Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000
From: Tom Stanley

Dear McSweeney’s,

Who is Colleen Werthmann? Does she come from the same place as Lucy Thomas? I think you catch my meaning.

I reset my clock to encourage creative function, later and later and now I am delirious. Sometimes it is very difficult for me to understand your dense and densely joked and eso-something e-mails. Now I understand why the others complained. My head hurts. I am so sleepy I am hyper. If I were at a slumber party, it would be time to dip a slumbering child’s hand in ice water and wait for him to pee (never worked) can I say pee? I hope I can say pee here.


Tom Stanley

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From: “Dallas P. Dickinson, Jr.”
Subject: Fwd: Re: Factual Errors and Omissions
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I would like to respond to a bit of correspondence published on your letters page (Date: Feb 02, as if we need that extra ‘0’ to understand that this date was the second day within the first ten). The author of said letter is my brother, and he has misrepresented himself, and by extension our family, in a number of ways. Firstly, he uses the word ‘userous’, which does not exist. I can only assume he means A) ‘usurious’ or B) ‘uxorious’, as he is writing about a rebate check from his Visa provider (definition A) which he then spends on a lavish dinner for the wife (definition B). Secondly, he claims that “Amazon says it ‘Ships Same Day’”, when in fact Amazon’s site makes no such promise. They state “Usually ships in 24 hours.” Amazon probably MEANS “Usually ships WITHIN 24 hours”, which at least means something close to ‘Ships Same Day’, provided that you make your order at or near 12:01AM, and apparently they are using ‘ship’ to refer only to the book actually leaving their warehouse and not the actual shipping time. This sort of thing bothers me. I can understand the confusion. I am forced to wonder if the most terrbile events in history – the Holocaust, the Inquisition, etc – were inspired, caused, fomented, incited by just such an imprecise use of language. Thirdly, he claims that to describe him and said wife as “Mr. and Mrs. Suit-Wearing Internet-Bookstore Yuppie [who] like to go around acting superior and flashing their big Visa refund all over town” would be a gross misrepresentation of fact. To refute this, he offers as evidence his wife’s printing of articles about vibrators in her own alternative publication. I do not mean to question his (my brother’s) manhood in asking this, but I must: What sort of God-fearing woman would ever use a vibrator? Answer: A Suit-Wearing Internet-Bookstore Yuppie who likes to go around acting superior and flashing her big Visa refund all over town. I believe my point has been made and I thank you for your time.

Dallas Dickinson
Los Angeles

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Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000
From: Chuck Easterling
Subject: Making a kite with Katy

Dear McSweeney’s,

In response to Kiersten Conner-Sax’s letter [Fri, 17 Mar 2000] in which she said I was her hero:

There’s this woman, Dianna, who has no interest in dating me. And I mean none.

Chuck Easterling

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Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000
From: Sam W Stark
Subject: Mary Feeney’s Weenie

Dear McSweeney’s,

I don’t know who told Christopher Butler that version of the “ten-foot-weenie” rhyme. The real version is “Mussolini,” not “Mary Beth Feeney.” In other words, the protagonist is a fascist, not a transsexual.

Sam Stark

P.S. Interestingly, Mr. Christopher is not the first to make precisely this mistake. Iona and Peter Opie (1959, p. 116) cite the only slightly more explicit, “Sonja Henie / Wore a peenie…,” attributed simply to “Girls, 13, Aberdeen, 1952.” In italics, they add, “for playing balls.”

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Subject: Childhood Chants
Date: 22 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

The letters on the McSweeney’s website! They’re more literate and entertaining than the CONTENT of any other magazine.

I noticed that someone wrote in about playground chants. I just wrote yesterday about puppets, but since I’ve been reciting some of my own childhood chants lately, much to the confusion of my significant other, I wanted to share the best and most unique one. (You don’t mind, do you? Is there a limit on the number of letters I can write?) I believe McSweeney’s #5 would benefit enormously from collection of these playground poems, and an article which analyzes them and what they reveal about something or other.

Here’s the weirdest one I know, called “Eenie Meanie Pepsi-dini”.

“Eenie Meanie Pepsi-dini
Ooh bop bopsi-dini
Education, operation
I love you tutti-frutti
Down down baby, down by the roller coaster
Sweet sweet baby, no place to go.
Shamrock, shamrock, sham-y-sham-y-shamrock.
Stole a piece of candy? Greedy, greedy.
Jumped out the window? Crazy, crazy.
Kissin’ with your boyfriend? Naughty, naughty.
Didn’t do the dishes? Lazy, lazy.
Tried out to be a cheerleader? Firecracker, firecracker.
A on your report card? Brains, brains.
Eenie Meanie Pepsi-dini
Ooh bop bopsi-dini
Education, operation
I love you tutti-frutti
Bang bang you’re dead!”

It was always chanted by two people, who competed to see how many of the “verses” they could recall. For the record, the long and unwieldy “cheerleader” line was most often forgotten. The chant is meant to be accompanied by a series of pattycake-like hand gestures between the two people. (Each verse also had its own gestures, for instance, wiggling the fingers in front of the mouth for “greedy, greedy”.)

On the repetition of the “chorus”, the recitation and accompanying gestures speed up and the chant becomes a race to see who can complete the cycle of clapping and be the first to point the “gun” and say “Bang bang you’re dead.”

This chant alone offers a wealth of material for analysis, from the ripe implications of “I love you tutti-frutti bang bang you’re dead!” to the commodification of private life— notice that Pepsi’s brand name made it into the chant’s chorus and title, albeit pronounced rather lazily, the final “i” becoming a vague schwa sound. And what’s the deal with the abandoned baby “down by the roller coaster”?

I’ve discovered that most of the other chants from my childhood are common around the nation, such as “Not last night but the night before, twenty-seven robbers came knockin’ at my door” and “Do your ears hang low” which of course originated from a bawdier Army tune. But I’ve never met anyone who recognized “Eenie Meanie Pepsi-dini”.

Perhaps this is for the best.

Amanda Summers

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Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000
Subject: noxious fumes

Dear McSweeney’s,

I am a female commodities broker on the trading floor of an exchange in Chicago. I am surrounded by a lot of cranky old men who fart all day. To make matters worse I work with them at the center of a trading pit, eight steps into the floor where the farts hang and create a hot fog. They think this is funny and great. I make a lot of faces, cover my nose and mouth with the lapel of my jacket or just run up and out of the pit in disgust. Short of wearing a gas mask, which is prohibited according to exchange decorum, what can I do to deter the “old farts”? REALLY no pun intended there.

I’m sorry to pose this lurid question in your erudite forum, however it got so bad today that I yelled out “who fucking died in here?” and ran from the pit, their cackling and coughing behind me.


choking in chi-town
(kelly king)

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Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000
Subject: Lifetime subscription

Dear McSweeney’s,

I’d love a lifetime subscription. I really would. And it seems like such a bargain! But here’s my concern: The ink from the pen in which I signed my signature on the check for my 2 (or maybe it was 3) year subscription to Might was barely dry when I received an issue of said magazine letting me know it would be my last. To tell you the truth, the money was well spent even though I only received one or two issues (okay I exaggerate – maybe it was three or four), and I wouldn’t have dreamed of asking for a partial refund. It was my favorite magazine of all time, and I was crushed that there would be no further issues.

However, with that said, I’ve got to tell you that if I send you $120 and that Dave Eggers guy decides he’s going to move on to another venture and this McSweeney’s thing shuts down, I may not be so understanding. Don’t get me wrong. I love the guy. Loved his book. He described patrons of a club as having messy Westerbergian hair. Genius! He’s a genius, I say! But $120 is a lot for me to spend given my previous history, which is, to review: 1. me writing a check, and 2. Dave Eggers finding new work upon receipt of my check. Can you just assure me that McSweeney’s will be functional for a year?

Affectionately yours,

Kelly Dulin

PS Are the cinnamon raisins still available for my choosing?

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Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000
Subject: More about me, me, ME! (letter number god-knows-what to McS)

Dear McSweeney’s,

What follows is an e-mail, sent by me, under the subject heading “My Last E-Mail Before the Apocalyse.” Yes, that’s right, “Apocalyse.” The date today is March 22, 2000. Clearly, e-mail is working just fine, because someone has finally sent me a message alerting me to the fact that I spelled apocalypse wrong in front of upwards of 50 people. I also spelled “millennium” wrong, but no one’s caught that yet.

All that aside, I thought perhaps McSweeney’s and the readers thereof might enjoy what had the potential to be my last words on this earth. It all seems so far away and small now, like the lights of London as you “fly” off to Neverland on the Peter Pan ride at Disneyworld.

thanks so much,


Well, kids, here we are. We’ve come to the end of the line. I just wanted to let every last one of you know how much you’ve touched my life. It’s so sad that these global— nay, universal— events are cutting me off in my prime, but I suppose that could be said for all of us. Don’t be mad at the universe, kids. After all, we humans made the clock. It is we who decided when the fateful millenium would occur, WE who set this ball a-rollin’ oh so many years ago when we created that blasted calendar. If only we’d had the sense of the Aztecs, or the Chinese, we could have skipped all this nonsense and kept right on going. Ah well.

A few notes on what may have happened in my life, had it not been snuffed out like a brief candle:

I would have spent the next semester working at the theater school, continuing to shape and mold young minds, building from scratch (almost single-handedly) the next generation of theater artists. Alas, that is not to be.

I would have been accepted into a myriad of graduate schools for the fall, to study my own craft and fulfill my destiny as a brilliant director. Once again, a tragedy.

My parents would have welcomed me back to their new home, deep in the ghetto of Houston, TX, with open arms. Sadly, all the work my poor mother just did to whip the house into shape for the holidays will end in a blaze of sorrow and lost dreams. Perhaps the kids who stole my bike out of the garage last week will be spared, riding like the wind on a mode of transportation that is Y2K-compliant. Won’t that be nice.

My basement apartment in Queens will survive intact, bomb shelter that it is, to stand as testament to what might have been. The archeologists and anthropologists who dig it up thousands of years from now (assuming that the human race as we know it somehow survives the apocalypse) will shake their heads in dismay that— like the great city of Pompeii— so much talent, so many riches, were destroyed forever in one fateful night.

In a perfect world, I would have seen you all, my friends, one last time. We would have greeted each other fondly and with a warm handshake, said our goodbyes. Should any of you wish that privilege, I will be spending the last night of our existence on the beach in Galveston, TX— face to the wind, arms outstretched, life jacket tightened firmly about my chest as I pray the tidal wave comes quickly. I’ll never let go, Jack. I’ll never let go.

For now, though, let us use these last days to sit in quiet meditation and examine our lives that were. Let us look back over our last decades and wonder, whatever were we thinking with that Milli Vanilli? And why did we waste so much time watching old reruns of “Night Court”? Who decided that ANY of us looked good in parachute pants? And, most importantly, why did George Clooney never find me, take me in his arms and…

Oh. I suppose that last thought was a little personal for a mass e-mail like this. At any rate, you get the idea. I regret me for the days gone by, the moments unappreciated. Perhaps somewhere, when the great wheel comes back around, I will get another opportunity to savor those moments— albeit as some sort of amphibian, no doubt. And should YOU come back as some sort of even lesser creature, you have only to call out my name when we meet and I promise, upon my honor, I shall not eat you. Assuming, of course, that you are able to call out my name in frog-speak, and I understand you and remember this vow. Ah well.

