I started out tonight sensibly. No drinking. Sensible food. Some exercise. Even a nap at around 7:00. Yet I have somehow wound up here in the living room at 1:56 a.m. typing to you again. Listening to a satellite somewhere out in orbit sending me country songs about earthbound drinkers and petty thieves taking it on the chin, mostly in regard to rather average matters of the heart. Men singing about things that, frankly, I think they could solve or simply ignore like the rest of us. But they are wasting the limited time we all have on planet Earth by rhyming words like broken with spoken, eyes with apologize, or please with knees. And phrases such as “making love and drinking Puerto Rican rum” make clear their lack of understanding that life is short, and soon enough they’ll be in the sky, even closer to the satellite broadcasting these songs. So I have just switched the music to Nappy Roots in order to break the strange suburban spell of these tough-sounding, soft white men whimpering about love fading at what honestly strikes me as a perfectly acceptable rate for love to fade.

Ah, but now Nappy Roots. A perfect antidote.
I wish to God I could say this and mean it, but instead I just kind of mouth it:

My first rhyme was, like, forty-eight bars with no hook
You hear me flippin out the pages of my favorite notebook
The microphone was in the closet
No headphones we lost them
Niggas scared to get some water
Roaches hanging over the faucet.

The fact of the matter is I sit here in New York City, writing. And I am somewhere dead-center between the blubbering middle-aged country singers and the heartfelt truth of hip-hop. The good part about all of this is that you have questions about paper, and I sit here with a treasure trove of advice on paper and paper-related products. So let’s rock the mailbag, if you will.


The only solution is Penis Enlargement. LIMITED OFFER: Add at least 3 INCHES or get your money back! We are so sure our product works we are willing to prove it by offering a free trial bottle!

Ina Kaufman

Oh, man. I’ve been laughing at this reader’s letter for the last twenty minutes. Oh, this is classic. Okay, let me try to reply to this guy.


(Laughing. Can’t even start my reply.)

Okay, Sir…
(Totally cracking up at this guy. Oh, man. Okay… Oh, god. Classic.)

Well, Sir…
Let me kind of give you a hand here and explain how the column works. First of all, I’m the one with the answers. I’m the expert, and the idea is that you write to me with the problem and I write back with the solution. And second, this column is about paper problems. Not penis problems. So, first of all, your opening line exclaims that you have a solution for me. And then, even if I kind of go, “Well, okay… I use a lot of paper products and I probably already know about whatever solution he’s talking about, but I’ll just be open to reading his letter because maybe I can pass it along to other readers or something.” So, even if I do that and decide to look past the fact that you’re opening line is putting the cart before the horse, the very next thing you blurt out is that you would like to make my penis longer! Is there a paper-related problem here, sir? Maybe one that you’re too embarrassed to ask me about? I mean, that’s the only thing I can think of. Like maybe you’re trying to make some business cards and you’re debating between an understated watermarked forty-pound beige linen stock and a flashier sixty-pound white gloss card stock, and you’re feeling like since you’re a man you should know more about what kind of impression your business card should make. And since you’re beating yourself up for not being the kind of man who knows what he wants, you run in here yelling about how you can make my penis longer and give me money and all of this other stuff. Do you see how you’re covering up the real problem? I can’t help you until you get honest and tell me the problem you’re having with paper or paper-related products. I never thought I’d have to write this next line in the course of writing my column, but… Let’s take the focus off of my penis and put it on you. (The focus.)

Dear Dan Kennedy the Paper Expert,

What do you think about pink paper?

Nishant Dhawan

Let me tell you exactly what I think about it. Hang onto what some (me) might call your pink-paper years, Nishant. The years before one starts kneeling to the altar of sensible résumé stock and the Crane’s six-by-five thank-you cards in gray or beige. Cards that ache to scream, “I am elegant and well mannered” in the subtext of whatever diluted and kind words you write to last night’s host or a holiday’s semi-anonymous potential love-interest. Let me tell you a story about what can happen after the pink-paper years slip away, hoping to tighten your embrace on those charmed days.

My sister was here for Thanksgiving. We all played Boggle, this word game. And she was incredible at this game. I mean really good.

Like, Rain Man—good.

Like, “Village-blacksmith-bumps-head-and-enters-mild-trance-then-composes-sonata-in-G-Minor-for-thirty-six-piece-orchestra-and-has-no-recollection-of-proceeding-to-conduct-piece-at-amphitheater-in-Rome-to-unprecedented-critical-acclaim” type of good at this Boggle game. And she is older than I, so of course I always have it in me that I have to win and be as good as my older sibling. I even have a way of spinning my ugly competitive nature to read like it’s her problem that she is very good at something like a word game. But back in the days when my sister’s room was filled with things like Bay City Rollers 45s, pink paper, red envelopes, calligraphy pens, and secret diaries and Nancy Drew books, this kind of magic would have been celebrated by me as well as by her. She and I would have charged neighborhood kids a dollar to see her rack up fifty points in only two hands of this Boggle game. In front of paying audiences, I would have made the shaking of the lettered dice into something of great pageantry while she concentrated and got ready to write all of the words only she could seem to see. We would have put some kind of spin on it, too—like we did with the Ouija board. We might have told the neighborhood kids that Trish was controlled by dead Indians when she was playing Boggle, or something supernatural like that in order to boost ticket sales.

But inside we would have known she was simply really smart, and we would have been grateful for that and in awe of this Boggle situation. But the pink-paper days are behind us and now and I just analyze her Thanksgiving victories. I forgot to be in awe. I was blind to magic and instead got hung up on finding a game that we could all be good at. I said things like, “Oh, you only want to play Boggle because you win every game by a margin of 80 percent.” It was wrong. I treated her like a beige-paper corporate titan that I had to con or conquer, instead of like the pink-paper girl who would listen to records and write in a diary bound by red covers. When she gets on a plane to leave New York City, I think the first thing I have to do is send her a note on a Crane’s six-by-five (acid-free bond) note card. Something that says it was good to see her. And of course, I would be hoping that the subtext of the understated gray or beige forty-pound acid-free card stock somehow retracted my cold analysis of her Boggle scores and conveyed something big and honest and acid-free from me. And that it said something about that game that it is really too late for me to say.

Okay, that’s all for now. I’m afraid pills and cherry cola have gotten the best of me again.

—Dan Kennedy, Paper Expert