Inspector General

By:
ernstluchs@gmail.com

CONFIDENTIAL:

General Sternwood

Department of Diminishing Returns

Camp Squanto, Massachusetts

SUBJECT:

Five-year deregulation program

Operation Overbite

Dear Jake,

My recent unofficial visit to Camp Suzie convinced me that the present five-year program, now in its sixth and final year, is in trouble. Jake, they were shocked as hell to see me there last Sunday morning. If I had arrived any later, I’m sure the whole place would have been whitewashed and spitshined.

For starters, no guard was posted outside the compound. I had to honk the horn for 15 minutes before anyone let me in. It was Commander Moss himself who opened the gate and he was still in civilian underwear. Now this was well past eight-thirty; Sunday school had been over for an hour. I was wearing regulation skivvies, of course, but the man still failed to salute. He then stated that if I paid a two dollar toll he’d let me through, no questions asked. Jake, I had to look up at the flagpole to make sure I was in the right country. Moss maintained that the regulations manual never specified as to the public display of undergarments. I checked his facts. I can hardly believe it but he’s right. I’ll be damned if there’s a single sentence in the book which details a mandatory code of dress. We should rewrite the whole shebang, starting with the introduction, “Why We Serve” (the obvious answer — “Because it’s there” — doesn’t fool them anymore).

According to the list Commander Moss gave me, 47 percent of the camp personnel were absent without leave, 35 percent were missing in action, and another 5 percent never existed. A brief investigation, which involved poking around inside the perimeter bushes with a cattle prod, brought that last figure down to an acceptable 3 percent. It can only be hoped that the other figures are the result of gross clerical incompetence.

Among other problems at Camp Suzie, the living conditions are substandard. Everyone’s fed well enough — the Red Cross sees to that — but where are they supposed to sleep? We promised them a row of barracks four years ago. Well, Jake, they’re still living in abandoned boxcars and running around with shoeshine kits. Out of pity, I paid for a shine seven times that day. If only you’d seen the look on those men’s faces when I tossed a quarter up for grabs.

As I continued the inspection I began to realize that, although Moss is the highest ranking officer on base, he’s not the man who’s running the show. The Chaplain, Sergeant Lemmus, is a very charismatic character to whom all personnel exhibit an unusual degree of loyalty. Mass is held every night in a secluded area that he designates as his “invisible church.” All who attend are required to wear “invisible robes,” and from what I hear it’s quite a ceremony. You’ll laugh if I admit this, but the man disturbs me. When I said, “See you later,” he just smiled and shook his head no.

Now Jake, I’m aware that Operation Overbite is a pet project of yours, but I can’t beat around the bush. In this case I can only advise to terminate with extreme prejudice. There’ll be other five-year programs, you wait and see. Meanwhile, deregulation is not the answer. What we need are fewer chaplains and more shoeshine kits.

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Legends Of The Ooh La Las

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Of all the folk legends handed down by Native Americans, surely there are none so rich or so varied — or so utterly pointless — as those of the Ooh La Las.

The Ooh La La Indians were quite similar to their distant cousins the Oglala Sioux, in that both were nomadic societies of hunter-warriors with strong shamanistic beliefs. The Ooh La Las, however, were known to cheat at cards, to file fraudulent tax returns, and to wear socks that clashed terribly with their slacks. Often they fished in sacred lakes without buying permits, and in one surprise war raid several hundred were caught driving with expired licenses.

All this led to the Oglala-Ooh La La War of 1481, in which the Ooh La La’s territory was reduced from an area the size of Wyoming to several square inches on the side of a crumbling mesa in Death Valley. For years afterward the surviving Ooh La Las — all 28 of them — lived there in a state of peace and plenty broken only by starvation and murderous assaults upon their neighbors and one another. Then the white man discovered valuable deposits of sandstone on their land, and their complex culture came to an all-too-timely end.

Fortunately for anthropology teachers, many of their countless “gokiblu” (dirty stories) have survived, transmitted orally or sometimes by a virus. These rambunctious tales were not meant to instruct or even to entertain, but rather to “jibbegawah” (torment) the listener, much like the television programming of today. Judging from the examples below, they must have been eminently successful.

