From: Greg Purcell – Contractor
Subject: Seattle and Chicago: Further differences
Date: Mon, 15 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Something people say in Seattle, to strangers: “Hi.” Also: “No worries.” (I understand this is a phrase which generated in Australia. It means that whatever is happening, it will come out in such a way that it will cause absolutely no distress or conflict of interest.)

People say nothing in Chicago. Only pragmatic things.

I am working here, I say to my self. I am working in Seattle. I feel a little lost.

I left Chicago very suddenly to write a book about a British Columbian inventor named John, who claims to have recreated the Philadelphia Experiment using radio waves and Van der Graff generators. Unfortunately, John wanted all the rights to my little unmade book, and plus he was illucid from his medication, so nothing worked out.

Now I am a contractor in Seattle, where men in little Seattle Mariners hats glare at you until they get your attention, then beam brightly at you as if you and everyone else were in an orange-juice commercial. Then they say “Hi!” in a normal tone of voice, but with an implied exclamation point. In Chicago you would get arrested for this.

I am confused in a very nice town on the corner-edge of America.

Greg Purcell,

- - -

Date: Mon, 15 May 2000
Subject: Re: “phil redondo”

Dear McSweeney’s,

It was good what we did yesterday
And I’d do it once again
The fact that you are married
Only proves you’re my best friend
And it’s truly, truly a sin

Linger on
Your pale blue eyes


Justine Hermitage

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: Buffalo burgers
Date: Mon, 15 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

In the diner where SMB and I sometimes go to breakfast, every table has a sign advertising “Northern Ranch Buffalo Burgers, 100% pure Canadian bison meat, natural choice flavor.”

Me: Just once I would actually like to try one of these buffalo burgers.

SMB: I would just like to eat a buffalo.

Me: Without the burger part?

SMB: Yes, just a buffalo.

Me: Wouldn’t that be too much food? How would the waitress carry the platter?

SMB: No platter. I would lie there gnawing on the buffalo until I passed out, and when I woke up, I would just keep eating. It would probably take time. Possibly a week or two.

Me: Lie where? In the buffalo field?

SMB: Of course. Don’t be an idiot.

Me: Would it still be alive?

SMB: Stop asking obvious questions. Yes, the buffalo would be alive.

Me: Sounds like a scarring experience. It might be hard to return to society. You might see all the cars going down the street and think they were stampeding bison. You might run out to join them and get hit by a bus.

SMB: True, but before I died, I would sink my teeth into the bus to get one last juicy bite.

Me: I guess you would think you finally found the mother of all buffaloes. At least until another bus came along.

SMB: No, even then. Then I would think I’d found two mother of all buffaloes.

Me: You’re making me hungry. Think they have any bison syrup for my flapjacks?

SMB: I’ll show you some flap, Jack.

For more information about Canadian Bison meat products (whitney pastorek might be interested), please call toll free: 1-888-422-0623.


Bryce Newhart & Sarah M. Balcomb

- - -

Date: Mon, 15 May 2000
From: Chuck Easterling
Subject: Bleached blubber

Dear McSweeney’s,

My niece Katy will be seven on June 6th. Her mom is taking her to a place by the name of Two Peas in a Pod which is, apparently, some sort of craft store that charges 12 bucks a head to paint plates. Anyway, this is what Katy and I talked about yesterday on the way home from Food Lion:

“Chuck? CHUCK!”
“What? I’m driving. I can’t look right now.”
“You don’t have to look. It’s a joke.”
“Oh. All right.”
“What is a whale’s favorite kind of jewelery?”
“This isn’t one where animals talk is it? Cuz you know I hate that crap.”
“No. Do you know the answer?”
“A food chain. Food chain! Get it?”
“I get it. Where did you hear that?”
“I made it up.”
“Hell yeah!”

How come you’re supposed to attribute each line of dialogue even though there are only two players?

Living in South Carolina now,
Chuck Easterling

- - -

Date: 15 May 00
From: Thomas Gibbon
Subject: Lordy!

Dear McSweeney’s,

Justine Hermitage is pretty right on. But let me ask you this: Is Pajaro the same as Pajara Dunes? I used to have some relatives there (lovely people, as they all are, truly. All the things I say about the family and private property and such, you know, it isn’t anything personal, I’m not one of those twisted freaks who develops an ethic out of his damaged psyche). It’s a fine place. Personally I’d prefer to be wed in a cathedral, speaking as a fellow girl, or girl sympathiser at any rate. Whichever, it is the nineties, after all.

John Davis, I’m going to write some more about my charming relatives who live on the West or “Wrong” Coast. My aunt, Timothy, lives in British Columbia. Her name is, in fact, Timothy, and she is a natural-born woman. She spent some time living in Nicaragua, and is, of course, from Philadelphia, although in the forty years she has lived in or surrounded by (her husband and son) Canadians, she has picked up a bit of an accent. She, too, loved my dear dog, and has always been a great inspiration to me, informing me of salient facts (she, her father, and his brother, and I all shared a college major, not English) and exquisite phrases (“excruciating delicacy”).. My grandmother, whom we called “Danny” for some reason I can’t quite remember or wish not to relate, who was an excellent musician and tennis player (by the way, a note to that bar in Greenpoint, you know who you are, those are not ashtrays, those are coasters very much like the ones given out by some institutions as tennis trophies, plus! your clientele is verminous), had a, shall we say, wonderful sense of humor. It was the custom of the day to name one’s Philadelphian she-spawn after plants and such, viz a viz “Rosemary” and I’m sure there were others. The botanists among us have already realised where Phleum pratense comes into this; yes, timothy is a variety of feed grass native to Eurasia. So name your damned daughter Timothy and make the world a better place. At least a warmer place for my daughters, Journal of Navigation and USS Chippewa Falls.

Paschel Barkin, ah, yes, Dirigo! Maine is what it is, which is the best. I was recently relating my extensive Maine-ophilia (which is being treated, don’t worry, you can just use ringworm medication on it, and, lord knows, I have plenty of that leftover from my troubled teen years) to some person or group, I have no idea who (I ain’t Heuro the Memory Man, although I have all his albums), and they said I must have been delighted with “Gettysburg: The Movie” and I said that, by god, I wasn’t. I went on, “I don’t give a salmon’s milt about Jebediah Springfield or Joshua Chamberlain or whatever name he’s using these days, the hack.”

Bryson Newhart, continuing with my family related theme, I appreciate your concern but I have managed to temporarily slow the rot with ample ingestion of doggy spittle, kindly provided by my local. I was so glad to see you mention drenching day, or, more properly, po polsku, “Smingus Dingus.” No joke, that damned holiday is Zbigniew’s favorite. God damn it, and it’s real, the bastards. I’ll be all clever and when he’s playing “Space Invaders;” I’ll sneak up behind him, with the giggling encouragement of Kevin, and shout “Smingus Dingus!” and spray the back of his head with a fine mist from a confiscated and converted Stadol nasal injector. Of course the aliens will take out his booky Polish ass just as he was about to get the double shot. Later we find Tom enjoying a little of the television (which is now on twenty-four hours, thank god) when I’ll hear the tell-tale signs of Kevin’s girlsih twittering behind me, causing fear, and then (it’s already too late, that’s why I don’t run) the deluge, and I’m soaked head to webbed toe in dishwater and I’m hearing an evil whisper: “Smingus Dingus, kurwa.”


- - -

From: “Robert Beier”
Subject: From your office correspondent
Date: Mon, 15 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

A woman came over to me and told me that she thought about not telling me what she was about to tell me but decided that a stranger in her dream was too weird and she had to tell me. Apparently, I walked into the office carrying a can of Bud Light. It was first thing in the morning. I told her that she didn’t dream it, that in fact I had walked in this morning with a can of Bud Light. I’d been out all night partying with the older but still hardy 4th incarnation of Spuds. He can put them away, oh yes. Right in front of me he lapped a whole oversized doggie bowl full of beer in less than one minute. I’d never seen a tongue work so fast. The women hanging on him had never seen a tongue work that fast either (I didn’t say this part but if she could read minds she would have heard that too). She told me that she didn’t believe me with surprise oozing from her eyes. I reached down under my desk and informed her that I still had the can. Surprise and horror gushed out of her nose. When my hand appeared empty from under the desk the joke ended.


- - -

From: Dan Sweeney
Subject: Cool Term
Date: Tue, 16 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Don’t you think that “Dojo of Cool” would be a good name for a band, or a website?
“Timothy McSweeney’s Dojo of Cool”

Dan Sweeney
Silicon Valley, CA

- - -

From: Greg Purcell – Contractor
Subject: I have more to say on the differences.
Date: Tue, 16 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I have more to say on the differences between Seattle and Chicago. You will notice that my name (above) has been qualified by the e-mail program I am using. I am a “contractor,” it says. In Chicago I would be called a “temp” and I would not get my own e-mail program. Chicago is a bit superstitious about such programs.

Such are the differences between cities, cities that are separated, on one hand, by an emphasis in the e-commerce industries, and on the other hand, by the industry known as “bricks and mortar.” My skills are “in demand” in Seattle. That’s what people say.

There are more differences. Sometimes I hate myself. Sometimes I am filled with unimaginable joy and want to kiss myself on my own lips, like a happy Blakean doppelganger. I went to Paris last fall. When I got there the first thing I said to the ticket seller at the Metro was “Je voudrais un carte orange pour le semaine,” which means, “I would like an orange card for the week.” I do not think that my French was very good, in that instance. When I got to the Champs Elysees (add an accent grave) it looked just like a bustling shopping mall. Later, I went to the famous Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore and the little man who runs the place spoke to me in a halting, interruptive American English. He let me into the store an hour before they opened up and than sat me down in his office and made me write something about myself. It sounds charming but really it was quite officious. He did not look at me while I wrote.

What I wrote was this: “I am here to see Paris. I like Apollinaire. The Champs Elysees is like a great big American shopping mall.”

He read the little slip of paper and then looked at me like I had flecks of animal blood on my shirt, like I was some kind of a militant animal butcher and he was a righteous vegetarian. So I bought a book and got out.

Some people really like Paris, and will talk to you about it any chance they get. They do not know the kind of self-love that I feel. The Eiffel Tower is crowded. There is art everywhere.

