Dear Mr. Sedaris,
You have the dubious honor of being the recipient of the 4th fan letter I’ve ever written in my life.
The first letter was sent when I was 10, to Phil Collins of the band ‘Genesis’. It was 1985 and his third solo album, ‘No Jacket Required’ had been released. I had received the LP for my birthday, and although I can’t recall exactly how I felt about the actual music, I became enamored of the picture on the front of the album – an orange-tinted glowing image of Mr. Collins’ head. It floated in the black of the album cover like an orb of light. Perhaps it recalled the comfort of a nightlight I had as a small child, or perhaps the sorrowful look in his round, baby-face features appealed to my sense of Dickensian anguish. Regardless, I was convinced we were meant to be together – with the confidence in romance that only lives in the naïve heart of a bookish and nerdy prepubescent Jewish girl growing up in Westchester, NY.
I composed a letter that detailed my vision for our future together. “I hope one day we can go roller skating together,” I wrote. I even typed it out to be sure he could read every word clearly. This was likely my mistake, for as I neglected to mention my age during the course of the letter, I can only imagine the assumption that it was from an adult. “If you are sad, you can talk to me about it,” is an invitation that sounds worryingly sinister unless being delivered by the soft innocent voice of a 10 year old. Even then, it’s borderline.
Not surprisingly, I never received an answer. A restraining order would have been more likely. Years later, I felt compelled to try again, this time lowering my expectations. Besides, they eventually stopped selling real roller skates.
Letter #2 was an amalgamation of poor timing and an inability to edit my own work in a judicious manner. In 1992, during an espresso-fueled adolescence and while reading a number of Isaac Asimov books, I became convinced that I may be a brain-washed experimental time-traveling space cadet, and in retrospect I realize that my self-diagnosis was at least partially correct. I began to write what became a series of half-completed letters of explanation on the validity of my dilemma to Mr. Asimov, stressing particulars about what the Year 2000 would hold, (coffee mugs would get bigger, jacket lapels smaller)and seeking his advice. Unfortunately, I wavered over certain details and whether to sign the letter with my own name or under the pseudonym ‘I, Superfan’, consequently missing the opportunity for the letter to be delivered to Mr. Asimov while he was still alive. My postmark was only a week off, but it was a decisive week.
I won’t get into the details of my third letter other than to note I learned the hard way that Liza Minnelli does not appreciate fan letters accompanied by a shipment of fresh pineapples carved into the likeness of her mother Judy Garland’s face.
Given my previous fan letter mishaps, I should have learned a hard lesson about the impossibility of a co-mingling between celebrity and obscurity. And, yet here I am again, attempting to connect with an artist whose work I greatly admire. Your latest book is your wittiest, most touching and unyieldingly personal yet, but I have been a fan since ‘The SantaLand Diaries.’
In fact, despite the likely remarkable number of differences in our backgrounds and personalities, you might be surprised to know we come from similar humble beginnings – I also was a Santa Elf. Although I was not 33, I was 15 (perhaps a more conventionally acceptable age for an elf). It was my very first job: taking Polaroid pictures of young children in the middle of the mall as they sat on the lap of Jolly St. Nick, amid animatronic deer and squirrels. I soon learned that the jolliness of one of the Santas was directly related to how many swigs he had taken of the small metal flask he kept in his jacket, but his warm slushiness was preferable to his co-patriot, who growled when we let the children sit on his lap too long. Later, he accidentally revealed a swastika tattoo on the top of his bald head when removing his Santa hat for the day, thus demonstrating the true equal opportunity employment position taken by the Jefferson Valley Mall.
You have gone on to become a highly-respected and iconic voice of your generation and I have relocated six times within the state of Delaware in the past 10 years; both journeys of some consequence.
If you have made it to the end of this letter, I will have finally achieved a level of success in my fan letter writing, not to mention won a bet against my husband. Please feel free to let me know – a dinner at TGI Friday’s is riding on it.