Open Letter to the Orange I Just Ate

open letter to 2007

Dear 2007,

We seem to be off to a fine start, me with a refrigerator full of healthy food, six new pages written, and a neighborhood run.  For the most part, 2006 sucked heartily, but if the last few weeks are any indication, you are going to be very, very different.  2007, you are cordially invited to bring it.


open letter to twenty-eight

Dear Twenty-Eight,

I am pleased to have occasion, finally, to write you.  You see, Twenty-Eight, although we have gotten to know each other very well, I have not had much to say to you.  Yes, we’ve spent a lot of time together–every day, in fact, for the last year–and yet I have never been quite sure what to make of you. 

In many ways you were nothing special.  Just another number, Twenty-Eight, I’m afraid I must say.  Day in and day out, you didn’t feel much different from most other numbers recent in my acquaintance.  Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four, Twenty-Five:  they were quite similar to you, as it turns out.  Twenty-Six as well–virtually no discernible difference.  Even more, you must recognize, you were completely indistinguishable from Twenty-Seven. 

I’ll admit, we did chance to meet under auspicious circumstances.  You are a perfect number.  You are a strong, tasty drink, the [double(seven and seven)].  You are a safe two-fold buffer away from Thirty, a number in itself rational, but one I am irrationally reluctant to meet.  You had promise, Twenty-Eight.

But did you fulfill that promise?  Did you?  Huh?  Huh?  No, Twenty-Eight, no you did not.  You did not bring romance, prosperity, or academic success.  I would have welcomed such gifts from you, but instead you came around my house with only a pile of unfinished work, several unpaid bills, and at least ten unwelcome pounds.   It’s time for me to bid you a brisk farewell, Twenty-Eight.  I have dealt with you for as long as I am required by the laws of man or of time.

Never more synonymous with your dark cipher,

Alfina the Twenty-Nine

open letter to the smarmy textbook buyer who invaded my office yesterday

Dear Smarmy Joe,

When you knock on someone’s door and she calls out cheerfully, "come in," and you come in, and her face falls, and she looks at you in blank confusion, this is a clue that you might not be welcome. Perhaps her cheery response to your knock was premature. Perhaps she was expecting someone else.

When you use your old, tired salesman’s trick of pretending to know her ("Sally! Hello," you intone, smarmily.) and it doesn’t work ("Uh, no. Sally’s office is now in Other Building."), this is another clue. You can’t pretend that you know someone, be exposed as a fraud, and then still expect to do some kind of business deal. This will not work. I didn’t even go to business school and I can tell you that.

At this point, Smarmy Joe, you should really just walk away. That’s my advice to you. Do not attempt to wheedle your way into the lady’s good graces, all "Well, Sally, I am here buying textbooks do you have any textbooks to sell I see you have a lot of books there!" Your excessive enthusiasm and crazed, glassy eyes are doing you no favors here, young man. People may still attempt to be polite to you ("No thanks, I’m not interested. Yes, I keep all my books. Yes, I use them! Anyway, they’re not textbooks per se; they are novels. It’s not like they go out of date. Um, OK, so, I am working here, so if you could move on please."), but if you don’t catch a clue soon enough, they may be forced to shoo you out with the universally understood "shoo, fly" gesture and then close the door loudly in your face.

Just a tip. Like I said, I didn’t go to business school or anything.

Humbly yours in an advisory capacity,

Still Not Sally

Open Letter to Outside Smokers

Dear Outside Smokers,

Why hello, we meet again.  There you are, hunched over, squatting down on your front porch, stubbing a butt out into the grass in front of your door.  Or you there!  Hello, you! Standing on the deck, staring blankly straight ahead into space.  Why don’t you just go the fuck back inside?

Hey, man, I sympathize; believe me; I do.  The local government has made it hard for smokers.  The whole smoke-free workplace shtick has been particularly hard to, er, swallow.  Bars and restaurants have had to put in smoking porches, smoking decks, smoking terraces.  Gone are the halcyon smoking sections of yore!  Gone, I tell you.  Many downtown businesses don’t even have a smoking area at all, unless “huddled in the back alley by the Dumpster” counts, and I don’t know about you, but I think fucking not.

Clearly a sinister cabal of old, saggy, career waitresses has taken over the City Council, somehow convincing those in charge that life would be, like, better or something if they didn’t have to work in a smoky dive.  They prefer sweaty dives where the reek of the old, saggy, career bar skanks isn’t overpowered by stale eau de Basic Lights.