Five years ago, you could look through any given literary magazine and see the word “bougainvillea” about ten times. Now, it’s the word “vichyssoise.”

And in France my name would be,

- - -

Subject: Wazzup?! Yuppers! Dude! Etc.—Inquiry into Email Slang
Date: Tue, 16 May 2000

I have a question about the infantile slang terms that otherwise mature, educated, reasonable people deliberately employ in the subject lines and text of their emails in what I find to be a painfully and irritatingly misguided effort to make them, and their authors, sound “hip,” “casual,” or “so well informed and relaxed and at peace about the large matters of life that I just reflexively use adolescent schoolhouse lingo.”

Such language would include, but is not limited to, the following:

Wazzup!? (for what’s up!?, popularized by the infamous Budweiser advertisement)

Cuz (for cousin)

’Cuz (for because)

Yup, Yuppers (for yes)

Writin’/thinkin’/talkin’ (and any other present progressive tense verb with its final g replaced by a ’, which for me actually requires more effort than simply typing a g)

’bout (for about)

I dunno (for I don’t know)

Ya (for you, as in here ya go)

Dude, duuuuude, etc (for what?)

You da man…

That’s enough of a list for now, though I am well aware that this is not even a nearly complete sampling of the varieties of verbal manipulation that go on.

My question/point is this: not that these terms are in use somewhere in the world, by fairly identifiable groups/classes/cohorts of people (high school students, frat boys, urban dwellers, etc), but that people who I know to be mild-mannered, usually white, professionals over 25 tend to abuse this kind of talk mercilessly in their email correspondence, as well as in their posts to professional discussion groups (the field I am most familiar with is video postproduction).

Is this tendency strange, or what? Whazzup wit dat!? As far as I’ve been able to observe in my modest assortment of acquaintances with 20- or 30-something white professionals, they absolutely do not talk like that in life. Why do they do that in email?

Is email and newsgroup language a type of communication where one must disguise one’s voice, make it loud and slangy to protect against possible insults or disrespect? Is email an inherently laughable, insignificant form of communication that needs to be mocked through the use of slang (which to an extent has the effect of showing that the author refuses to take the medium seriously)? Is it, on the contrary, an opportunity to be the carefree hipster that one has always wanted to be?

Ultimately, I find the whole thing disturbing. When I see one of these silly slang terms, I think something along the lines of the following: “I am reading this discussion group message for information about an esoteric digital video technology, and yet your post has both ‘I dunno’ and ‘if you be gettin’ da signal…’ (referring to a video signal), so how can I take you or this information seriously? You sound like a 12-year-old, yet I know for a fact that you own a production house in Vancouver…” That’s what I think.

I am disturbed. Is it just me?

Thanks for any insights.

Bill Fisher

- - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: The Extra “P”
Date: Tue, 16 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Please relay to Amie Barrodale that my name is spelled “Topp,” not “Toppp.” I already have enough problems, what with the extra “p,” besides smelling like her grandfather (that is to say, clean).

Thank you.

Mike Topppppppppppppppppppppppppppp

- - -

From: “Timothy McWeeney”
Subject: Watch out for the freelancer. I am going freelance.
Date: Tue, 16 May 2000 GMT

Dear McSweeney’s,

A pervert comes into a whorehouse and stays for a while. He gets married there and learns to play Parcheesi, ancient royal game of India. Sometimes he has to keep his balance for a while on the knobby old hobbyhorse. You know the routine. We’ve all been fired from an asinine office job. But how many of us crazy morons have been fired by an actual firebomb? The answer is none. Or maybe just a few. No human being can withstand those conditions and then immediately go camping with nothing but a plastic suitcase filled with ketchup sandwiches and liquor. But like I was saying, after selling the Eskimos, people began to think of me as a professional accountant. I ran with it, of course, got fired, set a few homes on fire, eventually went freelance. Now they think it’s just me, my yellow suitcase, and those short, stunted evergreens looking sketchy on a hill. Me and that loser mother nature getting along, she with her sophisticated ideas about plants and animals and such, me with my head full of notions about perverts pimping in polar-bear fur beneath a sky filled with reams of flaming paper.

Truth is, I’m freezing my ass out here but refuse to put on a jacket. The way I see it, I am God’s gift to uncomfortable temperatures. Why this solo “business” on a mountain? Fuck, maybe I’m really just sauced in the brothel. What I’m saying is, just try to get in my way while I’m napping on the Pong table, muttering as you part through thick white smoke, displaying a sly smile, and we’ll soon find out something. “Emanate, if you are daring, the wildlife fire that smokes in your chest like a flaming stack of twigs.” Another line from “The Harrowing of Hell.” Then and only then, if you’re ready to explode, hike up here with your own plastic suitcase stuffed with sandwiches (a tastier variety if you’re lucky), and with your own goddamn bottles of booze. Those with the lemons to join me on the bare crown of this desolate hill will discover if they’re ready to hang with a full-on nutjob. They will soon learn if they’re ready to be tackled by the firebomb. If so, they will be provided with a polar bear suit and granted an hour in a whorehouse with Mrs. T. McWeeney. They will be given time in the lounge chair with the fuzzy slippers on their feet. If they can handle that woman, I guarantee they can leave with my Pong paddles. As long as they don’t forget to take me too.

Earning my trip to Italy with a gallon jug of urine,

Timothy McWeeney

- - -

Date: Tue, 16 May 2000
From: edward silver
Subject: my kind of town

Dear McSweeney’s,

Please inform Mr. Purcell-Contractor (if that is his real name) that, when he chooses to return to Chicago, I would be happy to wink at him. He might try looking out from the observation deck of the Hancock Building toward Navy Pier on a mutually agreeable day. I will position myself on the ferris wheel and wink continually and with aggression. He may want to bring binoculars.

May I suggest May 26th around noon?

Thank you for your help.

Ed Silver

- - -

Date: Wed, 17 May 2000
From: “Alicia Mosier”

Dear McSweeney’s,

Here’s another music-related-Elian-essay ripoff! Unbelievable!


Alicia Mosier

- - -

Date: Wed, 17 May 2000
From: Sam W Stark
Subject: Graduation

Dear McSweeney’s,

Commencement speakers: Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, Brian Dennehy. Missed the first two, but Brian was a funny fat man. The program listed him Class of ’60— he apparently was at one point— three kids later made it Class of ’65. He wore Men-In-Black shades and opened with a flurry of ethnic jokes. People kept laughing before the punch line. Timing, Brian, timing.

“In closing,” he said, “I’d like to tell a story about my mother’s funeral. It may sound like a sad story, but it’s not. It’s funny!” Shaggy-dog: the long funeral procession from Long Island to New Haven, with Metro-North stops enumerated along the way, s-l-o-w-l-y. Come “Stratford… Milford… New Haven,” limosine loads of hard-mourning Irish Catholics have to pee, but there’s only one bathroom at the cemetary because, as he says, “Let’s face it, you don’t need a lot of bathrooms at a cemetary.” Then he described, very slowly, the sound of the one toilet flushing again and again. We squirmed in the dehydrating sun, particularly those of us who had washed down the last marked-up cocaine of our college career with the last marked-down six-pack of our college career at 6:00 on the last morning of our college career. Lunch: Barney Greengrass, Sturgeon King, is out of sturgeon, so the little sister orders trout instead. I ask for poppy-seed, toasted, receive scooped-out everything, untoasted, instead, cold fishy sweats and diarrhea.

But: graduated. Thanks for everything,

Sam Stark

- - -

Date: Wed, 17 May 2000
Subject: On Viewing American Beauty the Second Time

Dear McSweeney’s,

Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. I thought American Beauty was dreadful, a pale gray imitation of a ’70’s black comedy, full of stupid non sequiturs, cardboard characters, and gratuitous manipulations. I thought the characters a predictable amalgam of anti-middle class cliches, and the ending incoherent and pretentious. I thought, how can the Kevin Spacey character, emotionally inept and intellectually clueless throughout, suddenly transmogrify into this paragon of glowing contentment, simply because he decides not to deflower a 17 year old virgin? I thought, how can his estranged wife go from victimhood-bent-on-bloody-vengeance to hugging the man’s shirts just because her neighbor beat her to the punch? (A miscue in the editing, by the way, shows her walking from the rainy outdoors straight into her bedroom, totally by-passing her murdered husband.) As a friend suggests, won’t we all look back ten years from now and wonder, what was that all about?

And then I saw it a second time. What was I thinking? The whole thing has that “great movie” sheen, that Oscar burnish. The sensitive poet in the young drug dealer comes off as a deeply original characterization. And Spacey is revealed as a Dionysus (of acting too), awakened from a slumber of ignorance to become a Buddha of humanity, his final encomium to the audience the equivalent of a perfect poem of man’s redemption through the perception of life’s illusive but pervasive beauty. Whoa.

Christopher Guerin
Fort Wayne

- - -

Date: Wed, 17 May 2000
From: Sam W Stark

Dear McSweeney’s,

Oh, and incidentally:

Re: Rinkes 5/3. “Suck” perhaps Midwestern for “white potato salad”?
Re: Purcell 5/4. People in Seattle are not nice. They are as slow as fog.
Re: Newhart/Balcolm 5/4. Terrifying ventriloquist on the uptown 1, circa 145th St dresses Hasidic. Lays hat beside him, grumbles a bit in a Popeye voice, explicitly. On top sings a kind of amelodic mezzosoprano, thrown to everywhere at once. Intermittently a naive, middle-range, “Yeah?” off to his right-hand side.
Re: Boyer 5/4. Spacey is OK for a homo.
Re: “Megan” 5/4. “Yet still thinking that” (between “ridiculous right-wing mentality” and “he is a liberal”) should read “;”.
Re: Barrodale 5/5. “Was” line 4 should read “is”; anyhow cf. “Hard Day’s Night” (“Clean old man.”)
Re: Barkin 5/10. Blue prawns-west coast?-$6.50/lb dead in Chinatown. Boil ~7 mins in Old Bay. Easy to eat, and long claws good for stirring drinks!
Re: Recklaus 5/12. I played my fortune cookie numbers three times in February and March; because the pot was a piddly $15M, I figured my chances were above-average. Results:

2/29/00: Chicken with Eggplant. “This is really a lovely day. Congratulations!” Lucky numbers: 6, 12, 15, 17, 24, 34. Winnings: $-1.

