Literature | Letters to Shlomo Hammerstein

shlomo

It had been some time since last I saw the sun set over the state of Wyoming. To give you an idea of how long it had really been, let me say this: I honestly don’t remember ever having been there and, now that I think of it, that’s probably because I’ve never gone.

My dear mother had received a telegram the evening of April 17th, 2012, stating that our beloved ninth-cousin-twice-removed Shlomo Hammerstein had passed away on the 10th of April, at the age of 102, in Wheatland, Wyoming. My mother, saint that she is, quickly threw the note in the garbage, stating that she’s never heard of such a man, and who cares about Wyoming, and that Hammerstein is clearly a fake name, and that this sounds like one of those Nigerian Prince emails.

I am not my mother.

I am an optimistic, wonderful, intelligent, and handsome young man. I may be acutely narcissistic and bordering on birthing my 7th split personality, but I do see the good in people—especially those named Shlomo.

So, I booked my ticket with money I borrowed from RBC and before I knew it, I was flying over Devil’s Tower.

I arrived three weeks after Shlomo’s death but, luckily for me, the family was still sitting shiva. After 27 minutes, I had had enough of my supposed great-great-great-aunt-7-times-removed-or-something-or-whatever Zelda telling me about the corns on her feet and the male nurse she thinks is stealing her Bicentennial Quarter collection. I decided, as I am wont to do, to wander upstairs and talk to myself in a stranger’s dark attic.

I started perusing Shlomo’s artifacts. Among them were thousands of newspaper clippings; it seems as though Shlomo had a column in the Wheatland Examiner for 76 years. As one of 13 Jews in the state of Wyoming, he would allow folks from Wheatland and other towns in the region to ask him about Jewish culture and religion.

Here, I am enclosing a few examples from throughout the years. Someday, I’d like to write an academic paper on the effects of being stranded amongst Goyim for 102 years, using these (and countless others that I will send at other times) as key material.

1) August 23, 1930

Dear Shlomo,

I’ve been told that the Stock Market crash was your doing. Please give my grandfather his money back.

Signed, Angry

Dear Angry:

I’m sorry to hear that your grandfather lost his money in the terrible events of last year. It seems that it has affected the economy in ways we hadn’t imagined. I’m glad you brought up the fact that the Jewish people (I’m assuming your informant hadn’t used my name specifically) seem to be getting blamed for this unfortunate state of affairs. You see, throughout history, the Jewish people have been blamed for many things that weren

(It seems the editor of the newspaper decided to cut him off there.)

2) October 20th, 1948

Dear Shlomo,

Every year in mid-October, you build a big tent on your lawn. What’s the deal? Also, please stop. It weirds everyone out and sometimes I hear coyotes at night.

Signed, John Smith

Dear John:

I’m uncertain as to why you would ask me this in the newspaper; you live across the street from me. I’m watching you eat dinner with your family as I write this. Also, unless I should have understood in your question that you think coyotes are what Jews become at night, I feel helpless in aiding you with your coyote situation. As for the Sukkah (and no, you don’t have to come over tomorrow and repeatedly use the word “Suckah” to flatter (though it will actually mock) me), that is a ceremonial te

(Again, the editor seems to have cut him off.)

3) November 15th, 1963

Dear Shlomo,

I’m watching The Dick Van Dyke Show, and you are clearly less funny than Morey Amsterdam. Please explain and remedy.

Signed, You’retheworst

Dear… You’retheworst…:

Honestly, I’m not sure how to broach this subject. There are very few people in America—and, perhaps, the world—who are as funny as Mr. Amsterdam. They call him “The Human Joke Machine.” To be completely honest, I believe that the fact that there are so many Jewish comedians points to, a) a history of

4) November 19th, 1977

Dear Shlomo,

I just watched Close Enounters of the Third Kind and I finally understand why you wear that thing on your head.

Signed, noteverywhiteguy

Dear noteverywhiteguy:

Is that a question? Like “Do you wear your yarmulke to keep aliens from reading your thoughts?” Because no. No I don’t. I wear it so dumb moron idiot dumbass idiot morons like you ask me stupid questions like that. That’s why. I hope I die soon so I can rid myself of you people. Next year would be nice. Maybe 1979. That would be perfect, actually. Another two years of glory, in which I’ll finally take the plunge and eat a mushroom for the first time, ride on a rollercoaster despite being scolded by my mother, try Indian food, eat a chili pepper, and force Zelda to get that corn on her foot checked out by the county doctor.

Signed, you’reapieceofsh**

5) April 10th, 2012

Dear Shlomo,

wen u cirskumsite ur tstcls on ur 13th bar mitzvah, is dat wen ur voice bcum like wudy alen

-Chase Tanner

Dear Chase Tanner:

Thank you. I have been holding onto life for 33 years too long. I can finally die in peace now. Good day, sir.

Signed,

_______________________________________________

Jesse Toufexis is a playwright, screenwriter, and author from Montreal, Quebec. He has a BA in Anthropology from Concordia University. His turn-ons include words and very little else.