Querido person who stole my iPhone outside of a kebab restaurant in Barcelona at 4 a.m. and the prostitute who molested me immediately after:

I just wanted to get the Canadian girls’ email address and some fourth meal, not an unexpected $749 Verizon purchase upon return to the States and an aggravated right nut.

Shifty Thief, you’re a heartless motherfucker. Can’t you find a way to target individuals who actually listened when the Verizon associate told them getting the insurance is a good idea? But, Shifty Thief, I must be honest: Easy target aside, you are good at what you do. I don’t even know when you got me or what you look like, and I had even sobered up. I either placed it on the counter at the kebab restaurant and you swiped it, or I didn’t get it all the way back into my pocket and you picked it when I was molar-deep in some rolled-up European tastiness. I never thought I’d like any combination of food that included cabbage, but I was wrong, and no matter what you might have lifted from me, Shifty Thief, I’ll always have my cabbage epiphany.

 

I.

1985, we stole fistfuls of change, slipped fingers into jean pockets and cup holders, mined pennies from the asphalt. In school, the nuns lowered their papery eyelids. Ethiopians are dying, they said, and offered us build-your-own UNICEF boxes, corner to corner, flap into slit. We watched videos of the suffering, the frottage of polyester uniforms on our thighs.

I have a drawer in my desk which for years I have thought of as Jack’s. I tuck into this drawer all of the things I’m planning to mail to him: old postcards, articles to make him laugh, stickers, photos I’ve torn from Birder’s World, address labels, and of course Jack’s cards and letters to which I have yet to reply. I’ve had a drawer like this in one desk or another for thirty years.

My wife,

I would’ve liked to meet you at eighty. Our busy lives behind us, perhaps we could’ve watched all those movies we missed. I would’ve liked to see Hangover II. I would’ve liked to watch JAWS one last time. I miss you already. I know, we don’t believe in Heaven, but tell me, please, when we meet again, somewhere, even if we’re just two amoebas sailing over the waters of some new world-promise me you’ll notice me. Forgive, my wife, it was I who lost our wedding rings. We never did make that trip to Jeweler’s Row. It was I who never had the money. I had hoped to take care of you. I had hoped to buy you a ring. I had hoped to buy you an entire house. I had hoped we might sit in perfect stillness and wait for the good news. I had hoped to take you to Barcelona. We will never see Barcelona again. We will never share ice cream again. Forgive me, I let my illness make me crazy.

I would’ve liked to meet you at ninety, my wife. Our busy lives behind us, perhaps we could’ve experimented with drugs. I had hoped to discover the mystery of salvia. I had hoped to discover the mystery of your nightie, how, upon waking each morning, you’d slip out of your nightie, fold it into a perfect square, and hide it under your pillow. Don’t get me wrong, I had hoped to revel in that mystery for years. I had hoped, for decades to come, to reliably discover your nightie folded into a perfect square under your pillow. And yet, at eighty, I had hoped to ask, “Why, my wife? Why do you that?” You were so mysterious. You never squeezed out the sponge after washing the dishes. When confronted about this, you said, “I’m still washing the dishes.” And yet, I could see clearly: you were in bed, reading A Visit From the Goon Squad, and the sink was empty, and the sponge, absorbing its weight in soapy water, was sitting on the counter, just one more example of how you compelled my world, how you made everything remind me of you.

I had hoped, someday, to meet our children. I had hoped we’d have a daughter. Gloria or Isabella. Or, as you once said, “Francine!” Just kidding. You never said that. You never seriously suggested a name. I would’ve liked to hear what you’d come up with. I know you would’ve waited until the moment you met her. I always admired that about you. You always waited until you met someone to decide. Even then, you never made up your mind. In the wine store. At the movies. Standing in front of a case of ice cream-a glorious predicament! You never made up your mind. Don’t worry. Even if we’re just two rocks zooming around the universe-I promise, despite your indecisiveness, I’ll love you again.

I promise I’ll use the last of the ketchup before I open a new bottle. I promise, if we’re called upon to sit in perfect stillness and wait for the bad news, I will hold your hand.

I promise, the news won’t always be bad.

By the time we meet again, I predict a cure! Forgive me, I let my illness make me crazy.

Thank you, my wife, for saving my life. Thank you, my wife, for using the last of the ketchup. You were never meant for the dregs. And yet, for me, you took the dregs. Even if we’re the dregs at the bottom of some new world’s primordial puddle-promise me, my wife, promise me, you’ll tell me about the future. Skyscrapers! Plums! iPhones! Forgive me, I broke your iPhone. I broke your iPod.  I broke every single thing. I only wanted to see what was inside. I broke you, my nesting doll, and discovered another you.

I promise, someday, somewhere, I’ll make it up to you. Wedding rings. Mint chocolate chip. Three or four daughters: Gloria I, Gloria II, Gloria III, Gloria IV.

Oh, my wife, I miss you already, but I just know we’ll meet again. Even if we’re just two amoebas sailing over the waters of some new world-I promise, I’ll notice you.

For now, goodbye, but only for now.

love,

Me

Like in a classroom film, I see the mass
of blood cells scything through your membranes, parted
like curtains by an ingénue. They pass
onto the main stage; from there some black-hearted
director flicks them, spinning, at my brain.
I smash the cup, and lose my words again.

Every heart, they told me, has a hole—
mine, enlarged by pregnancy and birth,
just more permissive. Meanwhile, hormones stole
the water from my blood. For what it’s worth
this was coincidence: a mini-stroke,
neither God’s justice nor the Devil’s joke.

Still, I wanted you gone. I wouldn’t join
their long term studies, chose to have them worm
a plastic cap toward you from my groin,
key holed into place, and then closed firm.
By now it should be overgrown with tissue,
and don’t think for one moment that I miss you,

but you belonged to me, unlucky flaw.
I had a gorgeous heart, the surgeon said—
more beautiful, I think, for having your
asymmetry. Now plugged and pulsing red,
you’re blameless, while, although I’m going to live,
love still falls through me like a rusty sieve.

This was about five years ago, back when my book was just coming out and people still used Myspace.  I kept a daily blog called ‘The A.D.D. Blog,’ and it wound up having a pretty good readership.

Somewhere along the line, I decided to conduct a letter writing experiment.  I told my readers that if they wrote me a letter — an old-fashioned letter, with a stamp, in the mail — I would respond in kind. I got myself a post office box, posted the address online, and waited.  And then the letters started coming in, dozens of them, all from strangers.  I answered each one over a period of about three months.   And then, when that was done, I canceled the PO Box and boxed up all the letters and put them away in storage.



It rained in LA this past weekend, a huge spring downpour that fell so heavy, and for so long, that there were flash-flood warnings and car accidents and a giant jacaranda on my block got uprooted and toppled across the asphalt, crushing two parked cars.  (Nobody, thankfully, was injured.)

I was stuck inside and fidgety and wound up going into my closet, unearthing an old box on a whim, and within that box were the “experiment letters,” sitting there on top in a giant stack.  For the better part of the afternoon, I sat there re-reading them — staggered, in a way, by how good they were — or, at the least, how interesting.  And often moving.  And sometimes pretty disturbing.

I figured I’d share a little bit, in the form of anonymous excerpts from some of the better offerings.  Individually, each snippet here struck me somehow.  And collectively, they paint a pretty striking composite picture of humanity in the digital age (or any age?).



WASHINGTON, D.C.:

When I’m really stressed, I sometimes have sex dreams about Ted Koppel.  I’m scared this is a sign of mental illness and that stresses me out even more.



CABOT, AR:

Last Wednesday Jenny went out for girls’ night.  I called the few friends I have that are still in town and it was to no avail.  I decided to drown my sorrows/boredom in a bottle of rum while listening to my iTunes five-star playlist over and over.  After hearing the live version of ‘Copperhead Road’ for what was close to the fifth time, the uncontrollable urge to get my rock on overtook me and, debit card in hand, I headed down to the local Wal-Mart and snagged a copy of Guitar Hero II.