So here, dear reader, I leave you. It has been my pleasure to make each and every one of your acquaintance.

To conclude, a quote from an artist who has carried me through those dark and stormy nights, when I feel so lost and small and alone I can hardly stand it. I hope it will be a candle on the water for you in your time of need as well…

Tell me why
(ain’t nothin’ but a heartache)
Tell me why
(ain’t nothin’ but a mistake)
Tell me why
I never wanna hear you say
I want it that way…. — Backstreet Boys

much love and happiest of holidays

whitney anne “don’t ever say I didn’t warn you” pastorek

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Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000
From: Matt Schwartz
Subject: dilemma

Dear McSweeney’s,

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I like a pretty picture as much as the next guy. I remember seeing this Picasso thingy at the Pallazo-di-Arte-Nacionale-Beaux-Whatever and I just flipped. The girl in the painting looked like she was made of Legos. LEGOS. A girl made of Legos. It does not get any better than that.

But Technology is also neat. In fact, I am writing this very email on a computer, believe it or not, and if I’m not mistaken you are reading it on a computer as well. I have an art program on my computer to draw pictures, but then again, I could draw a large portrait of my computer in oils, if I chose to undertake such a project.

And some tech-people are really cool, like art people are supposed to be. Take Jerry Yang. That guy is so supercool. So in terms of cool, I call this one a draw.

Maybe we should approach this decision ‘fiscally.’ Computers can make websites, which are all worth wheelbarrows of money, which can then be used to purchase works of art at auctions, where there is free champagne. Then again, masterworks of art can also be converted into money, which could then be used to purchase computers. Again, a stalemate.

A German fellow once wrote that our highest goal is to make our lives into works of art. [RUB CHIN HERE, AS IF IN DEEP THOUGHT] But I’ve also heard we’re like computers. If I’d actually taken the time to read the copy of Godel, Escher, Bach displayed on my windowsill, I’m sure I would have come to that conclusion. But even if we were more like technology or art, I don’t know whether or not we ought to want something devoted to our Selves or Something Not Like Ourselves. Hmmmm. Anyone who can help me solve this little conundrum is welcome to contact me at


Mattathias Schwartz

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Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000
From: “Maggie Trayer”
Subject: (No Subject)

Dear McSweeney’s,

I am glad to hear that you felt that the event went well at Galapagos. However, for one person (other than the guy who got his books swiped), it didn’t go so well.

I got there really late, after the reading was over, but there were still plenty of people at the bar, most of whom I assume were McSweeney’s types since they were clutching #4 issues and were wearing those black-framed glasses. At some point, I went into the bathroom, and just as I was going into a stall, another girl came in and grabbed my arm. “Is there something wrong with my nose?” she implored. “What?” (I don’t know this girl, have never seen this girl before.) “Is there something wrong with my nose?” she asked again. “No. Why?” She looked like she was going to cry. “This girl that I don’t know just walked up to me and said that I’d be really beautiful if it weren’t for my nose. She said that I could be really pretty if I only had a nose job.” I told this girl in the bathroom over and over again that there was nothing wrong with her nose. (There wasn’t. In fact, she was very pretty.) But the girl just turned away, and I think that she started to cry.

I am writing you this because I think when you posted the notice about the event you told everyone to come and to “be nice.” Whatever girl walked up to this other girl and told her to get a nose job was not being nice. She was being very mean. She made a girl (whom she didn’t even know!) cry. I don’t know if this mean girl is a McSweeney’s reader, but I hope that she is and that she’s reading this in the letters section and that she’s publicly recognized by other McSweeney’s readers everywhere as a mean person.

Maggie Trayer

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From: George Booze
Subject: jesus christ in a mop bucket!
Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

What is happening to McSweeney’s? The last week has been awful! Unfunny! Stupid! You guys don’t seem to be trying very hard; please do better.


George Booze

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From: Liam Black
Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Thank you for your wonderful journal, though I’ve yet to see it in print as we in Ireland haven’t yet attained the sophistry to stock literary journals. Well, I suppose that more accurately we lost it. Perhaps you stole it from us. Not you personally, as that would be absurd. Please do not feel beset upon by the preceding lines.

This morning, just after my smoke break, I realised that I should probably have a breath mint before my meeting. The meeting was cancelled, so I forgot about the breath mint until just now, when I realised that I might have stumbled upon a lucrative marketing scheme for yourselves. I think that if you fastened a breath mint to every copy of McSweeneys, perhaps being coy and using those little ones that look a bit like shrunken bone donuts to replace the “o” in some word or other (look at how many words have “o” in just this sentence), you’d see your circulation rise accordingly. Perhaps it would rise to the point at which your magazine would begin to be stocked in Ireland.

I would personally stock your magazine and sell it to interested parties, but unfortunately I have no encounters with such people. It is possible that a concern such as your own coupled with a breath mint would open new doors for me. It is likewise quite possible that it would not, which would be depressing after the amount of daydreaming I have invested (3 minutes) in the thought of wearing chic clothing and offering a mint to some tattered soul in whatever sort of place that tattered souls tend to congregate. Not purgatory, though. That would frighten me.

Please send my love to all of your staff, friends and family. If you wish, I can have a fruitcake sent to your offices (Do you have offices? I always picture you on a boat.), so as to bring about a feeling of festive holiday cheer. My aunt sent me the fruitcake, and I suspect it contains mangoes. I cannot eat mangoes, and consider this to be the gripping tragedy of the twentieth century. Can everybody there eat mangoes? The fruitcake wouldn’t be very good if not everybody were able to have a piece. I don’t want to upset the balance. I’m just a man with a fruitcake, and I’d like to share it with the world.

My sincerest apologies for the overuse of parentheses. Please do not allow this letter to fall into the hands of the Washington Post, as I am given to understand that they carry a vendetta against all who make spurious use of luscious parenthetical curves.

Kindest Regards,
Liam Black

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Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2000
Subject: (no subject)

Dear McSweeney’s,

A topic you have often overlooked is the shortage of young men in high school musicals. This is a really troubling occurance, especially for the poor girl that has to dance with the French maid in one of the numbers (i.e.: Me). Maybe you should take a break from the normal things and devote a disgustingly long time to the problem of dancing with French maids. Or the French in general.

Oh yeah, ads are available in the program, as well as boosters. If anyone buys one, I will scream out the company’s or person’s name in my loudest voice for the duration of intermission. Thank you.

Liz Goldstein

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Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2000
From: Michael Genrich
Subject: 300-Eggers

Dear McSweeney’s,

Before opening my fourth beer of the evening, I decided to search eBay for all listed items that included your last name in the description. Of course, I first looked for all items that included my last name, but “Genrich” is very rarely used as an adjective (and I’ve heard rumors that my people weren’t much for producing the sort of trinkets that are sold on this particular site, hence no “Limited Edition Platinum Genrich”s or “One-of-a-kind 1945 Genrich”). This sort of activity works best if one’s last name is “Cruise” or “Rodman.” Or “X-Men.”

Point being, I plugged in your name and was presented with a smallish list of items for sale, almost all of which were copies of books that you had written or edited. Jesus Christ on a Popsicle stick, someone sold one of your books for seventy-five clams. Leeches, all of them. All except one.

One solitary listing, as out of place as Ted Kennedy in Utah: “PRODUCTION of 300-EGGERS-1923.” Description follows:

The Production of 300-Eggers and Better by Line Breeding. By M. E. Atkinson. Illustrated, index. 1923: Reliable Poultry Journal Publishing Co., Dayton, Ohio.

Wraps, about 6″ × 9″, 415 pages. Good – condition (damp stains-very faint after first few pages, fragile front cover, chipped at spine).

300 eggs in a year, oh my!

Please take a moment to look at our other early titles on farming and related subjects offered this week.

It’s only $15. You’ve got until the 26th to get it. Put that fancy-pants book advance to work.

Alone and shivering,
Michael Genrich

P.S. The Improper Bostonian, a Boston entertainment weekly, has listed the #1 local bestseller as “The Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius.” Is that the title for the large-print edition?

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Subject: Puppets
Date: 21 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Someone on the McSweeney’s letter page mentioned the wonderfulness of puppets. I have to agree, and it reminded me of an idea I had a couple of years ago, when I was still in college and my dream job was working on the television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 (which has since been cancelled by the moronic bastards at The Sci-Fi Channel, I guess so they could show another ten or twelve hours of Sliders each week— Sliders, the show that painfully stretches out a premise that Star Trek pretty much exhausted in one episode.) (By the way, some of the writers from MST3K are doing columns on— the site isn’t set up too well, but their writing is funny with that great laidback Midwestern vibe, so it’s certainly worth poking around the site for it. Their names are Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Paul Chaplin.)

Well, since MST3K has been cancelled and my dreams have been crushed, I have no reason to keep this idea a highly guarded secret any longer.

My idea was to make a puppet from an old pair of hi-top sneakers— preferably worn out by someone who was hard on the heels, pounding them to rounded nubs of their former selves. Naturally, these old shoes should be run through a washer and drier or something to remove any lingering odor or mildew. (Shoes can mildew. I had a beloved pair in middle school which after a puddle-plunge began to evidence moldy infestation deep in the cracks of the soles as well as between all the superfluous sewn-on stripes and such. I continued to wear them, oblivious, until at some ill-conceived weekend camping trip which was more or less mandatory for all students at our school, we played a stupid game which involved taking off shoes, shuffling them, and then putting on random shoes. During the putting-on-random-shoes part of the game, no one would put on my beloved but really kind of frightening-looking by this point shoes, and a teacher gingerly picked them up by the laces and removed them from the playing field. When I recovered them, I finally realized how nasty they looked, but it being a camping thing and those being the only shoes I had with me, I had no choice but to awkwardly and self-conciously wear them all weekend long. That was the same weekend that someone threw a wad of gum in my hair and I, by this point accustomed to random harassment from my classmates, casually tore out a small handful of my hair to get the gum out and threw it in the trash, prompting gasps and wary looks from the parties responsible. I was not messed with for the rest of the weekend, presumably because my peers thought that tearing out a bunch of my hair was a scary and badass thing to do. Actually my recently permed hair was brittle as spun sugar; the gesture hadn’t hurt much and I did it without really thinking about it.)

Once cleaned the high-top sneakers can be placed sole to sole. Cut a hole in the sole of each shoe, right under the foot-hole. You can see where this is going, I hope— put your hand in the foot-hole of the bottom shoe and reach up into the top shoe. The mouth is formed by the juncture of the two shoes. A hinge— literally a door hinge or similar— can be placed between the shoes, just fore of the holes in the soles. You can imagine how the rounded heels of these worn-out shoes will handily facilitate the opening and closing of the “mouth”.

