When I was younger, I was forced to write letters to my grandmother at gunpoint. Well, not exactly gunpoint but under threat of “no television” or banishment to the Gulag which, today, is the equivalent of depriving these spoiled little brats of their precious iPad, YouTube and Pokemon Go.

I would sit down and detail all the meaningless events that had transpired in my life. My failed attempt at making the basketball team (I stopped growing vertically at age 12), my failed attempt at romance (girls were not very impressed with my Lionel Richie/Whitney Houston mix tape) and my failed attempts at describing life in Israel (it’s hot and everybody yells at each other). I would always end the letters with, “Your Friend,” even though I wasn’t. I was her grandson. Now that I think about it, in writing those letters to her I actually was her friend — her pen pal — something that didn’t occur to me until I was stoned one night a decade after she had died.

Every few months I would get a letter addressed to “Master Gilbert” in beautiful, cursive letters. I would open the letter, let the check fall out and not even bother to read the letter, until again, at gunpoint, I was compelled to read the letter aloud.

I don’t remember much about the actual content of the letters; Description of her friends from the Bridge night she would host, a visit to the art museum for a Cezanne exhibition and details about the weather (it’s snowing again).

The idea of writing actual letters seems quaint and outdated now. First of all, the post office is so outrageously incompetent, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more letters sent, but never received from the 1980s. Second of all, if anyone has ever dared brave the long lines and surly attitude of the postal workers, they know better than to ever go in there again. Finally, why write an actual letter when you can just Facebook message, Whatsapp or Skype? Even email is now somewhat outdated and reserved for business correspondence.

I have one close personal friend with whom I still maintain a correspondence via email. In a sea of demanding work emails, spam and such, it’s nice to get a personal message from a dear friend. Without his permission (and since he refuses to grace all of his fans with his blogs) I’ve decided to share with you, my four faithful readers, a correspondence I had with my last remaining pen pal; Leon Moss.

Please forgive me Leon, but I enjoy “hearing” your voice so much that I dare not keep it to myself. So you don’t think I’m being unfair, I’ve also published my response, which is quite incriminating and may very well cost me the love of in-laws and my job…

So, in the spirit of “reading the letter out loud” here is our latest correspondence…

Dear Jason,

You mentioned me in your Entebbe adventure… Thanks. I haven’t come to collect the $200 off you for crossing my path, but to tell you that we found Entebbe about 20 years ago.
Ann had an old uncle who lived in that direction and every time we visited, must have been half a dozen times, he would rush us off to Entebbe for dinner.
‘I used to call it “The Forced Feeding” place.

You walk in and a waiter comes rushing toward you and asks “How many?” You tell him. He starts to lead you through the many tables. Suddenly another waiter pushes in front of your waiter carrying a large platter of potato chips and when you finally reach your table the hot steaming chips are waiting for you. The waiter hovers nearby making sure you eat the chips at the required number per minute, or second, and as you lift the last piece off the plate another waiter rushes over carrying a plate with your chicken skewers.

Again you are watched carefully. The empty skewers are removed and the bill is plunked down in front of you. Before you know it you are standing at your car, searching through your pockets for the keys.
Phew! That was dinner?
We loved it!
Good job, Jason

And, with no gun pointed at my head I responded the following day –

Hey Leon –

I’m writing this email to you as a free man. After two years, six months, three days and (give or take) a few hours my wife, son and I were finally released from the prison we were in, also known as my mother-in-law’s house. We found an old apartment down the street and we’re slowly adjusting to life outside the slammer. Hopefully, I’ll still have material to write about now that my life has some semblance of normalcy 🙂 Either way I feel like I’ve been given a new lease on life…

Work is great. They’ve made some foolish decision and put me in charge of the creative writing team. This is a ragtag bunch of know-it-alls residing on three continents and in different time zones and I’m supposed to rule over them with wisdom. Problem is they’re all smarter and younger and more qualified than I am. I don’t sleep at night and I’m stressed out beyond belief but it pays nicely and it got us out of the clink. If I don’t have a heart attack or a stress related stroke, I’ll actually enjoy the new position.

Your description of Entebbe had me laughing out loud. It is so accurate. As I like to say, if McDonald’s is fast food, then Entebbe is super-charged, Turbo food. We were in and out so quickly my head was spinning. Food was pretty good though and lots of it.

I hope everything is well with you and Ann and all the colorful characters at the retirement home. It’s been a while since you graced us with your witty insights about the daily life there. I know you have fans around the world waiting for your next blog, so how about it?

Your friend,

JFG