Letter From Blitzen

Dear Prancer,

Hey  you kooky Caribou!  How goes it?  Me  and the gang sure miss you, especially at this season.  It’s just not the same without you.  Yup, it's that time of year again when we get the goddamned reigns strapped to  our haunches and have to drag about 3000 friggin tons of toys clear across the world in 12 hours.  Can you believe we are still doing this shit?  Hey, you gotta be happy for a job, especially in this economy.  Plus, I’m super grateful for the health benefits.    The herd has been in and out of Santaland Clinic a lot this year.    Dasher had a herniated disc,  Cupid got parasites  and Rudolph has gone in for 2 colonoscopies.   Turns out everyone here, including the Clauses,  is Vitamin D deficient!

Ode to the Vegan Homeless Guy Who is Allowed to Hang Out at My Office After 5pm

How marvelous is your muddled mind as you glide past my office door talking gibberish after 5pm when most patients and doctors have gone home.

How wonderful are your words of politics and veganism strung together haphazardly into non-sensical sentences and questions for which you never stick around long enough to hear the answer.

How glorious is your gaze which looks downwards, sideways or beyond mine, never meeting my eyes, or looking quickly away when I attempt to glance in your direction.


Letter to the Teller with the Green & Blue Tie at Key Bank on 45th St.

Dear Teller with the green and blue tie at Key Bank on 45th St.  in Wallingford (name unknown),

Hi and how are things these days? You may or may not remember me, but you have been on my mind since I steamed out of the bank on October 25th,  my deposit of $546.27 in 3 separate checks left at your station.   I was late, my fault not yours.   You said that it was only your 2nd day there, but understand, I had found myself faced with an empty carton of almond milk upon that morning, worn some especially scratchy socks,  and it was the 6th time in a row over the past month that I tried to make a deposit at one of your branches where the machine had broken down, the computer had misread  a check or someone’s human hands had punched in inaccurate numbers elongating my time at the window by at least 74 extra seconds with tellers on Brooklyn Avenue,  on 34th St, and yes, also others at your 45th St. branch, I’m afraid to say.  FYI - you are not the only employee there who has appeared mystified by the process of depositing checks. I was in a  kind of huff not to be tempered and clearly didn't have time to linger at your window.


A Letter to Tina Fey

Dear Tina Fey,

Ok,  so  this isn’t really an “Extremely Urgent letter from the IRS”.  I apologize.  I only put that on the envelope so that there might be a better chance of your opening it.  And if you are reading this, it worked!  I hope I didn’t give you too much of a scare.  I have no connection to the IRS whatsoever, thankfully, (except that I happily pay my taxes every year.)*

And yes, it’s another fan letter applauding your merits: how you’ve paved  the way for other female comedy writers, how you’ve created opportunities for funny female performers, what a page turner your book “Bossy Pants” was…  But wait, wait, wait, I sense you yawning.  Before you toss this letter aside,  allow me to get a little more personal and…surreal.

I am a Registered Dietitian in Seattle, counseling patients daily around a variety of nutrition-related medical issues.  (Don’t worry, I won’t judge you for the large amount of donuts and hotdogs that you write about consuming in Bossy Pants.)  But strangely, as I read your book,  I completely lost track of who I was and where I lived.  (My pre-Nutritionist life was that of ravenous New York City actor and writer, forever trying to catch a break in the male dominated world of comedy.)   I was suddenly living in Manhattan,  another version of myself reading the book in my Upper West Side apartment, with the Bodega on the corner, the 2/3 train a block away and the dramatic feeling of possibility.  Not only was I transported to this other dimension, but as I experienced your story, I also felt like I was back re-living my own former New York story alongside it, less successful, of course, but that didn’t matter. (I’ve come to peace with my new kale and quinoa promoting status.)  My blood was churning with excitement as I got to witness your success as a comedian which somehow felt like mine and that of all women who are sick of getting stuck in either  the “sexless mother” or “sexy hooker” roles on stage and screen. I was internally cheering and clapping for you, like a proud soccer mom, or an annoying but lovable little sister (even though I am a year older than you and do my best to be lovable but not annoying). And then I realized I wasn’t only clapping for you, but clapping for all the funny ladies out there whose voices have yet to be heard, or who are drowned out by boisterous boys who still believe that talking about their penises holds great interest for the population.  “Keep going!” I found myself thinking to you.  (I say  “think” because I didn’t actually say “keep going” aloud to you, but I did think it.) 

