I’ve been very emotional the last couple of days, as the final episode of The Karen & Ellen Letters has crept ever-closer. I hate goodbyes, and in the past have really struggled with things ending. As the podcast draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on my own experience over the past year. I thought I’d put pen to paper; if you’ll indulge me.
Like a lot of people, I was introduced to podcasts through Serial, and several other true crime podcasts quickly followed. As well-done as they were, I began to find the dark and disturbing subject matter too much. I needed something else, because I love to listen to people, and I love to hear stories. I just didn’t know what that “something” was.
I saw a few posts, extolling the virtues of The Karen & Ellen Letters in the Podcasts We Listen To Facebook group. Me of a year ago though, was very wary of trying anything new. However, something compelled me to give it a go, and I tentatively downloaded the 2 episodes and Aftershows that were out at the time.
Immediately, an obsession, and a love affair was born.
After episode 3, I posted in PWLT, to say how much I loved the podcast, and thanking the people who had recommended it. Not something I would ever have done before. Almost instantly, Josh responded with the link to the group.
The rest, as they say, is history.
It was a revelation from the second I pressed play. Best warning ever on a podcast. Cognitive dissonance, and severe brain damage? I was sold.
The production quality also hit me straight away. The music, the background noises, it was so professional. I loved it already, and nothing had even happened yet.
I completely fell in love with Josh’s voice, before he’d even spoken for 10 seconds. (You had me at “coincidentally”.)
I laughed out loud the first time, when I heard Lists 1 & 2.
“Refrigerator lightbulb, 2 dollars.”
This is a testament to Miss Sara Stapleton, who from the very first line, portrayed Karen’s self-righteous confidence perfectly.
In fact, I just wanted to take a minute to thank all the voice actors so much for all their hard work, and their complete and utter brilliance.
Jeff – I don’t think there is anyone on this earth who could ever be more “Maaaaark.” From snarky to sensitive; pompous to outraged; you played it right every single time.
“Dear Grocery Shoppers” will forever be one of my favourite moments.
Sara P – your sweet and charming portrayal of Ellen made us all fall in love with her, and her eternal optimism. The mouse-release videos are my particular favourite.
Matt – I am SO glad that Josh couldn’t find the original Rob. You were born to play this role, and I am proud to be the founding member of the UK branch of the Matt Peelen fan club. The arrival of Rob into the story was built up so much in Season 1; so it was a lot of hype to live up to. You surpassed all the hype; and every Rob letter is pure brilliance. The Carmen Miranda letter is my personal favourite.
Sara S – what can I say? Not only the best Karen ever; but super-sleuth extraordinaire, hilarious Roomie, and wonderful friend. I hope there will be many more Murder Boards in the future.
You all completely brought these letters to life, and provided us listeners with hours of laughter. Thank you!
It does seem strange to look back now, at how the podcast started, and how it is now, as it reaches the finale. From just laughing at some hilarious correspondence; to going on this crazy adventure to find out where they came from.
Josh kept repeating, “Trust the journey”, and I’m glad that I did. I never had the urge to dig or investigate myself. I love the anticipation, and being able to suspend my disbelief, for as long as possible.
I love the two seasons equally.
The first, for the laughter and incredulity. The second, still for the laughter, but also for the solving of the mystery. The way all the stories were presented individually, then gradually woven together, is a huge testament to Josh’s creativity, and production skills.
Is the picture complete? Do we know everything?
No. But I think that’s ok.
I used to hate ambiguity, and inconclusiveness. It would make me anxious if things weren’t definite. If I didn’t know for sure.
Now though, I’ve learned through this podcast, that it’s not the end of the world if some things go unanswered. It’s much more like real life that way. And because I so wanted to find out that at least some of it was real, I’m more than happy with what we know.
Josh spoke right from the beginning about his own personal journey with these letters.
Just interjecting here and there within the narrative, but never forcing us as listeners to feel a certain way. I think there was a great skill in letting us find our own way, and make up our own minds.
I found my own feelings changing over time.
At first, laughing at the girls, and their apparent stupidity. Incredulous over Karen and Rob’s demands. Finding complete joy in the private jokes and catchphrases, that sprung from these letters.
Then, as we heard Josh explain how he became obsessed with the hype, and popularity of the blog, I found myself too questioning whether it was right to have this voyeuristic, and judgmental relationship with these people. Especially as they were all completely oblivious to it all.
Knowing what we know now, it’s interesting how Josh’s relationship with the letters mirrored Mark’s in a lot of ways. At first, something fun to share with close friends.
Then, the desire to get that ego boost from sharing them to a bigger audience.
It seemed exploitative somehow; and made me question my own motives as a listener also. The difference came when Josh was able to eventually recognise this; when Mark was not.
This is where Ellen’s favourite theme of Karma comes in.
Mark failed in his attempts to share these letters, and this story, with a larger audience, because his motives were questionable. Josh hit this hurdle at first too, but eventually succeeded, when he saw that the true value was in the people, and their stories.
Not what was in it for him.
I felt that Mark really wanted to be a storyteller. This is shown by what we now know that he made up/changed. Also, from what seems like some autobiographical details that were added; such as the touching exchange with Ellen about anti-Semitism. But his intentions were wrong, and ultimately, I think that was his downfall.
Josh definitely succeeded where Mark failed. He was able to recognise his mistakes, learn from them, and tell the story in the right way.
In the first Q and A, Josh talks about the girls being very privileged; and having a lack of empathy. In the end, I think that this statement can be more attributed to Mark, than to Karen and Ellen. In the latter part of Season 1, there is a subtle change in the way that Josh describes the podcast at the beginning of each episode.
Instead of saying that this podcast will “help you appreciate the stupid people in your life;” it alters to saying that it will “make you feel better about the stupid things that you’ve done in life.” It didn’t go unnoticed, and it’s small details like this that make this podcast exceptional, unique, and intuitive.
The concept of empathy is something else that has resonated strongly with me, throughout this experience. Especially during Season 2. The “characters” from Season 1, have suddenly become real people. Experiencing life, love, and loss, like the rest of us.
I was already fond of them by the end of Season 1; but as we discover the real people in Season 2, I became really invested in needing to know that they’re all doing ok.
It was also really heartwarming to find that, although we now know that many of the letters were changed/embellished, the essence of the people that we fell in love with in Season 1, was still there. And, however hard it is to let them go, and stop peering through that window into their lives, it is the right time.
I’ve never been sure if I believe in fate or not. It’s easier to believe, when you get something that you want, than when you get something you don’t. But you cannot argue against the fact that Josh seemed destined to have these letters. To go on the journey, to tell the story. The physical proximity to people and places involved. The way the letters would always find a way to come back out of the box, until Josh found a way to tell the story in the right way.
Personally, I feel that podcasts, and the people connected to them, came into my life at exactly the right time. I was stuck in a rut, and had withdrawn a lot from life.
I thought I had to concentrate on “just” being a mum, and had become fairly isolated.
As much as I loved podcasts, they didn’t actually help, as I would just withdraw into that world of listening on my own.
Until this podcast.
The community that came with it, has been a revelation. Instantly, I felt that I had found my people. I remembered what it was like to really laugh. Not just chuckle, but laugh-until-the-tears-run-down-your-face-and-you-disturb-the-neighbours, laugh.
Josh said in one of the earlier Q&As, I think, that he wanted people to feel that they had someone to laugh with.
You totally succeeded Josh. You provided the foundations for the best place on the internet; and the community has grown and thrived.
I’m so grateful to everyone that Laila has been embraced and included in that community. She overheard the episode with the the exchange over Karen’s ripped jeans, and instantly fell in love, like I did. To this day, “a deck is designed to be walked upon, not sat upon,” is one of her favourite quotes.
Thank you so much Josh, for including Laila in the warning, and the aftershows. She has loved every second, and is over the moon to be “famous.” I love that I can share these precious moments with her.
