Eight Bucks!

Subscribers to The Letter know that I took a break from writing them. But I’m working on the next one as we speak (or as I type and you read) and I wanted to take this opportunity to let readers of the site who might not know what The Letter is know what The Letter is. (Sorry for that cumbersome sentence.)

What is it? You can read all about it here. It’s a handwritten or typed letter, with essays and observations and doodles and even recipes, that I snail mail quarterly. With everything we do via screens these days, wouldn’t it be great to actually get letters in the mail again? You get a whole year of issues for only – are you ready? – eight bucks!

That’s less than two fancy coffee drinks at Starbucks! That’s less than the cost of one movie ticket! That’s probably less than your high blood pressure medication! OK, that last one is important. But still, The Letter is only eight bucks! For a whole year!

The next one is going out in two weeks, so if you click the Donate button on the right you can start your subscription right away. By the way, if you don’t want The Letter but still want to donate a buck or two to keep this site and Professor Barnhardt’s Journal going, that would be appreciated too. Every dollar helps.

Any questions, leave a comment below or send me an e-mail. And thanks!


These are the days of Flonase and Mucinex, to calm the annoying seasonal cough; of shorts and Popsicles to cool down the body; of Honeywell fans and open windows, to create a more comfortable environment because the days and nights are so stale and airless.

I walked downtown this morning to get some groceries. I tried to get out before the main heat started for the day but it was a waste of time. The sun was already blazing and the humidity was in full force at 9am. They were having the annual sidewalk bazaar on Main St. and when I passed the kettle corn booth I was hit with the heat from the machines and almost collapsed. I don’t know how those people in the booth are going to survive the day (but at least they have kettle corn).

I carried two bags of groceries back to my apartment – they weren’t light bags – and when I got to my front door it was like coming home from wandering the desert. The sweat was pouring off me like the condensation off the bottles of root beer and Sunkist orange I was carrying. I hate to change my shirt the second I got inside.

And yes, I know I just typed “I hate to change my shirt” when I meant “I had to.” I think I was in a hurry to use the word “hate,” as in, “boy, I really hate August.”

What I’ve Been Up To

I haven’t updated this site in a few weeks so I thought I’d pop in and tell you what I’m up to. I got a haircut.

Oh, I also whacked myself in the testicles with a can of Gillette Foamy (regular scent). It was one of those “shaving cream can to the groin” injuries you always hear about but never think is going to happen to you.

I’m also working on the next Letter which I’ll mail out next week. If you haven’t subscribed yet, here you go.

The Fourth, White Castle, and Me

I’ve never been a big Fourth of July guy. Oh, it’s a fine holiday, it’s just that it’s one of those holidays that I don’t really celebrate. I think it’s because it involves all of the things I dislike: summer, the sun, the heat, the beach, parades, wearing shorts, sitting near a hot grill, traffic, and looking at people wearing flip-flops (I don’t want to see anyone’s feet and no one needs to see mine). Also, I haven’t had a/c in my apartment in 25 years so the heat isn’t something I can escape.

I exchanged e-mails with my sister yesterday and she talked about how my brother-in-law keeps the a/c in their house too cold, which just might be the cruelest humblebrag I’ve ever heard.

This is how lame my Fourth of July celebration always is. I have burgers, but they’re White Castle burgers. And not only are they White Castle burgers, they’re the microwaveable White Castle burgers you get at the supermarket. Hey, I like them (the secret is to add another slice of cheese to each one and a little pepper).

Anyway, hope you had a Happy Fourth. Here’s the new issue of The Saturday Evening Post with an appropriate cover.

RIP Harlan Ellison

I’ve been reading all of the tributes to Harlan Ellison. A lot of people have an Ellison story, and while I never got a late night phone call from him I did exchange notes with him a few times.

I used to frequent the forum – actually, it’s called Harlan’s Art Deco Dining Pavilion – at Ellison’s official site. He would never show up in the forums – he hated the web and computers – so fans would just talk amongst themselves, share stories, ask the webmaster and Harlan’s wife Susan about books they had for sale, that sort of thing. And then one day…there he was! Answering questions on the forum and asking some of his own (I always pictured him pounding out his responses on his Olympia and snail-mailing them to the guy who runs the site).

He became a semi-regular on the boards, and I got to correspond with him on a few occasions. I’d have to look for the posts themselves – I haven’t been there in a while and this was probably 15 years ago – but I remember Harlan turning me on to one of his favorite Raymond Chandler stories (“Pickup on Noon Street”), giving me his thoughts on Cyril Kornbluth, and advising me on where I could get a good typewriter (he told me to call this guy).

In his younger days he worked every job you could possibly work, from cab driver to door-to-door salesman to short order cook; he wrote one of the best Star Trek episodes (and battled Gene Roddenberry about it); wrote a few thousand short stories, novels, novellas, scripts, and essays; won every single award award a science fiction writer (he hated being called a science fiction writer) could win; was involved in a dozen different memorable controversies; was a fierce protector of writers; appeared on The Simpsons; marched with Martin Luther King Jr.; and had a key role in the most famous magazine article of all-time. And those are only a few of the highlights of a 60+ year career. Not a bad resume.

RIP Harlan. Now I have to go buy all the books of yours I don’t already own.