3/4/00: Chicken with Eggplant. “Your exotic ideas lead you to many exciting, new adventures!” Lucky numbers: 1, 13, 33, 43, 44, 47. Winnings: $-1.

3/7/00: Chicken with Broccoli. “A new hobby may relieve stress.” Lucky numbers: 4, 11, 10, 47, 32, 50. Winnings: $-1.

Thanks for nothing,

Sam Stark

- - -

Date: Wed, 17 May 2000
From: Carol
Subject: the universe

Dear McSweeney’s,

Did you know that astrophysicists took images of 145,000 galaxies with a Big Throughput Camera? They analyzed a light distortion effect known as cosmic shear which measures the distribution of dark matter. Since the amount of dark matter determines the universe’s shape and expansion, now scientists can better predict the ulimate fate of the universe.

What do I get from all this?
1. Betting time. If I make friends with an astrophysicist, he might give me some insider information that I can use to win the work pool on the exact time the universe will end, instead of relying on psychics and philosophers like my co-workers do.
2. Big Throughput Camera would make a good name for a band; Cosmic Shear would not.

Carol Magary

- - -

From: “Dan Kennedy”
Subject: Light in the Dark
Date: Wed, 17 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Turn around, bright eyes.

Every now and then I fall apart-

Dan Kennedy
New York, New York.

- - -

From: Greg Purcell – Contractor
Subject: Cities Emerald and Windy…
Date: Wed, 17 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I went to see a Seattle Mariners game last night. The Mariners stood the Minnesota Twins up against the wall of Safeco Field house and butchered them down to the last man. Graphics appeared on the scoreboard: “Hector esta caliente!” A fattish, digitized baseball player slumped away, dejected, while a rain cloud the size of a manhole cover marked his passing. An interesting fact concerning the ballparks of Chicago and Seattle: whereas Safeco field is the newest baseball park in America, Chicago’s Wrigley field is the second oldest—and the prettiest, according to George F. Will.

The Magnetic Fields have written the lyrics: “I don’t know why but I feel like dancing/The sun goes down and the world goes dancing.” Also: “Who will mourn the epitaph of my heart?/ Will its pretty droppings climb the pop charts?/ Who’ll take its ashes and, singing, fling/ them from the top of the Brill building?” Carole King used to write songs in the Brill building with her husband. I forget his name. Sometimes she would get stuck on a particular passage. The sound from her simple, upright piano would get locked in the air, inaudibly tumbling with it out of her studio’s only window, lost in the Manhattan night. It was then, for the first time that day, whichever day it was, that she truly heard the city. This would do well as the kind of novel that is written nowadays. It would be called “I was Carole King.”

There is also much mention of Wallace Stevens’ The Emperor of Ice Cream on this site by the people, who come to show how cold they are, and dumb. Ice cream falls within the marginalia of human ingenuity. Stevens is mine. He belongs to me. Seriously, they say he had terrible taste in art, except for his affinity towards Cezanne.

The following are observations cloaked as fact:

1) I would like to fall in love with a girl who has the courage to be at least one foot taller than I am.

2) I am going to write an article about you.

3) Alexander Pope was feared and stunted in his day.

4) I am a temp in an office type situation.

5) A racist skinhead would attempt to hurt me if he knew my politics.

6) Who likes the avant-garde? No one. This is written about often.

7) It is difficult at first to believe that the human faculty developed not by means superior to, though analogous with, human reason, but by the accumulation of innumerable slight variations, each good for the individual possessor!

8) I am getting old and will probably live my life no differently than other people live their lives, but with fantastic secrets.

9) There is a joke in existence that begins with a panda bear and ends with a punch line incorporating the phrase “eats shoots and leaves.” Some people know this as a dirty joke, and others know it as a joke you could tell to any 10 year old child.

10) The McSweeney’s website appears to be scaling down its operation to include only regularly featured writers, trusted friends and associates. Alternately: quality control is measured by workload.

11) “Zenith-like” is a marginally descriptive compound word.

12) Nicola Tesla, the inventor famous for harnessing alternating current and radio waves, and who was also rumored to have invented a powerful death ray, was depicted in early issues of Action Comics as being an enemy of Superman. Once, when J.P. Morgan cut funding for one of his larger projects, he used the discoveries unearthed by said project to send a lightning bolt into the sky which could be seen by the entire state of New Jersey.

13) We all know good things.

14) Here is a little known poem by T.S. Eliot:

When with a jigsaw they unite
to cut them handsized blocks
of letters out of pine
to magistrate in shuffling
boys, and the letters of boys
who speak as if by snuffling
the mothers, then, who, sleeker,
sounder, than the place they came,
adulate those boys around.

Yet there remains as currency
and strict, those jigsaws
buzzing ably from a hollow room.
And the moon hangs all but bigger
weighing skies with freer purchase
and those pedagogues commingle
smoke with nagging chatter
and letters rest—lampooning
husbands, heavy, single,
like that terrifying jigsaw
which has stopped her buzz aright.

So the boys arrange in miniature.
The moon sets on the wall.
And now look! These able women,
self-satisfied and taller,
who whiff up all perfumed,
their heavy breasts
caught softly in a gauze
of daisy prints on cobalt blue,
make one hard hitting pause,
and lead softly through the room.

15) Actually, I wrote that.

I am still in Seattle. Ken Griffey Jr. no longer resides here.

“Amusemental” is not a word,
Greg Purcell

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: In response to “Megan’s” Katie Manifesto
Date: Wed, 17 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

To get my roommate back for being a slob, it amuses SMB and I to contemplate putting things in his bed while he is away at his girlfriend’s each weekend. We imagine he wouldn’t even notice these additions and would just crawl into bed and go to sleep. In response to “Megan’s” Katie Manifesto, here is a partial list of such things.


Putrid week-old bag of trash.

Four Ace brand eggs expired July 15, 1996.

15 ancient “Wok & Roll” containers filled with cigarette butts.

A Rubik’s Cube destroyed to be put together again as though solved.

A copy of Pauline Kael’s “For Keeps” wrapped in “Classic Images of Hollywood” shower curtain with image of Bogart obscured by mold.

Roommate’s towering stack of newspapers that avalanched due to slick patches between paper created by issues of PC Magazine, Utne Reader, and Territory Ahead catalogs.

Beat-up inline skates without stopper, covered in “Free Tibet” stickers.

A toilet plunger wearing roommate’s lavender bandanna left on kitchen table, stiff from repeated wear, still tied in knot at the back.

My buddy Doug, aka Soggs, naked except for roommate’s briefs, moaning in pool of urine after three-day drug binge. Roommate has never met Doug.

Fondest regards,

Bryce Newhart &
Sarah M. Balcomb

- - -

From: “Das Brot”
Subject: What do you mean?
Date: Wed, 17 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Why have people I’ve known all my life suddenly started signing their email with “Ciao?” The only Italian person who has ever written me was a girl in 8th grade. She wrote me a letter from rehab thanking me for writing to her while she was there. She had always been very friendly, and had the most amazing breasts for a 13 year old. I hear cocaine does that. Enlarges breasts, I mean. I’m not sure what it does to personality.

Anyway, she did not use the word “Ciao” at the end of her letter.

Please help,

P.S. A note to Justine Hermitage: I can’t decide if I like Reese’s better now, or feel somewhat disgusted with my peanut butter cups. They still taste good though.

- - -

Date: Wed, 17 May 2000
Subject: A Question For The Letters Page

Dear McSweeney’s,

I don’t know if this is the best place to pose this question, but strangely, I think it is.

So, here goes.
I’m a little nervous.
No, really, here it is.

What do skinny people have against fat people anyhow?

Being one of the latter, rather than the former, I was just wondering. Sure, I’ve come to realize that nearly everyone has had some physical feature they were teased about as a kid, whether on the playground or by some tormenting older sibling, but this is such a lasting thing. Not being a wealthy, cigar-smoking robber barron, I don’t think the whole “fat cat” thing applies to me. Not like neighborhood kids yell things at me as I climb into my car weekday mornings, or anything.

Maybe someone could explain it to me. Nicely.

Hopefully awaiting a response,
Eve Aura

- - -

Date: Wed, 17 May 2000
From: Bobo the Wonder Chicken

Dear McSweeney’s,

As a faithful reader for a few months, I am overjoyed at the first dispatch from Neal Pollack from Toronto. Sweet!!

As Mr. Pollack travels across the second-largest country (land-mass, anyways), may I suggest a few spots he should check out? I’ve travelled coast-to-coast (but not to the other coast), and have come across some intersting sights.

Montreal: the Mary of the World Church in downtown. Absolutely breath-taking. It’s apparently based on the Basillica in the Vatical City (never been there, so I’m not sure). I’m not Catholic, but when I walked in, I was in total awe.

Quebec City: Plains of Abraham. Where all our troubles started.

Halifax: The Citadel. Awesome. Might want to take in the graveyard where they buried several remains from the Titanic.

St. John’s: Signal Hill. And, of course, all the pubs along St. George’s St.

Winnipeg: The Forks. For the first time in several years, it’s not underwater.

Brandon (my hometown), Manitoba: not a thing, but if he wants to stop by, give him my email address.

Regina: The RCMP training facilities. You too can become Dudley Do-Right.

Edmonton: Gateway to the North. West Edmonton Mall. Mmmm, shopping, mini-golf and waterslides all in one.

Calgary: The Cowboys. And the mountains. They mix sooo well.

The Rockies: Beautiful all year round. And you might even run into a couple of mountain goats (long story).

Vancouver: Probably the most beautiful city in the world. I’m moving there as soon as I finally graduate from university (going on 7 years now).

Yellowknife & Whitehorse: Mid-summer, it’s not all that cold. Whitehorse occasionally breaks the national high temperature record.

Overall, Canadians are a fairly good bunch. We are friendly, polite and helpful. But don’t act like we’re all that way. There are quite a few pricks among us. And be very careful of the rednecks in the Prairies (I’m from here, I’m allowed to call them/us that). Whatever you do, don’t assume we all say ‘eh?’ or enjoy the cold. We’re just like you – only cooler.

