Pope John Paul II
Vatican City, Rome

Your Holiness.....

Visiting the great expanse of wealth and beauty which is the Vatican City last Summer, I was struck by the amount of thought and expense which went into the construction of everything I saw, from the largest stone edifice to the smallest jewel-encrusted icon. Everything in your ancient city was rich and luscious, evidence of the extent to which the artistic creativity of the Western world has been influenced by the powerful Catholic Church through the centuries.

There was, in fact, one particular element of your fantastic walled city which especially impressed me. This was the large radio antenna, rising twenty feet from its base upward toward the heavens. The elegance of its intricate three-dimensional lattice structure was perfectly offset by the sharp, thorny metal spikes protruding from it at regular intervals. Like the other parts of your urban treasure-trove, it truly seems very well designed.

But as much as your antenna is beautiful in and of itself, don't you think that it could become so much more meaningful when applied to a Christian theme in some concrete way? Specifically, I think that were you papal people to erect a huge statue of a crucifix somewhere in your mighty village, and then affix the antenna around the enormous Jesus's forehead as the crown of thorns, it would be very fitting indeed.

This suggestion has many benefits. Firstly, a crucifix proportionately large to accommodate such a thorny metallic headpiece would need to be 191 feet tall. Not only would such a statue provide your holy hamlet with the world's largest Christian icon (and more is better, right?) but would broadcast Jesus's image through the visible spectrum while receiving interpretations of His word through the radio spectrum. What could be more apt in our media age?

Secondly, your reception would surely be improved by raising the antenna so high into the heavens. For although the Pope himself may always get perfect reception, human machines are of course more fallible and must therefore be aided, lifted aloft, as it were, by the image of the Christian Lord Jesus.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it would look divine. People would come to your city, and rather than wonder at the inherent technology and commercial expense of running such a large radio reception station, they would be swept into a state of religious ecstasy by the holy statue. Those who recognized the utilitarian functions of the crucifix as I described above would still marvel at the beauty of its conception and execution, remaining totally blind to its cost.

And when it comes down to it, isn't that what all the art and beauty of your city is all about? To relieve the poor, hard-working Catholic from thoughts of money and commerce, to raise him up to a state of fantastic ecstasy through the beauty of the papal treasures without regard for their material value, while at the same time proving that the money he gives you is put toward a good cause? Aren't your city and museum and grounds simply meant to make believers forget all about the gold and emeralds and rubies and see nothing but a heartfelt love for Jesus through the ages? Well, then, I think that a 191-foot Jesus antenna would be just perfect. Whatever the cost.

Amen and Hallelujah,

Guy Petzall.

No answer from His Holiness on this one, but Popes are busy guys. I bear him no malice.


Pope John Paul II
The Vatican, Rome.

Your Holiness...

Throughout history, certain unique privileges have been accorded to the papacy, many of which are rightly rarely invoked. You hold the authority to make vast changes involving fundamental elements of everyday life, potentially provoking generations of confusion and chaos. Such power should be administered very carefully, and not without prudent deliberation.

But when, after the most careful consideration, it seems indeed necessary to invoke some latent papal power for the good of posterity and for humanity in general, regardless of the immediate and temporary obstacles that might arise, it is up to you to seize that opportunity, to grab ahold of the reins of papal privilege, and to better the plight of all mankind.

I believe that now is one of those times.

You, your holiness, have unique jurisdiction over our calendrical system. You can change it, and I think you should.

My proposal is that March be made the first month of the year, and February the last.

I hold this position for a number of reasons. Most holistically, Springtime begins in March, which marks the beginning of the natural cycle of Life through Summer and Autumn and into the deathly cold of Wintertime. Having January as the first month of the year syncopates our natural rhythms with this natural cycle in a most unnatural way. Our calendar opens on the season of death, while we should more appropriately celebrate New Year's Day as the return of blossoming, burgeoning life to the wilderness.

I suspect that the ancient Romans knew this truth. With March as the first month of their year, the prefixes of the months September, October, November and December enjoyed their significance in the names of the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth months, respectively. My proposal makes sense numerically, linguistically, historically, and spiritually.

Additionally, it seems to me that February is the ideal month with which to conclude the calendar year. Under the system I propose, the intercalary 29th day of February would serve as New Year's Eve every fourth year, providing extra momentum to the specialness of the new year. Isn't that a cool idea?

Calendrical maintenance has always been the duty of the Pope, and I feel that it is your duty now. I think that such a bold step suggested by me and enacted by you would be appreciated long after we're both gone. The Julian calendar was supplanted by the Gregorian because it was time to change. It is now time to change anew. It is time for the Paulian calendar to take its place in (and as) history.

Good luck, and G-d be with you.

Guy Petzall.

Again no answer from Rome... I'm beginning to lose faith.


Federal Highway Administration
211 Main Street
Room 1100
San Francisco, California 94105


Perhaps you can help me. The other evening I found myself in a small argument with my friend Max. He said that there are areas in Nevada in which there are no speed limits on the roads. He told me that this is due to the fact that these "fast roads" are all straight roadways in the middle of the desert, and that a speed limit is neither necessary nor enforceable. I disagreed. I thought that when the federal government allowed the speed limits to go above 55 mph, they capped it at 65 mph, and that any faster limit on auto velocity is therefore illegal. My friend Ed held a third, more compromising view. He claimed that there is indeed a federal cap, that the states are allowed the discretion of setting whatever speed limits they wish, but that if any state allows their speed limits to exceed 65 mph, they would lose a great deal of the federal funding on which they depend. Could you please tell me who was right? Thank you very much.

Guy Petzall.


February 26, 1991

Mr. Guy Petzall
5758 South Kenwood, Bsmt.
Chicago, Illinois 60637

Dear Mr. Petzall:

Your February 5, 1991 letter requested clarification of when the maximum speed limit of 65 mph applies and when the maximum speed is limited to 55 mph. Both you and your friend Ed are partially correct. The maximum speed limit on all highways except for Interstate and similar divided four-lane highways in rural areas (outside of urbanized areas of fifty thousand population or more) is 55 mph. The States may raise the maximum speed limit up to 65 mph on rural Interstate and other rural four-lane highways constructed to Interstate standards. The States can also post lower maximum speed limits where conditions warrant.

