Monday, October 26, 2009

The Players

My great-grandmother is on the right. I'm not sure who is on the left. Her sister perhaps?

The letters you are about to read mostly were written from 1918 to 1920. My great-grandmother Mamie had two twitterpated suitors at the time. One was Ernest, who wrote to her incessantly, professing his love and giving her day-to-day updates from March Field in Riverside, CA.

The other one was her fiance Clarence, who is merely discussed, as we never actually hear from him directly. One of these men is my great-grandfather; the other one had to settle for family picnics. (My grandma said the jilted and his future wife were around when she was a child and thereafter, which makes her wonder.)

I won't tell you which man ultimately wins her hand in marriage. That would ruin the surprise, since both seem to have a hold on her heart. She is, after all, a Gemini, just like me.

Mamie was born May 30, 1899 in Valton, Wisconsin. She grew up in Ontario, California, where these letters were written. She is 19 when they begin, while the hopelessly-in-love Ernest is ten years her senior, but who can tell by the way he talks?

After reading the letters in their entirety, I realize how much language and "social networking" has changed in such a short period of time. I am both thankful I live in a more modern era, and jealous of a simpler, more formal time. What I find interesting is that the people involved lived in California, where I live, not in some distant, foreign land. What I also find interesting is that the street addresses on the envelopes often didn't include numbers; that's how few people were in Southern California at the time.

Of course, it's important to note this love story takes place in front of the backdrop that is the end of World War I, which is mentioned throughout the correspondence.

Also, be warned: The letters drip with sap more than the trees outside my house. They are both sweet and ridiculous. Times really have changed. Once again, you'll see.

Oh, I forgot to mention: Letter number one is from a woman named Grace. I read most of the Ernest/Mamie letters before I got to Grace, and I was floored another woman was in the mix. My grandma nonchalantly said, "Oh, I think that was his girlfriend at the time."


So, here goes (Being the Grammar Nazi I am, I cleaned up many of the errors, but left some in for effect.):

Los Angeles, Cal.
April 9, 1918

Dear Ernest:

I am very sorry to have made you unhappy when you were up.

I have finished your sweater at last and am sending it to you. I hope you enjoy wearing it as much as I have enjoyed making it.

Each stitch is a wish for your happiness and success.

I received your cute little note after you were here.

Brad and Irvie are up in Oakland just now. You can imagine how we miss Brother.

Let us hear from you, Ernest, and whenever you are in Los Angeles, come and see us. Kindest regards from all.

With love,

Ontario, Calif.
July 17, 1918

My dear Soldier Boy:

Please don’t think I am rushing things. I mean our friendship, by writing so quickly, but I want to thank you so much for the nice box of candy and the lovely letter. I received the candy yesterday and I sure was tickled over it because it showed that you cared a little bit at least and I appreciate that oh! so much. And I love this little picture of yourself that you enclosed in the letter. I’m so glad you are smiling. It always makes me feel good when I see a soldier smile. Now, just laugh at me. Who can write any better letter than yourself? I sure enjoyed it. It sounded just exactly like the way you talk and that’s the way I like for a letter to be. It was short but sweet, just like our first day together.

But we are only about 25 miles apart and are liable to spend another day together sometime, let’s hope soon! I ask you now to please come over sometime. You don’t necessarily have to come with Jim Mac, do you? Just come some Sunday morning and call or telephone 14470 and ask for me and I’ll drive up to get you, etc. I’d love to have you come.

I am going to San Diego Friday morning on the 6:30 bus and staying until Monday, so you hadn’t better come this week you see.

I won’t say what I am going for because it wouldn’t interest you (ha!ha!) but I’ll say this much. I’m not going to get married. Oh! gee!

Your letter makes me laugh. It is so full of expression and it seems as though I were really conversing with you! I’d like to know you better, boy dear, because I like you much, only don’t call me dear sweet little girlie. It isn’t like you to say it. I like it but – don’t dear friend. You said you were rather upset yourself. What about? Don’t get upset about me. I’m not big enough to upset you. I shan’t forget the goodbye between you and I, dear “E.D.” (I don’t like to say Ernest either.) Let me call you Edie (E.D.) just between you and I. Please?


