Humor Therapy

Circa 1998

I have to confess I have a fetish. No, it doesn’t involve farm animals, women with whips: (though if Claudia Shiffer came to my door in a leather corset and spiked heels, I might reconsider), or anything that Madonna does on a regular basis. I don’t know how to say this, so I’ll just blurt it out I mail fish to my friends.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not involved with Mrs. Paul’s mail order department, or a commercial outfit that ships canned tuna to regular customers. I work alone. I send my salt water catch fresh, without any refrigeration, processing or preservatives, so that by the time it arrives, it’s presence is unmistakable and unforgettable. And I use only one type of marine dweller the phylum mollusca. Yes, I am a squid sender.

I’d played practical jokes before, pretty much the standard ones: prank phone calls (“Is your refrigerator running? Don’t just stand there, go catch it!”), ringing door bells and running away. putting chalk in the blackboard erasers, tacks on seats. The sort of thing that begins and hopefully ends with high school. I never thought something like this could become an obsession.

It all started about 16 years ago in Seattle, WA. My brother Mark and I were living there and Ted, an old high school friend, had been staying with us for several months. One fateful day he received a letter address to Ted “Squid” Thurston (Squid being an affectionately derogatory term one of his college buddies had seen fit to bestow upon him). The name stuck in my brain.

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After he moved away, we would talk by telephone and I’d threaten to send him one of the marine mollusks. We’d laugh and forget about it. Some years later, I happened to be in a Japanese fish market in Los Angeles (where I had since moved) shopping for sushi. Browsing the glass enclosed display counter, I literally caught the eye of a tentacled ocean dweller. There, right next to the rock cod, staring me straight me in the face, was none other than what was soon to become the object of countless hours of laughter and merriment the squid.

I felt like I had found an old friend. When my laughter died down (and the other customers stopped staring at me). I told the clerk to wrap “Squiggy” up for me. I took him home, snapped a few pictures with my roommate holding him, boxed him up with a note saying “Do not open till Christmas”, and popped him in the mail (des tined for Ted’s parents’ house where I knew he’d be going for the holidays). I immediately called Mark, and we laughed until we cried.

The package arrived safely (the aroma attracting an entourage of neighborhood cats who followed the unsuspecting postal carrier all along his route); it was opened and disposed of well before December 25: and I received the expected phone call acknowledging the gift and threatening me with dire consequences should I ever attempt it again. That was all the incentive I needed. Like an illicit drug, soon squid sending became a habit. Whenever my sibling and I got together, we’d head straight to a fish store, purchase another mail able mariner and drop it in the box. Soon, Ted had given strict orders to all our mutual friends never to divulge his address. This just made the game all the more compelling. We would go to great lengths to hunt him down and post him off another putrid package.

Then came the coupe de grace. Ted, Mark and I spent a weekend at Mark’s condo in VA Beach. Monday morning as we were getting ready to leave (and Ted was otherwise occupied), we slipped a slimy cephalopod into his garment bag and he took it home on the plane him. He didn’t speak to us for a year.

I couldn’t keep it to myself any longer. I started telling others about our “squidcapades.” The response was always the same laughter followed by a request to have one of their friends “squidded”. Friends became allies in the adventure. We started calling each other by squid names-“Billy the Squid”, “Squid Caesar”: we made up a language (Squiddish, what else?); used pick up lines “Is that a squid in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?”

Then one friend paid me $10 to send a squid to her ex. That crossed the line we had gone commercial. The enterprise took on a life of its own. We passed out flyers on the boardwalk. We put a page up on the Internet. We came up with slogans “Say it with squid.” We planned tee shirts, (“My parents went to Hawaii and all I got was this lousy squid”), a cartoon strip. a joke book…it really got out of hand.

Last night, the movement went political. I was having dinner with a friend of mine, we were discussing the voter registration drive we’re both involved with, and he mentioned the organized vote as the way to send a strong message to Washington. Of course I said “Why not send an even stronger message-a squid.” He followed with the punch line-“Make them sorry for what they did-send them a squid.” Fifteen minutes later, after we both stopped laughing, we realized the importance of what we just said.

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Imagine if millions of Ameri cans, disgusted with the way things are being done in Washington. decided to engage in a totally ridiculous and pointless gesture-bury our lawmakers under a pile of rotting fish. It might just get their attention.

So it’s become my mission, from now until election day, to GOTS (Get Out The Squid). I’m placing newspaper ads, putting up flyers, planning a “Night of 1,000 Squids” (1.000 people all getting together and each putting a squid in the mail to Washington), telling everyone I see to give Congress an unmistakable message “For what they did, send them a squid.”

Do it yourself, or send me a request and I’ll send it for you. Squid sending has gone from a harmless prank to a global movement. I’m helpless to contain it. Stop me before I squid again.


10. For the boss who just fired you.

9. For the boyfriend who hasn’t returned your call.

8. For your favorite teacher who gave you a “D” instead of a “C”

7. For your ex-landlord who hasn’t returned your security deposit.

6. For your ex-wife who won’t let you see your kids.

5. For your agent who hasn’t gotten you an audition in 3 years.

4. For the TV writer who killed off your recurring character.

3. For the plastic surgeon who made your nose bigger and breasts small.

2. For the neighbor whose barking dog just had puppies.

1. For your congressman-just because.

If you want a squid sent to a politician, former friend, lover, or relative, send $100 (to cover costs) to:

Harry the Squid

PO Box 2254 Charlottesville, VA 22902 2254

by Harry Squid

aka Paul Ryan

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