananas singly, by the bunch, and by the crate-load. Messages are carved into some, others are ready for eating.

Time to look outside and grimace at summer,

Bryce Newhart

- - -

From: michael gallegly
Organization: @Home Network
Date: Sun, 07 May 2000
Subject: first time reader

Dear McSweeney’s,

Hi. Luckily, the cable modem is working again, and now the internet, and McSweeneys specifically is doing everything it can to keep me from resuming my studying and other school related activities, being as it is finals week, my french III final is in 7 1/2 hours, and I have not yet opened anything that is not english related. Thanks alot.

This is one of the greatest websites I have ever gone to. After reading countless tidbits about it in Shift, I have wanted to view it all week. But with no cable modem, no internet. I have been able to get a great deal of my projects and studying done. More so than I would have had the cable modem not been working. Actually, it was not our modem at all, but a return signal on some line on some road near my apartment. So… in the twisted reality that makes the mind convince itself that certain things are ok, I am somehow justifying not studying french right now by thinking about how much time I did not spend on the internet in the last week. I tell myself that I am just making up for lost time, and that if the internet would have been available this week, I would have already viewed McSweeneys for the first time, and perhaps now I would be studying french. It is all relavent, somehow.

Mr Eggers, I applaud you for mind and all that you think about, and I have only read a portion of the site. It is almost scary to read, becuase my mind often looks at things in the world in a much different way than most people I know, and I hate to think that I am taking too much influence from someone else. I look forward to reading more of it. I do appreciate people like yourself very much, because it provides yet another example of someone doing what they want to do, and not what someone else dictates. For those of us who can find the path to such a future, the world can be a great place. I consider myself a “closet genious” and am doing everything I can to be known for my interests, views, and talents. (Interests, views and talents includes a variety of things. However, I am not interested in the slightest in the following two topics: the history of the person who invented the suicide knob, or where the birthplace was of the person who named Chesapeake bay, “Chesapeake bay.”)

Best of luck to you. I am looking forward to finding a copy at a local bookstore in the near future. However, I have left the lucrative mind-numbing world of waiting tables and the great money associated with that (not to mention the high frequency of oppurtunities I get to see dating couples and not only wonder why she is with that guy with no clue whatsoever, but also wonder how far they have gone physically. I liked to ponder this especially on Sunday’s, when people would be in after church, and young teen couples involved in youth groups and other activities intended to enstill a sense of morals would be eating. Not to sound as if I was fantasizing about what they may have done with each other. But my primary thougths were centered on how large a part of the programming brought on by youth ministers was making these couples scared to death to even think about engaging in physicalities with each other. I wondered if they drew the line at kissing, and I wondered if they had done more, and how unsure of it all they must have been, and to what point they thought they were doing something terribly wrong. Yet, I have a pretty good idea of how the mind works. Which led to thinking if they had not done anything more than kiss, did they think about things more than that with a sense of imagination as to what more would be like. But they knew they could not do more, becuase it was deathly wrong, or the parents might catch them. Perhaps all pointless thought, but it helped me get through many dismall days and nights. Please don’t take any of this the wrong way. I am a Christian, and put a great importance on religion in my life. this is just something I thought about when waiting tables. Which of course, makes me wonder: Has anyone else ever thought that?)

back to the sentence… I am no longer waiting tables, but working for a software company part time, and I am also a full time student, majoring in Advertising, and focusing on graphic and web design. actually, all I want to do is have a band again. but now I am not making near the money I was waiting tables. But that is fine with me. If I am poor, and broke, as long as the bills are paid (My dads wallet on that one) and I can eat, I am perfectly happy sitting in my room playing guitar, drawing, and working with graphic programs. In this new confinement to my room, I hope to make McSweeneys a part of each day. From what I can tell, it is very far from crappy.

Again, best of luck,

Michael S. Gallegly

- - -

Date: Mon, 08 May 2000
From: Andrew McDonald Exum
Subject: My Friend Paul, the Genius

Dear McSweeney’s,

My friend Paul is a genius. He pretty much looks like everybody else and, indeed, acts like everyone else. He even thinks like everybody else. In fact, he is exactly like everybody else in practically every way, except for one important difference: he is a genius.

People don’t understand him. We tell them not to bother trying. It’s all over their heads. How can they presume to understand Paul Elsberg? When people respond to him (as they often do) with quizzical looks of disbelief, we typically say: “Don’t worry about it—he’s a genius.” That, they understand.

