From: “phil redondo”
Subject: Update

Dear McSweeney’s,


Some of you may wish to order copies of Shakespeare’s lost software, recently discovered on a 16th-century hard drive at Christ Church College, Cambridge.

The following titles are available:

Henry 5.1
Henry 5.2
Turbo Hamlet
Richard 3.0
Sonnet for Windows

Customer support can be reached at thebard@avon.lit

Phil Redondo

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From: “McCarthy, Ann”
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I think Matt Sullivan’s list of potential future thriller titles from 1/00 is very funny, I really do, and they don’t even necessarily need to be by that Patterson fellow to be funny—crap writers are always titling their books that sort of thing, like all those Christmas mysteries called Silent Night that they have up there by the Cat Came for X-mas books at the bookstore at Christmastime. You know what I’m talking about. I believe the silence to which they refer is, in fact, the ghastly silence of unholy death.

I just want to point out a couple of deletions that could make it even MORE funny. “The Cheese Stands Alone” has already been done, sort of. Robert Cormier has a book called I am the Cheese. It sounds dumb, but it works well, because the preteen (if i remember correctly) protagonist is indeed, alone. He’s searching for his father. I think. Now that I think of it, it would make an excellent exclamation for someone who has just said something really cheesy, perhaps especially if preceded by “oh gosh!”. I’m totally using that next time I say something cheesy. “Gently Down the Stream” has also been used, also to nice effect. It’s a Su Friedrich movie with lots of images of swimming and scratches directly onto the film of things like “I make a second vagina next to my original vagina.” Potent stuff!!

I should also point out that when I was little, my dad was once reading a thriller called The Skull Beneath the Skin, with one of those double covers, like V.C. Andrews books have? And it was this pretty woman but you opened it up and there was a grinning skull there with like all blood and stuff, and I think the skull had eyeballs, and that’s the part of the under-cover that one could see through the over-cover. I opened that over-cover many a time in my youth, and the skull was always there.


- - -

Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2000
Subject: your hero

Dear McSweeney’s,

When I was a kid, my friend Shane was really rich because his dad was a big-time marijuana importer, although we didn’t find out about that till a few years later when the feds staged a predawn raid on their house. Every year his dad bought four (!) season tickets to the Detroit Tigers, and in 1984 when the Tigers steamrolled the AL and went to the Fall Classic, he picked up World Series tickets, too.

The Tigers went against the San Diego Padres, led by the prolific bat of Tony Gwynn, the agile defense of Steve Garvey and the all-around awesomeness of Goose Gossage. Shane’s dad made a sign for him to hold up during the game to try to get on TV. It was on a big sheet of poster board with the heading “A Tiger’s Feast.” It had a picture of a steaming cooked goose with a Padre hat on, resting on a platter and the caption: “Roast Goose With Garvey.” I guess he thought that was clever word play.

Anyhow, I think the Tigers bombed them that night, and they went on to win the Series 4 to 1. I didn’t get to go to any of the games. They took his sister instead, who didn’t even like baseball.


Kevin Walter

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From: Patricia Sapp
Subject: ass-mouth
Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

My friend T.J. recently moved away, and, at the same time, has finally discovered the wonderful functionality of e-mail (though he has a slower-than-slow snail mail connection). And so I at once instructed him to send me wonderful little messages of whatever was on his mind. This is what I received. ?

Trish! Guess what? I’m up with the early bird, looking everywhere for that worm so I can go back to bed. Its between nine and nine-thirty. That reminds me of a story. Once, I was in the siberian tundra. I had lost my toothbrush three days ago and the fur lining of my teeth had begun to congeal, in a manner of speaking. Whenever I opened my mouth, big chunks of plaque and bacteria would fall out and quickliy scuttle away under a nearby rock perched upon a ledge overlooking a thirty-foot drop onto more or less uninterrupted tundra. At first, I thought little of it. By day five my razor had given out as well. I could hear the rock moving at night and could catch small glimpses beneath the moon’s brightness. The rock was moving off the ledge closer to camp. At first I was scared. I thought they were after me, now like some evil crab of Hades which has assimilated the rock to gain momentum for crushing blows. Then I thought no, they simply have become aware of the danger the ledge poses and wish to move out of harm’s way. Then it dawned on me, it was intelligent life! Not only had I discovered the very thing I had set out in the tundra to do, but, in a manner of spaeking, I had given birth to it as well. I hadn’t rightly “discovered” bad breath, but perhaps I had reintroduced it into its natural habitat, and for the first time in a millennium, I and I alone could make observations of its natural behaviors.

By day seven, I had compiled three notebooks of raw data. The smell was something awful. Like sulphur cocktails mixed with vommit and garnished with horse apples. It was obviously a defense mechanism. The odor grew stronger. I began to believe that the smell was intensifying due to my more involved dealings with the organism, lovingly nicknamed ‘ass mouth’.

