The Non-Expert

Dear Santa

Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week we answer a late, incoherent letter to Santa Claus that was mistakenly delivered to our offices.

Have a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is updated on Fridays, and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.



Answer: Dear Darla,

Guess what, young person? Your illiterate little note didn’t get to Santa. You know why? Because you addressed the envelope to NORTH SISER PUELL. Fortunately for everyone involved, all the mail for people with fucked-up names in my neighborhood comes straight to me.

And, believe me: I got this note well before Christmas. All Christmas long I smoked at my desk in my gloomy wooden dining room and I looked at your note, and I thought to myself: that Darla sure wants… something. Obviously she wants it bad enough to set pen to paper for the first time, oh, EVER. Then I spent some time meditating on what the hell it is you might want. Well, you’re not getting it and I have all the pleasure and responsibility of you remaining un-booted and un-gifted at Christmas.

Thanks for that.

Do. I. Have. Deer. Funny story, there, Darla. Get yourself some cocoa, it’ll fatten you up. Once, when I was about your age, I lived briefly on a farm. Pretty much a real honest-to-God farm—not here in Manhattan, the last Manhattan farm ceased operation in 1930. (Fun fact!) On this farm, the smelly goatyards were close to the house—handy in birthing emergencies, which always take place at 4 a.m. as I’m sure you know, which is fine; you really don’t want to stick your hand in a goat’s vagina in broad daylight—and the sheep ranged out in the green fields out around Highway 101. In fact they were on both sides of the highway—a culvert ran beneath the road and the thorny bounding sheep went back and forth, undoubtedly never knowing where they were.

Not smart animals, sheep. But fun to hang around with on a lonely dreamy afternoon, the wet grasses lashing one’s ankles, the sheep both shy and oblivious, little clouds in the earth’s sky.

But at the front of the house there was a penned-in yard where sometimes the goats and sheep mixed. And where, one day, I saw a goat try to fuck a sheep. How we laughed! If there’s anything I learned that day, it’s this: everything is possible for those who believe.

Nina Hagen said that very same thing on her seminal album nunsexmonkrock, you’ll surely remember, Darla.

So, no. I don’t have any deer.

In junior high school—and this is like 1984 (sexcrime!), Darla—the rumor was that Nina Hagen forcibly injected her baby with heroin. Now I have no way of knowing if that’s true or not but I’m wondering what your heroin experience has been. You have a sense of methadone to your language—a little Burroughs in your loafers. I was always scared of the big H. I knew I was gonna like that shit something good so I never once touched it.

In all this time I’ve spent with you in my mind, my little lady-friend, you’ve made me want to invent a language in which punctuation is interjected audibly. A two-syllable world like ‘SISER’ is a bad choice; punctuation should be non-intrusive.

Hey SISER Darla QUACK Would you please pass motherKAs homePHAmade butter QUACK

See how that whole SISER thing is unwieldy? It’s okay, what are you, 16? 17? You’ll catch on, my tiny Chomsky.

Things disengage in the middle of your letter. I’m very lonely, Darla. I live with two cats and a gay dude in a walk-up tenement whose marble stairway leans nearly as severely as the sides of an ice cream cone. I don’t know what I could possibly give you. Both my cats are obese. I have an immense collection of black sweaters on which they spoon.

I am 32 years old. I’m sorry I got mad at you.

I smell like litter.

Regarding my pets in which you are so interested, a parable, and it’s a true one too:

I obtained the whiter, more aggressive, and slightly less pyramidical of my full-figured cats—a tomcat with a cute Cindy Crawford beauty mark on his cheek—from a dear friend who at the time lived on 7th Street between Avenues C and D. This friend’s cat had given birth, so we took one of the two young brothers.

The adorable, alert little kitten came back to our house, swaddled in a dirty towel. He sneaked, he bounded, he investigated. He made himself at home, and, as far as our personal conversations went, he never again thought about his brother or his mother, who were living just a few blocks away.

Or maybe kitty kept these thoughts to himself, Darla? For just a few weeks into our acquaintance, I came home to find the cat yowling, wandering aimlessly, dazed like the smack addicts on the street outside our hovel. I turned immediately to the New York Public Library’s Desk Reference section on Animal First Aid (page 60). Why, this cat was in shock!

Long parable short, we took him to the vet—the new kitty had broken his hind leg, and to the tune of a thousand bucks. He had fallen a distance of no more than three feet, and wore a splint for six weeks while we force-fed him a milky white antibiotic.

Now, the good stuff: kitty’s more slender but less loving brother had moved on up from Alphabet City to a rather glamorous 14th-story penthouse just off Union Square. One day, kitty’s brother was missing. His human caretakers were horribly worried. After all, kitty’s brother had the run of the sky-high roof deck. But you shouldn’t worry, Darla—kitty’s brother was promptly found, in the backyard of the building’s ground-floor apartment, napping contentedly near the completely destroyed picnic table upon which his fall had ended.

You could hold these two cat brethren, one in each arm, Darla, like Justice herself: one affectionate cat with a thousand-dollar bionic leg who lives in the ghetto, probably dying from my secondhand smoke, the other cat emotionally oblivious but keeping an amazing secret, and he lives up in the sky among the homegrown rooftop tomatoes.

Merry Christmas a little late, honey.