Affectionately yours,
Andrew McDonald Exum, friend of Paul Elsberg, genius.

- - -

From: “Thomas Haynes”
Date: Mon, 08 May 2000
Subject: I few thoughts on salad. Yes, salad.

Dear McSweeney’s,

I’ve recently begun eating salads for lunch everyday. Yes, salads. It’s a California thing I guess, so please don’t laugh. I just moved out here and I’m attempting to blend. I’m even familiarizing myself with the salad bar protocol. I bet most of you don’t even know that there exists such a thing as a salad bar protocol. The rules are far more complex than one would imagine and I wouldn’t want to bore you meat-eaters to tears by outlining these rules, but I will anyway:

Rule #1 – If one or more persons are waiting behind you, don’t linger at the lettuce bowl picking out the choice pieces. Get what you can in two or three tong-fulls, and move on the the bacon bits. Lettuce is merely filler anyway, and once it’s slathered in dressing it all tastes the same anyway.

Rule #2 – Don’t ever, even if a bug is crawling up your nostril, scratch, touch or otherwise handle any of your body’s orifices while standing at the salad bar. Please, just keep your filthy hands safely at your sides. Though I realize that just five minutes ago you were probably busy eating your own boogers, picking your earwax and scratching your testicles, but still, there is no need to provide us with visual verification that we’re all, essentially, feeding from the same germ trough.

Rule #3 – Don’t engage in small talk while standing at the bar. No one cares that the cherry tomatoes don’t look ripe, we are fully capable of determining these things for ourselves. Look, I’m not saying that this should be a solemn affair, but just because we’re standing elbow-to-elbow, noses pressed against the sneeze guard, doesn’t mean we have anything in common so zip it, capeesh?

That’s all the rules I can think of right now, but that’s not really the reason I’m writing. The real reason I’m writing is to ask for some advice. Advice about flatulence.

Anyway, these salads make me gassy. They fill my intestines with the foulest gas known to man and in the hours between lunch and the proverbial “five o’clock bell” I do battle with this gas trying to keep it at bay. I share an office with a man named Phil. Phil’s hearing is bad so he wears hearing aids and listens to his Hungarian folk music at an annoying volume, but he never puts up a fuss about the fact that I spend the majority of the work day surfing the Internet and playing Minesweeper, so Phil’s okay with me. Now ordinarily I wouldn’t hesitate to let loose with a few farts, but these farts are so putrid that I don’t even like to smell them. (Oh okay, maybe I like to smell them, but it’s not the same kind of enjoyment you get from a fart produced by, say, a steak or a sausage or something.) And they linger! Oh how they linger! Hover, in fact, around my cubicle. There’s not a whole lot I can do to remedy this problem. The gas just forces its way out and then I sit and pray that no one walks up to my desk and smells my rottenness. You see, I’m a bit of a sex symbol around my office. There’s an air of mystery about me. If my girlfriend ever dumped me there’s still a pretty good chance I could score with any number of my co-workers. I don’t want to do anything that could possibly taint my image. If someone walked in just after I exploded it would be embarrassing for everyone involved. I mean, there is simply no hiding these farts.

Is it immature to write letters about farts?

Tom Haynes

- - -

Date: Tue, 09 May 2000
Subject: Vowel Shift
From: Peter Leonard

Dear McSweeney’s,


“Did you know if Bjork married Bjorn Borg and took his name, she’d have to alert her bank and get new checks?”

Pls. consider using the following HTML code for the names: Björk and Björn. Your Nordic audience will appreciate it.

Björk’s name is the Icelandic word for birch tree. And Björn is, of course, the Swedish word for bear. Bjork and Bjorn, however, are not words in those languages, any more than McSwaoniys is the name of your journal.

Yours in umlautitude,

Peter Leonard

- - -

From: Steve Tomsik
Subject: oh, hi.
Date: Tue, 9 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Ok, well last night I found out that you shouldn’t ever try to replace a lock on your door while wearing only underwear and your girlfriend’s slippers, even though it may be very hot outside. Well yes, because you could lock yourself out that way, and you might have to flee to the roof if you hear someone coming up the steps, and you might have to sit there for a very long time, waiting for your girlfriend to get home. And someone might come up to the roof to sunbathe and that could be a very embarrassing thing. For you. For them, I guess it would be funny, and maybe something to talk about later, with their two gorgeous roommates, in their apartment on the fourth floor.