But then it occurred to me that ass mouth was breeding. I was elated.

That night I wrote this poem:

Stink is in the nose, but beauty alone doth grace the eye.
And where, oh where, doth beauty reside?

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Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000
From: Andrew Wagner

Dear McSweeney’s,

I’ve just requested (February 18, 2000 3:20pm MST—I’m not sure what the Reykjavik time conversion is; I’m guessing March 6th or thereabouts) a lifetime subscription via e-mail Mastercard payment. My name is Andy Wagner and I sleep at 2425 East Laird Street, Tempe, AZ 85281-4725 and Gem’s Cabaret in Phoenix. Laird Street is as good a place as any to send my mail (though it appears the intermittent delivery of the Wall Street Journal perhaps indicates otherwise).

Because I’ve requested the LIFETIME subscription, hopefully extending beyond issue five, I understand I get some extra stuff. Please send my T-shirt in size XXL-Tall. Of course, I realize T-Shirts reach only to XL, which is fine. Unless they, too, have sold out like issue #1, the Coffee MugSweeney’s, and the McSweeney’s commemorative charcoal-activated Dr. Scholl’s inserts). And if you are truly out of back issues (of which I’d really like #‘s 2 and 3), surprise me with anything else (perhaps the Editor’s memoirs??? wink, wink).

I’m sorry, surely you’re busy and clearly I’m lonely. Thank you for your time. I look forward to my McSweeney’s—to the extent that I think I’ll probably ask my roommates daily if the latest issue has arrived. On second thought, maybe I should have you send it straight to “the Gem club” (as me and my girlfriend “Serenity” like to call it). Forget it—bad lighting.


Andy “Wagner” Wagner

P.S. Do you publish writers that overuse parenthesize?

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From: Ryan Purdy
Subject: Late Night with Him.
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I did not want to bring up this whole thing again. I thought it was a “one-time deal”— you know: I write you a letter about Robert Urich and not telling anyone about it— forgetting about it, actually— because, as Mr. Pascover summed-up, Urich exists in a sort of “limbo” of celebrity. I do not want to sound paranoid or what-have-you, but things have been weird lately, especially those things regarding celebrities and my relationship with them— especially my relationship with the celebrity, Mr. Robert Urich, star of “SWAT.” (NOTE: I do not mean to imply that I know Mr. Urich personally, but rather that— nevermind, you know what I mean.) Perhaps You, or Mr. Pascover, or Ms. Fillmore (or that anonymous person who wrote that letter dated January 21, 2000) could help shed some light on just what is going on:

Immediately after seeing Mr. Urich on the street, he saturated all of my media-intake for days.

First, there was the advertisement on television that I happened to see— I was sitting home alone, it was after midnight, I think I was watching UPN 9 and drinking scotch, and this advertisement for Broadway’s Revival of the hit musical, “Chicago,” comes on the air. As this commercial runs at least twice during every commercial break after midnight, I took no notice— that is, until I heard them say “Bebe Neuwerth.” This, of course, piqued my interest, as she and her extraordinary talent have not graced Broadway in quite some time. I looked at the television just as the ad was ending and heard the phrase, “and with Robert Urich” floating through the air in my apartment as the screen faded to black. (UPN 9 late-night does not have what one could call “seamless” production values, especially after midnight.)

Then there was the “Conan O’Brien” appearance. Although I was not in the audience for the taping of the episode, I saw it on the television. I don’t usually watch the program, but it had been announced that this hot new talent I had heard about was going to be the first guest. Her name is Angelina Jolie— have you heard about her? I think she’s going to be huge, the Next Big Thing, even. She is related to some other actor named Jon Voight. I would keep an eye out for her, if I were you. This wasn’t my point; my point is the second guest.

The second guest was none other than Mr. Robert Urich, star of “Vegas.” He was on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” ostensibly to promote his appearance in Broadway’s smash-hit revival, “Chicago.” (see above.) However, this Angelina Jolie person who was sitting next to him has these amazing lips (I’ve heard that she is not only beautiful, but talented as well), and thus proved thoroughly distracting during Mr. Urich’s interview. I think he was ‘happy to be on Broadway after all the years,’ or something to that effect. Oh, and he was in a television-movie in the early 1970s entitled, “Killdozer,” and he is currently reading “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” by Judy Bloom (I think) and a book about Snoop Doggy Dogg that might be an autobiography. After the program, I ended up watching a re-run of “Cops,” a Fox-network weekly documentary-thing. I also learned on “Conan…” that Ms. Jolie gives yet another “breakthrough” performance in two films: “The Bone Collector” and “Girl, Interrupted.” I may have to check these films out.

I just wanted to keep people up-to-speed. I’ll let you know if anything else comes up. Thanks for your time.

Take care of youselves.

