From: “Ms. Dianne Schnorenberg”
Subject: Following please find a letter to the editor which was inspired by the Thought Police Blotter of issue #4, but also contains many reflections on the nature of time and life (but not TimeLife) and hideous car wrecks with a casual reference to Richard Dawson

Dear Mc (not to be confused with MC which is phonetically, if you are a rap artist, emcee, like the late Richard Dawson; nor to be confused with the periodic table of elements, which presents many combinations of letters in capital and lower-case pairings; but just to relay a sense of false familiarity and distaste for addressing casually an institution or conglomerate or multinational poised to take over the literary world as we know it, rather than an individual.)

I have visited your site before today; you may even say that I have done it a number of times, though there is, of course, no proof except the testaments of my loyal friends to whom I rave and rave, especially Ian Cavanaugh, who refuses to ask me to the symphony now that he has a girlfriend. Today though, I visit to dispel the nasty rumor perpetuated by the aforementioned Ian Cavanaugh (ingrate!) that McSweeney’s Filamentary Illumination has fallen upon dire straits (the metaphor, not Mark Knopfler, that would be weird and uncomfortable) and was merging with the McSweeney Organized Underground, AKA, the eerily charming, smiling McSweeneys of Now that I have seen for myself, I can happily return to my people, to tell them it is a lie and to soundly kick Ian Cavanaugh in the kneecap and ask him please to stop torturing me this way. But first, let me relay this experience I lived yesterday, returned to me today by the Thought Police Blotter of Issue #4.

Sometimes, when I am driving, which is often, I see a guardrail or a bridge support or a tree or a very large semi-truck and I think what would it feel like to adjust my steeringwheel slightly, subtlety, to change the course of my path merely by inches, and slam WhamBang head-on into that guardrail or tree or oversized SUV. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to careen recklessly, purposefully and suddenly off course into a depression near the side of the road and roll, head-over-tail (or trunk-over-hood), flipping twice or three times even, before coming to rest awkwardly in an opposing lane or soggy, sunken ditch. These things I think about with some regularity. Yesterday, as I was leaving over my lunchbreak to meet my sister for burritos, I flew down the on-ramp (because my car is slow and I like to fly when I can) and merged easily with the lunchtime traffic, which seemed high to me. I crested the next rise, and saw immediately the serpentine line of cars, backed up for miles, brake lights blinking and warning intermittently. I slowed and fell in line behind and next to cars I don’t remember, despite their owner’s careful thought and consideration when purchasing towards the personal statement they would like to project each time they round corners on the outside or take nasty potholes with their super-dual suspensions, remaining, as ever, cool, groomed, and attractively aloof. There is a meditative quality to traffic; though you stream along at breakneck speeds, surrounded on all sides by fellow travelers: executives, Burger King shift managers, students, lawn crews, nurses, mothers, sons, each one (for no one carpools here) cruises to a highly individualized and isolated soundtrack. Self-contained capsules filled with waves of NPR or Top 40 or cell-phone static or the simple relative silence of tires rolling over asphalt at 70 miles per follow, pass and settle beside one another like cells in a bloodstream, and even if you were listening to the same voice over your radio or in your head as the person in front of, behind, or next to you, you would not know it, and it would not matter because to identify and acknowledge a shared experience requires attention be diverted from your courageous path, and risks your painful intersection with any of the similarly courageous travelers around you. So you see, it is with some growing sense of dread mixed with inspiration that I merged with this throng of life, slowed artificially for emphasis by the flashing red and yellow ambulance lights nearly a mile in the distance. I had no other choice. It is an eerie, intense feeling to know that you are in the midst of a slow procession passing the great mishap or tragedy of another life. You cannot help but build correlation to the mishaps or tragedies of your own life, since you too, travel this road daily, and you too have had occasion to take your eyes from your steady course, risking injury to life, limb, internal organs. As the entire parade of drivers progressed by carlengths and minutes towards the wreckage I felt the despair of life not yet lived left behind too soon. I despaired for the father, daughter, husband who would be called from home or work or school to meet in the emergency room. I despaired for those separated by distance and time who would not know until much later, who were at this moment typing memos or midterms or putting in annuals, oblivious to the crisis. When I could finally see the small pickup twisted and pushed up and onto the cement divider, and the firemen in their heavy yellow coats working in double time to free the unfortunate, I knew again the conviction that time is too short for a life half lived, for love half given, for delayed desire and dream. And I almost decided to call in delirious after lunch, to drive and drive and drive beyond the accident and towards a purposeful point along the highway, high on a rise where the traffic flew by without me. And then a strange thing happened: I saw my dad. He was leaning over the cement barrier speaking above the noise and the wind to a witness or a passenger, his thin, blond hair blown backwards onto his forehead, his padded leather coat bunched high over his waist, as he leaned in closer to the man there. I thought he might be there, but I’m never sure when I see an accident if he’ll be the officer called to it. I wanted to honk, to say hi and make a connection, to reaffirm something more positive and enduring than the evident pain, but he was working, and to distract him would not be good. So I passed. And I decided not to have burritos for lunch, but opted for Thai veggies over rice instead, and I kissed my sister before she left me to return to work, and somehow the day seemed more beautiful, and life held more promise. But I still think sometimes, about how it would feel.

Dianne Schnorenberg
Lawrence, KS

- - -

Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2000
Subject: a real event w/questions
From: “Demian Parker”

Dear McSweeney’s,

Set Up Man and Woman at table in upscale restaurant. Waitress approaches.

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

Is this a joke? Is there an underlying meaning to this message beyond the obvious: That this woman would trade sexual favors for a trip overseas. Is the fact that she is making a joke of this, what some would call, prostitution her way of refuting its truth. Why does she need to use anesthesia on herself before engaging in intercourse with this man?

Or, possibly, is the joke a way of bonding with waitress. In this second instance, the joke takes on more of a political slant, where the woman (who, at first, is taken to be the “dumb blond” of many clich&#eacute;s) is really saying to the waitress: “I am using my sexuality in a male dominated world to get things for myself that I cannot get for myself because of the patriarchal society that we live I am not as valued in the workplace as a man and therefore do not have the same economical advantages.”

Was the woman possibly bragging, as if to say in a (semi-)polite fashion: “I’m gettin’ laid tonight.”

Maybe she was excited about going to Italy and wanted to tell everyone she met, like a small child saying “Look at my new dolly.”

Was the comment made to embarrass the man she dined with?


Demian Parker

- - -

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000
From: Ron Dulin
Subject: Justine Hermitage’s Forgotten Line

Dear McSweeney’s,

Vulture vomit at your feet

Ron Dulin

- - -

From: Melissa Springer
Subject: this has gone on too long, and yet…
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Re: Justine Hermitage’s letter re: Ken Alper’s letter, I have this to say:

The night was dark, the moon was green
Around the corner came the fart machine
A shot was fired, a scream was heard
A lady was killed by a flying turd
Now don’t you laugh, but you may cry
For you may be the next to die
They wrap you up in a big, white sheet
And bury you down about 5 or 6 feet
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out
The worms play pinochle in your snout

Melissa Springer

- - -

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000
Subject: The Iceman Cameth, all right. And Cameth, and Cameth, and…

Dear McSweeney’s,

In response to Jennifer Boyer’s letter re: the trashing of “Iceman Cometh” here on the McS web wonderland…

Oh, Jennifer. It was too long. Yes, I know what you’re going to say, Kevin Spacey-brilliant-handsome-pin-drop. But it was too long. Oh and also not interesting. And it did have intermissions, 2 in fact; both were long enough to smoke half a cigarette but not long enough to hit a deli AND smoke a cigarette, and I have my priorities. Thank god my pregnant friend Jean brought along a bag of trail mix or I may have perished from starvation.

I know this seems harsh, but the whole thing was a giant waste of time and money and older character actors and Robert Sean Leonard (who kept interjecting from the very farthest corner of the stage just as Kevin was wrapping things up and I wanted very much to throw handfuls of trail mix at him, or strangle the dramaturg for not making any cuts in the script, but my tickets were free and my seat was very, very far away, so far away in fact that I could almost hear “Amy’s View” playing across the street, and my pathetically tossed handfuls of trail mix had a better chance of hitting Judy Dench) and was incredibly overrated, even for Broadway. It’s not even one of O’Neill’s best plays, being sort of a one-trick pony (ooh, big popular guy’s coming to make all the sad people happy, wonder if anything is going to go wrong?), and plus, WHY must we do nothing but revivals, revivals, revivals?

In conclusion, we should all be thanking our lucky stars that Kevin was channelling Jon Davidson in “The Music Man” and talking very fast. Had he not adopted such a machine-gun pattern of speech, it is entirely possible we would have been there for 6 or 7 hours. Imagine. By the way, “The Music Man” is being revived; sadly, it will star neither Kevin Spacey nor Jon Davidson.

I shall now, in the interest of being constructive, direct you towards some good theater: “The Five Hysterical Girls Theorem,” a NEW play by Rinne Groff, directed by David Herskovits, produced by the fine people of Target Margin Theater, being presented RIGHT NOW through May 11 at the Connelly Theater on E. 4th St. b/t A & B right here in NYC. Far from Broadway, I know, but the neon lights of the East Village Key Food are just as bright.

thanks so much, and please— keep seeing theater, no matter how snotty and elitist we theater people can be,

whitney “too bad about the singin’ kitties” pastorek

- - -

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000
From: Chuck Easterling
Subject: Whaling in Panama

Dear McSweeney’s,

If your friend Kate tells you that she will be having “some work done” next week do not (I repeat: DO NOT) attempt to guess which procedure she will be undergoing.

Trust me,

Chuck Easterling

- - -

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000
From: “Clara E. Kebabian”
Subject: playground chants

Dear McSweeney’s,

Looking at the previous posts I always heard this version of the playground favorite:

great green globs of greasy grimy gopher guts
mutilated monkey meat
cremated cricket crap
great green globs of greasy grimy gopher guts
and me with out a spoon

scab sandwich pus on top
monkey throw-up
camel snot
aligator eyeballs rolled in gluuuuue
in a sandwich just for you!

Clara Kebabian

- - -

From: “Sarah M. Balcomb”
Subject: A Story About The Future
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

My friend Ryder thinks he can see the future. Here’s my retelling of a dream he related to me.