This represents another theme that I feel runs through this podcast: Connections.
The connections that brought Josh the letters in the first place.
The ones that made him keep returning to this story.
The Season 2 search for the connections that would make sense of it all.
But perhaps the most important ones are the ones that have been made between all of us. I am so very grateful for the friendships that I have made through this podcast.
I know that I have made friends for life; and you’ve all contributed to making me feel happier than I have in a long time.
I love each and every one of you Roomies. Such a huge variety of people, from a huge variety of places. We all have very different lives, experiences, and opinions, outside of that group. But in there, we have something that bonds us implicitly.
We had a great MP in this country called Jo Cox, who was tragically killed.
In her maiden speech to Parliament, she said:
“We are far more united, and have far more in common with each other, than things that divide us.”
It’s so true. In a world that, at the moment, sometimes feels like a place where there are more divisions than ever; having this safe place where we can be united in laughter and love, is priceless.
Thank you Josh, for providing us with that. For starting it all, for working so hard, for always being so generous with your time, humour, and care. Thank you also for encouraging us all to be open and honest; by leading by example. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this blog. Something that I’d never have had the confidence to do a year ago.
As we come to the end of this podcast, we have found out that some of the Karen & Ellen letters are real; and some are not. But the love, laughter, and tears, have all been real. The friendships and bonds, that will last a lifetime, are real.
I know that I’m going to be very emotional tomorrow.
Letting go is always hard, and I’m extremely sad that the podcast is ending.
It will still be there when we need it though.
For me, it’s the podcast I go to, when nothing else will do.
You are all the people that I go to, when nobody else will do.
And that will never change.
What do you say when you know you have reached the final chapter? Are you happy that you had the experience? Sad that it has to end? A mixture of both? When you look back to the beginning, did you have any idea where the journey would take you? As the finale of my beloved podcast, The Karen and Ellen Letters, is almost upon me. I have stopped to reflect on what I have learned and what I will take away from this experience. I have also asked the roomie community to share their reflections.
So, in March of 2017, I was branching out, in search of new podcasts. Little did I know then, that joining one Facebook group, in hopes of getting some recommendations, would change me. As I scrolled though the page, something caught my eye. It was something about a podcast that was funny and set in the 80’s. Well, as an 80’s girl myself, I figured I would give it try. I went looking for this Letters podcast and began episode one. It was short lighthearted and a unique bundle of insanity. I was hooked. I listened to the all the episodes that were available and found myself laughing uncontrollably. I was cleaning my house and at some point, slipped into some water. My socks got all wet and I was tracking soapy water through my house. All I could think of was, “well, my landlord owes me for this!” I stopped dead in my tracks and grabbed my iPad. I HAD to find out more about this podcast and see if there was a group. I joined and wondered if this would be one of those Facebook groups that took themselves to seriously and would make me wait days to join. Immediately, I got a notification I was in. And, I was approved by Josh Hallmark. Giddy, I thought, wow….the actual podcast guy approved me! Wet socks and a dirty house be damned. I sat down and began reading the page. Inspired, I knew I HAD to write something. I was sure I would make a fool out of myself but, hell, when has that ever stopped me before?
I’ve spent a half of a half of my day binge listening to your podcast. I tried cleaning while listening but, I spilled some water on my floor and realised I couldn’t focus on two tasks at once. Hence, I will have to hire the services of the cleaning company around the corner. I chex-ed and the cost is $100 for half of the half day but, I think I’d like a full half day instead. The cost of which is $150. I’ll deduct that service from my next listening session.
P.S. I also got water on my socks from the spilled water and so I need dry socks that aren’t wet from water.
A newly loyal tenant
I remember that day like it was yesterday, and not almost a year ago. So began my tenure as a roomie. It allowed me to be silly and make friends and more than anything, allowed me to grow and learn. You see, I always wanted to write. I even took a stab at it a few times and declared it wasn’t something I should pursue. But, on March 30, 2017… little did I know I opened a fur lined door to opportunity. I know every person listening to this podcast may not have a huge cat on the wall moment like I did but, this podcast, community and Josh Hallmark have left an impression that will never fade. Don’t believe me? Well, I have reinforcements.
Cindy P. (Libra) says, “The K & E Letters has impacted my life in ways I would not have dreamed possible a year ago!! Not only has it provided me countless hours of entertainment (and probably way too many hours ‘ researching ‘), but it has also introduced me to a community of wonderful people. A place to laugh and bond with other listeners- initially about just the podcast itself- but, eventually on a much more personal level that expands far beyond our shared appreciation of K & E. I believe the podcast and the FB group has introduced me to a number of friends that will remain in my life long after the podcast wraps up. What a gift this is, and just another example of how the Universe sometimes works to bring people together, in my opinion.”
Sara S. (Capricorn) states, “As an actor, playing Karen has allowed me to perform again – recording while the baby sleeps. As a single mom, I’d pretty much accepted the idea that I wouldn’t be able to do that for years, so this opportunity was such a perfect fit. As a fan of detective and crime shows: I got to go down the rabbit hole, use my analytical skills and occupy my over-active brain in a way that had no stakes. Sure beats stressing about how I’m messing up my kid, or how the country would change in the next four years, which was my previous hobby. As a fan of the show: There are no words to describe the magic that happened in the Roomie Room on Facebook. A shared sense of humor really can bring people together, and it sure did here. Mary Christ, I’m glad I’ve ‘met’ you all. Even the pickle lovers. *shudder* Your pickle gifs make me puke, but I still love you.
Roseanne S. (Sagittarius) wrote, “The Karen & Ellen Letters change the way I listened to podcasts. Podcasts were kind of my thing, and my thing alone. Earbuds in, everyone out. It still very much is something I listen to when I’m alone, but Karen & Ellen was the first podcast that was actually no fun to listen to alone. And what’s more is not only was I listening it with some of my friends, even my husband, at home or in the car, I listened with the Roomies on Facebook. I was introduced to a whole new community of listeners online that turned into real life friends. And the host was one of the first out there that I’d listened to that made listeners a part of the show. That continues to be what sets the show apart from anything else out there. The characters of the show also became more than just voices in our ears. They came to life, and they were so illogical, but funny and warm, and charming, and they felt like they were a part of our world.”
In addition to growing the Roomie community, the podcast made us laugh, together. It created amazing catch phrases, one liners and inside jokes. Believe me, I say some of this stuff ALL THE TIME and people look at me like I’m bonkers. (Which, to be honest, I probably am.) I guess, if I wasn’t a listener, and a stranger in a grocery store dropped an avocado and yelled, “MARY CHRIST!” I’d probably think they were insane too. I can’t write or say, sincerely without pronouncing it, SIN-cerly. No one else realizes how hysterical vacuums and refrigerators can be. It could happen to anyone, right? Well, it happens to roomies.
Kelsey (Cancer) will always remember laughing her arse off in the car riding back from Colorado about Mary Christ and the Feast of the Consumption.
Paul C. (Pisces) tells me the word “jurisdiction” has been made permanently funny now.
Jessica (Sagittarius) says no one in my real life will understand why avocados are so important.
Cheryl (Libra) shared this antidote; A couple weeks ago I said, “can you imagine?!” without even thinking, Totally not on purpose. Then I realised what I said and started laughing my guts out. My friends thought I was going mad.
Jennifer M. (Virgo) admits that when she’s bored she tries to find mermaid clocks online.
With the good can come the bad. And, while this podcast community has remained positive that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our fair share of tears. I think every listener was moved by Ellen and Mark’s letters concerning Ellen being Jewish and unaccepted. Or, when we learned Fish Ellen had been involved in an accident. But, the worse tears are knowing the end is near. And, so here we are. Thinking about the sunset and what we will take away from this. Almost every person I communicated with stated that the Facebook roomies will live on. The friends that were made through an online podcast group cannot be explained to many. My own husband has, admittedly, been confused and bemused that I refer to people I’ve never physically met as friends for life. And, I’m not alone.
