18 November 2005

24. Astrology

Dear astrology,

I don't believe in you in any meaningful sense of the word, but sometimes I wish I did. For instance, it sure would be soothing to explain away all my hyper-introspective troubles of the past August in terms of Mercury retrograde in Leo. It's appropriate that I started writing you this letter — a letter I was fairly sure could never reach you anyway — during said retrograde period, what with Mercury being a messenger god and his planetary namesake the astrological ruler of all things communication. Even more appropriate is the fact that I couldn't finish this letter during that retrograde period or the weeks afterwards when communications were supposedly back to normal. No, I had to wait until Mercury went retrograde again, because that's the kind of person I am. Okay, maybe that's just silly, but it amuses me.

The troubles that got me to start this letter began on July 23, a day marked "GOD HELP US ALL" in big black letters on at least one of the calendars at my hippie job, where I can actually get away with saying "I blame Mercury retrograde" and have people laugh not just at me being an astrology freak, but also with me, because they feel my pain and whatnot (it's actually store policy to avoid making major decisions during Mercury retrogrades, I kid you not). Extra bonus: word has it that since I'm a Virgo, I'm ruled by Mercury, so it was amazing I could get anything done at all during this period, which reportedly peaked out on August 16 and was completed (with Mercury's movement relative to the Earth looking normal again) on the 30th. Normal at least until the next cataclysmic cosmic convergence, which is just another way of saying "things may be bad, but the only way out is through, and if you just keep going you'll get there" --- which isn't too bad as far as advice goes; I'll buy that at least, and I don't have to subscribe to any of your stars and planets song and dance to appreciate that message.

Still, it would be nice if I could believe in you just enough to justify stuff I can't explain, at least to myself. The problem is — and I'm pretty sure it's not just you, but divination in general --- I'm a little too aware that your only meaning comes from how I read you selectively to describe my particular situation, and eventually I have to recognize that fact. Like earlier, when I learned about Mercury retrograde and it so conveniently explained so many of my problems of the mid-July and August, especially when I factored in Leo contributing extra bonus weird crazy ego issues... only then I got too far into the ego thing and found a Web toy and computed my birth chart, which I read as being full of things I didn't want to hear about myself. Not only was that not as fun as blaming all my troubles on a distant planet, it got me thinking that I probably wasn't reading my stars and planets optimistically enough, which in turn reminded me that I could read them however I wanted to, and wasn't it a good thing that I don't really take any of this stuff seriously anyway?

Yup, you're kind of a load of hooey, or at least that's what I'm going to keep telling myself, except when you're useful. It's nothing personal, I'd just rather not turn into one of those people who can't shut up about the stars. And on that note, I'd better quit rambling and finish this letter.


Started 16 August 2005, at the peak of one Mercury retrograde period, published 18 November 2005, five days into the next, last updated/proofread 16 December 2005. Title abridged 1 December 2011.

23. Cars Parked in the Bike Lane

Dear cars parked in the bike lane,

Because of you, I used to wish for stickers that said, "I park in bike lanes! It's illegal, dangerous, and rude!" On good days, I'd imagine such stickers made with some kind of easily removable glue, and I'd promise myself that I'd only put them on glass. On bad days, I'd wish they were made with marine epoxy, for extra permanence and property damage. Sometimes I'd leave angry little notes on your windshields, when I had the time to stop, and little bits of paper to write on. But recently, I've had a change of heart.

Clearly, if you're parked in the bike lane, it must mean that your driver is involved in some kind of emergency. (In fact, some of your drivers are wise in the ways of using your emergency lights at these times, and I'm thankful for that, if not the fact that I still have to swerve precariously out into traffic to pass an illegally placed vehicle.) Still, from now on, whenever I encounter someone in a car parked in the bike lane, I'm going to stop and solicitously offer my assistance. I know a little first aid, and I'd be more than happy to call for help, even if it means ringing doorbells in a residential neighborhood until I find somebody who's willing to lend me a phone. I've almost been hit by police cars while trying to avoid bike lane parking jobs like you, so I'm pretty sure our local cops don't care about this problem, but we can always hope for a better response to an emergency call, right? There's really only one way to find out!

I will miss the petty satisfaction of kicking your car doors from the street as I pass, risking life and limb because your drivers were too inconsiderate to find a safe and legal place to stop. Those drivers always gave me the best shocked looks, like deer in headlights, only more offended. But no more. Now they will give me shocked looks when I try to be helpful. And I guess I still want those stickers.


started 7 November 2004, first posted 20 January 2005, updated 11 March 2009, after reading this lovely comic here. Title abridged 1 December 2011.

10 September 2005

22. Coffee

Dear coffee,

I love you, but I love sleep more.

Really, I'm sorry we haven't been seeing more of each other recently, but for the past few months it seems like whenever I drink you, I regret it about twelve hours later, when I'm tossing and turning in bed.

My current theory as to why this happens is that my life's gotten a lot more low-stress since I got a new job and quit my old one. You were necessary at my old job, and fortunately free in espresso drink form, at least in limited quantities... eventually someone posted a sign on the coffee machine reminding employees to limit themselves to four shots per day, and I don't know what's funnier: the thought that management thought we were all too tweaked out, or the possibility that our coffee consumption was actually costing the restaurant too much money. And then there's the possibility that both were true... wow. Any which way, I needed you at that job, which kept me so strung out that I hardly noticed the effects of caffeine. Now that I'm not cooking there anymore, I'm much more mellow, and my theory is I've finally relaxed enough to respond to stimulants, because boy howdy, I do like never before. Unfortunately, my new job has introduced me to new and exciting varieties of you, coffee, through former coworkers who know and love you professionally, bless their organic and fair-trade bean-roasting hearts, which they followed to their own coffee business, more power to them. Believe me, I want to keep buying their products, but I can't bring myself to try decaf, dammit.

So I've been trying only to drink you early in the day — at first my rule was before 4 PM, but that became 2 PM, and eventually noon — but my tendency to stay up too late and sleep in even later makes it hard to stick to this plan, and caffeine-induced insomnia doesn't help, either. Still, don't give up on me, coffee. I haven't given up on you, and I haven't stopped loving you. I had to work way too hard to acquire a taste for you to lose it now. But if there's a way I can reliably enjoy you without having to develop a drinking habit to counter your effects, write back soon, okay?


Started 23 June 2005, updated 3 November 2006, title abridged 1 December 2011.

