Today at 7:46 AM
April 13, 2015
Claude’s Commentary No. 59
By Claude Hall
A lake at Merced, CA, is almost dirt. A television news program a week or so ago showed water down to only 9 percent of capacity. A couple of very nice houseboats sat high on what is now a hill.
You see Lake Mead on television, it’s a horror story. You can tell where the water line used to be. High on the bluff. The Colorado no longer reaches the ocean. All of its water is used up before it reaches the Sea of Cortez. Mexican farmers scream for their share. But it’s just not there.
Water in the United States has gone Gucci. Comes in fancy bottles. Even imported from Tahiti in cute little square bottles. My wife Barbara would die of thirst if she had to drink water from the kitchen tap. She doesn’t like the taste. It’s guaranteed pure. Doesn’t matter. She doesn’t like the taste of chlorine. It seems okay to me. However, we keep several cases of bought water in the house.
Meanwhile, in the middle of the United States, floods and snow storms go to waste. The storms dribble, finally, into the ocean. Our government should launch a national campaign to not conserve water, but to channel it to good use. I visualize a series of communication channels coast-to-coast. These “channels” would feature a huge water pipe for the transportation of water to where it’s needed, a belt of electrical lines, a super-speed, wide-track railroad, an eight-lane highway (each direction) and space on either side for the expansion of all of these and more. The water would be used for corn in Missouri and wheat in Kansas and Oklahoma. Once in Colorado, the water would be lifted and permitted to stream and river into the Colorado. Fill up Lake Mead. For farms in California, where there’s a desperate shortage, and around Mexicali.
Can you imagine a railroad onto which you could drive your car and enter a “hotel” room for the 150-mph trip? A railroad train with a restaurant with picture windows? Maybe even a gym. A supervised playroom for the kids.
Considering the long drive in a city such as Houston to reach the airport, a train might be faster for a trip to Dallas. In the old days, it took me 45 minutes from my door in Bel Air, Los Angeles, to reach LAX, park, and walk onboard my American Airlines flight. Today, that’s impossible. A train might be much faster for many destinations. Especially if you wanted to go surfing in Pismo Beach. Or take lunch in Splash where I recommend the clam chowder.
These communications channels would be bankrolled by the government. Out-of-work people would now be able to pay taxes, buy food, medicine, cars, houses as they joined the workforce. The manufacturing of equipment, handling of legal aspects regarding the acquisition of right-of-way, etc., and the end result of wages (i.e., spending on goods) would more than pay for the project in the long run.
As Edgar Rice Burroughs and Leigh Brackett envisioned huge channels on Mars in yesteryear’s science fiction, we, too, should envision channels on Earth … at least in the United States. And the vision should be made a reality. In my opinion, if we don’t plan for the future, we may not have one.
Woody Roberts to the remaining Mesquiteers: “Fellow Mousquetaires, this is a long overdue Thank You note. I doubt you can fully grok the enrichment and joy brought into my life by reuniting me with Lee Baby Simms. The other day I was thinking of what my world, my sensorium entire, would be like had that not happened. That priceless brief wink of time. Although Lee and I never once talked on the phone or had a video call, the continuing series of emails back and forth were like the days of old and we discovered that neither of us had really changed our core personalities since our last meeting over the New Year’s holidays in 1976. God, did we have fun on that totally gonzo car trip from San Antonio to Cleveland with The Baby at the wheel. He was pleased to learn I still had a momento with my hickory walking stick that we selected and cut in Tennessee.
“Our emails got kinda crazy over these past three years I truly experienced more joviality – to borrow a Mousquetaire word -- with him than any other time since our last great adventure. So I have now this block of new memories that are all wonderful. And it is because of you. If Claude had not located my seldom looked at Gmail address where I happened to see the name of an old friend I had not heard from since my life changing thumb-out trip to Discover America (and myself). In 1973 Lee had just dropped me off with backpack at north edge of Santa Barbara and pointed me towards Big Sur when none other than Mr. and Mrs. Hall pulled their car off to the roadside and opened the door and waved. Perfect!
“Were it not for Claude Hall I would not have been on the lookout for email from Robert Weisbuch that likely I would have deleted as spam. And were it not for ‘Dr. Bob’s’ prodding and his important book about the Hartford WPOP/WDRC ratings war Lee and I would not have started communicating. You guys put two Old Friends together on a digital park bench to while away our years, share memories, but most of all play with each other in a way unique to us. Emailed letters, pictures, links, exchange of gifts were perfect expressions for us hermits. We used to argue over which of us was the greater hermit.