Comments to come,

The Grammar Nazi

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Box of Letters

My grandma is full of surprises. Often those surprises come in the form of crass and hilarious words, such as the time my grandpa was accosted by a young prostitute on the street when he was walking his Swiss Mountain dog. When he came home with a phone number, my grandma called it and left this voicemail: "Listen up, you whore b*tch! Can't you leave an old man alone when he's walking his dog?" She threatened police action.

Did I mention my grandma is eighty-three?

Other times, she is full of generous surprises and produces rare family gems. One day last year, she got into one of her give-it-all-away modes and told me to follow her upstairs. In her weaving room where she keeps her loom and wool, she pulled open a drawer in one of her antique wood dressers and pulled out the beautiful, dilapidated box you see in the photo above.

I absolutely love the photo on the box, which is more a shredded pile of dusty cardboard than anything. What was inside, however, blew my mind. How could she have absentmindedly kept this secret from me for so long?

She pulled out a copious stack of letters and envelopes dating back to the early 1900s, and said, "They belonged to my mother. Take 'em." She acted as though she were giving me a few bucks for lunch, but I could tell the letters were important to her by her smile and the way she cackled telling me about them. "These are great!" she said.

Of course they are. They are pieces of her mother's heart, a mother who died well before her time.

And she gave them to me.

I have since scanned the letters and am in the process of retyping them. I never want them to be lost, and I want to share them with you because they are history and about love, a universal theme with which I have much (failed) experience.

It seems trouble in love runs in the family. You'll see.


The Grammar Nazi

Friday, October 16, 2009 Part 24: I am who I am

That sums it up nicely. None of us are going to change all that much. After reading hundreds of profiles on, I can say with conviction that basically, we all want the same attributes in a mate: friendship, love, respect, humor and a quiet night on the couch watching a movie. So, what it comes down to are these last few profiles, and after today, I wash my hands of online perusing. I will just have to find that special guy in the real world. Go figure.

Here's a guy who is obsessed with the gym and goes every day. He used to "weight 312 lbs now [he weighs] 263 lbs and still going down."

Yet, he still doesn't know how to fix a run-on sentence, but whatever. Grammar Nazi is tired of pointing this sh*t out. Kudos to you for losing weight.

He says the person he's looking for "can melt ice cream with a smile."

Actually, you can melt ice cream if you set it on the counter. It doesn't take much.

"Who doesn't mind a guy with facial hair."

I married a guy with facial hair. The only time I ever saw him without it was in photos. I'm down with that.

"A business person by day and you know what at night."

I have no idea what you do at night. Or is he talking about me? You need to be more specific. That's what this space is for. I'm not a mind-reader, last time I checked. That would be really cool though because then I could figure out what the hell people are thinking, which most of the time totally eludes me.

"I don't care how many b/fs you had or relationships you had."

Aren't boyfriends and relationships the same thing in this case? You were vague before, and now you're redundant. Argh.

"I'm a man I won't lie that I do like a nice arse than breasts."

As usual, I am more offended by the botched sentence than the actual content of said sentence. Run-on, run-on, run-on. Oh, and "than" should be "then," but even if that were correct, the sentence would still sound lame. You like butts more than you like breasts? Is that what you're trying to say? Oh, who the F cares? Next.

Here we have another man who can't even spell his profession; he's an "analysr."

You people are killing me.

He is "looking for someone that is attractive and unmarried."

Well, sh*t. I would hope so. By the way, it's "who is attractive and unmarried." Not "that." I can't take it anymore. Stop the insanity.

I don't know whether to feel sorry for the next guy or to think he's full of it: "I have a 12 yr old daughter that means the world to me living in AZ with her mother and stepfather."

Either he's a deadbeat, or his ex-wife is a biznatch for taking the kid away from him. Either way, I don't want to get involved in such a complicated situation. Oh, and it's "WHO means the world to me." Not "that." Come on, folks! It's not that hard!

I wonder about professional descriptions such as this one: "Price tags??? Just throw it in the bag!"

It's time to play twenty questions to find out what this guy does for a living. Retail is my first guess. Thief is my second.

He's the "quiet type. Pay no attention to what people say about us."

Why not? It's usually true.

"I always take care of number one. That would be 'ME.'"

Hurray! You're number one! You're number one!

Two more to go! Are you still with me? Good. This one has his "heart wide open wallet ready."

Cute. Missing a comma, but cute.

"I've never dated two people at once."

Define "dated." I plead the fifth.