Many thanks,
Stacey Brown
Brandon MB

PS- Hockey is huge in Canada (duh). Right now, one of the national breweries (Molson) is promoting their Canadian brand of beer, using the theme ‘I AM’. There’s a commercial starring Joe, who gets up on stage and does this whole “I am proud to be Canadian” speech – basically, it takes a nice little jab at Americans. You can find it at and follow the links… you can learn some pretty interesting stuff about how we perceive you perceive us.

Thanks again.

- - -

From: “Sean Carman”
Subject: Musings w/r/t Sciatic Donkeys
Date: Wed, 17 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Upon reading the news of Judy Budnitz’s and Paul Maliszewski’s awards I tipped Issue No. 3 down from its packed shelf, because that seemed an easier task than re-working the story about the lost glitter mills of interior Argentina, which runs dry of narrative steam right there in the middle of page five, after the hero befriends the caballero Jose Guisseppi Rulfo with the promise of a wider and lasting fame in return for three days’ use of two malnourished and sciatic donkeys. What I found, there in Issue No. 3, was a wonderful and disturbing story by Ms. Budnitz, but nothing by Mr. Maliszewski. Tricked again, I thought, and this time perhaps at the additional expense of Mr. Maliszewski, of globe-poor Syracuse. In the next instant, however, I was disturbed by the possibility that Maliszewski, the aforementioned Budnitz and even J. Lethem were fabrications, their stories and Lethem’s book and public appearances the deranged concoctions of a literary madman, a madman I tell you, etc. It was only then that the truly horrifying possibility revealed itself: that I myself was the trick — the literary construct — composing letters to a bloodless editor from a distant and forgotten dream. Then I saw Mr. Maliszewksi’s piece in issue two and realized your on-line publication was guilty not of a conceit, but a typo. With this nettlesome issue settled, I made some hot chocolate and went to bed.


Sean Carman

P.S. As per Mr. Newhart, this letter has been sanitized of all exaggerations and flirtations.

- - -

From: “Gary Greenberg”
Date: Thu, 18 May 2000
Subject: recently, if tardily, delivered box

Dear McSweeney’s,

This box, is it a pizza box or a box set box? It looks more like a pizza box than a box set box, but you can’t usually put the slices back in the pizza box because you ate them or they’re old and congealed or even if they’re still presentable the bottom of the pizza box has those cold cheese stripes like cop sidewalk chalk marking the last location of the deceased slices and you can get arrested for messing them up. So maybe it’s a box set box, which is a whole ‘nother problem. Like my Miles box set, where I lost the booklet or my Buena Vista where I lost the box, or my Grateful Dead where I lost one of the cd’s, which are sort of like the slices in the pizza box. So now I’m sitting here with Four Institutional Monologues in my hand (well, not literally, because I’m really typing, but it was in my haand when I sat down to write this letter) and I’m paralyzed because I don’t know whether to put it back or toss it out or just lose it.

Gary Greenberg

- - -

From: “Sarah M. Balcomb”
Subject: response to the defensive whitney pastorek
Date: Thu, 18 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Please relay to whitney pastorek that she is only digging her own grave. But if she’s into it, I’d be happy to pick up a shovel or a pickax or even hire a backhoe to make the job a little easier. Next time you’re at Wendy’s, whitney, why don’t you just tell ‘em to keep the change ’cause you’re not gonna be around much longer to spend it.

All my best,
Sarah M. Balcomb

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: More in response to “Megan’s” Katie Manifesto
Date: Thu, 18 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Here are some more things SMB and I have contemplated putting in my roommate’s bed while he’s gone for the weekend. He would definitely never notice, we’ve decided.


Disposable razor blades.

Ricky Martin CD.

Small red bar of soap in shape of a lobster.

An actual lobster (spray-painted blue).

A bear trap.

12 hits of bad blotter acid.

Roommate’s “science project” (brown cube inside foggy plastic container left in refrigerator that we eventually concluded must be a piece of rotten melon).

Photo of Benny, my toothless cousin, grinning as milk spurts from his nose, shortly after his release from prison.

A butcher’s knife on a sheet of notebook paper, roommate’s name smeared in ketchup.


Bryce Newhart &
Sarah M. Balcomb

- - -

From: “Andrei Sinioukov”
Subject: me news
Date: Thu, 18 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I’m happy to report that I am absolutely officially available now (see the proof of availability attached below).

Feel free to forward your inquiries to

Thank you, A.

>From: Tatyana Meshcheryakova
>To: Andrei Sinioukov
>Subject: same address?
>Date: 18 May 00
>hey you
>i hear no more apple pies but you’re learning norwegian? in this case, are
>at the same address and planning to be there within the next 30 days? i
>to send you the divorce decree. i assume you’d wanna have it for future
>reference. i am filing the last papers tomorrow, and need to provide your
>address for them to send you a signed decree.

- - -

From: “Connie Sebastian”
Subject: Instructions for my espresso machine
Date: Thu, 18 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Perhaps you will be amused by the instructions that came with my imported Italian espresso machine.
All emphasis is theirs:


1.Remove the cup-heater shelf and unscrew the boiler cap. Fill the boiler with water and check the visual gauge; close again with the appropriate cap, putting the cup-heater shelf back in it’s original position. Make sure that the plug is properly inserted in the current tap. Operate the pilot light switch: the light is always <> to signal connection of the machine to the power supply network.

2.When the temperature control light goes out, open the steam cock for a few seconds. As soon the air contained in the boiler has escaped, close the steam cock. When the optimum operating temperature has been reached, the control light will go out again. The control lamp comes on while the machine is acquiring heat, but is off went the operating temperature has been reached.

3.At this point, and only when the machine is cold and here we are talking about the dispenser unit, with a pumpful of boiling water kept in the cylinder (using the appropriate lever) heat the unit, the filter-holder cup and if possible the cup to take the infusion.

4.Fill the filter with one or two measures of coffee, as required, and press the mixture in the filter-holder by means of the presser. Connect the filter-holder firmly on the unit and operate the lever from the top downwards. At the end of the stroke, leave it free to return to the starting position. This operation will be repeated until the desired quantity of infusion is reached.

5.To obtain steam or boiling water from the machine it is enough to operate the appropriate steam with a rotary movement; after use, clean by passing steam through the steam tap.

6.Once the machine has been used, reclean filters and filter-holder with great care and free them from impurities due to operation. Before proceeding to the next filling of the boiler, empty it of the steam contained therein, using the appropriate steam tap for discharge: never unscrew the boiler cap when the machine is under pressure.

7.To obtain <>; the quality of the mix must be selected and it must be ground according to bar grades. This machine, because of its technical features and practical economy can work all the time, night and day: efficient operation thereof is guaranteed by the useful quantity of water in the boiler.

8.It is equipped with a plug having an earth contact: when in operation, it must always be earthed.

- - -

Date: Thu, 18 May 2000
Subject: Another note to Sarah M. Balcomb, with attention paid also to Bryce Newhart

Dear McSweeney’s,

Please relay to Sarah M. Balcomb that although I sniffed at her concern re: my diet, I have reconsidered and would like to extend an olive branch to her in peace as well as in hopes that she and her apparent office-mate, Mr. Bryce Newhart, would take me out here in our shared office neighborhood and show me the cholesterol-free places to eat. While I admit that my interest in this venture is primarily piqued by their recent mention of Two Boots Pizza, they seem like nice kids and I’m always looking for ways to better myself, hence all that time I spend at the gym and in transcendental meditation and serving at the soup kitchen and… oh, wait. I don’t do any of those things.

thanks so much,

whitney pastorek

- - -

From: “Sarah M. Balcomb”
Subject: Another winning proposal
Date: Thu, 18 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

On May 10, 2000, M. Ryan Purdy and Scott M. Korb wrote to you with a proposal for a series of plays featuring the two of them as characters. I think this is a wonderful idea, although several characteristics of these characters must be modified first. Most importantly, they cannot be twenty-three years old. It just won’t work. They have to be much older, so they can be more bitter and thus far more interesting. Let’s say they are now twenty-six. The remaining transformations in their dispositions come naturally with their advanced age. SMK, no longer fresh out of graduate school, is also working for a non-profit organization, making even less money than his friend MRP who, although he has no graduate degree, put in his time in the business of drudgery and earned his spot in middle management. MRP still smokes, but no longer pretends to be cutting back. Although they have both retained their extensive knowledge of excellent places to eat and drink in New York City, they refuse to hang out in these fun and fashionable places as they despise all the annoying, young, hip people who congregate in such establishments. They spend most of their so-called free time in a dive bar in Hell’s Kitchen where they are the only patrons with college degrees. They are both “available,” but after a seemingly endless series of disappointments with women (and a forgettable [thankfully] drunken evening when they think they might have taken solace in each other’s arms), they are no longer actively looking.

And now the play:

A PLAY for McSWEENEY’S by Sarah M. Balcomb


There are no birds or dogs in this play as the proprietors of the performance space, a bar with no name in Hell’s Kitchen, forgot to sign the release form.

Setting: Evening, nebulous time of year, New York City. MRP and SMK sit at the short end of a long mahogany bar, marked with a hundred years of carved initials and death threats. The light in the room is so poor that they can barely see each other. SMK slumps forward with both elbows on the bar; too tired to hold his head up, he rests it in one hand. MRP leans back in his stool with a cigarette in his mouth, hands in his pockets. He never bothers to take the cigarette out of his mouth, except to light a new one off the previous one, so a pile of ash has gradually accumulated on his black T-shirt and dirty jeans. There is no movement, but if there were, it would be routine in a plodding way.

SMK: How’s that smoke?

MRP: Damn good. I’m up to 3 packs a day.

SMK: Fuck, that’s great. You really know how to suck ’em down.

MRP: That’s what they say.

SMK: So did you read that fucking shit about us?

MRP: Yup.

SMK: Not bad.

MRP: Um. Kind a fucked up it was about us.

SMK: Yeah, whatever.

MRP: That Irish bastard, Black, thinks he’s a fuckin’ playwright, I guess.

SMK: We’re much more interesting than that.

MRP: Fuck yeah.

SMK: (Thinks a moment, moves his head so it is now supported by both of his hands) Um, right. I don’t know. I think I’m tired of this place. We’re better than this shit. Or that shit, I mean.

