Tuesday, July 29, 2003


I added another letter to my Ignatius file today. I call it that in deference to Ignatius Reilly, the main character in the alarmingly humorous, and somewhat offensive, Pulitzer prize winning novel, "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole.

The character of Ignatius is too complex to outline here, but suffice it to say he's over schooled, and believes he is underrated.

I put a broad spectrum of stuff in my Ignatius file,( I just noticed the business card from the Bulletin Man) but it's mostly letters. There is a standing order in the newsroom that if a letter comes in from a "wacko" I get it. I enjoy trying to decipher these mass mailings of mania. I try to glean what the catalyst was that put these scribes on their slightly wobbly paths, convinced that a littering of media mailboxes would somehow right their lives. These are always mass mailings, although many have after thoughts scrawled in the margins or on the outside of envelopes.
They all complain about some perceived injustice...USUALLY IN ALL CAPS. Many contain copies of related correspondence, corroborating evidence or simply xeroxes of the various indictments bearing their names.
Most are addressed nebulously to "TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN" or "DEAR SIR", but some are more cryptic...today's for example was addressed to: "THE ONES RESPONSIBLE...WHO KNOW WHO THEY ARE."

After that, the commonalities wane.

I have a marvelous letter from a man named Verdie Head who claims to have been an employee of the Bureau of Engraving. He says he was fired nearly 40 years ago and believes the government has been conspiring against him ever since, which is why young women, especially librarians, have been "enticing" him for the past 20 years.

I have a 16 page letter on newsprint from Bobby Graham of Tom, Oklahoma. He's a little hard to translate, but I think he believes there's a connection between the letters he mails, the eruption of Mount St. Helens, and a number of bombings, most notably the Oklahoma City bombing. He included a copy of the analysis of his urine sample, which he points out shows he's been exposed to arsenic.

One of my all time favorite letter writers is a gentleman by the name of Don Caton. He's convinced that someone broke into his car and installed a listening device which is somehow hooked into all the radio stations in San Antonio. He knows it's true because whenever he's in his car talking to himself, it seems like the disc jockey on the radio is talking back to him. He's certain it's a well organized attempt to convince him that he's mentally ill.

I don't save these letters to mock these people. I keep these letters to remind myself that life should be lived not analyzed. These ranting writers help me remember to be thankful, life could be much harder. These people I've never met, and have no plans to meet no matter how well medicated they may be in the future, help me keep the minor from becoming monumental.

And sometimes, they remind me, that it's okay to complain...

Someone's always listening...

Psalm 10:17

You hear, O Lord , the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry