Rough Draft


 The Letters

     ~ Dear Carrie, Love Joe ~


The following letters are transcribed from letters Joe wrote to Carrie between January 1963 and April 1964. Joe lived in Lynn, Massachusetts. Carrie, originally from Massachusetts, lived in Los Angeles, California. 


Joe first began writing to Carrie during the Fall of 1962 while he was incarcerated at Walpole prison in Walpole, Massachusetts. While the letters written during Joe’s incarceration were not kept, the letters written from the day after Joe was released from prison remained in Carrie’s possession, and eventually made their way onto these pages.


I didn’t know my father. 


I knew of him. Black and white pictures of a dark-haired man at a piano, a Surrealist painting hanging on my bedroom wall, secondhand stories of a troubled drug addict.


But I didn’t really know him, until these letters found their way to me.


Through his own words at 25 years old, I got to know this brilliant, philosophical, complicated, troubled man who simply yearned to be loved and understood.


I now know you, Dad.



Chapter 5  

 January - July 1963

January 27, 1963 (Sunday)

Dear Karen,


I have just arrived home yesterday and your letter was here waiting for me. I guess that it arrived a few days before I did. It seems quite different to be able to write to you now without the benefit of a censor scrutinizing our letters and us having to keep up the pretense that we’ve known each other for years. 


You can’t know how glad I am at hearing that you finally have a job. I sure hope that you can manage to keep your car because I know how much it means to you.


Karen, I would love to talk to you, but instead of phoning you I am sending the money instead and writing you this letter. Being disgustingly practical about it, I think that a few bucks would do you a lot more good than a phone call. To be truthful with you, I am notoriously inadequate when it comes to talking to people over the phone. It seems that when I hear the words coming out of the receiver that it is like talking to an inanimate object and not anywhere near the same as talking face to face and I usually find myself at a loss for any words beyond mere small talk. Actually, what I’m trying to say is that I’m just a stoned coward when it comes to talking seriously to people over the phone.


I had sort of a humorous experience while traveling home from Walpole yesterday. When I was in Haymarket square in Boston and the Lynn bus pulled up, a fellow got off who I immediately recognized and associated with my high school days. He recognized and approached me greeting me very quaintly with “How the hell are you; when did you get out?”


I was taken slightly aback as I wondered how he knew I was in the can as very few people did. I thought that perhaps he wasn’t referring to Walpole and I decided to feel him out. I said “When did I get out of where?”


He said “Walpole, where else?”


I thought, “Well, the jig is up,” and replied “I got out about an hour ago and by the way how did you know I was there?”


He replied, “You sap, I was there in the same block with you for a year and a half and I just left you a few months ago.”


I felt highly embarrassed at not remembering that he was in Walpole with me and hastily explained to him that I had been out only about an hour and was still in a dense fog.




It is now about ten hours later; 9 o’clock to be exact, and I have just returned from a movie. As I was writing the previous paragraph a friend of mine that I have not seen for two years came over to my house to welcome me back and I spent the day with him. We rode around and visited old friends and several places and ended up going to the flick. I really went to the movie with him only out of politeness since he suggested it. The bill consisted of a sickening western melodrama and an obnoxious situation comedy call “If a Man Answers.” I think that I am all done as far as movies are concerned because it seems that I just can’t stomach them anymore. I guess I’ll stick to literature.


Well, at least I have resolved one thing. I had no idea how I would feel when I got out with the citizens again, but now I think I know. Yesterday after I arrived home I went around and met many old friends and stopped in at several clubs and bars that I used to frequent. All these people and places had no appeal whatsoever for me anymore and I seemed to see them in an entirely different light. The people made me sick and the joints made me even sicker. This may sound kind of square, but on my first night out, instead of going out drinking or attempting to seduce some unsuspecting female I want to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I really believe that these people have something in this program. 


I usually don’t drink because I’m not that nutty about booze, but I didn’t join AA in Walpole because of booze but because of drugs. I was pretty sick of drugs by the time I reached Walpole and AA was suggested to me by a friend. I now believe that alcoholics and drug addicts have basically the same psychological makeup. The problem is more psychological than physical even with a drug addict even though most people don’t believe this. Many people drink alcohol and never have any trouble with it as long as they drink. Others are so made up psychologically and biochemically that alcohol acts as a poison and sets up a compulsion for more alcohol that is far beyond their control. I know from experience that this is also true with drug addicts. 


Before I was exposed to AA, the question used to torment me as to why many people that I knew could use drugs once in a while or even use steady or minimal amount without upping their intake, while once I started, I had to keep using more and more faster and faster far in excess of my physical requirements. I was getting so ridiculous that in the two months before I was arrested, I put $20,000 worth of drugs into my arm. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t enjoy one minute of it but was never more miserable in my life. Now that I have been around AA, I can understand it perfectly. I was quite amazed at the large number of highly intelligent people in AA and also at the fact that there were no phonies. I have never met any more down to earth and sincere people in my life and they seem to be the only people that I feel right at home with.


Karen, it made me feel all the more closer to you when I read in your letter that you couldn’t stand phonies. All my life the one thing that caused me more misery than all others combined was phonies. My mind was poisoned towards many wonderful fields and undertakings because of the phonies associated with these things. I despised these creeps and therefore didn’t want anything to do with any field that they were in. One of the fields that I am very sorry this happened in is jazz. 


I was first exposed to jazz when I was about 15 and in the crowd that I associated with it seems that every idiotic, phony, muddle-headed creep tried to raise himself to a seemingly higher order of things by becoming a jazz adherent and looking down their phony noses at everyone who was not “with it.” This was all I needed to stay as far away from jazz as possible. I even sometimes think that it was the phonies partly that drove me to using drugs in the first place. I think that now that I am developing the ability somewhat to ignore the phonies instead of thinking about them and becoming very frustrated. I am even becoming very enthused with the beauty and pleasure of jazz now that I can ignore the finger-snapping, sunglass wearing creeps that infect the field.


This reminds me of a wonderful book that I have read recently. This book really meant something to me as I was able to identify myself with the main character as far as his being affected by phonies was concerned. The name of the book was “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, and if you get a chance, you really should read it. Most people would probably think that it is just a facetious satire narrated in the limited vocabulary of the 16-year-old main character but it was really very much more than that to a person who has the same temperament as the author, who I believe really reveals himself in this book as the emotions and thinking of the main character are far too accurately portrayed, to one who knows, to be just conjured up.


Please excuse my miserable scribbling as I am not exactly an avid penman having never worked at it much because to me it’s only good as a front.


Please take care of yourself, Karen, until the next time that I hear from you. Also, lots of luck on your new job.


Love, Joe.



February 10, 1963 (Sunday)


Dear Karen,


I was just reading over your last two letters and I can’t tell you how happy I am to see such a complete change of mood on your part. You sound so much happier and less troubled than before that I get the impression that a great weight has been lifted from your mind. I’m so glad that you are going to be able to keep your car and not have to lose it.


Karen, now more than ever I feel so very sorry that I have never met you or that you are not here now. I Will tell you the reason for my feeling this way. I have never written you very much concerning Artie and Bonnie in my letters because I did not know how well you knew them. I actually had never really met Bonnie at all and only knew her as a girl that I used to occasionally say hello to 4 or 5 years ago. I had known Artie when we were both about 18, and at that time I never really talked to him because we both were just part of a group of guys that hung around together. But even at that time we felt a kind of bond between us even though we were not knowledgeable enough at the time to understand what it was. We had one main thing in common then and it was that we both loathed people with a passion and really didn’t know why. Neither one of us ever felt a sense of belonging with any of our acquaintances or any people or groups that we had ever met. 


It wasn’t until he came into Walpole that we really go to know each other and to discuss things very profoundly. It turned out that Artie was the only male person that I had ever met in my life that I had anything in common with and vice versa. We also discussed that our common hatred of people stemmed from the fact that the way people lived, the things that they did, and the things that they thought about all made us sick to our stomachs. The thought of being expected to confirm to the way of life of society and religion, which in reality is only slow suicide and a means of controlling the stinking masses, had subconsciously affected both of us very deeply. 


I have probably written things in letters to you that revealed my feelings on these matters and believe me, Karen, I did not mean to subject you to reading things that reeked of hatred and loathing, it was just that at the time that I wanted so much to find someone else who could see these things that it was like an obsession. You probably wonder why I am telling you all this but I’m getting to the point now.


I don’t know if you know it or not but Bonnie is working Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights in a night spot in West Lynn called the Stage Door. Artie does not know that she is doing this and would probably have a fit if he did. She is trying to get some money together in order to surprise Artie with a car when he gets out. When I left Walpole, I tried to leave Artie some money but the administration wouldn’t allow it. I happened to run into Bonnie’s sister, Sally, and Sally told me that Bonnie was working at the Stage Door nights on the weekends. I decided to drop in and see her to give her the money to bring to Artie. 


Well, I’ll tell you Karen, I was never so surprised in my life as when I met Bonnie. Within ten minutes of meeting her it seemed that we had known each other all our lives and understood each other perfectly. Poor Bonnie had never been exposed much to people and really could never understand why Artie felt the way he did until she started working at the Stage Door, Champion Lamps, and had to be subjected to people on the bus going to Walpole. Now she has developed the ability to see people for what they actually are. 


Up until this time she would sit in the corner by herself in the Stage Door while working and not talk to anyone because they all made her sick. I have been down to talk to her every night that she is working and I couldn’t have a more enjoyable evening under any circumstances. We both can talk to each other for hours on end and enjoy every minute of it. She seems to me now like a sister that I am very close to. I never believed that I would ever meet an intelligent and girl that could see past the end of her nose and Bonnie is the first that I have ever met.


I have talked to her a great deal about you because in one of your letters you mentioned that Bonnie was the only person that you have met of late that you could really talk to. I had already gathered from your letters that you were a highly intelligent and highly sensitive girl who was very unhappy. I was never sure what it would be like talking to you but now I can see by simple logic that if I have so much in common with Bonnie and you do also that I’m sure we would really enjoy being with each other.


I usually seem to have all the luck; for at least 10 years I have been going out of my mind looking for a girl to really talk to. I have gone steady with at least a dozen different girls and have been out with a few dozen more and I never found one that I could talk to. It seems that they usually fell into one of two categories: either their heads were as empty as the inside of a basketball, or if they had some basic intelligence they were so well indoctrinated by society and religion that they couldn’t see past the end of their noses and I might as well have stayed in bed rather than attempting to talk with them. I had arrived at the conclusion that all girls were like this and that I would just have to grin and bear it, but now it comes as a revelation that there are a few girls in the world that I can talk to on an equal basis and not have to pretend that I’m interested in what they’re saying just for the sake of being polite.


I always used to have to create an artificial attraction with a girl by taking her to night spots etc. and trying to convince myself that I was having a ball because everyone else was. I was trying to belong somewhere but I couldn’t find where. I was even very happy to go to prison after five years of drug addiction because I thought that I belonged with the people in there, but it was even worse with those creeps than with the citizens. Now it seems when I have finally found an intelligent girl that I think I could talk to that she is 3,000 miles away. 


Karen, I wish that you would do me one great favor. If I can’t be near you, I would at least love to have your picture so that I won’t feel so far away from you. I will send you a picture of myself if you want one. My friend has one of those 10 second cameras and as soon as he breaks down and buys some film, he is going to show me how it works and I’ll get some pictures there.


Karen, I hope that your girlfriend is a person that you can talk to even though I realize that after knowing her for so long that she could still be almost as a complete stranger in many respects. I have a friend that lives on the next street over from me that I have been constantly associated with for ten years, in fact for years before I was in Walpole, I was with him almost every day and on dates together or just talking to girls with him nights and I finally realized that I have nothing in common with him and that he is a complete stranger because I can’t understand him and vice versa. 


It is very important for intelligent, sensitive girls like yourself and Bonnie to have someone to constantly talk to and be understood. Some of our type of people do as I did and completely isolate themselves from everything and build an invisible shield around themselves with drugs or liquor. I’m glad to hear that you’re not a drinking girl because that could spell a lot of trouble for you.


Karen, I really haven’t asked you too much about California. I really am wondering if you are going through the same stage now as I went through several years ago. This stage I call the geographical cure. It really cures nothing. You feel for a long time that if you lived in another section of the country that everything will be rosy. The only thing that is failed to be taken into consideration is that no matter where you go you always bring yourself with you. I tried Florida and New York City and all I found was the same thing: miserable people. It finally occurred to me that my surroundings had no effect upon me because I was always lost in thought and oblivious to them anyway. I just realized that I have lived for 20 years off and on at my mother’s house on River Street and I really don’t even know what the houses on the street really look like because I never bothered to take notice of them and couldn’t care less.


Oh, before I forget it, I would like to mention something that really struck me. In your last letter you said that you liked animals better than most people. This is the exact same thing that Bonnie said to me last night and that Artie said to me in Walpole and that I have been saying for years. Bonnie and myself love cats and you say that you love horses. I have never had any experience with horses so I really couldn’t say whether or not I am fond of them. It seems that Artie likes dogs. I like puppies but he likes the king size variety.


Bonnie was telling me about how you and she were always aggravated by the idiots that you had to work with at Champion. She said you used to keep to yourself and have as little to do with them as possible. I can understand this perfectly as they always affected me the same way. In fact, I was seriously considering not taking a parole and finishing out two more years in Walpole because I dreaded the thought of having to work with all the fools, louts, dullards and generally petty people that infect industry. 


Before I left Walpole, everyone thought I was some kind of a nut because I wasn’t in the slightest enthused about getting out; in fact, in the last few days before I left, I was actually depressed. A few weeks before I left, I quit school because I couldn’t keep my mind on the work. One of the teachers kept saying to me “I know where your mind is now; it’s in Lynn and thinking about getting out.” If he only knew how right he was! I couldn’t get my mind off all the creeps I was going to have to put up with and all the idiotic citizens I was going to have to cope with for a minute. 


Now that I’m out I can’t tell you how happy I am with the place I am working. I used to work in a small place with only five people. If you have only five people in a place day after day who have nothing in common there are bound to be many personality conflicts. It is hard to stay aloof from them when there are so few. I also worked in the General Electric Company in Lynn where there were 5,000 people. This was even worse! I thought of it as a stinking factory filled with useless utilitarian ants. I could only take about a month of that place. They even wanted to pay my way to college and I still quit.


Now the place where I am working is one in a million. It is owned by the same person who owned the tool and die shop with the five diemakers in it. He also had another shop where he did mostly productions work in Cliftondale. When I was in Walpole, he built a brand-new shop out in the woods in Saugus. He rehired me when I left Walpole and last week was the first time that I saw the new place. It is out of this world! There are no time clocks to punch, no supervisors to speak of, in fact, when the secretary asked me Monday how many hours I worked during the week, I couldn’t believe it. They don’t even know how many hours you work during the week; you have to keep track of it yourself and let her know on Monday when she comes around to ask.