(A tractor trailer rolls by on the street outside, making the lights in the bar flicker. None of the patrons in the bar react.)

MRP: Maybe. (Pauses to take a long drag off the cigarette in his mouth, pulling hard on the Marlboro so another column of ash drops to his lap.) Plays suck anyway.

SMK: What are you talking about?

MRP: I don’t know.

SMK: Shut the fuck up then and get me another drink, Moneybags.

MRP: OK, Professor.

(SMK and MRP both yawn. MRP’s cigarette remains stuck to his chapped lips when he opens his mouth to yawn. SMK makes a vague movement with his head to alert the bartender that they’re ready for another round. A wino in the corner vomits on his bare feet. An ancient whore puts a dollar in the jute box that hasn’t worked since 1973.)


(There is no applause because before the play began, SMK and MRP asked the audience to refrain from such garish displays of enthusiasm.)

Thank you and goodnight.

Yours until further notice,
Sarah M. Balcomb

- - -

From: “Dan Kennedy”
Date: Fri, 19 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Listen closely. Can you hear it? That’s the sound of the Japanese laughing in our face. That’s what some old man told me, anyway.

Cool it-

Dan Kennedy

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: My poor roommate, going to bed with no clue
Date: Fri, 19 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Sorry. Here are yet more things SMB and I have thought about putting in my roommate’s bed. If he asked me if I knew anything about the appearance of these things, I would just say no. It makes me laugh to think of him believing me, because of our longstanding friendship, while trying to come up with a different explanation. Most likely he wouldn’t notice though.


A cinderblock.

A pile of bricks.

Filthy bathroom floormat, neatly folded.

Roommate’s copy of Finnegans Wake.

Toilet plunger.

Osterizer 9-speed blender.

Dry ice and a Satan doll.

Bag of Fresh Step kitty litter.

Leaky package of ground beef.

Bag o’ blood.

Copy of Juggs magazine, slathered in syrup.

A dead dog.

An angry midget on 12 hits of bad blotter acid.

An angry midget slathered in syrup, wielding a toilet plunger and Juggs magazine.


Bryce Newhart &
Sarah M. Balcomb

- - -

Date: Fri, 19 May 2000
From: “kate Brown”
Subject: (No Subject)

Dear McSweeney’s,

Generally, I like to take a big noisy slurp of my from-the-deli coffee right before I put the lid on. Next to that first slurp through the (SOLO cup) rip-and-pop sip spot (a prancy name, admittedly, But what would you call it?!? (angry/“slash” embarrassed younger sibling back seat stare. uncertain pause before sustained poking.)), this is pretty much my coffee’s most delicious moment. I like to think about this because I suspect it is very important. I noticed/indeed that the happy man shouting Knicks Analyses at the sliced meats behind me took the/one (largely identical) pre-payed, steamy pre-the-top slurp.

Respectfully Submitted,

kate B B_

- - -

Date: Sun, 21 May 2000
Subject: Plague: The Musical

Dear McSweeney’s,

These are the songs that I’ve had running through my head this past week:
I Try
Oops! I did it again
Don’t go breakin my heart
Yesterday Once More

And on occasion, the unshakable curse, “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes

A friend told me that the best way to get a song out of your head is to sing “Morning Train” by Sheena Easton.

Yours truly,

Justine Hermitage

- - -

Date: Sun, 21 May 2000
Subject: Why I Live 3,000 Miles from Home

Dear McSweeney’s,

I returned home last night to find the following belligerent message on my answering machine:

Brother: Hello Justine.
Auntie Sher: Hi, Justine it’s Auntie Sher.
Auntie Judy: Hello, my darlin I love you and why don’t you talk to me?
Mom: Hi Justine, it’s your Moooommm!!!
Dad: Hello, Justine it’s Dad.
Brother: Hi, I’m not calling you to bug you with family stuff. Uh, my friend Shannon is in New York and I gave her your phone number. I want you to know she’s great. I think you two would get along well together. Uh, so when you get a call from her, she’s not some freak who got your phone number out of the blue. You should definitely go hang out with her. She’s really hooked up in the literary world, you’re hooked up in the film world, you can both schmooze New York like crazy.
Auntie Judy: And Auntie Judy wants to know if you’re hooked up with the Boy world. Call me, we want to chat.
Auntie Sher: We’re all at Trader Vic’s having dinner celebrating my birthday. What a wonderful way to celebrate.
Auntie Judy: Thanksgiving 2000 at my house.
Auntie Sher: Thanksgiving 2000 at Judy’s house OK?
Brother: All right, take care Justine. Good-bye.


Justine Hermitage

- - -

Date: Sun, 21 May 2000
Subject: hello mudda

Dear McSweeney’s,

First, “props” to Jeff Johnson for stirring up summer time memories of camp. I went to Camp We-Haw-Kee in Winter,WI for several summers where I learned the important lessons of smoking on cabin rooftops, short-sheeting a bed, and sneaking around the boys’ camp late at night. I employ these skills every day, and I am grateful to have picked them up at such a tender age. Second, should I fear the Trilateral Commission?

yours in the spirit of Indian princess “Mary” We-Haw-Kee,
kelly ann king

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: Blame my slobby roommate
Date: Mon, 22 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Is this getting old? Blame my slobby roommate. Here are still more. Roommate, if you are reading, beware! Ha, ha, ha … you are not reading. Therefore, don’t beware.


Burnt clumps of yam from inside toaster oven.

Clumps of hair from bathtub drain.

Contents of clogged vacuum cleaner bag.

Pages ripped from roommate’s prize first edition of “The Hobbit.”

Pages from “The Hobbit” used as toilet paper.

Star Trek mug shaped like head of Worf character.

10 pounds of galvanized roofing nails.

Roommate’s pillow soaked in ammonia.

Roommate’s mouthguard soaked in ammonia.

Roommate’s mouthguard worn by grandma’s dentures.

Stick of Hotel Bar butter expired April 9, 1997.

Mouthguard worn by dead monkey.

Mouthguard worn by angry blind midget on bad acid.


Bryce Newhart &
Sarah M. Balcomb

- - -

Date: Mon, 22 May 2000
Subject: some things that will never change…

Dear McSweeney’s,

Win or lose, Patrick Ewing’s jersey will hang seductively off his left shoulder.

That’s all.

thanks so much

whitney pastorek

- - -

From: “Dan Kennedy”
Subject: not choking, speaking!
Date: Mon, 22 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Recently I found myself traveling in Europe. There were people in place when I arrived. Everybody that I met and spoke with had accents unlike my boring, white, American accent. As a result I found myself lamely trying to kind of affect my own thing. My own accent from a place that, I guess, really doesn’t exist but is also everywhere and very international. There is a formula for how to arrive at this accent. Anybody can do it. It is simply a perfect combination of these two ingredients:

-A tape called “Acting With A Swedish Accent”, listened to nearly fifteen years ago when I was in a high-school play called “I Remember Mama”. I played the part of PAPA. I had lots of stage time, but only eighteen lines. Twelve of them were the line “Is good.” PAPA was very agreeable, and this is something I have carried over to my character here on my recent holiday. When the drink arrives it “is good.” When the steak arrives, it “is good.” I say it to everyone for anything. When spoken in the newly affected, totally lame omni-accent that I have fallen into, it’s sound is more like “eeeeeeees guh.”

-An old VHS tape I have from years and years ago when I tried to tape the movie SIXTEEN CANDLES on ABC and accidentally set the VCR timer to start recording at 10:00 PM instead of 11:00PM. As a result, I recorded an interview with Rolling Stone Bill Wyman on the ABC news program 20/20, in which he politely mutters public apologies and explanations about dating a very, very young woman. Every time he says “You know, I don’t know” it sounds like “Yaaaaaa no hi no naaww.” From this tape I have learned one of the most important rules of the omni-accent: the things you say must dissolve into a polite, kind of jet-lagged laugh. The benefits of this are obvious: pleasant, agreeable, international, and even less traceable.

eeeeeeeeeees guh-

Dan Kennedy

- - -

From: “Horace Greenleaf”
Subject: Hardwood flooring
Date: Mon, 22 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Installing hardwood floors isn’t as easy as you may think. Sure, it’s not as hard as some carpentry work, like decking or certainly stairwells, but it’s not nearly as easy as something like drywall, which is easy, but not much fun. Drywall installation, in fact, has brought one builder I know to say, “I’d rather slam my dick in the door than install drywall.” He didn’t laugh, which made it awkward when I laughed, and I had to explain to him that I was laughing because of the rhyme. Install drywall. But hardwood floor installation requires a variety of tools probably not easily available to the layperson, such as an air compressor, preferably two-tanked and of higher-end horsepower. These can be rented, but you never know what you’re going to get with a rental. Hardwood floor installation also requires compressor-run nail guns of various types, such as the triggered style of Lethal Weapon 2 fame, though the kind you would use on a hardwood floor would have smaller nails and would fire only if the barrel is compressed to the floor or whatever surface you happen to be nailing. You couldn’t shoot it into the air at whatever bad guys happen to be around unless you first shot though something fragile enough that the nail would still be travelling at a velocity high enough to puncture human skin upon contact, but sturdy enough that the end of the nail gun could be compressed appropriately to allow firing. Cardboard might do the job, but I have a feeling that the nail would be slowed down too much to do any good. The other option is to compress the barrel of the nail gun with your thumb and fore finger, being careful not to get them in the way of the shaft from which the nail will come, but this is dangerous and only adviseable in situations of extreme duress, like if they fired at you first. Another type of nail gun required for hardwood floor installation looks pretty odd. It has a handle at about knee level, and held properly, it has a lip that rests just on top of the tongue of a plank of flooring. (Flooring planks are cut with a groove in one side and a tongue on the other, so the planks fit together tongue-and-groove.) This nail gun also has a rubberized pad that is struck with a hammer (that also has a rubberized pad), which, with pressure from the strike and from the air compressor, drives a two inch staple into the flooring, just at the intersection of the side of the board and the tongue, so you never see the staple when the next board is nailed in. Sounds pretty simple? Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Sure, you can rent all of these tools, but all too many times I’ve been called in to fix a floor that a customer had tried to install without professional training. These floors typically have gaps between boards or do not run in straight lines, especially in long, narrow hallways. In jobs like these, we normally have to yank out all of the flooring that’s already been nailed down, then start over. It’s not too bad, because we can remove the staples from the flooring once it’s yanked out using a pair of nippers, so the customer doesn’t lose too much money on new material. But factor in rent costs, time, and effort, and the customer would have saved money and gotten a better finished product if he or she had called a professional to begin with.

