Holly Tavel
Brooklyn, NY

Illustration by
Pik-Tone Fung


If you are reading this, time is completely malleable and nonlinear (just as I/you have always suspected), the year is 1994, and you are involved in a lot of complete nonsense that you think is of earth-shattering importance, and will lead to great things, and I am here to tell you that it’s not and it won’t. And I’m not saying you should quit that nonsense, not completely or necessarily, because believing in the earth-shattering importance of complete nonsense is something people in their twenties do, and I think must do. In fact I would go so far to say that being utterly, hopelessly, irredeemably enmeshed/entranced by absolute bullshit at some point and for an indeterminate amount of time, to the chagrin of parents and former friends (friends you outgrew or who outgrew you) is useful to the degree that it enables you to identify (and hopefully avoid) similar iterations of bullshit in the vast, bright blue, imaginary future. In other words: this, too, shall pass. And: it was ever thus.

I agreed to write you this letter from the future though I know it’s futile because you won’t listen. It’s worse than that: you can’t listen. No amount of finger-wagging, of gentle cajoling, of seductive-siren-singing from this side of the Vast Unknown can penetrate the golden forcefield of youth. Hey! Remember that old Far Side comic Mom stuck to the fridge with space-creature-shaped magnets acquired concomitantly with, if memory serves, boxes of ‘Freakies’ brand cereal, manufactured from approx. 1974-77? Anyway, the comic. The one about What We Say to Cats vs. What They Hear? (I know you remember. Go look at it. I’ll wait.) Right, so? How the old lady is telling the cat that he’s been a bad boy, and he’s clawed the furniture for the last time, and she won’t have it, and can’t take it anymore, and the consequences, and so forth, and in the next panel we see that the cat only hears his name, Fluffy, and everything else coming out of the old lady’s mouth is unremitting gibberish? Funny, right? Well, it’s like this: you are the cat, and the old lady is, basically, everyone else in the world. So, yeah. You should think about fixing that.

I don’t mean to come down so hard on you, darling (you’re much better at that than I ever could be), but if I don’t tell you these things, who will?

Be nicer to Mom and Dad. Be nicer to yourself. Trust yourself, but question everything. Quit smoking. Be merciless. But also forgiving. But not too forgiving. Don’t be a doormat. Stop looking in the mirror so much. (I know. But seriously. Just try!) It’s all in your mind. No, really, it is. (Especially the sex!) Own up to things. Shun the shooters of poison arrows. Be more bad-ass. You are 25—what a wonderful and wonder full thing to be. Oh, and! It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of you. No, you’re not listening—I can tell. Let me state it once again, with gusto: It doesn’t matter. What anyone. Thinks of you. Under any circumstances.


So! Let this be the year that you:

Draw a moustache on the Mona Lisa.

Make the Hardy Boys fall in love with each other.

Have Hans Christian Andersen show up in a Marx Brothers movie.

Throw a coconut cream pie at the ambassador. Throw a lemon meringue pie at the Vice-President.

Hire a marching band to march through the hallowed halls of Industry.

Overthrow the government.

Have monkeys invade the museum.

Take up residence in a disused folly garden; live in a replica of the Venus Grotto.

Or: Don’t do any of these things. Instead: Build a hot air balloon. Take a photograph of the moon. Build a palace out of used bottlecaps. Adopt several hundred orphans. Lose all sensation on the right half of your body. Swim in the ocean. Become a cataloguer of things, an indexer, a compiler. Become a gazetteer. Carry a tuba around with you everywhere you go. Live in a tent, an igloo, a yurt, a grass hut, a cardboard box.

Then: write it all down.

May 2013