Nicki T. (Aquarius) says, I’ve met SO many lifelong friends through the podcast and group.
Vanessa (Cancer) wrote, I am genuinely so much happier than this time last year.
This is largely down to this podcast, and the people that I’ve met because of it.
It has brought so much joy and laughter into my life.
But, we wouldn’t have come together if it wasn’t for Josh Hallmark. Our wine drinking, McDonald craving, pantless, amazing storytelling Papi. Josh had a vision and decided to share it with us all. Its pretty safe to say that Josh changed the podcast community as a whole. He engaged listeners, created a safe, sharing space and opens his heart to every single person he comes in contact with. That first post I made on the group page? Well, Josh was the first person to comment. He welcomed me into his world. Josh encouraged me to blog and to continue writing. He has always been available to me whether I want to run an idea by, ask advice on a blog post or just chat some dumb stuff with. Josh has touched so many people. Here are just a few things the internet needs to know about Josh:
“He’s a really talented storyteller. But you know that already. An amazing party planner – the original live K&E reading that brought me in was amazing – cotton candy, booze – just a really unique and fun event. And he’s almost allergic to taking credit for his talent – always tossing compliments to his collaborators and often reluctant to accept money for his work. He’s generous to other podcasters and drives himself too hard – the hardest working man in podcasting. The nicest too. And he has the best laugh. But you know that already too.” Sara S. (Capricorn)
“Josh is so hard working and kind! I will always be grateful that he created a podcast and FB page that brought people together. I’ve met so many really great people, because of this!” Vicki W. (Taurus)
“Josh Hallmark is the hardest working man in podcasting. His work needs to be shared everywhere because he has this amazing gift for bringing the best out of people. He brings the best out of people he interviews and the people he has on his shows. He brings out the best in the roomies and all who know and love him. That kind of talent is something that needs to be celebrated by everyone.” Jennifer M. (Virgo)
“Josh is an incredible person and he treated these letters with respect.” Renee (Aquarius)
“Josh is incredibly creative. He has found his perfect medium in podcasting. His ability to tell a story is captivating and inspiring. He’s also just a really great person who seeks to lift others up with him as he finds success. That is so rare in this world.” Samantha (Pisces)
“He never sleeps and he never wears pants. He likes drinking too! But most of all he loves to entertain people and you can tell he REALLY cares about his work.” Nicki T. (Aquarius)
“Josh took these letters, and this story, and wove magic. He created so much more than a podcast. He also created a community, based on love, laughter, and friendship. Josh is talented, clever, insightful, intuitive, generous, and hilarious. He is the best storyteller that I’ve ever met. I feel privileged to have heard some of his stories. I hope that there are many more to come, and that the whole world gets to hear them.” Vanessa (Cancer)
“Josh is a fantastic host. He’s very thoughtful of how he puts together content for his shows. He spends time really interacting with the listeners in his groups and makes everyone feel included. I’m so glad to have met Josh! He is a wonderful person and brought together a fantastic group of people!” Cheryl (Libra)
“Josh Hallmark, being able to bring abstract words on paper to life was brilliant, his storytelling is masterful, he is engaging, quirky, charming…and most of all, for me personally, he’s been a mentor and an inspiration.” Roseanne (Sagittarius)
“Josh Hallmark is one of the best writers and speakers I have ever “met” . His kindness and his heart are completely genuine. I absolutely adore and love him.” Nicole B. (Aquarius)
“Josh Hallmark is a hardworking and talented guy, and I’m proud to be part of the community he has created!” Jessica (Sagittarius)
“Josh is smart, creative and likes to entertain. He has a good heart and infectious laugh.” Jenn A. (Leo)
“Josh has been one of the greatest gifts I feel the podcast has given me. His willingness to be brutally honest about his own life experiences, his engagement with his listeners, and the level of humility and empathy that he constantly demonstrates have brought me to tears more than once. This expands beyond K & E, obviously, to include his other podcasts, as well as things he has shared with the ‘ roomie ‘ community. I think he is an amazing person, with a rare ability to connect with others. These qualities lend themselves well to the incredible material that he produces. But, clearly, he also possesses an abundance of creativity, and a compelling adeptness for bringing characters, places , and experiences to life. He is a consummate story-teller.” Cindy P. (Libra)
“Josh has incredible hope for us as people. This man works every single day to give a gift of perception to the world. He is passionate about knowing what makes people different and embraces those differences. Our Americana celebrates people and the surprises they bring. He revels in the ordinary and shows us how extraordinary it can be if we just look hard enough. His laughter is infectious and his heart is just authentically good. The podcast world has a standard set in him. I have been blessed in the last months to have watched his network grow and have a very good feeling this is just the beginning of his journey.” Vicki R. (Cancer)
“Josh is a very gracious and generous person. A truly wonderful soul. The only reason I met Josh is because he needed someone from New Bern to interview for his Our Americana podcast. A friend of his (who is my best friends ex), asked my best friend to do it as he lived in New Bern, but he thought I would be better as he only lived here for a few years in high school and college and since moved away. I remember when he first started the K&E podcast, I read about it and immediately was intrigued and listened religiously. I wish I could meet him in real life, as I just know we would get along famously!” Adrienne H. (Aries)
“Josh Hallmark deserves the Gold Card to McDonald’s.” Kelsey (Cancer)
Therefore, I raise my glass to you, Josh. I thank you for being a master crafter, an incredible story teller and an amazing human being. I appreciate the countless hours of work you dedicate to the podcast community, your listeners and your friends. Because, we all think of you as a friend. Thank you for sharing yourself with the world. In addition, I also want to thank my fellow bloggers (Torey and Vanessa – You both rock my socks!), the roomies and my #HoneyBlondes. This podcast wouldn’t have been the same without each of you. I appreciate and adore you all.
I am leaving the final word to Miss Laila (Capricorn). Who warned us with her sweet little voice at the start of each Season two episode.
Karen and Ellen are silly washing the fish.
Mary Christ looks down on them saying,
“What is this?”
I hope we will have
a statue together as well as Mary Christ.
I will love this podcast forever.
I love you, Josh.
Until the next smell comes from behind the oven…
Love and Avocados,
Sunrise. Sunset. Two beautiful times. When the world is, usually, still and quiet. Times of reflections. What is to come? What has already happened? If this isn’t speaking to all the fans of K&E, then maybe you need to go outside with your headphones and begin listening to the podcast again from the first episode.
The penultimate episode (next to the last, for those that were unclear), begins with a 1979 newspaper article from the Portland Oregonian. The Steinfield Pickle Factory, which had been in operation since 1922, has been the victim of a terrible explosion. Cause unknown. However, 120 employees are out of work and the future of the company is bleak. (Well, Vicki W. now you know.)
Dot is back. Moaning about how kids these days just don’t understand sacrifice and how “back in the day” you respected your elders. Especially your parents. Helena agrees. Especially since her daughter blames her for everything wrong in her life. Helena’s daughter seems upset because she had to care for her younger sister when Helena was doing time in the pokey. Poor Helena. Sleeping on a cot and peeing on a cold toilet (someone crochet her a toilet seat cover, STAT!) while her eldest daughter whooped it up in the “big city”. Also, the slop (AKA, jail food) was terrible. Who knew prison wasn’t a luxury spa?!?
Aloha Karen…. today is YOUR day! It’s her birthday! And, can you believe that Aloha Rob RUINED her last birthday?!? (I’m aghast at this accusation! Rob ruin something?!?) Every year, as per tradition (except when Rob ruins it by chucking the karaoke microphone through the TV screen and getting them kicked out of the bar) (By the way, that could happen to ANYBODY!), Aloha Karen sings birthday karaoke. So, this year, our sassy birthday gal is heading to her favorite karaoke bar (the only one in town that allows them entrance) to sing, sing, sing, sing, sing! Unless Rob gets too drunk and they are forced to leave. Whichever comes first. All other birthdays pale in comparison to Aloha Karen’s because, DUH!, it’s HER birthday. Happy birthday, Aloha Karen!
