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In which our hero goes from the depths of despair to delirious heights. 

October 3, 1960

Dearest Karen,

Received your cards today. One was postmarked Sept. 30, the other Oct. 2. Goes to show you what weekend mail service is like. My extension number is 2009 and I’m usually around in the evening — except Friday and Saturday when it’s either too noisy to study here or I’m out doing something after a hard week of classes. Actually, the dorm is not the greatest place in the world to study or sleep, but this is college living at its finest.

I talked to Beverly tonight again to inform her of and receive the latest developments.

Anybody else starting to ship Russ and Bev? I’m kinda into it.

I also called my parents and mentioned the idea of your coming down Friday. I mentioned it to Beverly again and she, for the first time, informed me of unfavorable [sic] reaction when she asked you at some past date. If I had known that I would have given you a sales pitch. My parents went along with the idea and will call you. Whether or not you can arrange everything satisfactorily will still, of course, depend on you. The signal is “all clear” though. Pep rally parade is from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. and pep rally itself is from 6:30 – 7:00 p.m. After that campus life is pretty much the same although heightened by the pending game.

Aw, she doesn’t want to give Russ the chance to get it on Friday night, maybe? Tough break, buddy.

We have high hopes for the Illini this year. Anyway, all things considered, we can have fun, naturally. Try to arrive before 6:00 p.m., if possible. My last class is over at 1:00 p.m. (Friday) and I think (pretty sure) I can get out of my 10-12 Sat. class. {refer to schedule} [That’s literally written in the margin].

MAN, Russ is in the dumps! It sounds like she’s on the fence about Friday and he’s bummed.  

October 4, 1960

Finishing this letter in the morning. My roommate went to bed last night and since it was late and I had to “rise and shine” in the early morning hours, I thought I’d finish the letter this morning. I checked my mailbox after my morning class, which turned out to be called off and, sure enough, there was a missal of glad tidings from my compatriot in the state of college life, Karen K. She’s a great kid and you ought to get to know her. She brightens my days considerably. Couldn’t ask for better.

AAWWWW. She came through with some sweet nothings in the mail and he’s back on the upswing.

I may not last till Friday or Saturday so if I come knocking on your door Wednesday or Thursday don’t be too shocked. I have the double incentive of lousy conditions here and blissful conditions at both my first and second homes.

SHE IS HIS SECOND HOME! Aww, sounds like he’s close with her family.  

Some clod is expounding the desirabilities of owning a Chrysler, Plymouth Imperial and/or Valiant.

Today is 60 degree weather although the sun is out. As the announcer said “perfect football weather.” He also thinks Dr. Henry (U of I President) is a fine man and a good speaker and very representative of the university.

Obviously, he is trying for points somewhere because Dr. Henry is probably one of the lousiest public speakers in any position where public speaking is necessary. He has unfailingly made a very poor impression on the new students to whom he speaks every semester. I consider his speeches a waste of time.

He does a poor job of saying nothing. However, he is a fairly capable administrator and therefore is more or less deserving of his position. He looks like a milk-toast [sic] type which detracts quite a bit from the impression which he makes on people in behalf of the university. But enough of Doc Henry.

I know Russ sounds like a cantankerous bastard in this section, but I find it weirdly endearing because I, too, am often a cantankerous bastard.

Incidentally, not meaning to be pedantic, but the caption C2H5 0H2 0x, H2, Na Mn 04 would make a pretty darn good rocket fuel: alcohol, oxygen, hydrogen and monosodium permanganate. However, I do find the cartoon funny and am aware of the real meaning implied by the cartoon and the subtle meaning applying specifically to the sender and receiver. But I ran out of Pb(C2 H5)4 · C2 H4 Br2 · C2 H4 ·CI2 · CH3 CH2 CH2 CH3 ·(CH3) 3 CH · CH2 = CH CH2 CH3 · CH3 CH = CH CH3 · (CH3)3 CH2 CH (CH3) 2 · (CH3) 3 CCH2 CH2 CH3 · (CH3) 2 CH CH2 CH2 CH2 CH3 · (CH3) 3 CCH (CH2) 2 and that’s quite a bit better. So there.

[MARGIN NOTE:] Alcohol and oxygen is used.

RUSS. What are you doing? Going full Rick Sanchez is no way to get a girl to make out with you on homecoming weekend. It seems that Karen made the huge mistake of sending a card with a chemistry joke on it to Russ, and Russ decided to be a huge dick about it. I don’t understand a single thing I typed. If you do, feel free to add it in the comments, but don’t ask me to go back and clarify the formula because life is too short for that.

Edited to add: I missed that “alcohol and oxygen were used” in the writing of this letter. Well played, Russ. It went over my chemistry-terrified brain the first time. 

This letter will also go out Air Mail Special Delivery so I’d better get off before I miss the last Air Dispatch at 4:30 p.m. You should have received my parent’s call before you get this letter.

Good luck and don’t work too hard. See you soon, sweetheart.

Love as always,


P.S. I’m also going to get a letter off to my parents, and I really do appreciate your reminder as it is something I neglect pitifully and your gentle chidings keep me from procrastinating too long.

My friend Heather is an insane ace detective and she did a deep dive into Russ’s backstory. It turns out he skipped a grade and is pretty smart (not as smart as his childhood BFF, but we’ll get to that later, I hope). I don’t want to give away much more than that (and I told her not to tell me anyway, because I don’t like to have an ending spoiled). Let us keep our eyes on the big picture: Homecoming. Russ, bless him, has trouble with this. 


2 Comments on October 3, 1960: Russ is a Cantankerous Chemistry Nerd

  1. I’m excited by Heather’s discoveries! If we can’t have spoilers how about a little foreshadowing?

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