"For Grigori, I sold goat" -- A Christmas Mystery
December 14, 2010 10:49 AM   Subscribe

Did I get forwarded a letter from eastern Europe, or is this the most beautiful gotcha ever?

In the mail today was a totally bizarre letter. Obviously chewed up in the mail, and missing some pages, all I got with the last one. It is possiblly the most wonderful, genuine thing I have received in a long time. My address is clearly done with a printer, but the letter itself seems hand-typed with a blotty ribbon. the paper is crumpled, and coffee stained.

It begins.

"...so other than the problem with mule, it was good year. Poppa come home from hospital vit no spleen again. Last time doctor say no spleen but this time he got right.. Viktor make bed in kitchen du poppa und poppa always compalin about too much cabbage and greasy and too much smoking all the time. I tell poppa hey poppa you smoking too,like Russian car,you smoke, but poppa he just drinking Svedya and laughing and go pee pee in coal chUte."

The return address is from Romanian MidAtlantic Postage Recovery, 82.5 S. Cicero, Chicago. Underneath that it says "We're apologize for missing contents. Merry Christmas." It has a foreign ( I assume Romanian) postmark, with a US stamp placed over it. With a large ink fingerprint on front and back of envelope. There is no such address, nor is that company listed anywhere I can Google.

It seems sincere, and goes in in great, almost stereotypical cariacturish detail about family things -- "Viktor is joining army this year...is good work. He bringing home petrol for cooking and Marlboros from Amerikanjyks.We are looking forward to good Christmas this year. I got for poppa a pack of Pravda cigarettes still with the plastic and bread line ticket sealed inside. I have one match for each cigarette."

I would type the whole thing out, but that seem a bit indulgent, no matter how entertaining.

Anyway, has anyone in the postal world, or Chicago, or Romanian culture heard of this forwarding service? Is the anything about the use of language that would indicate it is somehow fake/does it seem too strained etc? While the return address says Romanian, something about it seems more Ukranian to me.

I swear if someone is screwing with me they have pulled off a masterpiece. I am split four ways on this; wanting to get it to its rightful recipient, keep for my own pleasure, get info on this mystery fowarding service, and lastly, getting it in Found Magazine.

The letter ends

"Well, sirens are insistent so we all going into basement again. I hope letter finding you well and good. May god be with you and please sending maybe a pack of Marlboros or DVD.

Merry Christmases
Olga Crzmikksics"

If you need anymore details, please ask. This has truly got me wondering.
posted by timsteil to Grab Bag (65 answers total) 230 users marked this as a favorite
I used to live in Romania and know what Romanian postmarks look like. Feel free to send me a scan of the postmark if you want and I could give you my take on it.
posted by jessamyn at 10:52 AM on December 14, 2010


no scanner, but it is a circle of words, pale red ink, 2" around, with 125 de (? - 2 ltr word underneath) Circle is filled with plus signs. Can only make out a few or the words in the circle "PRIMA ZLA EA"..."BUC ? ? MTI" 15.0? 2010"
posted by timsteil at 10:59 AM on December 14, 2010

somebody went to great lengths to troll you. There are 0 instances of "Crzmikksics" anywhere on the web, and if you sound it out, it sounds sort of like "Christmas kisses".
posted by cosmicbandito at 11:04 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Googling the surname "Crzmikksics" gives no results. I vote scam or joke.
posted by hazyjane at 11:04 AM on December 14, 2010

Jinx, cosmicbandito!
posted by hazyjane at 11:05 AM on December 14, 2010

You didn't register for Secret Quonsar, did you? No chance your Quonsaree has sent you the most marvellous SQ gift ever?
posted by DarlingBri at 11:06 AM on December 14, 2010 [11 favorites]

darlingBri ... No, and FWIW, the US postmark was yesterday in Chicago.
posted by timsteil at 11:11 AM on December 14, 2010

Wait, why are they writing to each other in English, but with kind of a spelled out accent?
posted by lacedcoffee at 11:12 AM on December 14, 2010 [19 favorites]