(Here, our favorite Karen, Sara Stapleton proceeds to sing, sing, sing, sing, sing! I admit, I laughed. Loudly. Hysterically. Tears streaming down my face to the incredibly poignant Bette Midler song, Friends. I have no clue how Sara managed to get through this. Soon, I found myself actually crying as I recalled the words and how they reflected upon my time spent with the podcast, roomie community, and Josh. But, thats a blog post for another time.)
Skype time between Sara and Josh! (Oh, this always means juicy information is on the horizon!) Josh finally spills the handwriting analysis. And, the answer we have waited for since the end of Season 1 is finally revealed. The letters are not written by THREE people. It appears that the Mark and Karen letters were written by the SAME person! (I wish I could add a shocking sound effect here but, since I can’t: Make a gasping sound on your own. Also, I think most of us have suspected, including Sara herself, that the letters were not 100% real. It’s just that Josh has finally verified that to us.) Which leads to Josh openly stating, with all the information he has uncovered, that the girls could not be that naive and stupid. It now appears that the letters were clearly written for comedic purposes. (Can’t say we haven’t laughed!) Based on some actual events but, embellished. Josh has also heard back from Darren. It turns out both Darren AND Josh have lived in every city the girls have. (Ok, seriously? I may be jumping on the conspiracy bandwagon. Now, I just need to figure out which one of you is Karen and who is the Ellen?)
Email from Darren. He’s not comfortable reaching out the BLEEP (the REAL Fish Ellen). As Darren has reread the letters, they have taken on a whole new meaning knowing that BLEEP (the REAL Fish Ellen) is the writer. He just doesn’t know BLEEP (the REAL Fish Ellen) well enough to want to broach the subject. However, Darren does remember some interesting conversations and tidbits about BLEEP (the REAL Fish Ellen). He tells Josh that during a conversation they had, BLEEP mentions she dropped out of interior design school because she felt the program was “creatively oppressive” and “stifled her unique point of view.” BLEEP is also a big fan of cats (#alwaysTeamEllen). BLEEP (the Real Fish Ellen) does NOT like her family. At all. Her family of friends are the only people that truly matter to her and she welcomed Darren to “the family” several times. (I have to wonder if BLEEP is a follower of Charles Manson?) The most shocking tidbit…. BLEEP (the Real Fish Ellen) was at one of Josh’s Twin Peak parties! (What the what?!? SO MANY QUESTIONS! 1. Really? Can we verify this? Pic or it didn’t happen. 2. What is a Twin Peaks Party? How do I get an invite? If I don’t watch Twin Peaks, can I still come? 3. What is your obsession with Twin Peaks, Hallmark?!?). Small world, indeed.
With all this new information, Josh asks Sara for her overall theories on how these letters came to be and who these people are. Sara thinks Mark is a writer. (Me too, Sara. Unless I am the writer. Unless, I’m not.) She feels Mark created a project based on real life letters and experiences he has had with tenants. Largely, based on the real life people that were found, as the main focus and source. Sara doesn’t feel that our Karen and Ellen actually lived together. But, our fearless leader, Josh has the answer to that. He has been keeping a theory to himself. (#notsurprised #TBAKing) Based on these facts; 1. Helena was arrested in the 80’s. 2. There appears to be no Dad in the picture. 3. Fish Ellen’s name was on the lease and not Karen’s. 4. Karen was a minor at the time. 5. After living in the cottage, Fish Ellen moved to Seattle and lived with Aloha Rob. Josh’s theory (which makes perfect sense and nails the final puzzle piece into the pictures) is that when Helena went to jail, Fish Ellen took in her younger sister, Aloha Karen (which is where Aloha Karen and Aloha Rob meet). Upon leaving the cottage, they all moved to Seattle together. Crochet Pants Karen was Fish Ellen’s original roommate, until she had to move out so that minor Aloha Karen could move in. (I swear, this makes sense, even if it seems convoluted!). This means that Mark, when writing his project, combined Crochet Pants Karen and Aloha Karen into one character. Josh also followed up with the Oakland Library Clerk (shout out to Nicki T!) once he had all the actual names involved. Our clerk was able to provide the following information; a parking ticket was issued to Aloha Karen across the street from the cottage. This links Aloha Karen to the cottage even if her name is not attached to it.
Marking the one year anniversary of her Dad’s death, Crochet Pants Karen is reflective. While the past year has been nightmarish, at times, Crochet Pants Karen has staked her umbrella in the metaphorical sand. She has found things she likes to do, the things she has to do, and has found tremendous life giving strength. Her children, her spouse, and her community of friends and family keep her sustained and provide a well of comfort. Crochet Pants Karen sitting on her porch, reading a book about the iconic Ava Gardner, remembers her father. The passage she reads speaks volumes. “I might have worn hand me down frocks and had dirty knees. Maybe, I didn’t always scrub them as often as polite little girls should but, we were never dirt poor. I was the goddamnedist tomboy you ever met. In the summer time I went barefoot and that was what farm kids did. Of course we were poor. It was the Great Depression. Everybody was poor. It cost you just to create. But, being hard up didn’t make us dirt poor.” And so, here is Crochet Pants Karen, with her own dirty knees. She isn’t as polite as she should be either. Being taught to be polite, because it quiets us, it limits us. Crochet Pants Karen sits, proudly, barefoot. Grateful that her family allowed her to dirty her knees. Reflecting on the road of loss. No more ruckus nights at the dinner table, with her father, telling stories together. Realizing that her passion for stories and her history itself may be the greatest gift. (ARE YOU BAWLING YET?!? No? Ok, me neither. I swear. Ok, maybe just a little.) Crochet Pants Karen was just in Berkeley visiting her old friend, Miss Doctor Kathy, telling stories. Miss Doctor Kathy was her old neighbor (how’s her brother doing? What happened to the cats?) and they spent many nights together, talking in the yard, about what it means to be a strong woman. They were not neighbors for long though as Crochet Pants Karen’s roommate had a family crisis. That roommate, was a strong woman, at the young age of 20. She was soft yet, strong. Both sweet and sassy. Curious and convicted. Unfortunately, they did not remain in touch.
Crochet Pants Karen lived in the cottage briefly, with Fish Ellen. Fish Ellen had a family crisis and Crochet Pants Karen had to move out. Presumably to make room for Aloha Karen, a minor at the time, to move in. BAH BAH BUM! Sara proclaims, Mystery Solved! So, why doesn’t it feel done? Well, it may not and Josh says unless he had the balls (HIS WORDS, NOT MINE! I only recap! And, make up commentary that I usually add via parentheses.) then, we may never actually know what is fact and what is fiction. However, this seems a satisfactory hypothesis. Do the details really matter?
Dear Bonnie. MARK!! IT’S MARK! (The scoundrel responsible for this tale!) He has enclosed a, not so pleasant, letter from CW. Poor Mark. He has gone his whole life without being called a buffoon. (Until now.) Mark is tried of fighting the battle.
Dear Mark. CW! (Now, we get to know what he has to say!) CW is profoundly disappointed in Mark. Mark’s trivial conduct has nullified this production. Mark has not disclosed relevant information. In addition, he has exploited finances for personal gain and buffoonery. These actions have jeopardized the film and could have led to litigation. (Uh oh…. will I see Mark on the next episode of American Greed? Maybe listen to his story in a true crime podcast?) Mark is exhausting and behaves similar to the characters in his screenplay. (I pick Karen! He is a Karen! What’s Mark’s sign?) All funding is pulled and appears this project is a legal nightmare.
