I will move quickly through the formalities and straight to the first letter in the mail bag. In other words, I won’t be spending time stuttering through recent recollections of judgmental family members telephoning me with barbed comments about my physical fitness and grooming habits, often with closing comments something like the following:

“It’s just a movie. George Burns is George Burns and God is God. Period.”


“Lose weight.”

Or also:

“You may not know it, but that type of hairstyle sends a message to homosexuals, and you’re going to find yourself in a very awkward situation.”

Which brings us to paper, and the problems people continue to have with it.

- - -

From: Ben Breakstone
Subject: Problems with paper and spelling

Dear Expert on Problems with Paper,

Stationery, not stationary. That is to say, “paper for writing letters,” rather than “remaining in place.” Surely you wouldn’t want your credentials to be called into doubt by a simple homonym.

Helpfully yours,
Ben Breakstone

Lately, I’ve been a little too worried about personal problems — my inconsistent diet, my semi-monthly tendon-damaging attempts at exercise, and the subliminal homosexual social cues apparently being put forth by my hair color and style — to have caught this error in spelling, so I thank you, Bill. One would think I knew the difference between remaining in place at a standstill, and the paper one writes letters on. I hope that when I recommended good “stationary” to readers, I didn’t encourage folks to plant a firm foot into the slippery emotional quagmire of their small or slow day-to-day lives and anchor in for a long haul of standing still. On the off chance that is the case, rest assured that the ability to stay in one place for a long time is one of the secrets to success.

- - -

From: Michudy Trichoi
Date: Wed, 30 Jul 2003 11:01:14 EDT
Subject: magic

Dearest Paper Expert,

I have read your paper column and I am afraid I’ve fallen in love with you. What kind of paper, pray tell, would you suggest I use to pen a love letter (to you)?

Michudy Trichoi

Well, Mi… ch… Michu. Michu… dy… Well…you. Firstly, let me say that I am flattered and that I probably hold more paper and paper product credentials than the men you’re used to being lovers with. So, not only am I now your lover, but I am giving you this advice regarding paper used in a love situation:

In the late eighties I somehow managed to lurch, drag, and roll my way into the life of a woman eight years my senior — a heavy smoker with very dry hands and whose hair smelled of fast food and the stale home permanent treatments she bought for dimes on the dollar at the estate sale of her drinking buddy named Mitch… look, none of this is important. It’s not important if he was her lover while I thought she and I had an understanding of some sort. What’s important is that this was the first time I ever thought I was in love. And so, I wrote notes to her telling her how one day I would find a hypo-allergenic moisturizer that would heal the small stinging cracks in the crotches between her thumb and index finger, allowing me to comfortably hold her hand and take her to dinner someplace, should she get over her fear of leaving the rented room we shared in the boarding house above The Kit Kat lounge. Anyway… I was twenty-one at the time and pretty happy to not be alone.

In other words, I was stealing product from my paper manufacturer warehouse job pretty regularly and had snuck home a remainder box lot of Fox River Capitol Bond with a nice understated brightness (84) on a beige tone mainstock with maybe a 30% cut of white cotton linen added as a kicker. Using this paper, I write a little note essentially saying that I’ve fallen in love with her. She takes it, feels the paper and says something to the extent of (and I’m paraphrasing here) ’I’m really fond of paper with a linen cut and reduced glare mainstock… but it’s difficult for me to read this given the dim shine from our single, 40-watt bulb. Would you mind reading it to me?’ Like I said, time has healed the wound and it’s hard to remember her exact words. Actually, I think she said, “What the hell is this? I don’t need a love letter, I need somebody who’ll run to Ray’s Deli and get me Newports.” Weeks later in an unrelated incident, she won a small claims civil suit against the city and we decided it would be best to break up while she got used to her new lifestyle of having some money.

The point that I’m making, maybe a bit too obviously, is that you should use any paper you’re comfortable writing with, but be sure to stay with a pretty high brightness (90-100) and stick with something that has a good alkaline level for archival purposes. I’ve still got my note, thanks to Fox River’s high archival standards.