03 August 2005

21. Newborn Babies

Dear newborn babies,

For what it's worth, welcome to the world. I want to apologize, over and over again, for the state it's in. I know it's not all my fault; for one thing, the way things are now is the product of everything that has come before, less than 26 years of which had me in it, but still. There's so much wrongness that most of the time I can't even think of anything to do to make anything better. I'm just one person, and there are so many people, and speaking as just one single solitary mess of a human being I get overwhelmed by my own stupid petty little problems, let alone those of the entire human race. Some days that makes me angry, some days it makes me sad, and some days it makes me wish I'd never been born. But life isn't something you can choose for yourself, little ones, which is perhaps its greatest irony. The good news is that despite the fact that life is in many ways one long cruel joke, there's a lot to enjoy. Let's start with you.

I hope, in as non-ableist a way as possible, that you're healthy, because life will be easier for you with the standard number of eyes and ears and appendages for a person of any size. Likewise, I also hope you're relatively free of genes that'll make you prone to illness, both physical and mental. But whatever state it's in, that body you've got is a marvel. People have been trying to understand it and things like it since as long as there were people, maybe longer, and there's plenty that's still a mystery. But one of the good things about being a person is there's all this history and exploring and understanding for you to build and grow on if you want to learn it. And that's getting on to the next great gift you've been given, which is your mind. You can think about anything with it, even if you can't always understand everything. Maybe someday you'll think that's pretty awesome. I sure hope so.

Now I want to take a paragraph to write about your family, by whom I mean the people you'll live with at least until you're old enough to wonder why you live with them, but probably longer. It's likely to include the people your immediate family lived with until they were old enough to wonder, too, even if they're unlikely to define their families in quite the same silly cynical and all-inclusive way I do. Anyway. What I'm going to write now is something I wish someone had told me sooner instead of leaving me to figure it out: your family are the people who will see you at your worst, and you will see them at their worst. If you're like me, and I know I am, there will be times when you will hate your family for being such a bunch of freaks, but the fact is no one's normal and everybody's pretty good at hiding it most of the time but not all of the time and comparing your insides to other people's outsides is a surefire way to make yourself feel bad about not just your insides and their outsides but the whole world in general. What's more, since your family are the people you can't hide from all the time, you'll get to know their insides a bit, and comparing what you see there to other people's outsides isn't going to be a picnic, either. Dang. None of that sounds very reassuring at all now that I've written it, but it's still important, at least to me, as a way of keeping things in perspective, and I really don't mean it in an all bad way. What else can I say about family? Well, like life, you didn't choose them, but you're mostly stuck with them, too. And at times you will love them even if they are such a bunch of freaks that it's hard to imagine that just about any other group of people would be at least as freaky if they were stuck together all the time, and I hope the times you love each other for no reason outnumber the bad times by far.

But while I'm talking about the other people in the world, I shouldn't stop with your family. Neither should you. At some point some well-meaning older person may try warning you to never talk to strangers, but like all rules, that's really just a guideline. It should be more like, "Be careful when you talk to anybody, not just strangers, but don't be too careful, because living in fear is no fun." If you never talked to strangers, you might never make any friends, and believe me, friends are way up there on the list of things that are just plain awesome about being human. Maybe more than anything else I could wish for you, I hope you'll make and cherish many good friends, and I hope they become just as close and dear and in their own way impossible to you as those family freaks I was telling you about a bit earlier.

What else? I could've sworn I had more to say than this, but then again I started this letter months ago and I didn't keep very good notes on all the topics I wanted to cover. That said, I wish you luck in training your memory and learning in general and of course figuring out ways to sort through your thoughts and decide what's important to you. There's no pause button on life, unfortunately, or I'd spend a lot of time between moments, thinking, hiding, and generally missing all the good stuff. Go ahead and live all your moments, because there's no way of knowing whether or not the life you've got is the only one you're getting, and you might as well make it a good one even if it turns out I'm wrong about reincarnation. All our lifetimes are full of countless chances to live right, and all we can do is make the most of those chances as best we can.

I know this is a silly letter to write. By the time you're able to read this, you won't be newborn anymore. Even if someone were to read it to you right now, before you got too old to be considered newborn, there's no telling how much you'd understand and absorb, much less remember. But I think about you, little ones, and it fills me with a mix of envy, and relief, and hope, and despair, and love. I guess that's life. Again, for what it's worth, welcome to it.

And happy birthday.


P.S. I tried to write this letter in the most general terms possible, but I would be a big liar if I said the idea of writing it arose full-formed in my brain, unprovoked by events in my world. That said, "Dear Newborn" is dedicated to Stony Raine Lohr III and her parents, Stony and Janelle, on her birthday, 5 February 2005, even if it took me a really long time to write. Hey rugrat: good job on those teeth! I was sort of arbitrarily waiting till you'd been around 6 months, but I appreciate the reminder that it's well past time I declared this letter done and sent it out.

Started 10 February 2005, text updated 14 October 2005, title abridged 1 December 2011. Reformatted 8 September 2013, last updated 6 June 2014.

28 July 2005

20. Plants

Dear plants,

You're really weird. I mean that in a good way, though, and on all kinds of levels. For one thing, many of you are delicious — or maybe I'm overestimating and it's just some of you; I'm not sure. I should probably find out what percentage of you are edible in some way, just to satisfy my geekish curiosity, but I digress. Many of you are also quite beautiful, and as I learn more about you I'm developing a greater appreciation for your different kinds of beauty, which in turn makes the world a cooler place to be just because I can look at you and smile just about everywhere I go. You're weird in big and loud as well as small and quiet ways, all of which add up to something strange and wonderful. Plants, you reaffirm my belief that if there's any life in the universe beyond the planet Earth, it's quite possible we silly human animals won't be able to recognize it even if we found it. I mean, you're so different from life as I understand it in my silly human animal ways. It boggles my mind how I can cut big pieces off you to eat, or just because they're in my way, and you still live! Sometimes you even grow back stronger and healthier than before! Wow!

True, I wasn't always this enthusiastic about you. I'm still not much into biology on a microscopic anatomical level, what with all the chemistry that goes on there — yuck. But since buying a house and trying to tend all the plants on the property and starting a garden in which to grow vegetables to eat, I'm starting to think that maybe botanists aren't all that on crack, after all. Now granted, I'm deeply fascinated by my bean and tomato and spaghetti squash plants and so on because if all goes well they give me food (or they already have, hurray!) but I can see how even non-food plants might hold similar fascinations, for sentimental or aesthetic reasons perhaps, or just geekery. Roses are pretty intriguing, I gotta say — most of the bewilderment I expressed earlier at plants that respond well to even my ruthless and possibly incompetent pruning is based on my experiences with the rose bushes in my front yard. Their rhododendron colleagues are even more of a mystery to me, but I don't have as much of a use for them, though that might just be because they confuse and bewilder me, I'm honestly not sure.

