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Erik Harper Klass Searches for Erik Harper Klass: Part 2

As some of you may recall, a few weeks ago I received an email from a certain Erik Harper Klass, which email contained a less-than-flattering review of my novella Polish Poets in Beds with Girls (the novella happens to be available at Amazon and bookstores near you).


And now, at the risk of emulating my doppelganger, who is (and allow me to (approximately) quote) “one of those guys who doesn’t really know when to stop himself when he finds himself doing something completely and utterly and spectacularly stupid,” I have decided, for the second time, to see if I can track him down.


Why I made this decision, I cannot say. I was reading recently (Determined by Robert M. Sapolsky) about how it’s possible—likely even—that humans do not possess free will. Sure, we feel that we are in some control over our thoughts and actions, but this may be (some say) just that: a feeling. So I guess this is all out of my hands. This might explains things. I am quite simply determined—in the scientific-philosophical sense—to find this guy.


But, as mentioned in my last post, googling “Erik Harper Klass” led me inevitably and repeatedly and, I must admit, self-aggrandizingly back to myself. (Well, not always self-aggrandizingly. For example, on page 37 of my Google search, I came across the following odd photo on an (ex)friend’s Facebook page. That’s me, I admit. How did I do that? And why is this on my (ex)friend’s Facebook page?)



So I needed more than just a name. But what about two names?


Recall, dear reader, that Erik Harper Klass’s uncle’s name, according to Erik Harper Klass, is Lou. And, if I grasp the intricacies of genealogy and contemporary onomastics, it’s fifty-fifty that Uncle Lou is a paternal uncle—that is, with the same last name. So I googled “erik harper klass” “lou klass.” (For those unfamiliar with Google searches with quote marks, let me explain that the quote marks ensure that the results are, in Google parlance, “exact matches.”)


Alas . . .



But I didn’t give up, for Erik Harper Klass—to be clear, I’m referring to my homonym, my twin, my nemesis—left additional clues in his review of my novella, viz. a list of his favorite words, viz., “purple, hamster, French horn, brunch, skivvies, stamp collection, NASA, fundament.” With three of these—French horn, stamp collection, and NASA—I thought I might get lucky. Let us search again!



Okay, so he doesn’t play the French horn (as far as the internet is concerned).


I had a similar (fruitless) result when I tried “erik harper klass” “NASA.”


But when I tried “erik harper klass” and “stamp collection,” I struck gold:



Following the link, I arrived at the “Meeting Notes (Archives)” page of the Monrovia chapter of the American Philatelic Society, for a meeting dated October 27, 2022. I will transcribe said notes below:


. . . Next up was Erik Harper Klass from nearby Arcadia, displaying for us some dazzling stamps of his. First was a really wonderful Belgian 6.50F stamp from 1981. Note the angel or dove or feathers or something excreting [sic] from the horn’s bowl, a great touch. 

 

 

Next, Mr. Klass presented an amazing sheet of NASA spacecraft and related miscellanea. It was really “far out”!

 

 

Finally, Mr. Klass presented a cute little stamp of a hamster. Mr. Klass was quick to admit that this stamp is not of great monetary value, but, well, in his words: “I just really like hamsters.”

 

 

Thank you, Mr. Klass, for showing us just a few of your fabulous stamps. We hope we will see you philater—ha-ha—at a future meeting . . .


French horn! NASA! Hamster! I think I found my man. And now, I had a place.


I’ve never been to Arcadia, but I know my vocabulary: arcadia: a region or scene of simple pleasure and quiet. Plus, it’s not too far away from my own abode (mirabile dictu!). But I still needed an address.


Google was unhelpful in this regard. But thanks to two pleasant afternoons in the bowels of the Los Angele Public Library’s Department of Historical Ephemera & Paraphernalia, I found one of those old phone books people once used as butt-risers for small children.



And in the Alhambra, Arcadia, El Monte 1982 Yellow Pages, which also included white pages, here’s what I found:



(Note 1: The bold typeface and trailing “!” were not part of the source text.)


(Note 2: I added Klass E H’s address here reluctantly—perhaps there are some legal issues associated with the publishing of another’s address—but it seems I can’t help myself (see above about free will).)


(Note 3: 1982?! exclaims the pessimistic reader. What are the odds he’s even still there? Or that this is even “Erik Harper Klass”?)


Anyway, I waited a few days, wrestling with a combination of doubt, indecision, expectation, fear, longing, and several other emotions. Finally—it was a Monday I believe—I got in my car and set my course for the 35000 block of Arcadia’s Lemon Ave. to pay my archenemy a visit. Arcadia, yes—but “simple pleasure and quiet,” I suspected, were not on the docket.


The house was on the edge of town, right up against the mountains. It was a strangely styled single-story stucco structure with a blue pickup truck in the driveway. I parked across the street. I sat and looked at the house for a while. It had arches and keystones and pilasters. Some things appeared too big, others too small. The gable roof was like a Classical pediment. It was an amazing house, a collage of unexpected references and symbols, a bricolage of influences. (I took a picture but it didn’t turn out.) On the front lawn rose a short Corinthian column—supporting no entablature, no structure whatsoever—which seemed to cradle above its acanthi and volutes, intentionally or otherwise, a birdbath, within which a single mockingbird (probably Mimus polyglottos) bathed. The bird flew off, but I got a shot of the column-cum-birdbath-sans-bird:



There was a wicker chair on the patio near the front door, and on this chair sat, in a sprawled-like manner, a man. He was drinking a beer and reading a newspaper.