Assuming you liked these shoes and are content with their appearance, you have only to add a pair of eyes to turn the shoes into a friendly puppet. I like the effect of gluing a pair of small round light bulbs to the top shoe. Position the bulbs’ screws forward as though the screws are the irises of the eyes. This is sort of unnerving at first, since it looks like the puppet is staring daggers at everyone, but once you get used to it it’s very neat. Maybe you can explain the eerieness of the eyes by making the puppet crazy, or grouchy, or an alien from the planet Kobeer or Ekin or something cleverer than that, that’s just a spur of the moment example.

You should probably wear a black glove on your hand when you operate this shoe puppet. Otherwise when the puppet puts his head down (in embarrassment or simply to look at something below him), your hand will be disconcertingly visible through the foot-hole of the top shoe.

Now you only have to come up with a personality for your puppet and give him something to say, something worthwhile, uplifting and meaningful. This is the point in puppetry when most people lay down their creations and hang themselves in their walk-in closets.

Good luck!

Amanda Summers

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Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2000
From: Ron Dulin
Subject: Ten-foot weenies

Dear McSweeney’s,

When I was young, we (we being the students of Newcomb Elementary School) too sang the ten-foot weenie song. However, unlike Christopher Butler’s Mary Beth Feeney, the Newcomb Variation started with “There once was a genie.” While this may seem but a slight change, it actually makes the song more plausible. A ten-foot weenie may be entirely common for genies, and removes the gender-based questions that arise when pondering why Mary Beth Feeney has a weenie at all, let alone a ten-foot one. Such questions only take away from the impact of the song’s focus: the weenie’s hilarious resemblance to a snake, which leads to its subsequent, and equally hilarious, shortening with a rake.

On further examination, though, the genie premise brings up issues of its own. For instance, is the woman next door also a genie? Is this genie living amongst us? Perhaps these questions, too, impede the hilarity of the final line, which also deviated in the Newcomb Variation. The weenie at the end of our version was only five-foot four, as opposed to Butler’s six-foot four, and I think it’s obvious that shorter is just plain funnier.

Around this same time, I had a friend who thought “Too Much Time on My Hands” by Styx was called “Too Much Time in My Head.” That isn’t funny now, but it was hilarious then. He would also fill a pint glass with water and suck it to his face, creating a vacuum in which he would scream the lyrics to Laura Brannigan’s (is it Laura Brannigan? I’m going with Laura Brannigan) “Gloria.” This, even now, is funny.

Ron Dulin

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Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2000
From: Michael Hazy
Subject: Unfunny Typing

Dear McSweeney’s,

Please stop including unfunny letters. The following types of letters are unfunny:

1) letters of too many words;
2) letters self-consciously incorporating a non sequitur;
3) letters designed solely to identify the author as a seventh year English PhD student at a celebrated university; and
4) letters lampooning this letter.

Thank you,

M.W. Hazy

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From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: Interview
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

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.

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Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2000
From: Kimber Vanry
Subject: NYC Puppet Subculture

Dear McSweeney’s,

Further to Suzanne Price’s letter of March 16, 2000 on the subject of puppets…

I was at a friend’s holiday cocktail party in the East Village a few months back which was attended by quite a number of people in the puppeteering field. My friend’s roommate works for the Henson folks, and so a lot of her friends are in one way or another involved with puppets. There was heated discussion at one point about the movie “Being John Malkovich” which has a puppeteer as its central character. These people were saying things like: “That was so unrealistic. A puppeteer would never do that.” or “That would never happen to a puppeteer.” These people were professionals and very serious about their craft.

Other puppet-oriented tidbits and thoughts:

One guy at the party was dressed in leather with a spiked collar. There were others dressed in various incarnations of downtown NYC looks, and I couldn’t help but think how amazing it is that all these people are shaping the minds of children all around the world through the puppets they are building and using to perform.

The guy in leather had to leave the party early because he was going to perform at a children’s holiday show.

Someone else at the party was doing various holiday-themed puppet work at some of the tonier department stores in the city.

My friend’s roommate once got flown to Germany to do some emergency repairs on the German version of Henson’s Big Bird character.

This apartment has hanging on its wall the original painting of Bert with a goatee and a beret that Ernie painted in a classic 1970s Sesame Street routine.

Kimber VanRy

- - -

From: Richard Allen
Subject: sirs

Dear McSweeney’s,

Every morning when I buy my coffee from the man in the kiosk on the street corner, he places an unusually thick stack of white napkins atop the plastic lid of my coffee cup. This makes very little sense to me. If he wishes to make a generous supply of napkins available to me so that I might wipe drops of hot coffee from my hands and mouth, he would do better than to place the napkins atop the coffee cup lid itself, where a tiny aperture allows coffee to seep from the overflowing cup upwards into the stack of napkins. As one attempts to remove coffee from your face with a napkin soaked in coffee, one finds that the absorbent quality of the napkin is compromised, and worse, the quantity of coffee saturating the napkin may exceed the quantity of coffee upon one’s face (a relatively less absorbent medium), and an unprofitable transaction of heat and moisture may ensue between the two.

Similarly, if the stack of napkins is intended to keep the hot coffee from emerging from that aperture and burning my hand, the gesture is stopgap at best, for the napkins prevent steam from emerging from the aperture and thereby cooling the coffee. When I arrive at work, I am forced to remove the lid of the cup in order to expedite the cooling of the coffee, at which point drops of hot coffee fall onto my hands, and the sodden napkins are of no use. Frankly, the evasiveness of this strategy bothers me as well. Does this man believe he is doing me a kindness by stopping up the aperture in my coffee cup, imagining me too thickheaded to note its presence and respond accordingly? If so, his kindness reeks of condescension, and I reject it forthwith.

I must confess, however, that my ultimate concern is for his own well-being, for I cannot imagine that a man who lives in a tiny aluminum house has many more napkins to spare.

Richard Allen

- - -

Dear McSweeney’s,

As web technology is still “emerging,” so to speak, I would like to give you a few pointers which in the end will likely help you find your way. By way of qualifications, I visit a lot of sites. A LOT. I also visit those many site a lot, if you see what I mean. I find that people who put up sites are sometimes eager to hear with site-visitors think of their respective sites. If I had a site of my own, I would be eager to hear those things which people say. Also, your editor is named “Eggers,” which reminds me of the word “eager.”


First, you need to have more things there. I enjoy the “drawings” at the top of every “page” on your site. When I see them, I think they are gothic, which I like. But I don’t know what it is. I think it may be table with a glass top, so people could see through it. Is it a votive candle holder, which is a thought I just had. That’s it, isn’t it? Maybe, since computers are in color, you could make the candle a different color. Maybe the lifetime subscription “page” could be black, which is like it is now. And the “page” asking if a particular site-visitor has not receive his or her magazine yet could be in red maybe. But I would take down that “page” anyway because it makes it sound like you have no intention to honor my subscription should I send you money which I haven’t for your magazine.

When people haven’t received their magazine from you, they have to send "e"mail to you at mailinghse does not have a profile, so I cannot learn about that person, but I can “buddylist” that person to see what “rooms” that person enters, and I have been waiting. When does that person “sign on”? But please, don’t tell that person that I will be watching, because then he or she might alter his or her behavior and then so much for my experiement. If is actually the person reading this, I guess I blew it. But there are only so many days I can sit and wait, so I have to take a chance here. I do have more sites to visit other than yours.


Did you know that I am able to call information for your area and get your editor’s phone number?

That’s all I have for you. It is 9:20 here. Maybe when I go back to your site I will be able to help more. Then I will write again since you put your "e"mail address for me to use. I love you. O.K.

- - -

From: Frank Marchesini
Subject: Who am I?

Dear McSweeney’s,

I fall somewhere between imbecile and ingenius. I was born in a hospital with lots of beds. I am a native of Glasgow, Scotland but was reared in Canberra, Austraila and Flushing, NY. As a result, my diet consists soley of haggis, Vegemite and Lite Beer from Miller. I’ve been told a I hold a strong resembIance to Coney Island’s Steeple Chase Man. I am employed as a media relations proctologist for a major men’s publication and currently finishing a screenplay for a musical comedy based on the Franco-Prussian War. I am a resident of Los Angeles and travel frequently to New York City on economy flights. I would like to assist in the global proliferation of McSweeney’s in any manner, way, shape or form. Who am I? I am Frank Louis Thomas Marchesini. And I’m bored.

Bouna Fortuna,

Frank Marchesini

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From: “Matthew Drake”
Subject: Sandi

Dear McSweeney’s,

Sandi works in accounting. She hasn’t many friends in the firm, and spends most of her time alone. I want to help, but I’ve got a job to do here. Perhaps if McSweeney’s readers were to hold her in their hearts for a while, it might make a difference.

The following is an up-to-date biographical sketch:

Sandi – Monday, February 28, 2000
Arrived: 9:47 (!)
Wearing: Burgundy pullover, black stretch pants
Mood: A little cranky
Weekend Movies: Wonder Boys (“oh, it was okay, I guess.”); My Dog Skip (“I think men like women with sleepy eyes.”) Boiler Room (" ")
Reading: False Memory, by Dean R. Koontz. Pg. 422
Enemy: Rosemary, Gary’s secretary
Cups of coffee: None
Quote: “My mother is lying about me. Just like she used to do about my sister.”

I hope this helps you help me help Sandi.

Thank you,
Matt Drake

- - -

From: Edward Kafka-Gelbrecht
Subject: Report on my progress

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,
Edward Kafka-Gelbrecht

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Subject: Love poem received whilst reading McSweeney’s

Dear McSweeney’s,

So it was my first day at my new office. I am standing in my cubicle. Peaking into the other cubicles. It is one hour into my first day and none of the other kids have even glanced my way. Let alone complimented me on my first day attire. New sneakers with the laces still bright white. Forest green sweater with a collar like on a buttondown shirt expcept it’s a sweater. And my veryspecial brown pants with the yellow racing stripe. I look like someone who can go fast. And yet, no one has even looked up.

I am standing in my cubicle reading McSweeney’s. Just standing there. Just reading. Suddenly a voice boomed, “It’s older than you!” A mildly retarded man is gesticulating towards a bicycle propped up against the wall.

“Built in the 60’s.” I openned my mouth to attempt a response. But I needn’t have.

“I’m deaf.” He said. I closed my mouth. “I’m deaf so I know a lot about bicycles.” (I love that! I’m deaf so I know a lot about bicycles. I thought, “Yes!”) “I’ve been a bike messenger for longer than you’ve been alive. 30 years.”

Then he looked at me sadly through his big glasses. The lenses must have been an inch thick. Easily an inch. He looked at me and touched his cheek. I thought maybe I had a booger on my face, or something.

“Your face.” He said. “Like a soap commercial. Don’t need any make-up. Perfect.”

Is that a haiku or what? I couldn’t write a better love poem. Thank you McSweeney’s!

Emily Krill

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Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2000
From: Scott Matthew Korb

Dear McSweeney’s,

Resolved, there are grave and urgent issues of justice of the rights of peoples and nations which have to be resolved.

