HLS - The Letters Of Harvey L. Slatin

November 20, 1989

Hey, they’re, Udo!–

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TIME: 09:51 a.m.
BAROMETER: 30.07″ Hg.

SHORTLY AFTER YOU WROTE, describing your “second or third session of Indian Summer,” you must have wondered if the weather man should be trusted. We read here about horrendous weather in the East (not the middle—East), and a tornado in Newburgh, not all that far from Stamford. We hope all is well. We had 4.99 inches of rain earlier, but for weeks not another drop. The ski operators are concerned, but the earlier rain filled our reservoirs, so The Bee is not able to make solemn admonitions about overwatering our lawns. (The editor, of course, has a lawn of white gravel, to match his mentality.)

COAL FOUJIN: Thanks for the explanation of “bursts of heat,” which I have not seen in print anywhere (even in The Bee). I can now speak with authority when I’m playing penny-ante poker with the good ol’ boys down at the VFW.

Teller: Thanks for the xeroxed article. As you realize, I don’t know enough about particle physics to be able to take a defensible stand pro or con, but Teller’s endorsement seems to be the opposite of your description (see above). I’ll stick with you, Udo. If there’s no future in coal foujin, the market for wheelchairs is boundless (especially in tenement houses).

LITTLE BOY & FAT MAN: When I was involved in technical work at the Forbidden City (before I shifted to job analysis), my supervisor was Bob Henderson, who reported to Ken Bainbridge, whom you no doubt remember or know personally. Anyhow, Henderson said that 01’ Les’s favorite ploy was to try to play the scientists off against each other, the old Divide And Conquer technique. He would ask one of the senior people about certain items in his budget and certain schedules. He would then turn to another senior type, in a totally different field, and ask him if he thought the first scientist was realistic. Since he didn’t understand what either one was talking about, and they didn’t share each other’s expertise, it didn’t work, and his Stone Age management approach lowered his reputation in the scientific community even further (i.e., below zero).

Let me tell you about the Sam Cohen Fiasco. (Sam Cohen inVented the neutron bomb, and now works for Rand.) Anyhow, you remember that whenever 01’ Les was due to show up at the FC, we all had to turn out for calisthenics in the morning. Sam was in the Theoretical Division (I think that was the name of it; the division with Donald Flanders and De Hoffman). They worked goofy hours, so Sam sometimes got back to barracks after midnight. One morning we were called out for calisthenics because Les had arrived at Fuller Lodge the night before. Sam was half awake, and not fully coordinated. He went through the drill, but not up to speed. The drill field was one of those open areas on the far side of Trinity where apartments eventually were built. Beyond was a shallow canyon. Les sneaked down the canyon and heaved his walrus—like physique up the canyon wall (fortunately for him not very high), and spied on us. He pointed out Sam to his aide—de— camp. Sam was reduced in grade and never, in spite of attempts by his manager, made more than T—5 by the end of the war. Les let it be known that he “was going to make soldiers out of us.” Another example of Les at his Bes’.

I was told by a civilian at Los Alamos, who had come from Washington and knew something of the background, that Les was an old pal of Brehon Somervell’s, the 4-star who ran the Army Service Forces. If you don’t remember Somervell offhand, you may recall pictures of a 4—star who cultivated a moustache twirled to waxed points at each end. He resembled a French colonel, or Edmund Lowe as a matinee idol (before he was featured opposite Victor MacLaglan in “What Price Glory”). If the Sporty Club had not been limited to enlisted personnel, he would have been a natural for membership. His batman could have pressed his socks and Shoelaces to adequate conformity.

MY AGENT, SMILEY LA FLASH, never told me that Rosemary Blackmon wanted to publish my stuff. Did he put all my money in his pocket instead of just his 10%? Did you put all my money in your pocket? (Not that I begrudge it, because you have had unanticipated expenses in Stamford, like snow fences.) Anyhow, it’s good to hear at first—hand that Newhouse is not the towering figure he imagines himself to be. Even a corps of P R nerds cannot do the impossible with his smaller-than-life qualities.

Unless I hear from you to the contrary, I intend to take Smiley to court, pronto. Would you and Rosemary be willing to appear as witnesses in my behalf? YOUR FRIENDLY PUBLISHER: You fail to name him, but I won’t press for details. He loved my story outline. Which outline? The one for “I was An Atomic Slavegirl (Plaything Of The PhD’s),” or “Espafiola Smith And The Pueblo Of Doom”?

What confuses me is that although I sent you the story of “Slavegirl,” I don’t think you have the “Doom” outline. (Unless somebody stole it, which is not unknown in this business.) Anyhow, it’s roughly this: Espafiola Smith is ambling up La Bajada one morning when he is accosted by a beautiful girl who claims she has just escaped from what she calls The Pueblo Of Doom. The pueblo is somewhere off the road to Oats (a sly scrambling of ‘Taos’). Smith pulls down his fedora brim and takes the girl’s hand and heads for Oats (on foot, of course).