If your friend Max believes there are stretches of roadway in Nevada without any speed limit he had better check closely. I expect the Nevada Highway Patrol would be able to show him the signs - after handing him a ticket. Thank you for your inquiry.


John A. Bates, Acting Director
Office of Program Development

Take that, Max! (high-5 w/Ed)


Federal Highway Administration
Clinton Avenue and North Pearl Street
Room 719
Albany, New York 12207-0000


Driving from Long Island to Chicago a week or so ago, my friend Laurie and I were astounded at the number of rivets that went into the construction of the Verrazano Bridge. It seemed that as we continued across the bridge from Brooklyn into Staten Island, the number of rivets we passed mounted by the thousands and thousands. So I am writing to ask you if you know, which you almost undoubtedly do: exactly how many rivets are there in that bridge? I have no idea what sort of scale to expect from your answer, whether the figure is in the hundreds of thousands, or in the millions, or even tens of millions. I just don't know, and would love to find out.

Looking forward to your reply....

Guy Petzall.

May 8, 1991

Mr. Guy Petzall
5758 South Kenwood, (basement)
Chicago, Illinois 60637

Dear Mr. Petzell:

In response to your inquiry of April 5, 1991, we don't actually know the total number of rivets incorporated into the bridge. As the bridge was built as a toll facility, no Federal funding was used and consequenfly we had no involvement in its construction.

We have, however, found some data on the bridge in which you may be interested.

1. Each of the two towers contain 1,000,000 bolts and 3,000,000 rivets.

2. The diameter of each of the four cables is 36". Each cable is composed of 26,108 parallel wires. The total length of wire in the cables is 143,000 miles (could reach more than half way to the moon).

3. Due to the height of the towers (690') and their distance apart (4260'), the curvature of the earth's surface had to be taken into account when designing the bridge.

4. Due to thermal expansion/contraction of steel, the bridge roadway is 12' lower in summer than its winter elevation.

If you still wish to pursue your original question, you may want to contact the owner of the bridge, the Triborough Bridge and Thnnel Authority located in New York City.

We hope the above information has been of service to you.


Harold J. Brown
Division Administrator

I did try writing to the TBTA. My letter was returned "sendee not known". Must be one of those drive-by-night organizations.


Office of Public Affairs
Department of the Air Force
The Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330-1000

Noble Militarist.....

Very recently I heard about something very disturbing, which I thought could be best cleared up by going straight to the source, which is you.

It is obvious that among the many considerations involved in aircraft maintenance and design is the ability of a plane to stand up to collisions with minor objects, such as rain, hail, and of course, birds. But to what extent are these object-deflective capabilities tested?

I recently read that, with an eye toward bird-proofing its planes, the United States Air Force maintains and employs a chicken cannon, that is, a device which fires live chickens out of a chute at velocities comparable to the varying air-speeds of which the different planes are capable. In so doing, they can accurately ascertain how sturdy their aircraft are against such airborne obstacles.

Now, apart from any moral objections to using live animals for such purposes, I wonder about the pure economic sense of this practice. It seems to me that although in the eyes of the military life is cheap, chickens are not. A reusable, artificial chicken might be a much better investment. Rubber chickens are easily obtained at any corner gag store. Further, it is a fact that chickens themselves are incapable of flight and are not aerodynamically evolved for flying purposes. Hence, they are not even a good test, since the birds likely to collide with planes in actual flight are bound to be much smaller and pointier, as well as smoother travelers at speeds approaching that of sound. The use of chickens in this instance just doesn't make any sense to me at all.

Please clear this up for me.

They're much better fried in batter than flied to splatter.....

Guy Petzall.


President George Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
NW Washington, DC 20500

President Bush...

I know that you have much on your mind lately with the events in the Persian Gulf, but I must ask for just a moment of your time to point out a mistake you made in a recent speech. I was listening to CNN radio yesterday morning when I heard you say that, "one cannot be president of our country without faith in God." You also claimed that "this is a nation founded under God."

I am an American, and I like being American, because I really enjoy the fundamental notions which underlie our government and Constitution. But I have never thought of our founding fathers as particularly religious people. In fact, the fusion of religion and government was exactly what they came here to escape. I assume that when you used the word "God," you were referring to a Christian conception of God, but in fact this could not be farther from the beliefs of our nation's founders. For example, Thomas Jefferson once wrote that, "I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature." This from one of the most intellectual and celebrated presidents America has ever had. Abraham Lincoln felt the same way. He wrote, "The Bible is not my Book and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long complicated statements of Christian dogma." Even George Washington, the father of our country, did not subscribe to the view with which you seemingly credit him. He once even stated that "the United States is in no sense founded upon the Christian Doctrine." And I have read statements by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and others to much the same effect.

Granted, you did not specify the nature of the god to which you referred. You did not distinctly assert his Christian character, but you are a Christian, President Bush, and so I assume that it is a Christian god you invoke. However, many of our founding fathers held no belief in any sort of god at all. Jefferson once said that "it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." And Thomas Paine, author of The Rights of Man, the first man to name "The United States of America," and the first man to propose American independence wrote, "I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church."

I do not wish in any way to restrict your religious beliefs, indeed your Christianity "neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." What I do object to is the association you draw between your religious beliefs and the ideas by which our great nation was founded. Our founding fathers were no more religious than they were the stiff, oil-painted characters we picture them as, which makes sense, for without such a high degree of religious tolerance our country could not have the level of religious freedom that we all enjoy today.

I know that you are under much pressure lately due to the responsibilities of war, so I will leave you now, only with the suggestion that your religious beliefs, no matter how valid, are your own, and do not, have never, and I hope never will belong to the country as a whole. Our freedoms are too wide and valuable to allow such a specific view to become part of the institution.


Guy Petzall.

I ask him to separate church from state...

February 6, 1991

Dear Mr. Petzall:

On behalf of President Bush, thank you for your message about the conflict in the Persian Gulf. While the huge volume of mail about this grave issue makes it impossible to respond to your specific comments and suggestions, I want you to know that the President regularly reviews a sampling of this mail and that he appreciates your sharing your views with him.