Plants! You are so amazing! Before I forget, I should express my gratitude to you for producing the oxygen I breathe as a byproduct of photosynthesis, which is about as miraculous as anything else I can think of, and about as full of scary chemistry too, all at once. I had to study that mysterious process and the one we both share, respiration, in high school, but fortunately I've forgotten most of it since then so it's okay except how maybe it stopped me from learning more about you for a while, during which time I missed out on so much joy and wonder.

The good news of course is that I'm back to the joy and wonder of learning (albeit in a more first-hand and less textbook manner) and planting, and watching in awe as you grow, plants. Symbiosis rocks, even if I'm really misusing that term and trying to stretch it into a metaphor for talking about how all life is interconnected, even life that's completely foreign to my understanding of how anything works. You rock, too, plants, and I'm not just saying that because I eat so very many of you. Um, I hope you're okay with that last, although since I'm pretty sure you can't see this, let alone read it, I'm not sure how I could ever hear back from you either way. Sorry about that. And finally, while you sometimes seem alien enough to have come from other planets, and I think it would be pretty cool if you had, I'm mostly just happy knowing that the Earth is full of things that are just as freaky as I am, no matter where any of us came from.


Started in the early AM hours of 27 July 2005, published 28 July 2005, updated 4 February 2006 with a link to this Dinosaur Comic, because I could not resist. Title abridged 1 December 2011, last updated 6 June 2014.

18 July 2005

19. FreeCycle

Dear FreeCycle,

Please stop sending me offers of kittens, especially ones with pictures. I want them all, and my Iggy Pop probably does too, but I hope I'm still several decades away from turning into a crazy cat lady, so yeah. In the meantime, if you could just remind everybody to spay and neuter their pets, that would be great. Thanks!


published on Epistolography on 22 September 2005, title abridged 1 December 2011.

06 June 2005

18. Rain

Dear rain,

Don't get me wrong. I know you're good for my garden, especially the carrots I thinned out and the brand shiny new green zebra and yellow brandywine tomatoes I planted today. I'm down with not having to water my plants with the garden hose, although I'm still going to mulch them lovingly with grass clippings in an effort to retain water (and as an added bonus, keep down weeds). But couldn't you wait with starting till I'm at work instead of making it hard for me to get there on my bike? I would've liked to keep pruning my roses and make a run to the library, too... but I'll settle for the fact that you seem to be slowing down a bit. Hold that thought! Thank you!


Title abridged 1 December 2011.

05 May 2005

17. Laws Against Same-Sex Marriage

Dear laws against same-sex marriage,

I used to dream that I would get married someday. That's not too surprising; I grew up in a society with lots of ideas, images, and assumptions about marriage, the kind that get repeated rhetorically by the politicians who claim we need laws like you to protect the foundation of a stable society. Big deal. But regardless of what I absorbed or learned, or whether our society is stable or not, I didn't have a stereotypical little girl's dreams about my wedding day, ceremonies, spectacle, big fancy dresses that would never be good for any other occasion, or even about cake. I'd learned from my parents pretty early on that the ceremonial parts of marriage are a big hoopla mostly for the benefit of the friends and family of the couple getting married, and that people who sign papers at City Hall with a minimum number of witnesses are just as married as the folks who shell out big bucks for a celebration with all the trimmings. My parents got married because otherwise my mother wouldn't have had very many rights in the United States when she came here with my father, and because it made my grandmother happy — though I don't doubt that Oma had been quick to point out the pragmatic benefits of having their relationship legally recognized. My mother never had a white wedding dress, but instead a brown one she wore to many other occasions, and when she was unhappy with the hairstyle inflicted on her by a salon staff over-eager to cater to a bride, she washed it out. That's the kind of woman my mother is, and although we have our differences about plenty of other things, I admire her for this story. I have relatives who lived together in longterm committed relationships that lasted years before legal marriage. One pair of family friends married when he was drafted to go to Vietnam, so that she could collect widow's benefits if the worst came to pass; years later they divorced and continued living together when that arrangement proved more financially beneficial. My family didn't go to church, so the question of whether a marriage was civil or religious wasn't really an issue. So my view of marriage was never religious or romantic, but more practical. And my dreams of marriage were less about ceremonies and flowers, and more about sharing my life with someone and living happily ever after, more or less like my parents did (just don't tell them I said that).

My dreams began to turn sour in 1996, when former U.S. President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act — and when I started to realize that I could be attracted to females as well as males. It was an eye-opening experience, realizing that the law would recognize and support my relationship only if I loved a member of the opposite sex. (And if you'll tolerate one more brief flashback to my childhood, I'd like to point out that the first time I can remember talking to anyone about homosexuality, it was defined in terms of marriage: "gay" was when a man wanted to marry another man, or a woman wanted to marry another woman. Chew on that awhile.) Anyway, I was angered and disgusted by DoMA, and like I said before, whatever sweet marriage dreams I might have had gradually turned sour, and finally bitter, in the following years, as more and more states passed discriminatory laws to limit the definition of marriage to "one man, one woman". These laws prompted me to learn more about the other ways marriage discriminates (why can't bureaucrats create paperwork that separates us into "married" and "unmarried", instead of assuming that the opposite of "married" is "single"?) and better understand my dissatisfaction with the legal and social institution of marriage (again, the religious aspects weren't really relevant to me). In 2000, when the state of Vermont created its same-sex civil unions, the state of California, where I was living at the time, passed its own law — Proposition 22 — so it could refuse to recognize even marriage-like legal relationships created in other states. Today the United States government spends millions to promote marriage as an alternative to welfare, as if somehow it's better for children to suffer poverty as long as their parents are wearing wedding rings — I could go on and on, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

In 2004, almost the present day, the United States Senate debated a proposed Constitutional amendment that would deny marriage rights to same-sex couples. (I won't say "once and for all", because Prohibition was struck down, but that took a Constitutional amendment, too, and years of misery in between.) Needless to say, the proposed amendment would have been an added layer of redundancy on top of all the unfair laws passed over the years since DoMA, but I wasn't as angry or disgusted as I was in 1996 or 2000. Instead, I was disappointed and sad, even after the amendment failed to pass. Later that year, the state of Oregon, where I live, responded to the city of Portland's decision to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples by passing its own "one man, one woman" referendum, Measure 36. Five months later, I still can't bring myself to take down our sign protesting its injustice.

In 1996, marriage was just a hypothetical possibility for my future. In 2004, after six years with the same partner, it broke my heart to know that although we, as an opposite-sex couple, could have our relationship legally recognized, we could have at best a pale imitation of such protections and support if we were a same-sex couple. I still hope that someday things will change, that laws will be rewritten to treat all couples equally, but for now all I have is hope. Same-sex marriage is still only legal in one state in the U.S., and it still isn't enough for its opponents to know that same-sex couples are largely excluded from the rights and privileges extended to married people, even by the highest law of the land. Even civil unions, domestic partnerships, and reciprocal beneficiary status are controversial, and as if to highlight their separate but hardly equal status, laws providing such limited legal alternatives to marriage routinely exclude opposite-sex couples like me and my partner. I don't dream of getting married anymore, and it's largely because of laws like you.