Ryder scrubbed his penis hard with a toilet brush, but still the urine stains would not come off. Amputation seemed the only way to get that organ clean. People snorted cocaine in the next stall as he wrestled to think of another viable option. “Bleach,” he said aloud, suddenly remembering the one cleaning product he hadn’t tried. He zipped up his jumpsuit, being careful not to catch any hairs this time, and left the bathroom, exiting though the swinging doors without extending an arm to aid his passage, his protruding chin taking the brunt of both doors’ weight like a confident cowboy.

Whistle around his neck, life preserver by his side, he was supposed to be on duty, both eyes on the club kids in the pool, but the situation with his penis took precedence. Carefully avoiding the pool area where the girls bandied his name back and forth in time with the boys tossing their unsinkable “balls” or “rods” higher and higher into the blackness of masculine rencontre, Ryder crossed the dance floor, grooving with the beat of the strobe lights, weaving his way though bodies dancing and bodies just standing around looking cool. The line at the ecstasy stand was at least four abreast, making passage through the rear doors by the kitchen difficult, if not impossible, so he cut through the bowling alley. Since the union now represented the guys who reset the bowling pins, no games were played. The risk of mutilation was so high in the profession that not even the lucrative union could afford the insurance premiums. But the kids didn’t mind the break in service; the wood floor of the lanes was perfect for dancing. Boys in pants so baggy they barely hung on their hips — some had pants so oversized that they had to keep their torsos in constant motion, the wide waist bands circling around their hips like hula hoops — slid down the lanes on their knees while girls with silver glitter covering their cheeks stood around in packs like pink and purple colored pins, smoking long, thin cigarette just waiting to be knocked down.

Tommy-No-Nods, a bulging security guard pinned with the moniker because he never nods out, no matter how much heroin he snorts, was stationed at the far end of the alley, licking his lips and spinning his billy-club like a lasso, a wide circle of translucent gray behind which he appeared as though peeking through a fan. Ryder took a hard right and found himself in the mailroom. Although he’d been stationed at Club Land for five years, sometimes he still had difficulty finding his way through the labyrinthine of theme rooms — Level 12, with its vats of warm heady liquids, always gives him the most trouble; an errand to that floor might take days. In a cubicle designed to hold mail, two postal employees were working at each other like loose hinges, wriggling violently to the silent beat of their conjoined groins. Unimpeded by curiosity or even by a banal sense of dismay, Ryder skirted the two lovers, with his back clinging to the wall, letting his hands search blindly behind him for the handle to the janitor’s cabinet which he knew was somewhere along that smooth surface.

Once safely inside the small, dimly lit closet, he easily located the Clorox, next to a pack of menthol cigarettes, turned up the plastic bottle and drank it dry. He smoked one of the menthols while waiting for the cleaning agent to take effect, but before he had a chance to unzip his jumpsuit and perlustrate his stain, the closet door was opened. Pappy, the old three-legged janitor, stood there chuckling quietly to himself, watching the young lifeguard smoke one of his cigarettes. “You sumbitch ain’t getting away with this shit. Thems be black men’s smokes,” he yelled, barely able to keep a straight face as he spit out the words along with a few teeth, then producing an imaginary cellphone, he pretended to call security. “Tommy, Tommy-No-Nods,” he shouted into his hand, “wake up you junkie bastard, I got me a wanna-be homeboy up here tryin’ to get his stinkin’ white hands on my gen-u-wine African art-y-facts.”

The two old friends had a good laugh about obsolete technology as they polished off a couple more bottles of cleaning solution, chasing it with menthol cigarettes. That was all they needed to get high.

If only the future truly held such promise.

Your friend,
Sarah M. Balcomb

- - -

From: “Sean Gallagher”
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000
Subject: Cat Stevens

Dear McSweeney’s,

Regarding Whitney Pastorek’s letter of April 14, 2000: please tell me Cat Stevens is not late. I know he’s great (well, great in that Harry Chapin sort of way, not like the Beatles or Steely Dan or anything) but LATE??? This is news, and I must say bad news at that. I thought he had merely changed his name on become Buddhist or something like that. What now?

Please advise.

Sean Gallagher

- - -

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000
From: “Elizabeth Cox”
Subject: Two Thoughts and a Plug

Dear McSweeney’s,

1. We used to chant as follows. Please pay attention to the third line.

Boys (/girls) are made of
Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts
Insulated Monkey Meat
Little Dirty Birdy Feet
French Fried Eyeballs
Dipped in Tomato Sauce
That’s What BOYS (/GIRLS) are made of!

Insulated? From what? Circa 1975-80, Suburban Minneapolis. .

2. Yesterday I saw the third person this week running down the street wearing a hospital gown and paper shoes, bleeding from somewhere around the face or neck. I thought, what are they doing to them at San Francisco Gen?*

3. If you live in or around San Francisco, you might want to come and see this neat show. It’s called Get Me Rodd Keith! It is about a composer who worked in the songpoem industry (you know, send us your poems and a small financial investment and we’ll turn out a solid gold hit!) of the 1970s. It is a goofy show…a very good & happy way to spend an evening. There are real songpoems in it, like “Disco Dancer, You’re the Answer,” and “Jimmy Carter Says Yes.” And boy, are they…catchy. Go here please:

Libby Cox

- - -

Date: 24 Apr 00
From: Thomas Gibbon
Subject: Ham

Dear McSweeney’s,

Yesterday, Easter, the biggest ham-eating day of the year, no, the millenium, and I got no ham. No bacon. No pork. No chitterlings. No spiced ham. No devilled ham. No canned ham. No boiled ham. No smoked Virginia ham. Zero on the swine factor. That’s right. None. It is because of my religion. My religion forbids me from cooking for myself and my roommates weren’t around. That’s right. I’m a Quaker.

All the same, Karen Finley, sigh, and on my birthday, hint-hint. Evidently Clay Hazelwood stole my notebook. He can have it. I lent it to someone the other day. The next morning I went to write something down. Something great about birds. I open it up and there’s pictures of people’s crotches in my notebook. What the f. is up w. that? Robots, some of us are working towards that [but we are pacing ourselves!]. The first step is acceptance. Admit we have a robot problem. So good work, soldier.

But back to the main point. In my alimentary school I recall no chanting. In spite of my earlier lies. The other boys, I remember them well (well, well-ish), and I would throw things at each other’s heads. The girls, I assume, spent much of their time thinking up ways to get us off of that damned island. The rest was spent outwitting us boys. No one was innocent there. We were always trying to out-do each other in games and tales of corruption. Everybody played it cool, like a longtime millionaire’s longtime companion at a funeral. It was dark and disturbing. I much preferred home, which was dark, too, but in a cozy over-priced restaurant/under-priced bar sort of way.

I seem to have lost my monocle,
T.G. Gibbon

- - -

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000
From: Matt Weitz
Subject: childhood songs

Dear McSweeney’s,

Given the startling—to me at least—interest in childhood song that has been popping up in the letters section, allow me to offer my recollection of the “Gopher Guts” song.

The attentive reader will notice several significant deviations form the Courtney Love maxi-play CD single version.

“Great big gobs of greasy gooey gopher guts
Mutilated monkey meat
Contaminated chicken feet
French-fried eyeballs
Floatin’ in a pool of blood
Caught without a fork—”

The next line is sung in the away-we-go style of the “A-A-nd maaaaany mooooore” that often follows the body of “Happy Birthday:”

“So I’ll use a str-a-a-a-aaaaaw!”

punctuated for maximum effect with the most revolting slurping sound effects possible.

Hope this helps.

Mateo Diablo
Los Hermanos Diablo
(Guillermo, Eduardo, Mateo y Brian)
Dallas, Texas

- - -

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000
From: “Luke O’neil”
Subject: Is this thing on?

Dear McSweeney’s,

…also, in a related note, I would like to say to your readers that I have never understood the theory that pinpointing what something (or someone) is — vocalizing its nature in other words, thereby renders that thing (or person) ridiculous, and a ready target for scorn.

For example: One time a friend of mine referred to Faulkner as an author for people who masturbate into a mirror.

No, that’s not at all what I am trying to say. Oh yeah!! Some person or other wrote a letter to you recently in which they listed (rather astutely) a number of characteristics found commonly in the letters that are written to this web page. These characteristics were numbered, and the writer used the word “non sequitur.”

“This is an accurate assessment of the large majority of the letters that are written to,” I thought to myself. "The way in which the writer has used his or her knowledge of previous letters written, then boiled them down to three or four significant points of interest and relayed them to us (the readers) with a vague yet unmistakable sour tone is a bit disturbing to me (the fan of the site) and has forced me to question it’s (the site’s) overall relevancy and originality. I then briefly considered never reading the web page, or anything else, ever again.

Then I reconsidered these things. Then I wrote an email. This email.

Perhaps I am not being clear.

Perhaps, on the other hand, I am being very clear. Too clear?

In other news:

There is this girl I know. I dreamt of her last night, and I cannot figure out what it means. I have never had a dream like this before. I was speaking to her as if I were a film director, trying to recruit her into my picture. The (obviously paraphrased) conversation went something like this

Girl: What’s my motivation???

Me: Sex. Horrible, fake sex

Girl: Hhhmmm, oh my specialty. I can handle that.

Me: I suspected as much. That’s why you are perfect for the part.

Girl: Hey, everyone’s gotta have a talent right? What’s the part?

Me: She is a sad girl, sickly — she has extremely long eyelashes that get in the way when she walks. Because of her long eyelashes no one can see her beautiful eyes, so, she never makes any friends or falls in love because people aren’t accustomed to that sort of thing. Her mother, recognizing her viability as a freak-like attraction forces her to join the circus.

Girl: Those must be some long eyelashes — clever of the mother.

Me: They are very long. You will, of course, have to wear a prosthetic attachment of some sort.

Girl: Well I assumed naturally

Me: At any rate — the girl spends one sad month in the circus, travelling from town to town with “the man-who-looks-like-a-mouse-to-people-with-hats-on,” and “a girl-who-has-no-insecurities.” Needless to say, they are not a very popular section of the group, what with the elephants and so on…

Girl: I always play second fiddle to the elephants!

Me: Yes. Yes, you always do….So, do you want to do it?

Girl: No.

Luke O’Neil

- - -

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000
From: John Bergmayer
Subject: More Gross Songs.

Dear McSweeney’s,

Military cadences:

A yellow bird
with a yellow bill
was sitting on
my window sill
I lured him in
with a piece of bread
and then I stomped his (STOMP)
little head!

