Thirty-Five Months


Dear Persephone,

Oops. You made thirty-five months yesterday, but I didn’t realize it until I was lying down in bed last night. So this letter is one day late.

As I’m trying to type this, you are sitting on the couch behind me. You’ve got a book you want me to read to you. I’ve explained that I’m writing you a letter, and you wanted to see it, but when I explained it was just words you decided to wait. You’re waiting for me to finish the letter now so I can read you the book.

I’ll admit I’m not thrilled at the prospect. I love to read to you, as a rule, but the book in question is the Disney Princess Music Player Storybook. You love this thing — I hesitate to dignify it with the term “book” — and I hate it. But then, of course, you love everything at this age. We keep getting books and products like this, foisted upon us by well-meaning friends and relatives. I don’t think we would have ever given you a single Disney Princess product if left to our own devices. I don’t want to attempt to catalog my criticisms of the whole phenomenon right now. Suffice it to say that it’s just not our thing. What I don’t like about this particular item? I’m generally opposed to toys that make noise and require batteries, and you certainly have plenty of those; I don’t like the idea of a book that plays music, and I don’t like the music this book plays; and the stories themselves are insufferably cloying. Yes, I realize this makes me sound like a cranky old grouch. I think I will get rid of this one when you’re not looking. You have so much stuff and you’re young enough that I don’t think you’ll ever notice it’s gone. It’s something of a futile gesture against the marketing juggernaut that is Disney.

(As it turns out we never had our story-time session this morning. Your mother came in and asked me to make breakfast, and you helped me beat the eggs (from the community garden) and so forth, and meanwhile the book mysteriously vanished, and now you’re out on a play-date as I finish this letter.)

So, what has happened since last I wrote to you? I guess the biggest news is that we made a trip to Indiana and back. You had your first chance to play in real snow and experience what I still consider to be a “real” winter. We did a thirteen hour drive both ways with hardly any breaks; I was anxious about how you’d fare but actually you didn’t fuss much at all. And you certainly enjoyed visiting your cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. While we were there, we also celebrated your 25,000th hour of life, which fell on your mother’s birthday. But I was hard-pressed to explain that concept in terms you could grasp.

Earlier this week, just as we were sitting down to dinner, I was trying to explain the concept of MLK Day, and you exclaimed, unprompted, “People was equal!” I was doubly amazed: first, that you had any grasp of the concept; and second, that you’d actually learned something at daycare. We didn’t do anything to commemorate MLK Day; it fell on my birthday this year so we celebrated that instead. I hope next year we can do something more meaningful.

I took you to the park on my birthday. The museum and the sculpture garden and the botanical garden were all closed for MLK, but we had so much fun running around the Peristyle, the playground and the Popp bandstand. Your latest thing is taking pictures with your “camera,” which you conjure into existence by looking through a viewfinder formed by your two hands and, when the moment is right, making a click noise. I guess you learned that from me.

Dear Mr. Marcello

1025 Bienville St Suite 5
New Orleans LA 70112

Dear Mr. Marcello,

My wife and I recently purchased a house nearby, and we have been very happy to see the renovation activity at 4337-4339 Banks Street. In fact, I supported the zoning change you recently sought for that property, though some of my neighbors did not. I believe a commercial designation is appropriate at that location.

The only reason I’m writing is to provide a friendly reminder that there are regulations regarding lead paint removal. I noted today that sanding efforts are underway. It is my hope hope that you will follow the legal guidelines. In fact we hope you will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure lead paint does not further contaminate the neighborhood.

I am enclosing a photo of my daughter so that you will understand my concern. Lead is especially harmful to children, and our daughter was diagnosed with poisoning last year. That is one reason we sold our old house and bought this new one.

Obviously we wish to protect her from further exposure to lead and are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure her future health and safety. If you wish to discuss this matter further please contact me at your convenience.


Dear Mr. Bissell (2)

Bissell Homecare, Inc.

PO Box 3606

Grand Rapids MI 49501

For the attention of Mark J. Bissell, President & CEO

Dear Mr. Bissell,

Goodness gracious! I’ve just been going through some old files, and I realized it’s been one full year since I wrote to you. I have yet to receive the courtesy of a reply.

Is this your idea of customer service? What would your great-grandfather Melville Bissell think if he knew how you were running the business?

I am enclosing a copy of my previous letter for your convenience. As you will see, I was merely asking for clarification of your policy regarding your 90 Day Limited Warranty. Why was I charged for twelve dollars for a replacement hose?

Enclosed please find my personal check for $2.00 to cover the expense of writing back to me. This should cover the cost of an envelope, the appropriate foolscap, ink and even postage.


Twenty-One Months

Dear Persephone,

A lot has sure happened in the last month. Most notably, perhaps, we moved to a new house.

I know moving can be especially tough for kids, but I think you’re still young enough that this didn’t really disturb you at all. You seemed to just accept it. As far as we can tell you’re just as happy here as you were at our old house.

Here’s a picture of you on the front porch.