“So my gratitude for what you did is boundless, reuniting Lee and me greatly enriched our lives. Lee hid the pain of his illness from me and when he cut off communications two weeks before killing himself I didn’t understand what was happening. He planned it. He wanted to leave the stage with everyone applauding and filled with memories of his totally unique spirit. And now, after my initial shock and unbounded grief has subsided, I understand what he did and why he did it. That his final words to us were a setup like he might do on his show: ‘No way, Jose, will I ever go back to Hartford!!!!!!’. And then we never heard from him again. He signaled the end, for it was our Hartford years that provided the impetus to form the Four Mousquetaires. Now, we are Three and the glue holding us together has weakened. I doubt if the two of you fully realize how much he cherished your friendship and truly admired your talents. He felt honored to include you among his friends. As do I. Barbara Bodner formerly of WPOP said it best: ‘Lee Baby always knew when it was time to leave’. And in the end, he did the right thing and even managed to increase my admiration for his spirit, his strength, it was the perfect sign off for Lee Baby Simms. Finest thoughts always, and thank you.”
I, too, miss Lee Baby Simms. I doubt there will ever be another like him. Condolences to you, Woody, Dr. Bob Weisbuch, and to Lee’s daughter Kim and Lee’s grandchild. And me. To be without Lee Baby Simms is a pain that is difficult to endure. I wish to hell that he hadn’t done it!
Morris Diamond: “Good morning, dear friend, Claude. So nice to hear from you – and Barbara. Almost as heart rendering as the emails I get from my two daughters … one in Chicago & the other in Phoenix. We speak often, but see each other yearly. As a matter of fact, they, along with their husbands, and Alice and I are taking an Alaska 11-day cruise together the end of August and I can't wait. Alice's son, Derek Penslar, is a professor at Oxford and we're going to visit him in late May for a couple of days and then spend a few days in London to see some old friends. Thus far we are well enough to travel, and now you with your brand new foot should do the same … also bring Barbara along as well. Happy to hear that your foot is all better … yesterday was my visit with my foot doctor … mainly to clip my nails and that made me feel in pretty good shape for an old varmint. I recall Bill Stewart and my dealings with him were minimal – I couldn't recall any episodes that would be of interest to your readers and that would apply to almost anybody that I knew from the '50s, '60s, '70s -- other than Gary Owens, George Wilson, Martin Block, Robin Seymour – and, of course, Joey Reynolds and Morton Downey Jr. My memory ain't like it used to be – thank heaven for Google on the internet. In a day or so, I have some thoughts that I will write to you – nothing in particular – I marvel at your ability to recall so much of the past – the people, the events – and when I see a name in your weekly report that gives me a bit of a recall, I feel great and I thank you for the open letters that appear weekly. Much love to you and Barbara.”
And much love to you and Alice.
Timmy Manocheo wrote regarding the passing of Stan Freberg. He died on Tuesday in Santa Monica, CA. He was 88. “More sad news this week – the passing of one of the most enduring and recognizable voices of the last half of the 20th Century passed away this morning, at the age of 88.Stan Freberg was the voice of hundreds of cartoon characters in the 1950s, countless radio and television commercials of the 1950s and 60s – all around wit, humorist, writer, host and comic genius. Freberg was the Dean of modern Advertising … In the late 1950s he produced his own radio program, a sort of last-gasp of Network radio in 1957. Only lasting 14 weeks, and without sponsorship, the show became the backbone for a number of comedy routines and something of an underground classic, prompting Capitol Records to release a ‘best of’ album in the early 1960s.” Freberg classic: Lake Michigan is drained and filled with hot chocolate, after which a plane drops a 700-foot mountain of whipped cream and a 10-ton maraschino cherry. Some 25,000 imaginary extras cheer.
We come, we do, we go.
Bob Fead: “Wonderful thoughts and comments about Herb and Lani … 16 years of my life were at 1416 N. La Brea. They are truly very special friends.”