On the way they have many adventures (not described here). When they arrive at the pueblo, night has fallen, and the air is filled with suspense and threat. Smith mutters that, in addition to suspense and threat, the air is filled with an odd but familiar aroma. The beautiful girl tells him excitedly that the underground chambers of the pueblo are redolent with the aroma. (She actually says ‘redolent,’ because it turns out that she was an English major before she took up captivation.) The moon rises, and Smith sees the dim outline of an ancient pueblo with a single flickering lamp visible through one of its ancient window openings. He creeps up to see better. The girl also creeps, although you’d think she had enough of the place already. They peek through the window and the girl screams and faints at the sight. Smith carries her to safety, although it’s pretty clear that one place is as unsafe as another around there. What did they see? What does it all mean?

TO MAKE A LONG STORY, the girl and Smith saw a skull beside the flickering lamp. As dawn approaches, Smith rises and scans the scene. Showing no fear, he enters the pueblo. He finds a drifter asleep beside the extinguished lamp. The skull is from a cow. The pueblo is an old filling station built in pueblo style, and the underground chambers are the dry tanks. The drifter turns out to be the girl’s ex-husband, and they are reconciled as the sun also rises. He is also an English major, and they decide to renew their marriage vows and take graduate work together. (Only an English major would not recognize the smell of stale gasoline.) Smith swears he will never believe another undergraduate. He flips up his fedora brim and ambles down La Bajada in the closing frames, to the haunting notes of “Get Ycur Kicks 0n Route 66,” rendered on an authentic southwestern clay flute, accompanied by a finger—drum.

That’s a quick overview. If your friendly publisher loves it, forget “Slavegirl,” which has politico/environmental implications that could be bookstore poison. Have him get in touch with Smiley La Flash (soon to be paroled), and we can deal. I certainly appreciate all your help, Udo.

BENEDICT CANYON REVISITED: I hate to tell you this, Udo, but Barry Solomon is a phony. Ten words into his fabricated anecdote about JKH and I saw right through him. Here’s the straight skinny: in his spare time, John did nothing but work on his MG, his Jag, and his high—f1. He would NEVER borrow a lawn mower from Solomon or anybody else. He loathed and detested physical exertion even more than I do (which I resented bitterly). And, in case you don’t remember, John needed a coffee pot brewing at all times, to convey a reassuring appearance of total sobriety. He would never borrow one. If the heating element of the regular pot melted down, he would just plug in another of his eleven reserve pots. (He would then take the disabled pot down to Sedgwick Hardware below Wilshire Boulevard, the store he confused with Cedric Hardwick, and have the element replaced.) I’m sticking with Barry Sullivan, who admitted on a talk show that he thought lawn mowers were dangerous (they can chop your toes off), and he drank nothing but tea (Irish Breakfast variety). 80 leave your money in the sugar bowl, and tell Solomon to go back to his islands. (Solomon Islands, get it? Ha ha! I mean, do you REALLY get it? Come on, Udo. It’s not that hard.)

RESERVATIONS ABOUT ALCOHOL: I’ll take your word for it that Indians, like many palefaces, have a low tolerance for drink. If three drinks, as you say, were “enough to set them off,” I’d like to stand up and be counted. Three drinks and I’m off, too. Off to sleep. I may be part Indian.

SLICED CHILDREN: The local newspaper in Stamford is obviously trying to surpass The Bee in boo—boos, but it doesn’t stand a chance, although Anne’s misspelled recipe is not a bad attempt. We shall try her Chinese Chicken & Noodles without mutilating our grandchildren. In exchange, I enclose one of our family-favorite recipes, another quick—prep dish. Feel free to substitute local Catskill ingredients, like pine cones, for unavailable frontier yummies. This can be ladled over rice, but noodles should work, too. The garlic is subdued by cooking, but it’s a must. The mushrooms can be quartered to make them more substantial after cooking. Three kinds of bell peppers are nice, but availability of reds or goldens may be a problem, even at a heads—up market like the IGA. Green bells will work fine.

STANLEY FEATHERSTONEHAUGH—UKRIDGE will soon become a household word in The Big Tomato and Stamford. I ordered a book about him from Barnes & Noble, and it should be here in a week. Then I will understand your friend’s references to him. Be patient. You’ll be the second to know. RFD (Rushed For Dobbs): Your letter postmarked the 15th arrived on the 18th. Much better. When they heard that you might crack down, they shaped up. You’re a Big Man, Udo, no question.


Fred C. (“Uk-Ey”) Dobbs

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