 

The Great Spirit 

Most Ooh La Las professed to believe in a Great Spirit, the First Cause and Prime Mover of all things, an entity they referred to out of respect as “Mel.” Mel was omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient — which made it awfully difficult to plan a surprise party for him. It was common practice to leave food offerings for Mel; say, a dish of salted nuts, or some crackers and onion dip. In times of trouble a 15 percent gratuity would be added. Mel was said to be the son of Ruth and Irving, but Ruth could never prove it in court.

 

How the Snake Lost His Legs 

This was a favorite tale among the Ooh La Las, along with the one about the three Irishmen. Often when sitting around a crackling fire one of them would begin this story, and then the others would wordlessly toss him into the flames.

It seems there was a hapless hunter called Limping Worm who would neither hunt nor fish and spent most of his time trying to catch horseflies in his hands. One day he was visited by Weasel With the Face of a Former President, who was a very wicked but cunning forest creature.

“Listen, oh foolish one,” said Weasel. “If you stand near the edge of the woods at midnight, you will receive an omen that will assure you of good hunting forever.”

“How do I know you’re not lying?” asked Limping Worm as he absent-mindedly popped a horsefly into his mouth.

“I am lying, you twit.”

“Oh. Well, as long as you’re honest about it…”

That night Limping Worm crept to the outskirts of the forest and waited. Slowly the moon set and night deeped around him. He was about to leave when three men in dark medicine masks blocked his way.

“Are you the witless one called Limping Worm?” the biggest of them inquired.

“Why, yes, I am,” he began. “But what –”

Before he could finish they beat and kicked him, stole his popcorn necklace and left him to die. A few minutes later he was eaten by a nearsighted bear with a very poor sense of smell.

And ever since that day, the snake has had no legs.

 

A Vision 

One of the oldest Ooh La La legends (stop me if you’ve heard it) concerns a warrior’s quest for his Power Vision, a way of peering into the spirit world without drugs or corrective lenses. The young tribesman sat alone on a hilltop in the wilderness, naked, with no food but a bag of hard candy. He fasted and prayed and chanted Mel’s name to no avail. At last he reached into a buffalo-skin pouch and produced a spider as large as his own hand. Placing the dark wriggling form on his face, he let out a scream that shook the saguaro cactuses and echoed in the hidden ravines of the desert. Suddenly he heard a high-pitched whine just overhead, and then a deep, booming voice:

“Look, it’s after hours; I’m on straight salary, no overtime. Can it wait until Monday?”

“Oh mighty Mel, give me a vision, that I may know on what path to place my moccasins.”

There was a whirring sound in the young man’s ears, and then a resounding crack as of an oak tree split in two by lightning. Something struck him on the back of the head, and he fell unconscious to the ground. In his fitful sleep he found himself lost in a nightmare world.

He saw great leafless treetrunks coughing a black mist into the air; he saw pale-fleshed strangers in their clinging garments with little alligators embroidered on their chests; he saw some of them hitting their women and torturing their animals; he saw them emerge as one from the hideous square burial mounds where their children sat bewitched by the shifting gray lights from the Box of the Dead Spirits; he saw them willingly swallowed by the Shiny Buffalo That Run Without Hooves, and watched in horror as the growling beasts collided aimlessly and stampeded toward the Village That Eats Its Young, a place of filth and smoke filled with the howls of the dead and the dying.

There the Shiny Buffalo spit up their sickly cargo, and the pale strangers entered the burial towers of their ancestors, which reached into the heavens and must have been crowded with corpses, or so the young warrior thought.

He awoke in a cold sweat and gingerly felt the lump at the base of his skull.

“Oh Mel,” he cried, “what means this evil dream?”

But for once the Great Spirit was silent, and the only sound was of a mournful wind sweeping across the prairie.

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Value Added, Then Subtracted

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I’m Cory Laslocky. You’ve probably seen me in “Tall, Pale & Flabby” magazine. I live alone. I own two cats. Occasionally, I like to listen to the Pet Shop Boys. I wash my hair with Pantene with pro vitamin E. Just thought I’d tell you…Christmas is only six months away.

I hate buying things. I hate it.

Who am I kidding? I love it.

Everyday, around the world, over one billion Coca-Cola products are consumed. A billion a day. That’s one in six people living on the planet. I once thought that the meaning of life was to make the lives of those around you better. Apparently, I was misinformed. Consumption is the meaning of life. Consume, consume, consume. This is how we’ve come to judge ourselves as people. This is how we take stock in our own personal inventory.