Yours, &c.,

M. Ryan Purdy Brooklyn, NY

PS. A friend told me that Mr. Urich, who appeared in “Ice Pirates” as some sort of space-rogue, also filled-in for Regis Philbin (the star of that mesmerizing prime-time gameshow, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”) and co-hosted a live morning talk show called, “Live with Regis and Kathy Lee.”

- - -

Subject: In response to “Election 2000, As Seen From Chile”
Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I want to say that I personally enjoyed Marc Herman’s recent addition to McSweeneysOnline—it was entertaining and informative. But I thought I’d send it to my father for a second opinion. As an professional mining engineer with a rare specialization in hydrometalurgy, my father spent several years working in Santiago on various Chilean copper refinery projects, so he’s a bit of an expert in the way things are done there. I figured he might have something to say. And I was right. Here, then, are his remarks on Herman’s article, verbatim and in full:

Thanks, Matt

The description of downtown Santiago was reasonably accurate, with a couple of exceptions: At CafŽ Haiti, the girls wear very short, tight dresses. It only looks like underwear. And the smog makes it far from your ideal city.

Love, Dad

always a big fan,
Matt Ness

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Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000
From: Mark Gabel
ubject: Alternative Subheadings for McSweeney’s

Dear McSweeney’s,

Half the fun of reading McSweeney’s online version is in noting the colorful subheadings which appear at the top of each page. You know, the frequently-changed phrase just underneath the words “Timothy McSweeney’s,” and just above the picture of…I guess it’s a basin of liquid on a tripod stand of some sort. Say, what IS that thing anyway?

Well, regardless, I thought that I would share some thoughts for alternate subheadings which I have had. Perhaps you will not use them, but even if you do not, perhaps you will enjoy reading them. One never knows about such things.

Timothy McSweeney’s Evildoers Beware
Timothy McSweeney’s Stripey Contagion (I like the spelling “Stripey,” don’t you?)
Timothy McSweeney’s Vehement Disavowal
Timothy McSweeney’s Pad Thai Burden (pad thai is more of a burden if you order it without shrimp, but are given shrimp anyway, and are thereby forced to pick them out)
Timothy McSweeney’s Got a Bridge to Sell You
Timothy McSweeney’s Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (or Runner’s Knee, or Tennis Elbow)
Timothy McSweeney’s Ribbed Contraceptive Mishap (best not spoken of)
Timothy McSweeney’s Canary in a Coal Mine
Timothy McSweeney’s First Last and Always
Timothy McSweeney’s Not Yours
Timothy McSweeney’s Vanilla Creme-Filled Wafers of Joy (in honor of Mother’s Cookies’ Flaky Flix)

Mark Gabel

- - -

From: “Jim Davis”
Subject: RE: Poetry
Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I spent the long winter of ‘98 in New Mexico herding cattle and sheep. Here are the lyrics to a song that I wrote while I was in the middle of herding seven sheep and seventeen goats. I drink milk when I should be drinkin’ whiskey, I wear silk when I should be wearing leather. I guess it’s ‘cause it makes me feel frisky! Especially in this hot and sweaty weather! I ougha’ be out wrastlin’ a doagee, ‘Stead I’m softer and I’m slower than a fogie I oughta’ be a chawin’ on a stogie ‘Stead I’m chewin’ cherry flavoured gum I learned alot that winter, Sincerely, Ben Davis

- - -

From: “Margaret Devine”
Subject: Career advice
Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

A little story: Once upon a time, there was a little boy whose right leg was tragically bitten off by a shark. But that is not the thrust of this tale. No, this story focuses on the boy’s fascination with postage stamps. He collected them avidly, and had books and books of them, which he would occasionally take to show and tell at school, at which point the kids would all laugh and point at him, saying, “You only have one leg, One Leg Boy!” for that was his name. One Leg Boy would respond, “You’re totally missing the point! I came here to show you my books of stamps, and all you can do is look at my missing appendage! Or, rather, all you can do is look at the place where my appendage used to be. In any case, dammit! Look at my stamps!” And they did, and he showed them one from Maui.

So, do you think I’ll make it as a writer one day?


Margaret Devine

- - -

Dear McSweeney’s,

What do you call it when you add an “-le” to the end of a word to indicate plurality or repetitive action?

Spark, spark, spark = sparkle. Wrest, wrest, wrest = wrestle?

I walk around repeating words under my breath to see if they qualify and I think others believe I am crazy.
Please free me from my madness.

