Mostly letters

Slept ten hours, and woke up with a dry throat and a cough — a touch of a cold or something. Which sucks cockroach droppings. 

I was sick in December, sick in March, and now I'm sick again? Bite me. I'm fighting back. Took ten vitamin C pills, with my extremely healthy diet of ramen for breakfast.

Spent the day working my way through the incoming zine mail, and peeing every twenty minutes or so, because every time I peed I took another vitamin C pill and chased it with another can of diet generic root beer. 

I am not, damn it, going to let this bug have its way with me. Gonna kill it with a vitamin C overdose.

♦ ♦ ♦  

And by sunset, all throat pain was gone. There's some snot up my schnoz, but that's all, and tilting my head just so, pinching one nostril and blowing everything out the other, I came close to hitting the syringe I was aiming for, out the window in the abandoned and littered patio below.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Here's a small fraction of the mailbag…

♦ ♦ ♦  

If you are ever at a loss for material, go to an AA or NA meeting. Plenty of stories in the naked city. Big drawback, though — lots of talk of God. It isn't really what the guys who started the organization wanted. It's supposed to be an individual's interpretation of their own 'higher power', but then they haul off and say the Our Father and it has all the elements of the Baptist Church.

At AA there were jillions of single or soon to be single men and women, as most of us had not been great relationship material. People discuss intimate things right off the bat, and they get close. It is better than any bar, for meeting people. 

Also, addictive types tend to like instant gratification; their pacifiers are gone, and the only thing left is sex. So I would recommend developing some form of neurosis that is marketable enough to warrant a 12-step program. Debtors Anonymous, or I even went to Nicotine Anonymous twice, when I quit that heavy habit. 

Watch out for the liars and zealots, same as in any group, but I guarantee you will get a date for coffee afterwards. So there is that option.

I have a zit the size of a cupcake on my chin.

—Pamela Smith,
Petaluma CA

This is the kind of letter I'd like more of. You aren't trying to sell anything or pry even deeper into my psyche than I delve in the zine. It's just a few paragraphs from someone else's head to my own, kinda weird, kind funny, kinda pertinent, kinda not.

My only major AA-style addiction is to eating too much, but it's usually not a habit I want to quit. I don't think there's an Introverts Anonymous, but being an introvert is about half of who I am, and I have no desire to give up half of me. Can't picture crashing the group, anyway. 

Laughed at your comparison of AA to the church. I'll never be surprised at the ability of religion, and especially religious believers, to ruin any good intentions. —DH 


... PS. You are not authorized to publish this letter unless it appears unedited, exactly as sent, and includes my complete mailing address.

—Dan Burton,
New York

And this is the kind of mail I'd like less of.

Dan, your letter is so long and boring, so angry about matters of no importance, I'm only printing the postscript, and only because it shows concisely what a twit you are. And it only shows it 'concisely' because I edited out the redundancies. 

For future reference, please note, nobody tells me what I'm "authorized to publish." —DH 


I'm addicted to 'grrrl' zines — they're so damn cute. Er, I mean, progressive and revolutionary. Heh heh. But seriously, they're a riot. 

Life is fun when you make fun of life. 

I got a letter from my school the other day, and it seems yet another teacher has complained about me. The latest criticisms: I can't think clearly and logically; I can't communicate effectively; I have a negative attitude. Everything basically translates to: I think for myself. I'm not a churchgoer. I don't deem the faculty or student body worthy of my attention (or anyone's). I'm a realist, hence the attitude.

I went to chat with various heads of various departments, and eventually got the disgruntled teacher's little evaluation put in the trash. It's ironic that this teacher claims I can't think clearly or logically, and yet I have an A in her class. She's so proud of her vocabulary, constantly using and misusing terms such as genre and paradigm and other funny-g words that she finds impressive.

College is a joke! I learn more from zines — even grrrl zines, heh heh. I bet I could learn more from watching television, and I certainly learn of hell of a lot more at libraries and bars.