It sounds to me like the work of a brilliant artist/comedian -- possibly someone you know -- who wanted to make your day with a neat gift :)
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 11:12 AM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

no scanner, but it is a circle of words

Without seeing it, I can't really tell much. These names are not Romanian names, but there are lots of people of Russian descent in Romania.
posted by jessamyn at 11:15 AM on December 14, 2010

Map of 82 S. Cicero. Nothing there -- literally, it's an empty street corner.
posted by me3dia at 11:34 AM on December 14, 2010

It'd be great if you could photograph and post it somewhere. Sounds like a fun, unexpected gift!
posted by me3dia at 11:38 AM on December 14, 2010

paper is crumpled, and coffee stained

The whole thing is clearly a joke, but coffee stains are a classic way to artificially rough up a document.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:45 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I noticed you are a writer. Could this be linked to an upcoming book or movie release, similar to the boxes mailed out to bloggers for Coraline?
posted by SarahbytheSea at 11:58 AM on December 14, 2010

The more I read it, there seems to be a lot of disagreement within it the letter itself. Using perfect English in one part, then writing in "an accent" as lacedcoffee noticed, and talking about nuclear factories and breadlines, then Marlboros and DVDs. Plus it just seems to hash up too many American stereotypes of eastern Europe. If this IS a Xmas joke, I have been frickin humbled by the sheer effort and creativity involved, and owe someone a beer.

Regardless, for your reading, and possible re-pranking enjoyment, here is the full text.

"...so other than problem with mule, it was good year.

Papa came home from hospital vit no spleen again. Last time doctor say not spleen but this time he got right. Viktor make bed in kitchen du papa und papa always complain about too much cabbage and greasy and smoking all the time. I tell poppa hey poppa, you smoking too like Russian car you smoke, but poppa he just drinking Svedya and laughing and go pee pee into coal chute.

Viktor joing army this year and specializing in petrol patrolling. Him and Yadvik go on patrol in uniforms finding tourist and stopping them and removing petrol and fining. It is not hard work. Is good work. He bringing home petrol for cooking and Marlboros from Americanjyiks. Viktor has girlfriend Janya working on soccer balll factory making soccer balls. She is one putting Spaulding on balls you play soccer and you play Spaulding ball is like you touch her hand. I don't recommend touching her hand though as Viktor is very protective and we do not want to have to pay policia again. So best not to touch her hand. But soccer is ok.

Aunt YVania is living with us in parlour with Grigori. All the time with bitch and pencil penis is like watching cartoon from Americanj> Me and poppa in kitchen laughing like crazy and drinking Svedya. I go into living room and opening drawers and talking to self and YVania saying what do you need looking for? Why you cant say shush and I saying need a pencil. Just a little one -- Wait as minute, hey Grigori, you got a little pencil? Grigori turn like tomato and coughing like in old days at factory. Says shutting up old woman and I say no cabbage for you lkittle pencil. YVania getting better from losing leg. Maybe stop bleeding next week. Maybe get new leg made by Uncle Pitor from Bdsxt. Pitor make fake Louisville Sluggers for sale to little leeg in Amerikanja. Even have great big lathe to make all kinds of turning thing and he make leg for YVania.Even put Louisville Slugger burn into wood so maybe YVania more lucky when she come to Amerikanja. You put her in basement next to second cousin Jeppa from Minsk.

Grigori is having a good year in the ministry. His beard almost long enough to be priest and we selling the black goat to get for him the silver and ribbon for making his beard ornament to make him official and also make him better than that fat priest Osvaldt, always come by and drinking Svedya but never say hello to poppa because poppa one time win his Malkta in card game. He can eat whole pot of cabbage and chicken and beer and still ask for coffee and cake. Is ok, though, he is going to Philadelphia and Grigori will take his place. Old disease from Ukranian ministry to girls factory dorms is getting better but he must pay too much for palimony and fee for lawyer. Still,he is good man. I hope he gets out of bed this year.