What have I done.

Someone here at work just said the phrase, “no-frills rock and roll!” She sounded excited!


From: “Peter Bebergal”
Subject: its true
Date: Tue, 9 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

My friend Jon just said, “It’s just a clown in a boat. It’s not that original.”


Peter Bebergal

- - -

From: Ryan Purdy
Subject: Our Best Proposal to Date.
Date: Wed, 10 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

We have another proposal for you and we think it is a winner.

We have noticed that McSweeney’s readers seem to like plays. Long or short. Comic or tragic. They just like plays. We have also noticed that McSweeney’s readers seem especially to like plays featuring us, M. Ryan Purdy (MRP) and Scott M Korb (SMK). A recent play by Liam Black (27 April) is the latest in a long line of just this sort of dramatic piece — a biographical play that features us. (We acknowledge that we have written most of these plays. Though this seems almost beside the point, does it not?) Mr. Black’s script was very good. We acted it out this evening, in a bar. True, the setting was not exact, and we could not find licorice pipes anywhere, but the dialogue carried the play. What drama — the applause was deafening. All we can say about Mr. Black is, “Those Irish playwrights. Brilliant. Just brilliant.” And we mean that.

(Honestly, we are not sure why McSweeney’s readers are reading these plays, as we are not particularly interesting. Sure, we are reasonably interesting; we can carry on a decent conversation and know some good places to eat and drink in New York City. But, there are lots of plays out there featuring more interesting characters than us. And if you cannot find a good play with an interesting character, try a novel. There are lots of good ones. Scott just finished one by a woman who lived in England, and committed suicide late in life by filling her pockets with rocks and wading into a river. Ryan is in the middle of something now and cannot really talk about it.)

We are not especially interested in writing more plays featuring SMK and MRP. But, it seems the demand remains. While letters involving MRP appear more frequently on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency than do those involving SMK, Mr. Black’s play gave us an idea. We talked about this:

A PLAY for McSWEENEY’S by Scott M Korb and M. Ryan Purdy

A dog

Setting: Evening, springtime, New York City. MRP and SMK stand, hands in pockets, in front of a bar. Birds chirp. Cars pass. MRP smokes a cigarette, removing his hand from his pocket only long enough to remove the dangling cigarette from his mouth and take a breath of relatively fresh air. Almost immediately, however, he replaces the cigarette and resumes standing with both hands in his pockets. The movement is routine, mechanical.)

SMK: How’s your cigarette?

MRP: I’m trying to cut back. But it’s good.

SMK: Good idea. To cut back. They are no longer good for you, you know.

MRP: That’s what I hear.

SMK: Did you read that play about us to-day?

MRP: Yes.

SMK: It was pretty good.

MRP: Pretty good, yes. Funny that it was about us.

SMK: Yes. Funny.

MRP: That Mr. Black. O, ha ha. Those Irish playwrights. Ha ha.

SMK: I don’t think we are particularly interesting. Do you?

MRP: Sure. Sure I do. Maybe.

SMK: (Thinks for a moment. Taps his foot.) O, I suppose you are right. Yes. We are interesting. Sure. I agree. We know some good places to eat and drink in New York City. Sure. But, do you think we are interesting enough to warrant entire plays being written about us? Do you think? I mean, there were no other characters in that play at all. Just us. No one else at all.

(A dog barks.)

MRP: Well, we may not be that interesting. I agree. (Pause. MRP takes a drag on his cigarette in that mechanical way.) But, I think there is a demand for the plays. There must be. I am not sure why.

SMK: What can we do? To meet the demand, I mean. As for me, I’m not terribly interested in writing any more plays about us.

MRP: Me neither. Unless it comes up, of course.

SMK: Yeah.

MRP: Let’s get a drink.

SMK: Ok.

(SMK and MRP exit into a door behind them, which leads into the bar. Birds continue to chirp outside.)


(Wild applause.)

(We did have a drink. Several, in fact. Scott finished his Master’s Degree to-day.)