There is no shop pettiness amongst the workers. No one seems to care about anyone else’s business. There are about 20 men working there and I don’t even know that they are around. I think that my boss was always very fond of me and interested in me. Before I was arrested, he had plans to make me a partner in the company even though I really didn’t want the responsibility. He started me off on the best tool and die work in the place and is paying me over a hundred dollars a week to start. I have to admit that when I took a look at the blueprint of the complex die I was to build when I started, I got scared. I was afraid that I had forgotten everything and the print looked to me like a jigsaw puzzle. But within a few days it all came back to me and I’m really enjoying it now. I’m so glad that I didn’t decide to get a job in engineering where I had to sit behind a desk all day and really go nuts from inactivity.


Today was a funny day, Karen. I got up early this morning intending to do some painting. I’m not really an artist as this is to be my first painting. I have never up until now have ever been attracted to anything that I have ever seen painted. I hate landscapes, seascapes and especially street scenes probably because they are of this world and suggestive of humanity which ruins them in my mind.


Artie bought a book in Walpole entitled “Surrealism.” Much of the prints in the book I considered garbage, but on artist named Yves Tanguy so fascinated me that I couldn’t take my eyes off them and had to borrow Artie’s book every day to look at them for hours. His paintings are all fantasy, alien landscapes all bathed in ice cold light and done with meticulous precision. 


I couldn’t obtain prints of his works in Lynn so I went to the library and got the same book that Artie had which has four of his prints in it. I am going to attempt to do a few of these until I can obtain prints. I put in the background of one last night and let it dry until this morning. This painting is called “Black Landscape” or “The Storm” and it fascinates me. If you go to the library, try to get “Surrealism” by Waldberg and look up the four prints of Yves Tanguy. Surrealism represents a state of mind and the artists whose temperament is similar to yours will probably appeal to you. 


Well, anyway, I never did get the painting started because I happened to sit down at the piano and started to play a beautiful Spanish Fantasie called “Madrileno” that I have been working on for a week. Before I went to Walpole, I was very disgusted with the piano even though I loved it because I had no sense of timing. But now something has happened. I learned to play the harmonica in Walpole and in a harmonica the background tempo is put in with the tongue at the same time that the melody is being played. I worked eight hours a day for months on end on the background tempo in the harmonica until one fine day it just came to me and I had it.


When I came back from Walpole and tried the old pieces I knew on the piano, I found that I had learned them wrong because I never bothered to really count time. I decided to start taking new pieces with difficult timing and really work on them so I could overcome this handicap. I was overjoyed at the way “Madrilena” is coming out. Why do I always have to learn things the hard way? If I had started paying real attention to timing years ago, I would be much more proficient now. Maybe someday I’ll start taking lessons. 


But the reason that I really played instead of painted is because I just happened to remember a number that the piano player in the Stage Door was playing last night, and for laughs I decided to try it by ear. It was one of those beautiful Greek or Jewish folk dances and I actually played it with the correct rhythm and I was so amazed that I almost fell off the piano stool. I know that the sense timing came from playing the harmonica and I was so overjoyed that I couldn’t leave the piano all day. I always thought that I was just born without a sense of timing and you can’t know how I feel to find one developing.


Well, Karen, it is now 8:00 pm and I am about to go down to see Bonnie who is working tonight. One thing that I like about the Stage Door is that it is always empty. Five people is now considered quite a crowd in there. Bonnie doesn’t have much to do as a waitress so she can sit and talk with me all night. We are both quite happy about the fact that business is lousy. The fewer people the better. I even go in there on the weeknights with books and sit in the corner and read and there is no one around to bother me. I can’t stand staying home to read because I get that trapped feeling. Besides at least I may run into someone who I can talk to during the week there where I wouldn’t at home. 


I see that I have really been getting carried away writing this letter but I don’t mind because I love to write to you. Please take care of yourself and write back soon.


Love, Joe.


P.S. Please again I ask you to send me your picture.


P.P.S. Good Grief! I just read this letter over and I didn’t realize that my writing was getting progressively worse as I went along. I can hardly read it myself now. I hope that you can decipher it. Also having a pen that keeps slipping doesn’t help any either.




February, 20, 1963 Wednesday


Dear Karen,


I received your letter today and I am starting to write this one at 10:00 at night and I doubt very much that I’ll finish it tonight. It seems that as I read your letter, I started to get a very hollow feeling as I began coming to the end of it. It almost seemed as if a door was being shut in my face and I was being cruelly cut off from you just as I was beginning to feel so wonderful just from reading words written by someone who I can understand and who I think can understand me.


Karen, I often wonder if you really exist. I have never seen you or touched you or been with you. You are like a wonderful creature of my fantasy who only exists in my own mind and communicates with me from an astral world. Bonnie has told me that she believes that you and I think exactly alike. I know that up until now you and I have just been feeling each other out in our letters trying to find out how each other thinks and if we have anything in common. I think now that we have everything in common.


I remember how in the first letters I sent you I carefully interjected certain statements and questions designed to coax from you your feelings and opinions on people, phonies, society, etc. I realize that it was pretty sneaky of me to do this with this motive but you must realize that I didn’t know you and I just had to know how your mind worked in order to determine whether or not it was worthwhile to write to you and whether or not both of us would just be wasting our time. 


I remember that in one of your first letters you wrote that people aggravated you and you thought that there was something wrong with you because they did aggravate you. I don’t know whether you said this because you believed it yourself or because you didn’t know at the time how I’d respond to the real reason. I hope you realize now that the reason people aggravate you and you feel you don’t belong with them is because you are so different from them that you can never belong to their world no matter how hard you try, if you even care to try anymore. 


All my life this feeling of not belonging afflicted me and not knowing why, because I had never met any people who I could talk to. I came to feel that I didn’t belong, because I was vastly inferior to them and I developed a terrific inferiority complex (does this mean anything to you?). I didn’t begin to lose this complex until I entered Walpole where I had time to read and think and gain a real insight into things, especially after really getting to know Artie. It seems that he had the same psychological experiences as I did and Bonnie also. I feel now that the experience and insight that I got in Walpole was well worth the time spent there and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I am strictly a glutton for punishment when it comes to being educated and I am not talking particularly about academic education.


Karen, I notice that quite frequently in your letters you have been using the phrase “Do you know what I mean?” I wonder if you do this consciously or unconsciously because you are trying so hard to find someone who does know what you mean. I have to admit that up until now I have been very careless in letting you know that I understand what you mean because I have been so busy trying to find out if you know what I mean. I want you to know that I understand everything that you have said so far in your letters and I am not talking about a textbook understanding. You have said that you have never met a guy that was a close, true friend to you. I wish that you would consider me as a close and true friend who is very concerned about you. After getting to know as much about you as I do now, I don’t see how it could be any other way. I just don’t run into girls like you every day. In fact, the only other one like you that I have ever met is Bonnie. 


I only hope that I don’t prove to be a big disappointment to you as a friend. You see, I am not exactly what is known as a completely stable person. I feel like a square peg in a round hole as far as life amongst all the humans is concerned and when I get in a certain morbid, depressed mood in which I think of all the things in life in terms of “Who needs it, who wants it, who cares,” and I start asking myself the big question, “What is worth doing at all” and find myself unable to give an answer then I usually lose interest in everything and just brood for a few months or so. 


This hasn’t happened since last summer in Walpole where Artie and myself were both evaluating the philosophy of Nietzsche and becoming very frustrated and unbalanced because Nietzsche struck home to both of us with his philosophy but he didn’t provide an answer. It seemed that Artie and I were always on the verge of cutting our throats as we discussed people, society, religion etc. and tried to figure how we could ever be content and happy in life when we had to be constantly coping with what Nietzsche called “The small ones,” “The superfluous ones,” “The filthy rabble” etc. 


We used to sit against the fence in the yard at night and watch all the folks playing baseball and softball and knowing that it was the biggest thing in their useless little lives and getting very perturbed thinking that this useless game called baseball is such a big thing in so many lives but to us was not even worth mentioning or wasting time thinking about and yet we still couldn’t get away from having to hear all the constant babble and claptrap day in and day out concerning this ridiculous game. Don’t you see that we could think up a thousand perturbing things like this relatively poor example of baseball and really dwell upon them and build them up in our minds until we were insane with anger at knowing that we could never cope with all these things in life without constantly being in a state of anger, frustration, hate, loathing or just plain apathy or depression.


I know now that Nietzsche did provide an answer even though he could never attain it himself in life and died a madman. Artie and I used to discuss parts of his doctrine where he said over and over again “Flee into thy solitude” and “Retreat into the wilderness” and “Flee from the flies in the market place.” He seemed to be advocating the life of an anchorite and Artie and I both knew this was no answer. I didn’t realize until after I left Walpole that Nietzsche’s answer was really a state of mind and not a physical removal from humanity. Nietzsche never achieved this state of mind but through some means that I don’t quite understand I believe that I have. 


Karen, I don’t know if you can understand this or not, but they don’t affect me anymore; I live in my own private world and they are not a part of it. I pass them in the street and they might as well not be there. For me they don’t exist even thought I can see them and hear them. I think this was mainly to do with the fact that I somehow finally realized that I don’t have to try to justify my way of thinking in their eyes anymore and never succeed and become very frustrated. What do I care if they can’t see things for what they are and prefer or don’t care if they live like ostriches with their heads in the sand? I have developed the ability to look upon all of humanity as a group of naughty children playing war games and worshipping idols on crosses and playing a big phony game of “life” when all they are really doing is committing slow suicide. 


I guess the answer that I found is really very simple but I was always too unknowledgeable to see it. I simply work where there are only a few people who all mind their business and keep their mouths shut and I don’t read newspapers or watch television or hear much radio, not because these media infuriate me anymore as they used to but simply because I now know that they are not saying anything to me. If I happen to hear an appeal, for instance, on the radio that advocates that “it is the duty of all Americans to fight Communism,” I simply think to myself “The kiddies are playing war games again,” and I really have to smile because they are so funny trying to play the game of “Run the World.” I guess I’ll have to continue this letter tomorrow as I can hardly keep my eyes open now.




This is Thursday night, Karen, and it is about 10:45. I hope that I can finish this letter tonight but I doubt it. It seems that I have a million different things that I want to say to you but I always seem to get carried away on a tangent before I finish anything that I start to say. I see that before I got carried away with the Nietzsche yesterday, I was telling you that I wanted you to consider me as your close friend. I know that I feel a sort of transmission line between yourself and me and I feel free to write to you about anything at all and have it understood. I find myself writing things to you that I would never dream of ever revealing to anyone else except perhaps Bonnie or Artie. 


You have just said to me in your letter that you feel a little guilty about telling me about your girlfriend, Mabel, as you had never told anyone else as much. Karen, please don’t feel guilty about telling me anything like that. I think it is very sweet of you to be so concerned about her and to be constantly trying to help her. Perhaps, like you say, you can understand her. But can you really understand her without thinking the same way that she does? You may understand her on the surface but I doubt that you can actually feel as she feels.


Karen, actually I knew before you even told me about Mabel that she was not someone that you could really talk to. I could tell from you letters that you were always longing for someone to talk to. I hope that you will really feel free to write me about anything that is on your mind. I will feel free to do the same with you.


By the way, you have told me that you many go to school nights for drafting after you finish the course that you have now, but you haven’t told me how much more you have done on your course. I am willing to bet that you haven’t done much and I know that the reason is not that you are lazy but simply that you have no one to encourage and push you and share your interest in drafting. I know that you are the type of girl that I could be very happy just being in the company of and I really wish I could spend my spare time with you helping you with your course or playing chess or talking together.


I dropped in tonight at the Stage Door where Bonnie works and I was surprised to find her there tonight. She wasn’t working but she came down because the boss told her he might need her tonight but apparently, he didn’t. I really only talked to her for a few minutes because she was in quite a bad mood and was very seriously talking to her sister, Sally, over in the corner so I didn’t want to bother her. When I see her tomorrow, I will let her know that she owes you a letter and that you would like to hear from her. It’s funny but I had asked Bonnie before as to why she didn’t write to you and she said that you owed her a letter. I think that she has just realized recently that it is the other way around but I’ll be sure to put it on her. I know that she writes so many letters to Artie that she could easily forget where she stands in owing or being owed letters from others.


I must tell you that painting has become a real obsession with me. I have heard it said that painting is a relaxing pastime. I would like to strangle the originator of that gem of wisdom. When I finish a painting session, I am a nervous wreck, I am shaking and I am so tired that I can scarcely stand up. I usually couldn’t paint you a picture of a telephone pole, probably because I have no interest in telephone poles or other earthly subject matter, but I seem to be so obsessed and fascinated by Tanguy’s cold, remote and alien fantasy landscapes that I don’t even feel as if it is me doing the painting. The first painting has about 20 hours in it now and will be finished in another 10 or 15. I intend to work Saturday and Sunday in an attempt to complete it.


This morning upon arising I suddenly decided to quit smoking. I happened to realize that I was smoking over three packs of Camels a day and rapidly heading for four. When I’m in work or painting or playing the piano there is never a moment when a cigarette is not going. The only reason that I quit is that I’m a coward when it comes to pain. I woke up this morning and said to myself, “Well, Joey, bless your little black lungs with the searing pains shooting through them but I think that it’s time you quit smoking.” I have gone all day and night without a cigarette and I don’t even want one. Believe me, it is not will power at all because I have none and I don’t believe that this term “will power” means anything anyway. I stayed away from the old cancer sticks out of sheer disgust. Of course, this isn’t saying how long I am going to last on this kick but I hope that it is for quite a while. I can never do anything to moderation it seems. I always have to go at something like it’s going out of style or not do it at all.


Well, dear Karen, I am afraid that it is past midnight and I have to go to work tomorrow. I have not even begun to really say anything that I wanted to about many things that I want to say. I am surprised how much writing I can do in a letter and say so little. I know that I won’t have time to do any writing tomorrow or Saturday either so instead of keeping this letter for a few days to write more I am going to put it in an envelope right now so I can drop it in the mailbox tomorrow morning. I am really too tired to see straight and so I am not going to read this whole letter over again now so please excuse any abominable syntax or spelling. I will probably get some photographs taken over this weekend to send you in my next letter and I hope that you will send me yours. Goodbye for now Karen.


Love, Joe.



March 7, 1963 (Thursday)


Dear Karen,


I have just received your letter and I am attempting to write you this reply immediately so I can get it in the mail tonight. It is about 7:00 pm now and I usually go out after eight so I’ve got about an hour and a half to complete this letter.


When I didn’t get a letter from you for a couple of weeks, I started saying to myself, “I wonder what I said to Karen now in the last letter to alienate her.” I know that a lot of what I write could give you the wrong impression if not taken in the way I mean it. I hope that you don’t think of me as a two-headed monster that does nothing but spend all its time hating people. It’s just that when I’m writing, if I happen to get onto a particularly perturbing subject I can very easily get carried away as I get engrossed deeper and deeper in the subject and I can cause myself to become so angry that I write things that I really shouldn’t. (I have just noticed as I tore off this piece of paper from the pad to write on this side that it is not one of the pieces of writing paper at all but only a protective front piece. Too late now!).


