ODDLY PROPORTIONED HEAVY-METAL BABIES, THE OL’ DEADLY MIX OF USING PAPER TO SAIL ACROSS LAKE ERIE, THE SECRET TO MAKING A MILLION DOLLARS, AND A REMINDER ABOUT A VERY SPECIAL SOMEONE’S BOUT WITH SEMI-ADDICTIVE DIET PILLS AND COCKTAILS 2-GO® PIÑA COLADAS.
It’s pretty early in the afternoon, and I’m trying to keep it together in a public place while I write to you. But Jesus, I woke up so strangely late today, 1:30 in the afternoon, and sleep was like being trapped in an Indian sweat lodge of psychotic peyote dreams.
I finally woke up tangled in sheets and broke out of that mess. But you can’t just wake up and then stumble into a public place to write an Internet-based paper-advice column only moments after having a vivid, terrifying dream wherein you had a baby that was exactly the size of an action figure and had a rugged middle-aged face, like a Ken doll, and all it did in its crib (shopping basket from the grocery store) was rock its head and arms in various heavy-metal gestures. And get this: people had to act like the baby—this action-figure-sized aged concert hooligan—was cute! I stared at one person and said, “All of my work has been stored in the form of a bouillon cube,” and I have no idea what to make of that. I’m not one of those people who analyze their dreams; I simply wake up and run out of the bedroom looking over my shoulder and hoping to Christ that none of it was real.
Right, so keep in mind, that’s the little alcohol-free, drug-free slumber I just escaped from, only to walk in here to this place called the Writers Room, put headphones on, and try to act reasonably adjusted. I still see the baby-man in front of me when I squint through my glasses. I was asleep only 20 minutes ago. I’m silently falling in love with someone to the left of me, based solely on the way she types. Steal a look at her and wonder if she’s noticed me. Turn back and squint at my computer screen real quick. Dear God, it’s the heavy-metal baby again with his heart-wrenching dimensions and face that speaks of experience beyond a baby’s years. If my girlfriend is pregnant this month, it will be chilling news.
Look, while it’s clear there’s something wrong with me, I advise you not to get up on your high horse, as you’ve written me for a reason: you have problems, too. Problems with paper and paper-related products. Well, no problem. I’m here for you.
From: Andrew C. Newby
Subject: Paper Boat
I just read about this bloke, an English bloke to be precise, who “sailed” 160 miles down the River Thames in a canoe made entirely of paper (A3 and A4). Broke some sort of a world record. So I figured I would show this bloke what a real paper boat can do. This is where you come in. I am going to row across Lake Erie in a paper skiff. Do you have any suggestions on a type or types of paper that might keep me afloat?
Hi, Andrew Newby—
I’ve got a great paper suggestion for you: first, grab some of that really elegant Hammermill Arctic White 24# stock. Next, write your will on that stock, being sure not to mention my name, McSweeney’s, Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, or any people or subsidiaries affiliated with myself or this website. I might mention that there’s a trend these days toward raised black thermographic printing on formal documents. I can’t say enough good about how this thermographic process classes up a job at a fraction of the cost of engraving or embossing.
From: Nicole Garbarini
Subject: Paper problem
Back in mid-November, I was on my fifth or sixth attempt rolling up a poster (approx 48″ × 60″, and glossy) to fit it into a cardboard tube (1.5" diameter, approximately). Curious as to your background in paper handling, I typed your name in Google, then weeded out the not-likely-to-be-writing-for-McSweeney’s Dan Kennedys. I hope I got the right one. I’m still unclear on your paper-handling credentials.
First order of business: yes, you got the right one. There’s a fine gentleman up in Boston who covers media and politics, I think. And there’s a Dan Kennedy in Arizona who promises to make you a millionaire in about two and a half business days, more or less, if you fork over a substantial fee to hunker down in the conference room of a Ramada Inn somewhere near Phoenix or Dayton or wherever and listen to the marketing secrets that generate millions of dollars for people every day (?). Fortunately for people like you and me, Nicole, we understand that men in Ramada Inns promising to change our lives forever are usually the ticket to either heartbreak, petty crime, or long-term respiratory difficulties … or, in all too many cases, all three. Truth is, I, Dan Kennedy, can’t teach you how to make millions. I’ve lost more of my own money and the money of others than I care to add up for dramatic effect. However, I have to say—and this just came to me—I like the idea of being locked in the conference room of a Ramada Inn with the likes of you and the others who e-mail me here. I’m not talking about collecting a fee on the hollow promise of telling you the secret that will make you all millionaires. I’m talking about a gathering of people brave enough to sit at a chain motel’s long walnut-veneer table, drinking pitchers of cool, clear ice water, and admitting with confidence that, as frightening as it is to face, there are no secrets. For instance, the secret to making a million dollars is simply to work your ass off at something you’re good at. (No charge for that one, you guys.)
Second order of business: my credentials. I don’t like to flaunt it, but when I’m confronted, I get like a cornered animal and tend to drop this little bomb, as I have before in this forum: Be well-advised that my sister worked as a part-time administrative assistant at a popular manufacturer of paper and paper products in the early ‘80s before a small bout with addictive diet pills and Cocktails 2-GO® forced her to (gladly and gracefully) bow out of the rat race. But before I get carried away about how much I learned from her, you’ve got a 48″ × 60″ glossy poster that you’ve been trying to fit into a tube since the tail end of last year. There’s an old saying in the paper business: “Roll it tight and cram it in.” The only caveat to that saying is “… so long as the edge never dents and shelf wear doesn’t occur.” An old man named Cyril used to say it. He never added the caveat. He had a moped and worked part-time with my sister, and I would imagine he’s passed on by now.
Subject: your last column
I thought the column was supposed to be solving problems with paper and not paper problems solved—is this a new direction you’ve decided to go in? If so, where do you see yourself taking it?
Sir, I don’t know what weighs heavier on my heart—the fact that I’m a 38-year-old man who writes an Internet advice column for people having difficulties with stationery and common office products, or the fact that there’s somebody out there who has seen fit to take me to task on said Internet advice column. With all due respect, can you see the shape I’m in here? I’m a grown man who sleeps fitfully, and my heart belongs to strangers who have made use of my e-mail address. Where do I see myself taking it? I see myself taking it anywhere it can get me, sir. More to the point, is there a problem with paper I can help you solve, or a paper problem solving … paper … not problems solved … or whatever you were saying? Can I help you?
You know where to find me when you’re ready to take a look at things—