As you know, diplomatic efforts by the United States, the Arab League, the United Nations, the European Community, and others to achieve a peaceful resolution of this crisis were rejected by Saddam Hussein. The choice of peace or war was his to make. The actions now being taken unmistakably demonstrate the resolve of the international coalition that Iraq comply with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

Throughout our history, the United States has been committed to defending fundamental principles of freedom and human rights. Saddam Hussein's launching of indiscriminate attacks that have terrorized and killed innocent citizens has, as President Bush said, "sickened the world." Saddam's blatant disregard for international conventions regarding the treatment of noncombatants and prisoners of war only strengthens our resolve.

While there is every reason to be proud of the successes won thus far by the courageous troops involved in Operation Desert Storm, the Administration is well aware that there will be setbacks and obstacles along the way. However, President Bush has made it clear: "We will stay the course, and we will succeed."

The President knows that these are difficult days for the American people, and he has asked that we pray for the brave members of our Armed Forces and for all those who are defending this universal cause of justice.

...and he asks me to pray!?


Shirley M. Green
Special Assistant to the President for Presidential Messages and Correspondence


Shirley M. Green
Special Assistant to the President for Presidential Messages and Correspondence
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Ms. Green,

Your job is necessary because the President receives thousands and thousands of letters every day. As he presumably has more pressing matters to occupy his time, he has engaged you to help him answer all of his mail. This you should already know.

Your job is important because the Bush administration's success is highly dependent upon the support of the American people. When John Citizen writes to the President, he is opening a dialogue with the government, and it is simply good practise for you to take that opportunity to answer Mr. Citizen's letter, convincing him that he has a voice, making him a happy taxpayer and voter, and also spreading the word of the administration via the printed to an audience which has asked to read it. You should already know this as well.

I am personally dissatisfied with the job that you are doing. Did you know that?

On the 19th of January 1991 I sent a letter to President Bush explaining my views on the war in the Persian Gulf. I'm not sure if you know that, because I never received a reply.

Then on the 1st of February of that same year I sent another message to Mr. Bush. This one protested his policies regarding the mingling of religion and politics. This you most certainly know, because I have your signature on the response. But do you know what that response was? Let me remind you. In reply to my request for more careful separation of church and state, you asked me, on behalf of President Bush, to please pray for out troops in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. That's about as inappropriate and insensitive an answer as any I can imagine. Do you even read the letters you respond to? Do you read the letters you send out?

And most recently, on March 27th of this year, I sent a third letter to the President, a letter outlining his duties regarding our planet's dwindling resources. Did you know that? Not that I can tell -- I have received nothing from either his office or yours.

You should know that, especially in an election year, keeping in touch with a constituency is a good way to win its support. But what you have done as a representative of the entire Bush administration, is to present a disorganized operation which doesn't take the requests and thoughts of its employers, the people of the United States, seriously enough even to answer their letters properly even when there exists an entire staff designed to do this and this alone.

It is your job to answer letters. That is what we pay you for. And yet you have failed to do this adequately three times in a row. I hope you do a better job answering this one, and please know that in a large way, my opinion of the Bush administration depends upon it.

I just wanted you to know.

Guy Petzall.

I never got a response to a presidential letter again.


Michael B. Gregg, editor
Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report
U. S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D.C. 20402

Dear Sir,

I am fascinated by disease and death, by the variety and frequency of all the various ways to die. Therefore, no sooner had I learned of the existence of your report than my mind filled with questions about it. I decided to take this opportunity to write you and ask:

1. How can I obtain your report? Is it free? Can I subscribe to it, that is, receive it on a regular basis?

2. Although your report is a weekly one, I am also interested in learning about the broader national death and disease statistics, perhaps over the last decade or century. Do you compile such charts? If not, could you please direct me to the service which does compute this information?

3. How do you deal with disappearances? How long must a person be missing before they are considered dead by your bureau, and how is their death treated in terms of time? That is, if someone disappears in 1985 and is considered dead in 1990, is their death retroactively added to the 1985 statistics?

4. How detailed are your classifications regarding the circumstances surrounding each death or disease? Do you categorize gangland murders in a separate group from domestic homicide?

5. How do you treat torture? Does it fall under the heading of morbidity?

6. You research death. It is your job to be aware of the death of every person in the United States, and to gather the pertinent information into a national statistic. What is that like? Did you find it difficult at first, on a personal level, to cope with what must at times be a very disturbing job? Have you learned to distance yourself from the grisly reality of the data you collect, or does the vast quantity in which you deal with death only serve to emphasize its natural necessity? I am very interested in your views on this, if you with to share them with me.

7. Are you interested in the deaths and sicknesses of foreigners in the United States? Of U. S. citizens in other countries?

8. "I am editor of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report." How do people generally react when you tell them this?

Many fear death and disease. Others intentionally court it. Regardless, it is up to you to be on hand, carefully recording the pertinent data. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, because no matter whom it tolls for, it also tolls for thee. thank you for reading this letter, and also for hopefully responding.


Guy Petzall.

what a warm response! I suppose when you deal with death all day... (ps- I subscribed for one year).


English Department
Clayton High School
#2, Mark Twain Circle
Clayton, Missouri 63105

Very esteemed and appreciated professors:

I don't know how many of you remain in the department since my tenure at Clayton, or if, in particular, any of that quadrumvirate from whose instruction I so benefited -- Cantrell, Workman, Puhr, Cowan -- still hold place among your ranks, yet I feel confident in writing to you as a department, knowing that, like Aristotle's picket fence, which though suffering its several parts to be serially replaced until nothing of the original remained, still retained its identity and spirit, the noble mission which unites you and gives impetus to your goal of enlightenment through education, endures intact, and it is to this undying quiddity that I herenow address myself.

It may seem strange, indeed perhaps perverse, that while travelling at length through the many friendly villages of south-western India that my thoughts should be so far removed from the vivid tessellations of marketplaces and natural topography which so grace this part of our world, and from the caliginous haze of dust and automotive eructations which are the concomitant woes of third-world peregrination, that I feel driven to contact you regarding so mean a matter as curricular suggestion, but I hope you will bear with me in assurance that all will become clear in the course of my following words.