I am a good person because:

* I bought a $56,000 Cadillac SUV, which gets four feet to the tank, so that I can handle the rugged terrain of Jersey Turnpike, Exit 4 in style.

* I bought 18 pairs of Gap khakis in Tan, Olive, Sunrise and Cranberry. I wear them when I talk to other men about my lawn. Somewhere, children are dying of AIDS. Somewhere else, people are hunted down in the street because of their religion. And each day, the planet dies a little more. But my lawn is green, damn it. And you can have my mulch when you pry it from my cold, dead hand.

* I bought a subscription to the Olsen Twins magazine (Mary-Kate and Ashley) because years from now when they’re all coked up and strung out of Zoloft, doing double-penetration, girl-on-girl flicks, I can look back on a time when they were just young, sweet, innocent commodities.

* I bought crack-cocaine because for life’s aches and pains there’s no better non-prescription pain reliever (available in ghettos everywhere and Target).

* I bought tampons. From the commercials, it seems like it’s so much fun to have your period. “Weee, look at me. I’m hemorrhaging and climbing a mountain.” Or “My pads got wings. I can fly. I can fly.” Somewhere in the bowels of Playtex’s corporate headquarters, a person is using the precious hours of their life (hours that could be spent with their kids, a favorite aunt, or painting sea shells for the blind), hours you never get back so that “at the end of the day,” the Playtex “brand” of sanitary napkins is better “positioned.”

* I bought $56 sterling-silver measuring cups off my cousin’s wedding registry from Williams Sonoma or The Pottery Barn or maybe Restoration Hardware because I’m white and that’s what white people do.

* I even bought my friend’s kid a Baby Van Gogh Color Go-Round from Playskool for his first birthday, even though I could have easily given the kid a stick and he would have never known the difference.

* I bought a delicious, home-cooked meal from a family fun restaurant where washboards, yield signs and wooden airplane propellers hang on the wall. Wow, did an airplane crash here years ago? It’s like eating dinner in somebody’s attic. “I’ll have the chicken fingers and cricket bat in the corner. What do you mean it’s not for sale? Let me see your manager, Brad.” But Brad rolls with the punches. Brad’s a waiter emeritus. In his years at TGI McApplebyChillisBennigans, he’s seen it all (too much if you ask Brad). He’s got a belly-full of killing or mozzarella sticks. He thought he’d be waiting tables just until he finished college, but then he woke up one day, 37 years old, wearing a red & white striped shirt with a button that says “Mean People Suck.”

And right next to TGIMcApplebyChillisBennigans is the Macy’s Furniture Outlet Gallery, which is just two miles down the road from the Macy’s at the mall. I’d like to be a fly on the wall at that meeting when that was decided.

High Powered Executive #1: Hey, Phil!

Equally High-Powered Executive #2 (but with a different skill set): Hey, Bill!

Exec. #1: How’s the golf, Phil?

Exec. #2: Great, Bill. Shot an 82. How’s your boy?

Exec. #1: Great, Phil. Just turned 4 or 19. Not really sure.

Exec. #2: What’s your idea, Bill?

Exec. #1: Well, Phil, let’s cut down some trees and displace some wildlife so we can open up a furniture outlet gallery right down the street from our other store.

Exec. #2: Great, Bill. Now we’ve got a place to put all the slop that nobody buys along with those scary bitches in cosmetics. Just one thing, though.

Exec. #1: What’s that, Phil?

Exec. #2: Well, Bill, we’re still gonna sell wooden apples and matching end tables?

Exec. #1: You betcha, Phil. That’s what impresses people.

More importantly, that’s what makes people feel whole.

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Letters To Superman

By:

Dear Superman,

At last week’s Municipal Leaders Convention I was seated at a table with Commissioner Gordon of Gotham City. By ten o’clock he was fairly drunk and was rubbing that Bat Signal creation of his in everyone’s face, going on and on about the citizens of Gotham this, how safe they feel that. He seemed to think it was a pretty big deal, being able to get Batman’s attention any time he wants, just by shining his giant symbol into the sky.

Superman, I know you’re usually on top of everything in the city, but would you mind if we created our own “Superb-Signal” for Metropolis? It could make our residents feel safer. More importantly, I think it could help me edge out McLaren in next month’s big race. I just know he’s going to play the affordable housing card to the low-income voters. I need something like a giant glowing sky-signal to win them back.