Paul Killebrew

- - -

Date: Mon, 22 May 2000
Subject: Well, this is it.

Dear McSweeney’s,

It’s over, kids. My brief period of stability has come crashing to the ground like a poorly built rocket kit, flaming and hissing and spiraling down, down, down until it impacts in a burst of orange fire and black smoke and lights the dry pine needles ablaze and makes the fires in Los Alamos look like Boy Scout camp.

I was doing so well, I’d recovered from the nasty Wendy’s incident and was just putt-putting along, minding my own business, not a care in the world. People, I was FINE, one might even say happy— happy as a lamb in spring, or whatever the expression is.

And then, on one of my innocent trips to the Kentucky Fried Chicken up under the N tracks at Ditmars (3 piece meal, mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, extra biscuit, large Mountain Dew, $7 even, change handed to me by counterperson but ensuing rage balanced out by joy of eating with a spork), what to my wondering eyes should appear but a @#!!*$ Starbucks. THEY HAVE BUILT A STARBUCKS ON DITMARS BOULEVARD. Fascist jerks. All cute and perky and wishing it was Italian, its green and white sign beckoning, come, drink with us, help us homogenize your culture and oppress third-world nations…

Hmmm. Well, let’s face it: I don’t know anything at all, really, about the sociopolitical ramifications of Starbucks, and articles about the IMF/WTO/PDQ/WCW/what-have-you don’t hold my attention, so I can’t go anywhere with that line of criticism; in fact, I’m not sure what I CAN criticize them for, except…

Sigh. What I DO know is that I moved to U-Trib, Queens (that’s “Under The Triborough Bridge,” for those of you that haven’t heard the hip lingo yet) in 1998 to get away from it all, and now it’s followed me. There in my beautiful land that time forgot, where children still play baseball in the street and tennis shoes still hang from powerlines and streetlights, nestled amongst the mom-and-pop florists and Greek travel agencies and Chinese Food restaurants named things like Dragon Phoenix and the delis ensconced in Plexiglas, is a Starbucks. And inside the Starbucks are scary, scary people. I actually saw a woman carrying a Kate Spade bag on Ditmars Boulevard this weekend, and it wasn’t a fake because it didn’t say “Kade” Spade; no, it was real, and I guarantee you right now that the only, the only, the ONLY reason that woman was on Ditmars was to patronize the Starbucks. Probably the yuppie equivalent of a bar crawl or something. Whatever. I don’t know. But it must stop, because I am not well.

Don’t you see, people, can’t you open your eyes and notice how everyone is starting to look alike? How we’re all wearing little flip-flops around this joint like it was one big beach or drinking Fresh Samantha even though its $3.25 or screwing up our computers’ operating systems by trying to download MP3s even though we’re way not qualified to handle that kind of technology? It’s NOT a beach, people, it’s a city, and horrible, horrible things can happen to your toes if they’re exposed like that. And I KNOW I’m not the first person to write about the malling of our civilization or whatever, but listen. I BOUGHT A PAIR OF CAPRI PANTS OVER THE WEEKEND. A few of you out there reading this actually have met me and so the shocking nature of that statement will hit home with proper force… as for the rest of you, trust me. This is BAD.

So, what have we learned here today? There’s a Starbucks in the deepest region of Queens, and as soon as the weather warms up, I fully intend to wear my new capri pants. Can Pentecost be far behind?

Cat Stevens, were he alive today, would have some advice for us, I’m sure. But when left without our prophets, we must become prophets ourselves. I pray to the gods to give me guidance.

thanks so much,

whitney pastorek

- - -

From: “Steven Tomsik”
Subject: porpoises and such
Date: Mon, 22 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

This is one of those letters where I recount something that happened to me, and then I propose why it happened as it did. I begin now.

This morning, at work, I had to defecate. Please, it’s normal and healthy for me to do this. The 18th floor bathroom smelled awful, an unacceptable smell entirely, so I retired to the bathroom on the 21st floor (I contemplated staying in the first one for a very small amount of time, in fact, something like four or five seconds, and then I had to walk back into the 18th floor office and return THE KEY, only moments after taking it. So the people who saw me do this must think I have a very fast and precise a) sphincter, or b) that muscle that stops the flow of urine, the klug or something like that, some name, krull, something).

I arrived in the bathroom on 21 in short time, and entered, pausing momentarily in the small foyer to admire my appearance in the mirror there. Nothing out of place, no wens or boils to speak of. So I went in. I would have gone in anyway, what was I going to do, perform some sort of surgery on myself? Apply a salve or ointment? No. Of the three stalls, one was taken, the one of the far right. I chose the one on the far left, leaving the middle stall open. This is something I always do in these situations. I leave a “neutral zone,” so to speak. This is common courtesy. Everything in the stall was clean, so I didn’t have to wipe anything, but I did place toilet paper strips on the seat.

While I was doing what I had to do, I heard the other person in the far stall. He was apparently wiping; the sounds told me this. Roll of the toilet paper, tearing of sheets, wiping sounds. Ok. It happened again. And again. The roll, the tear, the wipe. The wiping portion of this process, though, grew longer each time. Roll, tear, wwwiiiiipppppppeeee. Wipe wipe wipe. Furious, awful wiping. Roll. Tear. Wipe and wipe and wipe. Each time this happened, I said to myself, “He must be done. He won’t do it again.” And each time I said this, he did it again. Why was he wiping so much? It started to sound like he was wiping cloth. I guessed that maybe he had soiled his pants, or his shirt, somehow. He was cleaning his pants or shirt, this is what I thought.

I leaned forward and looked under the stalls, curious. Nothing out of the ordinary, though. (But I just thought of this: what if he had looked under the stall at the exact moment I did? That would have been really awkward.) More wiping. His feet shook a little, so I assumed that he wasn’t wiping anything other than what one normally wipes with toilet paper, in a bathroom stall. I swear to god he wiped a lot. Way, way too much. I can’t stress this enough. When I left, he was still wiping. I almost looked through the crack between the stall door and the stall wall, but I didn’t, because honestly, I didn’t WANT to see.

Here, some proposals:

1. The man in there was insane.

2. The man in there, he had a very, very dirty anus for some reason, and required a cleansing more thorough than usual.

3. He presented with obsessive/compulsive disorder.

4. He actually WAS cleaning his shirt, or pants, or whatever.

5. The man in the far stall, he liked the feeling of wiping. This was his thing, he loved it, why not wipe for a long time if you love it? I don’t know why not. Except if someone was waiting, then it would be rude to wipe so much, but no one was waiting, so he wiped.

The thing that perplexes me is his disregard for me. He knew I was in there, he had to have known.

Me, though, I just don’t know.



- - -

Date: Mon, 22 May 2000
Subject: About last night!

Dear McSweeney’s,

In a letter dated: Sat, 06 May 2000, Ron Dulin wrote of what I guess was a less than inspiring concert experience, I couldn’t really glean his point, BUT at the end of the tale he mentions:

“Then, out of nowhere came this old man on a bike. He rode by me, using both hands to light a pipe of the drug-dispensing variety. As he passed I noticed that he only had one leg.”

Now I realize dead pan is the norm for faces at McSweeney’s, but WAIT JUST A DAMN MINUTE! An old, apparently drug using, man is able to pilot a bicycle whilst lighting said drug pipe (which implies w/o using his hands) and he only has ONE LEG?!? Get the Good Morning America crew out there on the double for a world class over coming handicaps heart warmer! Me, I call that a reason to go on living.

Sincerely, the hope filled,
Bridget Hamilton

- - -

From: “Das Brot”
Subject: A most disturbing circle
Date: Mon, 22 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I feel very sad that I will most likely die with no end in sight for pi, that mysterious and elusive number. In thinking about this, I realized today that circles instead of smiling happily upon me as they did in childhood drawings and high-school geometry are actually grinning an evil grin. Will I never know the exact circumference of a circle? The true measurement of its gaping maw?

How you taunt me you little bastards, with your faux expression of surprise. “O,” you say! From the coins in my pocket, to rim of my glass, and yes even the humble streetlight’s glow all ridicule me.

I’m so tired of being alone.

David Hansen

- - -

Date: Tue, 23 May 2000
From: Scott Matthew Korb
Subject: Comes Alive

Dear McSweeney’s,

I’m not exactly sure how to tell you this, but Peter Frampton hit on my aunt while she and her daughter spent some time near his beach house in the Bahamas. While flattered, she refused his advances. Apparently he was every bit a gentleman. She speaks very highly of him.

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

- - -

From: “Takeuchi, Yukiko”
Date: Tue, 23 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I have a question that’s not funny or particularly interesting, but I wanted to ask. I enjoy McSweeney’s on the Web. I think it’s funny. Sometimes I think, here are a bunch of people with my sense of humor, but sometimes it makes me worry. Do you (whoever’s reading this) ever worry that you (personally, not as magazine) place too much importance on irony/absurdity/cynicism? I think I may. I have a friend who told me that she almost cried during a movie because a scene was shot so beautifully, and I actually winced because she was so earnest. I have the same mixture of embarrassment and dread when a friend tells me that he/she writes poetry in his/her journal, horrified that I may be asked to read some of it. I used to think I was reacting against some sort of pretension, but these people are perfectly sincere. Then it occurred to me that I was reacting against their sincerity. I take very little seriously. My friends take very little seriously. Indeed, taking things too seriously (seriously at all) is grounds for being deemed pretty much unacceptable as companions, though perfectly nice people (also applies to people who pantomime golf swings). I get into this tricky spiral in which I’m pretty sure I’m pretentious about being unpretentious, and it bugs me. I feel like I may not know the line between enjoying something because it is clever, and enjoying it because it makes me feel clever. Does this ever bother you, reader mail-intake person? On second thought, it’s probably just me. It usually is.

If I had the computer savvy to make this anonymous, I would have.