I see that your ex-roommates told you that you had a long-distance call last Sunday. Yes, Karen, it was me who called. I had a good reason for calling and judging from your letter I was right. I ran into Bonnie last Saturday night for the first time in about a week. She told me about the letter you sent her and all about the loan that took out for her. She felt terrible about the whole thing because you are one of the few people that she really likes and I know that she would rather cut her throat than deliberately do anything to hurt you. She had mailed you a letter earlier in the day explaining everything and as I can see by your letter, you hadn’t yet received it as of Monday, Mar. 4. I just knew that I had to call you Sunday because I could sense how disturbed and hurt and worried you were about the matter. I wanted to talk to you to make you feel better and to save you some more worry until Bonnie’s letter got to you. 


I know that you must have had that horrible sinking feeling of a trusted friend betraying you and I wanted to explain that Bonnie was not running out on you and leaving you holding the bag. I hope that you have received her letter because she sent it to your old address with a money order in it. I see by your letter that you are bitter toward her and I hope that your feelings will change when you read her letter. You two are some of the very few close friends that each other have and I don’t want to see anything destroy your friendship.


Karen honey, I wish that you would stop referring to me as a stranger even though it is true literally. Don’t you realize that I probably know more about you than any other guy in the world excepting perhaps your own brother. We have been corresponding off and on for about 8 months and I really have come to know you even though I have never met you. I hope you realize also that I am becoming quite fond of you. I have never met a girl like you before and I have met plenty. You may have never thought of yourself as something special because you have lived with you all your life but I know that you are something very special at least to me anyway.


Karen! I hope you’re not serious with that Air Force bit. Don’t you realize what you would be doing! This is just a desperation move on your part because you are so unhappy. If you think that it’s tough putting up with creeps for eight hours a day now just wait until you have to live with them for 24 hours a day. You can’t get away from them when you have to live with them in a herd day in and day out and be subjected to all the petty discipline and other herd-control measures. Please think over what you would be getting into. I bet that if you had just one person to love you and really care for you that you would be able to see right through the exterior glamour and appeal of the disgusting armed services and all that you’d have to put up with. You think that happiness may lie for you in the Air Force because you want to believe it. It is something that you haven’t tried yet so you can build up any rosy picture in your mind of what it would be like and not have your own mind rebut your daydream.


Well, Karen, Sunday was a beautiful sunny day and the first I have seen in some time. We had a blizzard Saturday and you can see how much snow we got in the pictures that I sent. My friend let me take his 10 second Polaroid camera all day and I was like a kid with a new toy snapping pictures of everything in sight. I must have burned up four rolls of film before the novelty wore off. It seemed that I was going back and forth to the drugstore all day buying film. I even took a picture of the picture that I just finished painting, which I’ve sent you. The print of the original is in the Surrealism book that I’ve written you about before. You really ought to get the book and look up in the back the pages on which are prints of the artist Yves Tanguy. The one in the picture I’ve sent is entitled “The Extinction of Useless Lights.” 


I have just finished another, or rather I will have finished it in another few hours of work that is entitled “No Title.” That one is in the book also. I thought at first that the publisher of the book was merely designating that the picture had no title but then I realized that the title was “No Title.” It’s really quite appropriate as I can see now how a title could very easily ruin it. You ought to see “No Title” as it’s really fascinating. I intend to start the “Black Landscape” next, which is also in the book. I really wanted to do this one first and a month ago I painted in the black background and it’s still not dry enough to paint over. I think that I made a mistake using Mar’s black instead of Ivory black. 


Besides receiving your letter today, I also received one from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to whom I wrote requesting information on obtaining more Tanguy prints. They have only one print of the one painting of his that they have in the museum but they have a book on the life of Yves Tanguy that contains 57 prints although only eight are in color. The eight in color plus the one print they have will keep me busy for quite a little while. I have never been so fascinated by anything as I am by the wonderful paintings of Tanguy. I can truly say that Tanguy is the only man in the world that I really idolize. It’s too bad that he is dead because there will be no more Tanguy paintings forever.


As for the ten dollars, get yourself a new hat or something. You deserve it for just being my wonderful little Karen. You just don’t know how much I wish that I had you here with me. There are thousands of girls around here but there is only one Karen and she’s in California. Do you think that we could really enjoy each other’s company like we’ve never enjoyed anyone else’s? I have never really found a girl that I enjoyed just being with. Of course, Bonnie is my best friend’s wife so I don’t count her. I think that you are a girl that I could talk to for hours and never lose interest. Besides, you seem to have the same likes and dislikes as I do also. 


Have you played any chess lately? I haven’t anyone to play with so I haven’t been playing. My brother, who is in France, writes me that he is playing a lot of chess since I wrote him from Walpole about what a fascinating game it was. I just wrote a letter to my brother and believe me Karen do I dread the thought of writing to him or anyone else but you for that matter. You see, I just don’t have anything to say to anyone else, not even my own brother. All I can do in letters is make idle, useless, small talk to anyone but you and doing that is very trying for me. Somehow my brother has got the idea into his head that we’re going to be “buddies” when he gets back. I’ll “buddy” him right in the head if he keeps that up. All I need for a buddy is a brother that I have nothing in common with and I’ll really go out of my feeble mind. Sometimes I feel that family ties are just a burden that one could well enough do without.


I just finished reading a book by A.L. Huxley called “Brave New World” in which families no longer existed, as babies were produced from eggs that were cultivated in “decanting bottles” on a production line. The word mother was considered an obscenity. Time was figured from A.F. (After Ford) rather than A.D. The tops of all Christian crosses had long since been cut off and because the T of the Great Ford. Instead of making the sign of the cross, everyone made the sign of the T. Instead of “By God” it was “By Ford” etc. One thing that really broke me up was a phrase “Cleanliness is next to Fordliness.” As you probably have gathered, the book is a brilliant satire on the age of mechanization. You really ought to read it.


It is now after, or rather just about, nine o’clock and it has taken me longer to write this letter than I expected. Usually, it takes me much longer to write you a letter, but I am hoping that you will get this one before Sunday as I feel that you may be in a depressed mood and I hope that it will help cheer you up. Believe me, Karen, I really do worry about you and I feel unhappy when you are unhappy.


Karen, you really haven’t told me much about your early life up until you left your parents on their farm. Will you please write me more about yourself, because I am very interested in your life. I hope that you are in a better mood now than when you received my last letter and will write me an answer sooner. I really, deep down, knew that you didn’t answer sooner because you were feeling upset and hurt over the matter of that loan, but I hope that it is straightened out now. Goodbye for now my little Karen and please write soon.


Love, Joe.


p.s. I’m still not smoking. After 10 years of smoking like a chimney it feels quite different.



March 14, 1963 (Thursday)


Dear Karen,


I really didn’t intend to write to you tonight but it looks like I’m ending up writing after all. It is about 10:15 pm now so I don’t know whether or not I will be able to finish this letter tonight or not. If I don’t finish it tonight, I won’t get a chance to until Saturday as I have something to do tomorrow night. The only thing that I dislike about writing over a period of days is that when you read over what you have written the previous day your mood may be changed and you may say to yourself, “Whatever made me write that?” and feel very awkward about sending it thus end up tearing up the whole mess and starting over. I guess that it’s best to stay in one mood throughout the entire letter.


I went out about 8:00 pm and went down to my inner sanctum, namely the Stage Door Lounge. I finally figured out why this empty lounge with its mausoleum-type atmosphere so appeals to me. Even more than having no people around (or almost none), I am attracted by the lighting effects. The lounge part is lighted indirectly by purple, red, green, yellow, and blue lights. I seem to be drawn as by a magnet to the ethereal effect of the lighting. It is very relaxing. 


I went down there tonight forgetting about the fact that Thursday night is what I like to facetiously call “Crew Night.” You know, “The gang’s all here” and all that jive. It seems that every Thursday a crew of about 20 real humans decide to make a night of it in the joint. Usually, it consists of singing and dancing and perhaps a quaint little talent show. 


I remember when Bonnie was working on Thursday nights and there was a piano player engaged by the owner for entertainment. This particular piano player was one that Bonnie and myself took to immediately. He just didn’t care. He actually preferred to play to an empty lounge than to have plenty of people there to bother him. Many was the night when Bonnie, myself, the piano player, and his wife were the only ones in the back room all night. Of course, he didn’t last too many weeks not drawing a crowd.


As I was saying, one particular Thursday “Crew Night” the “crew” decided to have a talent show. Our piano player loved the cocktail type of music and it was all he played when the choice was up to him. When the talent show started, Bonnie and myself had to get out of the back room before we got sick, but our friend the pianist was quite trapped. From the safety of the front room, we could hear the beautiful strains of “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah” and “Mexican Hat Dance” in all their pure aesthetic appeal floating gracefully throughout the establishment. Friend pianist could be seen through the partition in a pose suggestive of mortal agony banging away on the keyboard for the amusement of the aborigines. At the end of the night, just to needle him I asked him if he enjoyed himself with all the folks. His reply I really couldn’t put in writing.


Now there is no longer any entertainment at all in the place and Bonnie doesn’t work anymore. I see her once or twice a week down there when she comes down just to get away from the house. I may see her tomorrow night.


I ran into Bonnie’s sister, Sally, in the lounge tonight. She was right in with the “crew,” which is unusual for her. She really does not belong with the people she associates with as she is more Bonnie’s type and does not have too much in common with people. She is still quite young and has a lot to learn and I hope she doesn’t get too hurt learning it.  When Bonnie is working as a waitress, I get quite a kick out of the way she keeps a nursemaid’s eye on Sally and gives her watered drinks when she starts getting loaded and stares daggers at any enterprising male attempting to move in on little sister. Well anyway, after running head first into the “crew,” I turned around and came back to write to you.


Karen, you poor girl, I feel sorry for you when I realize that your whole life seems to be built around bills and the problems of merely existing. You have too good a head on your shoulders and are too rare a type of person to waste your precious life in this manner. I went through this same stage and I know just how it is affecting you. I used to take the same pride as you in paying my bills and thought it quite virtuous to pay all my bills when I should. I realize how, now, it is so much nicer not to bother with any bills at all because there is really little that money buys that I want or need. On payday, I give my mother $20 and that is the end of my thinking about money for the rest of the week. I just can’t be bothered thinking about money when there are so many important things to do.


Karen, I know the type of person that you are and I wonder if you haven’t yet become aware of the fact that most of the things that money can buy will instead of bringing you pleasure, merely weigh heavy upon your back as burdens. I know that I could, for instance, get more pleasure out of a ten-dollar chess set or a five-dollar set of oil paints than from a $5,000 Cadillac. It took me a long time to realize this because of the simple fact that everyone else would get more pleasure out of the Cadillac and I had never heard anyone say anything to the contrary, and so I naturally thought that what everyone said had to be right for me also. It took me a lot of frustration and misery before I finally realized these facts:


Most people are useless and their only goals in life are to exist in comfort and to acquire possessions.


The limits of the horizons of most people’s minds extend to evaluating the T.V. Guide and the petty human affairs in the newspapers, etc.


The most important things in life to most people are the house they live in, the food they eat, the clothes they wear, and the car they drive. This is their whole life.


Karen, you are in this rut where you don’t belong because you are a thinker and not an exister. If I could only make you see these things that have caused me so much misery to become aware of and enlightened to. There is nothing worse than a thinker living in an exister’s rut and not being aware of it. The exister is perfectly happy in his little petty material world, but the thinker is in constant misery. I know that you have to achieve some stability first before you can start living as you were meant to live engaging in intellectual pursuits. I also know that the one thing that you are lacking that prevents you from achieving some stability is genuine affection. 


I know that you have never received any real affection in your life and that you are basically a very affectionate girl. I think that not having anyone return the affection that you wanted so badly to give has caused you to build a real armor plating about yourself and that you try to appear on the surface as being emotionless so that you can’t be easily hurt. I could be very wrong in all this, but I don’t think that I am.


I hope I am not getting too personal and writing anything you will resent. It is just that I am trying to get closer to you and want to be your close friend. I think that I could get close to you better than anyone else because we have so much in common. Of course, it is more difficult to really get to know each other by letter than it would be if we were with each other. When I write I can’t tell what mood you will be in when you receive the letter and whether or not you will even be in the mood to read it.


If we were talking in person, we would know each other’s mood and talk accordingly. We could probably know each other better being together and talking for a few hours than writing for months. Of course, writing letters also has its own advantage in the fact that some things that you wish to say can be thought about and said just right. 


Well, it’s about midnight now and I have to go to work tomorrow, so I’ll continue this letter later on.




It is Saturday now, about 5:00 pm. I went to work this morning and when I got home at noontime, the material that I ordered from the Museum of Modern Art had been delivered. I received a book entitled “Yves Tanguy” that has about 60 prints in it, and also a print called “Mama, Papa is Wounded” which was the only one of Tanguy’s available. The book has 8 color prints in it and the rest are in black and white. 


The color prints are a big disappointment. They are on beautiful high-gloss paper, but they are all off-color with a domination of red tones that don’t belong there. I can tell that they are inferior color reproductions because they are slightly fuzzy from poor alignment when the colors are printed in successive stages. The single print that I ordered is also one of the color prints in the book and you should see the difference in the same picture. One, the high-quality single print has a blue-green hue to it and the one in the book has a reddish hue. There is also a print in color that I have already in my Surrealism book and the same discrepancy is present. The difference is drastic and I don’t think I should paint any of the other color prints because I won’t have an accurate reproduction to work from. 


I guess that this book was originally intended as a monograph of Tanguy to be used in conjunction with the exhibition of his works that was displayed in 1955 at the Museum. All the prints are the ones that were on exhibition at the time. One thing I am very happy about is that under each print it tells what museum or private party it was borrowed from for the exhibition. I am going to write to these museums to see if any prints are available of those paintings that they have in their possession. I have finished two paintings of Tanguy’s so far and am half way through a third.


I got the surprise of my life last night. The owner of the Stage Door Lounge is a highly cultured individual who went to Harvard and he also likes Tanguy. I have become quite friendly with him and he said that he’d like to see what I was doing with all the prints of Tanguy that I was attempting to obtain. I dragged the two finished paintings down there last night to show him. He sat there for about five minutes just looking at them and the next thing I know he was shaking my hand and slapping me on the back and babbling that they were fabulous and that he wanted to take me into Boston to meet his artist friends and get me into their circle.


A friend of his there told me that I didn’t realize what I had done in capturing light and illumination. I tried to tell them that anything that I captured was purely by accident and that I don’t have any artistic talent but merely put a lot of hard work into it because I am obsessed by Tanguy. I always flunked art in school because I never had any interest in it. I am inclined toward the sciences not the arts. Bonnie was there too and she was also shaking my hand and saying that Artie would like to strangle me if he ever saw those paintings. 


