If I could talk to aliens with a ham-radio enthusiast, I would key the mike and scream something like, “We are a nation of people who throw away our plastic to-go-food containers and then buy them right back again on infomercials that slap a fancy name like ‘Snap and Go Freshware 3000!’ on the side of them.”

Goddamn, did that make any sense? I gotta reel it in. Maintain a little bit so I don’t tip off the squares and stiffs. I’ve had too many venti lattes, just so you know. I went downstairs for a grande about an hour ago, and I just now went right back down and ordered up Sister Venti.

And it. Is. Blowing. My. Mind. Up.

Look, I know one thing: that I’ve got a pretty sweet resumé when it comes to using paper and paper-related products. And I know I can use my experience to help you with your paper problems. Wait, that’s two things and I said I only know one thing. One thing … ning, ning, ing, ling, ting, ching, ring, na-na-na-na-na. This stuff is rocking me. OK, enough of the mumbo jumbo.

As my Aunt Carol used to say when she drank in hopes of cheering herself up during the divorce, “Let’s get a little nutty and jazz things up!”


- - -

From: Jeffrey Robertson Alford
Date: February 1, 2005
To: Dan Kennedy (McSweeney’s)
Subject: Problem with paper.

Dear Mr. Kennedy,

Am I the only one who blows my nose on loose-leaf lined paper when I cannot find a tissue? Although it might hurt, it beats wiping your snot on a sleeve or sock. Why can’t more paper be more nose-friendly?

Please advise,
Jeffrey R. Alford

Firstly, no you’re not. Comfort yourself with knowing that. Yes, you might be the only one admitting it. On the Internet. With your first and last name signed to it, making it possible for potential employers or a bored ex-girlfriend to find your name in cyberspace tied to this note about your little situation. But I am glad you brought it up. I’m glad you’re kind enough to share this with us. And you have nothing to be afraid of, because:

1. The ex won’t care, as exes know far worse about most of us. Oh, there’s the old “He cries when he watches Andy Griffith!” Or what about “He thinks dead Indians and vaudeville comedians speak through him!” That’s what a friend of mine’s ex says. About him, not me, obviously. He is a friend of mine. My point is, the ex is no problem.

2. And sure, the potential employer might refrain from giving you the good stationary with your name embossed on it. He might be thinking, “Jesus, 3 cents a sheet for 40 lb. Strathmore acid-free archival-quality linen stock and a four-color embossed logo, all so the new genius in sales can blow his fricking nose all over it while he sits in there surfing the Internet?” They see you doing it ONCE and suddenly Offices Services won’t bring you anything but notepads of 15 lb. Hammermill 80 percent postconsumer scratch paper, which will leave you with a cut, scratched, cracked, and stinging beak the first time you try to blow your nose on it to save a trip all the way to the bathroom. Next thing you know, the rumors will grow waaaay out of proportion over your three-year employment at the company, with interns believing you urinate in empty Diet Pepsi cans so you can stay in your office and continue talking on the phone to friends. That’s what happened to that friend of mine I was talking about. But it’s not like you’ll get fired for that.

- - -

From: Garrett Palm
Date: February 2, 2005
To: Dan Kennedy
Subject: Question About Paper!

Dear Dan,

I need help. I’ve been trying to make an origami girlfriend, but the directions are confusing because I can’t read ancient Chinese. Please help! Can you also help me make her a living, intelligent being that likes Woody Allen? I’m desperate!

Garrett Palm

There’s no way to make a human being out of paper. God. This is what I’m talking about. I have nothing more than a high-school education and I’m helping these college geniuses find some pretty obvious solutions to their problems. On The Apprentice this season, these aged high-school graduates are stealing victory after victory from an opposing team of college-educated lawyers and cash-rich upper-middle-class degenerates. And on the show last night, Trump was like, “Well, you’re lawyers and Ivy League graduates and you’re constantly getting beat by the team who only have high-school educations. They’re getting all the money.” And I was like, “Oooh, snap!” and holding my hand up waiting for my girlfriend to high-five it. But then I remembered that she has this great college education. So I kind of had to reel it in a little bit. But anyway, listen, dude: Pick a girl, introduce yourself, then get yourself to one of these specialty paper shops. Buy the pink or red stuff that’s about 80 percent silk with dried flowers smashed into it, write something clumsy and brief about love on a piece of it, stuff it into the matching envelope, put on a T-shirt you’ve already worn for a day (don’t even question how well this works, the lived-in T-shirt), and be all, “I … here’s a little … well, it’s sort of dumb, but I wrote this kind of … I don’t know … poem.” When she’s all taken aback, sort of act like you think the whole situation is a little bit Gaylord. That drives them crazy somehow. I can’t believe you were trying to turn the actual paper into a girl.

- - -

From: Sebastian Gallese
Date: February 1, 2005
To: Dan Kennedy
Subject: My Paper Has A Problem With Me

Salutations, Dan:

I often pass notes to my high-school sweetheart in hopes that she may laugh and think of me in an inappropriate manner for a few seconds. Over the past week, the letters have failed to garner any favorable response, just a few muffled grunts and an unforgiving smirk. I knew where to place blame first. The paper.

To be honest with you, Dan, I don’t even know an attractive girl that would want to develop a serious relationship with a man that utilizes wide-rule. So I tried the next step up. But to my dismay, not even college-rule cut it for this firecracker of a lady. So, I started using the highest quality Blueprint Sketch/Drafting Paper No. 4000HP-40 (100 percent New Cotton Fiber, standard 8.5″ × 11″), and still nothing.

Nobody ever chose to be a virgin in high school, but this is definitely looking like my only option. Help!

Well, Sebastian, you sound like a good guy with some heart. And you’ve got one hell of a name. I mean that in a good way. My middle name is Sebastian. Where I grew up, I paid dearly for that from grades three through nine, but starting in about my sophomore year of high school, that middle name started to become something of a secret weapon.

“That’s really your middle name? That’s so cool.”


“I really meant what I said about your incredible middle name. I hope we can still be friends, and maybe even have sex again.”

Repeat scenario ad infinitum until the bitter day when I graduated from high school and realized my middle name’s stock would plummet in community colleges and entry-level cubicles for the next decade. I now understand why parents were crying at graduation, Sebastian. Christ above, do I understand.

Listen, could I hook you up right now with a paper product that I wished TO GOD I knew about when I was your age? A note card or stationery that could literally change your love life overnight? Yes, I could. And look, when I was your age, I always said that when I turned into one of those 30-something guys like I am now, I would be one of the cool ones. I would remember where I came from. I would be the one who wasn’t like the other adults. But time has its way with all of us, Sebastian, and here’s the paper advice I have for you:

Get your hands on a stack of whatever paper teachers ask for assignments on these days—unless you beam them in on lasers or something by now—and get your homework done. Keep your mind off the sex, and the beer, and ramming Butch’s Vega wagon up against the doors of the 7-Eleven on First Avenue, and draining the pool at the weird old man’s house down by the Burger King so you and your friends can skate it, and stealing kegs of beer from Village Liquors and then running from the cops and having to get nine stitches in your chin when you trip and fall face down on pavement, and crashing Chris’s brand-new ATV into a tree by Paul’s house and getting 21 stitches in your head, etc. You are not fooling me, young man. I know what you’re doing, because I’ve done some of the very same things. Look, legally you can’t even have sex until you’re 30. I am already in contact with your parents regarding your letter, and we are working together to have you arrested as a preventive measure that you will thank us for later. Sorry you had to be Scared Straight™ with Tough Love®, but I see a lot of myself in you, Sebastian.