[I did not come up with this on my own, though I did think of the “resolved” part at the beginning, which makes the statement seem like the beginning of a debate. And, according to Strunk and White’s ELEMENTS OF STYLE, there should be a comma after “nations.” Either that, or the “which” should be a “that.” Strunk and White call what I’ve just done “which-hunting,” which is a clever play on words on their part.]

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

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From: Jeff Johnson
Subject: ncaa
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I have gotten several e-mails from McSweeney’s NFL readers asking what I think of the NCAA hoops tournament. The only thing I can say is the Wisconsin Badgers are the math rock team of this spring gala. They are like the patient scientists of Tortoise compared to Gonzaga’s poor Toad the Wet Sprocket imitation (couple of surprise hits, not a serious contender, a career built on lethargic sorority soliloquies), or Michigan State’s shoddy Too Short (Mateen Cleaves is tough, but he’s like 4’ 7").

Seton Hall could be the tournament’s Pavement, but more likely they emulate the quick, ugly sulfur burn of Letters to Cleo. Duke and North Carolina are like the Rolling Stones, Steve Miller Band or Jimmy Buffet (always around) of the tournament. Iowa State is strictly Buck Owens, or even a novelty hillbilly act (someone singing about the lubrication benefits of butter) like Ray Stevens. Purdue (just based on the wanton self-destruction and comb-over of coach Gene Keady) is Steve Earle, while Indiana, who went down for the count early is either a) Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon (early extinguishment) or b) George Jones (based on Bobby Knight’s history of tantrums, and serious scraps with everyone he’s involved with. Think for a minute of Neil Reed as Tammy Wynette. Actually think of Bobby Knight as Tommy Lee.)

Syracuse makes me think of John Lithgow. I know he’s an actor, but that is the kind of career trajectory they’re shooting for. They look good on paper, but always shoot themselves in the foot, because like Lithgow shilling for the Discover card, they always try to take the easy way out. Tulsa, I have no idea about. Although I once stayed at a Holiday Inn in Tulsa that had an empty third-floor open-air swimming pool and it was 105 degrees out. It was all being remodeled, and throughout the downtown the only sound you could hear was an air conditioner. There was maybe a two-mile an hour breeze every fifteen minutes. The hotel had a new manager, fresh from California, and it was Saturday afternoon. This to me is the essence of divorce and forced fresh starts.

I will leave you with this: In 1943, there was a group of lads from Duluth who played for the Maroon Pharmacy, a traveling semi-pro basketball team. Their starters were called the Buttermilk Five. The term came from what the coach, Hank Gomlichek, called “Buttermilk Defense,” because he wanted the other team to curdle. In reality he probably meant cottage cheese, but no one cared.

The Buttermilk Five also took wagers and wore fedoras. They often reminded their best gals to never sass them, and they insisted on extra dinner rolls and those tan eggs at every roadhouse their bus stopped at. Once in Muncie, Indiana there was a small boy named Vic Dufrane, who 86% of the time could hit a half-court shot while wearing a blindfold. The Maroon Pharmacy arrived for a game against The Muncie School of Optometry and signed Dufrane up for an 11-day contract. They were going on a special trip to Delaware at the special invitation of the governor, and needed something special.

They arrived at the Governor’s mansion, and were feted with a buffet of samosas, poi, lemon pie, London broil, and oysters. The tea was crisp and minty. Vic Dufrane had a glass of whole milk, and the governor secretly supplied him with a stack of risquŽ Japanese comic books. Dufrane remembered atrocities of Pearl Harbor and thought, “No, I shouldn’t accept.” But the onset of puberty made him change his mind, and he retired for the evening to a mammoth tree house in the backyard that had an electronic elevator and brass floors.

Speaking of floors, the Maroon Pharmacy took on the Dover Monks the next afternoon at a YMCA with a thick glass floor. It was the Governor’s secret trick. The Dover Monks were used to the floor, but the Maroon Pharmacy, and more importantly the Buttermilk Five, were rattled. There was a marching band out front, four tons of confetti, and mules were being shot out of cannons. The whole town held hands.

The Maroon Pharmacy fell hard that day, 64-26. Dufrane never made it out of the tree house, and several members of the Buttermilk Five retired in shame to a life of lawn work and tuckpointing. One of the stars, Miller Eisenelson opened a successful harbor steakhouse, but in 1983 was convicted of tax fraud.

In closing: 1) Have you seen Bijou Phillips in the new Playboy? 2) The Denis Johnson thing in the new issue is my favorite. 3) Why won’t Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian do interviews?


Jeff Johnson

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Date: 20 Mar 00
From: Thomas Gibbon
Subject: McSweeney’s Related Event

Dear New York-based McSweeney’s Subculture,

This is a a very angry letter [This is a very grateful letter]. To the smart-assed Hunnish cur who nicked my printed items from Galapagos last Thursday, I curse you and your entire line form your long-dead mutant protazoan ancestors to your malfunctive disembodied floating space-brain descendants of the distant future [To the sweet and generous soul who saw some much beloved books in danger and sought to refuge them from the drunken typhoon, blessings in abundance to you, your livestock, your crops, and your hale and fecund tribespeople in perpetuity]. On page 55 of both items (“Journey to the End of the Night,” “European Review” February 1998) you will find the terrifying symbol of my vengeful curse, this symbol shall be burned into the foreheads of your children and your children’s children making it difficult for them to get dates except with each other which ultimately will lead to this symbol, normally a recessive trait, being branded on the diminutive frontal lobes of your malfunctive disembodied floating space-brain descendants of the distant future, also, you will get runny boils in nasty, sweaty places, by which I mean your crotch [You will find proof of my ownership of these items embossed on page 55, courtesy of my sister, a charming woman, who would be very pleased to know that someone was kind enough to look out for her little brother’s much beloved books]. I would appreciate any information which may bring this matter to justice swiftly and ruthlessly [I would be ever so pleased if the guardian of the objects could email me,, to arrange an exchange of my undying gratitude and stuttered thanks for the book-things].

Hip-deep in blood [With boundless respect and adoration],
TG Gibbon

ps- I do not enjoy corresponding with or meeting strangers so you may imagine my email appears here only with great reluctance. Only because I am so cheap (and I am so cheap, so very, very cheap) is it necessary for me to compromise myself and my office in this way. Please remember this, dear strangers.

- - -

From: “Robert Beier”
Subject: From your office correspondent
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I am now working at an office that has a theme. It is a theme office. The theme is baseball. Everywhere I look there is baseball. I shall look to my right and tell you what I see. I see a baseball bat in a nook, lit from the top, the bat says it is a “Louisville Slugger”. There is a wall light above the bat, this wall light is in the shape of a baseball diamond. I shall look to my left. I see a conference room; the panels have frosted glass, etched into them are the figures of baseball players. They aren’t just any baseball players. They are famous baseball players. Players with names you would recognize if you followed baseball or if you were a True American. I have a baseball yummy dispenser on my desk. A nice woman keeps it filled with M&Ms. People stop by my desk all day and dispense their little pleasures. The noise of these tiny pleasures falling into the warm palms of the seekers hands (won’t melt in the hands, melt in the mouth) has all ready gotten on my nerves. Particularly some of the women who stop by. They have to comment on the chocolate they are eating, as if guilty at the pleasure of having three M&Ms. They feel for some reason they have something to explain to me. They have nothing to explain. I do wonder what more they are hiding. What guilt lies curled around the teeth, snatching all of the pleasure from such glorious round globules of goodness. The desks are the most impressive. They are made out of the wood that bats are made out of and polished to that golden battiness color. In fact, I am typing on a baseball bat, except that it is flat and long and in the shape of a desk. I have learned some baseball lingo. The most disturbing to me is the lingo used to describe the catcher’s equipment, which is: Tools of ignorance. This scares me in places I haven’t been scared in before.


Bob Beier

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From: “Matt Velick”
Subject: age
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I’ve begun seeing people as they will look when they get older, as well as seeing people as they must have looked when they were much younger. Not all the time, mind you, as that would provide a Twilight Zone-esque situation wherein I would most certainly end up seeing my own death in some horrible wretched way. This is more along the lines of being able to visualize someones face in a more or less ageless way.

Again, I’m not bothered by this; it doesn’t haunt me. It’s actually quite fascinating as I’m more than willing to give into this sort of imagination as a means of escaping the banality of tedious routine. Usually when I’m on the subway.

For example, I was sitting across from this woman whose age was tremendously difficult to determine due to the premature wrinkles under her eyes and around the sides of her mouth, but also because she had immaculate teeth and a girlish demeanor which surrounded her. Without generating an uncomfortable situation by staring bug-eyed at her, I could tell that she must have been a beautiful little girl, and also that as she gets older, the wrinkles will increase substantially making her look unfortunately older and smaller than she really is.

It was a fleeting thought, but as I got off the train, I became concerned that she maintain her wonderful teeth. They really were quite breathtaking.

Matt Velick
Brooklyn, NY

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Date: Sat, 18 Mar 2000
Subject: In response to Katie Lederer’s Mar. 10 response to Kerry Lannert’s March 3 letter about camp songs

Dear McSweeney’s,

At Camp Whippoorwill, we too sang a version of the “Zip zip zip” song, identical to Katie’s version except that we had no “camels” or “fatimas.” We sang: “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, if the skeeters don’t get you then the midges must…” There were lots of bugs up there at Camp Whippoorwill, which might explain it, although perhaps there were a lot of bugs in the WWI trenches as well.

Neither do I have any idea what a fatima might be (although there was a character by that name in the musical “Boys From Syracuse”)

Fellow camper,
Thisbe Nissen

- - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: How to Break Up
Date: Sat, 18 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,


How to Break Up With Someone You’ve Been Seeing for Awhile

When attempting to end a lengthy relationship (over three years) in an emergency situation, you will not know much about your surroundings, specifically the reaction of your partner. This makes breaking up particularly dangerous.

If breaking up with an especially volatile or disturbed individual, try to end things in public; neighborhood Italian restaurants are good. These establishments are generally quiet, and have an air of decorum.

Stay away from bars or singles events over the next several months. The jury is still out on the efficacy of rebound relationships.

Take a cold shower immediately after breaking up.

How to Break Up

1. Jump feet first.

2. Keep your body completely vertical.

3. Squeeze your feet together.


MIke Topp

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From: “Tom Bartos”
Subject: last night’s reading
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Perhaps you didn’t get my note. I said I was going to be late but you went ahead and started without me. Why do you have to be so difficult? I would like to know if it was something I said or did to make you act this way. Please, let’s air it out. I can’t take your fickle abuse any more. First you say 100 yards. Now it is a 200 yard restraining order. Please, have some consideration and consistency.

My friend in Portland, Oregon asked me to attend your reading last night, but I was busy (some call it being a “Wheel Watcher”) and couldn’t get there until 10:30. As the place was packed and hotter than a bordello on shore leave in July (or something to that effect), the last 15 minutes sounded good.