Rena Tom
San Francisco

- - -

Dear McSweeney’s,

I was surprised to see the advertisement for the elephant art exhibit. I was at the Venice Biennale last August, and I was not terribly impressed with the elephants’ work. Although they possessed a certain charm, I think the West Coast primitivist movement has produced a higher-quality body of work in the same vein. Also, several of the elephants were obviously mimicking DeKooning, but the paintings were bland, and they were not successful either as satire or as homage, whatever the elephant’s intent might have been. Much more engaging was the Finnish installation (I can’t remember the artist’s name) that consisted of minimalist sculptures in large, smoke-filled rooms. Also, the paintings by the chimps were good. My question is this: First Venice, now Prince Street—would you say these elephants are taking the art world by storm? Sincerely, Shane Hoffman Pensacola, Fla. P.S.: I hope you will send a correspondent to the opening.

- - -

From: “80 md”
Subject: Cavilling crap.
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I was delighted to have the opportunity this evening in Cambridge to hear you speak, and to mumble briefly at you. I wanted to ask for some cake, but there were a lot of people waiting behind me for their turn to be annointed. It felt good to be annointed, and it’s not polite to hog the ointment, or the unguent. Whichever it was, it was flowing like water! Also you seemed to realize that you had a hell of a lot of people left to deal with, and honestly some of them were getting restless. I hope it didn’t turn ugly after I left.

Anyhow, I just read Nabokov’s Strong Opinions (none stronger, as it turns out) this weekend so it was weird to open up your fourth issue there at Wordsworth and see an account of Nabokov arguing with publishers. That was cool. So I ran home! Yes I did, and this is the hard part, because what’s done is done, but I think you have a right to know: There may be more than one Montreux, but there’s no ‘a’ in the one where Nabokov lived; if there were, I think it might be something like a plural, and then there might be more than one after all. Don’t talk to me about Wisconsin, this one is in Switzerland. I tried to read the story but I couldn’t, due to the ‘a’ thing. I’ll try again, but what happened was I read John Warner’s “On the Set”, and I was struck dumb. That is a very good story. It is just really very very goddamn good. It’s one of those stories that you read and for a little while the world is a more wonderful place. Meanwhile, I guess the Nabokov piece was proofread under duress, and it’s important to forgive, and I’m sure you’re justly annoyed at getting this cavilling crap in your mail and you don’t give a damn whether I forgive you or not. I wasn’t hinting that you should forgive me, even if it sounds like that.

The ugly truth is that while I do pray to God you make a pile of money and spend it on beer, you nevertheless come off as a very nice and likable person on your web site (and on stage), and this is not going to discourage people you don’t know from writing you long letters which aren’t very exciting. You can see it happening now, and I’m sure you’ve noticed it before. It’s a grim thing, but if I go into more detail I’ll only make it worse.

Your ob’t sv’t,

- - -

Subject: An Open Letter to Timothy McSweeney
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000
From: Thomas Colthurst

Dear McSweeney’s,

There are too many damn songs about neutrinos. The general public is perhaps unaware of this problem because said songs do not receive much airplay and are generally confined to the b sides of releases from minor label bands.

Still, I will need your help to fight this inequitable distribution of this great nation’s songwriting talent. Stop being afraid!

Your humble and eternal servant,

Thomas Colthurst

- - -

Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2000
From: Michael Genrich
Subject: [Three letters]

Dear McSweeney’s,

1. The Germans do not celebrate Presidents’ Day. They do, however, make very fine automobiles, so it is perfectly acceptable to invite them to your Presidents’ Day gatherings.

2. Is it enough to be loved unconditionally, or must one also be able to make ten free throws in a row?

3. I’d like to apologize to every book that I’ve ever sold to any and all purveyors of used books. Does your market research show that books read your letters section, or is this an inapproriate forum?

Michael Genrich

- - -

From: Edward Kafka-Gelbrecht
Subject: Report on my progress
Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

It took me longer than I had hoped, and perhaps I am a bit rougher for the wear, but I have now opened up a Romanian email account. I am tired, and it is late here, but I thought of you first and wanted to assure you that I am fine.

I’ll have more to tell you when I have used this account longer. My only coherent thoughts now are for sleep—the train ride was treacherous. I’ll be fresher in the morning and will be able to tell you all about my new surroundings. For now, here are three things I have managed to learn in the short time sinced I opened my account.

—Situated at an important commercial cross-roads, the city Brasov was a significant trade and kraft centre as early as the XIIth century. At the same time it became a bridge between eastern and western Europe.

—The ancient arms of the city suggested that Brasov was subordinated to the king.

—2500 years ago, as part of Greek colonisation in Pontus Euxinus (Black Sea), was founded Tomis. Tomis sees great prosperity due to the commercial exchange proceeded between Greek colonists and the native Gaeto-Dacians.

Be well, and remember me when you go to feed the cattle. You are in my thoughts.

