Care of Cell 44/Like a Monkey in a Zoo

Jun 5, 2013 at 5:00 am

Mail delivery is a big deal around here. It’s about the only thing we have to look forward to. I’m pretty lucky in that regard. I get a lot of mail. I think it’s because I’m kind of notorious, having my name in the paper and such. Still, the other guys are kind of jealous. I can tell. I try to make it up to them by reading some of my letters out loud. They get a kick out of that.

I respond to as much of my mail as possible. I always recommend that people include some blank paper and maybe a SASE with their letters if they want me to write back, because, you know, stationery and postage can get expensive. A little cash is always helpful (recommended donation: $1), you know, to buy some pencils now and then.

The letters I get tend to fall into three or four categories. Sometimes people will say how much they like my column. That always feels good, but when they explain why they like it, they can inadvertently let on that they haven’t ever actually read it. I have to wonder why they bother to write, but then I guess it doesn’t really matter. I’ll send a note thanking them for taking the time, you know, if I have enough paper.

I get a lot of letters from people bitching about stuff or just being hateful. They’ll say I made that stuff up or that I’m a liar. They say I’m getting what I deserve, but really, they don’t know anything about me, just what they read in the paper, you know? Deserve? What does that even mean? I could tell you the truth, but you’d never believe me.

Thankfully, those letters aren’t the most common. I get the most letters from people who don’t care about any of that stuff. Some of these people write every day! Honestly, I think they are the craziest ones of the lot. They go on and on about the most mundane stuff they do all day. They act like they know me really well, and they are my friends. They make up scenarios about what we could do if I visited them someday. I always look forward to letters like that; they take me away into a world of possibility far beyond my pathetic little room.

Last week, I got to go to a dessert banquet for the Media Club at Bloom Elementary. My son had been volunteering as a grip for the crew, so we got to come and watch a collection of the year’s best clips. The kids are great, but the real star of this organization is Patrick Fitzgerald, the group’s parent-adviser. He writes the scripts and works with the kids to create a weekly program that is ostensibly designed to provide information about things happening around the school, but with fake commercials and various comedy bits. It’s like a grade school version of “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live.”

One bit featured in last Friday night’s presentation had three kids explaining the metaphysical ramifications of still and motion picture photography. The kids explained that these images were lies! They weren’t reality. Photographs, one child said, were merely representations of what the subject looked like for 1/60th of a second at some point in the past. And videos were no more than a bunch of photographs passing by in such a way as to create the illusion of motion … or something like that. I’m afraid I may have missed the point; I was focusing on my blueberry cobbler.

For further investigation: I’m not absolutely positive, but I’m pretty sure I watched the first six episodes of a new television series called “Rectify,” on Sundance Channel, last week. It was about a guy who had spent 19 years on death row, having been convicted of the rape and murder of his girlfriend when he was a teenager. In the first episode, he is released from prison when a DNA test proves he wasn’t responsible for the rape. Having spent more than half of his life in prison, anticipating execution, the man, who was described as “odd” before he went to prison, moves through his life as if in a strange dream, questioning whether the things happening around him are real. Meanwhile, everybody in his small town still thinks he’s guilty. After all, he confessed, right?