Excerpts from the Saga of Burt and Loni

A peripheral benefit of urban exploration is that you sometimes find personal items left behind in the strangest of places.  We've found all sorts of photos and documents.  Old magazines, time sheets, contracts, blueprints, company memos, you name it.  However, by far the best find was this one particular collection.

My friend Brei and I were checking out a drainage tunnel that was under construction at the time (and is a story for another time).  We happened to be walking by the train tracks when we noticed a collection of letters, greeting cards, and some official-looking documents.  What we discovered apparently belonged to a guy (who we'll call Burt) who had recently been released from prison.

How or why these papers ended up where they were remains a mystery.  They had been out  in the weather for days if not weeks, so many items had deteriorated  Fortunately, most were still legible.  Most of the photographs were too badly damaged to make anything out, but we did find a ID card with "Burt's" picture on it issued by his halfway house.  He was white, in his late 20s or early 30s.  I've changed his name, but the description might help you get a mental picture of what makes for something of an interesting story.

The majority of the papers we found were letters from a woman who we'll call Loni... for reasons that should become pretty obvious.  With only a couple exceptions, we had only the letters he received, not sent.  We'll get to those later.

I transcribed all the letters and arranged them in chronological order as best we could determine.  The content is preserved, but I admit I fixed the spelling and punctuation in many places where things otherwise werenít clear.  I would have left things as they were, but for one thing, I didnít want the reader to think the errors were from the process of transcribing them or, second, to be distracted from the act of reading the letters themselves by the mistakes (although maybe I'm unrealistically projecting the OCD English teacher side of me onto you, the reader).

I have to say though that reading the text loses something compared to having the physical letter in hand.  What "Loni" lacked in interesting content or flowery language, she more than made up for in multi-media.  Letters were frequently marked with lipsticked lip-prints and doused with perfume  (I only know the latter because she remarks on which scents were applied in the text; the smell had long since been washed away by the elements).  Similarly, envelopes typically featured the same lipstick imprint with the notation "Love You, SWAK" (i.e., "Sealed With A Kiss").  On the front was an upside-down stamp (which is a tradiation she remarks upon in her letters).

While this isn't as romantic a love story as Tim and Dawn in the BBC version of the Office (Don't laugh!  That was awesome), I think this is an interesting story.  The names and other identifying details have been changed, but the themes are funny, poignant, and universal.

Loniís letters to Burt

This first one sets the stage.  Apparently Loni was in a halfway house and had met Burt at a rehab meeting or similar event they probably wouldn't mention in stories to their grandchildren.  Somehow they ended up being pen pals.


Well, Hello!  How are you doing?  I'm doing pretty good.  Actually, no I'm not.  When I got back, the director was just a total jack--ass.  Well, I don't really know where to start, you know what I look like, I'm 33, DOB [month/day]/71.  I live in a small town called [deleted], I don't plan on returning there when I get out.  I'm not real sure where I'm going, but I still have until [month, day], 2005 to figure it out.  I cannot wait to get out of here, it really kind of sucks.  Well, I'm going to sleep.  Quick note- Use your home address when you write to me.  I will write more today.

Your friend, Loni


Well, it's me again, I was bored, so I thought I'd drop you a few more lines.  I hope you are well.  This letter smells of Turquoise Seas, hope you like it.  I'm not sure what to say, I'm supposed to be in class, but decided to skip it.  We have classes from 9am to 9:30pm with very little free time, but it helps pass the day so I don't sleep all day.  The first class and the last class are bullshit classes, and we have to express our feelings in both of them and everyone just plays around in them.  So, tell me a little bit about yourself.  My favorite color is purple.  I like all kinds of music and enjoy all sorts of things.  I was thinking we could always meet somewhere on one of my passes, but I have to know a week in advance and have an address and phone number.  But we can do, right?  I really wish I would have gotten to see you today, I was really looking forward to it, I looked all over for you, but you just were not there.  I was kinda depressed, oh well, I'll get over it.

Bye for now!