Seph's New House

Last week was strange. Daycare was closed on Monday because of Tropical Storm Ida. It was closed again Wednesday for Veteran’s Day. And then we kept you home Friday because you were ill. We were worried because of the H1N1 flu virus, but it turned out to be a a common ear infection.

You’re getting very talkative, with a number of polysyllabic words in your vocabulary. Your mother and I and the good folks at daycare may be the only people who can actually understand you, though — and I have to admit that sometimes even I can’t figure out what you’re talking about.

You can’t say the alphabet on your own, but you’re learning to sing along to the classic alphabet song. I’m surprised by how many letters you know. When reading a certain alphabet book, you insist on on stopping when we get to “J is for jump.” You have to get up and try to jump on your own. Usually you need a little help from me. When we get to “L is for laugh” you always burst into laughter. And just tonight you started trying to stand on your head when we get to “U is for upside-down.” Actually the book was pretty much over at that point because you wouldn’t stop trying to stand on your head.

You are very silly and incredibly cute. We are so happy to have you in our lives.

Dear Mr. Bissell

Bissell Homecare, Inc.
PO Box 3606
Grand Rapids MI 49501

For the attention of Mark J. Bissell, President & CEO

Dear Mr. Bissell,

We recently purchased a Lift-Off Revolution Remanufactured 3760R vacuum cleaner produced by your company. During its second use, the stretch hose came detached from the hose grip, rendering the whole apparatus inoperable. It seemed a minor repair, and being somewhat handy with mechanical devices, I attempted to reattach the hose grip but found myself absolutely flummoxed.

Eventually I admitted my failure and called your Consumer Services hotline. The representative with whom I spoke offered to sell me a Liftoff Twist’N Snap Hose Replacement for twelve dollars. I asked if the vacuum was not covered under some sort of warranty, since we’d had it less than a week.

Her response? She waived the shipping fee.

Eager to get our vacuum cleaner working again, I authorized payment with my credit card, and the replacement hose has since been shipped to our home, and I am twelve dollars poorer. Not to worry, the sum will not bankrupt me.

However, after getting off the phone, I took a few minutes to scrutinize the User’s Guide. That is where I found the very nice personal message from you, sir, with the story of how your great-grandfather invented the floor sweeper in 1876. This same message touts your 90 day warranty, so I assume that you, at least, are aware of this provision.

Turning to the back of our User’s Guide, I found the 90 Day Limited Warranty spelled out in greater detail. It is probably not necessary to quote this passage, but indulge me: “Bissell Homecare, Inc. will repair or replace (with new or remanufactured components or products), at Bissell’s option, free of charge from the date of purchase by the original purchaser, for 90 Days any defective or malfunctioning part.”

Given the clarity of this statement, I can only wonder why I was charged for the hose. Is this a nefarious scheme to prey upon the illiterate who cannot read and thus would not know of your warranty? I know times are tough, but I do not think your great-grandfather would approve of this way of doing business.

cc: Customer Services

Entergy Writes Back

Remember that letter I sent to Entergy? I got a reply.

Entergy Writes Back

July 22, 2009

Dear Mr. Everson

As Director of Customer Service at Entergy New Orleans, Inc., I wanted to thank you for your recent letter regarding the hours of operation at our Customer Care Center located on Canal Blvd.

The business hours of the Care Centers are always a primary concern to us as it is our goal to be available to the greatest number of people. We have conducted many different studies with our customer base and the results show that the majority of our customers prefer doing business after their work hours rather than before. We are constantly monitoring and evaluating the needs of our customers and will adjust our business practices and hours of operation as these needs change.

We do encourage and appreciate the input of our customers and want to thank you for taking the time to let us know how you feel that we can better serve the community. We will keep your letter and definitely consider the suggestions as we continue to change and adapt our service to better fit the needs of the community.


Melonie P. Hall
Director of Customer Service
Entergy New Orleans, Inc.

I feel like a response is in order, but I’m not sure what angle to take.

Dear Mr. West

Entergy New Orleans
1600 Perdido St
New Orleans, LA 70112

Attn: Rod West, President & CEO

Dear Mr. West,

I just had a brilliant idea on how Entergy can improve customer service in New Orleans. Please allow me to explain.

Every morning I ride my bike past the Entergy office located at the corner of Canal and Jeff Davis. Before 8:30 AM time there’s always a dozen or more people standing in line, waiting for the door to open. If I don’t see the line of people, I know that it’s past 8:30 and I’m running late.

As much as I appreciate the handy time-check, I’m pretty sure the people aren’t happy about standing in line. After all, no one likes to stand in line, especially in inclement weather. But the people are always there, rain or shine, waiting patiently.

I got to thinking. Why would anybody rise early and come to stand in line before the office is even open? Why not wait and come later in the day? Let me tell you, Rod, they aren’t standing there for their health, that’s for sure.

The answer is clear. These people have jobs. Most jobs are from nine to five. They are trying to take care of their business with Entergy before they go to work.

Therefore it seems to me that Entergy could save these folks a lot of hassle through a simple expedient which I will share with you now:

Open the office earlier.