And, I’ll be honest, you do come across as maybe a little bit on the mean side in your book, but that’s ok!  I don’t need for you to be nice.  I don’t need for you to be warm and cuddly and complimentary of my new haircut or sorry about the fact that I lost yet another scarf. I have friends and a husband for that. (Yes, my husband actually notices when I get my hair cut!  Can you believe it?  I’m so lucky.) As you mentioned in your book, a turning point for you was embracing Amy Poehlers’ aphorism “I don’t fucking care what you think”,  so I’ll say what I think in this letter because you don’t “fucking care” and I think that is awesome.  If more women stopped “fucking caring” about what others thought, the world would have a lot more books/plays/screenplays written by women and L’oreal might be out of business.

So, I thank you. Somewhere, on another plane (I say “plane” meaning  astral plane of some kind, not that I’m sure these exist, but I’d like to think that they do) that other version of myself is still reading your book, is inspired, encouraged and  has not given up hope or lost her nerve.  And then back on this plane – the one where I am a spirulina-loving Registered Dietitian in Seattle who now writes and performs as a hobby instead of  a heartbreaking career, I say aloud “keep going!” 

Thank you for allowing two versions of me to exist at once and both be satiated.
Sincerely, Mary Purdy

P.S. can you let me know if the “Extremely Urgent letter from the IRS” bit worked?  I’d like to use that again in my letters to Amy Sedaris and Kirsten Wiig.

*I put this in there, just in case my letter was seen as “suspicious” and somehow diverted to the IRS.  Hello, IRS - I didn’t mean to dis-respect.  I know there are letters from the real IRS that are truly urgent. Thanks, IRS, for all you do!  Please disregard my p.s. to Tina.  I was just joking. 



 I hate being cold.  And “hate” may not even be an accurate word.  The phrase “I hate being cold” almost sounds like the beginnings of a love poem compared to the feelings I have around the sensation of chilliness.   I mean, I absolutely DETEST being cold from the bottom of my wimpy, skinny soul.   Not only do I shiver and whine, but the inner core of every cellular structure in my body feels so assaulted and immobilized by an icy breeze, that I feel less than functional.  And the thing is, I am cold…all the time.  So why, why do I live in Seattle where damp and wintry days make up the bulk of our year, even in summer?  Well, first off, I have a steady job and own a home (which is usually freezing).  But secondly, Seattle has this way of convincing you to stay for the 9 days of the year when it’s just fucking beyond belief gorgeous.  It’s like a vicious lover who treats you poorly and doesn’t call, but when he shows up in that t-shirt, jeans and windblown hair, damn, he just looks so good, you can’t leave.  So I suffer through the fall and winter months, a heating pad tucked under the covers at night, a pair of bootie slippers at the bedside  ready for toes to be submerged into after surfacing from underneath the down comforter that I insist on despite the fact that it makes my husband, Keith a tad sneezy.  Long underwear, close fitting tees and, my latest discovery, “arm warmers” are all hidden under my outer layer of clothing making me a good inch thicker in every direction,  and all the more resentful of the sundresses and shorts gathering dust in the closet.


Standing Again for The First Time (or, "My Dad's New Feet")

My parents have lived in the same apartment in New York City for over thirty years. When they bought their home, the Upper West Side neighborhood was sketchy; I was mugged just two blocks from home on my tenth birthday. But the place is huge and it has an incredible view overlooking the Hudson River and Riverside Park.  It’s filled with relics that my parents have collected from their years of trips and residencies overseas. Naked statues from Africa and Asia sit coupled on many shelves, with genitalia that reach out and wrap around each other’s necks, Tibetan Tonkas adorn several walls, and batiks runners line every surface. For years, even the TV was covered by a batik screen in order to minimize what my parents considered to be an eyesore in the house. Beautiful dishes from my great grandparents are on permanent display—cut-glass bowls, an old silver tea set.  The apartment is elegantly homey with an ethnic flair, and my parents relish the time they spend there together.  Every morning for thirty years, they’ve sat in bed overlooking the river as they have their coffee—my dad on the right side, my mom on the left—talking about their days, their memories, their kids, and anything else that occurs to them over French Roast and steamed milk.  


The Smell of Donuts Still Makes Me Cry: A Tale of Environmentally Friendly Tears

       I am not normally prone to weeping.  I’ll sniffle occasionally at a Meryl Streep movie or an episode of Emergency Vets.  You might hear me choke up in an attempt to speak about a loved one at some ceremonious occasion.  But one does not generally find me in a crumpled ball surrounded by a flood of salty tears.  Until…I decided to buy a new car.