Love and hugs. Loni


Hi Sweetheart, How's it going?  It's okay here.  When I got back last night I got 5 hours extra duty for walking out of a class Saturday night.  I have to have them done by Wednesday at 5:00pm.  I've gotten 2 1/2 done already and will get 2 more tonight.  I was glad to see you it just made my week and the Kisses liked to have melted me.  When you touch me, it's like a jolt of electricity going through my body.  I had very pleasant dreams last night and you were a very busy man!  You know all I want is a man that will treat me nice and respect me.  The simple things in life is what will please me, someone who is there with me to "Stop and smell the roses."  I feel like you could be that man.  I hope I am getting the right vibes from you.  You have such a large place in my heart.  I too am not worried about sex, but we do need to be best of friends for this to work.  I think over the next six months we can accomplish that, then when you get out, we can take it on to the next step.  I'm not saying we won't do anything until then because you make me feel so good.  I just have to have _all_ of you.  I just think we need to share as much with each other as we can.  As for the shower head, I did not find out, but will today, I'm going to take my shower in a little while.  You know what I would really like, a hot bath with rose petals, candles all around, and a drink in my hand, and a joint in the other.  That's the kind of things that would make me happy, the simple life.  I got your letter today with the pictures, thank you.  Every day that I get a letter from you, is a great day, to hear your words, then to see your face and hear your voice (even if it's in my head) just brightens my spirits.  My friends even notice it, they say, yep, she heard from Burt.  This letter smells of Green Tea, hope you like it as well.  I need to close for now, so it can get in the mail.

Bye for now, you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Loving you always.  Loni.

I will be here as long as you will have me.

Love, hugs and kisses. [lip mark]


Hey, Sweetie.  Well, it is Wednesday, and it sure would have been nice to have gotten a letter today.  I bet you got a letter today, I guess I thought more of you than you thought of me.  Anyways, how are you today?  I'm okay, in class, since 9am to 9:30pm.  Did you make it to the doctor today?  I have to go back probably Monday for a follow-up.  The pill the doctor gave me knocks me out.  I missed two classes Tuesday morning and if I miss anymore I get kicked out.  Yikes!!  Well, Baby, it is now 10:20pm and I just came in from the smoke pit.  I've had a good day, a long day, but still a good day.  Did your day go well?  I hope so.  I still have not used that shower head, but will soon.  I really hope you can meet me at [a hospital/clinic].  I will call tomorrow and get an appointment together.  Good night for now.

Love ya.  Loni

I will be at [same clinic] [month/day]/04, Tuesday, try to come.  Have homework, have to be done tomorrow, longer letter later.  Love ya Loni

Today is holiday, no mail, sorry.


I got your letter today.  Thank you, I had almost thought you forgot me.  I went to [the clinic] today, and you were not there.  I was lonely.  I had no one to talk to, your conversation meant a lot to me.  I thought about you all week.  You can use your address there because it went through.  It's nice to have new friends that you can talk to easily.  I'm glad you could use the jacket.  I hope the smell was okay, I don't remember what perfume it had on it.  Hope this letter smell is to your liking, it is Sun Moon & Stars.  I will try to send some money next letter.  I'm not sure how much, but any is more than none.  I get to go on a pass soon, I'll try to pick you up some things.  What do you need?  If I'm on a visitation list maybe I could come see you on a Saturday or Sunday.  Would that be okay?  I would love to see you again and just share some time with you.  I get out [month/day], 2005, but I'll only be 45 minutes from here, so I'll be down your way anytime you need me to.

I am waiting for some pictures, I will send you one soon.  Send some of you so I can see that sweet smiling face when I need to.  If you can get a callback number, you can leave an emergency message for me at [phone number].  If you had an ID or DL, I could put you on my visitation list then you could come see me.

Love and hugs.  Loni

p.s. Hope to hear from you soon.  Till then my friend, take care.

Smoke one for me.


Well, Hello!  What's going on?  It's now 10:55pm and it's 25 minutes past lights out, we have not turned ours out. I just had to write you again.  For some strange reason, I can't stop thinking about you.  You do stay on my mind a lot, and it seems that each day you enter it more often than the one before.  I have had a good day but all the classes suck, but with you on my mind, the day passes well.  By the way, do you notice, I always put your stamp on upside-down?  In prison, it means I love you.  I do love you, I'm just not "in love."  I care very much for you and I'm so glad I met you.  I think the most important thing to have is a friend, especially one you can talk to openly and honestly.  You are such a good listener and the conversation we had made me go home with a smile.  When I get a letter from you it puts a smile on my face.  I've met a lot of people here, but none of them make me as comfortable as you did on just one visit.  I have to live with all these people and I really don't like them much, some of them work my last nerve.  All the guys want to do is play "grab ass" with the females and I'm not into all that.  I'm not in a relationship and have not been in over a year, I miss having a companion and maybe one day I'll have one.  It's not that I have not had offers, it's just I'm not sure really.  My last male was not good to me and he lowered my self esteem and my trust in men.  You know if you have any questions, I will answer them, just ask.  I would really love to know more about you, so I may ask all kinds of stuff.  One of them is When is your birthday?  Do you have a woman back home?  What about children?  Tell me all the good and bad things about you.  There is nothing you can tell me that will turn me away.  I really hope we develop a closeness to where we will always be there for one another.  You seem like someone [missing fragment] friends for life with and if it progresses into more we will see where it goes.  By the way, when I think of you, I see your comforting smile and that just warms me all over.  Well, I best close for tonight.  I have to get up at 5:30 am.