OH NO! Poor Dot! A loud bang awoken her in the middle of the night! Gun in hand, she went to find the source. It was awful. Worst than any home invasion. Misty’s portrait fell off the wall! It landed on Mr. Jeeves the Butler and tore a giant hole into Misty! An emergency road trip to Sedona with Jackie is happening to repair the damage.
Well, it had to happen sometime. Helena is deleting the face books. Well, she can’t figure out how to delete it so, she just isn’t going to log in anymore. The damn thing is so stupid and such a waste of time. (It’s also really complicated. Just look at all the comments on the Facebook Complain Department page!). No one post on Helena’s wall anymore because she won’t see it. Because, she won’t be on the face books anymore. Don’t we have better things to do than be on this stupid internet page anyway? How about if we find cheap plane tickets to Seattle? Looks like Helena is heading to Seattle.
Love and Avocados…. and one more episode to go. Get those wine bottles and tissues ready, everyone!
It’s hard to believe it hasn’t even been a year since this podcast began. And while on several occasions my heart has skipped a few beats, the journey is one for which I am eternally thankful. It has taught me so many life lessons, introduced me to so many wonderful people, and challenged me to think outside the box and never get lazy when creating content.
That said, the cohesive and straight forward storytelling of season one was turned on its head in season two. I wanted to present the mystery and revelations as closely to how Sara and I encountered them, which, like most of life’s mysteries, was quite messy and incoherent. The story also zoomed out; it became about so much more than 4 people in one place at one time. So, season 2 was constantly moving and constantly building on the mystery that had been before us. It became as much about the genesis of this story as it did its outcome. I also wanted to challenge listeners to consider how they absorb content and how they let that content form their opinions. That has always been my greatest hope for this show, even from the beginning: Rather than judging people at face value, ask yourselves what motivates their actions, and what might be the genesis of those motivations. It’s always been about getting to know people, before we define them. And, even for me, it’s a lesson I’ve been continually learning throughout the entire Karen & Ellen story. That’s the other question I found myself asking constantly: Who does a story belong to? And where does it begin and end? I’m confident the finale will shine some light on that. And I don’t think those two principles are really all that exclusive of one another: Every story and every person is infinitely larger than what we see, and are experienced entirely different from person to person.
I wrote all the Season 2 letters between character Mark and his various associates. These letters were based on a mix of fact, conjecture, and entertainment value (as I’ve found most stories are). Here are some highlights and info:
• The letters I received included the names Mark and Bonnie, I changed the name of Albert. There were many other real names, included in the letters, that I changed for the podcast.
• David is based on two real-life people. His pieces in S2 are also based on fact, conjecture, and entertainment value. I do not know definitively what happened with the film production; I have theories, which I’ll keep to myself.
• What we do know is that Mark took the letters from the girls and with the help of others attempted to first turn them into books, and then into a screenplay.
• We also know in various versions of the letters that I have seen, he failed to change many people’s names, and made it very easy to trace his “characters” back to the people they are based on. I tried my best to avoid doing this in the podcast, but also failed on several occasions.
• We believe, very strongly, that Charles Worthington is based on a real person. We’ve been able to trace connections from him to both UCB and the Portland, Oregon area. We have not been able to trace him back to any of our girls or their families.
• CW and Charles Worthington are different people.
• CW is entirely made up and was used merely to resolve, as best we could, the film storyline. Again, that resolution is based largely on conjecture.
Helena and Dot are based on real people. Their conversations are very similar to those in the podcast; although I changed them enough that I wasn’t stealing their actual conversations. Here are some highlights and info:
• Dot really did lose a dog, who she became pretty obsessed with for a while.
• Dot and Helena really are old friends, dating back to their 20s.
• Dot has no roots in the story behind the letters, other than as a confidant for Helena to share her, very relevant, story.
• For me, this whole story begins with Helena. Through her we better understand her daughters; and through her experiences, the girls end up living together in the cottage.
• As was mentioned earlier in S2, Helena’s husband, Paul, left her for Patty with the Crystals; making Patty the step-mother to Aloha Karen & Fish Ellen.
• Ironically, Patty is easily the most accurate portrayal of a real person.
Here is the cottage timeline:
1986 – Annette moves out
1987 – Crochet Pants moves in
1987 – Shortly thereafter, Fish Ellen moves in, as Crochet Pants’s roommate
1988 – Crochet Pants moves out, so Aloha Karen can move in
1989 – Aloha Karen and Fish Ellen move out
1989 – Aloha Karen, Fish Ellen, and Aloha Rob all move into an apartment together, in Seattle.
Here are some uncertainties:
• We could find multiple pickle factory and/or cannery explosions that took place near the girls (in various years and cities). We could not trace any back to them or Rob.
• We could verify that a Christmas Tree farm in the Portland area did “explode,” but we could not confirm nor repudiate any of our folks were involved.
• We could not confirm the existence of Ellen’s drug-sniffing dogs op.ed.
• We do not know if Mark is gay or not.
• All the Yahoo message board stuff about George Bush is still a complete mystery.
• We have no idea if the mystery letter is from Annette, Helena, or entirely made-up.
Here are some things we know, but chose not to share (or changed):
• We know Mark’s relationships to Bonnie, Albert, and the people David is based on; we have chosen not to share them.
• We changed some information about Aloha Karen and Rob, in order to better protect their identities.
• We changed some information about Helena and Fish Ellen, in order to better protect their identities.
• We changed some dates, in order to better protect people’s identities.
• We have many more details on Helena’s arrest, but chose not to share them.
• We have many more details on Catfish Karen and her relationships, but chose not to share them.
• We know significantly more about the film and its creators, but have chosen not to share them.
• We know significantly more about Mark, but have chosen not to share it.
• We changed the Caldwells’ first and last names. Their actual names were included in the letters.
• Charles Worthington was meant to have a much bigger role in S2, merely to guide the plot. However, after more research and new discoveries, we realized CW was a better agent for that.
• Many of Dot’s and Helena’s more inconsequential conversations were lifted from my grandmother’s Facebook page, including her butcher who might be a lesbian.
• Coincidentally, my grandmother also lives in Scottsdale; I feel like she would be fast friends with both Dot and Helena.
• Before we fell deep into the rabbit hole that became S2, S2 was going to be a fictional story set 7 years in the future. Mark was going to retire to a cabin (with a guest cottage) in the woods. The tenants in the guest cottage were going to be Karen, Ellen, Rob, and their baby. Some things we were going to tackle included: Bill Clinton, cell phones, homosexuality, parenthood, bigfoot, Rob & Karen on the run, and Ellen’s kooky mother.
• There is a lot of (unrecorded) storyline that didn’t make it into S2, because it just didn’t have enough narrative importance. It may eventually become a Patreon-exclusive.
All in all, I am incredibly proud of S2. I know it was hard to follow and required an entirely different approach to listening, which alienated and pissed off a lot of people. I’m sad about that, but ultimately had to tell the story in a way that satisfied me and felt true and authentic to me. I am so blessed to have worked with so many amazing, generous, giving people. Literally every cast member was a dream.
I am also very happy with the finale. I finally broke down and sent Sara the script, and we both had a good cry and agreed it was the best way to leave things. It will honor the story and its characters, and hopefully make people think about their places in the world, their relationships, and how they occupy the space around them – which, if you listen to PLAYLIST, you’ll know has been an obsession of mine this past year.
It has seemed like forever, but the wait was over this week, with episode 8 of Season 2 dropping on Tuesday. Maybe it was the return of Rob, maybe it was the tropical setting of Hawaii; maybe it was a wonderful double-dose of Karens. Most likely, it was all of those things combined, that made this my favourite episode so far this season.
There is a new candidate in the search for The Real Karen, some pretty rewarding research for Josh and Sara, an interesting insight into Uncle Albert’s role in this adventure, and a right cracking pair of coconuts.
