HLS - The Letters Of Harvey L. Slatin

December 9, 1989

Hey, they’re, Udo!–

(Source Guaranteed Not The Sacramento Bee)

TIME: 08:31 a.m.
BAROMETER: 30.10″ mm Hg.
FORECAST NEXT 24 HRS: Partly Cloudly

THE ABOVE MORE PRECISELY: The time, barometric reading, precipitation and 24—hour forecast can be taken at face value. The temperature and humidity are internalized: in my den. Thus, our overnight temperatures have been in the low thirties when I report something in the fifties or sixties. This morning at 7:15, when I walked to the IGA, the roofs were covered with frost and the lawns were frozen. My den was at that moment in the low sixties (before I turned on the electric wall heater). I mention this because the time has come to Rip Away The Mask Of Hypocrisy And Lay Bare The Rotten Core of weather reporting from The Big Tomato, grown to a national scandal. Tom Brokaw takes one side and Dan Rather takes the other. The American People have been preoccupied with this issue too long. We must lay it to rest and move on to issues of greater significance. (Name one.)

REUNION AT THE FORBIDDEN CITY: No doubt you have received your attendance form. I mailed mine to my friend Chuck Canfield, who is Co—Chairman of the Steering Committee. I checked the box for “Hope to attend,” although I don’t think we will. However, if we do, we will rent a 250,000~acre ranch outside Santa Fe, with a bunkhouse, but we’ll take all our meals at our permanently reserved table at The Compound. You are most welcome to join us. Lots of room in the bunkhouse. After dinner we usually go to the Lensic to see a re—run of “Blossoms In The Dust” or “The Big Broadcast Of 1931.” Hollywood doesn’t make them like that any more. We round off the evening with a phosphate at the drug store. A frantic pace in The City Different.

HAGGIS: END OF AN ERA? I remember in The Forbidden City you extolled haggis, and offered to make some, but never did. You also offered to give haggis Classes in that room where the colloquia were held. As far as I know, you never did that, either. Are you hanging it up, Udo, leaving us un-haggised? Who ants to buy canned haggis? Or freeze-dried? Will it be just another nostalgic recollection of those lucky gourmets who knew a sheep’s tum-tum from a blowfish? Will oatmeal ever taste the same? What is happening to the old values?

SMILEY LA FLASH:  He hasn’t been paroled, so we can forget him for now. If you want to agent “Pueblo of Doom,” go to it. I also enclose further chapters of the Sir Charles/Lady Occipita drawing—room shocker. The tension mounts. I’m not sure Smiley could handle it. The English make him uneasy because of the way they speak English. He thinks they’re faking it. “Nobody talks like that, Frunn!” he shouted through the bars the last time I took him a cake with a file in it, to file his nails. (He thinks my real name is Snavely Frunn.) He feels more comfortable with regular guys like us. On the other hand, he’s a liar, a crook, a double—crosser, a con artist, and a marginal illiterate. Of course, he’s a top agent, but should we wait until he gets out? I’m for xeroxing and stapling the pages, and marketing the book through the mail from Udobbs Press, Stamformento, USA. The readers are out there, Udo. And we’d save Smiley’s 10%.

THE TRUTH ABOUT BENEDICT CANYON: One of us can write to the Benedict Canyon Homeowners Association and ask: did Barry Sullivan live there? (Maybe he still does.) If so, did JKH live next door to him? If so, what do we do next? We subscribe to the Homeowners Association Bulletin, which publishes timely tips like “Keep foraging deer off your property by spreading mountain lion doo—doo in your open areas! Order a cubic yard today from Cougar-Poo, your friendly Beverly Hills deer—control people! Read what Canyon resident Barry Sullivan writes: ‘I had foraging deer in my back yard every year until I spread Essence of Cougar-Poo. Now I have nothing, not even a blade of grass!’ How’s that for an endorsement, Canyon Folks?”