This is very bad, because if I ever get it into my head for a minute that I could be a big success in painting, from that moment on I would never touch another brush. As long as I know in my own mind that it is not talent but merely hard work, then I can keep on painting. I find I can build a painting just as I would build a precision mechanism - by plenty of planning. Thought and work, that is probably why Tanguy appeals to me, as he was a slow, meticulous craftsman. 


You mentioned in your letter that you would like to try to paint. Listen, Karen, if you see anything in the way of paintings that sends a thrill down your spine and you can’t take your eyes off, then by all means try to paint it. Don’t go into it half-heartedly just for the sake of trying to paint because you will have no motivating force behind you and will probably become very discouraged.  I wish you would get the Surrealism book from the library and see if you like the four Tanguy prints in it as they are the best ones of his that I’ve seen yet. You may not care for him at all, but if you do, I’ll get you copies of all the prints and books of or about him that I am able to obtain for myself.


I see that you are a girl that is quite font of sports. I’m afraid that the reason that I’m not fond of sports is because of all the creeps that I’ve always found associated with them. Did you ever look and listen to all the idiots in the stands at a boxing match or a baseball game? It is enough to make me sicker than I already am. When I was in high school, I played football and loved it, but I always have a tendency to overdo everything and in my second year of football I just about broke my back from playing too hard. 


I also became quite fond of weightlifting while in Walpole and also overdid that and really injured my sternum and ribs last June, and it still bothers me. In fact, I quit smoking because of the chest pain and now I realize that it is my weightlifting injury that was causing it. I got some x-rays taken last week but they can find nothing broken, so it is probably something in the cartilage that is amiss. I guess it won’t heal right because I can’t break myself of the habit of sleeping on it. Now that I think back about weightlifting, I realize that I liked it so much that I actually convinced myself in my own mind that all the creeps in weightlifting were good guys simply because they were weightlifters. When I now think about all the crude, ignorant n- and other disgusting types I had to associate with if I want to engage in this sport, I get sick. 


One sport I always loved was fishing. I used to spend most of my spare time when I was younger fishing in secluded spots like the reservoirs where there were no other people around. I would be there all night sometimes and enjoy every minute of it. I see that you are a basketball fan. I never cared for basketball, but my brother is a real champ. In fact, all I have to do right now is look up and some of his trophies are starting me right in the face. Every so often I get obsessed with a sport, but right now I am not interested in associating with groups of people. In fact, there are only two or three people around here that I even care to talk to for any length of time. The rest I say hello to plus a few words of small talk and beat it.


Karen, I am so glad that you have told me more about your life because now I know a lot more about you. I love to read what you write about yourself, so please keep it coming. I also hope that you have a picture to send me because I want to be able to picture a real girl that I am writing to. Now as I write there is no picture of you in my mind, and it is quite depressing.


I had intended to write you more about my past life up until the present time, but I got sidetracked and will have to save it for a future letter. I wanted to say a lot more to you, but it looks as if I won’t have the time today so I’m going to mail this letter now. Be a good girl and take care of yourself, Karen.


Love, Joe.



April 13, 1963 (Saturday)


Dear Karen,


I received your letter today and believe me, what a relief it was to hear from you and know that you are all right. I’m glad your letter came today because I had promised myself that if I didn’t hear from you by today that I was going to send you a letter and ask you to please tell me why you weren’t writing. I was afraid that you had either decided that you didn’t care to write to me anymore or that something had happened to you. I sent you a telegram because I was worried sick about you and couldn’t get you off of my mind. I didn’t realize how attached to you I had become until I didn’t hear from you for so long. I asked myself what reason there could be that you wouldn’t care to write to me anymore and suddenly I realized something. Karen, I am a real creep. 


I think that I have been trying from the start to convince even you that I am something that I am not. I know that I have always had an inferiority complex and have never felt that anyone could possibly be interested in me as I really am. I have always felt that I must keep up some sort of a pretense in order to hold anyone’s interest. I guess that I am somewhat of a phony myself, just like the ones that I so despise. I am certain now that I have given you the wrong impression of myself. I realize that a girl with your intelligence would have seen through me sooner or later. Didn’t you ever realize that some of my letters had a slightly phony ring to them? I didn’t know myself that I was being phony at the time because I was not able to look at myself as I can now and admit certain things to myself. It was only within the last month that I have started to develop a new outlook on things. 


For five years, before I was in Walpole, I had the twisted outlook of the drug addict. When I was in Walpole and off of drugs, I could only remember the world as I saw it through the eyes of a drug addict, so my hatred was carried and magnified through two years of prison. This makes 7 years altogether since I was 17 that I have had a distorted perspective. I have only been out of Walpole for 2 ½ months, and during the first month and a half I carried along on my old line of thinking. During the last month, I have started to realize certain things. I have finally realized what my drug addiction and my fanatical hatred of people all hinged on. I think I wrote you once that when you analyze your own motives and actions that it is very difficult to admit many of them to yourself because they are embarrassing to your ego.


I knew for a long time that just being different from most people was not reason enough to have such an intense hatred of them. But I used this as the reason because it was the most convenient. The real reason, I know now, is based on the fact that I am really soft-hearted and easygoing. I have never had the ability to say “no” to anybody, and people were always taking advantage of this fact to use me. The people that I used to associate with all had the conviction that it was necessary to use people and, as you know, even in business and industry it is a dog-eat-dog affair. I just cannot do this sort of thing under any circumstances, even to my worst enemy, and because everyone else I know could, I developed the belief that being soft-hearted was a degrading weakness. I could never admit that by my own standards, I was weak. Now I know that my standards were not true and it is not a weakness at all. The answer was not to hate everybody because some used me, but to simply stay away from the some. 


I guess that my inferiority complex also stems from the same cause. Do you know what an inferiority complex can really do? For instance, to tell you the truth, the reason I really started painting was because I felt so vastly inferior to Artie and was so insanely jealous of the fact that he could paint that I drove myself to become obsessed with painting so that I wouldn’t be inferior to him. It seems that most of the fields that I have been in were entered for similar reasons. How much pleasure do you think you can get out of a really enjoyable field when you enter it with these motives? So many pleasures of life are ruined in this way. 


You know, I’ll bet that it would have cost thousands of dollars by psychoanalysis to have found out about myself what I have just written. I actually would prefer to do it by myself because it has much more meaning.


Karen, do you understand me a little better now? I had to tell you all this because I would never have been able to be really honest and sincere with you if I didn’t. I am able to tell you all this because I think that you are soft-hearted too. I wonder if you have had the same experiences that I have with being used by people? I feel so sorry for you because nothing ever seems to go right for you. You are such a wonderful girl and deserve much more out of life than what you are getting. I think up until now that I have been trying to carry on a platonic love affair with you, but I have made a mess of it because I was being phony. Would you like to start over again and this time do it right?


Now that I feel so good about telling you all this, I am going to be really honest with you. You have fascinated me ever since I started to correspond with you. I suppose I was being phony because I thought that you would lose interest if I wrote just being myself. A lot of girls fascinate me when I first come in contact with them, but it usually wears off very quickly. I have been corresponding with you for about 9 months and have never been more fascinated by you as now. Instead of wearing off, it keeps getting stronger. 


Karen, I want to thank you for these two beautiful color pictures you sent me. They are the nicest surprise I’ve had in a long time. I want to tell you that I love your appearance. I think that you are a lovely little doll. I really have never been so fascinated by a girl’s looks before either. Do you know that you fit into these settings in Griffith Park so perfectly and so naturally that I am amazed. Other girls just don’t do that. You have a clean, fresh, sparkling outdoor quality about you. That is very rare and beautiful. I wish that I had the experience to do both these pictures in oil paints, and when the time comes when I think that I could do you justice, you can bet that I am going to try.


I hope that you will send me some more pictures of yourself shortly. Please don’t wait until you have one that satisfies you because I will love any picture of yourself that you might send. I also would like to see that picture of the sunset that you wrote me about.


Karen, I just thought of something else that I have never told you and it is that I love your name. I have always loved two names for girls and they are Karen and Linda. I always used to go out of my way to get dates with girls named Karen. But they always proved to be a big disappointment. I’m really so glad that your name is Karen because I love to say it and I love to write it.


I have been writing for several hours now, and it is about 7:00 pm. I had to work this morning and I didn’t have my usual ball at work because I didn’t get home last night until four o’clock in the morning. I feel sorry for the girl I was with because she has to work until 8:00 tonight. We were at a birthday party in Beverly and we went with Bonnie and her sisters and some more of their girlfriends and some of their dates. I never cared that much for parties, and the people at this one were just too sickening for words. None of our group from Lynn cared for them, so we took over a few rooms in the house and had our own private party.


I am going to another party tonight as soon as the girl I’m going with gets out of work. I am looking forward to getting to real scream out of this one because it is being held by a guy that she works with who fancies himself a self-styled beatnik. I have to start getting ready now so I will continue this letter tomorrow.




Well, today is Sunday and it is 1:00 in the afternoon and I have just gotten up from bed. I got home at 3:00 in the morning and I couldn’t have cared less because I didn’t have to work today and could sleep. This party wasn’t too bad at all. It was held in a beautiful [woopie?] cellar in a house in Danvers. There were only about 12 people there, which made it nice. 


I found the beatniks very amusing. The only term I can think of to describe them is “domesticated beatniks.” They are the type of people who think that the lives of beatniks and hipsters are so glamorous and exciting that they want to try to be like them. If they only knew how miserable the lives of those people really were, they would probably change their minds. At least, though, the people at the party had a certain degree of dignity and were pleasant to be with, and didn’t play rock-n-roll music. 


I’ve had my fill of the rock-n-rollers parties after the one a few weeks ago in Boston. Bonnie’s brother has just finished his first year of college and his friends in school had a party in an apartment.  I went with the same girl I was with last night and we felt like we were babysitting. There is nothing like a bunch of college idiots to really make one sick. That was really a night now that I think of it. I was never so insulted in my life when one of the aboriginies asked me if I was a cop. I told him I wasn’t, but he wasn’t satisfied and started asking me who I came up with and who I knew, etc. I very politely informed him that I owed him no explanation and would he kindly get lost before I sicked a squirrel upon him. I guess when I dislike a party, I have a way of walking around as if I’m contemplating buying the joint and could easily be taken for a cop. 


It was at this same party that I happened to be walking past the bathroom and I saw Bonne’s sister Sally standing at the sink, loaded as usual, having just taken a razor blade out of the razor and about to slash her throat with it. I hit her with a flying tackle from halfway across the room and thought I broke her stupid little head. Sally is a nice kid when she’s sober, but a little monster when drunk. I really think that I can spot an alcoholic temperament a mile away and suspect that Sally has one. I took her to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting a week ago, just so she could see what it is like, I told her. Of course, she didn’t consider herself as belonging there and was merely an observer, so she said. At least now if she ever gets to the point where she really needs help, she knows where to go.


The girl that I am keeping company with went to the meeting, too. She doesn’t need AA, but just came along to see what goes on. I would like to tell you about her, Karen. She is a cute blonde named Nancy and is the same age as you. Actually, she and I have very little in common and our interests are different. I guess the attraction is just that we feel at ease with each other and can talk together and enjoy it. Of course, when we talk together, we are not talking about anything that is a mutual interest or problem, but we each can learn something from the other about our makeup. 


This girl is so good-natured and sweet that it is really a shame. I know guys have led her on and used her, and she is just too trusting to see through them. I really could not bear to hurt her, and have made sure that we both understand that we have little in common and are not suited to each other, and what is between us will never go any further than an affair. I hope so much that she will eventually find someone who is suited to her and will be good to her.


Karen, I really didn’t know that Bonnie was not living up to her obligation to you. To tell you the truth, I have been just as disgusted with her lately as you are, she has really changed in the last few months something terrible. I know that she is emotionally unstable and probably can’t help herself. She seems to be getting more and more irresponsible and reckless and uncaring. I cannot even really talk to her anymore and have quit trying to make more than casual conversation with her. I hope that she snaps out of it soon and gets back to being the girl she was. 


I really shouldn’t be talking about her like this, but I feel that anything that I say to you will be held in strict confidence because I trust you. I am not going to even try to find some excuse for Bonnie’s not meeting her obligation to you because there is none. It was so good of you to try to help her when she needed help, and now you are in the middle. Do things like this always happen to you, Karen? Please don’t lose faith completely in everybody because of them, there must be a few good people in the world somewhere.


I hope now to start painting seriously again. For the last few weeks, I have not been able to do much of anything because I was so worried about you. After the first few weeks of not hearing from you, I began to anxiously await a letter each day, and when it didn’t arrive, I was so depressed that I just couldn’t do anything. Of course, you had no way of knowing how I felt about you because I never told you, but now that I have, I hope that you won’t wait so long before writing again, or if you ever decide that you don’t care to write anymore for any reason, I want you to write and tell me so. At least now I have your phone number at work and I can get in contact with you.


Karen, you have probably noticed that I have sent you some money. I don’t care what you do with it as long as it makes you a little happier. It makes me mad to think that when you really needed help in January and were so miserable because of lack of funds that I was in no position to be able to help you because I was still in Walpole and had no money, and even the first few weeks that I was out I had no funds. I could not even bring myself to tell you how much I wanted to help you then because of the simple reason that I couldn’t help you.


Well, Karen, I am going to close this letter now and get it in the mail. Now please write back soon because I can’t wait to hear from you again.


Love, Joe.


P.S. I really can’t stop looking at these pictures of you. Oh, do you fascinate me. Please send me more as soon as possible. Karen, I know that you wear glasses and I would love a picture of you with your glasses on because I know that you will look wonderful with glasses.



April 24, 1963 (Wednesday)


Dear Karen,


I received your letter today and I am sitting down tonight to write this letter to you. I have so much to say to you that I know I won’t finish it tonight as it is already 10 o’clock now.


Karen, this letter that I have just received from you means more to me than any other letter that you have ever written to me. To explain why it means so much, please let me start from the beginning.


As you know, Bonnie started us writing to each other because she had a feeling that we were well suited to each other. When I was first told about you, I have to admit that I was at a total loss as to what to make of you. I was told that you liked mathematics and were studying drafting and played chess, among other things. This really floored me because these are things that girls are not usually interested in, and I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of a girl you were because I have never come in contact with any girl like you before. Actually, I thought that it was too good to be true to find a girl that was inclined toward fields like this just as I am.


I was really a little afraid of you at first, as I am of most people who are familiar with an intellectual field that I know nothing about. Really, Karen, I can meet a person and know something about a dozen fields that he knows nothing about, but if he is familiar with just one field that I know nothing about, I immediately feel vastly inferior to him, and if I feel inferior enough, I will become obsessed with this field and work in it like one possessed just so that I won’t look to bad next to him. If someone tells me that I can be a big success in this field, then my interest in it suddenly drops sharply, because the original motivating force of feeling inferior is gone. 


