As you may know, I do regular question-and-answer features for the Beacon Journal, including a daily question and a multi-question mailbag on Thursdays. The mailbag also goes out to other papers, so my mail comes from around the country.
I received one letter recently that, upon close examination, I decided not to use in the mailbag. It started, harmlessly enough, asking for the dates of birth of several actresses and how to write them. Those are relatively easy questions to answer (although trying to pin down accurate birthdays can be a challenge in some cases), but the letter writer said "everyone I ask says that they can't find the answers."
I think I know why.
The next request involved getting a print of a scene where the actresses had been in bikinis -- with the writer assuming the pic was available because all the actresses were at least 18. "If I've made a mistake in their age," he said, "allow me to apologize." The writer then said he didn't get the newspaper "here" and asked if I could answer him directly.
Now, I do get requests for direct responses and I will sometimes call a writer or answer an e-mail, although I never promise that because I get a steady run of letters and the Q&A's are just part of my column. But I did wonder about that "here."
And then I looked at the envelope the letter came in. And the stamp on it saying it came from a "correctional institution."
And did I mention that one of the actresses was not, in fact, over 18?
I don't think I'll be answering this one.