Your friend,

- - -

Date: 20 Feb 2000
From: Grant Barrett
Subject: Scrap Found in a Book

Dear McSweeney’s,

There was a box of books and household goods on Elizabeth Street on February 5, left for the taking. I took home a copy of “Le dŽlire et les rves dans la Gradiva de W. Jensen” by Sigmund Freud. Inside was a piece of paper with this printed on one side next to a woodcut of a naked man leaning on a stumpy tree in the midst of ruins:

“2. See, for example, the woodcut in Charles Estienne, De dissectione partium corporis (Paris: Simon de Colines, 1545), p. 180. These cuts were in preparation for at least fifteen years, since some of them are dated 1530, 1531, and 1532 (see Ruth Mortimer, Harvard College Library, Department of Printing and Graphic Arts: Catalogue of Books and Manuscript, pt. 1, French and Sixteenth-Century Books [Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1964], vol. 1, p. 261, no. 213). Stylistically, however, the design reproduced in the etching seems unrelated to this publication.”

On the other side, half-cursive, half-printed, in weak navy felt tip pen, is this:

" October 14 New York

Dear Pete-

‘The Heart out of the Bosom -
is Never given in vain’…

Every Time We talk, I realize
How fond I am of you.
Ah, Romantic friendship
It’s the only Kind! Since
November in France is
almost TOmorrow, I’ll
be at Dick’s Paris address
probably from Nov 19-20,
to Dec 15:

Chez M. Richard Moss
6 rue Sivel 75014 Paris
Tel: 011

Should something arise B’ween
Nov. 4 my DeparTure from N.Y.,
And Nov. 19 from Tunis -
Dick’s No. in Chatillon S/Loire

Fond Regards Kenneth"

- - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: [Three letters]
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

1. My first wife had a tawdry affair with basketball player Karl “The Mailman” Malone, which she ended when he rolled his eighteen-wheeler in our front yard. She still really loves me.

2. For my first big dance I bought an orchid corsage for my date. I could have just bought her a gardenia but I really wanted to make a good impression. I kept it in the refrigerator so it wouldn’t wilt but I forgot to cover it and Saturday night my date said it smelled like salami. When I got home the first thing I did was to check and see if the salami smelled like an orchid.

3. When I looked in the mirror I noticed that the letters on his shirt were backwards. “What a dope,” I thought. “This interview should be a cinch.”


Mike Topp

- - -

From: “Darien Large”
Subject: ASK MR?
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Thank you for coming to Austin. But I was wondering could you also bring Lucy Thomas? You must bring her with you. When you come to Austin please bring Lucy Thomas. Thank you for coming, but please bring Lucy Thomas to Austin when you come.


Darien Large

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: The only 15 letter word that can be spelled without repeating a l etter is uncopyrightable
Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Outside my apartment there is usually a man across the street by the deli. Whenever he sees me in the window he yells and shakes his fists, forcing me to move across the room to get out of his sight. Have I become a target of hidden and misdirected hostility? Yes, I would have to say that I have. Do I feel like people are having a hearty laugh at my expense as I sing to myself in bed at 2:51 AM while shampooing my hair? Yes, that too.

In “AHWOSG,” Dave Eggers writes, “… I entered his bloodstream, and saw the layers of flesh, and the reds and mauves and violets, the muds and blacks, and I was blowing around at thrilling speeds, things shooting to and fro, in the capillaries and out, but then suddenly I was going through the sky … and there were the usual stages of blue then atmosphere-white and then soundlessly into ebony space, seeing the world, with roundness, below.”

The idea is that in the future, perhaps people will be instantaneously evaporated at the time of death. This really makes me think that there is no such thing as an afterlife. Sometimes I have thought, well, it’s possible. But this evaporation thing, it gave me one of those rare glimpses into the essential fleetingness of life, how it is totally pointless and yet utterly precious. I’m not kidding.

Suddenly I was in the bathroom staring into the mirror thinking about the end of consciousness, the eternity of not-being, of ceasing forever to exist: no more thoughts, feelings, sense, awareness, ever. Just nothing. For ever and ever. I was overcome by fear and depression. So much so that I stopped paying attention to what I was doing, opened the medicine cabinet, pulled out my razor, and accidentally shaved off my eyebrows. Now, of course, I am fine. I have drawn them back in with a red magic marker. I am ready for a barbecue.

Here’s something. In “I Do Not Care About The Dancers,” Lucy Thomas writes, “I had a dream last week that I entered my sister’s bloodstream. I was inside her, speeding through her capillaries, seeing the colors of her organs, reds and blues and violets. Then I passed through her and was in the sky, passing through clouds. Then I was in space. The black was a flat sort of black, like construction paper, the stars like salt, spilled.”

On a side note, the last time I was in San Francisco I didn’t get anything but a feeling of detachment. How is it, I wondered, that all these people live here? The second time I got a hint, however. Riding in the airport shuttle in the afternoon sunshine, I was overcome by this expansive feeling, this feeling within which I imagined little worlds existing within the sprawl of rising and falling neighborhoods and streets. Intricate worlds carved out by people driving in their cars from house to house through a twisty landscape of sun-dappled hills.

