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Recovery for Frantic Fan

by Dear Jon
September 9, 2008

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Dear Readers,

A funny thing happened on my way to Dear Jon's e-mailbox. First of all, I gave all my fans an extra three hours on Monday evening, as I followed the debut of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Monday Night Football against their division rivals the Minnesota Vikings.

Rodgers took it deep, he was accurate, he was poised, he could scramble. He was a fantasy picker's fantasy, with a touchdown pass, a touchdown run, and exactly ZERO interceptions. He even had a touchdown bomb called back on a penalty, which would have eclipsed 200 yards passing and put him over 13 yards per attempt. His game was mistake-free and Green Bay won.

My point is two-fold: First, I couldn't care less what any Jets quarterback is doing  against one of the three worst teams in football. The Jets aren't even in the conference. Second, Green Bay Packers fans do not have to be as stupid as fans in the rest of the league. You have the best ownership model in all of sports, and the championship trophy in your league is named after the head-coach your team had when you won the first two of those trophies ever. The point is, everyone in the world knows that these purely objective facts makes the Green Bay Packers superior to the rest of the NFL both morally and spiritually. So why lower yourselves as fans?

Living in exile among Chicago-area radio stations, I KNOW how stupid fans can be. Rise above. You have cheese for heads, not cheese for brains. Let this summer be a lesson to you to shut up already and let your team play. Or else please do your home state a favor by moving to New Yoke or New Joisey or wherever it is the Jets play football.

So at the end of the game I check the e-mailbox. Nothing. There are no new Dear Jon letters for me to post this week.

However, I DID find an old letter lurking in the ‘saved' folders. This is a question that I had lost and then TRIED to reconstruct from memory on January 15th. In my defense, the reason I lost track of it is that it did not come through on the correct system. It was written as "comments" to an article rather than in the "actual letter" form.

So, this is the actual letter:

Dear Jon,

Welcome back!  I've been waiting.  And of course I missed you.  Now for my question: what should a person do when their favorite advice writer is out of the country?  Is Dear Abby OK in a pinch or should I hire a professional who understands middle-brow, anxiety-ridden, creative types?  (I have been hanging onto this question for a long time, and I hope I made the right choice.)
And a follow-up: does your return mean I can stop taking my meds?
Frantic Fan

This is the way that I tried to reproduce the letter from memory.

Dear Jon,

I have been holding on to this question for a long time. How can someone cope when one of their main coping mechanisms, a humorous internet advice columnist, up and leaves without giving any notice? And now that you're back, can I go off my meds?


A Fan in the Cold

Wow! As you can see Dear Jon is blessed with a photographic memory, one which touches up the memories with an air-brush, or exposes the negative to the light too early, or snaps the pictures with the lens still on.

On the basis of my re-produced letter, I wrote about HADS, Humorist's Absence Deficit Syndrome, in Sort 324. But there is no mention of humor at all in Frantic Fan's actual letter. In fact, Frantic Fan is not comparing me to their favorite humorists, but to people whose advice is expected to be taken seriously.

This is really flattering, to the point of being hilarious. If it is not hilarious, it is really very scary.

Please, please, do not put me in the same tent either with Dear Abby or with professionals or with meds. Unless you are being funny. I interpreted this letter as a work of comedic art and I am still 96% certain that this is the case. That is why I remembered the letter as being about humor rather than remembering the comedic shtick itself, which is, the reader's supposed dependence on Dear Jon. Still, this is the internet.

So, as I did with Sort 324 and in the preface to my book, I am going to spin a few caveats. 1. I'm not qualified to help you. 2. I'm not responsible for you. 3. I've warned you repeatedly to ignore anything I have to say.

Now for some "real" advice for Frantic Fan (given the three caveats you now know there is no such thing as "real advice" from Dear Jon). It seems to me that the best advice for middle-brow, anxiety-ridden creative types is to learn to laugh at yourself. One way to train in laughing at yourself is to read and watch people who laugh at themselves professionally. These are comedians (stand-up live speakers), humorists (writers) and Garrison Keillor, who has a stand-up writing shtick as a radio personality.

Laughter tends to empty the mystery and secrecy out of the stuff we are anxious about. If you haven't noticed, that's why so many jokes are about 1. sex, 2. the differences between male and female, 3. aging and death, and 4. toilet-related themes. America will be on the rebound to greatness in this century when we all learn to laugh about money.

Like the one that has made the rounds in some church newsletters about the religious, upstanding man of means who, on his death-bed, begged the Grim Reaper to allow him to take some of his treasures along. The Reaper relented in deference to this man's character throughout his life. So the man took a suitcase, and loaded it with his gold watch, his gold jewelry, his collection of gold coins. The Reaper leaves him off at the Pearly Gates and St. Peter sees that this man has a suitcase with him.

"I was told I could bring this with me," said the man.

"All right. I will need to check the contents."

"Of course," said the man, and opened his suitcase. St. Peter glanced at the gold objects and smiled.

"Oh look!" Peter said. "Pavement!"

That's not my favorite joke, but it's not bad for getting Americans started on the idea that money is a laughing matter.

After all, we middle-brow types tend to be anxious about our favorite sports teams, our sexual life, our relationships, and our general body (along with digestive) health, and chances are we will be anxious about money, which is the same in God's eyes as worrying about gravel.

Anxiety is always a matter of perspective. Too many Packers fans wasted a lot of emotional energy on anxiety during this last off-season.

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