During the production of each issue of Speak, the small and overworked staff goes through a range of emotions: anger, irritability, sorrow, and still more anger. Non-responsive publicists, ad cancellations, long hours. In short, pure American entertainment, updated from time to time.
5/23/01: Thanks very much to Speak subscribers for your patience. Refunds for the remaining issues on your subscriptions have not gone out. I'm still waiting for the actual checks to arrive from the bank. When they do, checks will be printed and mailed promptly.
Which reminds me of this fun story: Shortly before Speak vacated its office space, many fellow tenants were evicted, or more accurately asked to pay astronomical increases in rent (see 9/27/00 entry below). Though the building's offices were split up many years ago, several tenants had to share a gas and electric bill because Pacific Gas & Electric was unwilling to invoice individual addresses. (Strangely, we all had separate meters, so tracking usage wasn't the issue.)
As tenants departed, their names were removed from the shared bills and the remaining tenants' names were added to accurately identify the responsible parties. (There were no "new" names to add because the building manager was unable to re-rent any of the spaces of departed tenants, but more on that in a later entry.)
In December, Speak's name was listed as the sole payer on its gas and electric bill. But because of the change, PG&E informed me that I was considered a new customer and was required to pay a $135 deposit. Ridiculous, I thought. I'll just tell them that I had occupied the space for over five years and had paid my bill on time throughout that period. Not good enough, they said. Any change in a billing name requires a deposit.
More ludicrous was the fact that Speak's own rent was being tripled and the magazine would be leaving its space in less than two months. I even offered to pay in advance my estimated gas and electric bill for my remaining days of tenancy. (The office actually had no gas since its heater broke down in 1998, going unrepaired through three moderate San Francisco winters.) Everyone at PG&E with whom I spoke insisted that my power would indeed be turned off if I didn't pony up the depositfirst on January 31, then February 15, then February 28.
I probably would have paid sooner, but PG&E, partly because of its own corruption and mismanagement, was going through financial difficulties and had been talking bankruptcy for months. I didn't trust them, they didn't trust me, and neither of us was blinking.
Finally I found someone at the utility company seemingly on my side. "At this stage, we're just bluffing you. We won't shut you down before March 15 (my eviction date)." My company mole recommended that I ride out the storm. But two days later a PG&E supervisor called to inform me that Speak's power would be turned off in twenty-four hours if I didn't pay, today, right now, ATM and credit card accepted. He sounded serious, angry even, like he would personally flip the switch himself. I paid with his assurance that my money would be returned to me immediately upon closing the account on March 15 (ridiculously, just a few days later).
More than two months and two bankruptcies latertheirs and mineI still don't have my money. The company has repeatedly assured me that the deposit would be returned, even once claiming that a check was mailed on April 26.
Then yesterday PG&E reported that, contrary to prior assurances, the check had not mailed, exactly. It was written and scheduled to mail, but that darn bankruptcy court has held up all of PG&E's payments, including deposit refunds and customer overcharges. (The fact that nobody has received money owed by the utility companypresumably even those who need it much more than I doseemed to be offered as an appeasement.) The utility company is anxious, even desperate, to get this money back into deserving hands, but, jeez, those court proceedings can move slowly. As soon as it gets the green light, you'd better believe PG&E will put that check in the mail. He took down my phone number in order to update me personally. He sounded like he might just lick the stamp himself.
5/10/01: That introduction is suddenly very dated. It reminds me of a moment during our final, desperate days when John, the ad director, and I decided that the only viable way to keep Speak afloat was to not actually publish the magazine while convincing advertisers that we were.
First of all, thanks to all of the kind people who have written or e-mailed over the last two months. Publishing Speak was often a solitary process and it is rewarding to know that it was not entirely in vain. Also, many subscribers have generously asked that I keep the remaining portion of their subscription money, and by now all of them are probably convinced that I've taken them up on the offer. Not so. Checks will mail to everyone in the next two weeks. I'm sorry for the delay.
Thanks also to those who have ordered back-issue sets. Quantities of some issues are now quite low and full sets will only be available for a short time. Single issues and partial sets will continue to be sold through the site, though.