Here’s the thing, though, Outside Smokers.  You have taken the decrees of The Man and you have uncritically swallowed them whole!  Now, even in the comfort of your own homes, you refuse to light up.  Instead, you prowl the porches, decks, and sidewalks of our neighborhoods, smoking.  Smoking and lurking.  Those of you who live in my own neighborhood have a nasty habit of standing on your porches smoking and staring at passers by all goddamned day long.  Really!  I can’t step outside without seeing your withered, leathery faces. Your blank, yellowed eyes burn right through me.

Buck up, smokers!  Who do you think you’re protecting with this “outside smoking” phenomenon? Your children?  Your spouses? Your pets?  Let’s get real here.  When I was growing up, no one cared about such nonsense.  I remember fondly those teenage years, sepia-toned and hazy with secondhand Virginia Slims as they were. And I turned out fine, right? In fact, I am sitting in my own house right now, comfortable as all get-out, smoking a tasty, tasty cigarette.

Follow my lead, Outside Smokers.  Get off my sidewalks, get off our shared deck, get inside, and fire up.  Quit coddling your kids.  They look like they could use some toughening up anyway.

Puff, puff.


Insomnia, but Not the Lame Christopher Nolan Remake

It is now six-thirty in the a.m. and I am all awake and shit.  I am not, however, awake because I decided to get up early and actually accomplish something with my life, oh NO.  I am awake because I did not go to sleep yet (where “yet” is defined as “since the nap I took between 2 and 4 p.m. yesterday”).

I have a tendency to stay up really, really fucking late when given the chance.  This tends to happen more often than not in the summers, which is when I am least likely to be employed, what with the teaching and the stupid-ass, agriculturally-based school-scheduling system.  Fuck agriculture!

Um, where was I? Oh yes.  Sleep. Or not sleep.  Occasionally I attempt to stay up so late, later than any human mind can conceive, so late that I skip right on into the next day seamlessly, maintaining my wakeful, nervous good cheer right up until the next evening affords a reasonable opportunity to go to sleep.  “I will simply reset my schedule,” I say to myself. “No biggie.” I tried this Sunday night, for example, and I made it up until 9:30 a.m. Monday, at which point I finally succumbed to the demon unconscious.  I slept until noon (that’s two and a half hours, for those of you keeping track at home), and then not again until 3:30 a.m. Tuesday.  What the hell, people? “Reset the schedule,” MY ASS. That didn’t work at all.  And yet, even as I bitchily acknowledge the failings of this plan, I am attempting once more to execute it.  Twice in the same week, because I am smart like that.

There comes a moment in the middle of the night where there’s really no point in turning back, and that point is probably somewhere around 6 a.m.  As you slowly approach 6 a.m., you must continue asking yourself, “Am I really going to do this? Stay up all night?  That’s crazy talk.  I’m not nineteen anymore. I could go to sleep now; it’s only 4:30.  That could work.”  Then, later on, you start leaning away from “it’s only” and toward “it’s already” : “It’s already 5:30; I may as well just go for it! Shoot for the stars, kiddo! You can make it! The Today Show comes on soon!”  Giddy with exclamation points and the thought that the coffee shop across the street will be open any minute now, the decision to aim for greatness starts making more sense than it should.  I mean, look at me now:  I am up, writing through the 6 o’clock hour in the hopes that when 7 a.m. rolls around I will start feeling like it’s actually morning, as opposed to some sickly late part of “the middle of the night” I haven’t seen since college.

The crux of the problem is this: I have not a damned thing to do tomorrow to keep me from napping and ruining the whole strategy.  It’s not that I have nothing to do, exactly — I mean, I have plenty to do: laundry, writing, running, house cleaning, worrying.  The usual list.  But when faced with the choice between that stuff and a deep, near-comatose nap on the couch with a blanket and a puppy, especially an inappropriately long nap in the afternoon that will fuck up my nighttime sleeping schedule for the rest of the week? Well, I have only ever been able to make one decision.

Open Letter to My Stomach

Dear Stomach,

We’ve been working together, you and I, for the last twenty-eight years.  It’s been a life mostly harmonious, albeit with a few spectacular moments memorable for their techni-color dissonance.  When I was a little kid, I sometimes got sick in my own bed when I was too young to know I was going to puke and thus couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time.  Back then, throwing up always made me cry.  It still does, sometimes–little feels as futile and frustrating as trying simply to digest food and not being able to.

You know, though, Stomach, I am not here to complain about puking:  I don’t do it all that often anyway.  The issue I am writing you about today is the gnarling.  You know the gnarling, don’t you, Stomach? The horrible, twisting wrench that squeezes me from the inside out? Of course you know the gnarling.  Don’t play dumb– YOU’RE DOING IT RIGHT NOW.

