Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Down with Comic Sans

Dear Friends,

I hate Comic Sans. I really can't stand it. It’s immature, repulsive, and absurdly inappropriate in every context. It is eye-raping. It's like water torture... each letter is like a harmless droplet, but as they relentlessly fall on the page they become a sledge hammer bashing me rhythmically into madness. I find that font entirely loathsome, and I'm not alone. I’m a member of a Delaware-sized society of outraged citizens (a term I prefer to “hate group”) that stands united on this issue.

Download the Hard Taco song, “I Hate Comic Sans,” and see if you have what it takes to be an outraged citizen.

Let me put it another way… if I had a time machine, I would travel back to 1995 and find Vincent Connare, the man who was about to invent Comic Sans. I would give him a choice: A) Go to sleep forever, or B) Take the keys to the time machine. I assume he’d go with B, and with that kind of power, he’d forget all about typography. Either way, we’d be saved from Comic Sans, and although I'd be stuck in 1995, at least I wouldn’t have to wait very long to see the Packers win the Superbowl.

People, Comic Sans is obscene. If the Hard Taco song has not been enough to win you over, I regret I have no choice but to teach you this lesson, Guantanamo Bay-style. Here is the first chapter of an autobiographical novel I’m writing, presented in Comic Sans MS 12 pt. Before you read this, I urge you to contact the nearest hospital and get the pager number for the ophthalmologist on call, because no one gets through this much Comic Sans without developing corneal ulcers.

“Taco Noir”

It was too dark to see out the window, at least not with the half-empty glass of bourbon whiskey tilted back in front of my eyes.  I drained it, and looked out again. They call Ann Arbor the City of Dreams, but I haven't found a dreamer yet, not a real one. Hapless grifters, hardboiled fall guys, aging boxers. I've traced my hand on the walls of every alley, mixed up with characters of every stripe, and let me tell you… they’re all just looking for a way to fill the emptiness between the next two cigarettes.  Not one of them has a dream bigger than tomorrow’s breakfast.

My name is Guy Beakes. Every sap has a story, and maybe yours has a missing sister or a cheating wife. If so, you might know me. I'm a private dick. It’s etched into the glass on my front door. I also have a business card, but I’ve never had to use it. I wish I could say the same about my pistol.

A knock woke me from my reverie. I looked up and saw her leaning in the doorway. A tall brunette framed in a cloud of waltzing smoke. She had lips the color of cheap Shiraz and the saddest eyes I’d ever seen outside of my bathroom mirror. She was worth a stare, but I wasn’t ready to give her the satisfaction.

“Are you the one they call The Beak?” she asked.

Even with my sinus problems, I could smell that she was trouble, and not the kind of trouble I went looking for. She was a silo filled with poison ivy, a dental amalgam made of TNT, a “get well” card dipped in arsenic, and then dipped in chocolate, so you couldn’t see the arsenic. She was here to play me like a second-hand accordion, and all I could do was breathe in and out, trying to make the music she wanted to hear.

“That’s right, Sweetheart,” I said, “I’m Guy Beakes. It says so on my door. I’m a private dick, and a damn good one. That’s on the door, too, but you already knew that, didn’t you, Miss… ?” 

She tapped a Chesterfield out of the box and brought it to her lips. “I’ll tell you that when you're ready to know it, Mr. Beakes,” she said. I offered her a light. She chain-smoked the rest of the pack. “Okay, I think you're ready, now. I’m Tess. Tess Hennnessy.”

Tess Hennessy. Of course. I knew her family. The Hennessy’s were law-abiding insurance investigators. Unless she was one of the South Side Hennessy’s… they were alienated plainclothes policemen. There were also the Midtown Hennessy’s, who ran numbers, and not the good kind. A gruesome lot of bottom feeders and candy striper molls with questionable virtues. I like questionable virtues, because you’re never really sure. Are they good virtues or bad virtues? If you knew the answer, they wouldn’t be questionable anymore.

“Well, Ms. Hennessy,” I began, “there are three types of people in the world…”

“I know,” she interrupted, “but that’s not why I’m here.”

My jaw dropped like a lead pigeon. Nobody cut me off before I could enumerate the three types of people in the world. Nobody. It was practically part of my contract.

“Mr. Beakes, I’ve got a problem, and I’ve heard you’re the kind of guy who makes problems go away.”

"Sweetheart," I said, "that's why they call me Guy." I knew her story before she said another word. “It’s your husband, isn't it? Mr. Hennessey's a snake... comes home late or not at all, and you think he’s two-timing or worse. You want him tailed. Smoked out. You came to me because I worm out double dealers and I don’t ask questions. It says so on my door.”

“Mr. Beakes, I need to know that you can be… discrete.”

She meant discreet, of course. Discrete means distinct or separate, but it didn’t matter. I’m both. (That’s also written my door.)

“Sweetheart, if you’ve got $40 a day plus expenses and a picture of Mr. Hennessy in that purse of yours, I’ll be your bloodhound,” I told her, “It’s like I said, there are three types of people in this world...“

“I know, Mr. Beakes,” she said, caressing a roll of greenbacks onto my desk. Again, she wasn’t letting me say my bit about the three different types of people. It’s a really good bit. This dame knew how to frustrate a guy.

“I don’t have a picture of my husband, Mr. Beakes, but you won't need one. He has black hair and a mysterious past that continues to haunt him, hunting him down with a fatalism that taunts him relentlessly before delivering the final blow. He usually wears a hat. Do you think you can find the man that meets that description?”

“As sure as my name is Guy Beakes, PI,” I told her. I turned around to pour half a glass of Blue Hills Single-barrel, and when I looked back, she was gone.

I never knew Ann Arbor before the war, with its chintzy string quartets, its ersatz glamour, its rose-colored storefronts and echoing sidewalks. I swirled the whiskey in my glass as I watched the door swinging shut, and wondered for the hundredth time why I went to the trouble of writing so much stuff on it. 

With warmest regards,