Several people have inquired as to what Martin and/or I are going to do next. We don't know. Since Speak's collapse, Martin has talked of paring down his life and only taking on jobs about which he feels strongly, while I've been sitting in my apartment enjoying creamy coffee beverages. It would be great to be able to work together again, but considering the current publishing climate, it probably won't be on another national magazine. Something modest like a local or regional journal is a more likely possibility. If you've subscribed to Speak or ordered back issues, I have your address in my file and will update you if anything is on the horizon.
In the coming days, I'll respond to some questions on this page, add another interview to the conversation page, and no doubt enjoy more creamy coffee beverages.
3/14/01: Tonight I went to the Speak office for the last time. A chair and a telephone were all that remained to collect. No more forgetting, no more excuses. This was it. Quick and easy. I rolled the chair across the empty floor, reached for the light, and turned around. I hate this fucking place, I thought. Cold and damp and dirty. Seriously flawed, just like the magazine. I hate what it's done to me. I'm thirty-five and broke. I'm tired, too. I once spent fifty-eight straight days here. I spent more than one Christmas here, alone. This is where I was when I should have been out with friends. This is where I was when I should have been with my girlfriend, my sweet girlfriend, whom I lashed out at almost every time she called here. I was busy, always busy.
I walked back across the floor. I walked and walked. I thought about how I'd set up the office differently. More space, fewer desks. Five desks is too many for one person. Heavy, 1950s-style, metal desks, free from my mother's friend. I spray-painted them black. My nostrils were caked with paint. I had a headache for three days.
The phone rang. I would have left it behind. "Speak Magazine." It was the UPS man. He had two final cases of magazines and needed my new address to forward them. PMB 727. From a massive loft to a stupid mailbox. Of course the magazines won't fit and I'll have to take a note up to the counter. I always feel like I'm imposing when they keep something in the back for me. Dennis was my UPS driver for over five years, but I only recently learned his name. He has two tattoo's, both of UPS logos, one recent, one classic. I ran into him once outside the office when he wasn't working. We made small talk for a minute, then it became awkward. He said something about a flier on the sidewalk and I did my best to act interested then walked away. "Good luck with everything," Dennis said tonight. "Yeah, you too."
I unplugged the phone and put it on the chair. I thought of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and "It's a Long Way to Tipperary." I thought about how many more people I know on television than in real life. I thought about sitting alone, spray-painting those desks on my first day here. I wished that now was then. I wished that I could make up for everything. I wished that I could lie on the dirty floor and go to sleep. I cried.
Shit. I wasn't going to cry. Now I can't stop. How will I get out of the building without anyone seeing me? I shut off the lights, but it only gets worse. I'm standing in a dark, empty office with a chair and a telephone, crying. It shouldn't end like this. It can't end like this. Without turning the lights back on, I walk out and lock the door behind me.
2/15/01: In less than two weeks, Speak will be vacating its office. The following items will not be traveling with us: a six-foot-tall industrial rack, a treadmill, a small refrigerator, a weight bench and free weights, a broken exercise bike, a futon mattress and frame, a laser printer in need of repair,a small glass side table, several metal desks, three large black rugs, four folding faux-wood long work tables, and thousands, literally thousands, of brand-new hardcover books. Prices, in order of appearance above, are $50, $200, $20, free, free, $50, $20, free, free, $30, free, $4 each. Speak is located at 301 8th Street, corner of 8th & Folsom, in San Francisco. Call before you come (415-431-5395) to make sure someone will be there. Thank you.
1/29/01: Last week sixty-six-year-old San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown revealed that he will once again be a father, this time of a baby girl due in the spring. The mother, thirty-eight-year-old Carolyn Carpeneti, is the mayor's chief fund-raising coordinator and "a great friend." A lovely story. Until you consider that, eighteen years from now, when the child is preparing to enter college, the elderly Brown will still be vengeful and corrupt.
1/28/01: Well, many things have happened since the last entry. Unfortunately a new issue of Speak isn't among them. Art director Martin Venezky scored the wonderful job of designing all of the print materials for this year's Sundance Film Festival and immediately let it be known, as kindly as possible, that the magazine was no longer a priority. Thankfully, he did occasionally update me on his exciting life, seamlessly referring to Mr. Redford as "Bob" ("That's what everyone calls him!"). He even invited me along to Sundance. (I refused, not wanting to feel complicit in the issue's massive delay.) Martin is now back from Utah and assures me that this week, three months after first receiving editorial, he will fully dedicate himself to Speak. Oh, and Bob didn't make it to this year's festival. He had other priorities.
