Hey, Stranger

(PS: We Love You)

Don’t get the newsletter via email? Here’s the one from Tuesday, April 27, 2021. If you’d like the email, sign up here!

My laptop makes a little knock-knock sound every time someone new subscribes to Pipe Wrench. “Who’s there?” I ask the coupla knockers. Sometimes it’s an old friend, sometimes it’s a new friend. More and more often, it’s a total stranger. Friends-to-be, you should know that whenever we happen to see a name we don’t recognize in one of our tech queues, our hearts flutter in unison. Pipe Wrench has several mottos, but one of the big ones is “We love strangers.”

Look, I know we tell you how much we love hearing from you personally. We say it a lot, we know. We know it’s entering absent-minded-distant-relative territory. We know we act like tedious, wizened seniors who’ve learned (by counting, mind you!) that you can’t tell someone you love them enough times in a single day.

But we really do take it to heart whenever you send along a note we can match with a name. So much of what we know about you all is anonymized (which is for the best, privacy-wise!) but even the anonymous details fascinate us. Some of you are making life-altering decisions in isolation, or looking back anew on life-altering decisions you’ve made in the past. Some of you can access delight and awe on a random, workaday Tuesday; others are coping diligently with frustration, despair, and shame. One of you has opened our welcome email 116 times. (Dearest stranger, you and I are the only two people on this planet who have read that text so closely! What a wild, precise thing to have in common.)

Reaching people we don’t know personally is crucial to Pipe Wrench’s mission. Every sustainable business finds a way to solve a unique problem. It helps to be intimately aware of the problem, to have close friends and family members who struggle with the problem, to struggle with that problem yourself. But very little beats thinking you’re off on your own in the wilderness, and finding out that what felt like an extremely personal, makeshift effort to work something out helped someone you’ve never even met.

Books, magazines, essays, poems, illustrations, animation, music, doodles, riddles, ceremonies, art — at their best, these things address common preoccupations, ideas, and experiences. Without them, much of life becomes colorless. When I’m at my most cynical and depressed, I trip over doubts that online magazines are solving anyone’s problems. And then I hear that familiar knock-knock.

After this past pandemic year especially, it means so much to us whenever someone takes the time to stop by. If you know someone who’s in this same existential boat but may not know there’s an oar here with their name on it, we’d love for you to share this newsletter with them. If it helps, tell them we happen to love people we don’t know the first thing about.

If you’ve read some of Issue One, we’d still love for you to take our reader survey. If you already submitted a response, thank you so much for sharing your feedback with us. We always love hearing more about what you’re reading, what you expect from the stories you choose to spend time with, and what changes your mind.

The week in Pipe Wrench.

  • We paid our taxes! The only thing we love more than strangers is making our contribution to the common good and seeing how confused our joy makes our accountant.
  • BMoreArt picked “Seeing in the Dark” as one of its top 10 must-reads of the week.
  • Issue Two’s lineup — a little more eclectic, the same amount of fascinating — is taking shape, and the first batch of contracts is out to June conversation piece contributors.

Things that made you feel that didn’t come from us.

If you’re like Michelle, you’ve probably recently thought, “Huh, my pile of to-be-read books is getting kinda low, I should go patronize an independent bookstore and rebuild.

We’re joking, of course; Michelle’s to-be-read pile hasn’t dropped below 25 books since 1998 and she has literally never had that thought in her adult life. But that pile can still always use topping up, so why not add these books that other Pipe Wrench readers have recently read and loved?

(How do we know readers loved them? Because they told us so in our survey, which you can still totally take.)