HLS - The Letters Of Harvey L. Slatin

Plaza Azul Productions
2954 Plaza Azul
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Office Of The
Executive Director
(505) 473-1954

“Semper Pothoegdus!”


March 3, 1989

Harvey L. Slatin
Chemical Electrochemical Metallurgical Consultant
a/k/a Thomas Udo, Contractor
78 Main Street
Stamford, New York 12167

Dear Tommy, The letterhead is splendid! Exactly the right combination of style, elegance, and information! The watermarked paper is an added touch, suggesting that the firm is prosperous. As I read the watermark, it is “Classic Laid,“ with vertical ruling at 1.5”. The rag content is unspecified, but it has to be 20% or more. Do I have that right?

I hope you didn’t pay for engraving, because what you got is embossing. Impressive, all the same.

It will interest you only slightly to learn that my late Father was graduated from Lehigh University in 1907 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrometallurgy. Many years later, when he was a Vice-President of the Electrometallurgical Division of Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation, the authorities at Lehigh wrote my Father to tell him that, if he liked, they would convert his degree to a B.S. in Metallurgical Engineering, because they no longer had an Electrometallurgy major. He wrote back to tell them to leave well enough alone. So, when he died, he was probably the last credentialed Electrometallurgist on earth.

You and he would have had much to discuss, had circumstances been different. He specialized in the development of exotic alloys, including something called “Stellite” and another one called “Vitallium.” Stellite was the hardest steel alloy ever invented, and was used to line the barrels of machine guns during WW II. Vitallium was impervious to human body fluids, and was used to replace Tantallum as the metal of choice for skull repairs after trepanning, and for making Stader splints. He pioneered developments in continuous arc welding, a process trade—named “Unionmelt,” used extensively in the construction of Liberty Ships. He also served as a consultant to the Canadian National Railways, devising a scheme for eliminating expansion joints between sections of rail by welding them and re-desiging the roadbed to adjust to severe temperature changes. He suggested putting curves in otherwise straight sections of rails, and mounting them on ties that were free to slide from side to side as the rails shrank or expanded. The scheme worked. If you ever ride the CNR, you will note the absence of ”clickety—clack.” You have my late Father to thank for that peace and quiet.

Before joining UCC, my Old Man was manager of the Haynes Satellite Company plant in Kokomo, Indiana. Elwood Haynes, as you know, beat Henry Ford to the automobile by a couple of years. Back in the 1920’s, there was a brand of auto named the “Haynes,” after its inventor. It didn’t last very long, but it was a sturdy, reliable vehicle. It had no gears, using instead a planetary drive system that gave the driver continuously-variable speeds, forward and backward. In fact, if you were driving forward and wanted to stop, and the brakes had failed — they had a tendency to do that — you simply jammed the machine into reverse until it came to a halt. The only one I ever saw —- it belonged to an elderly lady who lived down the street from me in New Rochelle — had solid rubber tires and oak wheel spokes that creaked as it rolled by. It also had cut crystal bud vases in the rear, in which this elderly lady always put fresh flowers when she took it out for a spin.

At her home down the street, she had a down—hill driveway with a garage at the bottom. In the garage, there were a couple of railroad ties bolted to the floor near the rear wall. When she reached the driveway, she would start down the hill, and about halfway down she would shift into reverse. The rear wheels started to spin backwards, giving off the aroma of burning rubber, and the car would slide to a stop, but not until it hit the railroad ties with a satisfying crash. We kids, who had been playing stickball or some other street game, would run down to her house to watch the parking process. Then, we would help her unload her groceries and she would reward us with us milk and cookies. She never questioned our motivation — she thought we were just being helpful and friendly and courteous and kind, as Boy Scouts are supposed to be (along with being trustworthy, loyal, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent). Actually, we were hoping that the railroad ties would give way, and that the car would plunge through the rear wall of the garage into a shallow ravine beyond. This never happened, but we didn’t want to miss it if it did. Fond boyhood memories, evoked simply by your letterhead. Thank you.

Since you figured you had already spent $25.00 to bail out “THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER,” you might have simply re-written the check to “SFCT,” as I hinted in my last letter. But no, you decided to give it to the fucking IRS instead. Some friend of SFCT you turned out to be.