The moral of
the story is
if you want some head,
you need some bread.

variations I recall (there are many):
A little dog
with little paws
was sitting on
my table saw
I picked him up
like a piece of meat
and then I cut
off all his feet

A tiny mouse
with tiny feet
was sitting on
my toilet seat
I pushed him in
and flushed him down
and then I watched
that fucker drown

The melody to these cadences is

I remain yours truly, John Bergmayer.

- - -

From: “Alison Garfield”
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000
Subject: Dan’s Deweese’s letter

Dear McSweeney’s,

In response to the letter from Mr. Dan DeWeese dated 22 April: Be careful! A friend of mine was recently stabbed outside a bar near the Tattered Cover Bookstore. You noted that you went to a martini bar down the street from the bookstore, and I just wanted to warn you about recent attacks. My friend met two guys in a bar called The Cherry Cricket. (A really great bar, by the way. Great pool tables!) Anyways, he left the bar and was walking down one of the side streets, and these two guys ran after him, stole his wallet and slashed him with a large knife across his face and neck. He was in intensive care for a week. And thank God, he’s expected to live. You might think this area (the Cherry Creek neighborhood) is posh and stuff. But we now know it’s also dangerous after dark. So if the MR ever reads at the Tattered Cover, don’t wander the streets alone.

Best wishes,

Alison Garfield
San Francisco, CA

- - -

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000
Subject: MY letter 2 u!!!!!!!!

Dear McSweeney’s,

One day, I was sitting at home. I was thinking about relaxing and calling my lover in prague but something stopped me. It was the phone. The phone rang. I had to answer it. But i did not want to. I knew that the person on the phone was going to make me upset. I picked it up. It was my neighbor.

I live in rural Maryland. My neighbor is known in my affluent rural neighborhood as being particularly hickish. She, along with the rest of her family, which is composed of three dirty female children, one of whom is 4 and whines nonsense instead of real words, are the outcasts of my small rich people neighborhood.

Once I babysat for this family and they had big brown spots on their floor and their Coke tasted like garbage. I do not know why this is. The rooms were messy and the boogers coming out of the noses of the children made me unable to hold the babies because I was so disgusted. The father of these children is paler than any other pale person i have ever met. The whole famil y looks as if it has never seen daylight. The father never talks and I felt on the day that I babysat as though he may want to have sex with me. The father and the mother both work at the Giant Supermarket further south from our neighborhood.

Anyway, I picked up the phone and it was the lady next door. She asked me, albeit reluctantly, if I would mind driving her to McDonald’s because her car broke down. She has asked me to drive her to the Boys and Girls club before and I have, and I felt good afterwards. I decided that although I didn’t want to do it, i would anyway. When I picked her up, she was with her child, the one that didn’t talk. She still didn’t talk .

They had first communion dresses. They bought 5 dresses and needed to return 4 of them. On the way to McDonalds, which in my town is disguised to look like a house, there were efforts made to talk to eachother, which as usual in any situation where two people of differing backgrounds and limited social skills are forced into conversation, was filled with really dumb things. In the midst of dumbness, however, I found transcendent beauty.

Topic one: The curly haired outcast expressed her desire for there to be more strip malls in our town. Topic two: She said that she had been made fun of at her job at Giant because our McDonalds didn’t have arches. She wished that there could be a burger king and a taco bell around here. Topic Three: She was glad it was spring time.

As we approached McDonalds parking lot, we said our goodbyes. As she stepped out of the car and walked away, it occurred to me that she actually didn’t care about me as much as I cared about her and was already thinking about the communion dresses and chicken nuggets. I felt good about myself for doing a good thing for another lady, espeicially because our whole neighborhood is scared of her and her white whiny dirty family.

A final note: she looked like those people in life magazine that one time where those kids and their mom and dad all lived in a station wagon. The picture i liked most in that one was the one where the girl had fallen asleep in the shower because it was so nice.

Maya Miller

- - -

Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000
From: Tom Stanley

Dear McSweeney’s,

I like my new book because it has sentences like this:

“The Tibetans of this prehistoric period are seen, from the few glimpses that we have of them in Chinese history about the end of the sixth century, to have been rapacious savages and reputed cannibals, without a written language, and followers of an animisic and devil-dancing religion, resembling in many ways the Taoism of China.”

and this:

“I, the King of barbarous Tibet, do not practice the ten virtues, but should you be pleased to bestow on me your daughter…I shall practice the ten virtues with a five-thousand-fold body…though I have not the arts…if you so desire…”

and this:

“The guru-wizard Padmha-sambhava cut the aortas of the defenders of Yoz Graham with the use of magical sentences, and chicken blades.”

Best Wishes,

- - -

From: “Sean Carman”
Subject: What’s Going On With Arlen Specter’s Jowls?
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I saw him on Jim Lehrer tonight. What happened to his jowls? They used to unfold gracefully from the excess skin gathered in his lower cheeks, like the natural products of time and gravity I always assumed them to be. Now in their place are two thick ridges of (skin? latex?) affixed to the surface of his otherwise smooth cheeks. The ridges look like the raised remnants of a latex stage mask. The jowls, which I remember so fondly from the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings, are gone. Is the Pennsylvania Senator in the middle stage some sort of experimental jowl-removal protocol? Did his plastic surgeon replace his jowls with artificial skin pockets for the storage of marbles or peanuts? Is it some jowl-removal procedure gone horribly awry? His voice sounds more gravely (lending weight to the marble-pocket theory) yet oddly less sincere. Margaret Warner made no mention of the Senator’s altered appearance.


Sean Carman

P.S. I liked the correspondent who said “Warmest mittens.” You should give her a free lifetime subscription.

P.P.S. Margaret Smith-Warner (or was it Warner-Smith?) now goes by simply “Margaret Warner.” Does that mean she’s available?

- - -

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000
From: Jesse Lichtenstein

Dear McSweeney’s,

Twenty years from now, I wonder if we will look back on the saga of Elian Gonzalez and ask ourselves, “Where is that little boy now?” And is it not possible that we will turn to the window and gaze at the wisteria scaling the trellis in our neighbor’s yard, and be filled with remorse? For we will recall lovers long-gone and lost to us, their whereabouts unknown, their bodies only half-remembered. And we will know for certain that we will never make Chicken Basque the way our mother does. We will remember how Aaron Scott, the young film artist from Brooklyn, assured us that there were, indeed, tornadoes in Maine, and that he would show them to us. Did he ever? We will not feel certain. We will remember Kendra Lider-Johnson, the smoothness of her shorn head, the radiance of her smile, the indolence of her cats; how for many years she was the only hyphenated person we would admit to knowing; and how for months we intended to call her, because we owed her lunch at Izzy’s, as soon as we had a real job. And then a breeze will gather and the wisteria will sway and strain. Its pendant clusters, refusing still to flower, waiting for the year’s strange weather to pass into familiar patterns, will shiver as if imagining some unwelcome outcome. We will turn from the window and gaze down at the coffee table. There will be magazines, a few books, a list drawn up on a yellow sheet of paper, and perhaps a ceramic mug that still holds yesterday’s tea. It will be ‘Gentle Orange.’ “Wisenheimer,” we will think, is a word we have only encountered in movies. “Wiseacre” we have only ever seen in books. And the room will be so quiet. When, in the window, the trellis sways and leans far back to graze the clapboard wall of our neighbor’s house, we will watch its motion with dark, uncomprehending eyes.

Elian, O Elian, our memory is your demesne. This is your fiefdom, your realm, for we have made you lord. You have only to beat your little drum and we will follow, though we know not where. I will call you next week, Kendra—seriously. How’s Thursday? Or are weekends still better?

Jesse Lichtenstein

- - -

From: “Williams, Sarah”
Subject: “Ara Vartanian,” who wrote in on April 21
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Hey! That guy went to my school!

I only know that because he used to like to say strange things in a very loud voice in the dining hall. So I wouldn’t expect him to remember me, since I hardly ever say anything in a loud voice. Also, a name like “Ara Vartanian” has something of an advantage over a name like “Sarah Williams” when it comes to being remembered by fellow alumni etc.

Anyway, Hey! What other Sagehens are out there? Let’s all give McSweeney’s a big rousing CHIRP! (Or, on a different vein, what other Sarah Williamses are out there?)

Sarah Williams, Analyst
Washington, DC

- - -

From: “Dan Kennedy”
Subject: On the playground again, naturally.
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Below is my contribution to these playground chants. In grade 4, they used to follow me around singing this silly one while I walked along the perimeter of the playground. By myself. God I hate this song.

To think that only yesterday
I was cheerful, bright and gay
Looking forward to wouldn’t do
The role I was about to play
But as if to knock me down
Reality came around
And without so much, as a mere touch
Cut me into little pieces
Leaving me to doubt
About God and His mercy
Or if He really does exist
Why did
He desert me
And in my hour of need
I truly am indeed
Alone again, naturally
Alone again, naturally
Alone again, naturally

(Hit me in chest and run.)

Don’t you worry about me! I’m just fine-

Dan Kennedy
From: “Gillian Beebe”
Subject: Words
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Apposite versus Opposite

I don’t like or maybe I do like the fact that these two words do not mean the same thing. Their distinct meanings are also not neatly discernable via my usual linguistic instincts. I always think of “A-” as a negative. And "O- is nice and round and seems po..pOsitive. But that is not the case with these two words. In fact, the contrary is true.

So when someone of the British persuasion recently informed me that a finished product I submitted was apposite to the assignment, I was a little upset. Until I remembered those crazy English and their tendency to use words that are not very helpful.

I have pronunciation issues with English speakers, too: aluminium and jagyuwar, for instance.

And thank you to the person who taught me the word “amblyopia” in a McSweeneys letter. I love that word.


- - -

Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000
From: Sean McMaster
Subject: Tim Bandits

Dear McSweeney’s,

My name is Timothy and Timothy is also the name of my father. This is, perhaps, not strange. But then consider this: Timothy is the name of my best friend from when I was growing up (his mother, a beautiful woman, used to call us “Tim Squared”), my first serious girlfriend’s dog (Tim the spaniel: energetic and loving), my favorite college professor (he taught biology), and my favorite actor (Mr. Tim Cruise). Tims are everywhere. Tims are everything. Tim waits for no one.