NEWKYULAR POWER: On December 8th, the lead editorial in The New York Times endorsed nuclear power plants. I blinked. The Wall Street Journal has been pushing them for years, but The Times? Somebody is cracking under the strain, Udo. The Tadpole Faction will be rocked back on its heels. The Times mentions the Greenhouse Effect. The Sacramento nuclear plant, Rancho Seco, was shut down by the Tadpolers financed by Hollywood. The Nuclear Regulatory Agency wants to go slow on dismantling it. The Tads threaten court suits all the way to the Supreme Court. But attitudes seem to be changing. Will we still have job opportunities? Don’t give up, Udo. There will be honest work for honest men as long as one protein is rotating around one nylon. We will not have to bag groceries at the IGA to make money for smokes.

DECONSTRUCTION: If I had been lucky enough to have an English professor like your friend while I was doing my MA, I might not have backslid into the real world. I guarantee that he is one of the few on any English faculty who has not been dazed by deconstruction. He is, of course, right about Yale. Yale provided U Cal Irvine with the “top deconstructionist in the country,” J. Hillis Miller. As I mentioned in an earlier letter, they paid $150,000 year to get him. How many aspiring math or science profs still drive laundry trucks because that’s how faculty budgets are misappropriated?  Deconstruction is an alchemy of semantics and linguistics and psycho-history, but deconstructionists rage that it is “a completely new approach!” to literary analysis. Of course, that’s the underlying problem: literature is no longer taught as literature, it’s taught as material for “analysis.” If your friend says that Gothic is the new wave, Three Cheers And A Tiger! If that doesn’t open editors doors for Udobbs Press’ internationally—known authors, we’ll just have to stick with the Xerox and the stapling gun. But our eyes are on the stars, Udo.

Does your prof friend write stories under his own name or a pen name? What name should I look for?

MORE OR LESS 0N LES: You NEVER fell out for calisthenics at The Forbidden City? How did you manage that? (Evading KP was not hard because it didn’t exist.) When Dabney came around swinging the lash, did you hide in your wall locker? Sam Cohen was in the same boat as all of us: another pitiable victim of Genghis Groves, the charismatic general who would make soldiers out of civilians, even if he had to climb canyon walls. A true Soldier’s Soldier.

FUSION OF DEUTERIUM IN PALLADIUM: Thank you for the extensive documentation. With my limited grasp of the field, it will take me some time to absorb the details. But I have no doubt it bears out your own conclusions, Teller to the contrary notwithstanding. I can’t argue with your feelings about him. He always seemed to be on the loopy side of applied science, although I suppose he would not have been a meaningful figure if he hadn’t contributed something to the A program in the beginning. Then it all went to his head, and he became more politician than scientist.

TO RUSSIA WITH GLOVES: Will you fly or go on one of those Scandinavian cruise ships that stop at Russian ports? If you fly, will it be Aeroflot or Pan Am? Remember to take soap, according to the latest press reports. And since the KGB still functions, have your handcuff size tattooed on your wrist, to avoid needless delay.

RECIPE: If you try it, hope you like it. We have a few more, developed since retirement, all simple to fix. (None of this stuff about “Marinate for three weeks in salts of gold before burying in Bhutan mushrooms for three more weeks.”) Just plain-folks chow, Udo. Almost as good as the Army.

THOMAS IN 8-BY-10: What a handsome young man he is, and no wonder he was chosen for a part in the school play. But, a word of caution: don’t sign Smiley La Flash as his agent, unless you don’t mind a steady income of $1.35 a year. That’s Smiley’s arithmetic for what’s left after he takes his 10% of $2,000,000. If you can’t find your slide rule. I’ll express mine on request.

TO END ON AN UPBEAT NOTE: As I mentioned some time ago, the Bee held a spelling bee. Here are the results you waited for:


Read the following sentanses, indentafy any words not spelled right, and spell them right:

  1. “After his coronation, the king took the thrown.”
  2. “After he was deposed, the king was throne out of the palace.”


  1. Should be: “After his carnation“.
  2. Should be: “After he was deposited,..”

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WININNG STUDANT! First Prize is a job as a cub reportur next summar!


(I hate to say this, but The Stamford Weekly Posthorn has a way to go to get into big-league journalism.

Fred C. (“Stop The Presses!”) Dobbs

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