My friend also asked me to say hello to Mr. Eggers and give him a kiss for her.

She is not that good of a friend.

Tom Bartos

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From: “Holder, Laura T”
Subject: facts regarding contest pitting bunnies against kitties as to who makes better pets
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

forwarded by me from my friend brandon:

-—Original Message——- From: Whightsel, Brandon Sent: Friday, March 17, 2000 5:53 PM I know for a fact kitties are better because when I first moved to New York I lived on my friends Dan and April’s couch. And the very same weekend that I moved in they also adopted two rabbits named Sophie and Randle. Sophie and Randle were never very friendly. In fact they were very much like wild animals. Skittish, suspicious, often inclined to hide out of view, only coming out from under the bed at night to forage and sharpen their teeth on very noisy things like my nylon suitcase or the wicker hamper. They were wild animals, even more specifically they were like big rats only fluffy and cute. I could go on for hours about all the unpleasantness of a rabbit as a pet in a studio apartment with three humans, but I will stop short only to conclude that April was secretly complaining about how much room I took up and how big their apartment seemed before my short tenure there. After I left she apologized when she expected the apartment to become roomy again and it didn’t because it wasn’t me that took up all the space, but Sophie and Randle. I think rabbits are especially cute when you are walking in a meadow, or the woods, or even in television nature shows or Easter candy commercails. But as a pet, a kittie will prove to be just as soft and cuddly, but infinitly more sociable. And that’s coming from a dog person.
- - -

From: “Holder, Laura T”
Subject: do you think kitties make better pets than bunnies, or do bunnies make better pets?
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

i know i know. it might be dangerous to rate the appropriateness of certain kinds of animals as pets
but i think kitties.

dear MR,
you said george saunders’ was maybe the best piece in the lot of this issue of McSweeneys and maybe this was after a few beers
but after a few beers i agreed with you and meant it

i said ‘yea, i think maybe it is’

and you said… this other thing…and get his book, it’s called [somethingsomething] (which i do not remember and i really didnt hear you very well in the first place, because bars are noisy. plus i can look it up later) and i said, unwittily*, “yah i will”

and then i read ms.___________’s thing this morning, about the mown lawn. and i thought that might be the best in the category of nice and neatest things in town, actually.

but then i started to read Ben….Something’s thing, about the drive-in and the gliding waitress and the chef throwing the brownie on the grill and i said to myself now that might be the best best thing in the category of bestest things in the category of small little stapeled things

and then i learned of this, and this is good to be aware of:

according to, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline “Is Popular in: Stillwater, OK (#9)”.

The number nine here refers to its rank among the top ten books listed for “Uniqueness to Stillwater, OK”. The quotes are there because i am quoting.

along with that book’s number nine ranking, proves a listing of eight other books which are rated more “Unique to Stillwater, OK” than mr.saunders’ book in the contest of Most-Uniqueness-to-Stillwater-Oklahoma-in-the-category-of-a-book. also listed is one book less unique.

some of these books and their rankings are, not necessarily in this order :

Handbook of Orthopedic Rehabilitation ABRIDGED! (#3)
Mayhem: Violence As Public Entertainment (#4)
Microcontroller Projects With Basic Stamps (#7)
Children at the Center: A Workshop Approach to Standardized Test Preparation. (#5)

which might be good to keep in mind.


*unwittily is not a word.

- - -

From: Christina Dixcy
Subject: 3/16/00
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Thanks for the trim. My hair has renewed vim and vigor. (Though I do think you could use more water and sharper scissors for future snips.)
Arthur Bradford was most charming.
You should have more readings.
They are good.

Christina Dixcy
(green coat and glasses)

- - -

From: “Gary Greenberg”
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Today I received in the mail a letter from a woman whom I barely know. In it was an article from New York Magazine about Dave Eggers. It had a picture of Dave Eggers in his office and quotes from Dave Eggers about, among other things, McSweeney’s. Attached to it was a sticky note: “I thought you might be interested in this.”

But that’s not all. yesterday I got two letters. One was from my mother. In it was a copy of a column by Ellen Goodman in which she (the columnist, not my mother) said something to the effect that if everyone was a panic-stricken parent like Dave Eggers, kids wouldn’t be bringing guns to school and killing each other. Well, maybe she didn’t say that exactly. I couldn’t read it closely because I had to open the other letter, which was from an actual friend of mine and contained an article from the Boston Globe about Dave Eggers. It had frighteningly large photo of Dave Eggers and many quotes attributed to Dave Eggers. Both of these letters had little sticky notes attached telling me that I was probably interested in these articles.

Well, I’ll admit I am a little interested, although I’m not sure about the staggering part. But what I’m really interested is whether this is happening to other people, and I thought this might be a way to find out.

Gary Greenberg

- - -

From: “Gillian Beebe”
Subject: sheesh!
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Did you print my letter without editing the mis-numbered list on purpose to humiliate me? Well, it didn’t work anyway. I know I am a math moron (can’t even count past 2 for crying out loud), and I make no bones about it. Maybe I even screw up mathematically on purpose now and then just to text people—to see if they will be aggravated, kind-hearted, or just mean when they discover what I have done wrong.

What id the name of the blond boy in blue jeans who read second last night? He was wonderful! Your Literary Agent, however, spoke down to me, and I take umbrage. I am trying to be understanding, though. Maybe he can’t help talking down to people, being a literary agent and all. Or maybe he enjoys talking down to people which is why he became a literary agent in the first place. This is what happened:

I thought it might be nice to volunteer for the haircutting during intermission, so I walked up front and ended up speaking to a tall red-haired man whose name I forgot the instant he told it to me. He asked me what I do and I told him that I am an editor of philosophy books at an academic press. I told him I am quite bored with my job and was considering apprenticing myself to a literary agent “just for fun.” Conveniently for the red-haired man, the Literary Agent walked near us at exactly that moment, so the red-haired man graciously introduced me to the Literary Agent and summarized my interest. The Literary Agent then talked down to me. Maybe he couldn’t tell how old I am. Maybe I look fresh and naive and like I need a good talking-down-to. The Literary Agent gave me the “grass is greener” speech and otherwise maligned the job of a literary agent. “Why would I want to do such a lousy job as his?” or something like that. I was disappointed that he behaved like one of “those” people—those people who have awesome or interesting or somehow appealing jobs yet feel compelled to complain about them to anyone who oohs and ahhs. Ugh. Perhaps he was just busy and distracted and annoyed about having been aggressively introduced to a girl who was really there to see about getting her hair cut.

I didn’t get my hair cut by Dave Eggers, by the way. He had plenty of volunteers who didn’t look as though they needed their hair cut. I really need a hair cut!

Still I remain fond,
Gillian Beebe

- - -

Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000
From: “Leslie Ternes”
Subject: A Sign.

Dear McSweeney’s,

Someone in the apartment building across the street from my office hung a huge sign on his or her balcony that says, in big black capital letters: BU$H BITES. The sign must be eight feet long and is directly across from my third story office window.

Your friend,
Le$lie Ternes

- - -

Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000
From: Kiersten Conner-Sax
Subject: Chuck Easterling rocks

Thank you, Chuck Easterling. You are my hero.

Kiersten Conner-Sax

- - -

From: “Ed /”
Subject: the mars globe
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000

Dear Mr. Malizsewski,

I read your essay about the Mars “globe” and immediately searched the “internet” for a book I’ve been trying to find for a long time. I do not care about globes, nor did I immediately think about responding to your “story.” However, when I saw that the various responses from other readers had been posted on the site, it began to seem like not such a bad idea. I too would like my writing to appear on the internet for all America to read. America hell! The world!!! And so, I’ve prepared a little something myself. It’s just the kind of thing your “publication” seems to like to print.

I was searching for a book of Paul Auster’s poetry and couldn’t find it, you catch my drift? So I thought I’d call a few places and boy was I in for it.

Following is a transcript (reconstructed from memory) of some pretty funny telephonic exchanges:


Border’s Employee: “Hello, Border’s Books. May I help you?”
Me: “Yes. I was looking for a book of poetry by Paul Auster. Do you have it in stock?”
B.E.: “Let me check. Do you know the title?”
Me: “Uh, no.”
B.E.: “I need a title.”
Me: “Oh.”
B.E.: “If I don’t have a title I really couldn’t help you.”
Me: “I know Michael Moore, you know. One phone call and…”
B.E.: “Who?”
Me: “Michael Moore.”
B.E: “Okay… well.”
Me: “Never mind.”

Quoth The Raven Booksellers

Quoth…: “Quoth the Raven.”
Me: “That’s funny.”
Q: “May I help you?”
Me: “Yes, I’m looking for a book of poetry by Paul Auster. I think it may be out of print.”
Q: “What’s the title?”
Me: “It’s called ‘Wall Writing.’ I looked it up, so I know.”
Q: “Just a second, let me check.”
Q: “We have a copy.”
Me: “You do?”
Q: “Yes. It’s $125.”
Me: “Well, that’s a little bit out of my price range. Do you know where I could get a copy for less than that?”
Q: “No.”

Well, that’s that. Yet another fruitless search. Funny, though.


Eduardo Illades

- - -

Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000
Subject: re:“french style”

Dear McSweeney’s,

regarding mike topp’s note concerning cowboys requesting a shot of red-eye at the saloon, i believe there is a woody woodpecker episode in which buzz buzzard asks for a red-eye and woody then swaggers up to bar next to him and says with a slight drawl “make mine a red eye too”. no french subtitles in that one, that i remember.

kelly king

- - -

From: “Boucher, Matthew”
Subject: powder-coating the Bolen
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

A while ago, I logged on to this web site called You can go there, and they supposedly have every high school in the country listed. You can go to your school, select your class year, and leave information about yourself, including your email address. A few classmates have written me since I posted my email address to catch up on old times. I got an email today informing me that I had a message in my “inbox.” So, I went to the site, accessed my account, and here’s the message I got, with the subject heading “RE: What I Am doing”:

I am restoring the Bolen tractor. Having it powder coated by Joe Newlon. Doing my threater work. Still working with Charlie 3 days week. Watching My Mother go further and further into alzheimers. Getting fatter. Drinking too much . and enjoying the Hell out of retirement. Also I have our 55 up for sale. Plus all the extra parts. bout a car and a half. Now aren’t you sorry you asked. We bought a time share in Branson in January. But haven’t been back down since . Thats about all my excitement for this letter Take care of yourself and let me know waht you are up to . Bye Ed

I’m only 26 years old. I don’t know who the hell Ed is, but, Ed, if you’re out there, I hope your mother is doing okay. Thanks for all of your info – I’m not sorry that I asked, because I didn’t ask. But say hi to Charlie and Joe Newlon for me, whoever they are.