By Scott M Korb and M. Ryan Purdy

This is the proposal. We came up with it over drinks. Since readers seem to like these plays, and there does seem to be a continued demand, why not make a link on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency exclusively for people like Mr. Black, who want to write biographical plays featuring MRP and SMK? The plays are usually not very long, and take almost no time to read. Biographical plays might very well be the most popular variety. This link could be updated very regularly, we think. Readers around the world — even those abroad, like Mr. Black — could write very good plays and have a place to present them, free of charge. We have no problem with such an arrangement, though we are no longer interested in doing this sort of writing ourselves (although we do reserve the right to contribute if need be, and will contribute, if circumstances warrant, or if asked to do so). We support it 100%. It seems to be a question of supply and demand.

There are a few things your readers should know about us, however, before they begin writing these plays, which we are sure will be very good. Every play need not include all of this biographical information, but we offer it as a starting point. Good luck. Happy writing.

SMK is twenty-three and has an older brother and a younger sister. MRP is twenty-three and works for a non-profit organization that funds after-school programs. He smokes, though is cutting back.

SMK is currently “available,” while MRP’s romantic affairs are no one’s business.

They both live in the greater New York City metropolitan area (SMK in Manhattan; MRP in Brooklyn), though knowledge of the area is not necessary to write a play about them. For example, Mr. Black apparently lives in Ireland, yet he wrote a very believable play about them that took place in New York City. It should be noted, however, that Mr. Black begins with a decided advantage: the Irish are naturally very good playwrights.

Thank you.

As always, we remain, &c.,

Scott M Korb
Manhattan, NY

M. Ryan Purdy
Brooklyn, NY

- - -

Date: Wed, 10 May 2000
From: Paschel Barkin
Subject: Sweet Meats from Under the Seat

Dear McSweeney’s,

In Maine I used to be locomoted by a Lobster-bourne sedan chair. Have you ever seen the blue Lobsters? They know they are hot shit, it gives them attitude, it is better to see them in magazines than in the tank at your local. Lobsters, a repulsive food, are animals, in spite of their invertebraticality, that I have a great deal of sympathy for. I imagine they feel the same way about me, in spite of my uterine gestation. It works out, this thing with the Lobsters, I don’t eat them and they don’t jump into my mouth. I used to drive a big Buick, but when the Lobsters heard about this they would have none of it. They bought me a Grand Am. When I explained I was neither Polish nor working at Six Flags they brought up the sedan chair option. I leapt at it. They were kidding. I was bigger. So, six pairs of retooled hamster pants and fourteen months of humble abuses later, I want to let you know that it is all right. Come home.

Looking into it,
Paschel L. Barkin

- - -

Date: Wed, 10 May 2000
Subject: Letter Number 274 to McS

Dear McSweeney’s,

Tasks Completed At Intermission of Irish Play Tonight, 5/10/00

1. Refill “mulberry wine” = grape juice, watered down.
2. Refill 3 bottles of “Jameson’s” (2 large, 1 small) = iced tea
3. Refill “sherry” = water*
4. Place snowglobe behind book
5. Restore cello to case. Check tuning.
6. Drop blue scarf behind USL black.
7. Wash and set tea service, including chocolates.
8. Wipe down coffee table.
9. Place “Cosmo” in gift bag w/ strawberries.
10. Fetch wedding ring from purse USR.
11. Rinse and replace 4 tumblers, 3 highballs, 2 champagne glasses, 6 wine glasses, ashtray.
12. Walk to pick up van from 721 Broadway for strike.

*Irish director swears some sherry is clear. Must believe him, as he is a) Irish and b)director.

thanks so much

whitney pastorek

- - -

Date: Wed, 10 May 2000
Subject: NYU-alicious!

Dear McSweeney’s,

Suggested Titles for Tomorrow’s NYU Graduation Exercises

Y2Commencement? Ynot!
Washington Square Park-A-Go-Go
$100,000 and Counting
$100,000, But Who’s Counting?
Dust Off Your Binoculars
Traffic My Ass
Class of 2000: an IPO
Mind the Arch!
Million Marijuana March II
Where The Hell Is My Kid? (A Father’s Lament)
Purple on Parade: a Tribute to Jerry Falwell
Fun With Folding Chairs
Ignore the Striking G.A.s
Not a Rolling Stones Concert
Don’t Cry For Me, L.J. Oliva
Bye Bye Bye: a Tribute to N’Sync
Hands Off the Hanging Elm
All Are Welcome Unless They’re Not