BALTIMORE, MD:

I hate it when a good pen goes dry.  It beats dry pussy, though.



CASSELBERRY, FL:

Is it weird that my boyfriend is the one rushing into marriage?  Is it weirder that I’m not in any rush?  I guess I don’t want to be married when I’m in a dead end job and live in an apartment.  I’d rather have a career, one I can stand, maybe even one I look forward to…at least one that pays better, and with that be able to purchase a home.



SAN DIEGO, CA:

The culture of Navy people is incredibly odd.  They live their careers in a hierarchy.  The higher in rank they get, the less work they have to do and the more they show off to the lesser ranks.  They leave the military and find they have absolutely no people skills.



CLAYTON, CA:

You see, I’ve never had an exciting mailman.  No matter where I move, the mailman always seems like a typical white, middle-aged man with a growing balding spot.  I’ve always felt left out of those “your dad is really the mailman LOL” jokes, because it’s hard to imagine housewives, no matter how suburban and sexually desperate, copulating with a man who bears a striking resemblance to their actual husband.



WALDPORT, OR:

I dated my husband at 15, married at 19, and had a child at 21.  And now at 33 I have a 12-year-old daughter and a very unhappy marriage.  Where do I go from here?  Do I grow some balls and do something about my marriage and verbally abusive husband?  Most everything I’ve ever done has been for someone, but never myself.



NEW CASTLE, PA:

I’m a senior now, majoring in music education with a concentration in voice.  So pretty much I’m singing all the time and I’m also in the bands.  I play the tuba.  You should be laughing because that’s the general consensus of people.  I’m 5’6″ and have a thinner build, so it’s funny to see me dragging a sousaphone around.



DENVER, CO:

Today, I interviewed for Teach for America.  It went well, I think.  I was scared.  When it was over, I was hot and shaking.  I picked up the phone again and started dialing.  And my home phone started ringing.  The number used to be my mother’s.  I adopted it when she died.  I forgot she wasn’t there to pick up.  Just for a minute.



BOSTON, MA:

Sometimes I like to masturbate at work.  I’ll be sitting at my desk and my clit will just start throbbing and I will be unbearably horny.  Overwhelmed with my sexuality, I will retreat into the bathroom.  Lying on the floor, I will fantasize, usually picking a favorite sexual memory.  I focus on the look on his/her face and rub myself until I cum, not making a sound.  I am especially horny when I am bleeding, and days before I bleed.  Sometimes I get blood on my fingers when I masturbate.  And I lick it off.  Do you like that?



KIRKSVILLE, MO:

I worked at a funeral home.  When you work at a funeral home, you become part of the background; people forget that you’re watching and that they’re not alone.  It made me uncomfortable to witness their grief, their family quarrels…I guess it made me uncomfortable to see them without their masks on (like that Twilight Zone episode).  But put me in front of a computer screen and I will read a person’s deepest secrets for hours on end.



SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA:

My husband and I met online.  I placed an ad on Yahoo personals, and he was one of the people who answered.  We sent emails, then longer emails, then more frequent emails.  We spent hours talking over the phone, and then finally met in person in a nice, safe, public place (a mall close to where I was living).  We have been married a little over two years now.



LONG BEACH, CA:

Did I mention I have OCD?  No?  Well, now you have that little tidbit.  I wash my hands countless times per day, only write with certain types of pens, my car’s interior is spotless, I arrange the bills in my wallet in descending order facing the same way, and probably a plethora of other idiosyncracies that have yet to be pinpointed and identified, usually by my girlfriend.



LAKE HAVASU, AZ:

Do you have any children that you know of?



DUNDAS, ONTARIO – CANADA:

You do realize that many people (just like me) will use these letters as a form of therapy.



SPRINGFIELD, OR:

I just had a dumb argument with my wife about cold medicine and why I don’t take it.  I got defensive — I take it, by the way.  I just resist.



RICHMOND, KY:

They poisoned the stray cats on the street.  Evil people.  I hated my living situation.  And just when I couldn’t take any more of Jim and Edna’s shit, my upstairs neighbor got a new girlfriend.  I could overhear their boring, giggling, getting-to-know-you conversations (which they held on the “porch” right outside my bedroom window), as well as the getting-to-know-you sex they had above my head.  Her orgasms sounded like what can only be described as a dying cow.  Whatever he did to her to inspire those noises inspired me to take a broom and bang on the ceiling to to the same rhythm as their humping.



BALTIMORE, MD:

I’ve been on Weight Watchers since May.  I’ve gone from being overweight to average to almost underweight.  And this week marks my last week of maintenance and today is my last weigh-in before I become a lifetime member and don’t have to pay anymore.  That is, unless I’ve gained a huge amount of weight this week.  It’s been worrying me.  I got nervous.  And ate candy.  And that got me more nervous, so I drank magnesium citrate.  And now I’m just stressing out more until I weigh in tonight at five.

I grew up overseas.  Asia and Europe.  More specifically, Turkey and the UAE.  My parents were teachers at American schools.  Living there got me to be pretty open-minded about stuff.  Including my sexuality.  I used to think I was straight.  Then bi.  Then a lesbian.  Now I’m leaning towards bi again.  I don’t think I can really test that theory, though.  The thought of a relationship scares me.  I got my heart broken once, when I was 17.  By a girl.  So I don’t want a relationship with another girl yet.  Tried that — I wasn’t ready.  But boys scare me.  So I’ll never know who I am. At least until I’m out of adolescence.



MENOMINEE, MI:

I’m at a point in my life where I’m coming to terms with my own mediocrity.  I hesitate to say I’ve given up — because that’s even more pathetic than mediocrity.  I would rather live a black comedy than a foreign drama.  I still feel like an impostor and totally unqualified to be an adult.  I think about my parents and wonder if they dealt with this sort of identity crisis.



MT. SHASTA, CA:

I watched such a disturbing video on Myspace recently.  A hundred “money shots” from men with other men.  The men who were on the receiving end were gagging, literally.  And the looks on their faces…I just hope they got paid well.  And that it didn’t all go up their noses.



CANYON, TX:

It seems that the only emotion I can express is anger.  Which makes sense, because anger is the most real emotion you have.  But so is joy, and I can’t seem to get a grip on that one.  If I go by astrology, I should start to have good luck and happiness by the time I’m thirty.

Wow, less than nine years of torture and darkness.

Well, at least I have a goal in life.



JONESBOROUGH, TN:

To pay the bills, I work at a local grocery store in the bakery/deli department.  (Yes, I do have a degree, but it didn’t take long to learn that it’s fairly useless.)  It’s not bad — I make OK money, can do the job in my sleep (I’m a virtuoso on the meat slicer), and I like the people (particularly the assistant store manager — but that’s a whole other story, heh).  I hate the uniform — they make us dress up as chefs (oh yeah — hats, too!).  They seem to be under the delusion that we work in a 5-star restaurant serving haute cuisine instead of boil-in-a-bag/fried crap on a hot bar in a grocery store.



LEXINGTON, SC:

I never cry and it kind of scares me a bit.  I used to cry for no reason at all.  Now when I try — nothing, absolutely zilch.  Until just recently (actually this morning).  I was in the shower and became intimate with my shower head.  I had the most intense orgasm, but afterwards I just sobbed and sobbed.  Strange, huh?



ISSAQUAH, WA:

My daughter’s conditions make her more vulnerable than the average teen for pregnancy, running away, drug use, and health should she ever become pregnant or try to have a family.  Hell, just having a LIFE will be a challenge.  At times, I’m simply overwhelmed by the enormity of my daughter’s problems.  I try, very fervently, to focus on the positives — the high intelligence, the vivid imagination, the amazing creativity, the advanced artistic ability.  Sometimes, though, all I can see is the struggle of the hour.  And a lot of the time, I find myself wishing the day away, so that night will come — so that she’ll be in bed, asleep, and I can breathe again, relax, remove my drawn-up shoulders from around my ears.