They've got this neato trivia game at the bar. You get to use a big remote control and play against drunks from bars nationwide. Last night I lost to a girl (not a grrrl, just a regular girl) because there were far too many television-related questions and far too few questions about stuff that happens here on the outside of the television set. Stuff does happen out there, doesn't it? Or out here, I should say.

Well, I'm starting to go off on tangents like a fuckin' MRR columnist or something, so I'll say goodbye and go downstairs and get a beer or two or twelve.


Goes in the "more letters like this, please" pile. A pleasant journey across a mind muddled like my own, only different.

Nothing happens outside of the television set, Jason, and other than the beer and perhaps camaraderie, nothing much happens at college. Says this high school drop-out, anyway. —DH 


Re your PL22 "bonus rant" — I had a problem with wearing underwear for too long. They turned all brown and sticky between ballsack and thigh. The smell was indescribably delicious. I flushed more than one pair down the toilet, because I knew I wouldn't be doing laundry for months, and I just couldn't take the stench. If course, they were briefs.

I used to go weeks without showering; once almost six weeks (ugh!). It was always like Xmas in July when I'd finally step into that stall with no curtain, displaying my flabby, zit-covered body to all who cared to see it. I like bathing. It just feels good, if it's done slowly. Hmm. I need to start taking my vitamins again. 

Loneliness is a hard fact of life. I hate it, but I'm not holding my farts waiting for a change.

I'm moving to San Francisco. It's just a matter of three months or so. Any hints, tips? Where to live, etc?

—Joe Gallo,
Trenton NJ

Best letter of the bunch.

If you arrive with a big bankroll, Joe, you could get an apartment out in the Avenues, a nice quiet neighborhood with trees and parks and all that shit. Very boring. The scum of the slum is much more fun. And you want helpful hints?

Wearing a camera around your neck, or unfolding a city map in public, is like holding a big sign announcing that you're a tourist, new in town, and have money. "Please mug me," says the sign.

San Francisco (the natives hate the nickname 'Frisco') is probably safer than other cities, though, because of all the visitors, gawkers, conventioneers, and other rubes carrying their "Mug me" signs. Don't let yourself be perceived as vulnerable, and the troublemakers will go after the little old man in ridiculous cut-offs instead. Still, it doesn't hurt to carry mace or a switchblade, or both.

Once you're settled here, you'll want to sell your car — Frisco is a 47-square-mile no-parking zone, and anyway, the trains and buses are cheaper, quicker, safer, more reliable, and less hassle. 

Be generous elsewhere if you wish, but don't give to panhandlers in your own neighborhood. If you give a dime to one bum on your block, word is out, and you'll never be able to walk the streets in peace again. "Spare change today, man?" Fuck that.

What else? Hmmm. Rent The Crying Game before you come west. Try not to look at a lesbian's cleavage. Dang, I'm full of good advice. 

My very best tip is that you should buy me a burrito. Talking with my mouth full, I'll tell you everything I know about the city. —DH

From Pathetic Life #25
Tuesday, June 4, 1996

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.

Pathetic Life
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  1. I grow old and my heart beats more and more irregularly. I would like to say something about departing these fair shores, but am at a loss for meaningful words. Thankfully, Wallace Stevens anticipated my need.


    by Wallace Stevens

    Call the roller of big cigars,
    The muscular one, and bid him whip
    In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
    Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
    As they are used to wear, and let the boys
    Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
    Let be be finale of seem.
    The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

    Take from the dresser of deal,
    Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
    On which she embroidered fantails once
    And spread it so as to cover her face.
    If her horny feet protrude, they come
    To show how cold she is, and dumb.
    Let the lamp affix its beam.
    The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

    Holly was Wallace's daughter and dedicated much of her life to making sure Mr Stevens' work reached the farthest shores intact.

    1. Serious question, what's an emperor of ice cream? Was it the guy who owned the ice cream shop?

      San Francisco had its famous Emperor Norton, but I still remember Seattle's Emperor Smith.

    2. IMHO - The Emperor of Ice Cream is a guy who runs an ice cream stand or shop. There is no God: the only Emperor is a guy who runs an ice cream shop.