Bye, Matt Boucher

- - -

Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000
From: Suzanne Price
Subject: Puppets

After reviewing many of the letters you print, I quickly saw a lack of the subject of puppets. Sure, there is mention of monkeys and toasters and such, but puppets, who are of utmost importance, are glaringly omitted. The British write it in to discuss clowns, but no one has mentioned that Flat Eric, the puppet from certain Levi’s commercials, has become a sort of cult phenomenon. Puppets make people happy and they also are ways to vicarously express feelings that would otherwise be considered insane. Imagine if Grover were a real person, talking to little kids and asking for hugs. He would be jailed, as should the old host of Family Feud, who made all the contestants kiss him as much as possible. Which brings me to the GameShow network. Does anyone else watch this besides me? Because it gloriously chronicles our nation’s descent from 1970s cheerfulness to 1990s turpitude, with the show Inquizition being a prime example. I would like to say puppets make my life easier and that I feel safer when people express their most subconsious thoughts using a felt animal. who agrees?

Suzanne Price

- - -

Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000
From: Chuck Easterling
Subject: Grains of sand in a Dixie cup

Dear McSweeney’s,

Like an anvil to the head of a foppish cartoon character I stumbled upon an idea: I should be the McSweeneys Answer Guy.

Now, I realize not everyone is using McSweeneys as the Great All-Knowing But Generally Esoteric Answer Place (Booth?) but it seems that at least a few people are. And those folks need me and I need them. I would simply draw upon my years of counseling experience and provide the answers your intelligently confused readers crave.

The only condition I would place upon my participation is that I will be able to skip right over questions from Mike Topp. Well, I would read them, pause and then laugh. Then I would skip over them.

But everything else would be fair game.

And if I could not furnish the answers I would consult the man who gave me life. My father. Dad.

I could use this forum to show him that there is more to the Internet than the proliferation of smut. (He’s retired from Sears & Roebuck and now spends most of his time at this huge Catholic church in Columbia, South Carolina).

I would consult him when a question had a religious or retail bent.

Please allow yourself to visualize such a scenario:

Dear McSweeneys Answer Guy,
I’ve got a problem.

And it would go on like that from there.

I would then email the problem/quandary/dilemma to my father. He would respond with something approximating this:

Hi Chuck! I think I deleted your email. I can not find it. I read it but can not remember most of what it said. Do you have enough money?

Who is McSweeney? Mom said that’s not your roommate.

Peace be with you,

The possibilities are limitless.

Chuck Easterling

P.S. My Uncle Fitz is a welder so I have that covered as well.

- - -

Date: 16 Mar 00
From: Thomas Gibbon
Subject: Helpful Office Tip

Dear McSweeney’s (but really Bryson Newhart, David Madden, and Christopher Butler),

Here’s a fun and useful trick you can use in the “washroom” at work:

1) Don’t talk to anybody.

No but seriously:

2) If the faucets are the kind you press down (as opposed to turn) try pressing down on both simultaneously. I do this alla time at work. The usual method, you get like four seconds of water but this way, man it is exponential! Seriously like sixteen seconds of water, I’m not kidding. Of course you can’t control temperature but four seconds isn’t enough to get warm anyway (and don’t think that’s not part of the plan, they know they’re saving precious pennies on heating oil, the bastards).

Also, I had to kill a roach in the bathroom at work this morning. No, no, no, it’s not what you think; it was an insect and I stepped on it.

Spreading the Word for Convenience,

ps- There is also a sign over the urinals in the bathroom of our company, the oldest of its kind in the world (the company, not the urinal sign), which reads “Please Flush the Toilets.” Best part = Doesn’t always happen. I am filled with contempt.

pps-Oh, right, the rest of the letter.
Anyway, I think, Christopher Butler, that song number two might have the same origins as this nugget: “Jesus Christ, Superstore/ See Our low prices come back for more!”
And, David Madden, I, for quite some time, believed Lucy Thomas was a cousin of mine from St Louis (which remains, as ever, there). This, as it always does, made her quite attractive to me. Eventually I realised I was spending far too much time indulging Habsburgian in-breeding fantasies and responding to mail that wasn’t even sent to me. God, I’m such a narcissist.

- - -

Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000
From: amie barrodale
Subject: This one is w/o focus

Dear McSweeney’s,

sharp nosed swift snakes
smooth snakes
the puppy snake
the whip-tailed puppy snake
the melancholy scorpion

We have an internee training program down here, in the spare room. It’s usually geared toward high school children and college freshman – you know, feed them, groom them, teach them to brand leather pouches and communicate.

“What,” we say, “I don’t understand the question.”

“The words your saying, they don’t make any sense,” we say.

In time they learn to pronounce ‘hungry’ without that terrible, plangent ‘o’ sound that so rankled my mother.

I’m supposed to mention Zbigniew in this letter.

Good morning, Zbigniew.
Good morning, office.
Good morning, falcon enthusiasts.
Good Morning.

Your Devoted Pal,
Amie Barrodale

- - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: 100,000,000,000,000 Poems
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Had lunch with my agent today. I talked about the trouble I was having with finishing my new book, “100,000,000,000,000 Poems.”


Mike Topp

- - -

Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000
Subject: reverse chronologist

Dear McSweeney’s,

I noticed that your letters page was not in proper reverse chronological order today. If this is a staffing problem, I would like to offer my services. With many years in various order-oriented fields, I have quite the experience in numbering. In addition, I can order things alphabetically, and I can operate a fax machine with relative proficiency. Let me know if you would like me to send my resume. I work for cheap (often going for days on end without a meal).


Mike Reynolds
Knoxville, Tennessee

- - -

From: “Richard Alcott”
Subject: The Modest Life
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Many people want to live a modest life, and some people are able to achieve a kind of simplicity in the midst of this busy, cosmopolitan, getting and spending world. Even people like you, who either live surrounded by luxuriant rural verdure, have one or two potted plants to console you, or use red masonry bricks for a pillow — even you struggle with the realities of accumulation.

Just the other evening, as I relaxed in a hot, scented bathtub following a long and challenging yet satisfying day’s work educating the eager young students of this quaint seaside village as to the intricacies of definite and indefinite English article usage, I was reminded yet again that searching after truth is a rutted highway, full of twists and turns and the occasional roadkill.

My wife, who is an astute and insightful observer of the human scene, and has raised the question before, called my attention to the Dalai Lama, a presumably immaculate, devout individual who has been forced by circumstances to live a life of exile. Do you think he lives a modest life? my wife asked me. Look at those glasses he wears, she suggested. Those must be Renoma frames. What kind of a modest man wears Renoma frames? What kind of a Buddhist does he think he is?

This was not an easy question, not one I could dismiss with a glib, ironic answer. First of all, I would not recognize Renoma eyeglass frames even if I were wearing them myself, and I settled back into the steamy, fragrant waters of my tub, my tightly knotted muscles relaxing uneasily, the stresses of the day slowly melting away, certain that my wife would herself soon straighten me out with answers of her own, if not, more questions which would illuminate the subject like a bank of kleig lights.

Was Fred Blassie a modest man? Blassie’s major claim to his fame derives from the night he took the right to wear the world’s pro-wrestling championship belt back from Rikidozan of Japan. Rikidozan had been yokozuna, the highest rank in the Japanese national sport,sumo,before becoming a professional wrestler and world champion, himself taking the title from Blassie, from America. Before that night, Blassie was no more than a bad guy blowhard with long platinum bleached hair who took the televised locker room interview from filler at the end of the evening’s matches to a level of high art.

Defeating Rikidozan and winning back the championship redeemed Fred Blassie, who grew up as Freddie Blassman and was known as a professional variously as “Classy” Freddie Blassie, Fred McDaniel, and even, God knows why, “Sailor” Blassie. He is now retired from professional wrestling, and lives in Los Angeles.

It was Fred Blassie who introduced the expression “pencil-necked geek” into the popular vocabulary as a typical excoriation of his many colorful opponents.

Fred Blassie was a great showman, who often took a metal file to his front teeth in order to make them sharper and more menacing to his many worthy and colorful opponents like the Super Swedish Angel Tor Johnson, or Szandor Szabo, or Mr. Moto, or the Frenchman, Edouard Carpentier, or that masked guy, The Destroyer, or Lou Thesz.

One balmy Southern California evening, in that locker room at the venerable Olympic Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles, Fred Blassie dangled the pencil-necked geek ringside announcer Dick Lane by his ankles out an upper-story window. Live. On the air. Dick Lane, professional that he always was, did not drop his microphone, and continued broadcasting his interview with Blassie, though in an understandably somewhat more strangled and excited tone.

It was Dick Lane who coined the expression, “Whoa, Nellie!” to lend color to particularly exciting pro-wrestling moves. Dick Lane did not cry “Whoa, Nellie!” while being dangled by his ankles in the strong but tenuous grip of Fred “Sailor” Blassie out the window of the locker room of the venerable Olympic Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles that balmy Southern California evening. He had other things on his mind that evening. Dick Lane had his entire life flashing before his eyes that evening, and survival was suddenly much more important to him than shouting “Whoa, Nellie!”

That night, the line between art and life was blurred considerably, and for Dick Lane, the more important line between life and death yawned before him like a chasm. He held on tightly to that microphone like a lifeline.

Dick Lane was the model of a modest man. His suits were not expensive, and his glasses were not mounted in designer frames. He was just a skinny little guy with dentures and thinning hair who smelled funny — which is not to say his body produced odors so powerful that driving through the streets of Los Angeles, home from work each night, packs of dogs, their glistening snouts high in the desert air, and coyotes drawn down from the hills, swollen tongues lolling and dripping, would chase, howling, after his black, round-topped Ford coupe and mill around all night outside the brick apartment building making it a nightly peril for Dick Lane, who kicked around Hollywood during the late ‘30s and 1940s and played a few bit parts in pictures while more worthy talents were fighting the Fascist menace abroad before he landed the announcing job he held all those years at KTLA, Channel 5, to negotiate the walk from his parking spot in front of the building to the elevator inside the first floor lobby. Dick Lane was not a Buddhist, but then he didn’t wear a Rolex watch, either, if you know what I mean. After finishing up his job that night, long ago, the night Fred Blassie dangled him high above the downtown Los Angeles urban pavement, still alive, Dick Lane went back to his skanky Hollywood apartment where he lived during the years after his wife, fed up, for reasons of her own, left him, fixed himself a cup of hot cocoa which he liked to drink with those little mini-marshmallows floating in it, put the cat out on the fire escape, relaxed in front of the tube for awhile, until after midnight when the test pattern with the little picture in the middle of an Indian chief wearing an eagle feather war bonnet came on, then opened up the couch and went to bed. What Dick Lane dreamed about as he slept is his own private business.

Just chillin’,

Rich Alcott

- - -

Subject: Neal Pollack’s Handsomeness Explained Away Suddenly Using Technology
Date: Thu, 9 Mar 100

Dear McSweeney’s,

Some of your writers are brilliant but some others are as dumb as many rocks are considered dumb. I found out why Neal Pollack was handsome after about 2 seconds of Search Time on the Internet, and Ask Jeeves also gave me a useful Pre-Law Advisement page and a list of movies and/or TV shows Sydney Pollack been in (he has been in several). If you print this, please use the name “Robert Orenstein”.