12/12/00: In an unfortunate coincidence, Speak's office address includes the one word that I cannot comprehensibly say. Below is a short compilation of my efforts over the past five years:
"301 Eighth Street"
"301 Ace Street?"
"No, 301 Eighth Street, as in the number eight."
"301 Ace Street, #8?"
"No, 301 Eight Street."
"Got it, 3018. Now what's the street name again?"
Fifty days until eviction
11/28/00: Rolling Stone magazine has just published its People of the Year 2000 issue. Winners include Sting, Tina Turner, U2, Don Henley(!), Pete Townshend, and Paul Simon. (What, no Ernest Borgnine?) Did any of these winners even leave their houses last year? Somewhere Jimmy Buffet's friends are telling him he was robbed.
11/27/00: Well, this whole chronicles idea hasn't exactly been a smashing success. Sitting on my laptop is a scrap of paper with scribbled notes for potential entries. Here's what it says: 8th/Ace, telephone line on, trash alley fine/ziplock, XO busy sig, R.S. of the year. To save me the effort of writing these out, everyone is welcome to call directly and request any of the above anecdotes.
10/5/00: The Blue Angels arrived in San Francisco today. The Navy flight squadron annually performs breathtaking loops and spins in tandem over the Bay for suburbanites with picnic baskets and grandkids. A sort of Harlem Globetrotters of the U.S. Military, the Blue Angels are primarily an expensive public relations team designed to enhance the image of the Navy and recruit impressionable young men. Of course most of these teens who dream of wooing ladies with their bad-ass planes wind up crawling through muddy obstacle courses in South Carolina for twelve grand a year. But no matter, we're all on the same team.
In the days leading up to the weekend's big performance, the Angels put on another show of sorts: a series of practice runs directly over the city skyline. It's often deafening and, depending on your faith in the military, somewhat unnerving. Every year citizens protest the excessive noise, potential danger, as well as the cost of maintaining the high-priced squadronwho, frankly, look a little like reincarnated Hitler Youth. I mostly stay quiet. I figure we're all on the same team, right? Right?
9/29/00: In an episode titled "Beaver, The Model," from the television series Leave It To Beaver, Beaver mails picture of himself to a modeling agency and gets back a congratulations declaring him a top prospect. His father cautions that it's a scam, but rapscallion Eddie Haskell convinces young Beav that old Ward is holding him back from a promising modeling career out of jealously. Beaver signs on and soon receives multiple demands for a thirty-dollar agency fee. Beaver ignores them until the agency threatens legal action. Frightened, he hires lawyer George Compton, a family friend. Though Beaver has only forty-six cents, the lawyer agrees to handle his case. He accepts Beaver's money, too, warning him that anytime he can't go to his father for help, it's going to cost him something.
Several months ago Speak received notification by fax from the U.S. Department of Labor that it had to provide payroll statistics every month. This meant filling out a government payroll report with personal employee information, hours, and salary. It sounded like a scam so I called the number on the cover sheet.
"Department of Labor," a woman answered. Ha, ha. It was as easy as calling the sandwich shop down the street. Now I knew it was a scam. The woman informed me that Speak was randomly chosen to participate in a government salary survey of various occupations. I asked what if a company, hypothetically, only had one employee on payroll, and this employee only worked, say, occasionally? Surely this wouldn't be worth the government's trouble, plus it would unfairly skew the statistics.
"Once you've been selected, you're legally required to report," she answered.
"Scam or not, I'm not doing it," I thought. "They can't make me."
I called Speak's accountant, mostly because he charges a hundred and something dollars an hour, while Speak's lawyer charges two hundred and something dollars an hour. "I've never heard of such a thing. It sounds fishy," he said. He reassuringly offered to take care of it.
He called back an hour later. "She said once you've been selected, you're legally required to report. You have to do it." The accountant's bill arrived the following week: ninety dollars for two phone calls and "consultation."
Since then the U.S. Department of Labor has left several telephone messages warning that I am not in compliance, that I must fill out the government payroll forms. It also faxes me reminders every month. There's forty-six cents in it for anyone with a solution. And please don't say I'm legally required to reportI won't do it plus, I can't afford another ninety dollars.