LONG BEACH, CA:

For some reason, I really like lobsters — whimsical pictures of lobsters, live ones scuttling in tanks, lobster/crab imagery, claw harmonicas, etc., though I don’t know why.  The only thing I don’t want to do is eat them.  I’d never kill one, much less crack it open in some barbaric fashion and scoop out the meat from its very bug-like body.  In San Francisco, I used to pinch my ex with my hand claws — it was a strange form of PG-rated foreplay.  Worked every time, but maybe that’s because I was often nude.



WORCESTER, MA:

One of my students is a boy in 5th grade.  One day, in the middle of a quiet writing assignment, he decided to share his desire to be dunked in a pool of chocolate so that he could lick it off his body, because then he would taste really good.  He’s autistic and has a very loud voice naturally, but he tends to be louder when he is more excited.  He was very excited by the idea of being dipped in chocolate.  I got some comments from the teacher across the hall.  It’s often very amusing what children will say in general, but when a child has no verbal filter, well, I tend to hear some strange things.  I love my job.



NAYLOR, MO:

My favorite subject is sex.  I find that people are not open enough about it; most people find that I’m too open about it.  I’m single and have been most of my adult life.  I don’t mind most of the time.  I’d rather be single than be with someone that I am not passionate about.  I know that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right?  Says who?  I mean, it’s important, nobody likes an asshole all the time, but people are lying if they say it doesn’t matter what someone looks like.  Likewise, sexual attraction is very important.  I keep hearing, “but he’s so sweet,” “he’s very responsible,” he’s good looking.”  All that is great and fine but if the sparks aren’t flying then a relationship is relegated to friends.



UNION, ME:

I work in a group home for children in state custody due to abuse and/or neglect.  Basically, kids are removed from abusive homes and come to us.  We work with them and try to help break the cycle of abuse, and to prepare them for foster care.  Emotionally, it can get tough — it’s not uncommon for me to cry the whole ride home after work.  Despite that, I love the job.  I’m one of the lucky ones.  I love what I do, I’m proud of it, and I’m good at it.  I’m also broke, because it doesn’t pay for shit.  Can’t have everything, I guess.



EVANSTON, IL:

I’m 33.  I have a six-and-a-half-year-old son.  Going through a divorce.  The usual:  husband cheats and has two kids with another woman.  I make light of it now but unfortunately it’s true.  Enough about that.  I’m sure you’d rather hear about my son who wants to be a girl.  That’s true, too.  He’s a great kid.  I just think of him as being very creative, right?  Just say yes.



PORTAGE, IN:

My son, Billy, just got married last year.  I am truly happy for him and Tammy.  I would like to find a companion for myself.  At age 48, my love life has led me onto a path of cynicism and cautiousness.  I remember when I used to fall so easily for someone.  Now, my immediate reaction is to find, as quickly as possible, all the reasons why a potential relationship might fail.  In my attempt to save time and prevent pain, I have painted myself into a lonely corner.  Somehow, being aware of my self-sabotage has not altered my pattern.



BAJA, MEXICO:

At age 26, I can tell you I haven’t been endowed with favor for interpersonal relationships.  I haven’t been lucky with the guys I like.  They just don’t like me.  It is maybe because I’m very shy when it comes to a guy I like.  I think this has to do with the thing that I was sexually abused when I was a child.  I’ve changed many things in the last six years:  I’ve read; I went to a psychologist….Anyhow, I’m still alone.  It’s weird and sad (sometimes) being 26 and not knowing what it is to have a person beside you that you could call your boyfriend.  (I have have never had one.)  Sometimes I think that maybe I’m destined to be alone — who knows?



HOBOKEN, NJ:

Most multi-millionaires are happiest when they’re interacting with strangers.  In real life they are the most miserable bastards you’ll ever meet.  I’m not a millionaire, I just dress like one.  I’m an eBay-aholic.  If you’re ever bored, go to this site, www.evalueville.com.  Just don’t get hooked like I did.



BROOKLINE, MA:

There’s an aspiring actress who lives somewhere in Hollywood.  We’ve been friends since age six.  I see her every six months or so — whenever I’m in town.  She mentioned she would like to have a temporary life parnter.  I told her I might move into my family’s vacant house in LA while I’m in law school.  She says she’ll live with me.  I told her it will cost her a lot.  She said she’d cook.  You get the picture.



LA MESA, CA:

I haven’t much of a sex life.  Although I think about it in the mornings when I wake up only.  I’m dreaming of a nice man, as I’m a woman.  I want to experience life as well as love.  I work as an artist.  I draw temporary tattoos on people yet I so want to do the REAL TATTOOS!

So I’m drinking Bass ale tonight after a very long abstinence.  I guess I’m buzzed, but it’s good because at least I’m writing….

It’s all good.



ANAHEIM, CA:

I’m a happily married woman with 2 kids, 1 dog, and 3 hermit crabs.  Until 3 weeks ago I thought I had it all until I met a gentleman I’ll call Sam.  Sam came on to me pretty hard at a party and I was very flattered, but not interested.  The next day, two of my best friends called to tell me how Sam wanted to meet me again and how beautiful I was and how I was the woman for him.  I was suddenly interested, because I felt like a goddess and I was finally getting the attention I feel I need.  My husband is very quiet and non-complimentary and basically refuses to fawn over me.  My friend asked if Sam could have my number and I said yes.  We began speaking to each other every other day or so for 2 weeks and we finally met in person.  The electricity between us was phenomenal and we haven’t even kissed.  We just talked that night for about 20 minutes and left.  We haven’t spoken since.  My friend says I said something that night that scared him, but I don’t remember anything I might have said to scare him off.  He still talks about me all the time, but won’t call me.  I know I’m just responding to his attention since I don’t get that need fulfilled within my marriage, but why, oh why won’t he call!  I’m pissed.  I’ve never in my adult life had a guy blow me off.  Asshole.  I’ve tried to get over it, but my girlfriend and her husband are roommates with him and I would feel like a bitch if I ask her to not talk about him.  That would be selfish, but I can’t seem to get past this.  I totally feel like I’m back in high school and I don’t know what to do.



HOUSTON, TX:

It seems that being a 21-year-old female artist who is straight-forward is threatening to a lot of men.  I refuse to be submissive to anyone.  Except of course Jon (the cocaine addict).  I’ve only been with him twice.  Now that I think about it he probably thinks I’m some girl he made up in his mind while he was blowed.  I haven’t heard from him in a week.  I don’t understand — the sex was mind-blowing — I know it was more so for him, too.  I don’t even get the pleasure of being a fucking booty call.  I never told him how I felt because I didn’t want to scare him off.  I’d rather be a “friend with benefits” than be nothing at all to him.  Now I see that I achieved that anyway.  I’m hoping he’s so fucked up that he hasn’t remembered me.



NORTHUMBERLAND, PA:

I am scared.  I write….A LOT!  Especially poetry.  I collect stamps and baseball cards.  I think Johnny Depp is gorgeous!  Every year, I have three different calendars on the wall in my room.  It is tradition.  This year I have a Beatles one, Scenes from Paris, and a Disney Princess one.  I hate bugs.  I wear contacts.  One of my best friends is a whore.  I have two dogs.  I got a stuffed hippopotamus for Christmas.  My brother and sister actually have A.D.D. and Tourette’s.  I don’t.  I’m the youngest.  Last year, I broke my wrist falling off the computer chair.  I’m addicted to Facebook and Myspace.



EL PASO, TX:

I once fell in love with a very apathetic boy named David, and I cried and eventually he cried and we loved each other, but he’s in Missouri and I’m in Texas, and though he repeatedly promised me that “true love waits” and “one day we’ll be together,” he lied and found himself a shallow girl there who fell in love with him and so that was that.  He settled for something “okay” instead of waiting and working for something “great.”  I think, since this falling out with my dearest David, I have become a more apathetic person.  I’ve found someone else now, though.  And honestly, I love him wholeheartedly.  His name is Miguel.  I’m beginning to fear, though, that maybe we are too different.  He’s into video games and heavy metal, and I’m a writer and into a lot of different music — not including heavy metal.  But, I’m making an effort to involve myself in the things he enjoys — such as Warhammer 40k.