thanks so much

whitney pastorek

- - -

Date: Thu, 11 May 2000
From: “Matthew Wills”
Subject: Working

Dear McSweeney’s,

Edgar Villacruz is the last of his kind. New York’s only living “tube man,” he apprenticed to the old Pneumatic Tube Maintenance Workers Union (Local 131) at the age of sixteen. He lost his kneecap in the brutal strike of ‘34, replacing it temporarily with a Stroh’s beer bottle cap flattened with his heel. He remembers the infamous Farley Post Office Blow Out, when two tons of pressurized U.S. Mail erupted out of the sidewalk on 31st Street. Hundreds of passersby received nasty paper cuts during this incident. “Talk about confetti,” he laughs, but with the bittersweet agony of experience crinkling his eyes. Clogs, jams, and mis-routings were all in a day’s work in the labyrinth of pneumatic tubes that once connected the city like a body’s circulation system. Now in retirement, Mr. Villacruz scoffs at the newfangled “information superhighway.” “Been there, done that,” he chuckles.

Matthew Wills

- - -

From: “Freddie deBoer”
Subject: :tcejbuS
Date: Thu, 11 May 2000 HST

Dear McSweeney’s,

Are you familiar with the agrarian myth? When the Industrial Revolution changed human life forever, many soon began lamenting the move from the “idyllic” (sic) life on the farm to the frantic life of the big city. It seems that the same fate has befallen McSweeney’s. The other day while I was waiting in traffic, my passenger cursed, “This never would have happened before McSweeney’s!” When the market began to dip, day-traders would scream while falling to their suicidal death, “Damn you Tim McSweeney!!!” And children who are cut in line at the swingsets only shake their heads, their eyes silently cursing the name McSweeney. It seems we all must have a burden to bear…

With love,

- - -

Date: Fri, 12 May 2000
Subject: The Big Game

Dear McSweeney’s,

Listed below is what some of my co-workers would have done had they won the $350 million Big Game lottery. They did not win. For some reason, I was not included in the company-wide lottery pool. I believe it is because most of my co-workers hate me because I went to college. Anyway, on with what my co-worker’s would have done with the Big Game jackpot. (Three asterisks (*) indicates the quote has been made up or embellished upon by the author.)

Judy, the over-bearing woman who engages in loud and expletive-ridden arguments with her out-of-work husband on the telephone every afternoon around four o’clock: “I’d go on a cruise.”

Bob, the Willy Lomanesque salesman who spends his day trading stocks on the Internet and then spins yarns to anyone within earshot about his stock-trading savvy: “The first thing I would do would be to find a good accountant.”

Dan, the office party guy who just got dumped by his girlfriend of five years: “I wouldn’t ever come back here, that’s for sure. Just kidding.”

Tom, the 50 year-old sales manager who is beginning to regret the professional and personal choices he has made in his life (Tom reminds me of the Kevin Spacey character in American Beauty): “Call a divorce lawyer. HAHAHAHAHA.”

Bev, the project manager who became quite upset when management distributed a memo asking that employees reduce the frequency of their smoke breaks: “I’d buy all the cartons of cigarettes I could find, that way I don’t have to worry about prices going up again. Plus I would have enough Marlboro points for the winter coat.” *


Robert Recklaus

- - -

Date: Fri, 12 May 2000
From: Richard McManus
Organization: National Institutes of Health
Subject: A poem, incorporating media references

Dear McSweeney’s,

I know that your website does not traffic in attempts at poetry, so I am trying this side door. That’s because I laid awake, from 4:41 a.m. today til sometime later on, composing, for the literary side of your venture, and in my head, what I thought was an amusing account of the character of predawn bird chatter. It’s a rich subject, and I wish I could recover the waking thoughts. What survived was an intention to address the topic, and what follows is the result, written in an attempt to make a long Friday afternoon at work more meaningful. Happy Mother’s Day.

Well before the dawn, the birds begin their din
stifling a yawn, i see what tree they’re in
big magnolia farmhouse, whole families to a branch
Tall and full of stories, a talking avalanche

the elbows of their language
are jostling for space
with words that form a headline
the ears cannot erase

Their voices are alike as screws
in bins upon a shelf
as varied as the local news
which just repeats itself

but wake one day and miss it
and the sunshine comes apart
there’s use for repetition
like the beating of a heart.