9/27/00: A new issue of Speak mails this week, and it's nearly as good as some of the other issues! In other news, the magazine has been informed that its office rent will triple or quadruple at the end of its lease next year. The dot-com revolution is here, and the only people laughing are landlords, scooter manufacturers and Banana Republic. One by one, 301 8th Street tenants are leaving, even the photographer next door who was here before the idiot landlord failed his first spelling test. Word is everyone is moving to Oakland or Portland or Montana, but I have a funny feeling some of them are being killed off.
Now I have to find a well-paying second job that will allow me to afford rent and groceries in what is becoming Atlanta with hills. There are lots of available jobs in San Francisco, mostly with vague companies with names like Gyrotech Solutions, Inc. So far I haven't signed on, passing up the generous salaries, flexible hours, company bungee jumps and softball leagues.
Two months ago I quit a second job at a local print magazine soon after the publisher decided to transform it into an on-line magazine. Often I was paid to sit with the Web site designers as they passed out pages of graphs with tiny rectangles and bluffed their way through hours of explanation about the architecture of this nonexistent site. I've heard that dot-commers take lots of meetings.
The other night I was driving home and passed a Chevron station. "Help Wanted. Night Shift. Good Salary and Benefits," the sign read. I considered it, really considered it. I could bring my laptop, get paid while working on Speak, and have my days free. Anything was better than those stupid rectangles. That's when I realized it was time to get out of town.
8/31/00: "The arrogance of every generation is to think that the onward march of world history led to this peak that is its generation and now it's going downhill."
This from David Greenberger, publisher of The Duplex Planet, in Speak's Fall 1999 issue. The line reappeared earlier this year in Utne Reader, which occasionally reprints quotes from Speak interviews. Then two months ago, I received a call from Reader's Digest, asking to purchase a copy of the issue in which the Greenberger quote appeared. I said I'd send it for free, but the woman on the phone insisted on paying, reciting an American Express number to me. Silly, I thought. I ignored the credit card number and only took down her address (Reader's Digest Road, impressive!).
Reader's Digest was the only magazine my dad ever read. When it arrived each month, he would remain at the kitchen table after dinner and read through his magnifying glass for hours. Sometimes he'd fall asleep there, awkwardly kneeling on the chair, his face pressed down into the chunky magazine. He looked like a deflated "S."
A few weeks later, I received two sets of Reader's Digest contracts, one for me and one for the Greenberger interviewer Katherine Wessling. They were considering reprinting the same quote in an upcoming issue, and offered to pay each of us $50 for permission. Silly, I thought. I wanted to decline the payment, but it probably would have caused them more trouble than if I just accepted it.
My dad saved all of his Reader's Digests, neatly lining the bookshelves in the basement. As far as I know, he never went back to read any of the old issues, but if he ever wanted to, there they were, perfectly organized by volume, issue and date.
Our Reader's Digest checks arrived last week. They decided to publish David's quote in the "Points To Ponder" section of the September issue. It's a good quote, and nicely appropriate for the magazine's generation of readers. Still, the contracts, the payment, hell, the fact that something from Speak appears in Reader's Digest, all seem very silly.
My dad's Reader's Digests still stand in their designated place on the basement bookshelves. The ones in the lower-right corner are from 1983, the year he died. I plan to squeeze in one more issue this weekend. It's silly, I know. But I think he would've gotten a kick out of it.
8/27/00: We used to have a saying in the Speak office every time an issue was running desperately late: "It's not like anybody's waiting for this thing." We'd laugh out loud at the oddly comforting bit of gallows humor, knowing that it wasn't far from the truth. In that spirit, I bring you my first chronicle in over two weeks.
In an episode titled "Beaver and Chuey," from the television series Leave It To Beaver, young Beaver befriends a Latino boy named Chuey Varela. While Chuey doesn't speak English and Beaver doesn't speak Spanish, the two still enjoy each other's company, often playing soldiers on the bedroom floor. Enter rapscallion Eddie Haskell, who offers to teach Beaver how to say "You're a good guy" in Spanish. Instead Eddie has the unsuspecting Beaver tell his friend, "You have a face like a pig." Chuey runs away in tears, Chuey's parents (who also speak no English) demand an apology, and meanwhile poor Beav has no idea what all the fuss is about.
The following was e-mailed through the Speak Web site. The first person to send an accurate translation (no funny business!) gets a Speak subscription for themselves or a friend.