Inspired by my Seattle surroundings, I was seriously going green. I ate local.  I purchased recycled toilet paper, environmentally-friendly dishwashing, clothes-washing, face-cleansing, body-scrubbing, counter-cleaning products, and I started composting….everything, including the hair from my hairbrush. I flushed when necessary, forwent one shower each week on the minimal sweating days when I had no plans for any exceptionally close hugging.  Most of what I owned: clothes, furniture, electronics, had originally been, in their newness, in the hands of someone else. As I began to scan the larger contributors to my carbon footprint, I saw potential further eco-salvation in the purchase of an alternative car that relied not on Chevron but on the transformed substance from the discards of the local greasy spoon: Biodiesel.


Bud Light and I Take a Ride

And the judge bellows: “Mary Purdy, you are charged with ‘disturbing the peace’.  How do you plead?” A soft chirp is all I can muster. “Guilty”. 

Now, I have never been someone who has gotten into trouble nor did I have the desire for engaging in harmful mischievous activity in my youth.  I still suffer a twinge of guilt when reminded that, I, at 6 years old once covertly covered a large pile of dog poop with pebbles and then suggested to my afternoon playmate that jumping into the “pile of pebbles” would be a fun game for which she should definitely go first.

I was a “model student”- polite, courteous, never obsequious, but very respectful of others.  I managed to always have a bit of an angelic reputation and was voted “The nicest” in my grade.  Aside from that poop pebble aberration, I wasn’t really one to test the test the boundaries, and I soon came to realize that if I were to do something wrong, no one would ever suspect me.   I remember my freshman year, I had eaten an orange in the school library - a major no no but I was hungry.  Ms. McCormick, the fierce librarian, came scurrying around the corner, led by the obvious smell. 
“Who is eating an orange in here?”  She shrieked. (At that point, the orange was in my stomach, the rind in the trash)  She looked around at the silent students.  Then she looked at me.
 “Well, I know it wasn’t YOU, Mary.”

Disturbing the peace.  There IS no peace in Panama City Florida during Spring Break. It is its own battleground of booze, bimbos and brawn.   Nature and all things natural seem to have packed their bags and left permanently. Everyone there is half drunk, half intelligent, half naked (even in 45 degree weather) and shouting obscenities to each other from car to car on the main drag and  interrupted only by the call and response “Woo!”  “Woo!”  And music blasts and blares out of every vehicle at every hour of the night.  There is no peace in Panama City.  None.


The "Penis Man"

It was February 2nd, 1979 and my best friend, Eve and I had just finished reading “Harriet the Spy”, a book about  a 10 year old girl who loved peeking into the lives of others and recording everything into her black and white bound notebook.  By February 9th each of us had our own black and white notebooks into which we poured the thoughts, observations, ideas and experiences that we 9 year olds felt merited codifying.  

“Angela uses her hairbrush in public! That’s weird,”  Eve wrote on one of her pages.  “I wonder if trees pee,” I wrote on one of mine.   We packed the notebook with important facts: “I got a new barrette.”  “ Eve and I both love peanut butter.”    “Today, the Ms. Pac Man game was broken at the store so we bought hot chocolate instead." And so on.  It was mostly excruciating minutia from the lives of the one-digited age group, but the knowledge that these tidbits were being set into written history was sensational.

We would sit by the window of my parents’ bedroom, in their New York City apartment and peer down at the passersby below in Riverside Park, making up stories about each person, their history, their destination, the way they walked and looked around. We honed our observation skills in order to find clues that would be integral to solving the mystery of why people go to the park. There was a guy with brown shoes and a yellow down jacket who walked his dog every day and never picked up the poop.  We watched him looking around to see if anyone noticed him sidestepping away from the steaming pile.  We jotted it down in our notebooks, eyeing each other with knowing spy glances.  He hadn’t escaped our elementary microscope, and if the feds came searching for the culprit who left the load of dog doo on that grassy patch,  we’d be more than happy to give them a read of page 26 date March 31st, 1979. We felt in the know, guided by intuition and eager to put together puzzle pieces that would enlighten the masses about human behavior. 