EGLIN AFB, FL:

I am seeing a therapist for the deeper issues.  Being teased growing up, bickering mother, environmental changes, surviving chronic mastoiditis, losing my life during delivery (almost), gall bladder surgery, and hubby’s deployment….The house got fleas.  They are gone now.  The car’s starter went out.  Billy and I got the flu.  Why does things go wrong when you least expect it?



SEWICKLEY, PA:

You said to write to you about anything, so I’m going to include in this letter a confession.  I have a cousin on death row in San Quentin for the murder of of a police officer.



GREENCASTLE, IN:

One blustery fall day as the cats played outside, I told my parents I was going to the city to grab a sandwich, to sit and meditate at the park.  My dad told me I could not go.  Dad said, “Do I have to hold you down?  Do I have to call the cops?”  I was not acting strange or remotely violent.  If you knew me, you would understand how subtle and shy I am.

Dad took apart my car engine and hid my car keys.  He called the cops from his hospital (he’s a doctor) and the ambulance drove up with the cop cars.  The cops said they could make my dad give the keys back, or since the ambulance was there I could go in it.  Who knows why — worst mistake I have made — I went in the ambulance, and after a day of failing to explain to physicians why I was in a hospital, I signed myself into a mental institution and had to stay there for a week.



DUNDEE, SCOTLAND:

When I was little, about 8 years old, my life was great, or I thought it was.  And then it went all wrong when I found out my parents had been keeping secrets, which meant none of my childhood was as great as I thought it was.  I’ve slowly learnt to deal with the fact that everyone lies and keeps secrets.  Not really sure who I am anymore, but I’ve finally gotten to a point in my life where I don’t care if people don’t like me.



CORNING, NY:

I’m married to a wonderful man and we have been together for 15 years.  We have a beautiful daughter.  We have great jobs and a “good life.”  The conflict comes from me feeling like I’ve come to a boring place inside.  My life has always been filled with hard times, abandonment and different kinds of abuse.  I understand that it became my security blanket over time and without it life seems plain.  Recently, I have been chatting with other writers online and one in particular has set a fire in me, not only with my writing but personally.  I feel kind of obsessed with him.  He is very interesting and we have so much in common.  I flipped out the other night and professed all of these things and luckily our friendship didn’t disintegrate.  I felt like an ass the next morning for saying it out loud and for feeling like I slighted my husband in some way.  My friend is also married and neither of us is willing to ruin our relationships — not to mention we geographically are separated.  But I wonder if my enjoyment of his company is wrong.  We both feel like we fill a void in each other that our spouses could never fill because they don’t enjoy the things that truly fill our hearts.



HARRISBURG, PA:

Picking lint
from my belly
Texas rain
Stinky wet dog
Something’s growing on my neck
like a zit, maybe cancer or
an eyeball or a second penis
the cat’s all twitchy
laying on a chair
dreaming cat things.



BERLIN, GERMANY:

I’m in Berlin today.  I’m working on a book with a friend.  I’m also wondering whether to dump my new boyfriend.  He’s excellent, but the sex is crap.  His penis has a large head and a small shaft, like a slender-stemmed mushroom.  Do you get a lot of those — random, intimate confessions brought about by the anonymity of the letter exchange project?



NEW YORK, NY:

It doesn’t make sense why I should die.  I just look at things simply and I don’t try and complicate them by learning through other people’s delusions.  I don’t like their logic so I make my own.  I don’t make shit up like professors and shit do.  I just look at something as basically as I can and I take it for that.  I don’t go to school and pollute my mind with someone else’s fantasy about how the world fucking works.  I don’t want to be a psychologist or sociologist or priest.  I don’t try to explain things in that sort of way.  The simpler one lives, the easier it is to become the master of one’s self and surroundings.  Doesn’t that sound fucking nice and fluffy?  That way you stop living in the fantasy world and live in reality.

When something occurs in the universe, it should stay that way.  Maybe because I don’t believe I can die, that makes me unable to die.  I believe other things can die because they’re idiots and believe in the same logic that everyone else believes in.  But I won’t.



MINNEAPOLIS, MN:

We moved into a small apartment in Anaheim, California and lived simply.  A couple of memories that stick from that time are watching the fireworks and getting some kind of vaccination shot.  It’s funny because we never went to Disneyland, yet right from our apartment we could clearly see the fireworks from Space Mountain.  We would watch them whenever they went off.



EASTPOINTE, MI:

Mostly I think people as a whole suck.  One of my daughter’s first phrases she uttered was ‘I hate people.’  Now she wears a shirt that says, ‘Drop knowledge, not bombs.’  At any rate, I think the word entitlement says it all with a lot of people today, especially the upcoming generations.  On the other hand, just so you don’t think I’m a complete anarchist, I’m totally fascinated by people, and their lives.



OAK ISLAND, NC:

I had an awesome conversation last week with someone in line at the grocery store.  It was pretty one-sided, but I enjoyed it.  I asked her if she knew if an avocado was a fruit or vegetable.  She shook her head no and I told her it was a fruit.  She turned away but I continued by stating that they have a large, stony seed.  She scoffed when I told her that they can be eaten raw in salads or as dips.  The cashier laughed at that line.  I got her phone number, and we had sex two days later.  Needless to say, I won’t be returning to that grocery store anytime soon.





Attn: Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, hosts of Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel.

Hello. I’m writing in hopes that you can help me–not to bust a myth per se, but to figure out what to do with my six-year-old son now that he’s become addicted to Mythbusters.

“I need some alkaline metals,” he said. “For an experiment.”

Um. What?

“Alkaline metals. You know, like rubidium or potassium. Highly volatile.” He continued eating his pancakes.

I have a feeling that alkaline metals are tightly regulated minerals not packaged in your average starter science set.

“Here you go, Mom,” he said, handing back my iPhone over which he has far more mastery than myself. He made me a shopping list:


I’m pretty sure I can find a junked car, but I’m not sure where to acquire thermite, which my son informs me is “made of explosions.”

“It’s kind of like powdered dynamite, but more powerful,” he tells me. So why does he need both, I wonder?

“To explode the cars,” he says.

Of course.

He’s using Lego’s. “I’m building a cargo robot so that I can haul stuff around. I need some supplies.”

“Won’t the Lego’s work?”  I ask.

“That’s for the small scale experiments,” he says.

Oh. I see.

“Can I blow up the toilet?” he wonders. I can’t tell if he’s asking for permission or just idly pondering aloud, but I know this refers to the alkaline metals, which, when mixed with water make a charmingly concussive “Boom,” though, as I recall, they do not actually break the porcelain of the toilets which gave their lives for Mythbuster science.

Is there a school where he can learn to handle highly explosive material without shattering either our plumbing or himself? Are you offering internships to tiny wannabe Jamie’s and Adam’s? Is there a pilot program that teaches little pyro-technicians the safety skills needed to blow small appliances skyward? (Let’s start with toaster ovens, say, or hand-held mixers. Not the water heater which you blew straight out of a house. More like Modest Destruction 101.)

I would be obliged if you could steer him clear of toxic chemicals, or at least teach him to always wear his OSHA compliant mask. No bug bombs of death, if you please. I’m squeamish about radioactive material too, though you seem to work it into the show every now and then.

His obsessions were a little easier to navigate when he watched the photography show Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe. We just handed him a camera with the assurance we would go to Madagascar someday and take photographs of the endangered lemurs and chameleons dotting the island nation. But now he wants to build a shark cage, sink his own version of the Myth-tanic, and buy a small decommissioned plane upon which he can run “experiments.”

Luckily, he told me recently he’s got “fire-phobia” so it may be a while before his desires win the battle against his greater wisdom. But you planted a seed, Mythbusters. I fear when it germinates we’re going to raise Tory Belleci.

Any recommendations you may have in channeling his nascent Mythbusting gene into something which won’t demand extra insurance would be greatly appreciated.

