8 Dec 1986
Hey, there, Udo!–
The small box titled “Fred?” in the upper left corner of your last letter is too flattering. I don’t have that much hair left. But I wouldn’t mind using the picture for publicity purposes if I make the next Honours List at Buck House. I hear there’s a possibility. (The bamboo wireless.) I won’t forget my friends who made it happen, you may depend on that.
That sailboat illustration is something else. Not only can I not do it, but I have no idea how Thomas did. I am using a word processing program called Wordperfect 4.1, which has about 104,000 separate capabilities, of which I am now skilled at 3. Please advise Thomas that he has put me on the defensive, and I don’t know how to regain my momentum. I may have to go back to quill pen and foolscap. Needless to say, I am badly shaken by the whole experience.
Thank you for offering to send me any special programs that I would find useful. My reliable son-in-law has collected most of the IBM-compatible programs that fascinated him (Airport, Three-Dimensional Chess, Penknife Surgery Made Easy, etc.), and I can borrow any of them if I want to experiment. Right now I am close to mental disintegration because I don’t know how to get one page to print after another. So I can’t risk my emotional stability heedlessly. But thank you anyhow. (The Great Lesson to be learned is, “You never know who you’re dealing with.” As S.J. Perelman said, “It would be a good time to get into bed with your hat on, and pull the covers over your face.”) Some day I may emerge from this morass of incapability and hold up my head among decent people. In the meantime, I can only put a brave face on the whole experiment and pretend that I know what I’m doing.
I will, however, attempt a sample of the elementary graphics capability of this program: drawing a box.
I almost had a meltdown there, but I handled it so coolly that you probably didn’t notice a thing. I’m beginning to develop the confidence that I will be able to get two pages to print in succession in no time at all.
This is the first time I have drawn a box. It seems that the border can be drawn five or six ways (single line, broken line, crosshatch, etc.) I am qutting while I am ahead. In the coming months I may enclose other boxes with more advanced borders. I mention this so you can brace yourself.
HERZOG UPDATE: John has recovered from jab in the eye he got at rehearsal of PINAFORE. The director has taken the precaution of “reblocking” the scene to avoid additional eye-contact. (No doubt you are luent in the argot of showbiz, but if–owing to the relentless pressure of events–it might have slipped your mind, “blocking” apparently has to do with, “Farkelberry…you stand here first, then when the lion starts across the stage–from over there–you take three steps and end up here, screaming. At the same time, Throttlestop, you open the container of raw meat and start eating it. It’s a sight gag, see? When the lion comes after the meat, you toss it at him and then join Farkelberry over here. I’ll make a big X on the boards. Is he what? Of course he’s tame! Gimme a break!”)
John can now drive again, so he drove to White Rock to get a dual printer switch for his two printers. He has a daisy wheel and a dot matrix, and he switches from one to the other, depending on the kind of typeface he wants. I am just one of the Little People with one printer.
LATE-BREAKING NEWS!: John telephoned to report that the production of PINAFORE is a howling success, even though the entire cast suffers from heavy colds, flu, lung congestion, nasal obstructions, blood in the sputum, dizzy spells, double vision, and related aiments. It is raining in Santa Fe and the clouds are down to street level. WE RETURN YOU NOW TO OUR STUDIO, WHERE THE SCHEDULED CONCERT FEATURING MME ERNESTINE SCHUMANN-HEINK IS IN PROGRESS; MME SCHUMAN-HEINK IS NOW SINGING “BIRD SONGS AT EVENTIDE CALL ME, CALL ME TO REST” IN HER NATIVE TONGUE.
I may have told you in a previous letter that my stepdaughter has hired a cabin (actually a house) at Tahoe for the last three years or so, for family Christmas gatherings. So we go up there again this year, and look out on the frozen lake and the pines as we stuff ourselves on turkey and everything else that goes with it. So far we have never been snowed in, although one year we came close (it snowed while we were there, but the roads were plowed in time to get us back without delay). To get back to Sacramento, we have to go over Donner Pass, which is higher than Lake Tahoe, and colder and icier. The forecast for this winter talks about “moderate” weather in the West. If you do not recieve any mail from here by next March, please write to the Highway Patrol about weather conditions at Lake Tahoe. We may still be gnawing on turkey bones and waiting for the plow.
Glad to hear that the nosebleeds were from a nasal irritation caused by inhaling lab fumes, and nothing more serious. I am assuming that this condition is treatable, although you just said that work with aromatic aldehydes has stopped.
MISCELLANEOUS: John didn’t follow a career in the theater because he made too much money as a vice president at some think tank in Washington; just hobbies at it. Ray Powell did not get elected. If Anne sees The Monarchy taking over here, I’m buying red velvet and silver buckles before they run out. And PLEASE, no more intimidating sailboats from Thomas!
Fred C. (“Landluffer”) Dobbs