Rich McManus

- - -

Date: Fri, 12 May 2000
From: Nancy Kerns
Organization: @Home Network
Subject: Million dollar ideas, dog spit, and jumprope chants

Dear McSweeney’s,

My friend Dan and I like to imagine that one of us will someday invent something that will make us rich. Whenever we think of a clever device or chemical the world needs, we initiate a conversation that goes something like this:
(Phone rings)
Dan: “Hello.”
Nancy: “Yo, Dan. Million dollar idea.”
Dan: “Go.”
Nancy: “XXX

Then, if Dan thinks it’s a good idea, he’ll respond, “OK. Nance. Go.” Meaning, yes, that’s a good idea, now get out there and SELL it!" Which neither of us will really do, because we are both lazy, but it wins us the rights to say, years later, when such a device has been introduced to the marketplace, “I thought of that first.” In this way we have acquired bragging rights to the invention of remote controlled stereos and a phone number you could call to get directions to anywhere from anywhere, among other things.

If Dan thinks it’s a completely worthless idea, he’ll respond, “No way, Vern. Bye.” And we hang up without further conversation, even if we have other things we’d like to discuss. We amuse ourselves with this brevity.

If Dan thinks it’s an OK idea, but not worth a million? He’ll say, “MAYbe a thousand-dollar idea, Vern. Get back to work.” and hang up.

I just can’t decide how much my newest idea is worth. I think I’m on to something, but it’s less advanced, conceptually, than most of our inventions. And more problematic. You see, it’s about dog spit.

I have observed that there is perhaps no other substance as slippery as dog spit. After dinner, my husband is in the habit of putting his plate on the floor for my dog to “lick clean,” a practice I abhor. And since I always wash the dishes (a chore I actually enjoy) I have had the opportunity to notice that it is incredibly difficult to wash dog spit off of the plates or other dishes the dog has licked. I can actually tell when a plate has been surreptitiously slipped to the dog and then sneaked into the dish pile. I’ll tell you, it takes an extra amount of dish soap, and scrubbing, and HOT water to get the plate “squeaky clean.” I swear to you I’m not an anti-germ freak or anything like that. It is just really hard to get the slippery dog spit off the plates.

So I’m thinking, couldn’t we analyze dog spit to discover what chemicals in it are so dang slippery? Perhaps, in this way, we could invent a brand new industrial lubricant of some kind, an environmentally friendly alternative to petrochemical products?

Dan thinks the dog spit idea is not even worth $10. I think I’m on to something.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I helped out at a fundraising event held annually at my son’s elementary school called “Jump Rope for Heart.” A hundred or so kids took pledges from various relatives and neighbors and then jumped rope for a couple of hours in relays to raise money for the American Heart Association. I helped some of the kids tie their short jump ropes together so we could swing a big long rope and have kids jump in and out of the jump rope and discovered, to my dismay, that only one or two of the 20 or so kids playing in our group knew how to jump in or out of the swinging rope and NOT ONE knew any jump rope chants! I had to teach them the ubiquitous chant,

“Not last night but the night before,
Twenty-four robbers came knocking on my door.
As I went OUT (jumper jumps out)
they ran IN (another jumper jumps in)
And hit me over the head with a rolling pin!
I asked them what they wanted,
this is what they said,
‘Spanish dancer do the splits, the twist,
the turnaround and touch the ground, and out the back door.’
Spanish Dancer please come back, back,
sit on a tack, read a book and do not look,
(jump with eyes closed, everyone counting out loud)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5… (until you miss)

Does anyone else remember any good jump rope chants? Or know what’s in dog spit that’s slippery?

N. Kerns
Alameda, CA

- - -

From: “luke o’neil”
Subject: There is nothing wrong with love
Date: Sat, 13 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

The third in a series of overly long emails discussing middle brow subjects in a mediocre fashion.

Rule number 17 for running in the park: when listening to a kick ass brit-rock band (like muse or Kent[Sweden is British now]) be careful not to start sprinting like an arsehole when the rocking-out bits come on, or else you will get a frigging cramp, and end up running around the reservoir much slower than you want to. But alternatively, this slow pace around the water will allow you to build up a nice reserve of energy for later on when you have to go across town (park, madison, lexington, 3rd, 2nd in my instance) at this point, if all has gone well, you will be able to time the parts just right (as when muse says : “She BURNS like the sun. And I can’t LOOK AWAY!”) so as to allow for maximum pumped-upness in-between blocks. Unfortunately you will probably end up getting stopped at the light every time — but this isn’t a big problem because you can jump up and down and get ready for the chorus to begin again.