Yukiko Takeuchi

- - -

Date: Tue, 23 May 2000
Subject: Have you noticed?
From: pr9000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Editors, friends, wellwishers and hangers-on:

Have you noticed how people nowadays make the “telephone” sign with their hands when telling you about phone conversations they had? You know what I’m talking about — thumb horizontal, pinky vertical, rest of the hand in a fist? And how they wave it around their head when they describe who they called?

Why is that? When did that become the thing to do? And what makes them think I don’t know what a telephone is?

And have you noticed how, although there weren’t nearly that many moms in Washington for that march a few weeks ago, they still can legally call it the “Million Mom March?” I mean, shouldn’t there be a law against that sort of thing? Moms don’t lie (at least mine never did) — when she said I was the most handsome boy at Steeple Valley Middle School, boy, she wasn’t just saying that. At least, I don’t think she was.

Thanks for listening. Anyone with answers to these vexing problems probably has too much time on their hands.

Paul Rinkes

- - -

Date: Tue, 23 May 2000
Subject: Miracle Whip

Dear McSweeney’s,

Miracle Whip proves most effective when used correctly during chants, rituals, and spells. ATTN: Do not eat the Miracle Whip.


At round table sit with eyes alternating in and out of focus on flame of non-synthetic wax candle, having first placed photo of Nancy Reagan waving to released hostages under candle. When, and only when, the wax first drips on Nancy, do you start scooping Miracle Whip atop the not-yet-hardened wax. Keep your mouth slightly ajar humming as you scoop.

The transformation should now begin. When, and only when, your mouth begins forming recognizable words can you lay off the Miracle Whip. Whatever it is that is intelligibly uttered from your lips is what you secretly long for.

You will receive this FedEx in a few short hours—provided it can fit in a standard-sized box.

This is the Miracle of the Whip.
Once again, do not eat the Whip.

Affectionately yours,
The Boston Groupie,
Carrie Gauthier, Esq.

- - -

From: “Andrei Sinioukov”
Subject: I can’t come up with a clever subject line, thus – no subject.
Date: Tue, 23 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

During the course of one of my extremely busy days I read the Letters Archive section of your fine online publication. The Letters Archive. The one that’s going all the way back to the Civil War. Having read it, I realized, that roughly every fourth (possibly every third) woman (or man) who had written in is named Sarah, or Sara. Now, I do like the name, in fact, it is one of the names I happen to like a lot, which is also the reason why I named my dog “Audrey,” not “Sarah,” thinking that eventually I would meet a Sarah and would not accidentally say in a loud and stern voice: “Sit, Sarah!” or “Down, Sarah!”, or “Drop it, Sarah!,” or “Come to heel, Sarah!,” however appropriate these phrases might be. Back to you now, or, rather, to Sarahs and Saras. Why do you all, Sarahs and Saras, like writing to McSweeney’s? What is it that draws you to the publication? What do you feel? What are Social Security numbers, do they all add up to the same number?

Seldom this curious,

- - -

From: “Bryson Newhart”
Subject: Fine, blame me, I’m sick.
Date: Tue, 23 May 2000 GMT

Dear McSweeney’s,

Don’t blame my roommate. Blame me. I am home sick today, making SMB e-mail this to me so I can e-mail it to you when I should probably be in bed. But I swear this is the last. The final installment in “things SMB and I have considered putting in my roommate’s bed while he is away for the weekend.”


Threadbare tire and a wilted rose.

Broken pieces to the toilet’s flush mechanism.

Umbrella skeleton.

Electronic components from roommate’s custom-built “over-clocked” computer after replacing them with a dirty boot and a pound of raw bacon.

Sculpture made from candle wax and roommate’s favorite jazz CDs.

This list, written in blood.

Me, sick, wearing roommate’s bathrobe and booties, surrounded by snotty tissues and Doritos crumbs.

Gasoline and a lit match.

A dead limbless midget whore, covered in raw bacon.

Best wishes,

Bryce Newhart &
Sarah M. Balcomb

- - -

Date: Wed, 24 May 2000
From: “mark walters”
Subject: Flute Girl

Dear McSweeney’s,

I have an elaborate routine which I follow every day in order to trick myself into writing. I am a writer. I write fiction, and non-fiction, and the occasional horoscope. Here is the routine:

1) Breakfast: Cereal. Coffee.

2) Records: Anything from Joe Tex to the Rolling Stones to Unwound. But not Prince. Whatever.

3) Propelled by the primal rhythms, the powerful beats, I sling myself into my chair and begin. At the beginning. A very good place to start. I wiggle in my chair, and scribble, and write, and write until I can’t take it no more. This part of the routine usually lasts about an hour.

4) I dash off to the grocery store, a few blocks away, and purchase a donut, which I then consume on the way home.

Here is my problem, my dilemma: I live below Flute Girl. Who is Flute Girl? She is a young lady who has obviously never lived with and or around other people before, because she is very loud and obnoxious and drags god-knows-what across the ceiling at two in the morning, making all this noise, and has two cats that scamper back and forth and sound like they’re going to come crashing through the ceiling and fall onto my face. Oh, and Flute Girl: she also plays the flute. This morning she started practicing scales at 10 a.m.! I wasn’t finished writing, dammit! I had to go get my donut before I was finished! She’s playing now. Oh sure, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Easy there, scholar, the flute is a peaceful instrument!” Not so! Not in the hands (and mouth) of Flute Girl! She’s out of school now—she attends the local university—and has no classes to attend! Flute Girl!

Here’s what else she does: she curses while playing the flute. She’ll be playing along, la la la la, you know, beautful, beautiful, beautiful flute music, and then she’ll mess up, and put the flute down for a moment and yell: FUCK! Have you ever met someone who curses like this, when they mess up while playing the fucking flute, for God’s sake? Neither have I.

I am at work on a novel, man, and I don’t this Flute Girl yelling like that while I’m trying to write, you know what I’m saying? Jesus. I mean. It sounds good with certain music, though. I was on my porch listening to the side two of the second Televsion record, and it sounded good with that. But man, all the time now! And she curses, too! She’s playing right now! Oh go on, Flute Girl spread your musical joy throughout the world, it’s spring after all, isn’t it?

I mean, have you ever heard of such a thing?

Mark Walters

- - -

Date: Wed, 24 May 2000
Subject: Exchange Between Writer Daughter&Recovering Stroke Victim Father

Dear McSweeney’s,

Clynnstar2: HMMM
Clynnstar2: I’D GO WITH ‘TO’
Clynnstar2: I COULD BE WRONG
Clynnstar2: BOBO
Clynnstar2: HARD ‘O’ SOUND
Clynnstar2: NO

The Boston Groupie
Carrie Gauthier, Esq.)

- - -

Date: 24 May 00
From: Thomas Gibbon
Subject: Good and Bad.

Dear McSweeney’s,

Yesterday was a wonderful day, yes no?

Starting-off with three brand new Sacagewea dollars I had a kick in my step all day. Mmm. Yes. I’m behind these new dollars, scoffers aside, they make me feel like I live in a real country. Of course our paper money is going to seed, but these dollar coins. Honestly, we should all be sure to use these. Make it work this time. Four times as efficient as quarters, and everybody loves quarters. Sure these new coins lack the authority of a British squid, but they do have a bit more gravitas than the Canadian loonie, and totally kick the ass of the French 4,000 franc coin. Let’s do this, all right? It’ll be fun. It’ll be great. You’ll thank me. Join me. It’s bliss. One of us.

Then there was a great stroll through the city. Then a nice beer. Then a huge selection of top-drawer cheeses. And I recovered a misplaced book [yes, I misplace books all the time, just thank god I don’t have kittens]. And the tv was no slouch. That’s always major. And Zbigniew, traitor to the Central Committee that he is, managed to avoid exile or death with the timely purchase of “Perfect Duck,” which is -how shall I put this?- awesome!!!!!!!

But today, man, it’s a good thing I didn’t watch the news yesterday (too busy with the beer and cheese). This Lebanon situation is abysmal. Normally a fan of the Labour Party in Israel I have to say Barak’s going to have to do something extremely violent to make up for this fiasco. That’s right, it’s a fiasco. The worst is the gloating. No, actually, the ululating is the worst. Then the gloating. Then the smiling.
Damn it.
Fuck and damn.

[I was going to tell a story about the French countryside, avec les zombies, but thought better of it. I mention this as it did manage a bit of a segue, as you will see…]

Two very real, very amusing, French surnames are these: Paleologue; Superbie. The former was the ambassador to Russia in 1914. The latter was a division commander sacked in 1914. What’s great about Paleologue is that while he was doing his thing, you know, tricking the Russians into full mobilisation, the Czar and the Kaiser were communicating by telegram, in English. What’s great about Superbie is that that is a damned funny name, even for a soft-drink or disco, but that it would make a bitching new name for certain tail-less Asian monkeys.

Yours (Paleologue. Brilliant, who thought of that? No, it’s real),

- - -

Date: Thu, 25 May 2000
From: Suzanne Price
Subject: Story for Tom Bartos

Dear McSweeney’s,

I was feeling generous and creative today, so Here is my attempt at a story for Mr. Tom Bartos. I like to call it “A Day at the Home: Where the Insane are the Most Understandable.”

While visiting my aunt in her “special facility” in order to receive the free enticing breakfast meal- Belgian waffles with syrup made into a smiley face and butter blobs used as ears, I noticed a man who looked like G. Marx slapping his waffles against the floor. While this was not highly unusual, I looked around to see if anyone was going to stop him or make mention of it. When no one did, I quickly whipped out my handy sock puppet, Mr. Digger. The puppet is made from a gray Champion sock and also comes with a toy ukelele for extra laughs. Mostly I use it to approach people in bars. I approached the waffle-throwing man and tried to make contact with the puppet. Alas, I had no success with him, although I managed to elicit a grunt, and I returned to my apartment ashamed of thinking that I could reach someone with footwear. At home, as I heard the clacking of the lock as I opened it, I thought i would sit down to read my one and only copy of McSweeney’s with earnest. Never before had I had such an uninspired day, and the rest was no different.

Thank you for reading this. I know other readers can come up with something more challenging to the intellect.

- - -

From: “Erickson, Karl”
Subject: Lunch
Date: Thu, 25 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Today I tried a new dish I call The Velvet Underground. It features white beans/white rice.