I need not point out to you that your fine magazine is also named Tim. But why, pray tell, are your writers not named Tim? Why is Neal Pollack not Tim Pollack? Why is John Hodgman not Tim Hodgman? Why is Ben Greenman not Tim Greenman? I would like to take them for a drink, these funny fellows, but I cannot imagine saying, “Another Cosmopolitan for my good friend John,” or “Another Chocolate Martini for my good friend Neal,” or “Another Seven & Seven for my good friend Ben.” I can, however, imagine saying, “More gin for Tim.”

By stealing the Tims from your larger Tim, you have blackened the name of your magazine, and that name is Tim.

Timothy McMaster

P.S. Don’t blow glass or I’ll kick you in the ass. Don’t roll boulders or I’ll kick you in the shoulders. Don’t make faces or I’ll kick you in your other places.

- - -

Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000
From: John Davis
Subject: Some Things about Percy Shelley

Dear McSweeney’s,

Yesterday, I ran into Kim Ransom, at the Pig, and we had a lovely chat about poetry, and Percy Shelley. In Kim’s words, Shelley, was “a pimp.” Percy Shelley married this one woman, whose name escapes me, then fell in love (read:lust) with another, so left the first woman, whom he had gotten pregnant, then got the other woman pregnant. Then, he and 2nd Woman decided to have an “open relationship.” Furthermore, they felt bad for 1st Woman, and invited her to live with them. She declined. In the meantime, Shelley and 2nd Woman each met other lovers. The last Kim told me, Shelly, 2nd Woman, and his new lover (who we’ll call 3rd Woman) went on an excursion to Europe, to meet 2nd Woman’s new lover. I’m sure some indescribable sexual things happened which I’d really rather not think about but which might make an interesting topic for some kind of erotica/porn/shock-art film by Oliver Stone or (if he were not dead) Stanley Kubrick. Or those guys who make SouthPark.

If you want to know the names of all those women, you’ll have to ask Kim, since she took notes, and I really cannot remember thier names.


John Paul Davis

- - -

Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000
From: John Davis
Subject: I mean really!

Dear McSweeney’s,

Forget that last thing I wrote.

And please bring home a pizza tonight. And a movie. Get a movie. You aways make me get the movies. I’d like you to get the movie this time, and none of that animated stuff with the robaots and the bio-mechanical people with big eyes. Something nice, like “It Could Happen to You” or “About Last Night” or “One Fine Day.” You get the idea.

Pizza shld. have: Pepperoni on 1/2
Bacon on 1/2
Spinach on 1/2, so that 1/2 of the Spinach is on the Pepperoni 1/2 and 1/2 of the Spinach is on the Bacon 1/2
Mushrooms on 1/2, distributed same as Spinach ( see above), but distributed on the 1/2 which is not occupied by the Spinach.
There should be cheese on the whole thing.
And tomato sauce too, only please make certain tomato sauce is not on the 1/4 of the pizza which contains Pepperoni, Mushrooms and Cheese. This 1/4 shld. have a pesto base.


John Paul Davis.

- - -

Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000
From: User
Subject: campfire favorite at Green Cove (Tuxedo, NC)

Dear McSweeney’s,

She cut her baby brother in two
Rickety tickety tin
She cut her baby brother in two
And when she saw that she was through
She served him up as an Irish—stew!
And invited the neighbors in
Neighbors in
She invited the neigbors in.

She weighted her father down with stones
Rickety tickety tin
She weighted her father down with stones
And sent him off to Davy Jones
And all that was left of him was—bones!
And occasional pieces of skin
Of skin
Oh, occasional pieces of skin.

If anyone could supply additional verses, I’d be much obliged, yes indeed.

Yer pal, Mary

- - -

Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000
From: Sean Gallagher
Subject: To have or have not

Dear McSweeney’s,

It came to me today, while I was watching the gulls hovering outside the window of my poor little cubicle at my workplace, where I am temporary. Have you ever taken time to watch gulls, perhaps over downtown Brooklyn, or over the various and assorted bridges along the Belt Parkway? They’re kind of surprising, these gulls, for many reasons. One reason is that they’re not really “sea gulls.” A “sea gull” doesn’t really exist at all; the name is merely a catchall for any number of gulls, including the Common Gull, Great (and Lesser) Black Backed Gull, and Kelp Gull. There is no such thing as a sea gull, any more than there is a “land person,” or an “earth dog.” However when I was young and spent lots more time by the sea than I do now, I and the fishermen used to call them “sky rats.” Well, the fishermen used to call them “sky rats” and I merely picked up that habit so I could seem as if I knew the jargon and thus fit in. It didn’t really work; jargon and all I never fit in. Being ten I was too young to show up hung over and talk about my wife, or my girlfriend, or in some cases both, and I had no hatred for “blow boaters,” didn’t even know what they were. I do now, but it doesn’t help me in my current life as much as I thought it would back then. In fact, it helps me not at all, as people who are temporary do not need to know things like “blow boat” or “sky rat.” So I took my “sky rats” and left with it, to spread the word to the others. “Sky rats” is a nickname, though, and should not be considered in the same way as “sea gull” often is. If you would like to talk correctly about “sea gulls,” you should call them things like Yellow footed Gull, American Herring Gull or Black tailed Gull. Of course, what you call them depends on what they are. Unless you want to be incorrect, in which case you might as well call them “sea gulls.”

At any rate, I was sitting with my legs up on a little two drawered filing cabinet, watching some gulls circle slowly clockwise around an area which I later discovered is the Brooklyn Navy Yard. I like to do this on occasion, but I am limited by the birds, who do not always circle in the somewhat limited sight area of the window at which I sit (though I am temporary, I am also lucky). This morning they were out, and I was watching. They’re very calming, flying lazily with very little effort, their enormous wingspans carrying them along on the slightest breeze. Some mornings, when the wind is blowing strongly, they hang aloft in mid-air, not quite hovering, more riding on the air. Watching them, I can’t believe that people who spend a lot of time on the water hate them they way they do, they are so amazingly graceful. They almost seem to enjoy what they’re doing, like they’re flying not to look for food or to escape big stray cats or raccoons or whatever, rather for the sheer fun of being able to spread wings and take flight. This to me has always implied intelligence and some amount of awareness which is greater than your average water bird. This is another reason I find gulls surprising. To me, it is surprising that something which lives on garbage, has feathers which never seem to become soiled with fish guts no matter how many guts they poke their heads in, and is (if hungry enough) cannibalistic, can in such a seemingly high-minded way appear to take such joy in doing something which comes so naturally to it.

However, this is not what came to me today. This knowledge and admiration of gulls has been with me for some time, and I am better for it. Hopefully you can be too, after having read this brief introduction into the joys of gulling (which name is one of my own creation. I figure there is such a profusion of bad verbiage in this day and age where millions use the word “party” as a verb, the feet-up musings of a gull watching temporary person won’t hurt anyone) and taking some time to observe for yourself. You don’t even need to have your feet up, I usually don’t. It was just that this morning I came in early.

What came to me today is that, being temporary, I am lucky to have a window. Many of my friends who are, by their own telling, “permanent” (“perms” in the world of us temporary folk, or, if you like, “temps;” we don’t mind…) (most of us, anyway) or “full time” (which I don’t understand because I too am working full time, but I let them get away with it) do not have windows of their own. Since I have entered the varied and exciting world of temporary employment I have worked at two different companies. One doesn’t keep track of its bills very well. The other has decided that I am worth retaining, at least for the time being. They do not have room for me, so instead of being installed somewhere like the “perms,” I am occasionally shuttled around from cubicle to office to cubicle and so on. This can be very interesting and educational as you never know whose kids you might be staring at all day, or what books someone might have on their shelves. There are also wide variances in chair choice which seem to relate to income level and tax bracket. But that’s another story, and another letter.

In the five months I have been working at this company. I have had a corner office, two rather large offices which weren’t on corners, but were still offices nonetheless, and any number of window bearing cubicles, one of which is the cubicle I currently inhabit. I have had many different views of Brooklyn and its assorted species of gulls (all wonderful), and I have had much time to muse (though not too much, probably not as much as those who inhabit the world of “perms” as I am kept constantly busy with any number of large and small tasks ranging from filing to big audits and such, leaving me wondering where my wonderful perm friends find the time to do such things as read the entire New York Times online or order things from J. Crew to be sent to their (bastards) permanent (yet windowless) cubicles. I’m rambling. Sorry.) about many things, and the subject of my musing this morning is of the (I’m sure) bereft and sad lives of my windowless and thus gull less friends. Boy, they must be sad.

Keep on gulling,

Sean Gallagher

PS-If you would like a short yet nonetheless entertaining glossary which would serve to define some of the saltier terms in this letter I urge you to email me at (you could also check out the web page,, if you like. That would be nice too.)

- - -

Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000
From: Sean Gallagher
Subject: Whither blather?

Dear McSweeney’s,

A quick memo from Human Resources:

Burt from Legal says he’s never seen the word “nefarious” anywhere in print. He also said that he’d give me a quarter if I could somehow make it do so. I could really use that quarter…

S.E. Gallagher

- - -

From: “Keith Crouse”
Subject: Schoolyard Anthems
Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

This one, by Stuart Nickel, 4th grade, is truncated and awkward, and though it never received national prominence, its meaning is all too clear.

Boner, Schaefer.
Boner, Schaefer.
What a dickhead.
What a dickhead.
Here comes Schaefer in his Bonermobile.

Schaefer was a gym teacher, grades 1-6. Affable enough, but spanked us on our birthday, one spank for each year, while the class counted in unison. So here’s to Schaefer, the reserved and benevolent sexual pervert, who inspired this song.


- - -

Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000
From: “Leslie Ternes”
Subject: One Response

Dear McSweeney’s,

1- Like Mary Phillips-Sandy (name? description?) I too work as a lawyer. I have also noticed a pattern among younger male convicted defendants. Many of them have Three First Names, like Steven Craig James (murder), Rick Dale James (assault) and Mark Andrew Ryan (DUI). And that is just from one week of cases.

Your Friend, Leslie

- - -

From: “Dan Kennedy”
Subject: Rise. Check in. Shower.
Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000

If God came down to earth right now I think the first thing he would say is “Sorry. I’m really glad to be here…I’m just super tired. How are you?” Then I think he would shuffle around the way we all do when we find ourselves traveling and not quite sure of where we’re staying that night.