The gnarling is almost worse than puking, I think,  in that rather than forcibly ejecting food already eaten, it just sort of stops one from eating in the first place.  It’s the same gnarl that had me on a shaky-handed diet of nothing but coffee and English muffins for about two weeks after Self-Involved Sculptor Guy broke up with me freshman year in college.  Admittedly, Self-Involved Sculptor Guy was in fact a complete and utter tool, but try telling that to you at the time, Stomach.  You were all a-flutter from day one, and when you decided it was time to get gnarly, there was no stopping you.

You have pulled the gnarl out of your box of tools countless times–when I was applying for graduate school, you haunted me with gnarling for a record eight months.  You inflict it on me every night before a new school term starts, every time I have to speak in public, every time I wake up in the middle of the night with a whirling stream of thoughts about money or deadlines or phenomenology, every time I have a job interview, every time I consider telling a boy that I like him.

Stomach, the gnarling has got to stop. I would like to eat a meal around here without regretting it, oh, about four seconds later.  I think you might like that, too, Stomach.  Come on, I am just trying to give you a chance to DO YOUR FUCKING JOB. Don’t you aspire to greatness? Digestive greatness? I do.

You are a stomach. Stop acting like a pussy.


Open Letter to my Shin Splints

Hello, Shin Splints, My Old Friend,

Damn you!  You had to go and show your ugly little face yet again.  I try to keep you at bay, Shin Splints, knowing the damage you are able to cause to my relationship with Running.

Running and I are uneasy friends, you know.  I have never really loved Running; rather, it has been a marriage of convenience.  I first began my flirtation with Running many years ago, when I was vulnerable and in the throws of obsession with my weight.  I didn’t really like Running, and I certainly didn’t like-like Running.  Oh, no.  What I liked was the tired, sweaty feeling when I was done with running: the post-coital glow, as it were.  Running and I–it was purely a physical relationship.

That’s when you came in, Shin Splints.  Knowing my penchant for melancholy and my tendency to blame my laziness on external factors, factors outside my “locus of control,” you provided an easy excuse for slacking off on those days when I just didn’t feel like Running.  “Sorry, Running, I have other plans.  As much as I’d like to see you today, I can’t.  You know.  Shin Splints.”

Excuses were ready and easy, and I quit Running for a while.  A long while.  Long enough that simple factors like not being fit enough should have stopped Running and I from  pursuing our relationship.  But those other factors were easy to overcome.  Running and I, we persevered!  We were strong!  We picked out “our” song (“Get Up Offa That Thing” by James Brown)!  We even went shoe shopping together and everything!

And then there was you.  Like a burning fire in my lower regions (And not the sexy lower regions, Oh no!  Lower regions like lower shins and calves!), you tried to burn down our house.  You hung around for days, smoldering just above my right ankle.  You are still here, like an annoying house-guest or an angry, spurned suitor.

Fuck off, Shin Splints!  You will not come between us again.  We will rest.  We will train.  We will listen to James Brown.  We will buy new shoes if necessary.  Like I told you before: Running and I are going to make it work.

Take your tibia pain and get out of town.

Alfina the FLeet of Foot

Memo from the Desk of Local Ant Regulation

open letter to microsoft excel

Dear Microsoft Excel,

I realize you and I don’t know each other that well.  More properly, you don’t know me at all, do you?  I know you don’t, but I have to say, Excel, I think you will love me.  This may be  a bit forward, and I hope you don’t object, but I think I may be your new best friend and/or lover.

What, I’ve never come round before, you say?  I have had you installed on my mac for months, but never have I intentionally opened you? Well, Excel, that may be true.  I have opened you, accidentally, when a wayward student or two sent me a weird file that should have opened in Word, but opened in you instead.  You just weren’t the right man for the job, then, Excel.  I was forced to close you and open the file elsewhere.  I hope you won’t take it too hard.  I know you have your purpose–a purpose I fully plan to exploit starting first thing tomorrow morning.

I am not sure exactly what it is you do, Excel, but it apparently has to do with me whoring myself out to Summer Office Jobs, and if it is Excel they need then it is Excel I will learn and use.  You’re not very glamorous, it’s true, but Excel!  Excel! How famous you are! You feature in every Office Job Advert, and you apparently compose the substance of a Very Important Test I will be taking soon to register with an Office Job Firm. 

Please, Excel, don’t take my lack of attention too seriously.  I plan to devote my day! My week! My summer! to nothing but you.  You, and, apparently, office switchboard phones.  It’s a tough job, and apparently lots of people have to do it.  All the people in this county looking for work outside the construction sector, in fact.  That’s a lot of people, and that’s why I plan to learn you like no one has ever done before.  I will learn you up one side and down the other, inside and out, all intimate-like.  When I am done with you, Excel, you will need a cigarette.  Lube up, Excel; I am coming your way.

Inappropriate Smooches,