Because although travelling can be an exciting practice, we must all, at one time or another, seek refuge from the brisk intensity of animated public places, we must retire to a more languid environment, that we might recharge the soul, so to speak, from the batteries of solitude and peace, in order to once again plunge into the external with all the energy merited by such an endeavor. Hence it has become my habit, in the several years of my yet continuing itinerancy, to hold siesta whenever possible, and, during a portion of that period, to read. Moreover, as I find myself not infrequently in the company of my companion Sarah, we have adopted a pattern of sharing our literary pleasures by reading aloud, one to the other in turn, a great variety of books upon which we have had the communal fortune to stumble as we have navigated through the avenues and nations of this most culturally diverse of solar planets.

In the course of these recitations, as well as frequently during the pursuance of my other variegated enthusiasms, I have enjoyed numerous instances wherein I have had cause to call upon the information and erudition acquired during my pupilage at your hallowed institution, leading my admiration of your invaluable pedagogy to increase in kind with my ever-expanding recognition of its unflagging utility, for, in following with the manifestly well-distributed, and therefore well-published, nature of the English works to which I have access in such a wide collection of lesser-developed countries which it has been my fortune to visit, I have come across no trifling number of what are commonly referred to as "classics," including many of those to whose titles and authors I was originally exposed under your adept tutelage. Indeed, I recently had the opportunity and occasion to introduce Sarah to the character of Bartleby, which scrivener's preferences and history I have held among my favorite opuscular narratives ever since I first encountered it in the near vicinity of that circle so creditably named after that great author from Florida, Missouri, whose work was usefully presented to me in the same classroom and circumstance as that of the aforementioned Melville, upon recent completion of whose short narrative, and influenced as much by the previously alluded-to propensities of the local book-merchants in regards to their stock as by her obstinate Scottish approbation for the fruits of her native island, Sarah promptly and sanguinely (and with all proper accents at the ready) embarked upon a recitation of that deliciously lengthy masterpiece, Martin Chuzzlewit.

This noble and ambitious undertaking by no means brought with it my primary introduction to the work of Charles Dickens, for not only was I privileged enough to have had her read to me the entirety of David Copperfield during a journey through Burkina Faso toward the end of 1997, but I was also led to apply myself to a thorough examination of A Tale of Two Cities under the academic supervision of Miss Cantrell who, no doubt, acted in so leading beneath the guiding eye of your departmental policy.

Which brings us to the meat of the matter, in that after and as a result of my initial experience with Dickens in that long-ago classroom, not only did I live under the apprehension that I knew something of his style and opus, but would have all-too-gladly never again ventured into that lofty territory of my own volition. It simply did not meet with my liking, containing as it seemed to at that time and under that capable tuition, little of the humor and lightness of those other of his novels with which I am now happily acquainted. That revolutionary history offered me none of the fantastical and appreciable characters such as MacCawber or Pecksniff, who make of those alternative volumes such delights; nor any of the frolicsome language and usages which so color my now enlightened notion of the author's style. In contrast to the new intelligence regarding Dickens' work which I have since acquired, A Tale of Two Cities felt heavy, laborious and uninviting — in short, unDickensian — and, though perhaps endowed with other merits, seems a less than ideal selection by which to introduce such a prodigious author to the new generations. I heartily submit that, while cognisance and study of other of Dickens' works might well lead the more motivated among your pupils to take up A Tale of Two Cities in the liberty of their extracurricular time, the converse offers less likelihood of that inspired hope. To present that novel, therefore, presents a disservice to the students, by depriving them of the truest possible apprehension of the glory of Dickensian prose; and also to Dickens himself, by misrepresenting the broader character of his opera in toto.

Gentle educators, I truly hope that you receive this council within its intended spirit of societal improvement and that I have not, in tendering this wholly disinterested advice, overstepped the frontiers of propriety and humility by speaking to a theme which finds me admittedly less experienced and qualified than yourselves. I assure you that this suggestion draws its motivation wholly and fervently from the well of enthusiastic admiration I harbor for all of your righteous profession, but especially for you who have played such a starring, indeed stellar, role in my intellectual formation and in the enrichment of my life.

With all apt appreciation and respect for the beneficence of your office, I remain:

Guy Petzall,
human, being, citizen.

Incidentally, I managed to fit this entire letter onto a single postcard. The response was a postcard as well (it was a painting of Ophelia floating downstream):



National Aeronautics and Space Administration
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20546

Dear Sir...

As I watched the Space Shuttle Columbia blast off into space again today, I thought about how it must feel to be rocketed from the Earth's surface into a gravitiless orbit in a matter of minutes, to suddenly be out in the quiet blackness of space, looking out of a small round window at the planet gleaming below. I think that this has to be a truly mind-boggling, stunning, inspiring sensation, and it is one I want to experience.

By now, NASA has gotten very good at the Space Shuttle. There were some setbacks, but now you're back on your feet and in light of the seeming ease with which you send shuttles into space, I do not feel awkward in asking you my question:

Can I have a ride on a Space Shuttle?

I'm sure that you can very easily accommodate an extra passenger on an upcoming flight, I promise I will be very clean and quiet and I won't poke my nose into anything top-secret. I can even bring my own sleeping bag and food. I'll always keep out of the way, spending most of my time just staring out the window. You won't even know I'm there. Word of honor. I just want to go into space.


Hopefully expecting a positive response....

Guy Petzall.

I did get a positive response... well, sort of... they sent me the packet they send kids on "what it takes to be an astronaut". I wouldn't have qualified anyway.


Mr. & Mrs Santa Claus
North Pole 30351

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Claus,

My entire life I have heard conflicting reports as to your existence. Now that I have your official U.S. Postal address, I can write and ask you directly. If you don't answer me in any way at all, I will assume that you simply don't exist. And please, don't try to trick me is you really are a real person by intentionally not responding. You don't have to do it personally; a simple postcard from an elf or a reindeer will do. Thank you.


Guy Petzall.

PS- I you do exist I hope this letter doesn't insult you, but you must understand that I've been told by some pretty reliable people that you don't.

PPS- I want a new Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary for Christmas. Thanks.

no answer from St. Nick, save for a dictionary from a woman claiming to be my "grandmother".