Dan Kennedy

- - -

Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000
From: Becky Baldwin
Subject: my revised supply order

Dear McSweeney’s,

Ms. Edith Beth Carrasco
Primary Intellectual Facilitator
Podcone Concernities 2000

4/27/00 supply order (one (1) each)
Pls deliver by 4/29

Decora-File Credenza Topper
Hank’s Stik-o-mastic
Burgo-naugette Pencil Caddy
Book Buttress Brand Bookends
Kur-B’s Keyboard Truss Tray
Desk Badge Secur-Syst
Shold-A-Phone (if on back-order, please substitute Neck-O-Phone)
Find-Fast Marking/Clipping Easel
Report Swingboom
Paste ‘n’ Rest
Magic Dex-o-Flan
Velcro Wastemaster Web-Pad
Gussett TurBands
FlapLick Moist Sponge
Press-Punch Sliding Drawer Clock
Costumer Tree w/Rear-Away Feature
Dispensapage Paper Ream Cluster
ErgoFoot Health-Treadle
Kitchen Koffee Holster
Trapnest Staff Monitor
Executive Chair w/Sliding Box Bottom Seat Pan
Brainhanley’s Boss B-Gon (use only as directed)

Thank You!

- - -

From: “James”
Subject: ASK MR
Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Please, can you (or anyone) offer the correct pronunciation of the word “hegemony”? Does the accent lie on the first, second, third, or fourth syllable? Which syllables are slurred, and in what way, and in what usage of the word? What about variations, like “hegemonic”? This is a serious matter.

Thank you.

James Baker

- - -

From: Liam Black
Subject: Effervescence
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000 +0100

Dear McSweeney’s,

It’s been awhile since I wrote in to you with my idea of marketing your concern through the innovative use of breath mints. This is only to be expected, as it’s quite difficult to come up with an idea which surpasses the brilliance of this earlier plan. In point of fact, I haven’t come up with anything new at all. My correspondence stems from the fact that one Mr. Korb of Manhattan, New York — in a letter dated the 27th of March (exactly one month ago) — made reference to the incredible sadness fostered in his soul from my having already written you a mint-themed letter, just a few days prior to his own mint-related experience.

To Mr. Korb, I would like to apologise most profusely. I would also like to note that with the astronomical marketing budgets afforded to the purveyors of fresh breath, white teeth and inestimable kissability, Mr. Korb was, in essence, crouched at the gate with his shorts around his ankles. Only freakish (I will not hesitate to use this word) extensions of probability allowed myself to write the first mint-themed letter to McSweeneys. Perhaps had Mr. Korb had the foresight to partake of Jelly Mints at some earlier stage in his life, it would be I left weeping over the futility of all things mint. I do not mean for this letter to appear mean-spirited, quite the opposite: I often find myself in the same situation as Mr. Korb (shorts, ankles, gate). Rather, I’m just trying to interject some reality into his world so that he might better prosper and have more success with the publishability of his personal experiences with candies and/or mints in the letters page for an internet concern.

I would suggest to you, Mr. Korb, that a trip to your local candy store may be in order. When you have entered the premises, speak to the proprietor (if he isn’t a twinkle-eyed, bespectacled and rotund old man in a striped shirt he is a counterfeit) about the various volumes of sale. In the course of this conversation you should guage the least popular treat in all of the shop. I suspect it will be those black licorice pipes, though this is only because I personally find them to be repugnant. You should buy a crate of whichever candy is the least popular, and return to your home. You must then have an encounter with a person of some note, such as Ryan Purdy. Halfway through a conversation about the weather, start chewing on a black licorice pipe. Speak naturally from this point on. At an unspecified later date, write to McSweeneys of the experience. I suspect that the finished product would look something like this:

(As I imagine it happening)


Scene One: New York City. SMK and MRP are seated on a bench in a park. SMK has a large cardboard box just next to him on the bench, which he eyes furtively from time to time as he speaks to MRP. MRP is smoking, though he has switched to a lighter brand due to their villainous nature.

SMK: [shivering slightly]: It’s been cold lately.

MRP: Yes.

SMK: Is it always this cold at this time of year?

MRP: No.

SMK: So sometimes it’s warm?

MRP: Not really warm. But sometimes it’s not this cold.

SMK: I suppose it’s because of the water.

MRP: Yea.

[SMK bends to the side, opening the box along the ‘tear here’ flaps and extracting two black licorice pipes. Nonchalantly, he puts one in his mouth as though it were a real pipe.]

MRP: Are those licorice pipes?

SMK: Licorice pipes, is that what they’re called?

MRP: Yea.

SMK: Why then yes, yes they are!

MRP: Why are you eating a licorice pipe?

SMK: They have both red and black licorice. In the bowl of the pipe, you see —

MRP: Yes, in the bowl there is red licorice. The actual pipe being black licorice.

SMK: I see you are familiar with these licorice pipes.

MRP: Do you like them?

SMK: No, not really.

MRP: Why are you eating them?

SMK: It’ s just something that I feel I have to do.

MRP [checks watch]: We should be leaving.

SMK: We should be.

[SMK and MRP leave]

Fondest Regards,
Liam Black

- - -

From: “Sarah M. Balcomb”
Subject: Something that has clearly upset me
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Here’s a message for Whitney Pastorek and all the other McSweeney’s readers who happen to work within a two block radius of the Broadway-Lafayette subway station:

There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of eating establishments other than Wendy’s in lower NoHo, upper SoHo and environs that can provide hardworking office drones with a healthy and inexpensive lunch. I myself have worked in the area for over two years, only visiting this Wendy’s once, but rarely ever spending more than four dollars on my noontime fare. Although I certainly understand the trill of watching shiny metal objects cascade down a matte-gray chute — reminds me of when I was in kindergarten and one of my favorite pastimes was sliding down the laundry chute at my best friend’s house — have you ever considered the consequences of consuming a cheeseburger, chili and a frosty in one sitting? Does the word ‘cholesterol’ ring any bells? A bucket of lard is a healthier alternative, although I’m not entirely sure where you can purchase one in the aforementioned neighborhood. Have you checked out the Crosby Connection? It may look like a hole in the wall (which it is), but their sandwiches and soup are made with fresh, natural ingredients and as far as I know they’ve never had an incident involving mouse droppings.

Making a change without singing,
Sarah M. Balcomb

- - -

From: “Ms. Dianne Schnorenberg”
Subject: Of moons and rocks and Tibetan Monks
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Yesterday was a fine morning, thick and shrouded. Fog hung low and close to the unmown grass at the sides of highway 5 and the sky was a soft, forgiving grey. Straight up, the last quarter moon, suntouched before any terrestrial thing, glowed.
Yesterday my lunch’s fortune cookie read: “You have great patience”. I kept it and put it under the piece of white quartz on my desk, in front of a picture of a man I know.
My friend Lisa, who teaches at a Navajo school in New Mexico, is hosting Tibetan Monks in her classroom today during second period. Her school is on a reservation, an hour away from any town.
This life we have is wide and unfathomable.
Is active hope enough?

Dianne Schnorenberg

- - -

Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000
From: “Maggie Trayer”
Subject: Tom Collins’ question

Dear McSweeney’s,

In regards to Tom Collins’ question from a few days ago, call me a softie, but I believe that “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” is more true. Definitely.

Maggie Trayer

- - -

Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000
Subject: a correction is in order

Dear McSweeney’s,

I hate to tell you this, but you’re going to have to re-cast the part of Juan Miguel in “Fragments from Elian! The Musical.” Andy Garcia, despite his cute ass, has proven himself to be a complete one, as well as a rabid Batistaite. If you still feel the need to use the talents of Mr. Garcia, may I suggest casting him in the role of the fisherman?

I also must ask, is there no part in this show for Gloria Estafan?


- - -

From: “Sarah M. Balcomb”
Subject: the ineffability of being green
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Someone is always pulling me right back in, just when I thought my work was done. Ah, the elusive green pen issue. “Clay W. Smith” does not understand what it means to own a green pen. Why a green pen, he asks. Why not a green pen, I ask back. And furthermore, I add, why a red pen; why does everyone feel propelled to use a red pen to make corrections on a sheet of typed paper (this is the accepted use for red pens, is it not?). To Clay, a red pen implies self-indulgence and authority, and he more than implied that I was afraid of such qualities, but is it not evident that I possess a propensity for both? Clearly, I am self-indulgent; I am nothing if not sybaritic. To me, a green pen is the very essence of personal indulgence to the point of sublime decadence. For example, why would I use a rolled-up one dollar bill to consume lines of an uncut crystalline alkaloid obtained from coca leaves in Colombia, when I could use a rolled-up one hundred dollar bill, or when I’m feeling fancy a golden straw? A red pen is ordinary, commonplace, it screams out, “I have no mind of my own,” but a green pen is subtle and sly and merely nods its head as if to say, “You know what I’m talkin’ about.” Authority is a subjective and perhaps illusory quality. Now while I have no actual power, nor do I want any, I do exude a great deal authority through my tone of voice and pattern of speech. A green pen is integral to such dynamism. Someone who writes with a green pen, writes with authority. I am not afraid to answer a question with another question and thus, I have no fear of pens of other integrity-laden colors. Is Clay afraid to break out of the red pen rut?

Something else of note: today is National Bring Your Daughter to Work Day. Perhaps I would have had more fun today had I gone to work with my father, a scientist, or with my mother who works at home — then I could have slept in a bit. I doubt my boss would have approved, although I am sure that his twelve-year-old daughter could have easily filled in in my absence.

I think I’ll go get some coffee now.

Your proxy,
Sarah M. Balcomb

- - -

Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000
Subject: Sigourney Weaver?

Dear McSweeney’s,

Regarding your Elian operetta… may I suggest that Janet Reno would be better played by Linda Hunt wearing a dress long enough to conceal the fact she is sitting on the shoulders of Mini-Me…?

Other than that – I really loved it!!! Thanks.

Judy Harris

- - -

Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000
Subject: Dear McSweeney’s,

Dear McSweeney’s,

This is in regards to the letter sent Fri, 14 Apr 2000, by Justine Hermitage with the subject “Songs in the Glee of Life”. I feel quite compelled to supply the version of “Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts” that I learned and carry with me to this day like that slim scar on the chin or knee all adults seem to have, also since childhood, as a result of going one on one w/ concrete. In all fairness, though, I believe this to be a bit like different dialects of a common language, largely geographic and possibly influenced by what church or school is attended, so this is the version as found in Eastern Washington State, St. Charles Grade School, circa 1965. In any case the lyrics are as follows:

One big bowl of greasy grimy gopher guts
manipulated monkey meat
itty bitty bloody birdy’s feet
one big bowl of all purpose porpoise pus
for you to eat w/o a spoon
but with a straaaaaaw!

