In this season of thankfulness, I want to sincerely thank everyone who has ever written me a letter. I love the mail. I love playing in the mail. I was lucky to have had two superlative, longtime pen pals, but alas, they are no more. They have ceased to be. They have kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. In a word, they’ve changed their address. (Yes, I know that’s four words. I’m a big tipper.)

I don’t remember how I got involved with mail. Like most boys my age, I sent my allowance money to shady companies that advertised incredible promises in the back pages of Batman and Justice League of America. For example, there was a dramatic half-page ad for a “Civil War battle set” that would enable me to re-create the entire Virginia campaign from the moment Grant took command of the Army of the Potomac…and all for a couple of dollars!

Imagine my surprise when the mailman did not drive up with a truck and a crane to deliver my Civil War battle set but instead handed me a box in which you could’ve packed cough drops. The blue and gray soldiers were translucent fingernails of plastic that barely existed in three dimensions. Even their artillery was flat as a pancake. I didn’t repeat this mistake later on when I saw the dramatic ad in some other comic for the Battle of Midway battle set.

But when did I start writing letters? Who was my first letter-writing chum? I don’t know. I do know that back in the 1960s, in fourth or fifth grade, we all had at least one class in how to write “The Friendly Letter.”

Dear [name],

How are you? I am fine. [The rest of this paragraph was about what we were doing in school and how much we liked our teacher.]

[The second paragraph was about our wholesome home life. A pet featured prominently, or if you didn’t have a pet you could make do with a younger sibling.]

[Complimentary close: Take care, Your friend, Sincerely, Write back, etc. If you were a girl-type person you drew a heart for the dot over the i.]

Stevie

I grew up (somehow) and found people to correspond with. I added different types of letters to my repertoire; in addition to the Friendly Letter, there was the College Admission Letter, the Cover Letter, the Query Letter, the I’ve Read Too Much Thomas Wolfe or Too Many French Existentialists Letter, the I’ve Owed You a Letter for Six Months Letter, the Begging for a Job Letter, and the Begging for Sex Letter.

Some of these letters are not effective and should be discontinued.

Well, I am still a lucky guy, and not just for having known Judy and Jack or two of my other veterans, Pauline and Tilda. I guess the Lords of Kobol heard my prayers, because in the absence of old friends, new ones have stepped in and sent me mail. I was happily surprised when I made a list because there are more of you than I thought: Accused of Lurking, Mr. Seaside, Starry-Eyed Stamper, K to the T, and Mark It K8, among others. Special D is not above cutting the side out of a beer carton and making me a postcard. (K to the T, Accused of Lurking, and Mr. Seaside have all pulled off this trick with beer coasters.)

Another of my correspondents is Johnny Five. J5 deploys his skills primarily to mock me, but it’s mail and I’ll take it.

Johnny5

Thank you, everyone who has ever written me a letter, dashed off a postcard, or selected an insulting greeting card. Thanks to all of you for going to the trouble of finding a stamp because you knew I’d enjoy your barely legible scribbling. Thanks to you vacationers who thought of me in far-away places and bought a postcard and remembered to send it a week after you got home. Thanks to those of you who created your own postcards. And thanks for the beer coasters. Note to self: One is an accident, two is a coincidence, but three is a collection. I’d better make a checklist.

Today’s Randoms: The Land Down Under Edition

Thumbs-up
Courtney Barnett, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas (2013)
Ms. Barnett is a poet who sings/talks you through her songs as if you were walking with her through the low-key chaos of her life or helping her into the ambulance following an asthma attack in the garden. She’s a female Lou Reed or a non-crazy Courtney Love. The Smithereens would’ve been a great backing band for her, but I like the lo-fi rockers she’s recruited. (Her bass player is Bones Sloane!)

“Avant Gardener” is fabulous. “David” sounds like Bowie’s “The Jean Genie,” though Bowie’s song is closer in its imagery to Reed’s “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” while Barnett’s song includes the line “Come on Davey, let’s go plant a tree/You bring the spade, I’ll bring the seeds.” On “Anonymous Club,” Barnett evokes Neil Young in his quieter moments. She does the same for Liz Phair on “Scotty Says” and “Are You Looking After Yourself.” Some duds here – the last two tracks are a drag – but overall, I’m really digging her music.

Guilty pleasure
When I first read the name INXS, I pronounced it “Inks.” I was busted in public for it, too. Same deal with R.E.M., which I pronounced “Rem.” But I can’t compete with a former co-worker who thought the name of the melancholic English New Wave band that recorded “Personal Jesus” and “Strangelove” was “Pesh DeMode.” (This mangling fits with a line from another Depeche Mode song, “Behind the Wheel”: “I hand myself/over on a plate.”)

INXS doesn’t have a single album I’d spend money on, but I love “The One Thing” (Shabooh Shoobah), “Original Sin” (The Swing), “New Sensation” (Kick), and “Suicide Blonde” (X). I won’t even buy the U.S. edition of their greatest hits because these four songs come with 12 I don’t want. (The Australian and U.K. editions include even more crap.) But I do love those four songs.

Shabooh Shoobah is a stupid name for an album, a movie, a car, a dog, or a mathematical theorem, but it would superbly suit a political party.

No no no no no!!!

Angel City

Angel City, Night Attack (1982)
Angel City is an Australian band that made the mistake of forming about the same time as AC/DC but without any of AC/DC’s skills. And AC/DC is not overflowing with skills.

They were The Angels in Australia and Angel City in the rest of the world. I found a few of their songs online, including the intriguingly named “Dogs Are Talking.” Turns out those dogs got nothing to say. The best part of Night Attack is the cover. Their cover model looks exactly like a gentleman I worked with in the early 1990s. Bruce never shot lasers out of his eyes, but perhaps he did that outside the office when I couldn’t see him. I’ll write him a letter.

 

Comments
  1. thecorncobb says:

    Your co-worker shouldn’t be too embarrassed, as even Depeche Mode band members evidently, early on, didn’t pronounce it correctly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKkZ-8IqAxk.
    …And according to David Buckley’s ‘R.E.M.: Fiction: An Alternative Biography’, “the band settled on “R.E.M.” (which stands for the stage of sleep called rapid eye movement), which Stipe selected at random from a dictionary”, so their band name was derived from an acronym, that is commonly pronounced “rem”, so you weren’t too far off the track either, Run-DMSteve!

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      OMG. The name was originally pronounced Depech-ay Mode?? That totally sucks! These pale pseudo-goth wankers couldn’t even get their own name right! Oh well, I still like them better than the wankers in R.E.M. If the two groups met in a cage match, no one would win. Chrissie Hynde or Siouxsie Sioux could mow them down like Ms. Pac-Man. Thanks as ever, Loyal Reader Corncobb, for keeping me informed!

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