Started 23 February 2005, posted 4 May 2005, updated 20 October 2005. Title abridged 1 December 2011.

06 April 2005

16. Loud Car Speakers

Dear Loud Car Speaker Systems Whose Owners Insist On Showing Them Off All The Time, Especially In A Way That Involves Too Much Bass And Not Enough Music,

I'd say I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but actually I'm kind of gleeful about the fact that no amount of noise pollution is ever going to make your owners' dicks any bigger.


Okay, so this is kind of a cheap shot, written and published in a fit of pettiness and poor taste on 6 April 2005. Title abridged 1 December 2011, edited to make the post more about the speakers and less about their owners on 11 August 2012.

31 March 2005

15. Procrastination

Dear procrastination,

Because of you, it's too late for me to write Robert Creeley fan mail, even though I've been a great admirer of his poetry for almost ten years. Serves me right, I know, but still. I dislike you most when I'm regretting opportunities I missed simply because I put them off for too long.

On the other hand, you're not always a bad thing. Maybe sometimes I wish I'd taken a little more time to do stuff, because postponing my responsibilities to the last possible second can get pretty hectic and stressful, but oftentimes I stress myself out just as much over a longer period of time if I try to get a head start on, say, making an important decision (or even an unimportant one). And since, in the case of decision-making, I tend to delay as long as I possibly can before I more or less impulsively choose the option that secretly appealed to me all along, waiting awhile and avoiding the problem can be a good way of saving myself the long, drawn-out stress of agonizing over all the possibilities, right? Right.

For instance, the deadline to register for spring term continuing education classes at the University of Oregon was March 7, and I didn't start looking at the course schedule until three days before that. With two days left to go, I made a list of 17 interesting-looking courses, of which at least 9 had prerequisites that I haven't taken yet. Now, if I had started looking sooner, I might have had time to contact some of the instructors for these courses for permission to take courses without the prerequisites, but as it is I narrowed down my decision quite a bit already.

Furthermore, because I waited so long to even peruse the course schedule and catalog, 10 of the 17 interesting-looking courses on my list were full before I even started! And not all of those 10 were the classes I can't take due to prerequisites! Score! That narrowed my decision down to one of four classes. and left me with slightly under 48 hours to pick a class and jump through the hoops required to take it, or forget about the whole plan until I can register for fall term classes, like ANTH (Anthropology) 365: Food and Culture (so awesome!) Either way, I didn't agonize over it endlessly! Go me!

Furthermore, thanks to you, procrastination, I tricked myself into taking a crash course in the University of Oregon's course offerings, and it looks like my current academic interests more or less all revolve around cultural studies in some way. That's broad enough to satisfy my um, shall we say, diverse academic interests (really, I want an advanced degree in "What's that over there?") but it's enough of a unifying theme that I could probably weasel my way into a semi-structured course of study about it, somehow. Maybe. But I can put off thinking about that for a little longer, right? That's what I thought.

But finally, because of the awesomeness of procrastination, I ended up obtaining a U. of Oregon ID number and not using it because a better opportunity came up. I'd been working two jobs for some time, and taking a class was going to be my excuse for quitting one. However, while I was postponing the decision of what class to take, I got word of an opening at my second job that fit the description of "I'd quit my first job for this" that I gave when I interviewed. Long story short, I now get to spend two afternoons a week making delicious vegetarian food, including vast quantities of basically whatever I want as long as it's not too expensive — and it's all possible because I waited so long about signing up for class.

Sometimes, procrastination, you're the best. But I still wish I'd written Creeley before he died.


Started 5 March 2005, when "maybe I'll take a class!" was sort of a super-secret plan for me, published/last updated 31 March 2005 after my second day of training for the new job of awesomeness.

06 March 2005

14. DMCA

Dear Digital Millenium Copyright Act,

I knew you were a bad law from hanging around with geeks who care deeply about intellectual property and freedom, but it wasn't until recently that I found out exactly how bad you really are.
You see, it turns out you're the reason I can't listen to live internet broadcasts of Vin Scelsa's freeform radio show Idiot's Delight, because Vin's prone to stuff like playing the entire B side of an album when it suits him, which is just too... oh, I give in, it's too free for some people, never mind that it's exactly that freedom that makes it good art, and if you don't think deejaying can be art then clearly you've never listened to Vin on a good night, which is why I want to be able to hear him here on the West Coast though the signals don't carry that far and for a brief shining moment I thought maybe the marvels of technology might be able to help me out. But no. Vin's show is too free-form and too free for the likes of laws like you, and so he can't be broadcast online.

You suck.


Started 18 January 2005, published 5 March 2005, last updated 25 May 2005, a few happy weeks after I had been advised as to the whereabouts of online archives of Vin's shows (yay!)

04 March 2005

13. Head Cold

Dear head cold,

Please go away now. Please. It's been less than a day and already I'm sick of my whiny cranky crappy "I don't wanna be sick!" mood. Yeah, sure, the actual physical symptoms are annoying too, but my reaction to them is far worse. Bleaugh. Please go away now.


24 February 2005

12. Migraines

Dear Migraines,

I'm sorry I tried to ignore one of you for too long this past weekend. Really, really sorry. At first I thought it was just caffeine withdrawal, but then I'll admit I was stupid and thought I could be strong and keep hanging out with all the friends I hadn't seen in far too long despite the dizziness and pulsing pain, and then I tried to take ibuprofen but by that point it was far too late. So then I finally found myself a quiet, dark place to lie down and sleep, but unfortunately just as that seemed to be working out I woke up and my whole body gave me the "Aw, hell no."

As I told some friends the next day, after I'd more or less recovered, I didn't know I was a migraine puker. As voyages of self-discovery go, that one more or less completely sucked. I can joke about it now that it's been a few days, but I'm also still wondering if maybe I should see a doctor, even if as far as I can tell medical science is almost as baffled by you as I am, only in ways that involve more thinking and less excruciating pain. Dang.

But back to you. Again, I'm really sorry about last Saturday. I'll try not to be so neglectful in the future. But uh, if you could try to happen at less inconvenient times, that would be okay too. Really.