I was even thinking about a few designs for it. It could be these big green letters that spell out “Come Over Here Superman,” or maybe just a giant red eyeball that could sort of watch over the city until you arrived? Of course, the eyeball would have to be friendly looking to citizens, yet cast fear into the hearts of villains, which admittedly is a little difficult. We could always go with a big blimp that kind of flies through the sky with crazy lightning bolts flashing out of it. Maybe we could even play the opening riff of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” over and over while the signal is displayed? I’d love to see the look on Gordon’s face when we unveil a symbol that has its own soundtrack.

My point is that the possibilities are endless. Let’s meet in my office later this week to discuss.

Regards,

Don Pollack

Mayor, Metropolis

***

My Dearest Superman,

How fitting it is that this letter is the last thing you’ll ever read as hero of this city. It was 20 years ago today that I sent you a simple request for your assistance on a new turbo-charged gamma-ray accelerator I was building at the time. You told me you were busy, that you were saving lives, and that you didn’t have time to help me with my invention so long as the aforementioned lives were in need of saving. You turned me down, Superman, oh yes, and I never forgave you. But now, after many years, sweet vengeance has finally come. I would laugh at this point, as the thought so amuses me. Alas, the written word conveys this poorly, so I’ll soldier on.

As you read this letter with your super-vision through the envelope, fourteen Kryptonite-tipped rocket missiles are headed towards your precious Fortress of Solitude. Also, an army of bloodhounds (trained in my secret underground kennel) are trolling Metropolis’ libraries and archives, eating all evidence of your existence in the papers. Soon Superman, oh so very soon, all that’s left of your recorded identity will be turned to ash — or a foaming, bite-sized ball of dog saliva and paper pulp. I assure you, were we meeting in person, I would be laughing immensely hard and hearty as I say this, so amused am I at your predicament. Again, though, the written word. Moving on.

With my stranglehold on the media, and your peaceful refuge in ruins, your reputation and notoriety is doomed to fade away. I do hope, however, that these latest actions don’t hurt the on-the-side social relationship we’ve developed over the last few years. What of your dog, Mr. Paws, by the way? What an adorable rascal. Were you able to sort out that confusion with the vet about his shots? I hope he has stopped gnawing on his crotch and can have that visor of his removed soon.

As you might have guessed, everything else in the Luther household is busy busy busy as always! Young Casey Luther is leading the Metropolis “A” hockey team in assists this year, no doubt due to the boy’s growing skill at methodically eliminating his competition with elaborate schemes. A great many small jerseyed bodies will not be found for years to come, I assure you. Nevertheless, my boy shall receive that assists award, even if I have to step in and scramble a few brains myself with my new Type C Neuron Defibrillator. At any rate, it looks like Casey is starting to take after his old man after all. I have resolved to kill him last, as you no doubt surmised.

Not much else is new here. I’m still trying to shape the backyard hedge into a duck. Sheila’s recruitment drive for the Metropolis Volunteer Network is going well. She already has more than 40 people interested in helping out with her summer theater production of “Oh! Calcutta!” Remember to let Sheila or I know if you’re interested in helping out. We won’t have need of your heat-vision, however. Suffice it to say, the production is sizzling enough without it! Oh, but I joke.

Hope everything else is well with you. Please don’t be a stranger; and if you have the time, please don’t hesitate to die horribly also.

Warmly,

Lex Luthor

***

Dear Superman,

Thank you!!! Thank you so much for saving my son last Sunday!!! Were it not for you, our little Ethan would have fallen hundreds of feet to his death off the edge of Skyline Bridge. As you remember, our little boy climbed out of his stroller, climbed over the guard rail, and then fell off the side of the bridge. I don’t know how you did it, Superman, but you flew right under him, caught him gently, and then brought him back to us with a smile. We will never forget what you did for us and will count each day with Ethan as a special blessing for the rest of our lives!!!

Bringing me to the point. Since you were so brave and kind to my family last Sunday, I was hoping I could ask for your help with a few other things. I figured that even Superman wouldn’t be SO BUSY that he couldn’t lend another hand, right? Heck, you were probably just watching soap operas when this letter arrived, right? (Don’t worry, you can tell me. I watch the occasional “Bold and the Beautiful” myself! Antonio is such a rogue!)