Doritos for Diabetics

(Written in 2007)

I have become a penguin.  I have turned into a bird that cannot fly.  My legs are covered in black polyester that bunches around my hip area, giving me pouches where pouches do not exist.  This is matched by the oversized black polyester vest that hides any hint of my breasts which are also covered by the standardly uncreative pleated tuxedo shirt.  The top button is sealed not with a bow tie but with a $5 plastic circular black clip that shouts “I am closing the shirt of someone who could be male or female.” And “I may not be as fancy as a bowtie, but I still give this cheap tuxedo an edge of shiny classiness.”  I hate this outfit. More than that, I hate the job that requires me to wear it.  

We are called “Dietary Ambassadors” of Hillcrest ( not its real name )  Hospital.  We are not ambassadors.  We are servers.  


What Your Dog is Thinking While You're in the Store.

When he’s coming out?

When he’s coming out?

When he’s coming out?

When he’s coming out?

When he’s coming out?

When he’s coming out?

Is that him? No.  When he’s coming out?

When he’s coming out?

I smell bacon.

When he’s coming out?


Grampa's Dead, Pass the Mustard

Written in 2002
Something about turning 30 makes me muse about the possibility of past lives.  It's probably due to my ridiculous fear of perishing.  I am terrified that I am going to be snatched up by the grim reaper before it's my time, especially when I feel that there are so  many things I still want to do.  And that is just it.  I never stop.  Living in NYC isn’t helping. My life is: wake up, check my email, make phone calls, run to the subway, grumble to myself at the people that are walking too slowly, go to a job, a meeting, an audition, call my answering machine, return phone calls, make more appointments, go to the gym, run home, check my machine again, and send more emails.   Then, go out again to have a rehearsal, perform in a show, meet a pal, run home, watch “Friends” and go to bed.  This just isn’t doing it for me.  And the fact that I have no belief in any sort of God makes the prospect of death all the more terrifying.

My last real attempt to connect with the “all powerful” was at Sunday school when I was 5 and we were asked to create our version of God out of various household products; A Kleenex or cereal box for the body, paper towel rolls for the arms and so on.  When I had finished painting and adorning my God, the teacher asked me where I would like to put him.  I turned abruptly and said “He’s a woman”.  25 years later, life has started to feel unimportant.  So when my friend gave me a book on past lives, I devour it and suddenly feel a sense of ease.  If I know there could be another life ahead, I might not feel so afraid of this one ending.


Making Out With Nature

A few months ago, I decided to go on a date…with Nature. People kept on saying we would hit it off. Of course, I had seen Nature around but hadn’t felt the attraction and never really considered getting seriously involved. As a native New York City girl, I’d had more experience with concrete than caterpillars so I was a little nervous about the rendez vous. You see, me and the city, we got along great. It had this energy that could sweep me off my feet in an instant. I always knew where I stood. And if I didn’t, I could just look up at the street signs. Nature, on the other hand, seemed a bit unpredictable and more difficult to read. Plus, from what I had heard, there was a chance for things to get kind of messy. However having recently ended a long term relationship with Manhattan and relocating to Seattle where 87% of the population seemed to be hikers, I realized I needed to get on the proverbial bus.


Really F*#king Busy

How are you? Busy.  Really busy.  How are things? Good, but busy.   Busy.  So busy.  Things have been so busy.  I have no time.  It’s gotten so busy. Wow, you sound busy.  I am!  I’m busy.  How’s Frank?  Good.  Busy.  The kids?  Great. Busy. Can we have coffee this week?  Hmmmm, this week is kind of  busy.  Can you do next week?  Oh, that week is really busy for me.  Boy, we sure are busy.   Crazy busy.  Oh, yeah, it’s been crazy! The week, month, year, holidays have been crazy. I’ve been swamped. Totally nutty around here. Really fucking busy. But good. Busy and good. But mostly busy.

I haven’t had a chance to pee/sleep/ read/ shower, eat, do what I love, take a poop, brush my teeth. I’m up to my ears, my neck, my eyeballs. That’s right, I’m on duty, on the job, on the move, on the run, on the road, on the go.

Have you had time to GET busy? Are you kidding? I’m WAY too busy to GET busy.  

I’m hard at it, I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, too much on my plate, I’m knee deep. I’m up to my ears busy. I’d love to stay and talk but I’m just so gosh darned busy.

When was the last time you asked someone how they were and didn’t get a response that included, “Busy”?  We thrive on the busy.  We brood about the busy.  We complain and boast about the busy, even when it’s not that significant.  Pretty much anything that occupies our time makes us busy.