I was spared the diarrhea song until I saw the movie Parenthood. I also have a slightly different version of The Worms Crawl In, but it is far foggier than the above offering.

I feel very relieved.

Bridget Hamilton

- - -

Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000
Subject: Vonnegut or Plimpton?

Dear McSweeney’s,

If Kurt Vonnegut went up against George Plimpton in an arm wrestling match, who do you think would win? And are there any other writers you would like to see arm wrestle each other? Who might they be?

Rene Georg Vasicek

- - -

Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000
Subject: Dastardly Elian-related doings; or, further plagiarism

Dear McSweeney’s,

Just a scant few seconds ago on the Tonight Show, during the monologue, Jay Leno compared Donato Dalrymple to Kato Kaelin. Of course, I instantly recalled that the same characterization had been employed in today’s McSweeney’s! When I read it in McSwy’s, I found it clever, but the second time smacks of impropriety.

Thought I should let you folk know. The plagiarists (and the wolf) are at the door, telling knock-knock jokes. Don’t play along!


- - -

From: “john schofield”
Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Things my brother has
done to
annoy me since squatting
in my apartment

1)left frying pan with egg film in sink
2)blocked my car in and made me late for a game of frisbee
3)created a loud noise at 3:00 am tuesday april 25
4)began a sentence with wuzzup
5)stole a pair of socks

John Schofield

- - -

From: “Gillian Beebe”
Subject: Adventures on the Job Hunt
Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I am so ready to move into NYC! I am an expert. I know the ropes of commuting, I know every inch of that city, I know the people, I know the correct footwear, I know the weather. I am ready!

So yesterday I had an interview at 5:30 with a publisher on 21st Street. I decided to take the train from Westport. Armed with my new, more realistic concept of time (fresh from a Time Management Seminar), I chose a train that would deposit me in Grand Central Terminal an hour early. There are all sorts of things to do in GCT nowadays when one has a whole hour to kill. Oops. Actually a half hour if one wants to be on time, considering rush-hour madness and the persistence of time going by at a steady pace.

I wander to the shuttle, choose the NR from Times Square (oops, no BQ here), proud of myself for paying attention the whole way, I detrain at Herald Square, as planned. Not wearing a watch. Oh gosh, a Latin band has just set up and they sound so ooo good. I’ll watch them for a bit. See if anything interesting happens. Try to make eye contact with the cowbell guy. Eventually decide nothing interesting is going to happen and mosey on. Can’t shove my way onto the B—too many people in the way. Wait for the next train. Ask the time. 5:34. Shoot. No point in worrying I’ll just call. Subway tunnel is under the ground. Shit.

Get on next train. Wait and bite inside cheeks (of mouth) while train ambles, slugs its way all the way to W. 4th. What is wrong with me?! Get off, run out, place call. Number disconnected. Call info. New number, a pizza place. Call info. Same number originally tried. Still disconnected. Hail a cab. Sob my story on the way up. Receive surprisingly sincere sympathy and good wishes. Enter office late (don’t know how late because not wearing a watch). Oh the man doesn’t care. He is gruff. We talk about how the CIA sponsored the arts in the 60s as a PR move. How accepting the sponsorship, even though nothing was required in return, still scandalized the acceptors. We keep forgetting to talk about the job. We talk about some of his company’s other books. Nothing gets finished. Everything is interesting. And masculine. He is a classic old-time book editor. I tell him this later. He mutters about how once he wasn’t old-time. I realize I might have insulted him. Too late.

On my way out, accept a book from him, as well as sneers from the next appointment who has been made to wait “5 minutes” (still not wearing a watch, but somehow sure she has been waiting more than 5 minutes).

Decide to walk back up to GCT (friends have all gone home to Brooklyn by now). Punish myself for being late. Oh god, shoes beginning to hurt. Can’t show the pain. People will see and know that I am stupid. They will think I don’t know the city. I do know the city. I Am this City for god’s sake! Fucking shoes. Oh scraping against new blisters with each step. Must keep up a good pace. Can’t show weakness. Must maintain steady, serious facial expression. Owe the blisters have popped. Wet feeling on my heels. Now toes scraping scraping. Pebbles in the shoes? Knives? What will my toes look like? Bloody stumps.

Look happy—heavenly, serene and comfortable in my intelligent choice of footwear. They look great, these shoes. Don’t they? You’d be amazed at how comfortable they are, too. really.

See a woman in spike-heeled boots. Begin to smirk internally. Then Ouch. Shit I am a hypocrite asshole. Owe fucking owwch. 38th and 6th. Fuck, can’t get a cab from here, GCT is too close. Maybe go to 125th? Or back down and take the subway? Will still have to walk. Just Do It. At last. Stairs feel sort of good. Train in two minutes from track 110. Must run. Can’t run. Will wait. No! Just Do It. mmm food. Smells good. Will run for food. OK, on train.

Train is full. Make commuter angry by asking to sit next to him. Eventually, everyone has to sit next to someone. Hold breath. Don’t want to smell a bad smell and then have to smell it all the way home. Must breathe. Oh thank god, nothing too bad. Just my greasy french fries. The men next to me must resent that smell. Should I share? Never mind. Stay awake! New seat mate gets on in Stamford, drunk and drinking a Fosters. Reaches for my book. We have to talk now, because I was startled and he feels bad so now I have to make him feel better about reaching for my book and startling me. We talk. I miss my stop. He gets off. I go to Fairfield and grab a taxi back to Westport. Driver says it happens all the time. $20. Smug jerk.

Maybe I shouldn’t get a job in NYC, after all.


- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: Another week in the centrifuge diving for the middle
Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Okay, a stretch. But you might enjoy this …

From mom: Hi Hon – Sorry we missed your call last night. Tom and the crew played at the Belvedere so we had dinner and enjoyed their music till midnight – fun!! The men from Suburban Gas are here and the insurance men come this afternoon – you know I love having strange men “crawling” around the house – this is fireplace soot related. This weekend we need to cut the grass – Joe has cut his lawn 1,999,999 times already and we nary a one time. The delineation at the mailbox is laughable, a moose could hide in our grass and be lost for days, but in Joe’s grass you could see an ant. MY – my. TGIF Love you, XXX

My response: Hi Lainie. That’s funny. I especially like the moose in the mailbox munching on ant-filled Pop-Tarts while Joe tends to his new roof lawn. I wonder how he got the mower through the chimney? But that’s all by way of an old trick – steal someone else’s funny thoughts (this time yours) and recombine them in a second filter. Not much planned for the weekend. Maybe arrive at a few bars by slingshot and fly home in a giant olive. Search for new movie rentals, dinner, hopefully a better attack on the languishing writing projects. Have a good one and say hi to the family. Love, B xoxoxxo


- - -

Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000
Subject: Other things, Letter 3/8ths to McS

Dear McSweeney’s,

Things Written On the Blackboard In The Conference Room At School Today, 4/28*

Holiday in Reality
The Plot Against the Giant
Tea at the Palaz of Hoon
A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts
Saint John and the Backache
Star at Tallapoosa
Flipper Was Here

*last day of classes

thanks so much

whitney pastorek

- - -

From: “Dan Kennedy”
Subject: emptied every day
Date: Sat, 29 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Here is the combination to the safe:

4 x left to 27

3 x right to 77

2 x left to 18

zero, then push lever up.

The night manager is going to be pissed if he sees this-

Dan Kennedy

New. York.

- - -

From: “john gorenfeld”
Subject: A west coast dispatch
Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I had a dream last night that I was cursed, and no one would believe me. I kept finding all these evil messages written on my body in blood. The thing was, the origin was nothing special. They were showing up on my body in blood every time I visited a particular Mailboxes Etc. or other hybrid copy shop / stationery store, which are not known for being dens of occult practice.

Here is what I heard on the bus the other day. The two girls may or may not be the same freshmen nymphs I heard at the bus stop trying to figure out how to play The Celebrity Game, where you name a celebrity, and the other person has to name another celebrity whose name starts with the last letter of the last person named. (“Okay, I’ll start. Natalie Portman.” [Long, long pause] “This is so hard.” “I know.” “Natalie Merchant. Is there someone named Natalie Merchant?” “I don’t know.” [Long pause before, Eureka!, they hit upon “Nick” from N’Sync].

This time, two nymphlings were talking about who they liked in their dormitory. The one on my right said little. The one on my left felt it was weird that she only cared for certain people on the floor. She also was going to make a point of writing to Jeff (one of the people she cared for) and telling him he was welcome to come to their housewarming party next year. Where they would have chicken.

Then a crazy old man came onto the bus. There are various standard types of crazy old men in Berkeley. This was the crazy old man who talks about capitalism. He pointed at our backpacks, told us the school was going to turn us into capitalists, and laughed. I nodded as if to say, “You’ve got a point there.”

“Funded the Nazis, you know,” he said.

“What, yuppies?”

“No. Capitalism!” He laughed again.

“Oh,” I said.

“That’s capitalism,” he said. “It doesn’t mess around.” Then he got off the bus.

After he left, the girl on my left, the talkative one, said, “You know, it’s like, I actually agreed with some of what he said.”

Maybe I should go to Diana’s Whacky Pyrate Adventure on 4th street. It is some sort of club run by frightening people offering activities like “Therapeutic Breast Massage.” “Have you ever been frustrated by the way masseuses ignore the breasts?” The pamphlet then delves into a brief explanation of why breasts are vital to your health, although you get the feeling that Diana has no claim to being an expert in the human lymph node system.

Yours Sincerely,

John Gorenfeld

- - -

Date: Mon, 01 May 2000
From: Adam McIsaac
Subject: Re: Dueling “Proverbs”

Dear McSweeney’s,

In reference to Tom Collins’ letter of 17 April: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “Out of sight, out of mind” are actually maxims and not in fact proverbs. In any case, I can advise Mr. Collins to feel ambiguous; in this country at least, ambiguity is the second most popular emotional posture, right after narcissism.

Hope this helps,

Adam McIsaac
Portland, Oregon

- - -

From: “Timothy McWeeney”
Subject: I need to find a better form of recreation
Date: Mon, 01 May 2000 GMT

Dear McSweeney’s,

As I slid into the wall of flames, my skin got tight. A girl was sitting on the bed beneath a halo of smoke. She was snorting nail polish. I grabbed her and some bedding and dove through the door. When she tried to run back in, I held her by the bellbottoms. “Damn,” she said. “That was so uncool. Now you’ve made me late for my high.” The place was lit up like Waco. We didn’t have much time. “You’re right it’s not cool,” I said. “It’s hotter than a habanero enema. Can’t you see that your goddamn house is burning?” I pushed her toward the stairs and we rolled down them like donuts. When we crashed into the wall at the bottom, I said, “Besides, that’s no way to get a high.” I thought: “I gotta stop setting these fires just so I can save these fools. These arson victims are a bunch of damn idiots.”