Love, hugs and kisses.  Loni

I hope you have a good day.

Sending my love your way, and you are always in my thoughts and prayers.

What is the name of the half-way house you're at, I'm feeling the need to come see you.  [heart] ya!


Hey, Sweetheart!  How are you?  I'm doing fine.  My mom and kids came to see me Saturday, and we had such a good visit.  They will be back by again on Tuesday for [illegible] I can't wait.  I'll try to visit this weekend.  I've had a great weekend, but have not gotten any mail.  Sure would be nice to get some mail so did you have a good weekend?  Thinking of you a lot.  I probably won't get to go to [the clinic] this week.  The administrator is being a jackass.  I now have class to go to.  Be back in an hour.  Also, got another sponsor, so I now have two.  One N.A. [Narcotics Anonymous] and one AA.  It is double the homework, but lots of outside meetings.  Yay!  I just want to get out of here as much as possible.  I'm sorry if I repeat things, but sometimes I write more than one letter a day and that gets a little hard to remember.

Well, good morning love.  It is [month/day]/04, about 6:45am.  I have class at 7:30, so I thought I'd drop you a few lines to let you know you are
[missing section]
you lots.  Bye.

Love you always, Loni.

Write back soon.  [heart] you


I got your ever so loving letter yesterday, thank you!  I too am developing strong feelings for you and they seem to get stronger by each passing day and they are getting harder for me to hide.  I think of you constantly and just shiver at the thought of seeing you again.  My mom and kids came to see me yesterday from 2-5, I told her about you and where and how we met.  I had a really good visit, it lifted my spirits and made me so happy.  The only thing, is it makes me sad when they leave.  I've got you some pictures but all I have is 5x7 and 8x10 so I got to get some large envelopes but they will be there soon.  Now to talk about your letter, it excited me.  I liked what I saw from the moment I saw you, that's why I approached you like I did.  I too would like to get to know you on a more personal level.  Well, it's lights out, so for now Good Night, I will write more tomorrow.

Love ya always, Loni-

Well, Good Morning.  It is about 8:30 and I just got out of one of my classes.  I moved to Level 3 today, so I don't have a lot of classes.  Well, we saw each other today, and I am _soooo_ happy.  You made me feel so beautiful and good about myself.  Your gentle touch and sweet kisses will hold me till we meet again.  You know, I could easily fall head over heels in love with you, and I think I am.

Love you always, Loni.

[lip marks]
Seals with love, hugs, and kisses.


Hi, Sweetie!  How are you today?  I'm doing fine.  I was just thinking about you (all day) so I had the need to write.  It is about 4:30 and I just woke up.  I skipped my last two classes to take a nap.  I _did_ have a pleasant dream.  Well, got to run, be back soon.

I'm back, it is 5:45.  Just had dinner and a cigarette.  I have another class in 15 minutes.  On Wednesday and Thursday we have classes from 7:30am to 9:30pm, and it sucks big time.

Can you believe this weather?  It is so cold.  I loaned my jacket to a guy today.  He was going to look for a job.  I figured he was out in the weather and I was in a classroom all day, so he needed it more than I did.  You know you are in my thoughts a lot the past few days.  I hope you are okay.  It really sucks not being able to see you or talk to you.  It is getting close to class time, so I must close for now.  Write more before I go to bed.  Love ya

Well, I'm back and have just a few minutes till my next class.  Some days I get tired of all day classes and having them every day.  I think we should have at least an hour to ourselves for ourselves.  Well, I really should get ready for class.  Bye for now!

Love, hugs and kisses. Loni

I may not write tomorrow, but will try.

Hurry and write back.

Sealed with a kiss.