Then when you get back to your apartment put on some Embrace to chill out. BE sure not to sweat on your roommate’s computer. Then answer said roommate’s girlfriend’s questions about whether you are in fact going to leave at the end of the month (you are). To go home? No, probably to Brooklyn. To just hang out till you go to school? You don’t know. You will worry about it on Monday you should tell her. And hey who is this on the stereo, the roommate might ask. Embrace. Oh, is this the Liam sounding guy or the Noel sounding guy is something he might follow up with. Noel. (You might talk about this longer than anyone but you might care to know about, so be sure not to include the whole conversation in an email.)

After the two inquisitioners have left to go to lunch (when I get back I am gonna have to do some work on the computer one might say — answer affirmatively that this is “cool, dude”) start writing without any idea of what is going to come out. Think about what you read last night in your local book store about what Donald Barthelme had to say about writing. Recall his mentioning his approach, in which each sentence that he produces, each twist or turn one might say (because at the end of every sentence, as you know, every letter in fact, there emerges before you a vast crossroads whose choices are infinite [if one thought about this too often one might get a head ache]) is a chance to spring off into the unknown. (Resist the urge to use a metaphor like “diving headlong into unknown waters” — taking special care to not use the word “uncharted” when referring to these waters.) At any rate, the point being — here, right here: __ now, in this blank space just to the right of this WORD (which you cannot see because I have already filled it in — but I will assure you it was there when these thoughts crossed through my mind)there lives the possibility for an infinite (innumerable — can you fathom that?) number of directions which this sentence can be taken. This being Don B’s point anyway — and what makes him excited about writing. And, if you think about it, what else is there to be excited about?

Oh, but one might point out, that each successive mark does not increase the possibilities, but instead limits them. Limits them exponentially. This may also be true. You would be well served by considering this option as well. It may be prudent to think of the written page (or in this case the computer screen) as a canvas. My fingers above the keys are as the painters brush, poised and ready — and, oh! now I have made a mark on the canvas: a single black line which runs from top left to bottom right; a jagged line, not a very confident stroke I might add. Now, if you believed what I was saying five minutes ago, you might think at this point: “The painter is now presented with an interesting problem, that being : WHAT TO DO NEXT; which road to take?” And the roads would seem infinite. But, consider this, the stroke on the canvas (maybe it isn’t such a bad stroke after looking at it from back here) has not provided for immeasurable progress, but it has instead limited the things that the painter can do. One obvious example being, leaving the canvas blank. The same can be said for the written (or typed) word. And, from the first word on (which in the case of this piece was “rule”) I am painting myself, so to speak, further and further into a corner. Each successive word is taking options away from me, if, as we probably can agree, we are going to operate under some semblance of conventional written discourse. I could, after all, write “gobbledy-gook” all the way down the rest of the page if I very well pleased, I suppose, but that wouldn’t take us very far now would it?

What’s that you say? You know all of this already?

It is wise to go back and read what you are working on from time to time to locate yourself in the piece. Often times you will forget where you are going, or where you have been — don’t forget this is sort of the name of a story by someone — maybe it is even the late RCarver, but who remembers the names of short stories these days anyway? RC: [to whom Don. B is often compared by the way, as you already know, {also having died at an early age, in his writing prime so to speak, also much imitated also known for some degree of minimalism, or is it irrealism <>>}). Hot stuff. At any rate, deservedly or not, these two fellas RC and DB are sort of lumped in together, because it is easier for critics to refer to artists in groups (let’s not leave out Robert Coover or John Barth, or even, much to my excitement, Kurt Vonnegutt, because as you and I both know, he is much maligned amongst what I like to call “ass-holes” Here they are ladies and gentlemen “THE POSTMODERNISTS!” or at least my perception of who such a group was [limited]) DB has said it was sort of like getting thrown together on a softball team so the critics could have them do battle with other groups of artists. He was happy with the team he was put on. Are you happy with yours? This might be a good moment to stop and consider that.

