SOUND OFF (1,2,3,4...)

I was just talking with my colleague Bruce VanWyngarden, editor of our sister publication The Memphis Flyer, in the company break room. We were both frantically filling our coffee mugs and pondering the subjects of our respective editor's letters, both due today.

"Hmmph. You only have to write 12 a year, Mary Helen,"' he noted (a bit snootily if I may note.) "It can't be too hard to come up with something to say."

Ouch. He had me there. "Yes, but you can talk about lipstick on pigs and who's playing at the HiTone this weekend or whatever," I noted. "Timely things. I won't even know who the president of the United States is by the time my letter gets to print."

"Hmmph," he responded, raising an eyebrow and wandering off toward his office. I'd lost his interest. Heck, I'd lost my own interest. When you only get 12 at-bats a year, you should make them count, not get caught off base with nothing to say. Another writer friend of mine practically salivates over the thought of his own monthly column. "You're so lucky," he exclaims. "I'd really sound off if I had a forum like that."

They're both right, of course.

So I might not be waxing poetic about lofty ideas and ideals this month, but if there's one thing I can do, it's sound off. An open letter, if you will:

To the Tennessee Shakespeare Company: Thank you for bringing As You Like It to the grounds of

St. George's. It was gorgeous. Same to the folks who brought us the free shows at the Levitt Shell and the Center City Commission for their weekly downtown events. It's a quality-of-life thing, and efforts like yours raise it for us all.

To Earnestine & Hazel's: The Soulburger is a thing of beauty.

To The Commercial Appeal: Thank you for your accidentally hilarious headlines. My most recent favorite? "One twin is a biter, the other a tease." (It was a parenting advice column! I lost it.) Also, whoever chose the photo of the boy from Arlington surrounded by scantily clad waitresses on his 7th birthday party at Hooters in the My Life section, nice work. Classic.

To my friend and neighbor Bo: My yard has never looked better. And thank you for reminding me when it's trash day. Thank you even more for hauling my trash can and recycling bin to the street even after you remind me and I still forget.

To the scoundrel who steals my Sunday paper: You will get caught one day. How am I supposed to collect hilarious headlines when you keep snatching the fattest paper of the week? Please get your own. Or at least alternate neighbors. I'm pretty sure the lady next door doesn't even read hers. Just sayin'.

To my credit card company: Don't think I didn't notice you raised my interest this month for no good reason. If I wasn't on deadline I'd be on the phone with you right this second. Be expecting my call.

To Larry Rice: For a kindness shown when needed, my sincere gratitude.

To our editorial intern Jamison: You are a fantastic writer. Seriously. And how could I not like someone named after whiskey? But you ain't beating me at trivia, kid. And yes, consider the gauntlet thrown.

To the guy (or gal) who keeps calling my work voicemail: That heavy breathing thing is so 1980s. It's not the least bit sexy, it's just sad. Please stop.

To Keith Olbermann: You are on fire, man. Keep it coming.

To Bruce: Sometimes a raised eyebrow is worth a thousand words. Thanks.

To the next president of the United States, whoever you are: Just do right by us all. That's all I can ask.

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