"Hola,escribo desde Barcelona, Catalonia(Spain), voy a editar un magazine llamado: opyright (sin©). Necesito los numeros de speak: #'s 1-2-3-4-5-6 & 11. Todos los demas ya los tengo. Pretendo publicar temas vuestros, dentro de mi bi-mensual (con ©, claro!). Yo, como grafista, ilustrador y fotografo tambiŽn me gustar’a colaborar en speak. ŔPorquŽ no me demandais algo sobre esta tierra de aqu’ y os lo envio. Algo de acuerdo con vuestra l’nea speak. Salud."
8/11/00: In an episode titled "Beaver's Secret Life," from the television series Leave It To Beaver, teacher Miss Landers surveys her students about vocations they'd like to pursue. Without much thought, young Beaver answers "writer." His father, Ward, is so pleased that he buys Beav his own diary and suggests that he write about his daily experiences "just like Somerset Maugham." Well, Beaver soon becomes discouraged with his not very Maugham-esque entries: "Went to school. Spit off the bridge. Came home." So discouraged that he starts making up adventures, including doing handstands on the railing of the State Street Bridge and hitchhiking all the way to Bellport. One day his parents illicitly read Beaver's diary and are understandably alarmed. Embarrassed, Beaver is forced to confess that he took literary license in embellishing his monotonous life. So while it would be easy to regale you with romantic tales of the publishing world, an accurate entry for this, and all of the nine days prior, would read: "Went to work. Answered the phones. Edited copy. Came home." Somewhere my mother is breathing easier.
8/2/00: Approximately ninety-percent of telephone calls to Speak come from publicists. Most promote musical acts, others push various junk like exercise tapes, florescent beepers for back-to-school, and beef jerky. (The kind people at Slim Jim have periodically sent dried meat samples to Speak for several years now.) Here's a semi-accurate transcript of a publicist call from this morning (any similarity to Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First" routine is purely coincidental):
"Hello, I was wondering if John Lockhart is still the person to whom I should direct press releases regarding business news."
"No, John is Speak's advertising director."
"Oh, then who replaced him?"
"Nobody. He's always been in advertising for Speak."
"Does he work out of your San Francisco office?"
"No. He's in Southern California."
"Can I have his address then?"
"Is this still about business-news press releases?"
"But he's our advertising director."
"Then who currently has John's old job?"
"Nobody. You can just send stuff to Speak's main address."
"But I need to know the name of your business editor."
"We don't have one. We don't even cover business news."
"Well it says here that John Lockhart is the person to contact."
The "here" is one of the many media directories, a genre of publication that is never far from most publicists. Problem is, the information in these guides is generally inaccuratea collection of catchall descriptions that make every magazine seem like the perfect target for any product promoter. Take Speak's publication profile in the current edition of Bacon's Magazine Directory: "Covers fashion issues include music and technology reviews, current trends, pop culture legends and interviews." Still, a small price to pay for complimentary advance jerky product.
7/26/00: For two weeks I've only occasionally been able to successfully log on to the Internet, and when I do, I'm disconnected after only a few minutes. The Concentric technical support staffer (see 7/11 entry), who sounded as if he had a small animal lodged in his mouth, assured me that there was nothing wrong with the system (Rule #1 for technical support: "It's never the system"). He suggested the problem is most likely with my phone line and that I should call Bell Atlantic. Of course Bell Atlantic is the local telephone carrier on the East Coast, yet it didn't seem productive to say anything.
It reminded me of an exchange many years ago with a Southern California designer who was hired to lay out Speak's first media kit. He always sounded like he had just woke up, even at midday, and in the end never produced a single design. One day, having just returned from his local county fair, in an uncommon fit of inspiration, he announced that he wanted the media kit to visually replicate the motif of the fair. I asked him to explain, and he quickly became exasperated: "You know, the Del Mar fair! Don't you have the Del Mar fair in San Francisco?" It didn't seem productive to say anything.
7/20/00: From the "Newsbreak" section of the latest US Weekly (the magazine for readers who find People a little too dense):
"There's a whole thing about being really good," she adds. "Some girls even get their tongues pierced to make them better at it."
Do the boys do it back?
"No," she snorts.
Then why do it?
She shrugs, searching for an answer. "It makes them feel grown. And they think they'll get a boyfriend."