Do you understand this? Oh, I really shouldn’t ask you if you understand this, because I know that you do. Karen, with you, the simple fact that you played chess, and I didn’t, made me feel inferior to you. The interest in mathematics and drafting I could take because I was very familiar with these fields. Maybe this had a lot to do with the way I became obsessed with chess and worked at it day and night.


Anyway, I pictured you as sort of a brain with legs and wondered how I could possibly hold your interest. You are right when you say that I was writing you as if each letter to you might be my last if I didn’t say what I thought you wanted to hear. You see, I never wanted to get to know a girl so bad in my life, and in order to get to know you, I tried to be everyone else but myself. I’m really glad that you were able to see this in my letters, because it shows me that you do understand me. 


I wrote you letter after letter, and I just couldn’t get through to you or get close to you. Karen, you’ll never know what I went through in the way of frustration and anxiety because I couldn’t get through to you. Your letters always came back the same—impersonal and on the cold side. You told me a lot about your physical life, but nothing about your emotional experiences and how they affected you. I knew that you weren’t cold as you appeared to be, and I was sure that I understood the reason why you appeared as you did. I suspected that you were basically soft-hearted like myself and that people had taken advantage of this and used you. I also suspected that you have been hurt in a love affair as you have just told me. 


You see, Karen, the way you appear on the surface is your suit of armor against life, just as narcotics was mine. I guess it looks as if we both became as we are for just about the same reasons. Do you know how much you are hurting yourself and what you are missing out of life by being withdrawn? It doesn’t have to be this way, as I am just beginning to find out. The answer is very simple, but yet it is not simple. You must find people amongst whom you can be yourself without fear of being used or taken advantage of.


For a long period of years, I was just like you are, Karen. I dared not let anyone get close to me because once they did, my protective shield of standoffishness was down and I was defenseless against their wishes, and could be used almost at will simply because of my nature. It may appear that this is a terrible type of nature to be born with, but in reality, it is really a wonderful nature if you are amongst people of your own kind. I have found these people of my own kind in Alcoholics Anonymous, and I really love being at the meetings because they are the only place where I can really be myself. 


Karen, we are both the same age, or rather, I am a year older than you, and I wonder if you have been affected by being used and hurt for as long as I have. I think that I first started to withdraw into a shell when I was about 17 years of age. It has taken a long time to start to come out of that shell, and much effort. The key to the whole thing is an understanding of yourself. It has taken me two years of constant thinking to begin to gain an understanding of myself, and it wasn’t easy. 


The first step in the whole mess is to take an honest look at yourself. Everyone pictures themselves as they would like to be, and not as they really are, and one of the hardest things in the world to do is to destroy your own image of yourself by being honest with yourself. Once you can say to yourself, “I know what I really am, now let’s see why I am as I appear to be.” Then the battle is half over. Karen, I think that the simple fact that you yourself realize that you appear cold and shy on the surface really means a lot. I’m glad that you also realize some of the reasons why you are as you are.


Karen, the reason that I love this letter that you have just sent is because now you don’t appear cold anymore. I can actually feel what you are writing now, whereas before, there seemed to be a wall between us. You say that sometimes you really try to figure yourself out and that you don’t know if it can be done alone. Won’t you please let me try to help you understand yourself? Don’t you know that you can gain more understanding of yourself from someone who is like you are than through psychiatrists or analysis who only attempt to act as a friend anyway?


I hope that you can bring yourself to accept me as a real friend without fearing that I will use you or hurt you. I realize that it may be difficult for you to allow anyone to get close to you, but I want you to really try.


Karen, it is getting real late now and I am going to stop writing until tomorrow.




Well, it is tomorrow, Thursday that is, and I want to finish this letter tonight. If I mail it tomorrow morning, I doubt if you will get it Saturday, but it may be possible.


Karen, you asked me in your letter if I have ever been in love. You can’t possibly realize how difficult it is for me to answer this question with a yes or no. How can you say yes or no to a question until you are sure what the question means? In order to answer your question, I must first resolve what the word “love” means. (Don’t think that I haven’t been trying to resolve this question for a long time). A person may love his mother, he may love his wife, he may love his children, his dog or his car or so many other things. These things are not all the same, and immediately we can see that the word “love” is vastly overused and means nothing definite in itself. We can see that it can mean anything from being pleased with an object, to many degrees of emotional feeling toward a person or persons.


I’m really glad that you asked me this question at this time because I think that I am very close to understanding exactly what the “love” of which you are speaking really is, and I’ll tell you why. I think that I have mentioned to you before the fact that I am quite friendly with the owner of the Stage Door lounge. This man’s name is Hughie. Hughie went to Harvard medical school and is really one of the most intelligent and knowledgeable men that I have ever met. Hughie and I are quite friendly and spend a lot of time talking together. 


Last Saturday night, I was in the lounge and began talking with Hughie at about 10 o’clock. When the place closed at midnight, he invited me to stay with him and continue our conversation. He and I sat at a table in the semi-darkness and talked until 5 o’clock in the morning. We went so dep into subjects that I think we both had headaches when we finally left. Hughie is about twice my age and has had so much more experience that I have in many things that I really respect what he has to say. 


Well, anyway, one of the subjects that was brought up and several hours spent discussing was “What is love?” After this discussion, I think that I have a much clearer picture of the exact nature of love. The word “love” is used so much and so freely in songs, books, movies, etc., that most people just take it for granted that it is just something that exists and that you “fall into.” They never think about what its exact nature is. 


You see, Karen, the nature of love is not an easy thing to resolve because it is so complicated. Hughie told me that he spent three years of his life in order to resolve what a “sense of humor” was exactly, so you can see how long it might take to resolve what “love” is exactly. I’ll try to tell you in a nutshell what we did manage to resolve.


First of all, love has many different degrees. It can vary from a fondness to something which is the pinnacle of all things. It is this latter “love” which is the important one, and it is very rare. Many people think that they have attained it, but they really haven’t even come close. Love in this form is a complete giving of one’s self unreservedly to another. Both parties are only interested in giving, and by giving, they are able to take. What they are able to take is an emotional experience which can only be motivated by giving. When one has attained this degree of giving of one’s self, he is utterly and completely defenseless. 


Now, there is something about a person’s makeup that just will not usually allow himself to become completely defenseless under any circumstances. There is always just that little bit of himself held back. The smaller this bit held back is, the greater is the love. The reason that this little bit of one’s self is held back has to do with pride. You probably have heard the expression “There is only one sin and it is the sin of pride.” You see, it is pride that is what prevents a complete giving of one’s self. Pride is therefore the enemy of love. I know this from my own experience because there were times in the past when I really wanted to tell a girl things and give of myself to her, but the terrible fear of being rebuffed or not being responded to caused me to hold back because of the possibility of injured pride. 


Another point which I have been trying to resolve but I can’t really get anywhere with is this: What if two people reach the point where nothing of themselves is held back in the giving of themselves, or to be more accurate, that the part of themselves held back is so infinitesimal that it can be considered not to exist, because really it is always there to some degree. Has this ever been achieved? If it has ever been achieved, then what was the result? Was it a complete merging of two minds so that they could almost be considered as one? This would seem to me to be the apex of love.


So you see, Karen, knowing what I know now about love, I realize that I was never really in love, but only wanted to be in love, and have never found the girl with whom this attainment of love was mutually possible.


Another point which I forgot to make is that higher degree of love is really a growing together. As time goes on, more and more of one’s self is given and the love becomes stronger and stronger until, for all practical purposes, it may be considered to reach a peak, at which time the part of one’s self held back is very minute. With most people, this works in reverse. As time goes on, the love gets weaker and weaker because they are giving less and less of themselves. One very sad part of love is the fact that two people may really give of themselves to each other, but the love doesn’t work because they are not suited to each other to begin with.


Have I helped you to understand love a little better, Karen, or did you already realize all this?


Karen, you told me that you have had one experience with love and got hurt, and as a result of being hurt, you keep yourself from getting involved with anyone and appear cold so that you can’t be hurt again. Don’t you realize what a terrible dilemma you have put yourself into while thinking that you were doing the right thing? How many years have you deliberately kept yourself form getting involved in the very thing which I know you want more than anything else in the world? A thing like this can really tear you apart inside, and I think that it has been doing just that to you. This probably has a lot to do with why you have been so unstable and couldn’t settle down anywhere. You were looking to be in love, and at the same time keeping aloof from it for fear of being hurt, all because of one experience that wasn’t truly love to begin with. Now I really know why you are so unhappy.


Karen, I would like to tell you something now. I have never before had as much emotional deep feeling towards any girl as I have towards you. I can really honestly say that I love you more than I have ever loved any other girl. I know that I am not happy unless you are happy. When you are depressed in your letters, I also get depressed. I really feel that you are a part of me. I just can’t stand to see you unhappy, and I love to do things that please you and make you a little happier.


Karen, I would like to ask you a serious question. Do you think that it is possible that we have enough in common, and are well-suited enough to each other, to eventually attain a love like that of which I spoke and get married? Perhaps you think that this would be impossible and have good reason for believing so, but I can’t know until you tell me. Will you please think about this? I realize that we have a lot more to learn about each other, and that many things could go wrong, but it seems to me that if we really are perfect for each other that we are foolish if we don’t do something about it.


I’m really pleased that you’re so happy with your new bowling equipment, and I can hardly wait to get the picture of you with it. I’ve sent you some more money in this letter, and I would like you to use it to buy some of the things that you need or want. Maybe you can use a few new clothes. I have a feeling that you have been depriving yourself of a lot of things in order to pay your bills, and I don’t like this. If you need a few new clothes, I wish that you would buy them because I want you to look pretty. 


Karen, from now on, every time that you send me some color pictures of yourself, I am going to send you some money. I know that I am bribing you, but you need the money and I need your pictures. I really want barrels of pictures of you because I love them. 


I would like to keep writing, but it is after midnight, and I have to go to work tomorrow, so I’ll close this letter now by saying that I love you.


Love, Joe. 



May 8, 1963 (Wednesday


Dear Karen,


I received your letter yesterday and I don’t plan on going out at all tonight, so I’ll probably finish this letter tonight. I was out quite late last night, so I came home after work today and went to sleep until about 8 o’clock. It is now a little after 9 o’clock, so I have plenty of time to write.


I really enjoyed reading your letter, and I really respect your ability to think. I don’t run into many girls who have a real ability to think, and it is nice to find one whom I can consider as an equal and actually feel good about the fact that she is an equal. I know that most men shy away from girls that they can’t outthink because they like to feel superior to a girl. To me it is very important that a girl be an intellectual companion, and she can only be this if she is an equal.


I see that you were up until about 2 a.m. Monday morning finishing that letter, and I hope that you weren’t too tired in work. I know that when I’m up this late on a working day that by the time I leave work, I am pretty tired and usually have to sleep for a few hours after work if I want to go out at night.


I don’t know where you got that clipping called “Lifetime of Love,” but it was wonderful. I’m glad that you took the trouble of writing it to me because it is very meaningful. It really surprised me to find that a lot of what I wrote you that Hughie and I discussed about love was contained in one way or another in the clipping, because when Hughie and I discussed it, we did it spontaneously without drawing upon other people’s ideas and just using our own thoughts and experiences.


You say that you have only known two people who were really in love. Up until recently, I had never known anyone whom I really considered to be in love, and I was quite disgusted with marriage in general as I looked upon it as one year of bliss and forty years of toleration. After meeting Hughie and his wife, I realize that it really doesn’t have to be this way. These two people have a wonderful relationship and she is a real intellectual companion to him. I really wish that you could meet them because I know that you’d like them as I do.


Karen, you seem to get the idea that I send you money every so often to try to make you like me better. This is really not true at all, as the reason behind it is simply that I think so very highly of you that it pleases me to be able to do something for you that will please you. Every now and then I have some spare cash that I think you could put to better use than I could, and so I like to send it to you.


I know it may seem odd to you, but there is some reason that I must do something for a girl who is like me in order for me to be happy. Up until recently, this was just a feeling and not a well-defined reason, and I couldn’t understand it at all. Now the reason is clearer, but still not perfectly clear. In order to try to explain it to you, I would like to tell you about a book that I have just read, or rather, about one sentence in that book. It’s funny how sometimes you can read a book and you will get so much out of just one sentence or phrase I the book that the reading of it becomes very worthwhile. I’ll have to give you a rundown on the story in order to put this sentence into context and have it mean something.


This book was given to me to read by Hughie a few weeks ago. He suggested that I read it because it was a first novel by a brilliant new author named Goldman and was very similar in style to an author named J.D. Salinger of whom I believe I wrote you before. This novel called “The Tower of Gold” is controversial as it is misinterpreted by those who seek to give it a lewd interpretation. It is really just an honest look at life pertaining to today’s restless, insecure generation, and anyone who does a bit of thinking about things will see it as such.


Well, anyway, the title of the book, “The Tower of Gold” has an allegorical meaning that may be recognized by some readers and not by others, depending on what they are trying to get out of the book. The title is taken from a scene in the book where the two main characters, who at this time are young boys about 13 years of age, run away from home and are in Chicago. Having nothing better to do, they go to a movie and see the picture “Gunga Din.” In the picture, the boy Gunga Din, who was a mere servant to the British Army in India, is killed while in the process of saving the British Army. 


The way that he is killed is that the British Army is attacking an Indian stronghold and is walking into a trap set by the Indians. Gunga Din is in the stronghold and is aware that the British are marching into a trap. He obtains a bugle and manages to get to the highest tower in the stronghold, which happens to be the Tower of Gold. He is shot several times while climbing the tower, but manages to get to the top and blow a bugle call to warn the British Army before he dies.


Later in the book, the two main characters are in a bar (the two boys are named Zock and Euripides), and Euripides is drunk as he has been drinking heavily for some time due to a broken love affair. Zock, who is brilliant and is going to Harvard, talks Euripides into coming into his car and tagging along on a date with himself and his girl. As they are driving along, Euripides, in a fit of drunken fervor, slams his foot on the gas pedal, and the car gathers speed and goes out of control on a bridge and plunges into a deep ravine. Euripides is thrown clear before it goes over, but Zock is killed. Just before the car went off the bridge, Zock shouted to Euripides, “Find the Tower of Gold!”


Euripides blamed himself for Zock’s death, and Zock’s last words to him constantly tormented him. Euripides tried to escape himself by joining the army, but was constantly tormented by the memory of Zock and the “Tower of Gold.” An accident got him discharged after a short time, and he found himself being drawn back to his hometown.


Now at this point I should tell you what I have interpreted the “Tower of Gold” to be. I think that it means a “purpose in life” or a “meaning to life,” as climbing the “Tower of Gold” to save the British Army put a great meaning to the life of the lowly servant boy, Gunga Din.