- - -

Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2000
From: Paul Elias
Subject: hungover again

Dear McSweeney’s,

Man, I got drunk last night. I mean real drunk. I drank this beer called the Eye of the Hawk, which was really glorified malt liquor as its alchol content hovers just under nine percent. One of the two guys I was drinking with also drank Eye of the Hawk. We spent the night sticking out our arms and going “aaawwwwkkkkk” in attempted impersonations of hawks. We also joked that we were all “hawked up” after about the third pint. It seemed funny at the time. My other, non-Hawk drinking companion Dave kept calling it Falcon beer. But he has a habit of doing that. For instance, there’s this lunch spot called the Turk and Larkin Deli that we go to all the time. It’s called that, presumably, because it sits on the corner of Turk and Larkin. But Dave calls the place Turkey Larkin. They do make killer turkey sandwiches.


paul elias

- - -

Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2000
Subject: Mascots

Dear McSweeney’s,

Recently I attended a DePaul University basketball game. At one point in the afternoon the DePaul mascot, a person wearing a costume depicting a large smiling blue demon wearing a basketball uniform, wandered up to children in the crowd and produced a can of whipped cream. The kids would automatically open their mouths and the demon would fill them up with dessert topping. I found this odd, but no one else in the arena looked concerned by the mascot’s actions. I wondered how they would react if this happened in any other environment. Imagine walking down the streets of Des Moines, Iowa or Richmond, Virginia seeing a large happy blue devil sticking a can of Reddi-wip down children’s throats. I doubt people would sit idly by. I wanted to approach the mascot and ask “What gives with the whipped cream,” but I thought I might cause a scene or suffer the wrath of a big blue Lucifer (what if it wasn’t just a mascot?). The incident left me with many questions. Does this go on at sporting events often? Do other mascots, such as the San Diego Chicken or the Phillie Phanatic or Bucky Badger, act this way? Did the parents of the children have to sign some sort of waiver to OK the placement of the whipped cream in their kids’ respective mouths? Is this a part of some sort of upside down hot fudge sundae ritual and I only caught the end of it? If an adult requests some whipped cream will the demon oblige? Am I over-reacting to this? Please help me.

Speaking of mascots, when I was 11 years old, Ribbie and Rhubarb, the furry duo that entertained between innings of Chicago White Sox games in the 1980s, appeared in my neighborhood to celebrate the opening of a bank. Dozens of children showed up to watch Comiskey Park’s very own good-will ambassadors usher in a new era of financial convenience to Downers Grove, Illinois. Many of these kids took the opportunity to get an autograph from Ribbie and/or Rhubarb. The young people (and many of their parents, mind you) waited for several minutes to have what was probably an intern in the White Sox public relations department in a purple elephant costume sign a brochure advertising a money market account or whatever other piece of paper happened to be on hand in the bank’s lobby. I didn’t get an autograph. My 8 year-old brother wanted one, but the line got long and we had to be home for lunch. I told my distressed brother that Ribbie and Rhubarb would come back to town for some other grand opening, but strip mall after strip mall opened with nary an appearance by the zany twosome. A few summers later Ribbie and Rhubarb was mysteriously disappeared from White Sox games altogether with no explanation of their absence from the team’s front office. It was like they never even existed.


Robert Recklaus

- - -

Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000
From: Tom Stanley

Dear McSweeney’s,

Sometimes, I think about Bob Beier. How is he doing? Is he doing ok? This last letter of his, it has me nervous. I tell my grandmother about Bob’s letters — the one where you pretend to be running late to help the woman who is late, the one where you propose to work in the dreams of McSweeney’s readers — I tell her about these letters, and she smiles.


So Best Regards,
Tom Stanley

- - -

From: “Sarah M. Balcomb”
Subject: this is our first experience with boredom and a nail gun, i.e. lemons taste better than a punch in the face
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I’d love a good green pen.

Why is it that bosses always have to go on and on, making you feel as dump as a tin can in a processed salmon factory, spitting out mean-spirited words you won’t be able to wipe from your head for hours or even days to come, before the inevitable firing? Isn’t being canned bad enough without all the guilt and the humiliation and the we-expected-more-from-yous? As if I didn’t get enough of that from my mother, whose tirades could last for hours while I stared blankly into her face, which looked more and more like the face of the grim reaper as I got older and my misbehavior grew more serious and threatening to the community at large (I won’t go into any unnecessary details here, but let it be said that I haven’t returned to this peaceful community in over four years, although this may be related to the fact that my parents also moved away and it’s much more convenient for my friends to visit me here in the big city), and as I gazed into in the face of death, I would repeatedly pray, “Just hit me and get it over with, a beating would be much better than this emotional torture;” plus all of my teachers from about sixth grade on up, who couldn’t seem to understand why a straight-A student (onetime Valedictorian even) couldn’t seem to stop talking during class no matter who they put her next to in the room—she’d even talk to that S.O.C. (that’s an acronym for Social Out-Cast, for those readers who didn’t grow up in my home town) in the back corner who no one talked to, the one with the greasy blond curls who always smelled like kerosene. And while listening to said ranting and raving by my soon-to-be-former boss, all I can think about is how I will never be able to find another job which provides me with the freedom to spent a large majority of my paid hours composing such rambling excuses for writing as this letter, and how once I am unemployed all my time will be spent writing such snippets which bare no prospect for capital gains; this may sound like an ideal situation, not having to even pretend to work, but without lucrative potential, said propensity for writing rambling, self-referential (dare I say solipsistic) bits of nonsense will prevent me from focusing on preparing a revised resume (which would now be oh so impressive if I did update it), much less those incorrigible cover letters (they seem so simple, but cover letters are treacherous little devils), and I will become, eventually and inevitably, that which my parents and my teachers and former bosses all predicted I would be: alone, a handful of illegitimate children all with different fathers whose last names I never knew, whose hair will always be greasy (and curly like mine, as I fear it’s the dominant gene) and reek of kerosene, the only source of fuel we can afford to heat our one-bedroom apartment by the airport, oh and they’ll have bad eyesight too, what a shame, glasses but not a brain between the eight of them (could someone please explain to me that whole glasses=smart thing; would I trade my poor eyesight for a slightly less exceptional brain?), and of course I will never receive a graduate degree. The cycle complete.

Sarah M. Balcomb

PS Ð I did not get fired this week, but proper mental preparation in next to godliness.

PPS Ð Squushy is my word for the day.

- - -

From: “Brendan O’Malley”
Subject: Career Advice
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I am writing with some career advice for the young man who recently published one of those memoir-type books, and who appears to be affiliated closely with your publication. He has no doubt earned out his advance and is now perhaps enjoying some further financial gain. I believe he should invest some of these well-deserved rewards in his future by engaging the services of either Phil Niekro or Charlie Hough so as to learn the arcane art of the knuckleball. I think he may find appealing the way in which the knuckleballer offers up his pitches, well beyond the control of his will, to the Fates.

In 1998 I witnessed a contest between the Boston Red Sox and a certain team in the South Bronx during which the humid atmospheric conditions aligned with the manipulations of the serene Tim Wakefield to make the ball dance in a most unnatural fashion, thereby utterly mystifying the opposing batters. Even the consummately professional Chili Davis struck out swinging like a Class A scrub. On other occasions, Mr. Wakefield throws what appears to be Little League batting practice, but such are the vagaries of the knuckleballer’s career.

I am not proposing some Plimpton-esque stunt (that guy’s an asshole). And I do not think this is an absurd proposition; throwing the knuckleball does not require the freakish level of athleticism that most professionals possess (and that the young author most likely does not), having more in common with the craft of a medieval artisan, passed down from master to apprentice. I am talking about really becoming a major league pitcher, not just some schmuck who dons a uniform for a day and then writes about the “experience.” He might even be able to outshine that other great media darling, Garth Brooks, by actually making the team (come to think of it, Mr. Brooks’ Chris Gaines album has a lot in common with this young man’s memoir-ish book).

I hope this potential career move will be seriously considered.


Brendan O’Malley
Brooklyn, NY

- - -

From: “Butler, Christopher (Nick Online)”
Subject: Odd Nostalgia
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

This is an open letter to my fellow aging ex-schoolyard yucksters and reformed grade school paste-eaters. This is an open letter to those who romped in Lee corduroys in the 70’s, played tag in springtime and ran screaming from all forms of the dreaded “Cootie”. I am hopeful someone out there can shed light on the origins of either of these mysterious melodies from my halcyon “nanny-nanny, poo-poo” days. I have affixed the songs hereto.

The first:

Mary Beth Feeney*
With the ten-foot weenie
She showed it to the lady next door
She thought it was a snake
So she slammed it with a rake
And now it’s only six foot, four.

And the second:

Jesus Christ! Superstar!**
Ridin’ 95 on a Yamaha!
The cops are there!
I don’t care!
I’m wearin’ bulletproof underwear!
When I die!
Bury me!
Hang my balls on a cherry tree!
When they’re ripe!
Take a bite!
I don’t care if it takes all night!

*I am reasonably certain Mary Beth Feeney was a fictional name. No disrespect intended to any real-life, genuine Mary Beths or Feeneys or Mary Beth Feeneys or, for that matter, any females/males possessing cropped genitalia. I share your pain. I mean, “FEEL.” I feel your pain.

*These exlamation points reflect that this song was always shouted rather than sung.

Whence these phallocentric ditties? Help me. Thank you.
Yours in the Atari 2600 Home Gaming System,
Christopher Butler

- - -

From: “Dave Madden”
Subject: the unbearable lightness of lucy thomas
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I’ve been hitting your site with my browser repeatedly for months now and have enjoyed everything Lucy-Thomas-oriented that has been thrown my way. Now that I’ve found myself a job that sits me at a computer that’s fast, fast—and also gives me nothing but free time to hit web pages with my browser—I have recently taken to going through your archives and reading what I’ve missed.

Lucy Thomas! Oh the cool and assured bluntness of her prose! Her knack for titling! Her sexy name!

Needless to say I need more Lucy Thomas. Please tell me where I can find it (searching for her in the depths of amazon and has produced books on Peggy Guggenheim and a book on Bryn Mawr’s archives I’m convinced was written by an old professor of mine) and when I can maybe be expecting some more stuff from her on your site (or, perhaps in the print version, which, I should mention, hasn’t arrived in the mail yet (Is there a problem with printing? with my subscription order? I feel left out from those who got to attend the readings that happened in cities bigger and more literarily important than mine own and picked up available copies)).

So yes, please tell me anything and everything you can.

Thanks and g’night,
Dave “David” Madden

- - -

Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000
From: “Carman, Sean”
Subject: A further reply to Barrodale

Dear McSweeney’s,

Last Friday I stumbled into my Elizabeth Park Georgian Colonial well after midnight, more tired than drunk from the martinis Harry kept loading onto the Arco rep’s tab, to find my second wife Mabel sitting alone with an empty Stoli bottle, staring at a lone printed page from your upstart website. Every goddamn light in the house was on. Even before I saw the bottle I knew from her blotchy cheeks and welling eyes that Mabel was long gone. It took me a second to decipher her distraught ramblings. “How could you?” she kept saying. I might have also heard the word “bastard” muffled behind her choking sobs. It wouldn’t have been the first time.