Little Arnaud is musician now. I did not go to education so I am sometimes not so sure about classical music or bbusiness but Arnaud sometimes maybe too much like TV for me. His room is black,his bed; his clothes,black;hius hairblack; his floors and walls all paint black. He sit in room smoking cigaraettes and listening to headphones and making computer music no hears. Always tells me get out! get out! but with love. He play me song and I smiling and saying good good but I tell you it sounds like an argument between a vacuum cleaner and a train. Squeak squeak squeak then boom! boom! boom! and then sound of traffic and crickets and Arnaud screaming about his boots. I dont understand but I try to tell Arnaud nice things and maybe become famous and get tan.

Vilchik the dog is doing much better but missing so much intestine now makes for difficult days sometimes. I keep a bucket in the shed anbd he lay there and listens to warning sirens from nucklear factory all day. I come out and his tail thumping on garage floor and I use turkey baster and feed him and hold him over bucket right away and mop. he is good dog. Not too much for fetch, but for saying look there is the dog he is perfect.

We are looking forward to good Christmas again this year. I got for poppa a pack of Pravda cigarettes still with the plastic and bread-libe ticket sealed inside. I have one match for each cigarette. For Grigori, I sold goat, like I said, and Orvinis is making silver hoops from old Soviet coffee maker and Aunt Slvekyik is making ribbon from retread fabric from Romanian dual walled tyre. Very pricey. For YVania I make two blue babuska from rice bags and stole a magazine from the hospital and for Arnaud I am pretending I don't appreciate Christmas and for an hour I listen to his squeaky record and smoke and say right right right over and over. I think poppa giving me a handkerchief full of goat milk butter from Paschta. Her goat is very fat and the butter will be good and taste not too much from chemical from plant.

Well, sirens are insistent so we all going into basement again. I hope letter finding you welll and good. May god be with you and please sending maybe a pack of Marlboros of DVD.

Merry Christmases
Olga Crzmikksics.

posted by timsteil at 12:55 PM on December 14, 2010 [107 favorites]

I was just reading about an artist who sends "personalized" letters, begun in the middle, meant to cheer random strangers up. I cannot for the life of me remember where I read it. I was thinking the New Yorker, but I cannot find it.

But this sounds exactly like it... maybe someone else can track down the artist's name.
posted by lesli212 at 1:24 PM on December 14, 2010

That is by far the most amazing thing I have seen this year. Possibly ever.

Not too much for fetch, but for saying look there is the dog he is perfect.

posted by elsietheeel at 1:25 PM on December 14, 2010 [39 favorites]

No, maybe This American Life?
posted by lesli212 at 1:25 PM on December 14, 2010

lesli212No, maybe This American Life?

Actually, I have done a few NPR pieces, and have an in there. It was the first place I thought of doing something with it. But I love you guys too much not to share. Just dont be a fink and go pitch it before I do.:)
posted by timsteil at 1:40 PM on December 14, 2010

Please, if you ever do find out what this is - post it here on the green. You've got a lot of us quite curious!
posted by Sophie1 at 1:41 PM on December 14, 2010

There is zero chance this is an actual letter; the names give it away if the jokey phrasing weren't enough evidence. I too insist you post anything you find out about it!
posted by languagehat at 1:53 PM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

lesli212 - you aren't thinking of something like this, are you?


I remember when this happened I thought it was hilarious, but never acted on it.
posted by jpziller at 1:57 PM on December 14, 2010

For what it's worth "svedya" doesn't turn up anything much in google, while Svedka is a Swedish brand of vodka.

Arnaud is a French first name, not Eastern European at all. Osvaldt is a surname not a first name, and probably Dutch or Swiss or something (guessing from the 'dt' combo - that's not an Eastern European thing either). Paschta does not seem to be a name at all. Slvekyik returns no google results. Pitor seems to be a Polish variation on Piotr.

Literally the only reference that really checks out is Pravda cigarettes, which really is a Russian brand. Though I don't know why someone in Romania would want Russian cigarettes - the two countries don't even share a border and it doesn't seem to be a famous brand.