Paul S Degregorio
Ann M Bardgett
Board of Election Commissioners
41 S Central Avenue
Clayton, Missouri 63105


The Constitution of the United States clearly states that Church and State should have nothing to do with one another. However, a very large percentage of American voters will be required to enter churches in order to vote this November third. I find this unacceptable.

The location in which voting takes place is crucial. The physical characteristics and cultural associations of an official voting place can too easily influence a voter's decision, and we must therefore take care to provide a balanced and nonpartisan environment for each voter so as not to bias the intelligent decisions of American citizens. Churches are well-known for their own private political agendas, and tend to exude specific religious ideologies and associations from every subtlety of decor, every nuance of construction. Therefore I feel very strongly that religious buildings and institutions are a poor choice as a locale for strictly public governmental elections.

Moreover, there occurs to me no reason for which the use of religious establishments as places of governmental political decision should be at all necessary. Certainly we have no lack of schools, public libraries, community centers and city halls. These places, places of learning and government, these truly public locations, provide an excellent, fair environment in which to make such a decision as our citizens will face.

I realize that it is at this point in the campaign far too late to change this policy. I only hope to make clear that to force voters into a partisan, morality-specific environment in order to vote is just plain wrong, and I hope that you reconsider before establishing voting places for future public elections.

Please keep religious bias and influence out of government altogether. Our freedoms are just too precious for that.

Quite sincerely,

Guy Petzall.

November 12, 1992

Mr. Guy Petzall

Dear Mr. Petzall:

This is in response to your letter dated November 1st concerning the use of religious establishments as polling places in St. Louis County.

By law, tax-supported buildings such as schools, public libraries, community centers and city halls must be made available for use as polling places. In the event that there are no convenient public buildings available, we may contract for the rental of suitable private buildings for use as polling places. We are also required by law to contract with buildings that are accessible for the elderly and disabled voters.

St. Louis County currently uses 529 buildings as polling places, 215 of which are not tax-supported. While the number of available tax-supported buildings may be plentiful, many do not meet the required standards for use as polling places. Therefore, other buildings such as Churches, Temples, private schools and many businesses help to fulfill our needs for the conduct of elections.

While your statement about Churches being well-known for their own private political agendas is not disputed, the same could be true of many public governmental entities. On election day, each building used as a polling place is subject to the same requirements. Electioneering of any form is prohibited inside the polling place or within 25 ft. of the entrance to the building.

It is through concerned citizens such as yourself, that many of our polling places are found. If you should know of any suitable buildings that could be used as polling places, please contact Bob Chamberlain, Supervisor of Polling Places for St. Louis County Election Board at 889-3186.



Director of Elections

Director of Elections


Ms. Dee Dee Myers
Press Secretary to the President
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear Ms. Myers,

It is a well-known phenomenon that presidents age very quickly and very visibly while serving their tenures in the oval office. This comes as no surprise: the duties of the President are many and difficult, and the job brings with it nearly perpetual stress and worrying. These erosive forces take their toll on the face of the America's leader.
Starting at the beginning of this new presidency, I would like to document this rapid aging process, which will likely affect President Clinton as it has each of his predecessors. I want to obtain color photos of Mr. Clinton, full-face portrait style, once per week for the duration of his term in office. At the conclusion of his presidency, I plan to string all the images together on film, creating time-lapse evidence of the President's geriatrification.
You are his press secretary. You must certainly have access to the sort of photos I am looking for. Please send me information about how I might go about obtaining these images for my project. I would be very grateful for your assistance, and we would then have a permanent record of the passage of time on a president's face.
Thank you.
Guy Petzall.

"the photograph" I requested? How 'bout "the letter-reading staff" Dee Dee Myers requested?


The Vice President of the United States
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Mr. Vice President,

You've been in your new office for just over a month now, and I am curious about how you like it. Certainly it is a very different job than that of Senator. Therefore,

WHEREAS a Senator needs to represent the interests and ideals of a discreet group of people from a specific state, but a Vice President needs to consider the country as a whole in every decision he makes, and

WHEREAS the powers and duties of the Senate are precisely detailed in the Constitution, yet those of the Vice President are less clear, and

WHEREAS the Senate helps to establish law, while the Vice President assists in the creation of policy,

I have to wonder: do you miss your Senatorial position? Is it strange for you to preside over that body of which you were once a member? Is it frustrating for you to know that although you formerly could vote in any senate matter, you now have no say in Senatorial ballot-casting "unless they be equally divided?" Does it disturb you that as Senator, you were technically the equal of the President, and that now, politically speaking, you are subordinate to him? Do you view the lack of Constitutional specificity with regard to the duties of the office you now hold as a restraining lack of official responsibility, or do you view it as a license to move more freely about Washington and its various political and governmental branches? And lastly, which job to you consider more demanding?

I'm neither a journalist nor a lawyer, nor do I have any political interest outside of reading the daily news. I am simply curious. We heard so much about the transition in a newsy, political way. I am also interested in your personal transition. I voted for you, and I want to know how you like it. That's all.

With all my respect,

Guy Petzall.

July 17, 1993

Mr. Guy Petzall
1949 w. Henderson #2
Chicago, Illinois 60657-2016

Dear Mr. Petzall:

Thank you for writing to me. I appreciate hearing from you, and I sincerely regret the delay in my reply.

I was honored to be chosen by President Clinton to serve as Vice President and to help accomplish those goals of particular importance to the American people--a more efficient government, a cleaner environment, an improved economy, and a better future for our nation. As you know, the President and I work very closely together, and I am absolutely confident in his ability to lead our nation with courage and with vision.

Again, thank you for letting me hear from you.


Al Gore

Apparently the Vice-President's office was not so busy.


The Honorable Les Aspen
Secretary of Defense
The Pentagon 20301

Dear Secretary Aspen...

I really don't want to offend you, and I hope you will read what I am about to write as advice rather than criticism. Something that you do bothers me, and I want you to understand why I feel that it would be in your interest to change your behavior.

I am referring to the fact that you pronounce the word "nuclear" as if it were the word "nukyuler."