"Don't run with scissors, measure once cut twice."

Is he saying he doesn't run with scissors, or is he suggesting that I not run with scissors? "Measure once cut twice" makes no sense. He put a smiley face after it, but I don't think it's funny.

Finally, the last guy whose profile I will ever read on this silly website says, "My loving mother is putting me up to this online business."

He sounds about as hesitant as I am. Amen, brother.

Okay, I think that's a good place to stop. Phew. I'm beat. Someone get me a drink. Vodka tonic with a lime, please.

Blog topic number two coming right up!

Adieu, with a big middle finger to the online dating world,

The Grammar Nazi

Monday, October 12, 2009 Part 23: No dates were harmed in the following...

Not yet, anyway.

So, "the good time teddy bear hugateria" would like you to know he had "FUN" driving his motorcycle from LA to New Orleans and back in torrential rain.

That sounds like a blast.

He continues, "For some reason when I typed 'fun' in all caps I thought of the dancing old dude from the six flags commercials. He's the personification of fun!"

No, he's not. He's the personification of annoying. If this guy's idea of fun is dancing spastically to cheesy techno music, then we have problems. Also, Six Flags is capitalized.

"BTW, he's a really super old guy with make-up on so he looks younger."

Um, I think you got that backwards. Also, what does that have to do with anything? You're getting sidetracked, when you're supposed to be talking about - oh look! a penny!

The next headline says, "looking to actually date for the first time in my life."

So what have you been doing for the previous 36 years exactly? Is this his way of saying he's never had a girlfriend before? Where did you go? I can't see you through all the red flags.

"Cynicism and sarcasm are two of my biggest turnoffs."

He would LOVE me then.

We're getting closer to the bottom of the pile. The next one says he "sheds a tear every time [he] sees a Mcdonalds in a third world country."

How often do you visit third-world countries? (Also, my grammar itchiness wants to correct McDonald's. There. I feel better.) A McDonald's can be found on every corner in America. How is that different from anywhere else? I don't eat there, and neither should anyone else, but it's not the biggest problem facing third-world countries.

Music-wise, this guy had a "country phase, but a 12 step program took care of that!"

Here's the thing about country music: It's not a phase. It's a soulless disgrace. Any time spent, even for a second, enjoying country music is a check mark in the "no" column. Also, hyphenate "12-step." K. Thanks.

I have to laugh at an IT data analyst who says, "Who knows? Maybe I'll be making my own feature-length movies someday."

Who knows? I know. You're thirty five and you have yet to get involved in the film industry. Feature-length films don't just drop in your lap. It takes years of passion and hard work for that to come to fruition. Just face it: techie for life.

All I need to say about the next guy is that he's wearing a cowboy hat and he's a "sprinkler fitter."


Douchenozzle alert! "Sports guy" is a diehard Cowboys fan.

I hate the Cowboys. And the Raiders. I know he didn't mention the Raiders, but I feel compelled to state the facts.

He has "seen Metallica 7 times in concert."

I guess the "shortest straw has been pulled for you." I wouldn't be spreading that around. I'm not proud of seeing Depeche Mode more than once, but I don't go around telling people. Oh wait. Dammit!

Here we have a man who dislikes "spiders, most bugs, overt rudeness, and the Dodgers."

Well, the mop on Manny's head is starting to resemble the legs of a spider, so I can see how LA baseball and arachnids would be similar. Besides, I like the Angels.

His last line says, "No ballerinas. Okay ballerinas."

What about former ballerinas? I quit ballet the day we were supposed to put on toe shoes. Does that count?

Now we're really powering through 'em. Once I'm done with this short stack, I'll be, as I happily deleted my profile today. Woot.

Okay, here's the next one: "I'm interested in people who have a blend of street smarts, emotional smarts, and smart smarts. I also like Smarties. And Fun Dip. Not so much Big League Chew. or Razzles. I mean, are they gum or candy?"

Who cares? Let's go back to Smarties and Fun Dip. Smarties were the candies I used to pick first out of my pillowcase full of Halloween treats. Well, besides the chocolate, of course. I love those. And Fun Dip reminds me of when I was a kid at the beach. Oh man, talk about a sugar rush. Anyone have any Big Sticks or Bomb Pops they want to share?

One more for today: "I practice tantric sex - when I don't get sex, I throw a tantrum."