I know there's been a lot of Slavic influence on Romania over the years, but it strikes me as odd that every single cultural or regional reference sounds like it would be more at home in Poland or the Czech Republic. Nobody with a last name that ends in a 'u'? No first names that, when googled, turn out to be Romanian variants of anything?
posted by Sara C. at 1:59 PM on December 14, 2010

God I loved that. Please let us know if you figure out who wrote it.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:09 PM on December 14, 2010

> Arnaud is a French first name, not Eastern European at all

Seriously, don't waste your time on this; the names are complete bullshit. Janya, YVania, Americanjyiks, Amerikanja, second cousin Jeppa from Minsk, Aunt Slvekyik, Vilchik the dog? Uncle Pitor from Bdsxt?? Come on, this is on the same level as Mister Mxyzptlk.
posted by languagehat at 2:26 PM on December 14, 2010 [12 favorites]

jpziller - for some reason, your link isn't working for me.

I did, however, find what I was looking for: Love letters by Marian Bantjes. She's been sending them out for years, and I watched her TED talk.

So, this could be an ameteurish attempt inspired by her, or perhaps she's going in a different direction. I can't imagine her adding in fake bad grammar and engrish (or whatever the eastern european version of engrish is), and if she wrote the letters, they would be beautifully designed, as she's a designer.
posted by lesli212 at 2:26 PM on December 14, 2010 [5 favorites]

Oh and here's her TED talk - it's really good, I highly recommend it!
posted by lesli212 at 2:28 PM on December 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

It's certainly droll, but someone's clearly having a go, OP. If you want to continue thinking that this is some amazing serendipitous find that has landed in your mailbox because of a mixup at the Plovdiv post office, I'd stop thinking about it now, suspend all disbelief and just chuckle to yourself about the wonder of it all.

If you keep pulling at threads, it all unravels, and all you'll be left with is the question of who punk'd you.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:55 PM on December 14, 2010

I definitely agree that it's fake - the question I have is if it's a complete fiction or if it's personalised. Do you know any young adults at university who enjoy music and wear a lot of black? Anyone with an old dog? Someone with a beard who works for the government? Someone who works in some official capacity with a girlfriend who has something to do with sports or factories?

I'm more inclined to believe that it's a gift from someone who knew you'd appreciate it than a random surprise from a complete stranger. If so, then it seems more likely to me that they'd send you something with some kind of significance to you, rather than just a fabricated Romanian family. They've gone to a lot of effort so far - a little more isn't inconceivable.
posted by twirlypen at 3:57 PM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

If this is a joke (and I agree...it's brilliant!) could someone be trying to tie it to Chernobyl opening to visitors? Probably a stretch but mentioning the sirens from the nuclear plant made me think of it.
posted by MultiFaceted at 4:06 PM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Adm Haddock -- I wouldn't consider it getting punked at all. Anyone who would take so much time and effort to pull off something so sublime for my sake, is obviously an awesome person. I know a few people wonderfully twisted enough to have done this, the only thing that will drive me nuts is trying to figure out which one. I think the key is in the yesterday afternoon Chicago postmark.
posted by timsteil at 4:20 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have no idea who sent it or what it's about. On a hunch I started googling various combinations of westernized spellings of the names in the letter.

And, well, web pages about comedians kept trickling to the top (Patton Oswalt and Greg Giraldo especially). If this is some kind of promotional teaser about a movie or show they're in, though, there's no evidence I could find to that effect. Especially since Greg Giraldo died earlier this year.
posted by ardgedee at 4:42 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

this letter is so brilliant and hysterical, i don't know how anyone could possibly think for a minute that it is real. it is kind of funny to think of so many people googling such obviously fake stuff, though. kinda like being fooled by borat or thinking of planning a trip to slaka.

best present ever.
posted by timory at 5:05 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

And just to pile on, 82.5 s cicero isn't real address. (The map is wrong, monroe is 50 South, so the address would be between Monroe and Adams.

Look very closely at the postmark and see if it looks like it was drawn.
posted by gjc at 6:53 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Please, please scan this in and put it up somewhere.