Don Graham was kind enough to send me a copy of “Psychedelic Bubble Gum” by Bobby Hart. An amazing book by an amazing songwriter – Bobby Hart -- with Tommy Boyce. Lord, but I still remember some of those tunes! Songs you feel like singing. “Come a Little Bit Closer,” “Last Train to Clarksville” and the entire Monkees story, the Brill Building. Names from Bobby Vee and Snuffy Garrett to Wes Farrell and Don Kirshner and Lester Sil and Phil Spector. Countless stories. I’ve always felt a little sad about what happened with Wes Farrell. This is a book I shall personally treasure and “order” my sons to read. John and Andy will love it. A book I recommend if you’re interested in the history of the hit tunes of the 60s and 70s. The industry and what made it tick. Fascinating! I knew some of the people and met many others in the book and believe that Barbara and I were in the A-frame mentioned for a party at invite of Mickey Dolenz. Ron Jacobs, the Hawaiian guru who programmed KHJ in Los Angeles that helped make “Last Train to Clarksville” a national hit would love this book. The book, written with Glenn Ballantyne, is published by Select Books, www.selectbooks.com, at $26.95 US. My sincere appreciation to Bobby Hart and also to Don Graham, America’s promotion icon.
Danny Davis: “Love when you find those little ‘tid bits’ to close out the Commentary when ‘all ain’t happening’, Claudie! and if you’ll allow … New Year, Passover, Lenten Observance and all. Take a moment to recall one of the goodest guys, I believe, EVER to ‘brighten the blogger’s lightening pathways … Jack Roberts! Here’s to you, Jack. And believe in brighter days! Remembering well.”
Ken Dowe: “Dear Claude Dallas, I would vote that you are indeed a historian. But, you also are possessed of many assets that may be more evident to your myriad friends than you recognize in yourself. You deeply, truly, care. About most people. And, you are a friend to even those who have few friends. You draw quite an eclectic crowd. That's not easy, Claude. It's hard. Very hard. Yet, you do it with ease, and glide into many lives. I think that is the other half of your personality, Claude. Much of your time is generously spent in support of and appreciation of others. You are a historian, but you are a humanitarian as well. You have an interest in art, music, Cowboy Poetry, politics, and science. And, you possess intellectual curiosity. How cool is that? That is the definition of a Renaissance man. And, that ... (in my judgment) is who you truly are. My fan letter on Bill Stewart in a few days.”
FYI: Ken Dowe has offered to send me his views on Bill Stewart and I’m looking forward to them! I also thought I’d ask Morris Diamond. However, Morris and lady Alice are just about to visit London, then cruise Alaska. If anyone has any personal thoughts and/or opinions regarding Bill Stewart, I’d be interested in seeing them. I liked Bill and Marlene. Some have told me that Marlene was one of the most beautiful women they ever met (“I Love Radio,” Amazon.com/Kindle Books).
Doc Wendell: “I was mulling over the some of the anti-jazz propaganda going around lately, so I thought I'd address some of it in my new ‘Twist Of Doc’ op-ed piece. Hope you dig it.”
I always look forward to your musical insights, Doc.
Woody Roberts: “Took me quite awhile to remember the name of the long burst recorded at a SETI station in late 1970s, then my brain kicked in and said "Wow" --and that was it: The Wow Signal. Here are the most recent updates on that decades old incident, Your son John may appreciate.
And a SETI League report on the 72 second signal:
Best wishes for you and Barbra and the "kids" on Easter Day 2015.”
Johnny Holliday: “Forgot to include Sal's home address … wife's name is Carol Lee, 125 Grand Palm Way, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418. I know she would appreciate hearing from Sal's many friends in the music business.”
Work on “George” has been slow. For many reasons. But I managed a few words this week. Meanwhile, I’m about to install “La Tigre,” my recent western novel, with Kindle Books. Price will be about $2.95. I’m planning to also reduce the price of “Hellmakers” to $29.95. My brother-in-law Richard Schwartz has given me a Kindle. I will download my own books first, of course, then some free stuff by Edgar Rice Burroughs (yes, the Tarzan books) and H. Rider Haggard. I read most of the Tarzan books when I was around 9-12 years old. Would like to see if they’re as good as I remember. Some of those old pulp writers were excellent craftsmen. When I taught creative literature, I quoted from both Burroughs and Leigh Brackett, who happens to be one of my favorite writers, period.
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May Your Week Be Kind And
Gentle And All You Meet
Wear A Pleasant Smile