I usually ignore this rather common pronunciation error. It does me no harm, and people are entitled to mistakes. I feel, however, that your case is different. You are the Secretary of Defense and as such have direct power in the name of the President over our country's armed forces. You serve as a major link in the command structure which controls the military arsenal, including approximately 17,500 nuclear warheads. This is a very sensitive position, and I believe that I, not to mention the rest of the country, would feel a lot more comfortable with your power if you could demonstrate in a thorough and concrete way that you have a thorough and concrete knowledge of that which you control. Mispronouncing the name of the deadliest weapon in human history is, in my opinion, counterproductive to this end.

I by no means insinuate that you do not possess the necessary knowledge to properly perform your job, or that you are in any way ignorant of your position's inherent responsibilities. I simply want to point out that your use of the word "nukyuler" inspires a superficial yet profound lack of confidence in me and, I am sure, many others as well. If you are at all concerned with public perception, you should consider the message you are sending.

I thought it was wrong when Jimmy Carter did it, and I think it's wrong for you too, and I thought that you would want to know.

Just my opinion...

Guy Petzall.

no response, but he did resign shortly afterward.... and then he died.

The Catalog People
Pueblo Colorado 81009

Dear worthy catalogists....

Could you please send me one of your catalogs? Thanks.

Guy Petzall.

p.s. - I was wondering...since the catalog is a book of free publications distributed by the government, and since the catalog itself is free, shouldn't it be included in itself, listed among the other free booklets and literature?

p.p.s. - I suppose that you could say, "No, it's a catalog of books which aren't books about themselves and which don't contain references to themselves at all." And that might help you out, but then shouldn't the catalog still be included in itself because it doesn't include itself? But then shouldn't it therefore be excluded since it then would include itself? This is a tricky situation. What do you think?

I received a catalog. Fascinating sutff.


Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah
State of Brunei Darussalam

Dear Sultan:

My friend Brady and I are going to be passing through your country sometime in October on our way to the Malay town of Kudat. There we hope to witness October 25th's total solar eclipse.

It is well-known that you are the world's wealthiest man, and as such, I imagine that you have quite a large home.

Since my friend and I are trying to minimize our journey's budget, I was wondering if it would be too much trouble for us to stay at your house for one or two nights. We would be very grateful for your hospitality, and would try to stay out of your way as much as possible. This should be an easy task if your palace is as large as I imagine it to be.

If you are so gracious as to extend this favor to us, please contact me at your earliest convenience to notify me of the details of our visit: where to go and who to ask for, etc. I depart from the United States on the 3rd of October, so if you could try to reach me before then with the information, I would appreciate it very much. And if you ever find yourself in Chicago, I will be more than happy to return the courtesy.

Until then I hope that you are well, and that you continue to enjoy your success.

With my fond regards,

Guy Petzall.

What came of this, although not as a postal response, is sort of a long story. You can find it here, if you like (but don't forget to come back).


Madam Justice Ginsburg
The Supreme Court of the United States
Washington, D.C. 20543

Dear Madam Justice:

First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your ascension to the Supreme Court of the United States. I can honestly conceive of no position in the universe which holds more honor, prestige, and respect. You sit on a hallowed bench, and of that I am sure you are rightly proud.

I know that you have a great deal of work to complete before the first Monday in October, reviewing more than 1,000 petitions on the court's summer list, as well as 46 cases that are already scheduled for oral argument in the new term. And to provide you with a brief and interesting pause from that workload, I thought this would be a good time to ask a legal question which I have constructed and which has been puzzling me these past few months.

The problem is this: suppose there exists in the United States a pair of Siamese twins, and that some further effect of their deformity renders one twin severely mentally retarded, while his counterpart has a full complement of cognitive faculties. What happens when the intelligent twin is convicted of a felony?

It seems to me that the retarded twin, incapable of knowledge or comprehension of his brother's act, would be held completely innocent of any crime. Therefore any possible punishment to which the state could sentence the criminal twin would necessarily infringe upon the rights of the retarded brother, who would be forced to be present at, and perhaps even participate in, any form of retribution, whether prison or parole. Penalty for the culprit appears legally impossible in this case.

But if the justice system determines that no punishment is legal since it would affect the innocent brother as well, wouldn't that ruling set a precedent for the culpable twin to do as he pleases without respect for the law?

I know that the premise of this dilemma is improbable, perhaps even preposterous. I have only exaggerated the situation to make clear the nature of the knot. And I am quite sincere when I say that I value your opinion as a Supreme Court Justice, and I sincerely hope you enjoy both thinking about this hypothetical dilemma and writing me a response.

Thank you very much for your time and good luck on the upcoming term.

Guy Petzall.


President Bill Clinton
The White House

Dear Mr. President:

It is with a mixture of sadness and hope that I learn of the resignation of Justice Harry Blackmun. Sadness because during his tenure Justice Blackmun has been truly that: a Justice, defending our Constitution against impersonal conservative policy; and hope because I trust you, Mr. President, to select a fitting successor to one of the very coolest of the very cool.

And Mr. President, I want that job.

It is true that I am without a legal degree, and that I have no judicial experience to speak of, nor any other official "credentials" which might make me attractive to the post, but I believe that I carry other qualifications which particularly suit me to the task.

Firstly, I am, with certain issue-specific exceptions, a Democratic thinker, and in spite of your nominal lack of political pull with the bench, I believe that I would independently contribute toward your general national agenda, as well as toward some of the ideals toward which Justice Blackmun has so nobly striven. Furthermore, I have a true and solid enthusiasm for the Constitution. When the Law of the Land is perverted it affects me, you, America, and the world, and in my opinion shows a dangerous disrespect for the nobility of the concepts and ideals for which America was formed. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I have no professional legal history to examine at my confirmation hearings, no volumes of opinion and precedent, no academic papers which might disqualify me from the bench. After certain episodes in your administration's past, I would think that this should strike you as a rather attractive feature. Add these criteria to the fact that I am a Jew, and I think you could call me an excellent judicial candidate.

So, having made my offer, I will conclude by assuring you that I respect you and your office. Presidency is a difficult, if not the most difficult, job, and I see you tackling it with vision and verve. I hope that I will have the opportunity to serve the Court with as much energy and dexterity, for the good of the people and the nation.

working toward Justice,

Guy Petzall.


President Clinton
The White House

President Clinton...