Yours very truly,


Quenby Moone


P.S. My son just informed me that thermite is a compound made from iron oxide and aluminum powder. This sounds easy to acquire; please tell me that he doesn’t already know how to cook up the very thing that torched the Hindenburg. Please.

(Havelock, NC)

I lay on the floor and watch her disrobe, her naked body, hovering over me. She starts the shower. She soaps her hair and I watch the lather run down her curvy body, a bit irritated by the moisture since it’s taking years off of my life.

I go to bed with her. I rest on her chest as she sleeps and slowly make my way towards her belly as she lightly snores. Life with her is good.

(Venice, CA)

I giggle, knowing that you’re back home, struggling to pay your bills, knowing you can’t see all the nudity. I don’t need to go to therapy, drink, even in moderation and I stay 214 pages all of my life while you count calories and exercise so you can keep your 32 inch waist.

You don’t see the tears that well up in her eyes when Gabe is heartbroken. Or how she giggles when Gabe describes the world around him, pulling her in, making her care.

She threw me across the room because some lover betrayed her. I smacked that fucker in the head. Damn straight. Don’t mess with my woman, even though she makes me mad because she dog-ears my pages. She makes up for it by smiling when she reads a moment of victory. Oh her sweet dimples.

(Nanterre, France)

Not all is well for me. Sometimes you really wouldn’t want to be in the bathroom with these people. I won’t even discuss the toilet, but a fat English bloke peed in the shower. And the sex, there are some things that if you witnessed them they would turn you off of sex forever.

I sat on his lap for a full five minutes and he just looked at your name on the cover, trying to figure out if he’ll look more French if he brings me to a cafe. Yes, DuShane, it’s French, now open me up.

(Houston, TX)

I remember when she took me off of the shelf, stroked by tender hands. I was like an orphan looking for a parent. A dog with his paw to the cage. Me, me, me, I yelled. When she took me to the cash register I felt like I sent a farewell note to you. This is it. This is what you wanted. Good-bye.

Then I snicker because you will be judged. They do those little star-thingies on those book websites. What you put me through, what you put all of us through for three years? Back when we were naked, when we had no spine. Those days you just sat there and looked at us, half formed, deformed, a few of us characters bloated like we were force fed popcorn and chili. That wasn’t fun, but you wrote your way through that time and now I don’t feel like farting as much.

(Cleveland, OH)

I just sat there, not a care in the world and then this two-year-old kid showered me with a bowl full of milk and Cheerios. Nobody read a word of me and down the trash shoot I fell. Four stories.

By the way, there is an after life, and it doesn’t involve a heaven or hell or ghosts bothering humans or anything like that. Wait a second.

What? Oh, I can’t tell him. That’s funny.

(Brooklyn, NY)

I’m at another writer’s house. He’s good. I mean, wow, the wealth of material. I’m up against his manuscript. I know I can’t call you, but maybe there’s some weird shit in the universe that will make it to your brain and into one of my younger brothers or sisters.

(Halifax, Nova Scotia)

I heard you might adapt me into a film. I wish someone would throw me at your head, what are you thinking? They’re going to change things around. And, have you seen some of these films? I’m with a woman who insisted we watch Eat, Pray, Love. Twice in a row! She brought me into the theatre bathroom after seeing it once.

Yeah, I got to go into the women’s bathroom and I know you’re thinking there are a bunch of bare breasted women applying makeup, comparing their front bottoms and splashing water on each other, but don’t get your hopes up too high on that idiotic fantasy. She just sat there, looking at her ugly mug in the mirror, actually thinking she was Julia Roberts, or that she could be Julia Roberts. We bought two boxes of Junior Mints and she ate all of them before the previews, of course, and I had to watch that crap film again.

I swear on my holy…..if you…if they….if Julia Rober-…..I will hurt you. Somebody place me on a computer I will one-star-thingie the shit out of you. Amazon. Barnes & Noble. Powell’s. Goodreads.com. Why would I care, we’re done, I’m home and you’re back in San Francisco doing whatever you San Franciscans do when you’re not writing or waxing your hipster mustaches.

And, you didn’t have that mustache when we started. Yeah, I’m calling you out on it to the world. You were fat. You were a fat bearded fuck. 234 pounds. I know, you go on and on about how you lost 50 pounds and the first 20 pounds were easy because they were heartbreak pounds. What was that pithy little sentence you wrote?

“Divorce is the number one cure for weight loss without a prescription.”

Actually, that’s not bad. And it was good to see you get healthy. Well on your exterior since we both know your insides are just rotting guts and you’re still a tormented artist, blah, blah, blah. I wish I could write your next book for you and call it, I’m Tormented, Help Me.

Forget what I said about Julia Roberts, you and I spent so much “quality” time together, you know what I’m talking about you delusional sod, that I now want Julia Roberts to play the role of Mom. Yep. If I could call your agent and sound halfway intelligent with the limited sentences you gave me, I’d find out. But I can only say sentences the way you wrote them. Let’s see:

“Did you touch her?” Page 8. Not going to work.

“Shitfaced.” That’s a sentence on page 142. You’re not too shabby on the internal dialogue stuff when Gabe says what he’s thinking.

Okay, flipping through myself. Hrmm. That feels kind of good. Flipping through my pages. Flipping through. Flipping through. Flipping through. Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, I’ll be right back.

I’m back. All of a sudden I feel a little tired. I thought I broke something there for a second.

“It was a very Norwegian way to communicate something that hurt too much.” Page 62.

Look, you’ve given me nothing to work with here so you’re on your own. I’ll never speak to you again if the world knows my story through some starving, numbskull actors who rubbed the right people the right way to get into the-.

Rubbed. They flipped through my pages. Flipping through my pages. Flipping. Flip, flip, flip. I feel a bit light headed. I’ll be right back.


July 19th 2008


Mom,

 I know you must have been worried sick about me. It’s okay, I’m safe and it’s not your fault.

 I’m not running from you-— I love.

It’s because of Larry.

I’m safe here— it’s a commune for young people like myself to live away from the normal rules of society. It’s like, sooo liberating.

I’m only trying to make Larry jealous.

That’ll teach him for fucking that Starbucks barista whilst I was having my appendectomy.

Has he called?

Love

Alex


 

July 28th 2008

Mom,

Relax. This isn’t some crazy cult like you keeping making out. You are NOT a terrible mother. I told you, this isn’t about you. This is about me and Larry.

Is he still with that coffee slinging slut? I hope she gets a yeast infection.

Anyway, even if Number 1 did try and ‘brainwash me into being his sex slave’ there’s no way it’d work. I don’t fall for mind games like that.

And he’s got like six wives or something— what would he want with me?

Still love you, but not coming home. So happy here!

Alex

P.S Thanx for the care package!


 

August 2nd 2008

Mom,

No, I don’t have ‘confidence issues.’ And if I did it certainly wouldn’t be because of what Larry did with a glorified waitress in the back of his uncle’s shitty SUV.

I know I’m a beautiful young woman, that wasn’t my point— I wasn’t subtly asking for you to pay for a nose job either. My point was the guy has six wives… even Larry would be satisfied with that!

And who says I’d be interested in him anyway? Just because he’s in a position of power doesn’t stop him from looking kind of creepy. He’s all scrawny with like, this barely there beard and totally gross dirty hair. He’s no Johnny Depp— I don’t care what the group mantras say about him; he’s totally not my type.

I know you’re just worried about me, but really, everything is just great here.

Love

Alex


 

September 5th 2008

Mom,

Great news! Guess who just got ascended to the second rung of the outer sanctum?!

And this from the girl voted ‘Most Likely to Be a Homemaker’ in High School. Ha! If only they could see me now!

I bet that stupid coffee girl will never do better than branch manager— and she’ll only get there by sleeping her way to the top.

I never want to leave here— it’s just so great. I never thought I’d feel this enlightened. I was spiritually awakened last night by Number 14— if things work out you could be a Grandma soon! Exciting, right?