22 February 2005

11. Hunter S. Thompson

Dear Hunter S. Thompson,

I lack your eloquence with insults, or I'd be calling your dead self some pretty ugly names right about now, or would have this morning when I first read the news of your apparent suicide. As much as I'd like to believe that you faked your own death to laugh at us all like we so richly deserve, I'm more inclined to think that the bad joke that is life finally caught up with you in the form of some awful incurable debilitating disease and you decided not to give our stupid sick sad world the satisfaction of watching you die slowly, in which case good on yer, if only because I can't stand the thought that you lost the spite and malice that rocket-fueled your larger than life adventures (and this is the part where I tell myself that I just cynically and intentionally wrote all those clich├ęs on the off chance that you're in hiding and this makes it onto the list of obituaries you laugh at, really, it's not that I want you to send me letter-bombs with no return address perhaps from beyond the grave and it certainly isn't because I resort to triteness in response to sentimentality on my own part). I don't know whether to be inspired or scared by the thought of finding hope in hate, but there you have it. And now I'm worried that the next time I read a Transmetropolitan comic, I'll cry. Hell, even a good Doonesbury Duke strip might do it. Dammit.

It's too late to say this, and it's not like we knew each other anyway, but goodbye.


16 February 2005

10. Wedding Invitations

Dear Wedding Invitations,

You stress me out so hard. I mean, it's bad enough when you're an invitation to a wedding that I clearly don't want to go to, because it's hyper-formal, tons of nested envelopes requesting the pleasure of a reply, return address is someone's parents and not the couple (I don't care if it's proper etiquette, it's archaic and downright creepy to pretend like the people getting married aren't consenting adults capable of announcing their own commitment celebration, and if the party's so huge they need their parents to help foot the bill, that's another sign that I don't want to play). Some of you have obvious scary church stuff warning me to stay away; I don't need to go to any more weddings where the bride promises to obey her husband and be his appendage instead of her own person, and God blesses it six ways from Tuesday. Invitations like those are bad in their own way, but at least they're fairly easy to deal with, because I can just be snarky about them and be happy I don't have to go.

On bad days, I think all wedding invitations should say something like:
In case you don't get enough daily reminders of heterosexual privilege, here's a big huge party to celebrate just that! If you're extra-lucky, it'll be super-formal AND in a church, for all the bonus alienation points! And maybe if you're a girl you'll be invited to buy a big ugly dress that's no good for any other occasion, just so you can be part of the scenery! 
Come, pretend like this archaic ceremony and adjustment of legal status also changes something about this couple's relationship to each other, even if they've clearly already made these promises and commitments in private! They're having a party so you can witness their vows, but do they celebrate the fact that you're participating or do they pretend that it's just between them and maybe their God? The only way to find out is to come to the party, grin and bear it, and suffer through heterosexual supremacy hell!
I suppose, wedding invitations, you could say that on bad days, I don't much like you at all.

But then some of you are the occasional good wedding invitations, coming from dear close friends whose love I truly want to celebrate, invitations that aren't hyper-formal or churchy or addressed from anyone's parents and maybe even straight-out answer the questions I'm not allowed to ask, like "Why are you getting married when you already love each other and live together and everyone who knows and loves you is happy about it? Is there a legal need? Couldn't you just have a party and a preacher person if that's your thing? Do you really have to deal with the law? Couldn't you at least put it off until the law's a little less sad and messed up?" Good wedding invitations are the ones that really hurt. Because despite all of my discomfort and disgruntlement with weddings, which in turn make me twitchy because they all too often reflect the most glaring and horrific flaws in the institution of marriage, at the end of the day I still have the best friends in the world and if anyone can change both marriage and weddings for the better, it's them. I don't have the strength or the stubbornness to subscribe to a system I hate and change it from within, but I can wish my friends the very best in doing just that, just like I wish them the very best in everything else they do. And so the good wedding invitations break my heart even more than the bad ones make me sick to my stomach, because I want to raise my glass in salute to all the happy couples that I love, but I wish it were easier to do so in a way that makes it clear I'm drinking to them and only them, and not to any church or state that blesses their couplehood while refusing to recognize other committed relationships.

And so my stomach churns and my blood pressure rises every time I read one of you, wedding invitations. I've only just started to recognize these feelings as the fight or flight response, and the more I care about the people involved, the worse it is. And sometimes it's just alienation at the reminder that I'm completely from-another-planet out of touch with what feels like most people's opinions about weddings and marriage, but sometimes it's an all-out battle between the parts of me that rejoice and thrive at seeing friends and especially friends who love each other awesomely, versus the parts of me that die inside when I bite my tongue through the part of the ceremony that asks if it's right for the couple to wed, the part that makes me want to get up and beg "Just don't sign the papers! You can be partnered without reinforcing the hateful, wrong laws!" But I digress.


I think these thoughts and feel these feelings every time I encounter one of you, wedding invitations, but there's almost no one I can tell about them, and there's almost invariably somebody who's going to take it really personally whenever I mention this stuff in the wrong place or at the wrong time. If I'm lucky, it's just the people who most recently sent me an invitation, which makes me wish I could be writing this letter in like 1984, before anyone I knew was getting married. And so I'm writing this letter, addressing you instead of the people who send you, because I am a giant coward, and you couldn't read this even if I found a way to send it.


Started 18 January 2005, posted 16 February 2005, last updated 16 May 2005.

This letter is dedicated to Mark and Sara Betnel, because on very rare and lucky occasions sometimes I don't have to be a coward. "What more can you share than your whole self, your whole life, all the nights and all the days?" (Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed.)

09 February 2005

9. Toothpaste

Dear tube of toothpaste from my bathroom counter,

I think my partner has had you since we were in college, perhaps even since before we were living together, but I'll get back to that later. You're Crest Fresh Mint Gel, and you're an insipidly sweet artificial flavor that tastes sort of pastel green, rather than your actual color, a truly terrifying shade of translucent blue, which in turn renders my teeth blue on the rare occasions when I brush with you.
Tonight was one such occasion, because I'm out of my regular kind of toothpaste, which is actually not a toothpaste but a weird liquid gel that's apparently only for sale in Europe, but which my mom likes and so occasionally gives to me, but whatever. I'm out, and I have a dentist appointment this Thursday, so I've been brushing and flossing (my first attempt at typing that turned up "blossing") with far more regularity than I can usually muster in an effort to demonstrate a semblance of dental hygiene. It's been years since my last dental checkup and professional cleaning, and I'm a little freaked out, but I know I should stop putting it off while I still have teeth left to save. Anyway, I was out of toothpaste, and so I used you.

You're much grittier than my usual toothpaste, and pastier. Then again, as I've mentioned before, my partner's had you a long time. How long is that? Well, I suppose only you know for sure, but while I was standing around with my mouth full of minty foam anyway, I checked your labeling for clues, and found your expiration date.

December 2002.

Even I give in. After I finish this letter, I'm adding toothpaste to my grocery list. Wow.