In response to your request for public aid in slashing the ultra-high numbers of the 1994 Budget, I purchased a copy of the budget from your printing office, and started looking for unecessary spending. Although I have not yet finished reading the rather lengthy document, I have found a few things I would like to bring to your attention:

My first suggestion involves an out-of-date government product which most people in the U.S. would sooner not have anything to do with: the penny. Pennies are useless. Pennies are valueless. Pennies are not even worth their weight to carry around, and as the budget now stands, we are due to spend 2.09 dollars per thousand for the production of 10,875,000,000 shiny new copper Lincoln-headed one cent pieces1. That's almost 23 million dollars right there. Cut it, and you'll be doing the country a favor.

So there's a cool 23 mill in the bank, why stop there? How else is our currency system losing us money? Well, to begin with our money is too easy to copy, but that is a topic worth its own letter entirely2, so I won't bother you about that here. But there is, apart from copyproofing the cash, a way you could suqeeze more money from the moolah. Here's the answer: make dollar coins, eliminate the single bills. Bills are flimsy. Bills are weak. Bills last only 18 months while coins last 40 years. There is no compelling reason to continue to produce what we know is an inferior product and which loses the government money. So we're ahead a few more millions of dollars every year from now on: that's making money that makes money.

We're on a roll...let's ride it out. Apart from altering the currency system, how else can we find excess spending in the budget? Well, let's start with you, President Clinton. Do you actually need the $800,000 you will earn in the four years of office? I agree that the President should be compensated for his efforts, but honestly, that almost one million dollars you take home doesn't even include your room and board, your parties and your incredibly nice house. You could survive with a lot less pocket change, and besides, nobody becomes president for the money. To become president, you need to already have the money.

And what about that house you live in, the "Executive Residence at the White House"? I agree as anyone would that it's definitely a nice house. I'm sure that you and Hillary and Chelsea and Socks are very comfortable living there, and I do think that as the President you deserve top-rate accomodations. But, Mr. President, how much should that accomodation be worth? As things stand in the budget, you have allocated almost 10 million dollars to maintaining your home for the upcomong year. Ten million dollars. Rent for one year. I hate to tell you this, President Clinton, but no matter how good the neighborhood or how nice the house, regardless of the fact that you live very near work, no home is worth ten million dollars a year in rent. It just can't be. I think you'd have a much better deal if you and the first family were to move to a nice house in a nearby neighborhood with all the security that you enjoy now. You'd save the country lots of cash, and you'd still have, even for a measly million per year, quite a nice little shanty to show your friends.

There are lots of other examples I've found which I think could help trim the numbers. The Fish and Wildlife Service gets 1 million dollars for drug control. The Senate gets 36 million for pastage stamps. The military gets almost 2 billion dollars for some unspecified thing called "other" under the heading "other services." Examples abound. My point is that there is no way to easily slash giant numbers from the budget, you just have to whittle away at everything and watch the little numbers add up.

I hope this helps, and if you have any further need of my assistance in locating problem spending areas, don't hesitate to call.

I appreciate how hard your job is, and how hard you work at it. Thank you for your energy and time.


Guy Petzall.


Marvin Runyon, Postmaster General
U.S. Postal Service
475 L'Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, D.C. 20260

Dear Mr. Runyon,

With the recent addition of the four-digit suffix to our previous five-digit zip codes, a lifelong dream of mine has been made feasible. This is the dream of address-free postage.

You see, given the new nine-number format, there are now one billion possible zip codes, from 00000-0000 to 99999-9999, inclusive. That's a lot of zip codes. In fact, that's three times as many zip codes as there are people living in the United States. Therefore, in theory, every man, woman and child in America should be entitled to three zip codes of his very own.

Now, before you object, let me assure you that I fully realize that this is a ludicrous suggestion. For each person in the United States to have three zip codes all to himself is a bit much to ask: such a system would involve lots of paperwork, would need to take into account other legal entities such as companies and corporations, and would probably raise the price of stamps. And besides, who needs three personal zip codes? Nobody I know.

Therefore, in light of this practical non-possibility, I am prepared to make a sacrifice. I am willing to surrender two of the zip codes due to me -- a full two-thirds of my rightful allotment -- if only I can have the one remaining zip code all to myself. That would be great. People could write me and simply address the envelope to "Guy Petzall, 47474-4747, U.S.A." It would render my rather cumbersome current address completely useless, because no one else in the country would have the same zip code as me. The address as street name and number would be phased out, making way for far more streamlined, easier-to-remember postage. Don't you think that would be neat?

Incidentally, the nine-digit address I used above as an example is my first choice of private zip code. 47 has always been my favorite number, and so I think that 47474-4747 would be quite apt for me as an address. Of course, if that one is already taken, I will fully understand. You can't have everything.

So thank you very much for your kind patience, your generous understanding, and for adding those final four digits, thereby transforming my forsaken desires into a realistic potentiality.

Keep up the good work,

Guy Petzall.

October 15, 1992


Dear Mr. Petzall:

Postmaster General Marvin Runyon has forwarded your letter concerning proper addressing and nine-digit ZIP codes to this office for a response. The Postal Service appreciates your taking the time to express your recommendation regarding the use of a nine-digit ZIP Code in place of a complete address. I believe there may be some confusion about the intended purpose of the ZIP Code and ZIP + 4 Code systems.

The ZIP Code system, established in the early 1960s, was designed for efficient processing and delivery of mail. The use of ZIP + 4 codes (developed in the late 1970s), like the five-di~git ZIP Code, is voluntary and is not intended to replace the address on mail. Each numeral in the ZIP Code and ZIP + 4 Code identifies a unique geographic area. This system was chosen because, unlike people or businesses, large pieces of ground, like cities or individual streets, do not move from one place to another. Thus, specific geographic elements could be associated with the post office providing delivery service.

The four digits of the ZIP + 4 Code identify specific geographic units where several customers receive mail delivery. These units include a si4e~pf a street between intersections, both sides of a street between intersections, an individual building, a floor or group of floors in a large building, a firm within a building, or a group of post office boxes.

Use of both ZIP codes and ZIP+4 codes is voluntary and all mail does not carry even five-digit ZIP Codes. Letter carriers would not be able to deliver mail without an address or they would need cross-reference lists to determine the exact delivery point for any nine-digit code. For example, 11111-2222 and 99999-8888 could potentially exist on either side of your delivery point. Each ninedigit code would need to be posted on residence and business buildings, which might conflict with the information used by fire and emergency service providers to locate the site of an emergency call.