In terms of the stamp, if this person is sending it to many people (maybe as an alterna Christmas letter), they may have taken the step of creating a fake postmark stamp.

I really think this is what it is -- someone has transmogrified* their annual Christmas letter. Think about people you know -- does anyone you know have a family similar in nature to the one described in the letter?

* This is a real word. I always thought it was a word Calvin had invented, but apparently it dates back to the 17th Century!
posted by Deathalicious at 9:49 PM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

@lesli212 and jpziller

I think this is the correct link: http://www.banterist.com/archivefiles/000528.html
posted by wei at 12:42 AM on December 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Aside from the notion of using personal details the recipient would recognize, this sounds exactly like that project. Down to the Eastern European location and the references that seem vaguely outside time.
posted by Sara C. at 12:57 AM on December 15, 2010

Wow, that banterist link is ridiculous -- so many details about the prank on offer that it will pop up high in the most cursory google search.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:12 AM on December 15, 2010

OP, yes, I agree that this is likely someone trying to delight you, which is itself, delightful. When I said "punk'd," I suppose I was not thinking of a bad punk'ng (is there no such thing?).

But I think it would drive me crazy if I were never to discover who sent it--which may be a punk'ng all in itself... I still have the (somewhat explicit) note from an anonymous admirer I received in 10th grade. Who sent it? Was it for real? Who knows?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:50 AM on December 15, 2010

Seems this post has inspired a song. Awaiting the musical.
posted by timsteil at 5:34 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

It reminds me of a website for the obscure Romanian Mint Rubbing Association (RMRA) which was active about 7-8 years ago. It looks like much of their current content is now defunct, but at the time they built up a similarly elaborate Romanian-themed prank
posted by growabrain at 6:39 PM on December 16, 2010

I don't want to blur the lines between the green and the grey too much, but Jebus, you just can not miss this from gomichild
posted by timsteil at 7:30 PM on December 16, 2010 [5 favorites]

Was a great letter please share any more info if you get it: I think it is a falsehood type letter with no reedeeminsky qualiteens...
posted by Upon Further Review at 9:08 PM on December 16, 2010

If this is a real letter you received, fantastic. If you wrote it and posted it to AskMe as meta-fiction, even better.
posted by zamboni at 10:23 PM on December 16, 2010

Sounds about as real as Molvania to me.
posted by naoko at 10:48 PM on December 16, 2010

DO let us know if you ever figure out who's pranking you!
posted by dersins at 12:10 AM on December 17, 2010

[hey folks, glad you like this. might want to put appreciative comments in the MeTa thread about the song]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:47 AM on December 17, 2010

Grigori is having a good year in the ministry.

Would that be Father Grigori?
posted by googly at 8:15 AM on December 17, 2010

sorry to spoil things but the post mark stamp is a internet ordered stamp celebrating the 125 Years Since the Recognition of the Romanian Orthodox Church. the stamp can be found at: http://www.stampland.net/?p=2424

if you find out who sent it, you can try to figure out why.
posted by armyofone at 8:48 AM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

correction from above, I guess that its not a stamp you can buy there but I guess that is what the postmark looked like.
posted by armyofone at 9:06 AM on December 17, 2010

oh shit, OK then, good info regardless, also, there seems to be another song. What Jessamyn said.
posted by timsteil at 9:24 AM on December 17, 2010

armyofone, that circular stamp/mark you linked to is exactly it however.
posted by timsteil at 9:50 AM on December 17, 2010

In the book of Enoch, there is a reference to Grigori, sacrificing a goat for the demon Azazel, which is where the original term "scapegoat" comes from. What significance that may have here, I have no idea. Probably none at all.

Also, are any of the misspellings in your transcribed version above yours, or are they in the original? I'm wondering if we took the additional letters or missing letters from words, if we could make something of that. For instance, Svedya should be Svedka. And the name seem like they should be significant in some way...