01 February 2005

8. Stress

Dear stress,

I know I ignore you a lot. It's my coping mechanism or whatever, and it's gotten me through many a tight spot, which would be a good thing if I dealt with you afterwards, but mostly I don't. Which is bad. For one thing, your effects, combined with those of boredom, often leave me crushingly depressed, which is probably a topic for another letter. Lately, however, I've been becoming more aware of the fact that when I tune you out with my mind, my body takes a beating.

Headaches, sometimes even migraines, nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, and most recently a return to menstrual irregularities the likes of which I hadn't seen in a few months, since before I switched birth control hormones. I just finished a notebook, which meant rereading it, which in turn meant revisiting all my health complaints of the past four and a half months. And with the exception of a particularly wretched bout of stomach flu, just about all the health problems I complained about coincided neatly with the times I had the most to complain about stress wise.

Usually work was the culprit. But whatever. I mostly don't have to work with the guy who it turns out literally makes me sick anymore, and I've started a new job that's much more mellow and self-directed, with coworkers who are at once friendlier and less immediately involved with what I'm doing. Somehow it's easier when I'm responsible for everything, which I guess makes me a control freak. No big surprises there.

But meanwhile, stress, you haven't been getting as much attention as you deserve. It'd be one thing if I wasn't paying attention because you weren't around, but you're definitely out in force, and I'm probably building you up in my mind even as I pretend you're not there. And it's not like you can advise me on how to deal with you better, though that sure would be great if you could (while I'm dreaming, I want a pony). My head-in-the-sand habits might make more sense if you were always a bad thing, but you're not, and while I'm acknowledging that, thanks for all the fight-or-flight endorphins. They've come in handy from time to time, even if I suspect they've got something to do with why my body hates me so much sometimes. You're really not to blame here; my response to you is. So I'm going to have to learn to recognize you instead of ignoring you, and deal with you in a more responsible way than pretending you're not there and getting sick later.

Exercise might help. It's good for all kinds of things, and there's far worse ways to burn off those fight-or-flight hormones I thanked you for earlier. I'm thinking of taking a yoga class, maybe even learning to meditate. Writing letters like this one, letters I can't send but need to address, seems to be good for my heart and my head, which I hope will translate into fewer headaches and less physical trouble on the whole.

Can we work together, stress? I hope so. Because making myself mentally and sick for lack of a better way to cope with you is pretty miserable.


Started 28 January 2005; last updated 1 February 2005

28 January 2005

7. Restaurant Customers

Dear restaurant customers,

You may or may not already know this, but there's a good chance that the last meal you ate out was cooked by someone like me: someone who, without even knowing you, personally hates your guts.

Okay, so that's not exactly true. Most of you are probably pretty cool, but some of you are such whiny bitches that they make the rest of you look bad. For instance, some whiny bitches waste time and money by sending servers back and forth to the kitchen to ask questions instead of simply reading the menu. The ones who don't read the menu are among my favorites. "I didn't know this had bacon in it" when that's the first ingredient listed among the fillings in an omelet? We get to deal with you bastards, and you're why I can never be a server because at least in the kitchen you probably can't hear me cursing your mothers. In fact, I think I hate you extra on behalf of the floor staff, who aren't allowed to cuss and throw things nearly as much as I am back in the kitchen. The servers don't seem to believe me when I say I could never do their job, but it's true. I would laugh at stupid customers constantly. I know part of why you people come out to dinner is to have someone else take care of you, but that doesn't include remembering the details of your diet or reading the menu for you. Nor does it mean putting up with your shit when you're having a bad day, especially if you don't tip well. Waitstaff are simply not paid well enough to pretend they're your best friend, or your mom, or your shrink. But back to me in the kitchen.

I'm not really trying to write this letter for you customers who are good enough to know your dietary requirements and pay attention to the menu descriptions of food, and order carefully based on what you know you can and will eat, and make small changes before the kitchen's already started your order (more on sending plates back in a bit). Even people who, before ordering, send servers back to make sure a given food doesn't contain an allergen or whatever are okay in the grand scheme of things. I'm fine with "I'm lactose intolerant; please hold the cheese and sour cream"; in fact when I see orders come back asking for no cheese, I check for other possible trouble ingredients in the item because it would be really rude to accidentally put mayo on a vegan's soyburger, especially when the new menu's got a typo so it looks like the avocado burger doesn't have mayo on it. But ultimately we have a menu for a reason; it describes what the kitchen is set up to produce. If we wanted you to make shit up, we'd just give a list of ingredients and tell you to go hog wild. But it would slow service down even more than you people who put back nonstandard orders ("No toast, no home fries, substitute three strips of bacon and a side of sausage links? I can probably get you a whole dead pig, you Fatkins freak.") And we'd definitely have to charge you more for the privilege of writing your own menu, and then you'd probably complain about that instead. There's no winning with you people, is there?

Now. About sending back a plate. It's one thing if I made a mistake; most of the time it'll end up becoming somebody's employee meal for the shift and I'll remake your food correctly at no charge. But if you didn't read the menu right, or better yet you changed your mind about what you wanted after the food got to your table, then that's your mistake and it cost us money. It probably cost us more money than we'll make on your whole party, unless you ordered some really expensive drinks. And that's just ingredients. We're not talking about the time it cost to send the server back and forth, and for the kitchen to remake the order. And then of course there's the karmic cost of all the hate you've generated, which is pretty huge.

Long story short (too late!), part of going out to eat is that you have to trust the people cooking your food to do their job, not second-guess their every move. If you're so particular about your food that you don't trust the kitchen to make it right, you're in the wrong restaurant, or maybe you shouldn't even be going out to eat when clearly you could do better for yourself cooking at home.


P.S. Tip your servers well or be destroyed.

started 18 January 2005, published 28 January 2005, last updated 8 September 2013 (just formatting on that last).

25 January 2005

6. Tobacco Smoke

Dear tobacco smoke,

Thank you for all the times you weren't created around me. I really do appreciate those, but I don't think enough good thoughts about them. Also, I am sorry for being a smug bitch about the fact that I don't smoke, but there you have it. I don't smoke, but I feel so smug every time I think about it that I actually feel guilty about it sometimes. Which means that every time people don't smoke a good time for me, if only in that I don't have to remember how horrendously smug I am about my non-smoker status.

Why am I glad? Because I'm bad at smoking, for one. I tried it one summer with some friends, and embarrassed myself by coughing and choking and getting a runny nose and watery eyes from just a few puffs. That sucked, so I quit trying. Why waste the cigarettes they were giving me, right? More for them, better for everyone. Smoking is expensive, which is another reason I'm glad I'm not so addicted I have to do it. Unfortunately, since first trying to smoke and failing I've only become more and more intolerant of your smell, especially cigarette smoke, to the point where I am, as mentioned before, a horrid smug bitch about the whole smoking thing. Which brings me to the final reason I'm glad I don't smoke: I'd have to put up with intolerant nonsmokers such as myself. That sounds like it would be a total drag.