Before all that though, Helena was having her usual struggles with internetting, trying to find a route to the Boulders shopping centre. Dot weighs in, helpful as ever. What Helena needs to do is google Google on Yahoo, then google MapQuest on Google.
Seems a bit of a convoluted route to get to where she wants to go…
Probably representative of how the journey actually went. I’m pretty sure that Helena is a regular sufferer of road rage.
Whilst we’re on the subject of travelling, Helena is bemoaning the fact that she never gets invited to see her daughter Ellen in Seattle.
Dot chips in with the fact that she’d like to visit Seattle too, but doesn’t have time.
(Let’s be honest, it probably takes Dot 2 hours to write each Facebook comment. Between that and the curtain-twitching, there’s not going to be a whole lot of spare time for road-trips. Even if she does know how to use MapQuest.)
Helena portrays Ellen as someone harbouring a big grudge, and full of anger.
(Not sure where she could possibly have got those traits from, Helena!) This doesn’t sound like the Ellen we have come to know and love from the letters. But then, we all know that often the biggest arguments, and most serious of falling outs, often occur with those closest to us. Nobody could blame Ellen if she had disowned her mother, purely for being a huge embarrassment on social media. She wouldn’t want a misplaced rant about balding newsreaders, or the latest antics of the neighbourhood floozy, accidentally being posted on her holistic treatments’ business page.
Someone who is keen for Helena to visit, is Ellen’s sister in Hawaii. This is who, after some more caffeine/wine-fueled late-night Facebook stalking, Josh feels is a great fit for being the Karen that we’re looking for. Even better, she’s married, to an excellent Rob-candidate. They’re one of those couples that has a joint Facebook profile. Of course they are. It’s probably one of those written without any spaces either. “KarenandRobRedacted.”
These two are living it up in Hawaii, working for the Coast Guard. Aloha Karen, worryingly, doesn’t understand why swimming would be a necessary job requirement. Because, you’re on a boat right? Nowhere near the water…
Buuuuuut, she persevered, and managed to learn; despite the added hindrance of the salt in the water. Aloha Karen now seemingly defies science (as well as logic) and instead of gaining buoyancy from the salt water, apparently it pulls her down. You’d think she would float really well, on account of all the hot air she’s filled with!!!
Aloha Rob is so perfectly Rob. It’s almost too good to be true. Obviously a bit of a petrol-head, but seems to have as much luck with vehicles as he did with household appliances, back in the 80s. He has a cherished photo of himself with his convertible Corvette, which sadly he crashed and wrote off. He no longer has his precious “Choppers” either. Aloha Rob has obviously made it in life, as he was lucky enough to have 2 Harley Davidson motorbikes. Alas, they too, are no longer in his life. For once though (as far as we can tell) there was not a calamitous ending. Aloha Karen put her flip-flopped foot firmly down, and made Rob get rid of them. She feels he would be dead now, if he had kept them.
Perhaps, for the first time in her life, Karen is right! Rob, riding around Hawaii with complete abandon; a big, powerful, beast between his legs; would never have ended well. Karen describes the bikes as “crude, stupid, and make a lot of noise.”
Oh wait… Is she talking about the motorbikes? Or Rob?
Helena told us earlier that, as well as being mad at her, Ellen was also mad at her sister.
She’s obviously not so mad, that she turns down an opportunity to visit Aloha Karen in Hawaii.
We know that she’s been there, as, in keeping with one of the themes from early on in our Karen and Ellen journey; something has been misplaced in the kitchen. It’s Ellen’s bra and, unfortunately for her, Rob is the one to find it. How her bra came to be discarded in the kitchen will remain a mystery. But with these 3, anything is possible.
It would be interesting to know what kind of bushes they’ve got growing in their front garden. That’s all I’m saying.
I’m not sure Ellen will want the bra back now, after learning that Rob was parading around in it for an entire day. It’s pretty hot in Hawaii. There would have been sweat.
Also, why are they discussing this on Facebook? Over-sharing on social media obviously runs in this family! Aloha Rob takes this to a whole other level, when the bra-talk prompts him to sing the praises of Karen’s “assets” publicly. The full, long, varied, and astounding list of names he has for them, can be found in the episode.
The least vomit-inducing of which, is probably “Hawaiian coconuts.”
I will never think of cows and sweaters in the same way, ever again.
We also hear from Rob, about how it was always his ambition to join the Air Force, just like his late father. This desire was born in childhood, and lasted all the way up to when Rob was a “new adult.”
(I’m presuming that this is referring to his second attempt at adulting; after the first resulted in the destruction of The Busy Beaver Christmas Tree Farm).
Unfortunately, Rob failed to get into the Air Force, so the Coast Guard became his destiny instead. His Dad once told him that his brain was more suited to being in the Coast Guard. I’m not sure that this says much for the standards of the Coast Guard’s employees!
Rob’s impassioned piece about how his Dad inspired him, moves Karen. She tells Rob that he always was “the writer in the family.”
This does fit with the Rob from the letters, as boy, did he like to write those letters to Mark. Even when Mark flatly refused to enter into any correspondence with him; he bulldozed on regardless.
We know that Letters Rob had a certain fascination with the Coast Guard. During the final episode of Season 1, Ellen tells Mark all about it. Karen, Ellen, and Rob; unable to distinguish fact from fiction (I feel their pain); used to ring the Coast Guard Station in Astoria every week when they were young.
They were obsessed with the TV show, “Gilligan’s Island,” and wanted to give The Coast Guard tips on how to rescue the stranded characters on the show. Karen, of course, wanted the reward. She was furious when the Coast Guard called their parents, and snitched on them. Rob’s Great Uncle told Rob that he should join the Coast Guard. If we are to believe that Aloha Rob is our Rob, this is a huge tick-in-the-box for known connections.
There is also a short clip at the beginning of episode 7, which I think from listening again, must be from “Gilligan’s Island”?
(We never had it over here, due to being out of jurisdiction.)
Anyway, the quote is, “Gilligan, I’ve got a bite.” So it seems pretty likely? Another subtle clue, of the kind that Josh likes to drop in, then rubs his hands in glee when we all completely miss it!
Something else that is reminiscent of Letters Rob, is the way things seem to also break in Aloha Rob’s presence. This time, it’s the remote control for the garage door.
(Honey being involved, is pure speculation on my part, but I wouldn’t bet against it.)
Poor Karen is having to get out of her car, to open the garage door manually. Can you imagine? The extra steps towards the daily Fitbit total, are definitely not worth the inconvenience. The remote for the golf-buggy door though? That one is working fine. Rob obviously had his priorities in order, when he was choosing one to be sacrificed.
It makes me laugh, how, just like Dot and Helena, they are having this discussion on Facebook. Even worse, because these two live in the same house!
Again though, is this a sign of old habits dying hard? Writing to complain about things, or deny responsibility for things, is the predominant theme of most of Karen’s and Rob’s letters to Mark.
Rob is keen to ask Karen, “How can I break something that I wasn’t even working on?”
I love to think that in the 30 years since we last heard from Rob, everything he touches has constantly been falling apart. Or exploding.
Which leads us on to surely the most compelling piece of evidence yet, as to Aloha Rob being our Rob:
He is obsessed with watching explosions on YouTube. Obsessed.
It’s his favourite thing ever, and he does it for hours.
He talks about one such video, where a firework was placed under a plant, to blow it up.
Could the Christmas Tree Farm explosion have perhaps not been an accident after all???
We will never know. But knowing that this sort of thing really floats Rob’s boat, (pardon the pun), definitely gives extra credence to the theory that this is THE Rob.
But then, where does that leave Karen Crochet Pants?
She is also a great fit for being Letters Karen.
We have a quick check-in with her, to see what she’s been up to. That dangerous pastime of crocheting has left Karen Crochet Pants with a bad back; so whilst it’s recovering, she decided to join Facebook. She marvels over how many hundreds of people she could invite to be her “friend.”