As we dove out the door the roof collapsed. My uniform was burning and all the neighborhood women were out in the street. Many of these women take male hormones, feed their families pickled cow’s udder and toe cheese casserole, and dress up in miner helmets to ride around the kitchen on tricycles or flop on their stomachs in plastic baby pools with arms and legs outside the tub, senselessly slapping the dirty linoleum floor. I’ve seen them at it through the window. When I get to their houses with the match, there’ll be no saving. On the other hand, it might be fun to seduce them. Bring out some candles for the hot wax treatment. Just to be able to hook my thumbs in my pockets and say that I’ve done it. Next thing you know, my prehistoric parents will be coming around, smoking cigars in their bloodstained lab coats and carrying gasoline jugs of their own.

At this point, the girl and I were cuddling in the mud sharing popsicles. “If you really want to get high,” I said, licking some ash from her cheek. “What you need is gasoline. That’s what my parents are into.”

Time to feed the eskimos.

Your pal,

General Timothy McWeeney

- - -

From: “luke o’neil”
Subject: I got fired just now — sincerity
Date: Mon, 01 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I just got laid off. Well, that’s not what they said, they said that “my project was up.” I don’t know what that means.

I work for this silly condenast website. I don’t really like it here too much — but, you know, rejection and all. I am only a freelancer, so that means that they can screw you as many ways as they can think of.

It is probably for the best, because I write this horrible drivel on a terrible site that I would never go to on my own and it makes me question the condition of my soul and all that stuff. I am also probably going back to Boston to study creative writing in the fall — yes, yes, I know what you all think of that so save the smirk — so I suppose it is not that big of a deal. The thing is though, I was sort of counting on saving up a bag load of money to help pay for school and those sorts of things over the next few months, but now I don’t know what I will do. I will probably have to leave new york, or maybe find some other unrelated job.

In short, I just wanted to write, because, well, I thought it might be nice to see a sincere letter on here. I have written a few other letters about old women smiling at me, my apartment and a couple other things that you may have read — these were all cold and calculated and designed to produce a certain effect.

As far as this one goes, I guess I am just looking for sympathy.


Luke O’Neil

- - -

Date: Mon, 1 May 2000
Subject: Passive-Aggressive

Dear McSweeney’s,

Sometimes I think swear words at people and wish they could read my mind. Then they would know exactly what I think of them and I wouldn’t have to say it aloud. I could imagine something like “you little fuck fuck!” at some guy, and then his eyes would get all round and surprised and he’d open his mouth and then shut it again. He’d look around to see if I was directing it at someone else, but I’d stare in his startled eyes and he’d know. He’d know for sure because I would think, “Yeah, you, shithead,” and he’d hear it again in his brain. That would make him scared, and then angry. He’d probably think swear words back at me, but it wouldn’t matter, because I don’t have ESP.

Trina Martin

- - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: Identity
Date: Mon, 01 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

There’s a scholar named Morse Peckham who says that identity is just an arbitrary claim we repeat endlessly so that others will remember us. I’m the guy who likes to talk about thongs, for instance.


Mike Topp

- - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: Why I Go to the Movies Alone
Date: Mon, 01 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

The editors at McSweeney’s are very nice. I have never received an email from any of them like the one below, which is a real email from a real poetry editor who I am just guessing doesn’t like me:

“Now get this Mike Twat, your poems suck. It’s got nothing to do with any kind of bullshit, knee-jerk, cock-absorbed politickal korrecknesses… To spare you and us time, send your superficial, dead-pan, cute, cuddly, smart-ass, jack-off verse to people who dig your dip-shittery. There’s more to poetry than your slow-witted self indulgences.”

Thank you for being so nice, McSweeney’s editors.


Mike Topp

- - -

From: “Savage, Charlie”
Date: Mon, 1 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

During “That 70’s Show” tonight (yes, I know, be quiet) I saw a commercial for VW bugs that have some new yellowish color. Apparently you can buy them online only. The song VW’s marketers had purchased to back this commercial was “Dynamite!” by The Roots.

So: The Roots have sold out.

I just thought I’d let you all know.

Also, I have decided that, after living in Miami for a year and two months, maybe it is okay to support the Heat despite that hideous bump Alonzo Mourning put on Scotty Pippen’s forehead back in the day. For awhile I have felt like a filthy whore every time I went to a Heat, Dolphins, or Marlins game, or even watched one on TV. But Chicago will understand that it remains my first love, I have decided.

So: Screw da elderberry-smelling Knicks, with renewed vigor.

Charlie Savage

PS: Is it just me, or has that little cardboard tab on the box for issue four started tearing for everybody? It makes me not want to open it up anymore, and to just keep it pristine on the shelf, beside the others. But that would sort of defeat the purpose. It weighs heavily, this growing tear.

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: Lainie gets the last word
Date: Tue, 2 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

In response to my response, my mother sent the following …

Hi dear Bryce – We did our FIRST mow of the season and our MOOSE grass was actually lower than Joe’s ant grass – I told your Dad that it would probably stress Joe and he’d have to mow – AGAIN!! After lunch while at my computer – I saw Joe fling his mower equipped with hummingbird wings from his roof lawn onto the sub “suburban” lawn – leap from the roof (yellow cape flapping in the breeze) and without missing a beat of the throbbing bass booming from the box strapped to his shoulder by a neon rope previously used in his daring Swiss Alp rescues – attack that ant grass mightily grinding it into oblivion, laughing in riotous wide-eyed, head thrown back, mouth gaping wide in zest. I guess we’ll have to mow again in a few weeks. Have a good good.
XXX – Lainie.

And I wonder where all the wacky come from.



- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: Okay, dirty micks, hopefully not too many
Date: Tue, 2 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Recently I composed a rather long letter in response to Ms. Boyer’s defense of Kevin Spacey. Unfortunately I got a bit carried away. Below are some things that I decided, after careful examination, didn’t quite hold up.

1) In the letter I claim that Kevin Spacey is my father.

2) “A larky string of drool” does not appropriately describe a signature.

3) To say that Kevin’s webbed mittens couldn’t wrap themselves around a pencil but were lethal in a game of handball signals an alarming insensitivity toward swamp people.

4) The phrase, “Dad must have learned to operate a pencil with his nostrils,” goes far enough without adding, “Or maybe just a straw up his nose for snotting out inky mucus.”

5) Before relating a so-called childhood moment, Kevin’s career is described as the explosion of a swollen bladder. This makes it sound as though I genuinely dislike the man. Not true.

6) Not sure whether Kevin Spacey’s early work is aptly categorized as “saucy rigatoni and goat cheese westerns.”

7) The phrase, “a real hog-puking cowboy,” makes for a rather confusing image.

8) On the set of one of his early films, Mr. Spacey speaks the line, “Me and this hoss been all thru Texas and the Pennsylvania desert.” A thorough investigation reveals that Pennsylvania is actually just west of New Jersey.

9) The line, “Me and this hoss done crossed the ocean in a cocktail glass,” is pretty farfetched. It’s hardly improved by, “with nothin to eat but mothballs and freeze-dried moss.”

10) Not sure of the idea that my job is to collect Kevin Spacey’s saliva in buckets and pour them into a tank behind the studio in case anyone needs a pick-me-up.

11) In the scene where I roll off the food table rearing my head, slapping my ass, and whinnying, “I’m the hoss now, who wants a ride?” it seems unlikely that dollops of cream cheese would be sticky enough to attach bagels to my face like eyeglasses.

12) Kevin Spacey’s buckteeth may fan beneath his lip like piano keys, but it goes a bit far to say that he sometimes plays a tune on them.

13) Could I really gallop onto the set on my hands and knees with Andre the Giant on my back while carrying an inflatable cactus and a bucket of Dad’s spittle?

14) Not sure if giving blood and going shopping are suitable activities for a day of male bonding.

15) When Kevin takes off in the morning before I can finish my buttermilk and Crunch Berries, is it necessary for him to dive out the window and roll down the street like a marble?

16) In the scene where he’s sleeping atop the horse in the light of a fake sunset and I run up and throw a bucket of his own cold spittle in his face, saying, “Wake up pardna!” I doubt he’d respond by punching out a few planky teeth and playing Chopsticks.

17) There is nothing to support the existence behind the spit tank of a depraved old Cookie Monster and a talking stuffed hippo.

18) When I squeal, “Ahhhhhhh … Thet hoss is on my foot!” it seems doubtful that the blood gushing from my eyes would actually travel up my forehead and into the air like rain off a bullet train.

19) While my toes are being crushed, would I really take a urine sample from the horse and examine it under a small microscope in an effort to prove that the horse is in fact an actor in a bunny suit?

20) When the director swings over in a hammock suspended from the camera crane and yells, “Keep rolling!” upon further reflection, it seems like it might deflate the tension to say that he’s talking about a Fruit Rollup.

21) When I pull on the horse’s tail and excrement splatters all over my arm, filling the empty spit bucket I’m holding, it’s a bit obvious to yell, “Shit! Quite literally!”

22) With Dad bucking on the saddle, a Fruit Rollup plastered to his face, holes eaten out for his eyes and mouth, and me winding up to throw the bucket of horse excrement at him, it hardly adds to the suspense for a man to randomly fall from the rafters with a waffle maker and a bag of Puppy Chow.

23) It raises some strange questions to describe Kevin as “deftly managing his fins” when he snatches the bucket from the air, flips it over, and clamps it back down on my head, saying, “Wear thet bucket with pride boy.”

24) Not sure that “attempting martial dignity” would consist of lifting my arms and limping across the set to ram things over with the shit-filled bucket on my head, or that such activity would cause the director, even if he is German, to yell, “This is it! The fucking avant-garde! Somebody shave my neck with a cheese grater.”

20 hive) No matter how thin he is, it seems unlikely that the director could lift himself off the ground by his ponytail and lasso a glass of Pimm’s.

26) When the director thumps his fists on a production assistant, knocking her into a pile of rubber snakes and calling for a Scooby snack, would the young woman really turn into an actual snake, leap into his mouth, and emerge, grinning, from his bellybutton?