So yeah: tobacco smoke, I don't miss you. It's okay if you don't keep in touch.


started 6 December 2004; first published 25 January 2005, last updated 6 June 2014

20 January 2005

5. U.S.A.

Dear United States of America,

So as of today, George W. Bush is sworn in as President, and even cynical little me has to admit he was probably elected this time around. At least this time we didn't have to get the Supreme Court involved, right? That's got to count for something, right? Okay, I'm grasping at straws here.

I've been meaning to write you a letter since November 2004, of course, when the election happened and I couldn't bring myself to call it a re-election, but I also couldn't bear to think that we averaged 70,000 votes worth of fraud per state this time around. Of course, most of my letters started out, "Dear U.S.A., what the fuck?" and didn't get much more eloquent from there. It was the popular vote that really turned my stomach. I mean, I was glad it matched the Electoral College results for a change, not that I particularly like the Electoral College, but that's a topic for another letter. But G.W.B. didn't win the popular vote in 2000, and carried on like it was a landslide anyway, so the thought of what he and his team would do with even a slim majority was pretty sick-making. So was the thought that a majority of people cast "Please sir, can I have some more?" votes, and wondering what the hell was going on in their minds, and feeling like an alien maybe a little more than usual even. Also I really didn't like the thought that people with opinions and ideas like mine (and a lot of people with opinions and ideas a lot less extreme than mine, for that matter) were going to be thorougly ignored for another four years. I wrote about wanting to leave the country, like a lot of people did when post-election despair was strongest, but then I found, to my surprise, that some parts of me actually identify with you after all.

I've always been something of a foreigner here, from the fact that I was born with dual nationality and grew up speaking two languages, to the fact that my family didn't go to church. On the other hand, I always had the reassuring knowledge that there's another country I could easily call home if I so chose, even if as I got older I gradually learned that the Netherlands was not the land of gifts and unconditional love --- that was just my grandparents' house, which happens to be in the Netherlands. Still, the growing-up realization that I would probably never fully fit into either country didn't particularly make me like the United States any better. So why was I suddenly discovering in myself this sudden refusal to leave?

Part of it was just stubbornness, and the knowledge that if everybody like me left the U.S.A. it would make the administration's job that much easier. Part of it was the fact that damn it, my house is here. But to my everlasting surprise, there was more.

Dear United States of America, you're my country, too. I may be a second-class citizen in a lot of ways: I'm a woman, sure, and to make matters worse I'm a woman who's had an abortion. I'm an atheist, I'm a foreigner, and I'm a queer. But despite all those things, I was born here, and that makes this my country even if I don't always like it, and I'm not going to cut and run just yet. I've made a list of things that would make me leave: another war, one that threatened to draft my partner; a national law against same-sex marriage; a national law making abortion illegal. Even the reversal of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court might not be enough to make me leave you, U.S.A., because if Roe went down I'd have work to do, making sure that women in states banning abortion had ways of getting to free states. I might join a new Underground Railroad if that's what it took to help keep women from dying from unsafe illegal abortions again, okay? And (I know this is getting off topic and it isn't even addressed to all of you) shut the hell up about abortion being dangerous and traumatic, because 1) it's still safer than childbirth and 2) I for one am living proof that they're not going to leave every woman who has one crying and wishing for the child they could have had, assuming they stayed safe and healthy and didn't miscarry. Okay, I can get back to my main point now.

Long term, I'm worried about my ability to keep living here, United States of America, because the writing on the wall seems to be that we might soon be paying taxes only to support international imperialism instead of to take care of our citizens. Call me a socialist if you want, but I'm not particularly interested in being ruled by a government that thinks guns are more important than feeding and sheltering and providing for the health of its citizens. Maybe that makes me an anarchist, too. Whatever. My point, United States of America, is I'm still a part of you, even though I'm not a rich white Christian male imperialist capitalist bastard, which seems to be what we're stuck having in charge today. And for your information, I'm by far not the only non-white, non-rich, non-male, non-heterosexual, non-Christian, non-capitalist, non-imperialist motherfucker out here. I'm pretty sure we're the majority, even if your last election's popular vote didn't reflect that too well.

Have you noticed that I haven't once yet called you America? It's tempting, don't get me wrong; I want to quote that Ginsberg poem with all my heart, but that abbreviation happens to ignore the inhabitants of all the other countries on this continent and the one to the south, and that's pretty poor form if you ask me. Just a thought.

I'm running out of steam, so I'm going to finish this letter here and send it as is. Long story short, U.S.A., is "Howdy. I'm still here." For now, we're stuck with each other --- I hope we can play nice, because it turns out I don't want to take my ball and find a new home.


Started 2 November 2004, first posted 20 January 2005, last updated 6 June 2014.

19 January 2005

4. Dogs

Dear dogs,

I know you can't read this, but would you please stop shitting in my yard? I want to turn it into a garden someday, and I'd really like to grow edible food in it, so yeah. Quit it already!

And while I'm dreaming, if you could please tell your people that it might be better to take you out for a walk, like for instance to the dog park less than half a mile north of my house, instead of just letting you out at night to roam the streets unsupervised, so you're completely free to shit in my yard because you couldn't read a "no pooping" sign even if I posted one? That would be great.


Started 8 November 2004, last updated 19 January 2005

3. God

Dear God,

I can't send this letter for obvious reasons, but I probably shouldn't even be writing it at all because frankly, I don't really believe in you. Which is not, as far too many people seem to think, that I think nothing is sacred — more on that in a bit — it's just that I'm sick and tired of people shaping that sacred in their own image, and not even all that well, or maybe too well, I don't know.

Fact is, as far as I'm concerned the universe is just too big and awesome and complex for our puny little human minds to understand, but we don't like to admit it, so we invent order for it, even if it's an order that can't possibly be big or complex enough to be anywhere near the truth and simultaneously something we're capable of understanding. That complexity thing's a bugger for sure and I had more to say about it which I've already forgotten. Maybe I'll remember and add it in later, or maybe I'll just have to write a sequel to this letter, even if Alice Walker already did the "letters to God" thing way better than I'll ever be able to in The Color Purple. For now, I'm done with the part of the letter that addresses the idea of the god I don't believe in, a guy in the sky who's all-powerful, all-seeing, and all-knowing, though it's a little unclear if he's all-caring or even a little caring, and people somehow still keep going to church and fighting wars and making each other's lives miserable over it.