In Euripides’ hometown is a college that he was attending at the time of Zock’s death, and he is quite friendly with a girl named Harriet in the school. Harriet is very fond of Euripides and is quite close to him. As it turns out, Euripides marries a girl who really leaves much to be desired. Upon running into Harriet on the street, Harriet asks of him “Why did you marry her? Anybody else but her I could see! Why didn’t you marry me or someone else?”


Euripides’ answer to her is the one thing in the book that really meant something to me. It was “I didn’t marry you, Harriet, because you are there. I married her because I can help her.”


You see, Karen, Euripides was a very unstable and confused individual. He found that the way in which he could stabilize himself and achieve happiness was to try to help someone else. This to him was his “Tower of Gold.”


I think that the only way that I can achieve the same stability and happiness is to become so interested in a girl and so absorbed in her that I don’t even think about myself. The only problem is finding the right girl. You seem to think that I am a bit impatient about settling my life and getting married, but I’m really not. All I’m trying to do at the moment is to find the right girl. I don’t want to make the mistake that most people do and get married to someone to whom I can never achieve a real love with, and have a marriage that will just “work out.”


I wish that Nancy had your ability to think. If she did, she would be perfect. I’m just beginning to realize what a wonderful person she is, and it kills me to know that we are really not suited to each other enough to be married. She is an intelligent girl, but she doesn’t like to think deeply about life because she is afraid to. I know that she and I have exactly the same temperament, and that is why we get along so well.  We are together just enough so that our likenesses attract tremendously and our differences don’t repel. I wonder if this is why a lot of marriages fail? Two people may only see enough of each other to be aware of their likenesses and may not become aware of their differences until they are together all the time after being married. I suppose that’s something to think about anyway.


Nancy is going to Florida Friday for 10 days with two girls she works with, and I’m really going to miss her. Now that we have become so fond of each other, she doesn’t want to go, but the plans were made with her girlfriends quite a while ago, so it wouldn’t be right if she didn’t go. I think that she and I are really doing each other a lot of good. She is the type of girl that just doesn’t know how to be phony about anything. I can be nice to her and do things for her without fearing that she will use me for a sap. I think that you would like her very much if you met her.


Before I forget, I would like to answer your question as to where River St. is. It is the street that runs parallel to the Saugus River, down near the Main Gate of the General Electric Co. I don’t know if you have ever been down to Polish Beach in Lynn, but it is right at the end of River Street.


Karen, I intend to tell you about my family and more about myself like you asked, but it’s very late now and I won’t be able to write tomorrow, and I’d like to mail this letter tomorrow morning, so I’ll write about these things in my next letter to you.


I hope that you’ll send some more pictures in the near future, because I am looking forward to getting them.


Goodbye for now.


Love, Joe.



May 14, 1963 (Tuesday)


Dear Karen,


I received your letter today and I am writing you a reply right away. I am so happy with your letters lately because I have waited a long time to start getting letters like these from you. I admit that there were many times in the past when I felt that it was futile to be writing to you as I was getting nowhere as far as getting through to you was concerned, and really felt that it would be better to discontinue writing than to go on being constantly frustrated by getting nowhere. I didn’t give up because I just seemed to instinctively know what you were really like, and that you weren’t at all as cold and unemotional as your letters made you out to be. 


Perhaps the reason that I just seemed to instinctively know the real you was because your letters reminded me so much of myself as I used to be. Up until a short while ago, I had always found it impossible to show any real feeling or emotion or to get close to anyone. I always found it necessary to appear cold and unemotional as sort of a protective shield. Karen, it was because that you seemed so much like me that I felt it was so important to get through to you and get close to you.


I am really a very emotional and sensitive person as you are and I know that suppressing these emotions did a great deal of harm and made me miserable and neurotic all my life. I found that the only answer is to get close to someone, or several people, that you can trust and that are like you are. I have been able to get close to several people in the last six months, and this simple, or really not so simple, fact has made a complete change in my life.


You know, Karen, I do not write so much about my emotional experiences and feelings and thoughts to you just because I like to write about myself. I have a good reason for doing this and it is that if you are really like me, as I am almost positive that you are, then by telling you about myself, I can help you to understand yourself. My experiences can be very valuable to you as they can be almost like looking into a psychological mirror and really seeing yourself and gaining self-understanding.


I told you before that I would like you to let me help you to understand yourself, and this is one of the ways in which I think that I can do it, so please don’t think that I’m being vain or egotistical if I rattle on about myself and talk of emotional and psychological experiences and the reasons why I think that I felt a certain way or acted a certain way, etc. Besides helping you, this sort of thing also helps me at the same time because it makes me feel good to be able to explain myself to someone and have them understand what I am saying because they are like I am. Of course, if you are really not like me, then everything that I say will mean nothing to you and will not help you much at all. There are billions of people in the world, and every one of them is different in makeup, but some of them are very much like others, even if not exactly.


Maybe these people that are alike are few and far between or perhaps they are numerous, but I really couldn’t say. Look at it this way; if there were 2 billion people in the world, one billion males and one billion females, and each male had his counterpart, as far as psychological makeup was concerned, in a female, then the number of people that were alike would be very numerous as far as pairs were concerned. But out of 2 billion people, how many of these pairs would possibly find each other? If a real love was attainable only between each of those matched pairs, then there would be very little real love attained because it would be so very difficult for these pairs to find each other.


Of course, this is only hypothetical speaking of pairs like this, as actually some types of people may have thousands of counterparts, while other types may have very few in the world. But still, no matter how many counterparts there may be, it still is a problem to find yours, because how many people can you meet and get to really know in a lifetime? Before you can really know a person, you must get through his defenses and get close to him before you can really know him. This takes time, sometimes much time and sometimes a very short time, but how much time will it take to find your counterpart is anyone’s guess, because it is a hit-or-miss affair. Most people never find their counterpart and end up with a marriage that is workable but not a real love. These people can be very happy together, but can never even come close to attaining a blissful happiness that a real love can bring. 


Don’t mind me for rattling on like this, but I like to look at things from all angles and if I happen to have a pen in my hand writing to you when these things strike me, then you, I am afraid, are stuck with reading them.


Karen, it just occurred to me that I would like to find out if you are like me in one certain way. Do you really have a sense of humor and love to laugh at things, but find it necessary to keep up a façade of seriousness when around people in order that you can stay aloof from them? Keeping my sense of humor suppressed is the thing that has always killed me, because I think that many things are hilarious and see so much humor in things that no one else thinks are particularly funny that people are liable to think that I’m a real nut if I let them see this. I really love to act silly and childish with a girl at times, and I find it nice to be with a girl who is the same way, because it can be really enjoyable.


Maybe you have never been with a guy with whom you could act like a little girl with and have him love it, but did you ever feel that this is what you would like to do at times? I think that it is so enjoyable to be able to talk to a girl at times as if she were a cute little child, but two people have to be very close to each other in order to do this and feel natural and enjoy it. 


I really haven’t yet figured out the exact reasons why I found it necessary to never laugh and always appear serious in the presence of people, but I am getting over it now. I remember for years people use to ask me if I ever smiled, and I guess I was this way to keep up a front. I really have a rare group of people in work because I can laugh and joke with them all day long and feel natural and happy about it because I like them and they like me. I have never before found a group of coworkers like this that I can be myself with and actually like them. 


As for my boss, everyone thinks that he is a real tyrant, but I think that he is the funniest thing that I have ever seen. I guess that I just look at things differently than other people. Karen, really, what is life without laughter? I am just beginning to realize how important humor is and I like to be around people now that I can laugh with.


Karen, I’m really surprised at the way your letters affect me now. How I ended up writing to you tonight, I’ll never know. You see, Saturday, Hughie and I went to an exhibit of Surrealism at Harvard University, and afterwards went shopping for prints at a Boston bookstore. We went to this exhibit because a Tanguy original was being shown, and I have never seen one before. I have not done any painting for the last month and a half or so, and was afraid I would never regain interest, but after the exhibit and buying of prints, I was so enthused that I came home and began a picture that fascinated me. 


I am the type that just cannot sit down and paint anytime. I have to have a real desire from within to paint a picture because I want it, and while I am painting it, the picture is all I think about or live for. I started this picture Saturday and worked on it all day Sunday and Monday after work until 2 o’clock in the morning. I have not even shaved since Sunday because I didn’t want to waste precious minutes. I had thought that if I got a letter from you that it would have to wait to be answered until after I finished the painting, but it didn’t turn out that way. After I read your letter, I forgot all about the painting and just had to start an answer right away. I wouldn’t have believed that anything could drag me away from that painting, but your letter did it. I guess that you are really more important to me than I thought.


Karen, I don’t think that it’s crazy as you seem to think because you wait for a letter from me five days after you write or that you were thinking of me reading your letter Tuesday. I have been doing this with you for a long time, and there have been times when I have been very disappointed for weeks when I didn’t hear from you. I’m really glad that you tell me things like that because it makes me happy to know that I am close enough to you to have you tell me how you feel. 


By the way, I was reading your letter about 5:45 on Tuesday, so if you were thinking about it at 2:45, we were together. Wait a minute, I don’t know if you are on Daylight Savings Time or not like we are, and that would make a difference if you’re not. I hope that we were together anyway. I work until 5:30, so I don’t get a chance to ready your letter until about 5:45.


Karen, I really feel now that I am close enough to you to be able to always be perfectly honest and sincere with you, and really level with you about everything and not feel awkward about anything that I write that is really the way that I feel or think. I really have something on my mind that is worrying me, and I would like to tell you about it. It concerns Nancy. 


Nancy and I are closer and more intimate than many people are after 20 years of marriage. This is a real dilemma because I am not in love with her as I look at love. You said in your letter that you really don’t know someone until you live with them, but this may not be the case. You know yourself that you can meet some people and feel that you knew them all your life. After a few dates with her, I was so close to her that it was unbelievable. You see, I instinctively knew and understood her just as I instinctively knew and understood you, because you both are very much like me. You are much more like me than she is, and this is probably the main reason that I cannot really let myself love her. 


Before I came in contact with you and Nancy, I had never really been close to any girl before. I had never gone with any one girl for more than a few weeks at a time, and I used to go with one after another until I got tired of not being able to find one that I could get close to and just concentrated on filling my arm full of dope and forgot about girls. 


I really cannot now understand how I can be so close to Nancy and still not be in love with her. All our friends think that we are insanely in love, but it is not so. It really has all the earmarks of love. When she is with me, I am very happy and when we are apart, I feel miserable. We are always trying to please each other and be nice to each other because we both know how the other feels and thinks. It is really a mutual giving of each other, but it is still not love as I see it. We both can be perfectly truthful about everything, and only think of each other and never feel awkward about anything in each other’s presence. It seems that to all appearances that we were made for each other, but how come I’m not in love with her? How can I have such intense emotional feeling toward a girl and still not consider it love?


I know that I could never find anyone that would I be happier with unless it was you. I already feel more emotion for you than her, and I haven’t even met you yet. The thing that I am very worried about is this: I am very afraid that I am going to end up hurting her, and I can’t stand the thought of this. When I first started going with her, I made sure that we both understood that I wanted us to be very close companions and not to get all tangled up with each other. I don’t think that she understands this anymore. 


She is in Florida now and will be back Saturday. I’m going to have to have a real talk with her, and I dread the thought of it if she is going to be hurt. I know that I am an emotional slob and I am very conscious of her feelings. It would hurt me more than her if I hurt her. I’ll bet that if I had met you before you left for California that I wouldn’t be in this emotional mess now. I really only looked for a girl here because you weren’t here, and I would have to run into one that was almost perfect for me. I know that I could give myself completely to you, but I can’t to her because I know that you are more like me than she is. 


Poor Nancy is so happy now that she actually makes me happy, and it has only recently occurred to me that she is so happy because she thinks she has found someone that is right for her. I really don’t know what I’m going to do. I wouldn’t want to stop seeing her because we are so happy together that it would make us both miserable to part, but if we keep on, when it comes time to part, it may break her heart. 


Now I wish that this had never happened, and it only happened because I didn’t have you here and I needed somebody. I guess I’ll just have to try to make her understand that it can never go any further than a wonderful love affair, but this may not be easy. I really could cut my throat! I wanted to tell you this because I wouldn’t feel right holding it back from you.


I’m happy to see that you are so absorbed in your bowling because it is good for you to have an interest like this. I really wish you all the luck in the world in your leagues.


I will try to get some more pictures to send you. I should have had Nancy pick up some colored film for the 10 second Polaroid camera in Florida because that is the only place I know of where they sell it, but it didn’t occur to me to ask her. I want to send you some color pictures as soon as I can get some taken. Please send me some more of you soon.


It is now 1:30 a.m., so goodbye for now.


Love, Joe.



May 21, 1963 (Tuesday)


Dear Karen,


I received your letter today and I can’t think of anything that I’d rather be doing tonight than writing to you, so I guess I’ll stay home and write all night. It is only about 7:30 now, but it will probably take until after midnight to finish it due to the way I write. When I write to you, I write some pages rather quickly, and others take hours because I put a lot of thought into them. It actually amazes me that I can stay home at night and write to you because before I was in Walpole, I can never remember one night since I was 15 when I stayed at home, unless I was in bed dying from the plague or something. I can even remember nights when major hurricanes and blizzards were in progress that little Joey was fighting his way down the street to nowhere.


I could never stay at home because I always had the feeling that I was missing something and that whatever it was that I was looking for was certainly not at home. Don’t mind me, because I am just reminiscing those miserable years during which I don’t think I ever relaxed for 10 minutes. I was really so nervous most of the time that it was horrible, and I often wondered how anyone could feel so horribly uneasy and nervous all the time and still want to live. 


I would go someplace after leaving the house and after 5 minutes there, I would again feel that I was missing something and that whatever it was that I was looking for was someplace else, and I would have to get up and leave and really hurry to some other place where again, the same thing would happen. It was only recently that I have been able to stay at home at night occasionally, either when I’m obsessed with a painting, or writing a letter to you.  I still find it impossible to stay at home and read a book and I have to go down to Hughie’s place in order to read. 


I realize now what it was that always seemed missing, and that I was always looking for. It was nothing more than a girl with whom I would want to stay at home with. To me, it would be like finding gold to find a girl with whom I would feel so complete that I would never feel a desire to leave the house at night as long as she was there. I guess that this is what I really want most of all. 


If I can stay at home and write a letter to you without feeling that I’m missing something, I really wonder how you would make me feel if you were here with me. Maybe you don’t realize what a big thing it is to me to just be able to stay home and write to you and actually not want to be somewhere else. Now maybe you can understand a little better why I am so interested in you even though I have never met you. You make me feel something that I have never felt before, and I just can’t treat this lightly.


Karen, your mention of comedy movies just made me realize something. When I was in my early teens, I used to love to go to the movies and see such comedy movies as those starring Abbot and Costello or Bob Hope or Laurel and Hardy, etc. Now I can’t stand the damn idiots and don’t care if I ever see another comedy movie again. As far as I am concerned now, Bob Hope is a creep, and Sid Caesar can drop dead, and Abbot and Costello would look better hanging from trees. 