The Postal Service also uses addresses to level the workload assigned to each carrier. In addition, more cross reference lists would have to be created and maintained so that, if you moved, we would be able to forward your mail to the new delivery location.

I hope this explains why the idea is impractical for the Postal Service. Thank you for your suggestion.


Paul Bakshi
General Manager
Address Information Systems Division

If only mail delivery were as thorough. Incidentally, I did, in the end, get my own zip code. Every POBox has its own. Why wouldn't he just say that up front?

Simpsonday, 13.January.1994

Pope John Paul II
The Vatican, Rome

Your Holiness,

The more a Pope does, the more he is remembered for doing. Regardless of the outcome, actions speak louder than words, and bold actions louder still. When these actions are of a sort that cause world-wide impact, when these actions are of the variety that detract from your detractors, and when these actions are of the kind that bring even more sheep into your ever-expanding fold, these actions should be examined and enacted immediately, without hesitation or fail.

I believe that you ought to change the name of the week's fifth day, "Thursday", to "Simpsonday."

This action will certainly affect major portions of the population. Our world is so bound by the movement of clocks and the passage of days marked off on millions, if not billions, of calendars around the world that such a change as I propose would find its way into the lives of virtually every man, woman and child in the Western world. And even if they be not all Catholic, the heathens will marvel at your ability to decide that Thursday should be called Simpsonday, and your resolve to make it so. Why leave untapped your potential to wow the world?

Additionally, the world "Thursday" is itself a vestigial remnant of a pagan tradition. It derives from "Thor's Day", a reference to a Norse god long since supplanted by the way of Christianity. (Of course, the Norwegian State religion is Evangelical Lutheran, but at least they believe in Christ, right?) My point is that you would be replacing the name of a false idol, now fallen, with a fine wholesome upstanding Christian name: "Simpsonday." Incidentally, the Simpsons are a fictional animated television family, who attend church every Sunday, religiously. This Christianization of such a widespread heathen influence can only serve the Christian good, and it lies within your ability to enact this change.

But the alteration I suggest would go further than to simply impress the entire world and derail the ways of the past onto the track of righteousness. A principal cause of the waning American interest in the Church, a phenomenon well documented in recent years, is that the Church has failed to find an angle into the younger generation, a way to appeal to the children and therefore to indoctrinate them early, when their defenses to Churchly thoughts and activities have not yet been firmly established. With this in mind, consider that The Simpsons is wildly popular among the younger generation of Americans. Airing every Simpsonday evening, the hilarious antics of the Simpson family have captivated the attention of America's youth. By building the name of the show into the litany of daily life, you are sure to catch the eye of an otherwise unrepentant market. Just as the early Christians planned the date of Christmas to co-opt the celebration of the Saturnalia, you could literally steal the show with this one simple revision. And again, I see no reason to hesitate.

I recognize that you are a busy man and that you surely have many other letters to read, so I will conclude with haste, only pausing to assure you that I appreciate the wisdom with which you wield your power. If you choose not to follow my advice, please feel confident that I will assume you to have some very compelling reason, most likely far beyond me, for doing so.

But now it's time for me to cue up my VCR.

I'm sure we'll be in touch again soon.

Dominus vobiscum and yours truly,

Guy Petzall.

March 10, 1994

Dear Mr. Petzall,

I am directed to acknowledge the letter which you sent to His Holiness Pope John Paul II and I would assure you that your concerns have been noted.

With good wishes, I remain

Sincerely yours,

Monsignor L. Sandri

First of all, they moved the new Simpsons episodes to Sunday, which one-ups me... but even so, I still don't know which letter this is in response to. I suppose they figured that if a lack of answers wasn't stopping me from continuing to write, perhaps an unsatisfying form letter would....

...they figured wrong.


Pope John Paul II
The Vatican, Rome

Your Holiness,

Different people in different countries have different traditions. As the Pope in the Vatican, you are used to dining upon sumptuous feasts prepared by a master chef and tailored expressly to your papal tastes. As a Chicagoan, I too am treated to such mealtime pleasure. I have my food custom made to the standards of my discriminating palate by a master chef so versed in the ways of the kitchen that he seems truly more artist than cook.

His name is Marty, and he makes the best cheeseburger in the world.

Marty works the night shift at a Chicago restaurant called, simply enough, "Diner Grill," and although your holiness may be unimpressed by this, let me assure your holiness that your holy indifference is wholly unwarranted. Marty is no ordinary burger-flipping grill-goon. Marty tends his grill with dedication and flair, with talent and passion, and with the easy attitude of someone who knows he has a special gift and delights in giving it.

By now you are surely wondering what this has to do with you. Well, here's the scoop: gratitude can assume many forms. In some circumstances, a simple "thank you" suffices. At other times, monetary compensation better fits the situation. But in this case, such trifling expressions of appreciation and admiration fall short of the power of the intention behind them. I want Marty to know how truly gifted he is, how much his work means to the world, and how good his cheeseburgers really are. In short, I want you to canonize Marty.

St. Marty, the patron saint of cheeseburgers.

I'm sure that sainting Marty will be no problem for you, simply a matter of paperwork, and in return for this favor, let me extend to you an open invitation to the Diner Grill for cheeseburgers and coffee. Nothing heavy, your holiness, just excellent food and charming conversation. Sort of a bonding thing, just you and me -- and of course, Marty. Dinner's on me, and if I may suggest it, your holiness, try and dress down...I think that conspicuity would distract from our time together, and Diner Grill is no place for a clean miter and cassock...you'd get grease on them. Levi's and a t-shirt will more than suffice.

Anyhow, lemme know about the Saint thing, so that I can tell Marty as soon as possible. He'll be so proud. And just drop by whenever you want to eat. I'm home most nights.

Take care, John Paul, and until the next I remain your good friend,

Guy Petzall.


c/o A.T.F.






I guess I just thought that since he believed he was Jesus, maybe he'd believe I was God. And perhaps I was right... except that he surrendered to me instead of the police. Oh, well.