I got your letter today and it really shocked me.  Your letter touched me in places that I never thought possible.  I could not make it to [the hospital/clinic].  Yesterday I had a big-time accident and spent all day there in the ER.  I fell down a flight of stairs.  I bruised my back, hips, tailbone, both knees, both shinbones, feet, and sprained both ankles.  I'm sore today, but I will be okay.  Anyways, how are you doing?  I'm okay, but wrapped in your arms and I'll feel lots better.  Do you really want to marry me?  What do you think your family will say?  What if they don't like me?  Needless to say, I would really like to be yours and yours only.  I can promise I'll be faithful and take care of you and always be there for you.  You letters just uplift my spirit.  I can't wait to see you again.  I want to wrap my arms around you and kiss you all over from your head to your toes and everything in between.  Oh, yeah.  And for the showerhead, yes, it works.  It has worked a couple of times since I saw you.  It relieves lots of tension.  Boy, it was needed.  I may get to go home for 6 hours on Thanksgiving.  I can't wait, I miss my family back home and my cat and dog.  I am getting ready for our Thanksgiving feast tomorrow.  Our family (two members) and my kids, I can't wait, it's like getting two visits this week.  Anyways, sorry about the shortness of letters this week, but I've been kind of busy with two sponsors and all the meetings and homework they give.  Bye for now.

I love you, Baby, Loni.

Love, hugs and kisses and little extra feels coming your way.

p.s. I [heart] you.



Hey, Baby, how are you?  I'm doing fine.  I'm getting over my fall down the stairs.  I got three letters from you today and I loved each and every one of them.  Well, there is tons of shit going on here, we all got knocked from Level III to Level II, that means all-day classes every day.  If we all get our shit together, we will get lifted back to Level III, so until then, my letters may be short and few between.  Please stick with me.  I do love you.  It's just all the classes and all the work will short me on letter writing time.  I'm so sorry I was not at [the clinic], but I could not walk to the bus stop.  I'm healing well.  I can walk pretty good, and today I did not wrap my ankles.  Got to run.

Guess where I am?  At home!  I got caught with a bottle of my prescription pills and got kicked

[rest of page(s) missing]

Burtís letters to Loni

Alas, we don't have many of Burt's letters to Loni, but here are the ones we do have:

Hope that when this letter gets to you, you're doing okay.  As for myself, I'm all right.  So how did Christmas go for you and your family?  I pray that everything went well, although I'm sure it's hard trying to believe the fact that you are able to spend Christmas with them, sometimes just be thankful.

Loni, if and when you decide to write, please share with me what's going on with you there in [her home town].  To have someone like yourself talk with me means a lot.  Well, I suppose that I will close for now for I would like for you to know my thoughts, which are wanting to be a friend to you, to have you be that as well, would be everything.

Until next time, Loni, take care and stay sweet, and whenever you do write, I'll be here to give my ear as to what you have to say.

Always, Burt

p.s. If I send you a $10 dt-mobile phone card, could you use it?  If not, I'll send you another kind, also I'll send you something else for you and your kids, not now, but I'm working on it, please bear with me, okay!


I got your card tonight and everything wrong seemed lifted from
[Rest of message incomplete.  Did he start this one and didn't finish it before everything was left by the train tracks?  Did he change his mind and begin a different message?  If so, why did he save this one?  We may never know]

Other artifacts

Some of the items found along with the letters:
  • A Halloween Card
  • Cover inscription: Three ghosts say "Boo Boo Boo"
    Inside: "A haunting these ghosts will go.  It's Halloween, you know.  They'll let out a groan and maybe a 'Boo,' and make Halloween fun, just for you."

    For my son Burt, Love you mom (Irene). [Yes, it really did have her name (not actually Irene) in parentheses after "mom."]

    Sorry I've not wrote, but stay on the road all the time.  Don't know if I'm gonna get to stay with this job or not.  Let you know real soon.  Forgive me for not giving for the moment.  But I do promise next week I will.  I promise and I intend to keep that promise.  Love, Mom.

    Correctional Office/Inspector

    Dear Sir/Ms

    We are pleased to send the enclosed material as requested by an offender of their representative in your facility.  Would you please assist in authorizing the delivery of the materials.

    If you have questions about the content, please telephone 1-800-452-[illegible rest of sentence containing this and apparently another 1-800 number]

    Thank you very much for your help.


    Elder Ernest Cummings
    Sister Kathy Cummings
    Correctional Services

    I hope you enjoyed the above and/or got some use out of it.  If you have anything to add, feel free to write me.
    --the Urban Ale[x]plorer.

    Copyright 2004-2006 Alexplorer.
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