Oh, man. I just watched this special on HBO; this thing where a camera crew followed a gaggle of hard-living lovers, all hooked on smack and crack cocaine. They would spend their downtime sweating and cursing, or maybe walking around in a small, fast line of weaving, hurried steps, occasionally erupting into spasms of screeches and weird faces, sometimes at passersby, sometimes just at their own reflections. And to make ends meet, they’d hop into four-door sedans and minivans to relieve bored and guilty-looking New Jersey househusbands of their weekly hand-job money. I can’t help you if that’s the shape you’re in, but if you’ve got a paper problem, I’m your man.

- - -

From: Dana Christiansen
Date: March 22, 2005 9:55:42 PM EST
To: Dan Kennedy (Paper Expert)
Subject: My Problem with Paper

Dear Dan:

I love Rhodia notepads. They come in perfect sizes for phone messages, grocery lists, and meeting notes. They have a bright orange cover. They make me feel exceptional, equipped with the finest tool for the job at hand. So what’s the problem? Simply this: I love my Rhodia pads so much that I covet my pads, I hoard them. I think I’m more in love with the idea of Rhodia pads than their actual use. So I hardly ever actually use what I truly love.

Can you help?

Dana Christiansen
Iowa City, IA
(319) xxx-xxxx

Dana, I love the fact that you’ve included your phone number in your e-mail to me. I don’t think you realize how close you are, right now, to me calling your house at 3:10 a.m. so that somebody there can talk me down after watching this HBO thing. Actually, let’s just assume I’ll wind wind up calling you in the next hour, and we’ll address your problem when I call. Also, I am stunned to see that in their catalog, Rhodia describes their line of notepads in terms that, in a chilling coincidence, would also serve as a fitting summary of my career thus far: “A favorite with artists, designers, and even scientists, this little square has something of a cult following.”

All right, I’ll give you a ring when I’m done going through these other letters.

- - -

From: Ryan Krausmann
Date: January 6, 2005 1:59:31 PM EST
To: Dan Kennedy
Subject: You’re back!

Dear Dan:

Good to have you back from retirement. My problem with paper is this: I had a day-to-day calendar called “The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy” from which I read the question of the day out loud to my co-workers in the surrounding cubes. Unfortunately, after a brief Internet search, it became apparent that the publishers did not make a 2005 edition. Alas, my colleagues are saddened that I can’t deliver a question of the day.

Ryan Krausmann

Yeah … my retirement, well, then my sudden unretirement, all of it confused a few readers. But I am back. It’s like I’d never gone away. I know I had said a lot of grandiose things like that it’s better to burn out than fade away. But then I had a few months of aimless days spent mostly gaining weight and reading junk mail, and I thought to myself, “You know something … it might actually be better to fade away, as opposed to burning out like I was saying.” Anyway … listen, I think it speaks volumes that 2005 was the year they decided to stop making a calendar that has anything to do with cultural literacy, Ryan. What about starting your days in 2005 by quizzing co-workers on popular hip-hop feuds, new subgenres of pornography, or the status insecurity that haunts our middle class?

- - -

From: Sara Kay Knicely
Date: March 31, 2005 10:29:32 PM EST
To: Dan Kennedy
Subject: legit question

Scented paper … yea or nay?
(If “yea,” which scents?)

Sara Kay Knicely


Scented papers are a big yes. Finding the good stuff, however, is another story. The only scents that seem to mean much of anything in correspondence are Sofa, Somewhat Self-Destructive Optimism, Mild Regret, Love, Airport Lounge, Found Money, Narrow Escape, Warehouse, Stale Faith, Determination, and Winter Morning Gasoline. All difficult to find, I can tell you. All anyone seems to keep in stock are the three popular ones: Tame Choice, Fear, and Sensibly Insured.

OK, off to try and sleep with hopes of dreaming of favorite rivers and Montana instead of those dope-sick lovers, crossing their eyes and wiggling their tongues about in schizophrenic anticipation of a fix.