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Flirting by mail

I’ve slightly redesigned the flyers, swapping 'blacksmith' for 'bodyguard' and 'ghostwriter' for 'typing'. And I wanted to have them printed on self-adhesive paper, because I’ve noticed that my taped or stapled flyers are often gone when I return a week later, ripped down by Republicans, or whoever might be offended at the thought of someone working for a living beyond corporate control.

Stickers seem to last longer. When I walked down a street I’d flyered a week ago most of my signs were gone, but I spotted a sticker for a punk show that included the night the band was playing, which was a year and a half ago. Maybe printing the flyers on sticker-paper would be worth paying a little more?

But — no. Kinko’s sells sticky sheets for $1 p/page, and that's serious money. Might as well buy stock in Microsoft. So I went to Flax instead, bought a can of spray adhesive, and then glued my flyers to telephone poles and booths across SoMa, upper Grant, and Columbus, getting my hands all sticky in the process. Then I checked the mail and came home, and when I unlocked my hotel room door, I didn’t even need to hold the key; it simply stuck to my fingers.

In the mail was a pleasant surprise: In response to my then-panicked shrieks at the end of the January issue, the folks at Our Two Cents sent a marvelous care package of junk food — PopTarts, crackers ‘n’ peanut butter snackettes, and fortune cookies. One of the fortune cookies promised me a promotion at work, which seems unlikely but worth a chuckle. Thank you, J Rowden and R Press, and how did you know that junk food is what I’ve missed most since kissing paychecks goodbye? Serious and genuine gratitude. I’ve eaten all of it tonight, and it was a fine dinner.

Also in the mail: two issues of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, my favorite newspaper and indeed, as the masthead says, "America’s last newspaper." To my surprise, I’m a featured player in each issue, with excerpts from January’s Pathetic Life. It’s weird reading my life in a newspaper, where it's laid out better. It’s also weird reading January, because everything in my life has changed since then. But I love being a columnist by surprise, and without having to worry about deadlines or anything. Thanks, Bruce!

The first envelopes I opened, though, were two letters from Sarah-Katherine of Pasty, a frankly fabulous personal zine out of Seattle. That's where I'm from, but I never knew Sarah-Katherine when I lived there. We met by mail, and we’ve been trading zines and letters for a few months, and if it’s possible to flirt by mail, that’s what we’ve been doing. I haven’t mentioned it in the zine because it’s none of your business, but now she’s said it’s OK to share, so… in today’s letters she wrote, in part:

… It’s probably no secret but: I have a big crush on you. Now you know, and you can ridicule me if you like. You see, what makes me interested in a person is their intelligence, wit, passion, and (beware — corny, overused word) honesty, all of which you seem to have in spades. I know it’s goofy to have a crush on someone I’ve never met (or so they tell me) but I do — so there!

Don’t freak out — I’m not going to show up (well, uninvited, anyway) on your doorstep, or start calling you all the time, or slap you with a paternity suit, or anything like that. The reason I’m coming out of the closet about my crush on you is because you wrote in the January edition of Pathetic Life that you like the girl to ‘make the first move’, so, um, in spite of my shyness and low self-esteem, I guess I kind of am trying to do that. Oh, whatever — I’m sounding like a total geek and I wouldn’t blame you for laughing at me.

If you hate the idea of me having a crush on you, please just ignore me and I won’t mention it again…

—Sarah-Katherine  

Well, I don’t hate the idea at all, and at about the same time she was writing that letter to me, I mailed a post card to Sarah-Katherine, daring her to fly to Frisco, come and get me and fall in love. To that, she replied:

Never dare a stalker, particularly one who’s suffering from a major crush on you. ‘Come and get you’? All right, dear, I will.

When’s good for you? The best time for me (besides immediately) is mid-March, because that’s when [a co-worker] gets done with her jury duty and will be able to cover a few shifts for me. Start taking your vitamins now (heh!)…

—Sarah-Katherine  

Is this innocent kidding around, or is there something going on here? A guy can dream, can’t he? Here’s a portion of the response I wrote tonight and dropped into the mailbox at the corner:

All the sweet things you’ve said about the ‘me’ you hope you know from my zine, are the same things I’ve been thinking about you. It would be an exaggeration to say it’s my reason for writing a zine, but it’s been a daydream in the back of my head that maybe I’d connect with some wonderful woman writer and we’d get all mushy by mail. Is that romantic, or just crazy? Is it possible? Is it happening?

From my zine you know I'm a fat slob, but here are a few further details about the guy you’ve got a crush on, stuff you need to know before giving me any serious consideration, or certainly before meeting me.

Like, I’m an anarchist, and an agnostic or atheist, depending on my mood.

I had to turn off that Ween tape [some music she’d sent me] because it melted my ears; I’m more of a Peter Paul & Mary guy.

I don’t smoke, but I pick my nose when nobody’s looking.

When I want to annoy someone, I pick my nose while they are looking.

I enjoy belching, but never learned how to do it on purpose.

Same with farting.

Being a man, I often scratch myself.

If I’m not planning to see anyone, chances are I won’t bother brushing my teeth.

I once dumped a girlfriend without a word — just stopped calling, stopped returning her calls, and 15 years later I still feel guilty about it.

Poverty is a conscious choice I’ve made, but it’s perilously close to getting out of hand.

I am currently living on odd jobs for strangers, so my diet is mostly cheese sandwiches, with vitamin pills for dessert.

Homelessness is a possibility in my short-term future, but fortunately this is California, where we have fairly mild weather. 

If none of the above frightens you away, then please send a list of everything that’s obnoxious or worrisome about you. I’m eager to know the worst, because secrets suck, and after you know the worst about someone, everything else is a pleasant surprise.

Or, if you’re suddenly disinterested, it’s better to know sooner than later, don’t you think? 

If you still want to get together, hold everything for a late-breaking bulletin: You’d certainly be welcome to visit me here in San Francisco, but you live in Seattle and I’m from Seattle and I’m soon flying up there for a week’s visit, on my mom’s invitation and also on her dime.

The dates aren’t certain yet, but I’ll let you know when I know. Since the family is buying my ticket I’ll have to spend time with them — and hey, I do kinda like them & want to see them — but I’d love to spend some time with you too, while I’m in your neighborhood. 

Let’s share a 12-egg omelet at Beth’s Cafe, maybe walk around Green Lake if it’s sunny that day.

I like you. —Doug

From Pathetic Life #10
Friday, March 3, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

 Addendum, 2021: Probably I should’ve been more cautious about a ‘crush’ letter from a woman I’d never met. Sarah-Katherine could’ve been a maniac and minced me and eaten me for dinner. 

No worries, though. She wasn't a maniac. Or she was a maniac for good, not evil.

Sarah-Katherine will be a recurring character in future issues of the zine, and she came to mean something to me. Fair to say, she still does, but she seems to have abandoned the web, so I have no idea where she is now or what she’s doing. Wherever and whoever she is, I wish her better than the best.

Pathetic Life 

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