Speaking of Robert Coover and DB — there is one overt connection between the two, (wait, don’t let me forget to say this about DB and postmodernism: obviously every artist is scornful of the names that people use to try to encapsulate them, but he wrote a great piece called, I think, “On Not Knowing” in which - no that wasn’t it -- anyway, it is written in the form of a letter to a colleague bemoaning the death of postmodernism [which they were both ostensibly members of]. He talked about how he has to get the word out to all his friends {Barth and so on, one assumes} so they will be able to attach their wagon to some other horse before they are dragged down as well. it is very funny – and very sarcastic.)

Oh, but I was gonna talk about RC and DB. One obvious similarity is between their respective books “Briar Rose” and “Snow White” The first being a “po-mo” retelling of the Sleeping Beauty tale, the second, obviously, Snow White. These are bitterly sarcastic retellings, in which the conventions of the familiar are stretched beyond the imagination, in ways that, I could go on for a while here, (and you and I have already talked at great length about SW, particularly the trial scene) can only be experienced to be appreciated. Start with Snow White, I suggest. Ah, but I must be fooling myself to think you do not already have a much better understanding of both than I, so I humbly continue with, and this is the thing that one must have now, especially in times like these in fact: self-consciousness. Briar Rose (and this is the point) is a bit repetitive, and, although artistically enviable, doesn’t make for too much of a page turner — unless of course you have a great eye for detail and want to pick out each subtle change in events, as , each day, the hero finds himself stuck in the same briar patch, and the princess, in the same bed waiting for him to come. (Princes aren’t what they used to be by the way). This repetitive style, starting over and over and so on…reminded me of a story I read not so long ago on the lawn in front of the Hart center at Holy Cross. I was lying in the grass. I had just worked out. The book was “The Best American Short Stories of the 80’s” The name of the story was “Spanking the Maid” It began each section as the start of a new day, and detailed the horrible minutia of the work of a maid with an abusive employer. Slight variations could be found on each page, and this was the treasure hunt of the thing — but it was almost too much to take. It was also very erotic I should point out, and I almost thought it was more erotic fiction than anything else (but who needs to lay down boundaries these days?). My point here is that as I just read Briar Rose, I was reminded of this story, and I wondered if it was Coover. As it turns out, it was. Was it? Also, speaking of Coover, he, incidentally, teaches experimental writing at Brown U (where I did not get in). Oh to be studying with him instead of the people I have never heard of at Emerson (or Saul goddamn Bellow at BU) Shit. Its enough to make you think. Oh, and speaking of teaching, Barthelme also used to do so. On writing programs he said (and he was positive about them) maybe you cant teach writing, but you can definitely teach editing, and ethics and other things to look for in your writing. I still don’t know why people think you cant teach it. Oh yeah, he also used the phrase : “I definitely don’t think it is a ‘racket’” which is funny. And heartening, for me, a man with such misgivings.

And now its 1252, and I’ve been at it an hour. A whole album just played, and now it is the Stereophonics. And I won’t worry allowed if this is still being read. I wont. I will do some pushups maybe, and think about if anyone really wants to know me they should probably read this type of thing, and if, alternatively, they aren’t really too interested in knowing “me” that this is also fine. And what did Ian mean when he said he wants to start an Internet start up. And why does he need people who can write and look good, as he mentioned me? And how much will he pay me? And to do what? The stereophonics are urgent, if nothing else, and I really feel thats a great way to describe a band’s music — but now I also realize that this is a great way to describe muse and Kent too, so maybe it isn’t as unique as I want to think. Maybe this band doesnt sound too much like the Beach Boys. But, I think that it is much more likely that they do. And what is too much?

Yours insecurely,

Luke O’Neil

PS: It’s funny when people say things like “and etc…” and sign off in other antiquated fashions.

- - -

From: “phil redondo”
Subject: Re: Justine Hermitage
Date: Sun, 14 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

What to say
To make you come again
Come back to me again
And play your sad guitar


Phil Redondo

- - -

From: “Jason Adams”
Date: Sun, 14 May 2000
Subject: Judy Budnitz for O: The Oprah Magazine

Dear McSweeney’s,

As I was reading the recent edition of the news section I noticed that Judy Budnitz’s story, Flush, “was recently selected for inclusion in the upcoming O.” My eye naturally stopped at the period after the "O"—thinking it meant it was selected to be in O: The Oprah Magazine, which, indeed, would also have been nice for her.

Congratulations on the award, Judy.

Best Regards,

Jason Adams