But in the city proper in the early evening, in a hotel near Union Square, knowing that outside it was very windy, that feeling quickly faded. I completely lost the motivation to leave the hotel and walk down to Market Street, much less figure out the public transportation to City Lights Bookstore or Haight Street. I could easily imagine in advance what it will be like walking around alone in those places, so I decided, why bother? Why walk around alone in those places?

Bruce Sterling in Wired Magazine proves that there’s no need to worry. “Today, pepper spray and the even groovier pepper foam (glasses and sunglasses offer no protection against the foam) holds an honored place in the overcrowded cop utility belt.” See what I mean? They are really called utility belts.

D.E. writes, “We head back to the office, the city looming up ahead, all jagged and white, all the buildings standing there, smiling, chuckling, a bunch of huge happy people. They understand.”

So here I am in the San Francisco Hilton still in my room, staring out my window onto a narrow street. On the other side of the street, at the level of my room, is an exercise facility. I have looked across the street and gazed into this space many times since my arrival — mostly in hopes of seeing an attractive woman in spandex — and every time there is always a person right inside the window either walking or running in place. Something about this gives me hope. It makes me want to also walk or run in place. So I do, waving at the walker or runner across the way as though we are neighbors running on opposite sides of the same street, only 7 stories above the ground.

In the distance is a building the top half of which gradually turns to glass. Now I am staring out a different window. At first, around the middle of the building, it is all stone. But then it becomes about half stone, half glass. It is at about this level that the last rays of the sun find their way eastward from over there where it is west, pacific but hardly peaceful, all ocean. As you follow the building up further, it’s as though the facade is being stripped away until all that is left is a sparkling glass shell. A smiling, chuckling glass shell. I am walking in place. I am waving at this happy glass shell. The very top of it features a long pole that waves back with an enormous American flag. Is it waving this flag for exercise, I wonder, or just to say hello? The pole remains stationary. But not the flag. The flag is proud. The flag is getting exercise. I am running in place. I am saluting the flag. Hello flag, I am saying.

Lucy Thomas writes, “In the subway car a group of people who have come from dancing are loud. There are six of them, three men and three women, and they are dressed in suits and heels. They are laughing and talking loudly, recounting their evening, the interesting things that happened. They are on their way home, or to another party. I do not care about them.”

How does Dave Eggers respond? “Older people start dancing. I do not like the older couples … these older couples everywhere, dancing in a jittery way, each either too slow or much much too fast, like that one woman, in gold lame, doing some kind of Latin maneuver, as the band plays the Beach Boys, like she’s trying to crush ants with her high heels. She wears, as they all wear, an expression that says Oh Yeah! or All right! or …”

But enough about me. The average person laughs 13 times a day. I assume this means that a sound must come out. A problem for me since when I laugh, it is mostly silent shaking. Do you find this number unlucky? Will you be laughing more or less now? The other day at work somebody told me a real knee slapper but my knees were under my retractable keyboard tray. This did not stop me from slapping though. I laughed and slapped to my heart’s content. When I was done, included among the lines of gibberish on my screen, there also appeared the words “happy pomegranates.”

The electric chair was invented by a dentist. And also: Human teeth are almost as hard as rocks. Plus, a hippo can open its mouth so wide that a seven-year old child can stand inside. What a trick if that child could catch a Frisbee from in there!

Just once, everyone should be able to make an inanimate object come to life and be his pal. Did I say this? Yes, if not exactly in that way. Or perhaps somebody else said it. Yes, that too. Somebody else said it too.

AHWOSG made me laugh a lot. Thank you. Caught in the lattice.


Bryce Newhart

PS. Speaking of lattice, where is the Lucy Thomas archive?

PS2. After we were turned away from Snooky’s because it was too full, we took off our snowshoes and went for pizza. On the TV they were playing “Independence Day” and we got to see Manhattan get destroyed. Then we rode the subway to check out the damage. On Prince Street we were attacked by a giant woman with 8 sets of breasts and 4 huge asses. She threw us into a big empty art store. The floor was covered with peanut shells. There I thought I recognized this guy I’d seen in a photo in a magazine laughing with his head thrown back. In the photo he was wearing an “Ice Ice Baby” T-shirt. I was going to ask him, “Hey, are you that guy who likes Vanilla Ice that I saw in that magazine photo?” But can you believe it? I was actually too afraid to ask.

PS3. Do you know that illustration by Glen Baxter with the two white men in fur coats — one of which has flames creeping up his neck — talking to an American Indian holding a sign that reads, “White man’s head on fire?” And there is a caption at the bottom that says, “Quite good, Running Elk. Your work on the apostrophe is coming along. But there is still much to learn.” I love that one.