All Power to the Celestial Oak and his Prophets

Alex


 

September 20th 2008

Enemy of the Celestial Oak (and his many Prophets),

This is NOT a cult.

If you want to talk about cults then why don’t we talk about YOUR cult of atheism, hanging on the every word of your infallible leader Richard Dawkins and angrily reacting to those who disapprove?!

Yours is a cult of spiritual emptiness, sexual repression and material things!

How do you like the violation of YOUR ‘false truths’?!

Still no word from Larry?

Alex



 

September 29th 2008

Enemy of the Celestial Oak/Mom,

I’m sorry for the last letter.

I said a lot of things I didn’t mean to— except the bit about Number One. Really, Wow!

You might be interested to hear that since embracing the Celestial Oak with mind and body I’ve now been ascended to the inner sanctum. Things are working out great.

Next week is my ceremonial entwinement with Number 14— yes, it’s official!

I’d really love for you to come, but the Elders are very strict about allowing ‘outsiders’ into the community. We consider you to be impure and corrupting spirits— no offence! Hopefully I’ll be able to send you some photographs of the ritual…

May the acorns of understanding within you grow into mighty trees of love,

Number 34

P.S. I take back what I said about Number 1; the mantras were true. WOW!



 

October 3rd 2008

Mom,

I’m sorry you didn’t feel up to responding to my last letter.

Anyway, things are getting very busy here. On top of preparing for my ritual I’m now in charge of catering for our Christmas party— a little early if you ask me, but who am I to question our Celestial guides? Not even the Elders are permitted such impudence!

I’m mentioned in the community newsletter. I’ve included some clippings.

I hope you can be happy for me,

34


P.S. What’s Larry up to these days? Did he get into college like he wanted?




 

 

 

In the summer of 2007, I was doing research while at the University of Virginia for a seminar under Syed Rizwan Zamir for his class, Islam in the Modern Age: Tradition, Fundamentalism, and Reform. Before I picked up reading fiction as an undergraduate, most all of what I read dealt with political science, the author I read the most by being the famed linguist and political dissident, Noam Chomsky. For my final project, I decided I would contact Chomsky for an interview to see what he’d have to say on the subject matter.

Screw it, it’s worth a shot I figured — even if deep down I knew there was no way he’d respond.




The next day I opened my e-mail, and saw it: Noam Chomsky to jwp5u.

After reading Chomsky’s response, the short answer being, “No, I don’t have the time,” I called home to my parents. Despite the rejection, I was so excited I could nearly urinate my pants and I think I even felt a little dribble at one point.

“Go up to my room,” I told my mom over the phone.

“Why?” she responded.

“Make like Nike and just do it. Look on my bookshelf. Do you see a guy named Noam Chomsky?”

She walked upstairs. I could hear her open my creaky bedroom door.

“Yes, he’s all over the place.”

“He just e-mailed me,” I said to her. “I asked him for an interview and he said he couldn’t do it. Isn’t that awesome?”

“That he said, ‘No.'”

“No, that he responded to my e-mail. Noam Chomsky wrote me an e-mail. Isn’t that awesome? NOAM AVRAM FREAKING CHOMSKY!”

“That’s wonderful,” my mom said to me in a sort of I-can’t-believe-you’re-this-excited-about-an-email voice.

And so ends one of the single greatest moments in my life.

Noam Avram Freaking Chomsky . . . man!

Dear Jim,

Although my father and brother both disapproved of our relationship, things were going great with my boyfriend— he treated me almost like a princess.

But it seems of late that he has lost all his mirth. He lost his father recently and his mother remarried very soon after, which must be tough for him to deal with but all of a sudden he’s like a totally different person.

Until the other day he’d always remained the perfect gentleman. He took me to this play he’d produced and spent the whole time making crude comments and lewd suggestions. I want to be strong and be there for him, but I’m beginning to think that things are never going to work out between us.

And now on top of everything he’s killed my father!

Am I crazy to have my doubts?

     Dane in Distress, Elsinore

Dear Dane in Distress,

It’s only natural to have doubts about your relationship during clearly what is clearly a tough and stressful time for you both.

Guys can often forget that they’re not the only ones suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune. What you have to do is remind him of your existence and your needs as a woman.

Try talking almost exclusively in riddles or singing songs about virginity— and if that fails nothing says ‘notice me’ quite as emphatically as a suicide.




Dear Jim,

I went to see my ex-wife today only to find the mutilated corpses of her and her ‘friend’ in the front courtyard.

Now I’m worried everyone will think I did it.

What should I do?

     Innocent of Los Angeles

Dear Innocent,

I assume you’ve already written a public letter expressing your innocence?

Try acting innocent— you know what they say, ‘innocent by name, innocent by nature.’ Your best bet is to go for a relaxing drive in an SUV to show you feel reflective but clear of conscience. There is a small chance that some people will interpret this as fleeing, which is why a novelty face-piece is essential— maybe a fake beard?




Dear Dr Jim,

I’ve recently discovered that whilst I’ve been working overtime to keep my carpentry business afloat my wife has been seeking solace in the arms of an omnipresent deity and now she’s pregnant with his child.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to lose my wife, but I know she’d be better off with Him. I mean he created all life in less than a week and he’s always there for her whilst I could only knock out a few cabinets in that time. Of course I’d have to spend so much time working I’d barely be present, let alone omnipresent.

And now with them having a child in the way it just feels like I’m the one in the way.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to lose my wife but I want to do the right thing for her and the baby…

     Cuckold Carpenter, Nazareth

Dear CC,

I’ve heard from many men in your position, and believe me, it always ends the same— the omnipotent lothario soon tires of his mortal matrimonial meddling, whilst the woman becomes desperate to rid herself of such a controlling, overbearing presence.

Stick out the rocky patch and get ready for parenthood. Christmas is a stressful time, and the new arrival won’t make things any easier!




Heil Dokter Jim,

I’ve been married to the love of my life for less than three days and already we’ve hit a rough patch.

We already had like, this massive row over the honeymoon— I wanted to go to the Bahamas or maybe Vegas but he wanted Russia. But he just sent all his work buddies instead and decided we’d just stay in our poky little bunker instead.

It’s ridiculous. Maybe it would be okay if we were alone but we live with his best friend and their whole family. They’re always getting together and making jokes or coming up with crazy schemes and here I am— his new wife— with only his stupid dog for company. I don’t even like dogs!

But that’s nothing next to what he wants me to do now. When he came over and whispered that he wanted us to do something intimate together I thought he finally He wanted to do something a bit kinky— I mean he’s the guy that was all about coprophilia when he was trying to get into art school!

But no, he’s got hold of some of those Zyklon B tablets you’re never hearing about in the press and he wants us to enter into a suicide pact.

I’m not so sure— what should I do Dokter Jim?!

     Conflcited Newlywed, Berlin

Dear Conflicted Newlywed,

I always find love can be the bitterest pill to swallow, although I’ve never tried this Zyklon B (is it anything like Ecstasy?). Anyway, the pill represents love, but only you can decide whether you want to swallow it. Unless he has a gun. And a total sense of panic.




Dear Doctor Jim,

I was created in a lab, and frankly I’m quite hideous— so hideous that my creator abandoned me!

Ever since I’ve been trying to make myself feel better by wreaking vengeance on his family, but this only makes me feel worse. I’ve discovered that it’s not looks, but actions that maketh the monster.

How can I break this terrible cycle of violence? All I want is to feel accepted.

     A Very Modern Prometheus, Geneva

Dear AVMP,

It sounds like you have a total lack of self-confidence. Try my book There’s No Such Thing As Ugly available for just $34.99 from my website, www.drjimsbrainfood.org.


Dear Mr Bon Jovi,

I’ve been listening to your popular song ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ and I just wanted to tell you that it’s okay— everything is going to be okay. I’m not like the other fans; I know a thinly veiled autobiographical cry for help when I hear one. A once successful face rocker reduced to playing for scraps as a result of an out of control drinking problem? You don’t have to pretend anymore Jon— is it okay if I call you Jon? You don’t have to pretend, because I’m here now and I’m going to help you.

