"Bob," said the note, fished from deep within a large manila envelope. "Attached is the product of a weekend of either laborious amusement or amusing labor. I've never decided which."
Clipped to the note was a spiffy new menu from Alexander's Three, a restaurant in Arlington. The author: Susan Feller of Alexandria.
Susan is a 36-year-old free-lance writer and editor, which is another way of saying that she doesn't dine on chateaubriand seven nights a week.
Free-lance wordsmiths almost always work without secretaries, without benefits and without the faintest idea of who will be signing their next paycheck. So when Alex Inglese Sr., owner of Alexander's Three, called Susan a few months ago out of the blue sky and asked her to write his new menu, she didn't ask for a week to think about it.
"I hd reviewed restaurants [in local community papers] for years, which I guess is how he heard about me," Susan said. "For anybody who has cooked a lot or spent a lot of time going to restaurants, both of which I've done, writing a menu was very natural to do.
"I'd never thought about it," Susan said. "I mean, even though I've done it now, I absolutely do not know who writes menus, or how they approach it."
Susan's method was to balance a writer's natural desire to be terse, honest and accurate against the restaurant's natural desire to make every dish sound like the World's Fair.
"You don't really run the risk of exaggerating," Susan explained. "You just sit there and picture the items. You just smell them with the nose of your mind."
Thus was born this description of Veal Siciliana:
"A colorful harmony of sauteed veal scallops, blanketed with thinly sliced ham, bubbling mozzarella cheese and roasted sweet pepper strips, with just a whisper of white wine sauce."
All right, sticklers. Maybe sauce doesn't whisper. More notable is the fact that "bubbling" is the only hard-sell adjective in a 28-word description of a $10.95 dinner. That shows blue-ribbon restraint.
Even better are the word choices that went unmade. In the Alexander's Three menu, there's not a "corn-fed" piece of beef or a "rainbow-fresh" trout to be found.
All in all? "It was a marvelous experience, very refreshing," Susan Feller said.
So, too, in a way, was the day of reckoning.
"I asked for $150 to do the menu," said Susan. "He offered $125, plus any dinner I wanted."
After describing them all so lusciously, Susan didn't wait a week to consider that offer, either.
Today's I'll-bet-you're-right award goes to Marvin A. Marx of Silver Spring.
Marvin spent 23 years at the D.C. post office (no,not waiting in line, just working there). He read last week's item about a letter addressed to Mayor Edward Koch at Gracie Mansion in New York being returned with the notation, "Addressee Unknown."
"I think I can figure out what happened," Marvin writes. "'Addressee Unknown' is usually stamped on a letter by the carrier who delivers mail to the particular address. . . .
"In this case maybe he was careless, or maybe an inexperienced substitute concentrated on 'Gracie' and thought it was the first name of a female who does not live at that address.
"How could he not notice the name Mayor Edward Koch? Strange things happen in a post office."
And marvelous feats of deduction, too. Marvin passed along this triumph of a 1920s postal clerk in New England, who picked up an envelope marked: DOWN JOHN ME
He immediately routed it to John Underdown, Andover, Maine. Naturally.
As I threatened, I've decided to publish my direct-dial phone number at The Post, and to reprint The Post's mailing address. It's my not-so-subtle way of encouraging all of you to call or write if you've seen or heard anything you think would make good grist for a local columnist's mill.
Think of this as a local call-in radio show that happens to be published in a newspaper. We'll be that informal, that wide-ranging. And don't be bashful. No idea is too trivial.
And, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.