Good for you Crochet Pants. You wouldn’t want to be one of those saddos with only 50 friends; like Catfish Karen’s mother-in-law.
My ears pricked up, when I heard the names “George” and “Mark.” Especially when we learn that the Mark in question, is someone that she corresponded with in the 80s.
Could it be the “George” mentioned in the mystery letter, from the incarcerated woman?
And more importantly, could it be our Mark???
They are very common names, but it’s intriguing nonetheless.
After adding all these people, Karen Crochet Pants isn’t at all worried that she’ll be spending too much time on Facebook. She describes it as “a controlled addiction, that I can walk away from, any day.”
Oh Crochet Pants.
Little do you know.
I innocently clicked “join” on one facebook group, and now look what’s happened!
Just as I was thinking that Aloha Karen seemed to be the most likely fit for Letters Karen, Crochet Pants comes up with some ridiculous ramblings, definitely worthy of Letters Karen. She flits from one subject to another, with little sense or connection.
She’s talking about a trip home, then some strange hallucination about being on a plane full of Women Of A Certain Age, all doing crochet.
Then we jump to the self -proclaimed Yarn Goddess of Illinois having lunch with a random child, and planning ahead for her next 6 years of crocheting adventures.
Our Karen or not, I would definitely like to continue hearing from Crochet Pants and her blog. It is filled with more gems than Patti-with-the-crystals’ (possibly stolen) handbag.
Josh reminds us in this episode, that Karen Crochet Pants, as well as Fish Ellen, can be traced back to the cottage, but that they hadn’t found exact dates as to when.
In an inspired move, Sara contacts the Oakland Public Library E-Answer Service.
An extremely helpful Clerk, (brought brilliantly and vibrantly to life, by the extremely talented Nicki T), provides some really useful information.
She gives Sara and Josh the names that she has listed, for residents of the cottage between 1979 and 1991.
Some are redacted, or missing, but the Caldwells are listed as living there between 1986 and 1991. (No mention of the cats though.)
More importantly, a “Karen” is listed in 1987.
The Clerk has also found something else that Josh requested, but of course he did not share that with us this episode.
Not content to leave us with one cliffhanger, the episode ends with another revelation, that lends itself to provoking more questions than answers.
We’re back in 1989, and Uncle Albert is writing to Mark.
He has “redrafted” everything. And wants to check that Mark is happy for certain names to remain unchanged.
These include: Hal, Bonnie, Annette, Karen, and CW.
The address will also remain unchanged.
Uncle Albert urges caution on Mark’s part; and implies that he feels that some of these details should definitely be altered. He is wary of any verifying information being left in, such as local business names.
(I for one, will be very upset if “Positively Electric”, and “Reliance Appliance”, are made up!)
Albert warns that “anyone with a good reputation” wouldn’t “move forward” if identifying information is included.
What for? Publication? Pitching it to someone? To David and Leslie?
I know a lot of us had a feeling that at least some of the letters had been embellished, or made up. Mark was always the prime suspect, with Bonnie high on the list of subjects also. But dear old Uncle Albert? He certainly snuck in under the radar! Something is definitely a-foot here. Suspicions grow further, when we hear Uncle Albert’s list of which letters he has removed:
•Ellen’s letter regarding her mother and sister
•The updated lease
•Karen’s original notice to vacate
•The Trespassing Correspondence
•The Coast Guard Series
Totally frustrating, as of course, we are now desperate to know what was in these letters!
What secrets did Ellen disclose about her mum and sister?
Did Mark issue Karen with that eviction notice, that he kept threatening her with?
Who trespassed, and where?
Was Rob caught impersonating a law student at Tufts University, that doesn’t even have a Law School?
Was Annette prostrating herself on Mark’s porch late at night, begging him to listen to her suicidal plans, just one last time?
And here’s the Coast Guard again!
We definitely need to know what that is all about, after this episode.
One thing’s for sure, Uncle Albert is a lot more involved than I think any of us had realised previously.
So what do we know about him?
We first meet him in episodes 4 and 5 of Season 1, with Mark asking Albert to write to Karen, on University headed paper. To help her get to grips with the difficult issue of jurisdiction. Mark also shows him some of Karen’s letters.
By episode 7, listening back, knowing what we know now, there are definite hints that Uncle Albert is possibly “doing” something with the letters. He states that he has been inspired to “write some of the letters we’ve written in our minds, over and over.”
At the time, I thought he meant responses to Karen, like the one he sent regarding jurisdiction.
But now, it takes on a whole different meaning. Is this where he and Mark started “creating” their own versions of the letters? Albert also says that he has shared the letters with various friends and colleagues, who all found them highly entertaining.
Is this what sparked the idea that there was perhaps an opportunity that could arise from these letters?
In episode 10 of Season 1, Mark is found writing to Albert, and an unknown person called Benji, sending them quotes from the girls’ letters. Also, sending notes from phone calls he had with them.
During the Season 1 finale, Mark sends Ellen’s homework to Albert too.
Again, I thought at the time, it was because, like the rest of us, Albert and friends just found it all highly entertaining. He is obviously a lot more canny than I gave him credit for.
Of course, Bonnie is involved as well. Mark gives her the complete low-down on Karen, Ellen, and several other previous tenants. I think they were all in this together!
Re-listening to all of that, Josh also implies that Charlie Worthington plays a big part in what goes on as well.
This is also yet to be revealed!
There are a lot of “TBA”s that need wrapping up in the final two episodes.
Over to you, Josh!
As we roll into the final two episodes, I thought I’d put together an overview of what listeners have learned:
CONFIRMED (THROUGH RECORDS) PEOPLE WHO HAVE LIVED IN THE COTTAGE:
• Annette (1986)
• Crochet Pants (1987)
• Fish Ellen (unknown)
THE ALOHA-FISH FAMILY TREE:
CONFIRMED WHEREABOUTS IN THE 80s:
• Crochet Pants – The Cottage (87)
• Aloha Rob – Alameda, CA (86-89 // The Coast Guard); Seattle, WA (89 // Lived with Fish Ellen)
• Helena – Jail (Unknown)
• Aloha Karen – The Bay Area, CA (Unknown // Met Aloha Rob)
• Fish Ellen – The Cottage (Unknown); Seattle, WA (89 // Lived with Aloha Rob)
• Paul & Patty with the Crystals – Woodstock, NY (Unknown)
• Dot – Scottsdale, AZ (Unspecified)
• Mark – Berkeley & Oakland (Unspecified)
• Annette – The Cottage (86)
• The Caldwells – Adjacent to The Cottage (86-91)
SOME NARRATIVE LINKS:
• Letters Rob is obsessed with The Coast Guard // Aloha Rob is in The Coast Guard
• Letters Karen & Ellen lived in Oregon // Crochet Pants is from Oregon
• Letters Rob is accident prone // Aloha Rob is accident prone
• Letters Ellen is Jewish // Fish Ellen is Jewish
• Letters Ellen writes about karma and astrology // Fish Ellen writes about karma and astrology
• Letters Ellen is an extreme animal lover // Fish Ellen is an extreme animal lover
• Letters Karen frequently corresponds with Letters Mark // Crochet Pants mentions corresponding with someone names Mark in the 80s
• Letters Karen leaves The Cottage in 88 // Crochet Pants leaves the cottage in 87
• Letters Ellen is from Tucson, AZ // Fish Ellen & Aloha Karen are from Arizona
• Letters Karen’s dad is a doctor // Fish Ellen & Aloha Karen’s dad is a doctor
• Included in The Letters is a letter written by a woman in confinement // Helena was in jail in the 80s
• Letters Ellen owns a cat painting // Fish Ellen has her eye on a cat painting
• Letters Rob lived in or around Oakland in 87 and 88 // Aloha Rob lived in Alameda (adjacent to Oakland) in 87 and 88.