I liked your use of the word “spontaneous” in reference to comedy, because it means something to me. Sometimes in a movie, something calculated to be funny will strike me as being hilarious because it seems spontaneous and, ever more important, it seems like something that I would say spontaneously in the same situation. Maybe that’s why the people in work seem so likeable to me. They seem to have natural spontaneous senses of humor, and can always make me laugh just by them acting natural. 


Do you know that a lot of the things that you write strike me as being cute and humorous and I know you are not deliberately trying to be funny? You say that people tell you that you have an English sense of humor and you don’t know what that is. Karen, an English sense of humor is a way of being humorous while seeming dead serious and not really saying anything humorous, but saying it at such a time and in such a way that it seems hilarious. The first example of an English sense of humor that just popped into my mind is this:


“I heard that you buried your wife last week.”


“Yes, had to; dead, you know.”


This is kind of a sick joke and maybe it doesn’t appeal to you, but it illustrates the English humor. I have always been nuts over the English sense of humor, and I can remember in school I had a mathematics teacher named London, and I used to look forward all day to his class because I thought he was hilarious. No one else thought so but me, and I used to have tears running down my face almost every class. He never smiled or said anything funny, and I can’t really explain why he struck me as being so. 


I can remember one thing that always used to have me holding my sides, and when you think about it, it isn’t even funny. If someone happened to be craning his neck to get a look at someone’s paper about two desks up the aisle, London would say “Maybe if you got an eye on the end of a stick you could see his paper better.” He said it very seriously, and no one thought it was humorous but me, and I would be in stitches for about five minutes. You know, Karen, even though you seem to be a serious girl to everyone, you just might strike me as being a riot because I am very attuned to English humor.


I’m glad to see that your bowling is occupying so much of your time. You don’t seem depressed to me now since you have become so enthused with bowling now. Please keep up the good work and don’t lose interest because I want to see you enjoying yourself.


I have sent you a picture of myself that I remembered that I had. This picture was taken when I was about 18 years old. I don’t know if you know anything about fishing or not, but those fish are fresh water bass. They are really of record proportions for this state, and what amuses me is the fact that I can get 9 or 10 of them that size every year between from the middle of May and the end of June. I can get them right here in Lynn at a secret spot that only myself and a few others know about. This spot is in a reservoir in Lynn, and the water is at the right height only between the times that I have already mentioned.


The reason that I remembered that I had this picture is because Sunday, I went down to Polish Beach (it’s really only at the end of my street), and I met an old friend of mine whom I talked to for quite a while. We happened to bring up the subject of fishing, and we both knew of this spot and decided to go together there soon. You would never really guess in a million years who I am going fishing with. I am going fishing in the reservoir with the game warden. If this isn’t humorous, I don’t know what is. I told him that I’d go with him if he promised not to arrest me for fishing without a license and fishing in a reservoir. 


Do you know something that may seem odd to you? Never in my life have I ever got a fishing license even though it only costs a paltry two dollars. Also, I really don’t want to go fresh water fishing anywhere unless it’s illegal to fish there. This really has something to do with being true to my own way of thinking, and maybe I can explain it to you. 


Have you ever seen a picture in the Lynn paper of the opening day of the fishing season where all the “fisherman” are lined shoulder-to-shoulder along the banks of Sluice Pond in Lynn? This is always one thing that makes me sick to my stomach every year. Here is a group of good little citizens with their little fishing licenses stuck proudly in their caps having thus merited the honor of standing shoulder-to-shoulder like a good little herd of domesticated sheep (just like they do everything else), and being “allowed” to catch monstrous six-inch trout and nine-inch bass, which have been stocked in the pond “especially” for them. 


Can you get the drift from this of why I would never buy a fishing license? I just don’t want anything to do with the herd of sheep and their small, petty ways. When I go fishing, I want to be the only one on the pond, and don’t want to see another human if I can help it. (By the way, how come this sheet of paper is bigger than the rest? I just noticed it.) I get a real laugh every year around opening day when I see some sappy “fisherman’s” picture on the front page of the paper with his prize winning 2-pound bass that he heroically fought to shore amidst the cheers of the throng, and I think of the 6- and 7-pound bass that I get every year at my spot and never let anyone know about. 


I don’t know if you know Lynn Woods very well or not, but my “spot” is in the Breed Pond reservoir way down in the last cove by the golf course. I used to spend a great deal of my time all alone down there at night in the summer. My friends through I was nuts when I would have them drop me off all alone in the middle of the woods at night with my fishing rod and flashlight, and I would not see them again until the next morning. 


Karen, If I could only describe to you what I felt in those woods fishing at that pond! It was so quiet that you could actually hear yourself think. The water glowed with a beautiful iridescent luster, and you were completely alone and had the feeling that you were the only human being in the world. The golf course running close to the cove had an appearance of a beautiful, flowing landscape at night. Another little cove running off of the big one is lined with weeping willow trees and creates an image of nostalgic beauty in the shadows. The stillness of the water with the steam rising eerily from it is occasionally broken by the splash of a fish rising, and the ripples spread with flowing grace.


This is one of the few places where I was really at ease and happy. But I wasn’t completely contented and happy there because there was still something that I longed for, and it was a girl who would want to be there with me and enjoy it as much as I did. I never had a feeling of completeness there because I never had a girl with me to share it with. If I had ever suggested to any of the girls that I was going with then that they come along with me, they would have thought that I was out of my skull. They really didn’t belong there anyway. 


Karen, I know you were raised on a farm and in the pictures that you sent, you look like you really belong in those settings in Griffith Park. I get the impression first from the way that you look that you would feel at home with me in the place I have just described. You don’t look like a girl that belongs in the city. Do you think that if you were here with me that you would really enjoy spending evenings with me fishing and relaxing in this beautiful spot? I have not been there for years, and I know that I would not feel really right there again unless I had a girl with me who really wanted to be there with me.


I inquired at a photographic supply store a few days ago and found that color film for the Polaroid Land Camera will be available in this area on the 28th of this month. I will have some color pictures to send you in a week or so. Please try to get some of yourself for me.


The art exhibit that I told you about closes the 31st of this month and I will get color film on the 28th, so if I can obtain a special permit to photograph several of the paintings that I wish to reproduce I will be very pleased. Since the pictures are developed in 10 seconds, I can compare the colors right on the spot.


Nancy and her girlfriends are extending their stay in Florida until Wednesday night and so I won’t get a chance to talk with her until Thursday. You seem to think that I may eventually fall in love with her, but I am afraid that that would be impossible. She and I have the same temperament, but our minds work differently. To me, love must be a joining of two minds to be the real thing, and with her, this can never be. I can be extremely fond of her without having to be in love with her. She and I are really perfect companions for each other, and should really stay together until one of us finds someone who is really right for them. 


I received a letter from Nancy yesterday that really disturbed me. She told me that she called her mother Friday and her mother told her that her uncle works in the General Electric Co. with my father, and my father told him all about me (boy, do I hate big-mouthed fathers). I guess that Nancy’s parents are real citizens and they have watched enough television shows to know all about drug addicts and convicts. When I called her house the other day to see if she was back, I wondered why the reception seemed so icy. I guess I know now. 


In her letter, Nancy wrote that she doesn’t know what will happen when she gets back, but that if I want her, she won’t give me up for anybody because she thinks that she loves me. Karen, really, do you know how it makes me feel to have a wonderful little doll like Nancy who will even go against her own parents for me, and yet I can’t even tell her that I love her because it wouldn’t be the truth? I hope that I can talk to her and make her understand without hurting her. What started off as a wonderful companionship is really now getting quite messy. I understand why you say that you wouldn’t like to be in either her shoes or mine.


Karen, when I am writing to you, I have to admit that I miss things in your letters that I really should comment on. You see, I start off replying to things you say, and I get carried off on tangents and before I know, it is one or two o’clock in the morning, and I put the letter into the envelope to mail. The next day when I read your letter over again, I often find things that I really should have commented on, but missed completely.


When I looked over your last letter again, I realized I really should have written you about one thing that was at the end of the letter. You told me about how different you are from the majority of girls your age, and how you eat lunch with the married ones so that you won’t have to listen to things that make you sick and make you feel dumb. You mentioned certain morals of life that you can’t shake out of you, and you feel square and can’t bring yourself to stoop to levels of girls around you. 


Karen, I get the impression that you have never really had a real sex education, either experience-wise or otherwise. I feel that if we are really going to mean something to each other that it’s up to me to discuss these things with you if you want to. Maybe both your morals and the base people around you have given you the wrong impression of sex. Sex is really something that is so natural and beautiful when with someone that you have feeling for that it is a disgrace the way that it is made into something obscene and dirty by the stinking rabble that know only animal instinct. Maybe the morals of life that you have been brought up with are really not right for you. 


Most people never reach the degree of maturity where they are able to think for themselves and they must be protected by a stereotyped code of morals. Everyone is different, and one code cannot be right for all, but when you’re dealing with idiots, it is the only way. I would like to help you to evaluate your moral code and help you see if it is really right for you, or is it right for controlling a herd of unthinking sheep? 


I would like to discuss with you my ways of thinking on matters of sex, virginity, the nature of marriage, morals, etc. You may agree or disagree with the way I think, but we really should discuss it. This will probably take several full letters to do, but will be well worthwhile for both of us. If this is what you would like, let me know in your next letter, and also write me a little about your code of morals and who bestowed them upon you, and how you think they have helped you or hurt you.


It is very late now, so goodbye for now.


Love, Joe.



June 24, 1963 (Monday)


Dear Karen,


I know that it has been over two weeks since I received your letter, and I am very sorry that I couldn’t answer it sooner. I have always answered your letters right away, but I had good reasons for waiting until now to write. Something happened about a month ago that put me into a very upset and worried state of mind. I really can’t even write to you in a letter what it was all about, and I would have to be with you and talk to you in order to tell you. It was not what you would consider terrible in the legal sense of the word, but could better be described as a difficult personal situation. As long as this situation existed, I found it impossible to write to you and put the thought or give you the attention in a letter that I would normally want to.


The situation was resolved yesterday and turned out just fine. If it didn’t turn out the way it did, I was going to have to write you a letter and explain to you that I could not write to you any longer and tell you why. This would have been purely a matter of personal ethics on my part and would not have meant that I didn’t want to write to you. I don’t mind telling you that you mean a lot to me and that I am overjoyed at being able to resume corresponding with you.


Before I begin to answer the details of your letter, I would like to talk to you about something. Karen, I have always wondered if you and I might just be right for each other. You have a lot of qualities about you that I really like, even though you may not be aware that you seem much different to me than most other girls.  You are a very sincere girl and your mind seems to work pretty much like mine. I know something now that I wasn’t too sure about before, and it concerns the old “opposites attract” routine. I had, myself, believed that it was best to have someone who was like you were, but a little while ago I had my doubts. 


When I first started going with Nancy, I can remember Bonnie telling me how glad she was to see Nancy and I going together because we were opposites and could do each other a lot of good. She said that she thought that it was not too good to have someone who was very much like yourself, and she told me about herself and Artie. It seems that she and Artie are so much alike that it used to cause them to really hate each other many times, and she didn’t really know why. She said, for example, that if one of them might be depressed, that the other might start to hate the one depressed instead of trying to cheer him because the other would know why he was depressed and would feel guilty about it, because the other would also be depressed in the same circumstances and might hate him, especially if it was something that either one might be ashamed to be depressed over.


This didn’t make too much sense to me at first, but caused me to wonder if it were bad to have somebody very much like yourself. Well, anyway, I think that I have settled the thing now, and here is what I think: If a person does not understand himself, he will hate many things about himself that he considers weaknesses or character defects, etc. If he marries someone like himself who does not understand herself, then each will see in the other the same things that they hate in themselves and may end up hating each other at times. I think that this was the trouble between Bonnie and Artie, and neither one realized it.


I believe that if two people who are alike understand themselves and don’t hate themselves, then they will never hate each other, and will have a wonderful relationship. I have learned a lot from Nancy as far as opposites are concerned, because she and I are exact opposites. She and I get along very well, but in ourselves we really have nothing for each other. In other words, if it came down to being alone together for a long period of time, then we could not possibly be happy together because we think differently. I wanted Nancy to arrive at this conclusion by herself, and she has.


I could see this from the beginning, but she couldn’t, and the reason I wanted her to see this by herself is so she wouldn’t be hurt by me telling her so when she thought differently about herself and me. We are still going together, and I even get along wonderfully with her parents and am over her house quite a bit, but we both know that we are never going to get serious because it wouldn’t work.


One thing that I realize now is that the important thing is not so much mutual interests, but it is thinking alike. Two people may not have mutual interests, but if they think nearly alike, then each is bound to become interested in the other’s interests eventually.


Karen, I remember in one of your letters that you told me that you would be back here around next April or so, and that we would meet each other then. Karen, I really want to meet you as soon as possible, and I hate the thought of having to wait until next year. I would like to get you out of my system either one way or the other, and that means either finding that we are right for each other and doing something about it, or finding we are not right for each other and forgetting the whole thing. It might be possible that I can get out to California to see you next month during my vacation, but I’m not sure. If I can make it, then there is nothing that I would rather do. 


What I want you to tell me is whether or not that there is any reason that I should not come to see you if I can. For all I know, you may have met someone last week whom you are going steady with or are engaged to, and in that case, there would be no sense in me coming to see you. There could be other reasons, too, but I can’t know until you tell me. I have wanted us to meet each other for a long time, and have even thought of offering to send you the money to come back if you wanted to, and taking care of you until you found a job. 


I realize that something like this really wouldn’t be fair to you because you are settled in California and enjoy it there, and since we have never met each other, we really don’t know how we are going to get along together. Of course, if we didn’t take to each other, I would have financed your way back out to California again, but you would have gained nothing. 


You know, Karen, I was pretty frustrated over you a few months back, and was going to make you this offer, but something stopped me. Do you remember a letter you sent me in which you told me about a certain dream you had? In this dream, you found yourself back here and didn’t know how you got here, and you were continually crying throughout the dream because you were unhappy and had no way of getting back to California and were trapped here.


I asked myself, “Could it have been me that brought her back here in this dream, and then something happened to me that left her trapped and unhappy here?” Of course, your dream may have had nothing to do with the offer I was going to make you, but it did serve to change my mind, because I realized that if you came back and something happened to me, then you would be trapped here. I never even told you that I wanted to bring you back here, but instead I sent you part of the money, over a few weeks’ time, that I had started getting together in case you wanted to come back.


I guess that the only practical way for us to meet soon would be for me to come out to see you if I can. Karen, right now the thing I want most in the world is to meet you and find out whether or not we are well suited to each other. I am looking for someone who is right for me, and you are looking for someone right for you. Finding this person is the only thing important to me, and until I do, nothing else has much meaning. Once I find this person, I can only then become settled enough to relax and stay and home and pursue interests that I have always longed to but have been unable to because I have never had anyone to share them with.