For some reason, I'm picturing a screaming brat in the aisle at Target lying on the ground, pounding his fists. "But MOM! I. WANT. SEX. YOU. SAID. I. COULD. HAVE. SEX."

"Okay, honey, but you can only pick out one today."


Happy rainy day,

The Grammar Nazi

Friday, October 9, 2009 Part 22: Would you be my Valetine?

First of all, it's "Valentine," with an 'n,' and second, it's WAY too early to be thinking about that dreaded excuse for a holiday that only serves to make single people feel that much lonelier. Don't give Hallmark and 1-800-flowers any ideas about beginning their advertising campaign well before Thanksgiving. You definitely need a new profile headline, as do most, including myself. On second thought, I don't need one. My time on is up in less than a week, and I won't be renewing. Shocker, right?

Next we have a guy who needs a GPS to be able to navigate back down to earth. "I read like a librarian but never learned to spel. Although I'm already in practice, I'm less than a year away from my phd. I'm not rich but I wiil be weightloss books will sell millions."

There is no way anyone would award this Bozo a PhD. "Wiil" and "weightloss"? For real? If you can't even spell what you are writing about, how do you expect to sell millions? Delusion is not only a river in Egypt, or something like that.

Next we have a hopeless romantic who asks, "Do you ever wonder whether these things work?"

Answer: Not anymore.

He says, "I like to spoil emotionally, mentally and physically."

Translation: I will smother you.

I'm confused by the following post: "Freddie Starr ate my hamster!"

Who's Freddie Starr? Should I know him? Why would he want to eat your hamster? Why do you have a hamster? That's a pet for eight-year-olds who wait to clean the poor fluff-ball's cage until the smell of stale pee permeates the entire upstairs of the house. Hamsters are cute until you get them home and realize they are nocturnal and will keep you awake running that squeaky wheel all damn night. No adult owns a hamster. They're just not that dumb.

He adds, "I read books by or about people who have died, or will die someday in the future."

In other words, he reads everything, including trashy romance novels and the Choose Your Own Adventure series. Who has the patience and time for that? Way to be choosy.

"I like long walks on the beach, but only if there are no dead bodies..."

For someone who is looking for love, you sure mention death often.

"I'd like someone who isn't bothered by the occasional kitchen fire or small-scale explosion."

Funny, but worrisome. I guess he won't be cooking for us anytime soon.

Okay, you have to help me out with this next one: He has "participated in a meat eating contest" and has "stuck [his] arm inside a cow that had a plastic window in its side."

My sick mind envisions those two events happening simultaneously. Did he eat the raw meat of a cow that had its pound of flesh brutally removed only to be replaced with a plastic window? Is Window Cow a real cow? How is it still standing if it has a big chunk out of its side? Was he the one to rip flesh off a cow so he could shove it in his mouth to win a few hundred bucks? This nutbag won't be hearing from any vegans. I hope that doesn't bother him.

Here we have a man "trained as a genetic light and color therapist." (Huh?) He says, "You, who is divine in all aspects of what is means to be a woman in the real and practical world and at the same time in love with life and so filled with the information that Spirit always holds beyond time and space."

First of all, you, who ARE divine in all aspects of what IT means to be a woman...

Second, why is everyone bat sh*t crazy?

Nutbag says his energy is focused like a laser - "Like the force of Niagara Falls pushed through one squirt from your garden hose."

I don't even want to tell you what this conjures up, but you can probably imagine, and now you wish you hadn't, but the image is already there, and it will be for some time. You can't even will it away. Sorry about that.

Here's another case of "which one of these kids is not like the other": This one "loves the ocean, children, all animals, cooking, enjoying food and drink, the symbolism of dragons, chocolate and the gym."

Did you notice what item doesn't fit into that very normal list? What does the symbolism of dragons have to do with anything involving the beach, food, exercise and loving little creatures? What DO dragons symbolize? Evil fire-breathing hell on earth? Yeah, that goes with the rest of the list. Sounds like a fun Saturday night to me.

Speaking of children, here's another mindboggler who says, "Given that I have to interact with numerous and random people every day, I have to constantly wear 'kid gloves.'"

What the eff are kid gloves? Did you borrow them from the Michael Jackson Sequined Glove Collection? The word 'creepy' keeps popping in my head while reading these profiles. I can't imagine why.

Happy Friday,

The Grammar Nazi