• Letters Karen & Letters Ellen live together in The Cottage // Crochet Pants had a(n unknown) roommate in The Cottage
• Letters Karen leaves The Cottage abruptly // Crochet Pants leaves The Cottage abruptly
• Letters Ellen has no relationship with her father // Fish Ellen’s and Aloha Karen’s father abandoned them in the 80s (when Helena went to jail)
• Letters Ellen’s grandparents escaped Nazi Germany // Fish Ellen’s grandparents escaped Nazi Germany
• Letters Ellen’s mom was an activist/protestor // Helena was an activist/protestor
THE PLACES THEY’VE LIVED
• Letters Karen: Oregon, The Bay Area
• Letters Ellen: Arizona, Oregon, The Bay Area, Budapest
• Letters Rob: The Bay Area, Oregon
• Crochet Pants: Oregon, The Bay Area, Washington, Illinois
• Fish Ellen: Arizona, Oregon, The Bay Area, Washington
• Aloha Karen: Arizona, The Bay Area, Hawaii
• Aloha Rob: Mississippi, The Bay Area, Washington, Hawaii
OCCUPATIONS & CURRENT LOCATIONS
• Crochet Pants: Yarn Goddess in Illinois
• Fish Ellen: Acupuncturist / Yoga Teacher in Washington
• Aloha Karen: The Coast Guard in Hawaii
• Aloha Rob: The Coast Guard in Hawaii
• Helena: Retired, recently moved from Mendocino, CA to Scottsdale, AZ
• Dot: Retired in Scottsdale, AZ
• ROB: Letters Rob // Dot’s deceased husband
• MARK: Letters Mark // Someone Crochet Pants knew in the 80s
• GEORGE: Received a letter from ??????? // A friend of Crochet Pants // Former President and rumored relative of Letters Karen, Ellen, or Rob // Former President campaigned for by Letters Karen, Ellen, and Rob // Former President whose bumper sticker is on Crochet Pants (A Democrat)’s car
• Alice: Letters Ellen’s potential replacement roommate for Karen / Noted Scorpio
• Annette: Suicidal Piano Lady who lived in The Cottage immediately before Letters Karen / Suicidal Piano Lady who lived in The Cottage the year before Crochet Pants
• Barb: Helena’s friend in San Francisco (deceased)
• Benedict Cumberbatch: A beautiful freak
• Benvenuto Cellini: Italian goldsmith and sculptor who notably did not work with plastic
• Bonnie: Associate of Mark / Arch-nemesis of Vanessa Y.
• The Caldwells: Tenants of Mark, who live on the same lot as The Cottage
• The Caldwells’ Cats: Electricity hogs
• Catfish Karen: Daughter-in-Law of ruled out Karen candidate
• Charles Worthington: Attorney for Letters Karen & Rob
• Darren: Mutual friend of Josh and Fish Ellen
• David: Filmmaker
• Eva: Letters Ellen’s landlord in Budapest
• George Bush: Former governor & president / Noted Gemini
• Guru Lahera: Associate of Guru Patel
• Guru Patel: Ellen’s Guru (deceased)
• Hal: Used to live in a chicken coop where The Cottage now stands
• Helena’s Butcher: Might be a lesbian
• Jackie: Former neighbor of Dot & Helena / Friend of Dot
• Kiro Yamashita: Letters Karen’s friend / Landscaper
• Kris: Went to jail with Helena
• Leslie: David’s long-suffering assistant
• Marsha: Friend of Letters Ellen and former tenant of Mark’s
• Mice 1-7: “Participants” in Fish Ellen’s Mouse Program
• Miss Fletcher: Letters Karen, Ellen, and Rob’s homeschool teacher
• Misty: Dot’s dog (deceased)
• Mr. James: Mark’s “decorator”
• Myron Shapiro: Former owner of a Christmas Tree farm
• Patty with the Crystals: Former neighbor of Dot & Helena / Fish Ellen & Aloha Karen’s step-mother / Noted floozy
• Paul: Helena’s ex-husband / Fish Ellen’s & Aloha Karen’s father
• QRs: Crochet Pants blog community
• Robert: Dot’s husband (deceased)
• Aloha Rob’s Dad: Air Force veteran (deceased)
• Seekers: Patty’s followers
• Sharon: Friend/Relative of Aloha Karen
• Suzie: Friend of Helena
• Uncle Albert: Mark’s uncle / Attorney / Law school professor
• Uncle Gary: Letters Ellen’s uncle / Pickle factory owner
• Uncle Henry: Letters Ellen’s uncle / Pickle factory owner
• Uncle Josef: Letters Ellen’s uncle
KNOWN ASTROLOGICAL SIGNS
• Letters Ellen: Gemini
• Fish Ellen: Gemini
• Mark: Aries
• Alice: Scorpio
• George Bush: Gemini
• Michael Dukakis: Scorpio
• Dan Quayle: Aquarius
ITEMS BROKEN OR DESTROYED
• Aloha Rob’s Corvette (crashed) – Aloha Rob
• Aloha Karen’s & Rob’s “Car Garage Door Opener” (unspecified) – Aloha Rob
• The cat painting (tongue broken off) – Letters Rob
• Christmas Tree farm (exploded) – Letters Karen & Rob
• Pickle factory (exploded / factory fire) – Letters Ellen and/or Letters Rob
• Mother Goose diaper truck (caught fire from nearby Christmas Tree farm explosion) – Letters Karen & Rob
• Refrigerator (door broken off by frozen leg of lamb / low side leak due to chiseling) – Letters Karen & Ellen
• Louvered closet doors (covered in glued-on fake fur) – Letters Karen & Ellen
• Unspecified private property (vandalized) – Helena
• The Caldwells’ sprinkler heads (broken off) – Unknown
• Medicine cabinet (missing) – Letters Karen
• Typewriter (covered in honey) – Letters Rob
• Venetian blinds (written on in marker) – Letters Karen & Ellen
• Porch light (missing) – Unknown
• Jackie’s garage (caught fire) – Unknown
• Hoover Qwik-Vac Vacuum Cleaner aka vacumm (burned out motor aka omtor) – Letters Karen
• Cottage keys (missing) – Letters Rob
• Gondola (unspecified accident) – Letters Karen & Rob
• Teacup (broken during a fit of laughter) – Letters Ellen’s mother
• Golf Cart Garage Door Opener (unspecified) – Unknown
OTHER GROUPS OF PEOPLE
THE CUL-DE-SAC CREW:
PEOPLE WHO HAVE LIVED IN SEATTLE:
• Fish Ellen
• Aloha Rob
• Crochet Pants
• Goofy Waiter
• (Presumably) Aloha Karen
THE SCOTTSDALE OLD LADY GANG:
• Misty (deceased)
PEOPLE ASSOCIATED WITH MARK:
• Bonnie (Associate)
• Uncle Albert (Uncle/Associate)
• CW (Associate/Nemesis)
• Mr. James (“Decorator”)
• Josh (Former Acquaintance/Thorn-in-side)
• Hal (Former Tenant)
• Crochet Pants (Former Tenant)
• Fish Ellen (Former Tenant)
• Letters Karen (Former Tenant)
• Letters Ellen (Former Tenant)
• The Caldwells (Former Tenants)
• Marsha (Former Tenant)
• Letters Rob (Former Harasser)
PEOPLE WHO HATE PATTY WITH THE CRYSTALS:
• Fish Ellen
PEOPLE WHO HAVE LIVED IN THE BAY AREA:
• The Caldwells
• Fish Ellen
• Letters Ellen
• Aloha Rob
• Letters Rob
• Crochet Pants
• Aloha Karen
• Letters Karen
PEOPLE WHO HAVE LIVED IN OREGON:
• Crochet Pants
• Letters Karen
• Fish Ellen
• Letters Ellen
• Myron Shapiro
• Miss Fletcher
• Charles Worthingon