It is oral sex. But the kids call it "the job." The news is that starting in seventh and eighth grade, girls are performing oral sex on boys. Sometimes they do it for a boyfriend, but often just on a guy. If you've listened to Mariah Carey or President Clintonand they haveyou know it's no big deal.
The article goes on to report that the Gap sells thongs, girls don't expect oral sex in return because they're uncomfortable with their bodies, and closes with the wisdom of psychotherapist Debra Hyman (her real name):
"The number one reason we don't want kids engaging in sexual activity before they're ready has less to do with the physical act than the emotional and psychological repercussions of it."
Fun Fact: US Weekly lists forty-six staff members with the word "editor" in their title.
7/19/00: Welcome to San Francisco.
sign taped to the second-floor back door by one of the friendly folks at 301 8th Street
Mail Theft Update: The U.P.S. man now says yesterday's stolen package could have been from Texas, and he vaguely remembers a return address name of "Jason." A second round of hypnosis begins on Friday.
7/18/00: Yesterday someone stole a piece of U.S. mail (a felony) addressed to Speak. The box in question was first left on the outer stairs by a postal delivery person, then moved to Speak's door front by the U.P.S. man who also left another package, this one containing Speak magazines. This morning, only the U.P.S. package remained, and it was torn open and several copies stolen. Speak's office is assumed to be in a secure building with a front-door buzzer system, but a recent survey indicates that more than three-quarters of San Francisco residents know the entry code. The U.P.S. man reports that the missing box was from the MidwestChicago he thinksand the sender mentioned Speak's back-issue trade offer on the outside. Because of the building's easy access, no one in the city has been ruled out as a suspect. So if you live in the Midwest, possibly Chicago, and you recently sent an offer of trade to Speak via the U.S. mails, please contact me immediately.
7/13/00: Working on an article about Yiddish literature in the summer issue, I e-mailed Speak writer Elisabeth Morse to check a fact regarding Jews being murdered in Russia in the fifties. The subject box for this exchange read "Stalin," and it remained so even after the two of us had moved onto other topics. I found this amusing and proposed to her that we keep it "Stalin" indefinitely. Before long I asked, without explanation, several other people to type "Stalin" into the subject box of their e-mails to Speak. I imagined disappearing and authorities, while searching my e-mail file for clues, discovering a long series of seemingly disconnected messages, all titled "Stalin." Then recently, scrolling through a long list of "Stalin" and "re: Stalin" e-mails, I suddenly felt depressed. Practically, it had become difficult to look up specific messages. Plus I wondered why so many didn't even question my odd request, and just went along with it. Here I was, editor of a national magazine, jerking around again. I shut down my computer and went home. It was all I could think to do.
7/12/00: "I Killed a Deer and Walker Percy Too" That's the title of a wonderful short story by Russ Franklin featured in Speak's summer issue. Intriguing as it is, this title does not appear on page with the story. In fact, the story runs sans title entirely. So what gives? More of Speak's arty creative license? Determined not to be like everyone else, the magazine has now abandoned mundanities like headlines? (Maybe next time we'll only print every other line.) While Speak's challenging layouts allow for such explanations, in this case it was merely a production errorthe technical explanation for which is far too complex to go into here. Simply put, "the headline dropped behind the photo." So I make this offer: be one of the first fifty people (U.S. residents only please) to call or send an e-mail with your mailing address along with the words "I Killed a Deer and Walker Percy Too" and you'll receive a free hand-corrected copy of the issue. And if your name is Russ Franklin: two copies!
7/11/00: I have a theory about technical support employees. If the society suddenly forced every one of them to take on a new line of work, and filled their positions with random, untrained peoplefarmers, clowns, grandmasnobody would recognize the difference. To wit: Speak's Web site designer Libby Kleine spent the better part of this evening on the telephone with four members of Concentric's support staff. The site was running fine, but our e-mail could only be received from a remote computerseverely reducing the convenience factor. "Maybe your modem's broke" and "Your program is probably corrupted" were among the super-insightful, super-technical fix-it suggestions. Then, finally, one employee, speaking to Libby for the third time tonight (they're getting together for lunch next week), matter-of-factly mentioned that Concentric requires a "%" symbol and not the standard "@" in the e-mail preference file. At least a grandma would have baked us cookies or something.