20 heaven) By the fourth or fifth reading it began to seem doubtful that I would snicker like a hyena with the bucket on my head while being electrocuted in a snarl of cables.

20 date) When I pry off the helmet, spot a horse or a camel “or something,” and yell, “Scoundrel!” leaping at its face with chattering teeth, would I really be able to get its entire head into my mouth, “antlers and all”?

29) After wrestling “the something” to the ground, it makes little sense for me to suddenly realize that it’s Kevin and say, “Oops, you okay Dad?”

30) When Kevin Spacey is perched on my chest pummeling my face with his “surly flippers,” it’s funny for someone to pull out a knife, toss it on the sandy corkboard, and say “Cut off his legs!” especially when the voice is attributed to a young woman, “probably the medic or the recently injured waffle boy,” but would I really grab the knife and say, “Whose legs, mine or the tuna’s?”

dirty 1) Sure, I might wake up in the artificial twilight, apparently having drifted off in the middle of being beaten, everyone gone and the studio desert flooded, but I’m not sure about inadvertently tearing off my sleeves and screaming, “Not Dad’s precious collection of spittle! This must be the work of that demoniac stuffed hippo!”

dirty shoe) Okay, so I am floating in the muddy water on a rubber cactus, tumbleweeds swimming nearby, the fake sun illuminating the creamy liquid like a high-powered flashlight, wondering if I’m still inside the studio and who is playing that harmonica, but does it make sense for the crew to come through the door on cacti rafts of their own, back from Ranch 1 with a box of badger sandwiches?

dirty glee) It is fine to have Kevin in the lead as the crew returns on their rafts, his teeth knocking together like wind chimes, but isn’t it a bit crude to say that he is also farting out a tune with a golden rigatoni up his ass, sputtering miniature fireworks?

dirty whore) It is almost poetic, I think, to say that the evening slowly inhales the sunlight and yawns it back out in the form of neon lights. Why spoil it by also saying that it yawns it back out in the form of latex fajitas and line-dancing donkeys in platform clogs?

dirty jive) Would homeless puppets on Hollywood Boulevard really live in a fortified bunker with Charles Bronson, Tobey Maguire, and a rowdy gang of vodka-drinking robots?

dirty micks) While driving on the freeway without his monocle, would the ghost of Fritz Lang really be able to eat a frozen TV dinner with no hands while checking his horoscope on an edible palm pilot?

So there you have it. The long and the silly of it. All restrictions sumbitches can learn to use their printers or go to hell.

Thanks as always,

Bryce Newhart

P.S. Stanley, when I flip an empty 20-foot martini glass to trap an angry drunk in a deadly cage of liquor fumes, naturally I’m thinking, “sandy igloo.” Also, you and Yaryo, while the ribbons held up for my rappel to the mall, spineless bastards refused to serve me. “Sorry monkey face,” they hissed. “You’ve had enough wedding salad.”

- - -

Date: Tue, 2 May 2000
Subject: some things that will never change

Dear McSweeney’s,

1. Win or lose, Jeff Van Gundy will always look as though someone has been poking at him with a sharp stick.

that’s all.

thanks so much

whitney pastorek

- - -

From: Dan Bunting
Subject: a suggestion for the improvement and/or degeneration of your web site
Date: Tue, 2 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

As you’ve provided many articles of entertainment for me, andas I’ve thoroughly read most of those articles, I feel that we have a sort of symbiotic relationship, one in which we can both be open and honest to one another. My turn. Your “Letters to McSweeney’s” section is not constructed in a manner most efficient for ease of use. Can you please just make a slight change – turn it on its head. If you put the newer mail at the top of the page, and sort the letters in descending order retrospective by date, you would make the experience of absorbing your viewer comments that much more pleasant. I, personally, would appreciate it, and I feel strongly that other readers would share my sense of appreciation.

Thank you again for providing up-to-the-date news and information that my whole family can enjoy,

Dan Bunting

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: Lainie almost gets the last word
Date: Tue, 2 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I responded. “Hi Lainie,” I said. “That is very funny. Thanks you. At 1st I thought of an underground lawn. A cave lawn. Lawns everywhere. Grass growing from everything. Maybe Joe even has grass that grows from his head which he uses the mower to trim. But that could get ugly. An electric shaver shaped like a tiny mower for the lawnaholic to trim his daily chin growth? I also like the thought of the mower being pushed by either the moose or a giant ant, possibly a disgruntled adolescent ant, while Joe takes a break in a lawn chair to fly a yellow kite and nod his head to rap music.”



- - -

Date: Tue, 2 May 2000
From: Glaxo Wellcome
Subject: Jumping on the bandwagon bandwagon

Dear McSweeney’s,

Disappointingly the seeming diligence of Ms. Pasternak only really masks her true, bad mission of confusing things. Rawr! Her Miss Suzie transcription I appreciate even despite its obvious shortcomings. Her name is nice, lower-casing the signature modestly. OK. And the note on Wendy’s coin slots we as a people I guess need. But here at the end of the Wendy’s thing, trouble: buried at the bottom of hundreds (dozens?) of lines of compelling and painstakingly researched reportage she slips in, I have reason to believe not accidentally, a misquote of Jackson.

Righting that, then, below, the correct excerpt she so sickly mangled.

Very Truly Yours,


Gonna make a change
For once in my life.
Gonna feel real good,
Gonna make a difference,
gonna make it right. (5)

As I turn down the collar on
My favorite winter coat,
the wind was blowing my mind.
I saw the kids in the street
Without a chicken to eat, (10)
Who am I to be blind
Pretending not to seem them weep?

I felt the power of
Somebody’s broken heart.
I’m turning up my blinds. (15)
They follow each other down the way you know
Cause they got no place to go.
That’s a why I want you to know


I’m starting with the man in the mirror. Hoo.
I’m asking him to make a change. (20)


(6) Lapham proposes a widely accepted alternative here: “As I turn up the collar on.”

(10) The ‘Dangerous’ enunciation is unclear. Some prefer “with a chicken to eat,” which the single seems to support. The meaning of the work changes dramatically, however, if we rely on this reading: if the children are with a chicken to eat, why do they weep? From Barentz’s 1992 essay, “Man in the Mirror or Mirror in the Man?”, subtitled, “Mirror Mirror Mirror?”: “The transition to vegetarianism, with all its indispensable horrors, is TGO’s subject here.” Note also, in a song largely dependent on off-rhymes, the affinity between “chicken” and “children.”


reason not to believe accidentally

- - -

From: “Peter Bebergal”
Subject: They will almost always be upbeat and positive
Date: Tue, 2 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

The following is an actual quote from a manual given to freelance standardized test passage writers:

“Other topics to avoid include gambling (or dice of any sort), magic, eating too much junk food, violence, mysticism, or folklore involving elves and fairies.”


Peter Bebergal

- - -

Date: Wed, 3 May 2000
Subject: Grave

Dear McSweeney’s,

A visit to Paris Cemeteries:

We spent a rainy hour in Montparnasse after returning from Versaille. We walked in and realized, immediately, that our guidebooks were woefully inadequate for locating particular graves. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures—every square inch is a tombstone, statue, or mausoleum. I noticed an old guy scurrying around with a piece of paper in his hand and realized it was a map, so I approached the small guardpost at the entrance. On the bulletin board, in red ink, was scrawled: “Jim Morrison is not here.” Inside they gave me one of the maps. I saw immediately that Jean Paul Sartre was near the entrance. The scurrying guy saw me looking around and said, are you looking for Sartre; he pronounced it “sart”? I said yes, Sartre, “sar-tra.” “Sart,” he corrected me. I was angry because I know it’s “sart,” but after spending the whole previous day hearing “the Looovra,” I couldn’t help myself.

We finally found his grave, a white slab, which was covered with coins and flowers, probably more than any other grave we saw. Then I saw something that gave me a chill. At the top right corner of Sartre’s grave is another gravestone, engraved with “Guerin.” (We would find two Guerin sepulcher’s close to Proust in Per Lachaise.) We wandered, following the map. Found Baudelaire’s grave, a modest joint grave—apparently he was buried with his detested father-in-law. Then it began to sprinkle. Just then we found a large, but very old mausoleum with “Guerin” on the lintel. We took pictures, then took shelter from the rain under its eaves. After that, the map led us astray and I forgot who else we saw, but I was desperate to see Baudelaire’s cenotaph before it closed, which we did just as they were tolling this huge bell, which was the signal for us to leave.

We spent the morning of our last full day at Pere-Lachaise . It was probably not my wife’s first choice, but she was a good sport, even though we got lost trying to get in. Of course I thought I could find a short cut to Morrison’s grave, which took us at least a mile out of our way, just tying to find the entrance (while Montparnasse is flat land, Pere-Lachaise is built on a steep hill or knob, surrounded by a very high wall, a bit like a fortress to get into). Without a map because we’d come in through the wrong gate, we finally realized we had only to follow the crowds to find Morrison. A sad and forlorn rectangular granite pool filled with mud. A photograph bolted to the headstone had long since been stolen. No flowers or candles or coins, and someone had taken a chisel to the stone. A disgruntled guard stood to the side occasionally barking at the curious who, to get a better look, stood on other graves. James Emerson Morrison. Requiescat in pace.

Then, I had the good sense to look for another entrance, where they had a map, but only of the composers buried there. We found Chopin (and, interestingly, right next to him, Michael Petrucciani, the dwarf jazz pianist who died a couple of years ago), Cherubini, and Rossini. We happened on Asturias, the writer. We rested for a moment, looking out over Paris from the near summit of the cemetery, then got lost again, trying to find Moliere, who’s buried next to Racine in matching white sepulchers. (One of our guidebooks did have a few authors.) Then at the top of the hill we reached Oscar Wilde’s incredible monument—a tall, modern-looking light gray slab with a deco woman streaming from the top and covered with . . . kisses, in every shade of pink and red.

Finally, we found Proust’s elegant black granite slab and ourselves lost again trying to find the entrance. Oddly, in a Balzac story I read a week later, there’s a description of Per Lachaise, a man trying to find his wife’s fresh grave, that reverses the order of our departure, over the same terrain. He refers to Pere-Lachaise as Paris “seen through the diminishing end of an opera-glass, a microscopic Paris reduced to the littleness of shadows, spectres, dead men, a human race which no longer has anything great about it, except its vanity.”

Christopher Guerin
Fort Wayne