Good day! And welcome to the column where you get the answers you need about paper and paper-related products! I hope it’s as fun to read as it is to play host to your curiosity about paper products. Le-e-e-e-e-t-t-t’s do some paper talk! (Just trying that out.)

Disclaimer: I don’t have any idea what to do with myself most nights. There are periods when the bills are paid and I’ve got some time and you’ll find me either making really routine visits to the West Coast, or sorting pens from burnt matchsticks in the kitchen drawer. And something like the dried branches of cherry blossom in the bedroom down the hall will tip my obsession with time and death that has come out of nowhere in the last five years. And I panic for a minute and all I want are fecund maidens eager for my seed, so that somebody I love outlives me. Well … we all know that’s not true, and that I would run if even only one fecund maiden tried to lay plans to harvest life. We know this because in the summer I go to Sweden and stay at the Grand Hotel, which looks out over the small café on a peninsula where my girlfriend’s grandfather proposed to her grandmother generations ago. And I look out the window, then I do math about my age—I think of all of it and become so deeply afraid I can’t even say anything. I shudder. I look away … I feel the weight of time, and do my little flinch that I think I hide. Where was I? Oh, right … so, if you’ll lend me your paper-related problem, I’ll do my best to make it a thing of the past.

God knows I’ve got a knack with the past …

Dear Dan,

Sometimes I enjoy writing on black paper. Now, I know there is such a thing as Wite-Out, but where is the Black-Out? It’s not like I’m some sort of writing god that never makes mistakes. What would you suggest?

Chris Vaughn

Chris, don’t be so hard on yourself and right off the bat preclude yourself from being some sort of writing god, because, frankly, right about now I’m looking for a god and you’ll do just fine in this pinch. And secondly, kudos to you for using the phrases “It’s not like I’m some sort of writing god” and “Black-Out” outside the context of a rehab memoir. Jesus, I think I drifted off for, like, ten minutes between typing that last sentence and then getting started on the one you’re reading now. I’m on a fistful of over-the-counter pills and syrups for a cold I caught last week in Los Angeles. So, I was drifting off just now and I was going, “Yes, but what if? What if Chris wrote a rehab memoir? Maybe he’s not been to rehab, though. That would be a problem for the genre, wouldn’t it? Well, what’s to stop him from a novel, though?” And I really spent some time thinking about your situation. Chris, listen to me … SNAP out of it, whatever you’re on or into. Write. This. Rehab. Memoir. The one you mention over and over again in your letter. And do it in blackest ink on your favorite black paper. I might suggest ArtKraft® black fade-resistant in packs of fifty until you’ve gotten it all out of your system. Three packs? Four? Five? That’s a question only you can answer. Don’t be a hero, though, Chris. Nobody likes that guy when he shares with the group. Don’t sit there making stuff up about stealing from your pastor’s wallet to “cop a bag” in a Wal-Mart parking lot and about how your wife “got you some money from her johns” toward the end of your downward spiral. Just because you’ve got another fifty sheets to go and you’re out of material for this thing doesn’t mean you can unload anything so far from the truth on your readers. Here’s another tip, free of charge: put it out with just a BLACK cover. No words. Nothing. Take that, Beatles/EMI licensing outside of the continental United States/Michael Jackson/Jackson Entertainment for all U.S. permissions/Capitol Records Group/administered by ASCAP, BMI!

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Paper Guy:

I am the director of marketing for a restaurant. I’m looking for good, quality paper with a food-themed watermark. Any ideas or suggestions?

Steak, Shrimp, Pasta & Beer

With a pretty name like Aimee so closely followed by the words Steak, Shrimp, Pasta, and Beer, I would wager to say you’re already married. Nabbed up quickly by one the hometown boys, right? Who is this guy? Dammit, Aimee, do I have to come right out and say it? You’ve got me doodling the name Aimee Steak Shrimp Pasta Beer-Kennedy over and over again on a notepad here at my desk, daydreaming of what it would look like on our joint-checking-account statement or on the stationery you use to send out news about our little family. Oh, fine. Forget it. Stick it out with him, whoever he is. And if he ever fails you, write me on DuraBond Summer Themes (Cookout ST112) 40-lb. nonglare white bond. It’s multipurpose, works well in ink-jet or laser printers, and it’s got the watermark you’re looking for. But I swear to God you’re looking for more than a watermark in the end of this. And it’s breaking my heart tonight.

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Dear Dan,

My cousin and I have a long-standing disagreement on the merits of paper and, in particular, letter writing. He insists that paper has no place in this electronic age. What would you say to someone so cynical and obviously lacking in understanding?


Oh, man. Where do they grow these guys? Men scare me and I am one of them. Fight this guy all the way, Anita. Fight him with complete abandon, like you’re in a Lifetime-network movie about a women’s prison and you’re the one crazy inmate who isn’t afraid of the wardens. Or like you’re in a nasty, all-Chicano girl gang with a name like Middle Side Loco Widows. Let me tell you something: I grew up around this family called Santos in a really tough part of Garden Grove, California. And you know what? You didn’t walk up to Juanita Santos and go (making my voice like a stupid guy’s voice), “Um … hi … paper has no place in the electronic age.” She’d be like, “Don’t you know I’m loco?” and next thing you know Mister Anti-paper would have his ass kicked from here to and back again. Those were the days. That’s when truth reigned. My sister could hold Santos off, though. Not too shabby for Trish Kennedy, right? Seriously. She wasn’t all butch about it or anything, either. She read Seventeen and Cosmopolitan, had a tan, and crushes on Bowie and Frampton, but she could definitely cover you to get down that block and past the Santos house if you needed it. Hey, maybe we should get my sister to handle Mister Paper-doesn’t-have-a-place-in-an-electronic-age. If it turns out this is the guy that’s married to Aimee Pasta Salad Cake and Yoo-hoo, I’ll take him down myself. That’d be me killing two birds with one stone, wouldn’t it? But getting back to your letter, I guess the most powerful position and leverage in your long-standing disagreement is yours, because this disagreement could not have been standing too long. I mean, this guy has only had an argument since 1994 at best. Do this: ask him to send you one of the original Microsoft Word documents that Joshua Speed e-mailed Abraham Lincoln and that will be that. Your point will have been made and it will be over. Just get ready to receive a JPEG of a letter with historical significance and some dumb-ass little smiley face made out of punctuation at the end of his e-mail to you. Something like: “Aha! What do you have to say now? ;-)” And he’ll think he has won the argument, too. That’ll be the sad part. Oh, look, to hell with it. I’m outta my head on Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold, soup, and video-on-demand Sopranos reruns. Let’s shoot him. Tonight. This guy’s got to go.

In the name of love, honor, and paper-related products,
Dan Kennedy