Yeah, I got nothing really.
posted by misha at 11:12 AM on December 17, 2010

Also, are any of the misspellings in your transcribed version above yours, or are they in the original?

some are there..a few are mine (extra l, > instead of period, things like that)...I went through and tried to correct everything back to the original (mis)spellings before I saved it on my HD.
posted by timsteil at 11:57 AM on December 17, 2010

Does it not strike you that Olga Crzmikksics sounds a bit like phonetic "Christ[hickup]mas"?
posted by Namlit at 2:12 PM on December 17, 2010

Uncle Fun in Chicago used to send a letter for $1 to anyone you wanted. They were fun to receive and give. I vote for someone doing a similar letter to you, but going further than Uncle Fun would ever go.
posted by 6:1 at 3:58 AM on December 18, 2010

My first thought was some kind of clever marketing campaign for a product yet to be revealed, especially if the address is done on a printer.
posted by penguin pie at 7:03 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hi Tim,

I received this awesome thing in the mail too. Don't want to spoil it for you by naming names, but I'm guessing we know the same very creative person and this is his/her way of wishing us happy holidays.

posted by SharonW at 1:22 PM on December 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

How fantastic.

(I need better friends, damnit.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:47 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Someone needs to post a picture of this holy grail of mail.
posted by Bull at 5:41 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sharon, the mystery has been solved.
posted by timsteil at 6:15 PM on December 19, 2010

You gonna share?
posted by Bull at 6:55 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well folks, I have a confession! It was indeed a friend, and neighbor, and his pal, a Chicago Police officer.

It was me and Dave. Our anti-christmas letter. We cooked it up last year then forgot to send them out. So we finally sent them. The envelope art was me. Dave came up with the idea of the voweless name and the fact that their life is horrible but they’re so upbeat. I wrote it. I think Dave came up with the idea of it starting off in the middle of a sentence. It was a shared moment of brilliance.

I’ve been following the MF thread since Wednesday morning. I sent one to an editor and had a moment of doubt so I was going to call her but at the last minute, I decided to Google Romanian Mid Atlantic Postage Recovery, saw the metafilter thread and I’ve been laughing ever since. I wanted SO BAD to call you and let you in on it but we swore not to let on unless directly challenged about it.

The song, Tim, the song blows my mind.

I think it may be my greatest artistic endeavor to date.

posted by timsteil at 7:02 PM on December 19, 2010 [18 favorites]

wow it was a very creative idea.
posted by armyofone at 8:08 AM on December 20, 2010

Dear Folksies:

Just by way of wrapping this up so the mods can stick a cork in it, let me share some lessons learned.

1. When your son takes one look at the letter and calls the writer out by name, listen.

2. When you call this guy because he is the closest dude with a scanner, and say "Hey I got this weird letter you won't believe, can you scan it for me so I can post it?", and he is all "Letter? um sure, what's that about man? Go ahead, stop up." Realize you are being had.

3. When you inquire about the police officer, and wonder if he can run the fingerprints on the envelope without getting in a jackpot, and you get a "Yeah, probably" something should start telling you he is in on it too.

4. When popular opinion on an AskMe says, "no way this is real, someone incredibly creative is playing you.", consider these people right. Just because they usually are.

5. When you have been played so elegantly, reeled in like a short bus tuna for over a week, the only honorable thing to do is buy these two idjits some dinner at the awesome Guatemalan restaurant up the street. Have the bartender spit in their shots of Patron, and bogart the guacamole.

6. If you care, and I hope this doesn't breech the self-linky voodo, these two insufferable neighborinos have a new book out, "The Beat Cop's Guide to Chicago Eats", and do a internet radio show every Friday from 6-8pm, on blogtalkradio.com, "The Dave and Chris Show" I hate them, and I invite any suggestions the hive might have on how to kill them very slowly while having sex with both their wives at the same time.

7. Just, FWIW, take a sec this time of the year, and realize you probably have some really awesome and good friends, whose relationship with you could likely make deeper and more meaningful. In this time of reflection, and giving, and love for all mankind, consider there's probably a way you can totally fuck them over and get away with it. This will be considered in the eyes of the Lord, a righteous deed.
posted by timsteil at 9:17 AM on December 21, 2010 [28 favorites]

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