      As I said, just my interpretation.


    3. There's a real nice and non-chain ice cream shop on the #H bus. It's right at a bus stop, but either it's bankrupt or only open during the summer and the ice cream gods don't think it's summer yet.

    4. This is Puget Sound. This is as summer as it gets. I abhor chains, but ya gotta be open for me to do business with you.

      john (never been indicted) thebasket

    5. It clearly used to be a Baskin-Robbins, but it has a different, local name, and I'm tempted every time the bus goes tootlin' by.

      Nobody's ever inside, though.

    6. If we could raise capital from some of the affluent folks who visit this site combined with the name I've been going by for the last 40 years or so, we could open our own ice cream joint and save on replacement letters: Basket-Rubbin'.

      Just a wistful business proposal.


    7. Twelve letters
      Fourteen, if you count the hyphen and apostrophe

      16 flavors
      because 31 is too many
      to keep track of

      pink and brown
      still the decor

      prosciutto and peanut butter,
      the house specialty

      and we'll have to offer
      an ice cream
      sandwich sandwich sandwich

    8. I'm a slow motherfucker, but eventually sometimes I arrive at the answer. A cursory check of the Web indicates that nobody in the world has used the Stevens idea for an actual ice cream shop.

      The Emperor of Ice Cream

      sandwich, sandwich, sandwich

      Sure, the sign would be expensive, but we'd draw an interesting crowd.

      jtb - EoIC

    9. Sometimes the answer is right in front of me and, as usual, I was scanning the far horizon. Jesus pistachio.


    10. I would be far, far more likely to attend poetry readings where ice cream is served. Let's have regular ice cream poetry slams in the plastic & fiberboard seating area.

      Also, uniforms designed with the image of a bowl of ice cream with a cherry on top, perfectly aligned with the employee's nipples.

  2. That's me, with the dirty undies. I followed pretty much every damn piece of your advice, though I still haven't seen The Crying Game. Tough to enjoy a movie when you're waiting for the cock shot.

  3. I wonder if it's as good as I remember? Solid movie, even before and after the literal big reveal.

    How's your undies these days?

    1. My undies are blessed. That is, very holey. But cleaner, as I launder weekly at least.

    2. I've gotten *much* more susceptible to rashes and skin irritations, so now I gotta change underwear daily, but I bought enough underwear I only gotta do laundry monthly.

    3. Does your place have a washer/dryer in the shared space, or in the building at least? We have one like 15 feet away, in the utility room. If I had to schlep down a few floors, or god forbid, to the laundromat, I'd do laundry far less frequently.

    4. We have a washer/dryer, but it takes quarters. Lots of them.

    5. Doug, are you absolutely sure it's not a slot machine? They take lots of quarters and spin and leave you with dirty underwear too. Just checking as a friend of the family.


    6. They pay off like slot machines, meaning never, so maybe.

      $1.75 to wash, $1.75 more to dry, which still pisses me off. At my apartment in Wisconsin, it was a dollar.

  4. Doug, as you know I know almost nothing about movies, but I recall one I really enjoyed that featured George C. Scott and Joanne Woodward, "They Might Be Giants". One of my favorite musical groups took their name from the title of the movie and, when they were interviewed on Carson (with Leno subbing, shit) the boys described it as a "bad movie". It is an odd movie, but I'm an odd guy.

    Unfortunately, most of the prints available cut one of the best extended scenes which takes place in an all-night supermarket. This year I understand somebody is restoring the original print (or most of it). The original ran 98 minutes. That one is hard to find, maybe impossible, but the 2023 re-edited version runs 91 minutes. I saw the original (1971). I guess you just have to get the longest cut available. Jack Gilford does a nice job in a smallish supporting role.


    1. Well, that sounds like a challenge and I like a challenge, long as I can rise to the occasion without leaving my recliner.

      I *think* I saw it years and years ago. Think I loved it...

    2. This might be a bigger challenge than I thought. Every version I find, even the ones that say they're 98 minutes, is 91 minutes...

      It *is* the movie I thought it was though, and I liked it lots long ago.


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