Such an easy way to better serve your customers! Sure, it might cost a bit extra to have the office open longer, but I’m sure you can afford it given the $11 billion annual revenue of Entergy Corporation.

No need to thank me for this idea, Rod. The knowledge that the citizens of New Orleans are getting better service will be all the compensation I require.

Well, I guess if you wanted to knock a few bucks off my next bill I wouldn’t mind. Whatever you think is fair.

Yours sincerely,

Editor B

Update: Shortly after writing this letter, I opened up the Times-Picayune to see the following article at the top of the Money section:

Entergy Louisiana ranked last in J.D. Power customer service rating

Continue reading “Dear Mr. West”

Dear Aunt Ron

Dear Aunt Ron,

Thanks for Persephone’s birthday gift. It will probably take her a while to grow into those clothes, but better too big than too small.

I also appreciated the letter you included. Rest assured, I won’t “disown” you for the suggestions you make regarding Persephone’s religious education. In fact I am touched that you took the time to write about this.

Apparently you were disturbed by the picture I posted recently of the girl handling a tarot card. I hope to set your mind at ease somewhat, and was pondering what I might say when Persephone took matters into her own hands, so to speak. Of her own accord she grabbed a Bible off the bookshelf and opened it.

Bible Study

She’s too young to actually read, of course, but I was astonished when she pointed to a verse with great deliberation. It was Zachariah 14:1, “Behold the day of the Lord cometh.”

Zechariah 14

Was she playing Biblical Lot? Only heaven knows what question she had in mind. I tell you it sent an apocalyptic chill down my spine.

In all seriousness, though, we don’t want her to be unfamiliar with the Bible or a stranger to the inside of a church. To the contrary, we want to raise our daughter with a well-rounded exposure to the varieties of religious experience, to draw on all the wisdom traditions of the world.

There are certain things we will not do, of course. We will not pretend to know the truth about life, the universe and everything with absolute surety. Being honest about doubts and the limitations of our knowledge is very important to us. The only thing of which we’re totally certain is our lack of total certainty. And that has profound implications. We’re more likely to say, “This is what we think,” rather than, “That’s the way it is.” Please note that this doesn’t mean a wishy-washy perspective devoid of any moral spine. Quite the opposite. Our acknowledgment of doubt and skepticism springs from a love of honest reason as the best source for moral guidance.

As for baptism, you will be happy to know we performed such a ritual on the banks of Bayou St. John last year. I wish you could have been here for it. You can experience the next best thing, because I wrote about it, and there are pictures and even audio of the complete ceremony. I hope you can give it a listen.

And you certainly are welcome to come and visit us in New Orleans if you should ever get the chance.

Your nephew

Dear Goody Clancy

Here’s a letter which I hope to present directly to representatives of Goody Clancy at tonight’s District 4 meeting (6PM @ Jesuit).

Dear Goody Clancy,

Friends of Lafitte Corridor has been reviewing the Master Plan draft. It is quite impressive. However, there are several points that concern us. We believe that the revitalization of the Lafitte Corridor, with a central greenway, offers a model for nurturing the values of sustainability and community that the Master Plan draft espouses. Therefore I am sending this follow-up to my recent e-mail.

  1. Chapter 13 mentions the Mississippi River Greenway Initiative, but we could find no mention of the greenway project planned for the Lafitte Corridor.
  2. The greenway shows up on the proposed bike route map, but it is not the correct length. (It should extend from Basin Street all the way to Canal Blvd. instead of terminating at City Park Ave.)
  3. Note the two-part structure of the project as the Office of Recovery Development has conceived it and City Planning Commission staff has endorsed: development of a Lafitte Corridor Revitalization Plan and design of the greenway/trail itself. These two prongs are distinct and substantial.
  4. In recognition of the unique opportunities the greenway represents, we recommend a special land use designation for trail-oriented development along the entire length of the Lafitte Corridor.
  5. The integrative nature of the project as “green infrastructure” should be emphasized — integrating active transportation, public health and recreation, economic revitalization, cultural preservation and environmental sustainability initiatives.
  6. For an excellent example of trail-oriented land use planning, please see the Midtown Greenway’s Land Use Development Plan

  7. Attached please find a copy of the City Planning Commission’s recent review of the Lafitte Greenway Master Plan. Note their recommendation to integrate this plan into the Citywide Master Plan and Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance effort.

Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss these matters in greater detail. Also please feel free to contact my fellow board members: Dr. Lake Douglas who is a professor at the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture at LSU, and architect Daniel Samuels.

Yours sincerely,

Bart Everson
Friends of Lafitte Corridor

Dear General Zia

This is the second installment of three sample documents dredged up from my old Brother WP-500 disks. I think this letter more or less explains itself. I wrote a number of such letters, inspired by author Bruce West, and in fact that was my original motivation for purchasing the WP-500 in the first place. With its daisywheel printer, it produced documents that looked like they were typed the old-fashioned way. Thus, I think it has maximum impact when viewed in its original format. I’m embedding the document here; please use the “full screen” toggle button in the upper right corner to make it legible.

Continue reading “Dear General Zia”