Dearest Carla Fran,


I nearly called you Carlita—in gratitude for your letters and fondness for your person—before realizing that, in you, I’ve happened upon that rare animal in the lingua spagnola: the undiminutizable name.


I was kicked off the interwebs ten days ago thanks to an AT&T customer service representative named Liam who misunderstood my cancellation of a phone line as a cancellation of all services. A supervisor named Neal played a supporting role. Though I doubt Liam listens to NPR, I suspect Neal has some variant on your DNC drinking game. That final shot of Jäger that offed him to the great state of drunkenness.


Back at last, I’m nonplussed by a) the incredible swathes of time I used for other things, like making crepes and playing songs from the forties on the piano and b) my total ignorance of events like the DNC and Gustav, and c) the meager catch collated from the sites I trawl for narcissistic pleasure—Facebook, namely, and two e-mail accounts. Your letters are the one exception, and I’ve shelled them and sucked out the meat like a starved lobsterman.


Having unwillingly stepped into a tv-less, internetless Biosphere, I thought I’d report back with the snippets I gleaned during my week unplugged.


Hillary wore a yellow pantsuit. Good speech.

Michelle “de-exoticized” herself. (What does this mean? I wonder)

The kids were cute.

McCain picked an Alaskan former housewife as his running mate.

Bush called the governors of Alabama and Louisiana to ask if they needed anything else.

Nothing—but nothing!—about any celebrities.


My next-door neighbor laughs—like yours. I knew this about him. What I didn’t know was that he has a piano of his own. He played it for the first time, badly, until 2 in the morning on a Saturday night. I gained a whole new perspective on everyone who’s ever had to listen to me practice the same four notes over and over. I wondered, as I jammed the toes of my down slippers into my ears, what precipitated this frenzy of attempted musicianship. A wedding? An audition? What makes someone play for hours on end for just one day?


He hasn’t played a note since.


As for the problem of adolescent fashion, you at any rate had the advantage of having had a sense of style as a teen. This is a reservoir you can draw upon, the same way you could, thanks to your history of synchronized swimming, do a creditable impression of Esther Williams if required to (by, say, a maniacal Marine World magnate possessed of a number of large viewing tanks.) As for me, my whole life has been a series of misguided efforts at achieving some sort of style. Concerning the cleavage question—I learned, a few years in, that my efforts to conceal the bosom with turtlenecks was tantamount to covering up a zit with red Sharpie. I’ve arrived at the counterintuitive conclusion that some cleavage actually conceals more than it reveals. Sort of a “more is less” approach to the breasticles. I’ve no doubt this view is as wrongheaded as the other, but the beauty of adolescence is this: the humiliations you suffered then were so great that you’ll gravitate happily to the opposite extreme, just as long as you’re convicted of different mistakes.





P.S.—Far be it from me to dispute the greatness of Angie’s eyebrows. I stand by your dramatis personae.


To linger and/or bedazzle

Dear great fox in the cornfield,

I appreciate the new meaning attributed to my name.  Before “compare” or “contrast,” Carla Fran has usually only meant “to mix wine with butter” or “to quit smoking, again.”  As you can see in the title of this post, I am playing with what Millicent means to me.

Also, I was dazzled by your last letter.  I still would like to defend Angie as Hera, only because I have always pictured Hera (probably due to an educational filmstrip, long ago) as a giant woman in the sky, with great eyebrows. Also, even though often pissed at Zeus, she seems to usually know what’s what, and be the brains behind the endeavor of their little mountain.  I can see Angie planning Hera’s strange revenges.  That is, if the whole saving the world thing grows old, the UN stops returning her calls (or vice versa) and she tries out a Norma Desmond-ish stage.  However, your comparison to Leda is stunning, as is the mention of her attempts at Demeterishness and Athenaaity.  I think you are correct on both accounts. 

I also want to defend Anniston as our Penelope.  While she is not literally weaving tapestries or placemats every night, I feel that her constant almost-marriages and walking around in front of the paprazzi in jeans, and her ” joyous but going through some shit and dealing just fine” glare/walk are her tapestries.  US Weekly is her trusty servant in this endeavor.  But the Hera thing works, too, perhaps citing Brad’s initial attraction to both women?

In other parts of my brain, I was thinking about the democratic convention.  Driving home today, I heard the vote on the radio, and have deduced that our nation’s democrats might be drunk all day at this convention, and not on glee or hope for the future.   They also kept announcing each “great state of _____” as the birthplace of so and so, and in my opinion none of the so and so’s were important enough to have their birthplace honored.  Maybe they were playing a drinking game that I didn’t know the rules to, and which public radio couldn’t quite capture by sound alone.

My neighbor is laughing loudly at her television this evening–great hulks of laughter that shock me, then delight me, and then shock me again as they come through my window.

 How are you?


Carla Fran