Karen, do you ever feel that you are incomplete by yourself and that part of you which is missing is to be found in someone else? I don’t try to kid myself anymore that I don’t need anyone and am independent. I know that I will never be really happy, or you either, until each of us finds someone to love and be loved by. I really hope that it can be each other.


Karen, I showed those pictures that you sent me to Sally Baker, and she says that you look wonderful. She thinks that you look like you have put on some weight. I don’t know how you looked back here in Mass, so I wouldn’t know by the pictures if you had put on weight or not. Those pictures were taken in February, and I wonder if you have gained more weight since then? I remember Bonnie telling me about how you used to try to put on weight back here, but never seemed to be able to. Maybe you are a little more contented in California and are able to gain weight because you’re not so nervous.


Well, Karen, it’s starting to get late now, and I would like to answer a few details of your letter. You probably don’t even remember what you wrote by now, but I’ll try to refresh your memory. I see that you’re really going all out with bowling. I can see why you cut down to three leagues. I guess four was just a little bit too much. I’m glad that bowling is keeping you busy and in a good state of mind.


I’m pleased to see that I helped you to recognize your English sense of humor for what it is. You seem a little confused as to why you have an English sense of humor, but yet hate English movies. Well, let me tell you that the two have no connection. I can’t stand serious English movies because they are the dullest, driest, most boring and monotonous entertainment ever placed upon movie film. English comedies are a horse of a different color, though. They contain the same type of humor that I have described to you. One of the best that I have ever seen was “The Lavender Hill Mob.” You really should see this one for a rare treat.


Karen, I really like your sense of values and morals as far as sex is concerned. I don’t know where you got the idea that I’d probably disagree with quite a bit that you said. Well, now that I think of it, I really didn’t say too much about how I felt about sex, but it is pretty much the same as you have written. I don’t think too much of girls who will go to bed with anyone just for the pleasure of it, but I don’t knock a girl who will make love with someone whom she likes, because I think that this is a natural thing to do.


If the two people are fond of each other and each is trying to please the other more than himself, then the act is really beautiful and wonderful. You’d be surprised how much pleasure one can derive by trying to please and satisfy one’s love partner instead of trying to satisfy one’s self. 


Karen, I get the impression from one of your letters that you were naïve as far as sex was concerned, but I guess I was wrong. You don’t know how right you are when you say that the person means more than the enjoyment of sex with that person. You also realize that the novelty of sex will soon wear off if there is no real love involved between the two partners. Karen, perhaps you feel out of place in California with your way of thinking about sex, but please don’t let anyone change that way of thinking, because I think that you have character. (I’m glad to see that your 50-year-old satyr friend at work hasn’t been able to buy you off). Please keep on being a good girl, Karen.


Goodbye for now, and please write back soon.


Love, Joe.



July 10, 1963 (Wednesday)  


Dear Karen,


I received your letter yesterday and it’s so good to hear from you again after all this time. I knew you had moved, but I didn’t find out until after I had already sent my letter to your old address. I was with Bonnie on the eve before the 4th of July, and she showed me the gentle hint that you sent to her. I noticed the address was different and I wondered whether or not you had received my letter sent to your old address. If I hadn’t heard from you in a few more days, I was going to send you another letter. Bonnie seemed sincere about sending you a respectable sum of money, and I hope that she has or will. I know that you were dead serious when you wrote that note, but you have a way of being satirical to the extent that it struck me as being so humorous that I couldn’t help from laughing. I really love little things about you like that, Karen.


I want to tell you about something that is very disappointing to me, and it is that I cannot come out to see you. I called up my parole officer last week to tell him I wanted to visit California for a few weeks, and he came down to see me Monday. It seems that a short while ago they let a guy on parole go out there for a visit, and while there, the jerk got involved in a murder. I guess that killed anyone on parole from going to California for a while. He said that if I wanted to go to New York or Florida or anywhere else to just let him know and go, but California was out. I guess now I’ll just have to wait until you come back here next year to meet you. I guess I really didn’t mean what I said in the last letter about either meeting you now or forgetting the whole thing. I couldn’t possibly forget you. 


You said in your letter that you wished that I might like to live in California someday. If it were up to me, I would come out there tomorrow to live there and be with you, but the fact that I am on parole prevents this. Actually, the parole that I have is really a picnic. When I was in Walpole, I dreaded the thought of being on parole, but I really had no reason for this. All that they care about is that I’m working and not getting arrested. I see my parole officer every two or three months for a few minutes, and that is it. I just about do as I please, and the only restriction I have is not to leave the state. This presents somewhat of a problem that I would like to talk to you about. 


It is possible in this state for anyone on parole, no matter how long his parole is, to be released from parole after a year if he applies for a release and if the parole board votes unanimously to release him from parole. Needless to say, very few are released from parole on their own merits. It usually takes some arranging to do this. I will be out a year in about six months, and I am going to attempt to arrange a release. I think that I have the connection to do this, but you can never be sure about these things. Of course, it will cost me some money, but it will be well worth it if I can arrange it. Perhaps when you come here for your vacation and we get together, it will be possible for us to go back out to California together in a short while afterwards.


But, Karen, looking at the other side of the picture, suppose that I can’t arrange a release. That would mean that after we meet each other, I will still have about 2½ years to do on parole. If we find that we are meant for each other, what then? Do you think that you would be willing to stay here with me for that amount of time? I hope that we can work something out that will make you happy, because I want to see you happy.


Karen, now that I know that we won’t get together for a while, there are certain things that disturb me. The fact is that I am unhappy if I don’t have a girl to be with, and even if I have a girl, I am unhappy if she and I are not right for each other. I know that even if I found a girl here that I felt was right for me, the thought would always be on my mind that you might be more my type than she is, and I still wouldn’t be happy. I know that I will never be satisfied until I meet you, and in the meantime, I really don’t want to get involved with any girls because I want you. 


I probably won’t be able to help from going with someone for companionship, even though I won’t be happy with the relationship because it won’t be directed towards marriage.  I just have an uneasy feeling when I am going with a girl that I know I cannot love with all my being. I am not going with Nancy now, and I think that this is best. I am not upset over breaking up with her because I know that she is not being hurt and that she even thinks that it is advisable to break up. 


I feel much better about letting the girl actually want to break up because you know how girls are about romances in which the guy does the breaking up. A girl hates to lose face in front of her friends by having them think that she was rejected. If the girl thinks that it was her idea to break up, then she is happy about the whole thing. 


I guess that the main trouble with Nancy and myself was our different likes and dislikes. Nancy loves to have a good time by dancing and night clubbing. She loves rock and roll music and dancing to rock and roll and drinking at parties and the whole bit. To me, nightclub entertainment is my idea of nothing at all, rock and roll I don’t care for, and I’m really not interested in dancing or mingling at parties with half-stiff people. I really didn’t at all enjoy sitting in bars or nightclubs with her. 


I really didn’t feel right with her girlfriends, either. I suppose that they are just average, normal girls whose main interests in life are the clothes they wear, the color of their hair, the latest gossip in work, and the guys that they are going with, but to me they live in another world much different than mine. I really feel sorry for them because, to me, all they seem to do is exist without purpose. But they are probably happy with their way of life, and I guess that is all that matters. Since I wasn’t happy doing the things that Nancy liked to do, then I was only happy when we were alone together. This really isn’t enough, because two people should be happy doing things together.


Karen, another thought that upsets me is that because we won’t meet for a while, I’m afraid that you might meet someone in California that you will take to and I will lose you. If this happens, I can only say that I hope you will be happy. I would really like to be the one to make you happy, but if it doesn’t turn out this way, then that will just be the way things are.


Also, I am afraid of losing you because of something like that difficulty that I recently experienced that caused me to stop writing to you for a while. I don’t think that will ever happen again, but one never knows. You may have guessed that the difficulty concerned Nancy. Exactly what it was and how it was taken care of I couldn’t write in a letter, but I think that you are sharp enough to be able to figure it out. If you do figure it out, you will understand why I had to give her all my attention and couldn’t possibly even continue a relationship with you through correspondence as long as this situation existed.


In reading over your letter, I find a lot of material to discuss with you, and I hope that I have time to cover all of it because I would like to get this letter in the mail tomorrow morning. If I miss anything, please don’t feel slighted, because I probably won’t be able to see straight by the time I finish this letter.


Karen, with each letter I become more aware of your intelligence and perception. I really am proud of you because of your ability to think. What you are only lacking is the exact same thing that I am lacking, and it is the incentive to put all your intelligence to creative use.


You wrote comments in your letter pertaining to what I said about the reason that people who are much alike sometimes repel each other. You added to and completed what I wrote to you, and you did a wonderful job in a few paragraphs and in clear, simple wording that I really liked. In fact, you made what I was trying to tell you a lot clearer to me. I’m also happy to note that you had already figured out what the trouble between them was, and that you realized that you couldn’t tell her and that she’d have to determine it herself.


Karen, just as a point of discussion, do you think that if yourself and that girl you wrote me about that was so much like you were able to accept these so called “undesirable traits” in yourselves as not being undesirable but just being part of your makeup that you could accept and live with, that you both still would have hated each other?


I am really surprised and somewhat excited over what you wrote me pertaining to that dream you had several times. I am really wondering if it just might be possible that there may be something of the nature of extra sensory perception between you and I. What happened might just be mere coincidence, but I’ll explain why it also might not be coincidence.


I looked back to some of the letters that you sent me around March and April in order to try to recall the sequence of events, and I think I have them straight. There was a period of about a month, from about the middle of March to the middle of April, when I didn’t hear from you. Just before this time, I had really become interested in you and was entertaining the thoughts of meeting you. I think it was just about the time that I received your last letter in March that I thought of asking you to come back and sending you the money to do so. 


After I sent you a reply to your last March letter, I began thinking more and more about getting you back here. After a few weeks went by and I hadn’t heard for you, I began to get quite upset and frustrated and began constantly thinking about asking you back. By the third week I reached the point where my thoughts in this direction were very intense, and I was getting so upset, I was going to answer your next letter with a choice to you of either coming back here or terminating our correspondence because I felt that I either had to have you with me or I had to forget about you.


At the end of the third week, I sent you a telegram because I was worried about you. Another week went by of intensely thinking about you and getting you back here, and then I received a letter from you. When I got this letter, the realization suddenly struck me that you and I weren’t even really close enough to each other at the time for me to send you a letter like the one I planned to. I decided to wait until we had exchanged enough letters to really mean something to each other before I asked you. I wrote you back a reply along the lines of getting to know each other better and in your next letter, you told me about the dreams.


This is when I decided against asking you back. From then on, the thought was in my mind only once in a while, and not very intense. So now, to the best of my recollection, there was a period of about a month and a half, or a little more, when I had this thought in my mind. The period of about four weeks from the middle of March to the middle of April was when the thought was there constantly, day and night, and very intense. The periods of a few weeks on either side of this four weeks saw the thought there in my mind to a somewhat lesser degree.


You told me that you had this dream about a half a dozen times. What I would like you to try to remember now is whether or not that half-dozen repetitions of the dream occurred within a period of a month, or at the most, two months, with the largest number of dreams occurring within a month’s period of from about the middle of March to the middle of April? 


I realize that it may be difficult for you to remember, but maybe it will help you to think of the letter you sent me in April in which you told me about the dreams, and then try to think back from there as to whether the dreams were dreamed for the most part in the preceding four weeks. If they were, then this was the exact time when I was constantly and intensely thinking about you and bringing you back here. I’m sure that if this was the case, that it was no mere coincidence, and that perhaps there is something unusual and wonderful between you and I.


I’m really so pleased to see that you are going to real estate school. I understand what you say about the fact that you went to California to accomplish something, and you don’t want to come back until you do. I hope that this will be the accomplishment. I really am not at all familiar with the mechanics of real estate, and am not qualified to give you any advice pertaining to real estate. I really wish I could.


I would like to ask you about this deal with the broker who is going to sponsor you, though. I don’t quite understand it. You say you will make $100 a week under him, and then pay it back when you sell your first house. Does this mean that you will be selling houses whose sale has been transacted through him, and that you will be acting as sort of a salesman for him, or what? If you go into debt to him and don’t sell a house, what happens then? Is the $100 a week a salary, or merely a loan while you work for him? I really would like for you to write me about these things. 


If you pass the exam, will real estate be a part time venture for you, or will you quit your job and attempt to make a living through real estate? You had better be sure that you are on the inside of this real estate game before you take any big steps. You wrote me that you would be your own boss, and this is something that I would like to talk over with you. I have a feeling that you are a lot like me and so I’ll tell you about myself to see if you can see any parallels.


When I was either 19 or 20 years old, I was offered all the backing I needed to own my own tool and die company. I refused this offer after thinking about it because even then I had a halfway understanding of myself. I knew that the surest downhill road for me was for me to be the boss and to have no one over me. I am the type of person who is temperamental and does things on his own when the urge strikes him. 


When interested and obsessed, I will work like a demon, but when incentive is lacking, I will do nothing unless I have someone over me whom I have to answer to and whom I feel a sense of responsibility towards. The key to the whole thing is that I have no sense of responsibility towards myself and will not work and push for myself, but I will for someone else whom I feel a sense of responsibility towards. 


I know what it would be like if I had my own company. First, I might start off coming in 15 minutes late. Then I would come in ½ hour late for a while. Pretty soon, I would be graduating to taking the whole morning off and only coming in in the afternoons. The next thing I know, I would be bankrupt. The reason for this would be because I am my own boss. 


As long as I am working for someone else, everything is wonderful. Where I work now, I haven’t missed a day in 6 months, and I love it because I feel a sense of responsibility towards my boss. Do you think that you might be the same way? Suppose that you are able to take vacations whenever you want like you say in real estate. Do you think that perhaps these vacations will begin getting longer and longer, and the house-selling time begin getting shorter and shorter? I am not trying to discourage you, Karen, I am just trying to look out for your best interests. 


What I have said may not pertain to you at all, or it may, but you won’t admit it even to yourself, but I would like for you to think about it carefully. All it boils down to is that I am asking you, “Can you be your own boss?” I am really hoping that you can, and I want to see you succeed, but I also don’t want to see you make any mistakes. I like you too much.


Karen, it is very late now, and I still haven’t written all that I want to. I haven’t even finished commenting on all the details of your letter, but I’m afraid that I am not going to be able to do it tonight. I really could fill about six more pages with discussions of several more points in your letter, and I would like to do it in the near future if they are of more importance than the points in your next letter. I find so much to write about in your letters that I don’t know how I can ever cover it all and still say what I want to on each point.


I am going to try to get some more pictures to send you over this weekend, and I hope I succeed. I really would love to have some more of you if you can manage it.


I really hope that you will write back soon because I miss you something terrible when I don’t hear from you. Be a good little doll now.


Love, Joe.


P.S. Did you dig the fancy writing paper? Mother must really be getting extravagant in her old age.






















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