You might not think that your fans care whether you’re dead or alive Jon, but this fan does. And he wants you alive. Together I’m confident we can get you back to those heady and successful days when your face rocking success rate was an impressive one hundred per cent. Don’t you miss those days Jon? Those glory days where you could see a million faces and rock every single one of them? You’ve never seen my face, but there’s no doubt in my mind that you could still rock it, even now.  The stats speak for themselves.

It’s not too late. Those days can come again, but first we have to take care of some of your issues. Your alcoholism for instance— yes Jonathon, you have a drinking problem. And it’s a dangerous one, because it’s not just your own health you’re risking anymore. If it sounds like I’m being harsh, remember it’s only because I care.

There are more efficient and less harmful ways of telling what day it is than by the bottle of whatever alcoholic beverage it is you’re drinking. Your third album was the number one album for twelve weeks Jon, surely that alone earned you enough in royalties to buy a digital watch that displays both the time and date. I understand that wearing a watch can sometimes be a little uncomfortable, especially when it’s hot but is your current method really a viable alternative?

Because I imagine, Jonathon, that when you ride your motorcycle all night just to get back home that you’re doing so under the influence of alcohol. In fact I know you’re drunk when you ride it, because you seem to under the impression that it’s a horse made of steel. What the fuck are you drinking? This is an incredibly serious issue, which is compounded by the prolonged periods of driving which you undertake, often without sleeping for days.

Do you have any idea how dangerous this is? Not just for you, but other road users who shouldn’t have to share the road with a sleep deprived, intoxicated, self-proclaimed ‘cowboy.’ I’m just living on a prayer that you don’t drive in the rain— on top of all the other dangers the roads become slippery when wet.

Clearly you’re harbouring some sort of death wish, and the misguided view that like Jimi, Janis and Vincent Van Gogh your work will be more appreciated when you’re gone. But you’re not dying young Jon, not on my watch. I’m not just going to sit back and watch yet another successful face rocker have his life cut short by reckless behaviour.

I mean, who’s going to rock our faces with you gone? Have you heard Richie’s solo stuff?!

I don’t want to hear anymore of this nonsense about how you might not make it back. You are Jon, you’re going to make it back with my help. We’ve got each other, and that’s enough. We’ll get you to a dry county and, instead of sleeping when you’re dead, you can rest up there. We’ll make it, I swear. I’ll be there for you.

You might ask yourself why I’m willing to go to so far out of my way to help you. And it’s very simple Jon. It’s because I’m a Bon Jovi fan, and lord I’m going to keep the faith.

Have a nice day,

James D. Irwin 

Author’s Note: This is a fictional letter which imagines the sort of letters a pornography review magazine might receive, if such a thing existed. It in no way represents the author’s feelings about the state of pornography either past or present.

Sir,

I’m not sure when it happened, but it seems to me that pornography these days is nowhere near as audio-visual as it once was. Surely I can’t be the only one who misses a simpler, more innocent time of high production values, bushy pubes and fantastic soundtracks?

Maybe the kids of today just take video tapes of depraved sexual acts for granted, and at face value. I am of the age where I can still remember pornography coming in the form of either dirty magazines or out-of-the-way erotica theatres.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the advent of home video gave us sexual degradation we didn’t have to imagine, but witness first hand in all its grainy glory. This new market was swiftly capitalized on by the sections of society with loose morals and huge moustaches. And lo, the golden age of erotica was born.

It wasn’t just a dirty film, but an audio-visual treat for all the senses! The high production values, ‘stiff’ acting, and the carnal act itself all wonderfully sound tracked by German techno or wailing guitars. I was thirty-four before I knew it was possible to make a girl orgasm without a synthesizer! Thirty-four!

Kids laugh at the classics now, mocking the cheesey dialogue and contrived plots. But, I ask, is a woman having her clitoris in her throat really that much more unlikely than an intergalatic empire fighting swarms of teddy bears in a forest?! Why is it possible to suspend disbelief in one form of entertainment, but then scoff at another? Suspension of disbelief is paramount to the enjoyment of fantasy films.

And as for those that complain that in vintage erotica the women are ‘fat’ (natural) and ‘hairy’ (real) and that it takes a full six minutes before the busty young medical intern even shows so much as a nipple… well, have they not heard of a little something called suspense? Something, which Alfred Hitchcock well knew, heightens the climax.

I suppose they just don’t have those same feelings of nostalgia as I do. In this sex saturated age why should today’s kids get aroused by a glimpse of nipple through a chenille nighty when even that gets a 12a rating in Hollywood blockbusters these days?

Perhaps I’m just one of those old fogies, too set in his ways to embrace change, Brazilian waxing, or interracial S&M gangbangs… Goodness, I hacked into my son’s laptop last weekend and a quick glance at the search history actually made me blush! Gone are the intricate storylines and hilarious innuendo of yesteryear, replaced with hairless blonde harlots with shaven loins and swollen sphincters.

And it’s not even as though this has been for the sake of improved quality! The very same VHS innovation that opened my mind to the joys of male-female fornication is in now such wide usage that any Tom, Dick or Sally can film their activities and upload them onto the world wide web. With such an influx of amateur material it’s no wonder quality control has slipped! Even the studios now present ‘gonzo’ films, putting we the viewers right into the pumping, thrusting heart of the action. Frankly this makes me more than a little queasy— and the camera operators getting in on the action just smacks of unprofessionalism!

In these modern films the leads simply jump right into action with the barest of cursory explanations. If I’m going to witnesses a young waitresses being punished by her manager I want to know exactly what it is that she’s done to earn such a harsh and unorthodox punishment. It is what the viewer deserves at the very least! How can I, as a viewer, get into this erotic situation without the relevant background details? If I wanted sexual pleasure without an element of fantasy I’d just go back to sleeping with my wife.

I have a particular penchant for schoolgirls. In my day it was all cute pigtails and plaid skirts. I tried viewing a contemporary take on my favourite of all the genres of erotica and found it was all denim shorts and funky hair dos. These girls could be anything from off duty cops, receptionists on a dress down Friday or even hookers! How can I differentiate between the babysitter getting spanked for drinking on the job and the underacheiving schoolgirl giving sexual favours in the hope of attaining better grades without the appropriate visial cues?

I don’t want to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but when I was young pornography wasn’t just gratifying, it was entertaining— these days it’s just filth.

Unarousedly yours,

Sherlock J. Hazlebrook, Tunbridge Wells

In 2008 I began writing letters to famous people because I didn’t have many other things to do at the time.

Some of these letter appeared on my now defunct MySpace blog, and several were used in my final stand-up attempt in early 2009.

Not one of my letters garnered a response.


An Unanswered Letter to Nigel Waterson (MP for Eastbourne)

Dear Nigel (forgive me for dispensing with the formality of including your surname, but I’m sure you must know it by now and I wish this correspondence to be brief),

This letter regards the floral decorations of our great and glorious Eastbourne. I visited the town itself today (for I reside a short train ride away myself) and it really doesn’t look like a town gearing up for victory in the upcoming Sussex in Bloom contest.

In fact things are looking pretty grim— almost as though the town isn’t even aware that such a contest is moving towards us at quite intense speed.

I would like to know exactly what our tactics are for this proud and prestigious botanical bout— even Bexhill-on-Sea has a few cheery hanging baskets adorning it’s otherwise pitiful high street!

If we act fast it will not be too late! With our buds barely blooming, let alone arranged in aesthetically pleasing formations, we have little time, but surely we can throw something together?! I have no ideas myself— I am far from an expert in the field, merely an enthusiastic fan of foliage.

We could of course cheat and use plastic plants; but we must ask ourselves if we really want to be the Michael Jackson of the contemporary flower exhibiting world… I don’t think you need me to tell you that we most certainly do not want that foul infamy!

I wish to see victory (and restoration of local pride) before the imminent death of my poor, world-weary goldfish Colonel Kurtz (named, of course, after Marlon Brando’s character in The Godfather).