But I’m getting sidetracked. Long before last weekend’s near tragedy, it seemed to me that Reggie was trying to hide something. Before we were married he suffered from a long bout of alcoholism. Now, he’s been dry for the last seven years. I’m not sure if alcoholism qualifies in your little book of “things to save,” but do you think Reggie is starting to drink again? Could you see if he really is working late on a big project? I suspect he might just be going out drinking with the boys. The lying, lying bastard. Just fire me an email when you know for sure!!!

One more quickie for you: My mother has lung cancer. It’s been hard on me and I was wondering if you could at least look into some sort of “super-treatment” type thingamajig for her. Someone told me that on your planet you could heal things just by touching them, yes? If that’s true we would REALLY appreciate that. Consider the healing fair square for your years of sitting by while Nana smoked herself silly on three packs a day!!! We forgive you!!! (Even though, technically, it could be considered murder. Think about that.)

Anyway, thanks again!!!

Theresa Chapman

P.S. Oh, can you baby-sit for us next Thursday? You and Ethan already know each other, after all, and Reggie got me tickets to the Elton John concert for my birthday!!! Plus, I’m sure you can’t be THAT busy. Do you even have a job? No offense!!!

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I, Writer

By:

The Big Jewel has received an advance copy of an essay on creative writing to be published as the introduction to the next book by a major bestselling author. For legal reasons we can’t identify him by name, but suffice it to say that he writes the kind of glitzy doorstop-sized novels that you see in every airport and second-hand shop in the country. Also, when NASA announced that the Hubble Space Telescope had located the exact center of the known universe, he was very surprised and disappointed to find out that it wasn’t his house.

******************************************************

You can bring the prisoner down now.


Tom Swift

Now that I’m an internationally renowned writer, it’s surprising that no one ever comes up to me and says, “How I envy you. How I wish I could be a writer too.” But I know so many of you would say that, if only you had the chance, so I am writing this article to set the record straight once and for all: you can’t be a writer. You can’t be a writer because you can’t write. You don’t believe me? Well, try it:

___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

You see? Pretty pathetic. Now watch this:

Lucinda’s nostrils flared ever so slightly as Derek handed her an icy glass filled to the brim with vintage champagne. Small beads of perspiration formed on her tanned forehead, kind of reflecting the beads of condensation forming on the glass, in a way. If you see what I mean. So then Derek leans forward meaningfully and says, even more meaningfully, “I want to run my fingers through your hair. I long to kiss your luscious lips. I yearn to embrace your delicate neck. I’ve got a hankering to drop to my knees and rip open your dress and. . .”

I could go on, but let’s stop there. Now I’m not trying to be arrogant (in fact, I’m exerting no effort at all) but if I wanted to, in about three or four days of intense, frenzied, all-consumingly obsessive work I could expand that little gem of an idea into a 900-page blockbuster epic saga packed with life, love, romance and power, full of undeniable lust, unimaginable wealth, seismic sex and Pi to 7,000 decimal places. Hardback sales would top eight figures. The movie rights alone would put me and all the future generations of my extended family on Easy Street for good. But hey, I don’t feel like it right now. I’ve got ideas like that to burn. Also, I’m supposed to be telling you what it takes to be a writer. So here goes:

First, you have to be born. A writer, I mean. Even in your earliest childhood you have to be aware of that uncertain, obscure, indescribable, ineffable, intangible, impalpable, ungraspable, unknowable nameless something that will enable you later in life to write a succinct, accurate description of any thing or concept whatsoever. For instance, sitting here right now, I could give you a complete summing up of all of human spiritual and philosophical thought for the last 17 centuries in just three words. But I won’t. For writing is more than that. Writing is also ideas.

People never send me letters, but I’m sure they would if it occurred to them, to ask: Where do you get your ideas? And the answer is: I have no idea. Let me illustrate. Right now I am sitting here in front of my old, broken-down, beat-up, dented-in, rusted-out, rotted-through manual typewriter, made in 1897, with the keys in alphabetical order. The “B” and the “U” only work in upper case and the comma key doesn’t work at all. It weighs 92 pounds, the ribbon is always jammed and it smells like a wet sheepdog, but I just love it. I wouldn’t give it up for any fancy high-tech word processor in the whole world. Mainly because all I ever do with the old heap is sit in front of it. For writing, I have a Powerpunch 2000 MegaMag LXPC-3 with 17,000 gigabytes of RAM and a hard disk that can store two copies of all the written works published since the Rosetta Stone. I have a modem that can contact the Space Shuttle and a laser printer that also does my taxes. The mouse alone costs more than a new Audi.