- - -

From: “America’s Sweetheart, Matt Fritchman”
Subject: A Notice.
Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Today, I told an IBM representative that my name was “Matt Fraction”.

“Fraction? Like, F-R-A-C-T-I-O-N ?” he asked.

“Yep,” I said, “That’s me. Matt Fraction.”

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter,
Matt Fritchman
America’s Sweetheart

(ps- this is also the name that I used in my Amazon review of AHWOSG. Keep your eyes peeled, and your hearts open.)

- - -

Date: 18 Feb 00
From: Thomas Gibbon
Subject: Ask MR/Review contest

Dear McSweeney’s,

I feel that, as Timmy Church, I must recuse myself from the review contest (and because I got a subscription). But I couldn’t help but put my pen into this. You know, had I known about this last night at the reading in Brooklyn, where I said hello (nothing to sign, tie) I probably could have been more interesting. Anyway, here’s a review of your book which I have not read, nor bought (what am I? Rockefeller?):

Not since the Bible has a book been so aptly titled as “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.” Unless you count my father’s army manual “US Army Desert Combat Field Manual, 1958.” Which he didn’t write but had (because it was issued to him), that’s the Saxon Genitive used as a possessive, not to indicate origin unlike if I had said “Eggers’ book,” or “God’s dissertation.” This is a book so elusive I read it once, age 13, and never found it again, lost amongst the miles of books at stately Willow Banks, doomed seat of my doomed race, the manual I mean. Eggers is clearly not just another of the brilliant young South African writers we have come to expect each spring; his harrowing, hypnotic tale of his coming to grips with his Boer roots with the help of the mystical and hallucinatory bush doctor, Edmann Hinks, proves he is their master, their jefe, their biggabosseru. Then again, magical realism’s sort of a wash.

Which I just posted on but with a one-star rating (what can I say, you’re no Robert Pinkly). At some point, though, I would like to read the book, I just don’t have the room for it now. I am really amazed at the good press; that review on was quite big, sweeping, inspirational. It seems maybe you have done something good, not just written something good?

TGGibbon (or Timmy, but this really isn’t by way of printing, in letters or “ask…” or anything)

- - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: A True Story
Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I was walking on Lafayette and a guy was talking to a parking lot attendant. This is what I heard him say: “A friend of mine lives across the street from this parking lot and he said last night he looked out the window and saw you driving my car around—and it had a flat tire. Can you explain this to me?”

I didn’t hear the parking lot attendant’s response.


Mike Topp

- - -

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000

Subject: (no subject)

Dear McSweeney’s,

hi…this is a short note to ask a favor:

i just read “this thursday and new york”. i really want to go to the readings. today is friday, 18 feb. have i missed the readings? in other words, it would be helpful to include dates in situations like these, since there is a thursday in every week, at least there has been so far. thank you.

your [new] loyal reader, lucy nathanson

- - -

From: “Sam Meyer”
Subject: Craig Moorhead correction
Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I have found an error in “Craig Moorhead”‘s (if that is in fact his real name) letter. I hate to nit-pick, but given the recent backlash against the journalistic media, I fear that it is my sad duty to call attention to this mistake, thusly preserving the public credibility of McSweeney’s.

Taco Bell does not serve Coke. It would be Pepsi.

What ELSE is misleading, Mr. Moorhead?

Sam Meyer America’s Slightly Damaged Floor Sample

- - -

Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000
From: starspangledgirl
Subject: shortest marquee

Dear McSweeney’s,

The movie theatre marquee using the least amount of characters, with the structure Full Name of Lead Actor IN Movie Name, is CHER IN MASK. 10 characters. I believe this record will go unchallenged unless Cher stars in a remake of Pi (only 7 characters if you use the symbol). Thank you. Carol Magary

- - -

Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000
From: Tom Stanley

Dear McSweeney’s,

The weather here is fine. I am drunk and it’s only 4pm. I have a friend, Rachel, who tells me you read to exotic stylings last night, in Manhattan. That I find marvelous. One was chewing gum? Rachel says one was chewing gum. The man one.

I bought eggs today. So far, each egg has two yolks inside.

As I’ve said, the weather is fine. My grandmother would like a turn at the computer machine now.

Hello there in New York. How is the weather. The weather here in Tennessee is fine. Have you ever been to Baltimore? I have two neices in Baltimore. They are both adorable young women.

Okay, we’re out.