The next part of this letter is addressed to what I do believe is sacred, and when I say what that is it'll be clear why this is a letter I can't send. See, as far as I'm concerned at the end of the day the only truly sacred thing is our human capacity to be good to one another and bring out the best in one another. If you want, you can call that love, and then you can say that God is love if you like to quote the Bible and banter around with really loaded words. There ya go. If anything is sacred to me, if anything gives life meaning or whatever — which is probably fodder for at least another paragraph — it's the fact that despite all the awful things that people do on a daily basis, to each other, provoked and unprovoked, so on and so forth, we also do good to each other, just as reasonably and unreasonably. Who needs an ineffable, inscrutable Lord that moves in mysterious ways when we have each other, friends? Not me.

And so yeah. Dear goodness which I sincerely hope is inherent in all us humans — please don't stop. Please don't go away. Please, continue to give me signs that you exist, because stupid little things like that are ultimately what give me hope that maybe the human race won't destroy itself and maybe it actually shouldn't destroy itself. Please, let me continue to find that God-nature or Buddha-nature, or love, or whatever, in real people. And maybe let me continue to hope that we can all begin or continue to find that goodness and love in each other, instead of projecting all our hopes and dreams and fears into an imaginary friend in the sky. Let me continue to dream that people are capable of being good and loving without priests who tell them to impose their beliefs on each other, and that someday maybe we can all at least act as though there's magic and sacredness in all of us, and there's no need to complicate things with a not-so-shared hallucination of holiness separate from this physical world we inhabit. If you ask me, not that anyone did, that idea of a god that I don't believe in is at once too simple to explain the universe and overcomplicates human affairs all at once.

I don't know how to end this letter. I don't want to go back to addressing the idea of the god I don't believe in, much as I'd like to ask protection from Its followers. Nor do I want to address specific gods I don't believe in, or the religions that claim to follow them, because this letter is probably offensive enough without getting personal. The one idea I keep coming back to is a sentence I've seen attributed to the radical Catholic priest Daniel Berrigan, one of those people whose story makes me think that maybe organized religion isn't always all bad, but I digress. "Deliver us unto each other," he prayed, and that I think is a hope worth praying and dreaming for. Imagine freedom from the guy in the sky, the great cosmic daddy who tells us how to behave or else, and instead living with the knowledge that all we've got is each other. Is it a bleak way of looking at the universe, this thought that we're the only god we've got? I think maybe it explains a lot that's wrong with the world: We humans kinda suck at being God. The good news is that we're all that's stopping us from getting better.

I guess that means it's go time.


Started 22 November 2004, posted 19 January 2005, last updated 6 June 2014.

18 January 2005

1. Definitions, an introduction.

epistle ...A letter, esp. one of a literary, formal, or public nature....
epistolary ... 1 Of or pertaining to (the writing of) epistles or letters.... 2 In the form of a letter or letters; contained in or conducted by letters.
epistolography n. letter-writing
from The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Lesley Brown, ed. Oxford, England: Clarendon (Oxford University) Press, copyright 1993 Oxford University Press.
Dear Reader,

Welcome to my letter-writing project, the initial goal of which is to write and publish letters that are impossible for me to send. I like writing letters, but I often never finish them, which makes it hard to get them in the mail. Sometimes I find myself composing letters to inanimate objects, or fictional characters, or abstract ideas, most of whom can't read. But enough excuses! Regardless of the many reasons I might not be able to send a letter, I hate to let that stop me from writing. So my hope for this project is that having a place to post those unaddressable letters (puns intended) will free me to write them.

Think of these letters as works in progress; I'm likely to rewrite anything I post a few times even before I publish it here, but likewise nothing I post here is by any means final. Part of the point of writing this stuff down is it gets me thinking about what I might have missed, other thoughts to include in my letters.

Another nice aspect of this project is that many, in fact most, of the letters I will be posting here are letters to which I do not expect to receive replies. If I can't send a letter, it's unlikely to reach its addressee, for one thing. For another, abstractions are unlikely to receive, much less respond to, my messages, and I'm fine with that. These letters are intended to be one-sided, even if that somewhat defeats the purpose of framing them as correspondence. (A fancy rhetorical name for this trick is "apostrophe", but I've already cluttered this introduction with enough dictionary definitions.) The one exception to the unsent/unsendable rule is, of course, this introductory letter, because it's addressed to anyone who reads it. As such, it is guaranteed to reach its intended audience.

On that hopeful note, on with the futility of the letters I can't send.


11 January 2005

2. 2004

Dear 2004,

Goodbye. I know, I know, technically you've been gone a week and a half, but I only got around to the traditional New Year's Day meal of blackeyed peas and collards on Sunday, and anyway, you're still on my mind.

I want to say you were a pretty good year, but I can't exactly ignore the fact that you ended pretty poorly. I mean, first there was that stupid U.S. presidential election --- that wasn't very 21st century, was it? I hope not. (In fact, it was a pretty bad election year overall for the U.S., but I've got other letters to write about that.) And then there was the South Asian earthquake and tsunami disaster, eclipsing ever so much other news both good and bad. We're all going to have to wait and see, of course, but I think that last is most likely to put you in the history books, which is a bummer, to put it mildly.

Personally, ignoring the troubles of the world, I did all right in 2004. My partner and I bought a house, for one thing, and I'm still loving it into this new year. Also I held a job for an entire calendar year, January through December, something I'd never done before. Not a full-time job, but then again I don't really want one of those. And sure, it isn't a job even remotely related to my pricey college education, but so far it's a hell of a lot more fun than any job I've had that did relate to all that schooling and stress. Hrm. A hint of bitterness there, something to think and probably write about, but not in this letter; it's way off-topic.

Back to 2004: I began and ended the year in the company of good friends! My friends are awesome, no two ways about it. I got a piano! I started a garden! I lived with people and cats that I love! Despite all of these good, exclamation-point-worthy things, I was still prone to fits of severe depression! Okay, that last was a sarcastic exclamation point. Back to you, 2004.

Is it even fair to judge a year by its events? I suppose they're really all I've got, and what I'll remember the year by, which in itself is a kind of judgment, memory being selective and all. Besides, it's not like I'm blaming the events on the year; that's almost as pointless as a writing project based on letters that can't get replies. But enough with the self-referential cuteness.

Perhaps my biggest disappointment of 2004 was the fact that I didn't do anything lasting and creative. My job throughout the year was playing with food, and I made a lot of awesomely tasty things outside of work, but I didn't really get any writing done. I did, however, get the idea of writing letters, even letters I couldn't send, so at least you helped me find the seeds of something, even if I didn't get it started until 2005. For that, 2004, I thank you.


idea: 14 December 2004, writing: 11 January 2005, posting 18 January 2005, last update 6 June 2014