I knew the source of her anguish the moment I saw the line drawing of the antique free-standing magnifying glass on the tear-stained page she waved at me like an indictment. There a certain contributor of yours, A. Barrodale, whom I recently had the unpleasant responsibility of setting straight about the relationship between PE production and cracker nameplate specifications for overseas ethylene configurations, had responded to my correction by accusing me of intellectual property theft and a liaison with a Beaumont hooker named Jorge. Excuse the long sentences in this missive, but since this incident I’ve been quite upset.

About my time in East Texas I will only say that I don’t recall visiting Beatrice’s House of Pleasure, although I’m almost certain it had changed names by then, but I never knew any Jorge there. Plus I wouldn’t stoop to lifting the chemical formula for bromide admixture inhibition from her for a sweaty five dollars without at least enquiring about pilot test results, and it is in the omission of this last detail that Barrodale gives the game away. She can’t prove anything and she knows it. Besides, that just isn’t how we did things in those days.

But tell Barrodale I don’t begrudge her Nash’s fixation on me, nor his ill-conceived quest for revenge. I can explain it all, and may someday have to, on the stand or in the glare of some television reporter’s klieg lights. I’m tiring even as I write this. Mabel has since gone, to God knows where, leaving only a summons and a lawyer’s business card, and my explanations to the bridge club and the office pool are wearing thin. I suppose Barrodale might only have been doing her job, and that I should thank her for shedding light on the recent spate of pranks I had written off to the unruly children of my uncivilized neighbors, and for giving me a name to take to the police.

Perhaps Katy, Texas is not such a bad place, though I never had occasion to drive that way from Beaumont, and would not have done so with that cheap perfume spilling from me like a confession or a cutting remark. Perhaps though, if I am out that way again, I will look this Barrodale up. And maybe I won’t go the authorities about her boy. It sounds like he might be worth quizzing about some problems my clients have been having meeting EPA’s new concentration limits for the land disposal of benzene.

Sincerely yours,

G. Berks-Kill

P.S. Those caps Honker did? Failed after five weeks. Had to have Eco-Chem build them again from square one plus pay some white-shoe Houston firm $10,000 to tell us they were unable to serve process on the scoundrel. I hope, for your sake, you don’t regret leaving him.

- - -

Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000
From: Erik A Kraft
Subject: my week

Dear McSweeney’s,

Monday………….The death of a thousand cuts.
Tuesday………….Yes, several.
Wednesday………….Neither here not there.
Thursday………….Please be gentle.
Friday………….Sort of.

Your prompt attention to this matter is appreciated.

Erik Kraft.

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Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000
Subject: Confessions of an Eavesdropper
From: “Ed Page”

Dear McSweeney’s,

One day, several years ago, I was strolling along, fairly aimlessly, when I happened upon a bevy of women. They were casually dressed twentysomethings, and were all, I suppose, reasonably good-looking, but the thing that struck me about these women was not their looks, but rather the gusto with which they were throwing themselves into their chitchat. They all seemed to be talking at once. They would pause only to laugh, which they did frequently. As I sauntered toward them, I wondered what topic could have inspired such ebullience. So, as I passed, I couldn’t resist craning an ear in their direction, hoping to catch some clue as to their subject matter. Here, gentle reader, is the phrase that wafted its way to my outstretched ear: “I was hit in the face by a monkey in fifth grade.”

Very truly yours,

Ed Page
Seattle, WA

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From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: food writing
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

In Part 3 of Neal Pollack’s “Why Am I So Handsome?” the narrator is given an address printed on a poppy seed bagel.

This morning I discovered that something similar to this has been going on in Ohio for quite some time. In Toledo, at a street-corner hot dog shack made famous by Klinger — the cross-dressing soldier from M.A.S.H. — there is a glass case filled with hot dog buns autographed by celebrities, among them President Clinton.

Tony Packo opened this hot dog shack in 1932 and neighbors embraced his messy sausage & sauce sandwiches with open mouths. 40 years later, led by Burt Reynolds, celebrities started flocking to Toledo to sign their names on these delicious sandwiches. And the rest is history.

Tony loves talking about food and he loves eating his famous Hungarian hot dogs. He also loves to serve them just right, no mistakes. Each bun has a story — like the 1972 Burt Reynolds bun that somebody swiped. A year after it was discovered missing, the bun was back. People thought that the new bun was probably a work of forgery, most likely by Tony himself, but nobody wanted to see the old man freak out. Strange how reality and fiction seem to mirror each other so directly sometimes.


Bryce Newhart

PS. This letter was originally written in pencil on a soggy corned beef sandwich.

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Date: 13 Mar 00
From: Thomas Gibbon
Subject: My Newfound Sense of Purpose

Dear McSweeney’s,

I think this letter to my roommates explains it all:

Zbigniew and Kevin,

Having remained largely sinless, I have never coveted, I mean really coveted, anything in my life the way I do $78 million right now. I have never wanted anything quite so much as I want that luxury submarine now, except when I was a kid and wanted a luxury submarine. From now on we three work towards one goal, that luxury submarine. No beer, no cigarettes, no fancy clothes, one thing, luxury submarine. We eat sleep and breathe luxury submarine, no new apartment, no car, no books, no drugs, no cabs. And we spend all our working hours finding newer and higher paying jobs. It does not matter if we like our jobs or do not have jobs, we must get higher paying jobs. At the end of the day we should have house meeting and discuss the money we saved that day. We will eat only one meal a day, a large dinner consisting of 3 parts rice, 1 part corn, and 1 part peas, with one 1/8th ounce pat of butter and one eight-ounce glass of milk each. We will harvest our own sea-salt (and sell what we do not use). We may each have one eight-ounce glass of cranberry juice for breakfast (white-rose, not ocean spray). No Coca-Cola! No Dominos! No Fortune Garden! We do not eat lunch. Instead we find part time jobs at places that need extra lunchtime help. We spend the weekends fishing coins out of public fountains. We walk everywhere. Cancel internet, cancel phone-stop using electricity, water, heat.On the first Tuesday after a Monday of each month we must rob a bank of no less than one million dollars. On every other Grandparents’ Day we must kidnap a Colombian cyclist and hold him for $50,000 ransom. We must begin pilfering from the wallets of our families and friends. We must sell all our possessions except: one pair pants, one pair socks, two pairs underwear, one pair shoes, one overcoat, one shirt, address of luxury submarine salesman. We must sell atlases, inflatable mattresses, silverware, that ripe avacado in the fridge, our blood, our semen, our skin.

On a personal note, I need this luxury submarine. Look, let’s be honest, my life has been kind of a wash. Sure, I’ve had my high-points, but they were fleeting and ill-appreciated (by me), I’ve never lived up to my potential. I don’t have what it takes to achieve happiness and satisfaction in life, I’m just not cut out for this late capitalist world. But maybe, just maybe, with the help of a couple of beautiful, crazy bastards I do have what it takes to live on a 200 ft. luxury submarine.

I estimate this project will take at least six months.

Your roommate,

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From: “McCarthy, Ann”
Subject: 360 questions
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

There are several (or possibly only a few, we will see which shortly) I want to ask Eric McHenry, or his legal representative. Or his foul doppleganger, if he has one. Whichever.

1. Did he learn the word antidisestablishmentarianism from the movie SLC Punk!? (incidentally, if a movie title ends in an exclamation point, is it okay just to follow it right up with a question mark? When italics are impossible, how does one indicate that one is not, in fact, both curious and excited, but rather a curious girl asking a question about an excited movie?) If so, would he agree that Matthew Lillard has hideously hideously betrayed the implicit promise he made when he started drooling in Scream? Does he know what that promise is?

2. Is that Eric McHenry qua Eric McHenry in the BU catalog, where it says Eric McHenry? I think it is. If so, does he like BU? Well, I guess I actually just had a COUPLE of questions, unless you count question #1 as five questions, which it’s only right you should.


P.S. While I will not be upset at receiving no response, I will be highly highly peeved and hardly amused at all if the response is like this: Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. Yes. Yes. Or any other combination of those two monosyllables. These were meant to be discussion questions. Brief aswers would—clearly!—be quite the predictable move.

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From: “Robert Beier”
Subject: From your office correspondent
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

If you are rich things are easier. If you are rich you don’t have to:
Do your laundry
Raise your children
Take the subway
Deal with crowds (Except if you’re being picketed or stalked by the poor.)
Impress anyone (Most people are simply enamoured with large amounts of money. You could have leprosy and be the life of the party if wealthy enough and the party throwers poor enough.)
Walk (This is for the fabulously wealthy or extravagant. It’d be interesting being carried around on a litter. People would be impressed. They’d correctly assume that your wealth was immense. Only the immensely wealthy can make people act like pack mules.)
Wait in line (Except at fancy restaurants where the famous and wealthy eat. Places like Nobu in New York. The place to eat sushi.)

I called Nobu to get reservations. I am not wealthy or famous. How did I fare? I called on Tuesday. My lady’s birthday was on Saturday. This is how it went:

Phone ringing. A girl answers the phone and quickly says “Please hold.”
(I wait and wait for 20 minutes.)
Shi-shi girl: Can I help you?
Me: Yes, I’d like to make a reservation.
Shi-shi girl: When would you like it for?
Me: Do you have anything open for this Saturday?
Shi-shi girl: Laughs
Me: --
Shi-shi girl: Our next table is available 3 months from now.
Me: What if you’re important?
Shi-shi girl: What?
Me: (In a sudden flash of bravado and inspiration.) Well, I know that we’re all important, but I am calling to make a reservation for (insert the name of any famous person, I used Mel Gibson.)
Shi-shi girl: Wait one moment.
Me: (Wait 4 seconds.)
Shi-shi girl: We do have a table for two open. Is 9 o.k.?
Me: Let me ask him. (Cover hand over phone for 10 seconds or so.) Yes, that’s fine.
Shi-shi girl: Take this number to call and confirm the day before.
Me: All right. Thanks. Friday
Me: (Dialing super secret number. The phone rings twice and someone picks up.)
Shi-shi Man: Nobu
Me: Hi, I am calling to change a reservation. Mr. Gibson has a table reserved for 9 tomorrow. An emergency came up and he can’t make it but he’d like to give his table to Robert Beier, his nephew.
Shi-shi Man: All right.
Me: Thanks.

And that’s that. Sometimes it’s better to be clever than rich. We enjoyed our meal of raw delights. I was feeling ever so clever the whole time. When I received the bill I stopped feeling clever. I felt poor, oh so very, very poor. It was at this point that I decided it might be better to be rich than clever. Sometimes being clever can put one in situations one shouldn’t be in.

Robert Beier

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From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: Question
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, can I get it wholesale?


Mike Topp

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From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: French Style
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 vv

Dear McSweeney’s,

There’s a classic Western movie where a cowboy says, “Gimme a shot of red-eye,” and the French subtitle reads, “Un Dubonnet, s’il vous plait.”

All my best,

Mike Topp