HLS - The Letters Of Harvey L. Slatin

January 16, 1989

Dear Tommy, Yours of January 5 and mine of January 2 evidently crossed in the mail. Like ships that pass in the night, as someone once said.

Just in case I didn’t deal with everything, I will deal with everything, by the numbers:

  1. Roof has been patched. Should last out the winter. New roof in the spring, or whenever I can afford it.
  2. Play is over. Against stiff competition, we managed to fill about half the seats — on average — for the run of twelve performances. The final performance was videotaped, and I have three copies of it. Not bad as such tapes go.
  3. Jeanne’s lawyer here has either been fired or has quit. Jeanne now as a new lawyer representing her, and I await with interest his first threatening letter. Trial of the suit brought by my ex-daughter is scheduled for February 2. Coincidentally, and ironically, that is her 26th birthday. Let’s see if she appears.
  4. One more big party, then into temporary retirement. I have invited the cast and crew of “THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER“ to a huge bash at my house on January 29. Chili con Carne, Chile con Queso and Pinto beans, all prepared using old family recipes. We will watch the video. get drunk, and vow eternal friendship. I haven’t heard from the fifteen-year-old who somehow got transformed into an eighteen-year-old.
  5. Not only have I not thrown in the towel at SFCT, I have allowed myself to be elected Corresponding Secretary. This means I get to write “thank you“ letters to everybody who contributes any money, anybody who has anything to do with a production, and anybody we are threatening with legal action. The main advantage, if there is one, of being Corresponding Secretary is that I am automatically a member of the Executive Committee. Power-crazy, that’s all.
  6. The old ice on the driveway is now covered by a layer of new ice, so I have simply forgotten about it.
  7. Here. I quote you: “poster making attracting talent.” I haven’t the slightest idea what you are talking about. Clarify, or remain in ignorance.
  8. Another quote: “a plethora of trivial pursuits.“ I take umbrage. None of my pursuits is trivial. To one unfamiliar with my lifestyle they might seem inconsequential but they are, you may be sure, significant to me. And what is significant to me is what matters.
  9. I don’t remember if I enrolled you as Working Members of SFCT. I will check with our Office Manager, and if you’re not on our mailing list, you soon will be. In the meantime, I have enclosed a copy of the winter edition of the NEWSLETTER. A special edition, reporting preliminary findings from our survey of audience likes and dislikes, is in preparation. When it is published, you will get it, assuming you are on the mailing list. Your annual dues ($10.00) are paid, but only for one year. From now on, pay them yourselves.
  10. My financial crunch is a temporary aberration in an otherwise tranquil fiscal existence. I often find that I have month left over at the end of the money, but then my various ships come in and I am solvent again. It’s simply a matter of juggling assorted creditors about, sending the gas company check to the power company and the power company check to the phone company, seeking clarification of apparent discrepancies in invoices — you know — that sort of simple-mindedness attributable to old age and failing faculties that creditors can’t really take into court or use as grounds for discontinuing services. I have been doing this for years, ever since “the float” and surface mail gave way to Electronic Funds Transfer and airmail. Time was, I could write a check, stick it in the mail, and have seven to ten days in which to cover it at my bank. That was the float. Not anymore. With lightning speed, my checks are put through for collection, thanks to the modern miracle of computers and modems, and the use of airmail for everything that will fit into a C-5 transport. So, I just mis-direct my checks, and, apologize for my stupidity and forgetfulness. But, what can you expect from an old duffer whose brain is pickled in vodka and who was exposed to ionizing radiation for most of his adult life? Certainly not a balanced budget.

ON THE RETIREMENT YEARS: Whether these prove to be the most rewarding or most frustrating of your life depends, I am convinced, on your personality. For my part, I am enjoying them as I have not enjoyed any period in my past. That is because I always was constitutionally unsuited to working for a living, or to working for somebody who was no brighter or more talented than I. With a handful of exceptions, the jobs I had were boring beyond belief, and my bosses were cretins who had gotten into positions of authority because they married the right girl or knew where some body was buried or were reliable crew members on the Big Boss’ yacht during a race or were sycophants. My problem with rising in the ranks was that I

  • married the wrong girl,
  • had no idea where anybody was buried except for Cristopher Wren,
  • fell overboard on the downwind reach for home, and
  • never said “yes” when the proper answer was “no.” Just not cut out for a life of being employed at anything by anybody.

Your situation, if I read you rightly, is somewhat different. You evidently liked being a working stiff, even when you were working for yourself. Now you find yourself with nothing to do except try to prioritize (Navy expression) all the things you have been promising yourself you would do when you had the time to do them. I urge you to abandon this quest for the Grail. It will elude you. What I did, for what it’s worth, was take my list of “1,000 Things To Do When I Retire” and strike out 99 out of 100 of them. That got me down to the ten that are now on my list. Be ruthless. Just go down the list, crossing out 99 and leaving the 100th, until you get to the end. Don’t even consider additions, and don’t mourn for lost ones. You will have your hands full with the survivors. To the remainder, apply the “Udo Test Of Affordability.” That’s all there is to it. Join a theatre group. Write a novel. Invent a way of making tritium out of farts. Do what you can afford.


PAUL FILIPKOWSKI: Avoid this guy like the plague. My spies, who are swarming all over Florida in connection with another matter, have passed along the the following intelligence:

Filipkowski was put in place by the OGPU (later the KGB) in 1989. He was activated in 1946 to learn what he could about ”The Super.“ He is being run by some chap whose code name is “Marcus.” Despite defections by members of the British Scientific Mission, and the Profumo Scandal, the Russkies still know little or nothing about The Super. They are still looking for short—cuts, and Filipkowski (whose real name is John Smith) is their conduit. Anything you tell him goes straight to Lubyanka and the Third Directorate. Button up, Tommy. Remember: “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” Enough said.

Moreover, my spies tell me that Gainesville is not in Florida at all; it is in Georgia. I happen to know that is true — Susie Gravitt, my contact on matters having to do with my disability payments and my MEDICARE Supplement Insurance (Liberty Mutual) is in Gainesville, Georgia. So, Tommy, give Paul a wide berth. If he asks you what time it is, lie to him.


Time to bring this to a close, review for typos, and print it.

Fondly, As Always,
John K. Herzog
Executive Director

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