 

I carefully got out of my car and approached. The man was sitting with his legs very widely spread, signifying immodesty, swagger, spunk, a cocksure cockiness. He had a beard and, as I got closer, hazel eyes. Not much hair on the head. He lowered the newspaper. I stood before him in such a way that my shadow covered half of his face, thus initiating something of a half-squint.

 

“What can I do you for?” were his exact words.

 

“I’m sorry to bother you,” I said, “but are you Erik Harper Klass?”

 

“Who’s asking?” he said.

 

“Erik Harper Klass,” was my honest reply.

 

“My friend,” he said with some irritation in his voice, probably thinking I had repeated my prior question (not noticing, I guess, my lack of a rising terminal interrogative inflection), “I’d like to know who [sic] I’m talking to before I start revealing things like my name. Do you work for the government or something?”

 

He had folded the newspaper and set it down on a small four-legged table next to him. The weight of the newspaper, if you can believe it, caused the table to tilt from its north, east, and south legs, where it had been resting at a slight angle, to its north, east, and west legs. (I thought to mention that he could maybe rip off part of the newspaper—part he’d already read, of course—and create a folded wedge, let’s call it a shim, to place under one of the legs (the east or the west one), to steady said table, but I decided to stay quiet on the matter of the wobbling table. It just wasn’t the right time for it.) He seemed to be cracking the knuckles of his non–beer-holding hand, that is, the left one, in that single-handed way some people’ve mastered, using the thumb, etc.

 

“No,” I said, “I’m not with the government. Actually, I’m a writer. I’ve written a book. A novella.”

 

“Very impressive,” he said. “I’m also a writer, and I’ve also written a book, a novella, as you call it.”

 

At this point, he closed up his legs, set his beer down on the little table I mentioned above (which caused it to tilt from its north, east, and west legs back to its north, east, and south legs), and rose. What the dialogue above perhaps does not make clear is that hiding behind the man’s words—frolicking between the lines, like fleas in corduroy—was a pinch of menace, a soupçon of malevolence, an ort of peril, etc. I tried to stay strong. Bravery, I read somewhere, is the hallmark of genius. Or something like that. Emerson, I think.

 

“And what do you call this book of yours?” I asked. I found myself genuinely interested.

 

“You first,” he said.

 

“But I asked first,” I said.

 

“But this is my house,” he said. “You’re standing practically on my front porch. You’ve interrupted my afternoon beer-and-newspaper session, scared off my mockingbird, etc. Are you familiar,” he continued, “with the word importune?”

 

He had some good points. I also liked his use of etc. Etc.

 

“Okay. How ’bout this,” I said. “Why don’t I count to three, and then we’ll both say the titles of our novellas at the exact same time?”

 

He thought about it for a minute, truly to the second. He scratched his beard, then rubbed the nostril area of his nose with the top of his extended right index finger, as if he were pointing very quickly and repeatedly to the left, and made a few other gestural movements not really worth recounting here.

 

“Fine,” he said. “But should we say the titles on ‘three’? Or one count later, on ‘four,’ as it were?”

 

“That’s a good question,” I said. “We should do it on ‘four,’ for the simple reason that I can’t say the title of my novella while at the same time also saying ‘three.’ ”

 

“But what if ‘three’ is the first word of the title of your novella?” he said, winkingly.

 

“Well, it’s not,” I said, trying hard not to wink back at him. “I’ll give you that much.”

 

He only nodded.

 

“Ready?” I said.

 

He nodded—or really he simply continued, very efficiently, the nod he’d commenced two lines up.

 

It was time.

 

“One . . .” I said. “Two . . .”

 

Leaves scraped across sidewalks, birds tweeted from nondescript trees, and many other things happened, basically an infinity of things, thus delaying the dénouement of this endless blog post (but thereby creating, I hope, a pleasant tincture of tension.)

 

“Three!”

 

We both took deep breaths. And then we spoke, in identical voices, in stereo:

 

“April Fools!”

 

Yes, my patient readers. This was all a joke. The original review was a fake. Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur.


 

Erik Harper Klass is the founder of Submitit, the WORLD’S FIRST full-service submissions and editing company. He has published stories and essays in a variety of journals, including New England Review, Yemassee (Cola Literary Review), Blood Orange Review, Slippery Elm, Summerset Review, and many others, and he has been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes. He has published a novella from Buttonhook Press.


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It’s been a while since I laughed out loud like this. Unless you count that meme I saw on X this morning that made me almost spit my coffee all over my freshly washed comforter and sent me searching for the T-shirt version on Amazon, which I promptly ordered and am already drooling at the prospect of wearing to the next big family gathering. So yeah. Thanks for the laugh. If you decide to make a T-shirt out of it, I’ll take a women’s size small in heather gray. Preferably.

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You got me. Well done.

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