Whilst we’re on the subject of my goldfish, I wonder if you can assist me in matters of goldfish behaviour. I do not know whether you are anything of an ichthyologist, but I feel it’s worth a shot.

Kurtz is a very mischievous fish. I often tell him that if he doesn’t behave he shall end up sleeping with the fishes, but this only serves to make him more frisky and excitable than before. Have you any idea how I can restore discipline and order to my fishbowl?

Thank you for your time,

James D. Irwin


An Unanswered Letter to Bruce Willis (Voice of Mikey in ‘Look Who’s Talking’)

Dear Mr Willis,

I am not altogether convinced this address is genuine, but if it is, I have a number of questions.

Firstly, I dined at Planet Hollywood last year. Whilst it was great to see the motorcycle/chopper from Pulp Fiction (I do a great impersonation of that entire scene, playing both your role and the part of Fabienne) and although I was also thrilled to find that our hands are exactly the same size, one question could not escape my mind:

Planet Hollywood was set up after the immense (and richly deserved) success of the seminal action film Die Hard, in which you played the main character. Why then, did you not name the restaurant Dine Hard? And since the world has become full of left-wing lunatic hippies who think that meat is murder, the avenue for a vegan outlet named Dine Hard: With a Vegetable was wide open! Just a thought…

Also: I have a suggestion for a new condiment, also along the Die Hard theme. Salt and Pepper are as old hat as Salt-N-Pepa, why not spice things up with a little Yipee-Cayenne-Pepper? The place is film themed, right?!

Also, is The Sixth Sense a sequel to The Fifth Element? Because they are quite similar (i.e. you are in them) but they are also different (i.e. they are clearly two very different films).

Finally, why is the food at Planet Hollywood so expensive? Please don’t tell me it’s because the film roles are drying up, because I do enjoy your films.

Sincerely,

James D. Irwin

P.S. Who would win in a fight between John McClane and Harry Callahan? I mean ’70s era Callahan, because he looks a bit frailer in that last film with Jim Carrey and the exploding remote control car (something sadly lacking in the Die Hard films).

OR

Would you join forces and take on Chuck Norris in a No Rules Cage Fight? I would be willing to pay anything between $6-12 to see it happen.


An Unanswered Letter to Brad Pitt (Star of Seven and Years in Tibet)

Dear Mr Pitt,

I haven’t seen many of your films, but having seen both Seven and Fight Club, as well as the trailers for Ocean’s 11-13, I’m confident you have the talent, gravitas and cache for my latest foray into the world of cinematic excellence.

Admittedly my plans rely heavily on you either knowing somebody with the surname Pendulum, or adopting a Rwandan child and calling it Pendulum.

The film itself would be a screen adaptation of an Edgar Allen Poe classic.

Imagine the bill Brad… PITT and PENDULUM in… THE RAVEN! Catchy, don’t you think?!

The tickets practically sell themselves!

Question: Poe lived in Baltimore. Baltimore’s NFL team is called The Ravens. Is this a coincidence?

I would like to see more of your films before I write the script, what would you recommend? Also, you might want some say in your supporting cast, but I’d very much like to cast Morgan Freeman as the narrator. Isn’t his voice wonderful? It’s the audio equivalent of taking a bath in hot chocolate whilst Kiera Knightley massages your thorax with warm, fresh honey…

Sincerely,

James D. Irwin

P.S. I want you to reply as hard as you can.

P.P.S. That was a Fight Club reference.

An Unanswered Letter to George Clooney (Nepresso Coffee Spokesperson)

Dear Mr Clooney,

Is there going to be another Ocean’s film?

I can’t help but think the number of Ocean’s films is rising rapidly— perhaps too rapidly. I wonder then, if this is a subtle message regarding global warming?

Perhaps your next Ocean’s film could directly address this phenomena… Ocean’s Rising.

The plot would see another casino being built— a gaudy super-casino, which tips the world’s C02 omissions over the edge, triggering a huge climate change and the oceans literally rising and drowning the Netherlands and Norfolk, England.

Then you, Matt Damon and the other ones (except Brad Pitt, who’ll be busy working on an adaptation of ‘The Raven’, which is being narrated by Morgan Freeman) have to save all the Dutch people. You could save all the people in Norfolk, but Dutch girls are very pretty and the good people of Norfolk have something of a reputation for webbed feet and inbreeding…

Please don’t hesitate to tell me what you think. I don’t have anything locked down as yet, and am very open to suggestions and script alterations.

James D. Irwin


An Unanswered Letter to Matt Damon (Popular Youtube sensation)

Dear Mr Damon,

I recently treated myself to a viewing of Team America: World Police. I was saddened to see you, Matt Damon, offer the most wooden performance I have ever seen. You seemed to be little more than the director’s puppet. It was a particular shame given how great you generally are in films and stuff.

I have enjoyed The Talented Mr Ripley countless times, because one can never tire of watching Jude Law being murdered.

Anyway, I digress. This letter regards your future, and presents to you a prospect I think you’ll find hard to turn down (I would say “an offer you can’t refuse”, but quoting Apocalypse Now is becoming rather cliché).

I may not be a big name in Hollywoodland (although I possess far more talent than the cast of Hollywoodland) but I have some big ideas!

As Brad Pitt and I have already begun to collaborate on a new version of Poe’s “The Raven” (to be narrated by Morgan Freeman) you’ll find your role in the new Ocean’s film much expanded. George and I haven’t come to any firm agreements yet, but as it stands the plot revolves around you and The Cloonmeister saving the Dutch from the catastrophic effects of global warming. The final scene will probably involve pretty Dutch girls with unlikely surnames “thanking” you for your heroics (this scene won’t be too graphic however, as we really need a PG-13 certificate to maximise our demographics).

Now we’ve got that out of the way we can turn our attention to the Bourne films. They’ve done remarkably well, considering you look like my friend Dan who has a dodgy heart.

You may be aware that Mr Robert Ludlum has been very inconsiderate in dying, leaving not so much as a partially finished manuscript on which to base another exhilarating caper for everyone’s favourite amnesiac action hero.

However, I have a sure-fire, whizz-bang of a hit under my belt (just ask the ladies!)

Seriously though… After all that killing he’s done and loved ones he’s lost, Jason Bourne is probably at something of a low ebb. He goes to church, confesses all of his sins and becomes a do-goody Christian— a Born Again Christian.

The film would be called ‘Bourne: Again’ and focus largely on character arc and setting up a high-octane sequel. We’d have to be very careful in making sure that the film was not mistaken for popular ABBA tribute act Bjorn Again— but perhaps they could do the soundtrack?

Towards the end of the film Jason Bourne, now the pillar of a small Mid-Western community, is attacked by a group of no-good punk kids. Attempting to open the can of kick-ass moves demonstrated in the first three films he finds he simply cannot: Jason Bourne is unable to defend himself, and as he lies beaten, bruised and bleeding in the street, he finds that God can’t always defend him.

Bourne is then forced to choose between his faith in God and his faith in beating people shitless.

This sets up the sequel we see that you, Jason Bourne, have opted to put your faith in beating people shitless and have begun to train yourself up to battle man’s greatest foe: God (played by Chuck Norris).

In a thrilling climax Bourne confronts God in an epic battle royale in which both men attempt to out-smite each other (working title: Matt Damon Versus God: The Smitening).

I can’t see any flaws, except the (slim chance) that Mr Norris is eviscerated in the upcoming Cage Fight against Bruce Willis and ’70s era Harry Callahan (tickets $6-12).

I would be delighted to hear your thoughts— and I am, of course, open to any of your suggestions. After all, you have written a multiple-MTV Movie Award winning film!

Sincerely,

James D. Irwin

I write a letter to Nikki, in my diary, each time the doctor takes a scalpel and carves out another mole.

He takes nipping strokes through my epidermis, dermis, and down to the fat, and drops the tissue—suspect for malignant melanoma—into a vile that’ll go to some lab in New Hampshire.