I have been tired lately and thought the combination of protein and iron in the rice and beans (mixed with peas) might help pep me up.

Karl Erickson

- - -

Date: Thu, 25 May 2000
Subject: Maturity

Dear McSweeney’s,

Why is it that when you get old you sleep less and check for mail more often?

I live in an apartment building where many people over the age of 70 also live. I am 28. It is not a retirement villa or anything of the like, it’s just a quiet suburban apartment building in an older, more quaint section of town. The problem is that while I am getting my sorry ass out of bed at say, 8am at the earliest, these older folk have already been up for at least 3 full hours. I know this because they have a tendency to steal my Sunday Chicago Tribune if I’m not out there by 6am to snatch it up (more irritating still is the fact that they rifle through the sections, clip desired coupons and then discard said paper back outside so as to say “you sleep late so it’s your fault I read your paper you lazy, loser young person.”)

Once I did manage to get myself up and out by 5am to catch at flight. As I tiptoed into the lobby I was startled by a group of 5 or 6 mature women (it’s mainly women as most men of their generation have already died) congregated, drinking from flowered ceramic coffee mugs and chatting it up in hushed voices.

Oh and the house coats! Why are manufacturers of women’s clothing still producing these despicable items? A house coat is by far the most unflattering of all women’s apparel, second only to the muumuu (which I feel to be a close cousin of the house coat, a sort of “plus” version).

White haired and skin like too many pasty spaghetti noodles all squished together, these are the people I race past on my way out for a bike ride or late for an appointment (as I am late to most all my appointments).

And the mail. I can see when it’s social security check time as money will make me run eagerly to that box, too. But daily these ladies sit, perched in their lace trimmed windows, waiting for their mail-carrier-prey to approach the building. Sometimes they get out there before he’s even done loading the boxes to snatch up their copy Modern Maturity and the Mailbox of Values booklets from him. And God forbid the mail is late. I’ve walked out the door many a noon time only to be met by one of these older folk taping on the mailboxes, “he’s late,” I’m told, without even asking.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy an older adult just as much as the next guy — the lovely stories of yesteryear and a genuine interest in what I have to say. I just wonder if there’s more to my later years than house coats and pansy covered coffee mug chats at 5am????

Tracy Camparone
Libertyville, IL

- - -

From: “Das Zahnpasta”
Subject: What would David Gergen do?
Date: Fri, 26 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Today, while outside taking a smoke break from a truly tedious day at work, I noticed a very superficially attractive woman walking towards me. I was looking directly at her when she suddenly looked up from whatever her eyes were resting on just off to her left. I instictively turned my head away, as I am prone to do when getting caught checking out a beautiful woman.

Before I had managed to turn my gaze fully towards the Necco Candy factory across the street and watch the sweet sugary steam emanate from pipes poking carelessly from the side of the building, I noticed that she had one very lazy eyelid. I’m not sure if that’s the appropriate medical term for it, but her right eye just did not open any where near as much as her left.

This got me to wondering if she has some strong selfconcious feelings about said eyelid. I can’t have been the first person to have been looking her up and down, start undressing her with my eyes (which lids open fairly symmetrically), only to turn abruptly away when she looked up. It wasn’t because of her eyelid that I turned away, it was because I was trying to not get caught “checking her out.” My next reaction was to want to tell her just that, but I didn’t think she would believe me. Besides, I don’t think it’s very polite to walk up to strangers and tell them that you weren’t looking away becuase of some minor physical imperfection, but because you didn’t want to get caught lusting after them.

It was then that I wondered, “What would David Gergen do?” I honestly have no idea, and I was hoping you could help me out.

Thanks a bunch,
David (Not Gergen) Hansen

P.S. By “superficially attractive” I really meant physically attractive at first glance, but without the benefit of knowing what she’s all about, what she believes in, and other “inner” stuff, I can’t really tell if she is attractive. Some otherwise very attractive people turn very ugly when they open their mouths. And I’m not just talking about the ones without good dental plans, either.

- - -

Date: Mon, 29 May 2000
Subject: The sun’ll come out, my ass.

Dear McSweeney’s,

The children from “Annie” are singing down the hall and their warbling mingles with the Cher on the radio and puts me in a generally wretched mood. It is Memorial Day and I am inside, at my desk, gazing longingly out at the airshaft and dreaming of honeysuckle. This morning, Queens smelled of fish and bus exhaust. This office smells of the jar of salsa left open after our last faculty meeting and a strange lingering sweaty experimental theater stench that never does go away, no matter how many times I open the window to the roar of the Barnes and Noble HVAC system.

I made the mistake this weekend of watching these movies, in this order:
Point Break
Grosse Point Blank
Reality Bites
Dirty Dancing
St. Elmo’s Fire

This was a mistake, as it has left me with a lingering desire to lead a different life. I’m not picky— surf bum, coffeehouse bum, Catskills bum, DC bar bum— any kind of bum will do, so long as life is more glamorous than it is now. I plan to chase this dream, as soon I lose 50 pounds to look like Lori Petty, Minnie Driver, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Grey, and Ally Sheedy, respectively, all of whom I could fit in the palm of my hand.

In the meantime, my biggest goal for the summer is to buy a skateboard and, hopefully, break my wrist— something I haven’t done since 8th grade and a sensation I long for, sudden, irreversible, and strangely affirming. Different than backing your mom’s Suburban into her violin student’s car, but not too different. Just enough.

thanks so much,

whitney pastorek

- - -

From: “Geddes, Bruce”
Subject: I sent this to your email link
Date: Mon, 29 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

When I saw the opening lines of Catherine Zyment’s piece (When asked to define the essence of his “it” factor, Scott Moffatt, oldest and it-iest member of Canadian supergroup the Moffatts, replied with a knowingness that belied his 16 years. “I think,” the man-child recently said, “chicks dig the guitar.” ) I immediately thought of an observation I once made during a lengthy stay in Colombia.
It went something like this. “I think, chicks dig the guns” The rest of the story, of course, had little to do with the correlation between guitars in peaceful North America and guns in war-torn Colombia, but I had already made up my mind to respond. When I was in Colombia in the early 90s, the government had recently made peace with one of the major guerilla groups, the M-19. These were urban guerillas, choosing to hide out in safe-houses in Bogota rather than sleeping on the jungle floors of the countryside. They were also P.R. savvy, ambushing milk tankers to redistribute to the poor, yadda yadda. They once stole a mess of guns and ammo from the army when they burrowed a tunnel from a safe house to a compound across the street. Then, at the height of their popularity, they tried to takeover the supreme court house. The operation failed and they were nearly wiped out. The survivors sought peace. They got it. They also got the chicks. I knew a girl there who came from an upperclass family who was a sucker for ex-guerrillas. And so she shacked up with a guy named Fernando. By all accounts, he was a loser. When he started dating Patricia, he was in the 8th year of his undergraduate degree, a habitual cocaine user and the kind of father whose contribution to the parenting duties of his illegitimate kids was to teach them how to roll joints. But man he got women! He had shot people, blown people up, been trained by Kadafi in Lybia, stolen money from drug dealers and to that day received death threats on a regular basis. Add it all up and this diminutive, balding, near-sighted man scored as many times as Gretzky in the mid-eighties. Had Fernando been born in Boston rather than Bogota, I am convinced he would have been in a band.


- - -

From: “Pascover, Alexander W.”
Subject: Authorship
Date: Tue, 30 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I enjoyed today’s contribution by Catherine Zymet. Like Mrs. Zymet (I’m assuming), I’d rather spend my time writing the Great American Novel than paying the rent. (Is that perhaps redundant, given that I read McSweeney’s?) However, as embarrassing as it must be to admit writing a quickie biography of LeAnn Rimes, Mrs. Zymet should take comfort in the knowledge that she can at least make a living through her writing. I, too, am unhappy with most of what I’ve written in the last few years, but not because the subject-matter is beneath me. It’s because my stories all suck. My two published works consist of a one-page story I wrote for my high school literary magazine and the lunch truck interview that appears on the McSweeney’s site. The point being, Mrs. Zymet, it could be worse.

Subscribe me, sir,
Your servant,
Alex Pascover

P.S. I am happy I could bring some joy into Luke O’Neil’s life.
P.P.S. I have recently changed the way I write my name on formal documents from “Alexander W. Pascover” to “Alexander Wms. Pascover.” (My middle name is Williams.) Do you think this is overly pompous?

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Date: Tue, 30 May 2000
From: Paul McLeary
Subject: note to self

Dear McSweeney’s,

From time to time I transcribe into American English the notes I make to myself on my portable voice-recording machine. How this fancy ‘voice-catching’ whirlygig works I know not. I just know that I’ve learned some hard lessons during my years as an entrepreneur, lessons I’d like to share with your readership.

Note 1:

Note to Self: When first stumbling upon a grandiose idea which may at first seem loony or perhaps even utterly insane; get the facts straight before trying to rush into action. Put a little work in to it. Feel it out, slap it around, stretch it to the end of its elasticity before testing it out. Case in point — The Flaming Monkey Vaudevillian Review and Steakhouse. Although the Monkeys wore flame retardant suits, I never figured on the acrid public outcry at flaming monkeys doing tap routines and comedy sketches – or the fact that most people don’t want to watch burning monkeys while they enjoy a Porterhouse steak and baked potato. Umm…yes, yes, I think perhaps the Belorussian contortionists at the Salad Bar may have been a bit too much as well.

Addendum to first Note: Remember to send flowers to Ms. Wanda Sikorski at Our Lady of the Humble Supplication Hospital – Burn Unit. Table tap routines were perhaps my biggest miscalculation.

And biggest disappointment.

Brainstorm: I see edible beer bottles – by the thousands!! Finish a crisp and refreshing brewski, a-and eat the goddamn bottle. Success!!

Paul McLeary

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From: “Outhit, Allison – 211”
Subject: Survivors
Date: Tue, 30 May 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Here’s what I have come up with: We get a dozen or so physically and mentally healthy, solvent, good-looking, educated, problem-solving, multi-tasking, bilingual, rugged, lateral-thinking, combative, mechanically-inclined, dextrous, hardworking A-type personalities and send them over to my folks’ place for dinner. Whoever survives, gets to do the dishes.

All the best,
Allison Outhit