Tom and Jackie

- - -

From: “Robert Beier”
Subject: From Your Office Correspondent
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

My friend told me that he dreamt about me last night. I asked him if I was finally getting to do battle with Mr. Rogers, something I’ve dreamed of since I was a wee child. It all started with me imagining that when he opened his closet to hang up his big brown sweater in exchange for a light blue one, huge piles of manure would fall on him. I hated him. He wasn’t 3-2-1 Contact or Sesame Street. He was a ninnybore. Now that I am older my fantasies have developed into incredible complexities. For instance, I confront him on the back of Snuffle-lup-a-gus (Spelling? I have no idea, nor am I going to bother and look it up. When I was young he was invisible.) and pour liquid nitrogen all over his head. I then take a hammer and shatter his frozen dome to pieces. Sadly, I wasn’t doing any of this in my friend’s dream. He told me that he had read some of my previous letters to you before going to bed. He dreamt that I was “in a somber office environment”. Please, dear readers. I entreat you. Please, do not read my letters before going to bed. I may end up in your dreams and be at work much longer than the crushing eight hours I spend in the office already. Of course, if I do end up in your dreams, I’m sure you’ll compensate me for my time. You can send the check or money order c/o McSweeneys. If enough of you dream of me, I can quit my day job and work solely at night in many different interesting places at once, and this is oh so appealing.


Bob Beier

- - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: Life
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I was just, you know, I wasn’t bothering anyone.

Yours truly,

Mike Topp

- - -

Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000
From: (John Warner)
Subject: ha ha, that’s rich

Dear McSweeney’s,

In the most recent letters additions, Kiersten Conner-Sax wonders if I, John Warner, occasional contributor/reader/friend of McSweeney’s am the Senator from Virginia, and if so, what’s it like to be married to Elizabeth Taylor?

This is a question I hear a plenty often, but for sure it’s better than: “What’s it like to be a fascist?” or “What’s it like to have Charleton Heston’s hand up your ass moving your lips when you talk?” or “Why don’t you just die, you craggy-faced windbag who got into the Senate only because he married Elizabeth Taylor and is the ugliest of her eight husbands with the possible exception of Larry Fortensky?”

So as for the original question, posed by Ms. Conner-Sax, “What’s it like to be married to Elizabeth Taylor?”

Let me tell you: She’s good, but not as good as your (INSERT APPROPRIATE ITEM FROM LIST BELOW)


The gentleman from Virginia now yields to the Chair,
John Warner

- - -

Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000
From: “Yolanda Winters”
Subject: (No Subject)

Dear McSweeney’s,

Although many people think that Valentine’s Day is the time for chocolate body paint and edible underwear, the truth is that the heart of this holiday is pure marshmallow, angelically sweet and light as air. I need only point to a few marshmallow-based treats, Mallomars,, S’mores, and Jell-O salad, to prove that this is true.

Although many people think that Valentine’s Day is the time for Indeed, there is much that remains a mystery about the marshmallow. In the incredibly informative Marshmallow Advisory Board Pamphlet that put out for Marshmallow Month, aka February, some of these mysteries are solved. For example, did you know that a marshmallow is actually a plant in the mallow family, residing in Europe and Asia? I’m sure if you are European or Asian you did, it’s just that common. The roots of this lovely flower are used for many things, such as tires and basket-making, but the one which has brought them fame is the mucilaginous substance in their roots (read gluey) that, when combined with sugar, is made into marshmallow.

In fact, it was St. Valentine, that famous confectioner, who first discovered the mystical properties of the plant. St. Valentine, who was simply known as Mr. Valentine during his life, experimented widely with the sometimes volatile combination of sugar and local plants. Some of his more unsuccessful attempts were coating lettuce leaves with sugar, and a rather sandy combination of sugar syrup and unwashed beetroot. But when he found an overturned mallow plant one day with lustrous viscous fluid oozing out of its roots, he knew he had a winner. Soon, people all over the land were talking about this candy, white as snow and chewier than anything else. Over time, Valentine added more and more sugar, and less mallow, to cover up the rather bitter taste of the plant. Before his tragic death, when he lost his footing and fell into a pot of boiling sugar syrup, thereby uniting himself with his love, the beauty of which we still recognize to this day.

Although Valentine’s Day has passed, you can still celebrate his love of the mallow through the end of the month.

Here are some recipes to try. In order to save space, I am leaving out all directions, and simply listing the ingredients.

Chicken Salad:

Cooked chicken, mayonnaise, celery, apple chunks, celery salt, marshmallows.

Cereal Jumble:

The remains of all the cereal boxes in your cupboard, marshmallows, margarine.

Jell-O Mold:

Jell-O, fruit cocktail, sour cream, whipped cream, marshmallows

Happy Cooking,

- - -

From: “glitter kitty”
Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2000
Subject: i’m sorry

Dear McSweeney’s,

Does the letters publication policy go something like this?

(person who checks the yahoo account): Oh my! (person who checks the earthlink account): I don’t agree.

[author is unable to come up with a “capper”]
[insert non-sequiter here. perhaps:
“Oh moi! Le croissant has a hair in it!”

perhaps this was a mistake.
i am very lonely at work.


- - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: Found
Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

One day I found a pea the size of a golf ball. The next day I found a golf ball the size of a pea.


Mike Topp