Now, where was I? Oh yes: to be a successful writer you need to cultivate the ability to pick a topic and stick to it. Was that it? No — I’ve got it now: ideas. Let me explain the genesis of ideas in such a way that maybe even you will be able to understand it (don’t thank me — this is my profession):

To have an idea you have to know how to have an idea. And to know how to have an idea you have to have some idea of how the idea-having mechanism works. Nobody has any idea how this happens, not even the world’s top brain surgeons, so I suggest you just bag it and forget about ever being able to write your way out of a broken condom. But hey, you can keep on reading this particular article anyway.

So to continue, to be a good writer you have to develop an ear for detail, an eye for dialogue, and a very good memory so you don’t get things mixed up. Take me, for instance: I remember the day I sold my first story. I recall it as if it were yesterday, even though it happened earlier this month. I was sitting on the porch of the disused fishmeal plant on the coast of Alaska where I had been living for nine years in total isolation, with no heat, surviving on leaves, berries and roadkills, drinking melted snow, sleeping on a pile of rags that I glued onto my skin in the daytime for clothes and sending out short stories at the rate of about one every three hours. All of them came back with rejection notices, until one day when I was sitting on the porch, like I said earlier, I think, and up to the house came a man from the sheriff’s office with an eviction notice, followed by two men from the telephone and power companies to cut off my phone and electricity, a team from the water company to shut off the water and the gas, and a small army of finance company representatives with orders to repossess my car, my television, VCR, stereo, bicycle, rowing machine, all my furniture, my glasses, the dog and the toilet, when just then the mailman came up and handed me a letter.

I was so used to receiving big brown packages containing my returned manuscripts, I was shocked when he reached in his bag and pulled out a slim envelope addressed to me. Imagine my surprise when I opened that letter and read that the state welfare agency was cutting off my benefits and sending someone out to take my children and give them to wolves so they could be raised in a more salubrious environment. Now that I think about it, I remember that I actually sold my first story a little while later, to a cropdusters’ inflight magazine, and even then it only paid $15, so I lost all my stuff anyway.

But that’s the life of a writer. As you’ve no doubt guessed, a successful writer leads a life that is remarkably different from yours. You probably get up in the morning and go to work, come home at night and go to sleep, you poor scum. Well, it’s not that kind of humdrum daily routine for us professional writers, I can tell you. I, like so many innately creative people, prefer to work at night, so I tend to stay up later and later, go to bed later and later, and get up later and later. And that means that the next day I stay up even later, and then go to bed later, get up later, and so on. You follow me? I could go over that part again if you want. So anyway, I started staying up later and later until I was staying up all night. Then I started staying up all night and part of the morning. Then I was staying up all night and most of the morning, then all night and most of the day. In fact, these days I stay up so late that I don’t even go to bed until about 10:00 p.m. the next day. Then I sleep until 6:00 a.m. and get up and work during the day, only for me it’s the previous night.

But that’s just one of the many things that makes life so very, very different for the writer. Another thing is that, now that my name is a household word, I get a constant stream of invitations to a never-ending round of receptions, parties and dinners. Naturally, I am disdainful of any such tiresome, superficial social functions, and I never ever accept these invitations because I know that a person of my stature would be certain to have a simply dreadful time. Why, just two days ago I was at a cocktail party for the second anniversary of the opening of a local all-weather radio station, when a woman came up to me and said, “I’m so glad you could come. Let me take your coat.” Can you believe it? No fatuous questions about my work. No confusing me with some other famous (but, let’s face it, lesser) author. No self-effacing but downright cretinous admission that she always wanted to be a writer too. Probably what she wanted to say was, “I love your books. I’ve read all of them three times. In hardback. You’re the greatest voice of your generation. Possibly of the century. What the hell, the millennium. Oh, and I always wanted to be writer too, but of course I can’t.”

Well, in reply, I said — I mean I would have said if she had in fact said what she didn’t in fact say, but would have if she had in fact said it — “Allow me, dear woman, to quote the famous literary critic and Shakespeare scholar Oliver Wendell Holmes, who once said: ‘Tough bounce, bubeleh — where’s the booze?'”

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