You don’t keep chicks on a string — you keep them in a brooder until they are more or less grown up, and then you keep them in a chicken yard or in a henhouse, depending on climate. Spare me any further advice about how to deal with chicks. As for Yves Mbntand, it serves him right — he should have taken precautions. I had to look up “estimate” in my Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, not knowing off-hand what it meant. Turns out it means “aestivate” — to pass the summer in a state of torpor. Not to worry, Tommy me lad. I plan to pass the summer in a state of New Mexico, but thanks for the advice.

I had thought — all on my own, I swear — of the electrified aluminum foil scheme for discouraging my cat from spraying. Had the plans all drawn, measurements made, and equipment selected. Then, Ted Bundy got fried in Florida and I decided not to do that to my friend the cat. My veterinarian tells me that there is some kind of shot that will alter his hormone balance and discourage him from this sort of behavior, and I intend to try it. Anything is better than electrocuting the beast. Besides, I know for a fact that when we humans make this planet uninhabitable, as we seem bent on doing, cockroaches and cats will take over. Better to stay on their good side, in case we survive Armageddon. Tell Anne for me that if she ever decides to run away from home and set up housekeeping in the Land of Enchantment, she can have all the cats around that she likes at my house. Meanwhile, find out what this magical spray is that eliminates odors. All the sprays I have tried merely replace or add to existing odors, or they deaden your nose nerves so you can’t smell anything.

I haven’t exactly won the case — I won the first round. Attorney for Plaintiff has filed a Notice of Appeal, and if she is successful in finding a court to hear the appeal, then we go clear back to Square One and have a brand-new trial. If that happens, I (naturally) expect to win again, but my expectations in other matters have been, from time to time, dashed by the utter caprice of a Judge. In my experience, Judges are totally unpredictable, and quite capable of reversing themselves in mid—sentence. “Equity,” which is supposed to rule where strict application of The Law would work a hardship on one party or the other, is a concept that very few Judges understand and even fewer are willing to invoke. Too much thinking is required.

THE JOHN TOWER AFFAIR: I have a few thoughts on this that I would like to share with you.

  1. Tower has pledged to go on the wagon if he is confirmed. I suppose that means that if he is not confirmed, he will get plastered and stay that way for the rest of his days.
  2. A bumper sticker: “BRING BACK SLEAZE — CONFIRM JOHN TOWER.”
  3. Imaginary interview of Michael Dukakis by Tom Brokaw:
    BROKAW: Governor Dukakis, if you had been elected President, who would you have chosen to be Secretary of Defense?
    DUKAKIS: That’s easy. The best man for the job. John Tower.
    BROKAW: John Tower? Really? Why?
    DUKAKIS: First of all, I would have gotten him confirmed. I would have had a majority in the Armed Services Committee and in the Senate, so it would have been a piece of cake. All this stuff about booze and broads is so much eyewash. Everybody in this Town does that. A lot of us — make that “a lot of them” — do dope. “Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone.” Feel free to quote me.
    BEDKAW: Thanks. I will. But what about his taking consulting fees from defense contractors? Wouldn’t that worry you?
    DUKAKIS: Au contraire, Tom. That’s a Greek expression meaning “no.” There is no man in Washington who knows more about the procurement scandals at the Pentagon than John Tower. If you wanted the mess cleaned up, would you “set the fox to guard the henhouse?” Darned tootin’ you would. So would I. A fox who knows “where the bodies are buried,” as the saying goes. Tower is clearly the man for the job.
    BRDKAW: Well, Governor, thanks for sharing these insights with our viewers.
    DUKAKIS: My pleasure. Would you like to how what I think of President Bush’s choice for Secretary of the Interior? I think that his record —
    BROKAW: I’m sorry, Governor, but I see by the clock on the wall that we are out of time.
    DUKAKIS: I think — (cut to Anusol commercial).

Of course I knew that you were a friend of Ramon and Leona Chivas. How else would I have gotten into that wonderful house? My problem was that Ramon used a three-thousand-year-old Peruvian pot for an ashtray, which I deplored out loud. He brushed my complaint aside, reminding me that the pot had been made to be used. He was right, naturally. Never heard of Ramon Rosario, but he sounds like my kind of guy.

Sorry about your meteorological (note spelling) problems with snow and all that. But you must remember — you are the one who chose to live near the Big Apple and not the Big Tomato. You pays your money and you takes your choice.


Auditions this weekend for “UNCLE VANYA.” I will let you know how I make out, if indeed I make out. Making out is on my mind these days, now that Spring is here and the sap is rising.

Fondly, As Always,
John K. Herzog
Executive Director
a/k/a Howard

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