 “I completely lost track of time, I was so busy knitting and changing the batteries in the flashlight.”
We’re busy working, planning, face-booking, organizing, catching up, returning emails,  running to our yoga classes, writing our to-do lists, shopping for presents, groceries, office supplies, getting ready for vacation…Oh, God….the holiday busy.
How were your holidays? Great. Busy! Insane! Relaxing, but very busy. We were going to call, but things just got so busy!  Vacations are so busy. We weren’t really doing anything but it ended up being really busy.
Aren’t holidays supposed to be, well, holidays? Meaning that we’re not busy because we’re on holiday, which is the very thing you do when life becomes too busy?
Here’s the thing. It has now become necessary to say that you are busy. ‘Cause you know what you are if you’re not busy?  Lazy. No one respects the lazies.  No one is interested in hearing about what the lazies have not been doing.  If we don’t talk about being busy, people are left to assume that we’re just hanging around with our thumbs up our….noses, which does not constitute busy-ness.  No one wants to be thought of as lazy because it usually means that our lives aren’t important.  And busy is important.  Busy means that we are someone.  If we’re engaged with more things than we could possibly have time for,  then there’s clearly  an abundance of people and things that are desiring of our attention, which must mean that we’re either extremely important or just really busy.
Sometimes we acknowledge the craziness of it all.  “I’m ridiculously busy.” “I’m insanely busy.”  “Can you believe how busy I am?” “It’s out of control how busy life is.”

You know what? I count myself as one of these people who are too busy. And yes, I talk about it. I admit it. I use it as my alibi. “I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. I’ve been so… busy.”   “I missed your call because I was…..busy.”  “I couldn’t make the party. Things got too busy.”   It’s like a badge I wear that allows me to excuse myself from almost anything.  And people seem to understand. “Oh, you were busy? I get it.  I’ve been busy, too.” I would like to not be busy but I can’t seem to find a way around it.  I probably shouldn’t even be here right now, I’m so busy. Sitting here and writing this is way more time than I can afford.  One thing that has kept me busy is trying to complete this piece.  I’ve been too busy to write this piece because I’ve been so busy writing this piece.

In fact, I’m too busy to finish this senten…..


The Flu Ate My Yoga Mat

Originally written in 2004. Re-edited 2011

December. I am home sick with the flu. My delusions of being impervious to all ailments have been realized. It must have been Mario, my salsa partner from Monday night; he was sweating a lot and looked kind of pale. I’m pretty sure I have a fever since I have chills, a fiery exhale, and dreamt last night that I gave birth to a moth. I am determined to fight it off using holistic practices only. The “self healing” class I took last month convinced me that any cold or flu remedy purchased from a mainstream drugstore will result in infertility or at least a bad rash. I begin to consume buckets of homemade ginger tea and Echinacea and take a hot bath with baking soda, Epson salts and three different essential oils I found while rummaging under the sink. I have no idea what purpose they serve but I read somewhere that they have some sort of magical power to cure so I pour away. An hour later, I am still sweaty, achy and have peed 6 times.


(Written in 2004)
Gramma is quieter than she used to be. She doesn’t ask detailed questions the way she once did. She was the only person who actually cared about the minute particulars of your plane trip over. “Well, now, what did they serve?” “How many flight attendants were there?” “Now, when you got into your seat, was the window shade pulled up or down?” These things actually interested her and she was rapt with attention at your description of the temperature of the cabin. She is forgetful now and more easily fatigued. The lilting laughter that used to infuse her sentences is less frequent. And the spark in her one good eye has become more of a dim flame. “No one should live this long” she tells me over dinner that night. We are sitting in the communal dining room of her home in Minneapolis, un upscale housing residence for senior which has nightly movies and knitting groups that you can join. At 97 She has outlived two husbands, 2 sisters, a brother, a son, and the majority of her close friends.

Letter From Blitzen

Dear Prancer,

Hey you kooky Caribou! How goes it? Me and the gang sure miss you, especially at this season. It’s just not the same without you. Yup, it's that time of year again when we get the goddammned reigns strapped to our haunches and have to drag about 3000 friggin tons of toys clear across the world in 12 hours. Can you believe we are still doing this shit? Hey, you gotta be happy for a job, especially in this economy. Plus, I’m super grateful for the health benefits. The herd has been in and out of Santaland Clinic a lot this year. Dasher had a herniated disc, Cupid got parasites and Rudolph has gone in for 2 colonoscopies. Turns out everyone here, including the Clauses, is Vitamin D deficient!