30 March 1986
Hey, there, Udo!–
I just finished reading The New Mexican (Sunday edition), to which I subscribe in order to keep tabs on your house on Canyon Road. I ead the police reports to see whether it might have been burglarized or firebombed. Rest easy: it’s O.K.
Did you know that Ray Powell (former administrator of the big division that I can’t remember the name of) is running for the governorship of New Mexico? He became a vice president of Sandia Corporation, and is now having a shot at Number One (Numero Uno, in the local patois). Not a word about him in the paper I just read. If he hopes to make it, I think he needs a staff that’s more into visibility than modesty. On the other hand, he may have dropped out of the race.
Let me tell you about the photographs in the 40th anniversary book: the two most featured players are Mike Michovicz and Lou Jacot. Mike is featured because he took most of the pictures; Lou appears on pages 7 (bottom right), 18 (corner left), and again on (upper left). In one picture he wears a hat like John Huston’s, but not white. John V. Young is on page 13, center right. John Herzog is not shown anywhere, and vows he will never attend another reunion where the stalwarts are ignored and the glory grabbers get all the visibility. I agree. The least they could have done was run some old pictures of you and me, from our badge photos, to show that there were some Real People up there. Boy! Sometimes I get really mad!! But what can you do when you’re just one of The Little People?
AND NOW FOR THE QUESTIONS, AS THE TIME WILL ALLOW!!!!! (as Walter W. used to bray): alas for the circumstances of American Letters, I more or less dropped out of the Pulitzer competition and went to work in an aircraft factory (Northrop) from which I retired last year (23 years of loyal effort, with one interruption). And here you were looking for my byline in The New Yorker or some other unlikely publication. My wife was the Administrator of the UCLA Cancer Center, and she retired before I did. We sold the house in the Pacific Palisades and moved to Sacramento where my stepdaughter and 3 grandchildren live. I turned my back on what you call “the intrigues of Hollywood,” and you see what has happened to the former movie capital. As far as I’m concerned, they brought it on themselves. I throw out all their whining letters without opening them. I have better things to do than try to rescue some studio that wrecked itself by hiring all the producers’ nephews. It’s the price the pay for not listening to me.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF EVERYDAY LIFE IN SACRAMENTO: Yes, I agree that we must get together on one of your trips out here, whether in San Francisco or here is not a problem. The real problem right now is this: we moved up here in November and took an apartment while looking for a house. We bought a house and moved in during February. THAT IS, we moved ourselves in, and have been sleeping on mattresses on the floor since then. The reason is that the decor of the house is/was in conflict with our furniture and other decorative possessions. So we had to have the house painted, carpeted, remodeled in some areas, etc. All of which would not have taken this long except for the floods in Sacramento, which you no doubt read about. Most of the skilled trades were able to find seven-day-a-week jobs repairing flood-damaged houses, especially the carpet layers. We went at least a month, negotiating with a number of them, before we found anyone who would drive a nail. They all promised to call back as soon as they finished the job they were working on. Nobody ever called back. We even had a painter spend three hours going over the house so he could make an estimate of the job. He promised to cal the following day. We never heard from him again. Leaving messages was no good, because they were ignored. We were about to slash our wrists when we were lucky enough to be contacted by a girl who used wo work for my wife at UCLA. She and her husband had moved up here. We–whee!– is in the construction business! Owns his own company! From there on, everything has moved forward. We still sleep on the floor and ear Burger Kings every night, but advances have been made. In the meantime, all our furniture is still in storage, to prevent is getting slopped with paint and torn with nails. Next week a new fireplace front goes in. Then wallpaper can be applied. Etc. ON TOP OF THIS: I have been going through laboratory tests to give my new doctor some information about my health (I have a thyroid condition); and I am in the middle of root canal work with a new dentist. I won’t bludgeon you with any more miseries. What this adds p to is that we do not expect to be on an even keel until sometime in–very possibly–May. BUT ON TOP OF THAT: my step-daughter has just returned from the hospital where she underwent her second mastectomy. Everything, we just learned, is all right. But she is still in pain, and we will be helping out until she can handle things again without discomfort or fatigue. Fatigue is the biggest problem.
By this time you are probably sorry you asked.
Your first letter came from Newark and your second from Atlanta. I nominate you as the most suitable candidate to replace Major George Fielding Elliot as “soldier, world traveler, and expert on small arms.” Don’t be modest. You know you deserve it.
So let’s keep in touch toward that great day when we can sit at the same table and tell war stories the way we used to do. “Do you remember that time at Fort Webb, when the sergeant…” Love those yarns just love them.
Press on to heights of ever-greater distinction. Regards to your wife and son.
Fred C. (“soap opera”) Dobbs
P S: I would appreciate your not releasing my name, rank and serial number to old acquaintances for “old time’s sake,” Some I would prefer not to reopen palship again. I’m sure you understand.