Don Rickles died today. The insult comedian who was a mainstay on The Tonight Show and the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts and who delighted in calling people “hockey pucks” was 90.
And this sounds terrible to say, but my first reaction to the news was: “That’s interesting. I guess I thought he was dead already.”
I feel very guilty about this reflexive response, but it happens all the time these days. Some musician, comedian, movie star, or sitcom actor from the ’50s, ’60s or ’70s kicks the bucket, and you could have sworn they’d already gone to meet their maker. I think the reason for that response is that, during their period of great fame, those celebrities are seen so frequently that they become expected, everyday sights on talk shows, in magazine articles, on game shows, and in guest roles on sitcoms. Then, when their period of fame ends, as is inevitably the case, you associate their ongoing lack of presence on the popular scene with . . . death. In fact, the only way you know for sure that they’re not in fact dead is if they suddenly get hauled out to award an Oscar or give a tribute to one of their just departed colleagues.
So, Don Rickles is officially dead. Doc Severinsen, on the other hand, is still with us.
Customs and Border Protection is supposed to review the bids and announce finalists in June, and then some of the finalists are expected to build prototypes of their designs on government-owned land in San Diego. The AP reports that the government is expected to select four to ten finalists to build 30-foot-long prototypes at a cost of $200,000 to $500,000 each. Customs and Border Protection has indicated that it is looking for solid barriers, made of materials like concrete, rather than “walls” that rely on technology.
We don’t know exactly how many companies submitted proposals, although apparently about 200 companies expressed interest in the border wall project. I’m guessing that there were lots of bids. What construction companies could resist bidding on a project that potentially involves pouring enormous amounts of concrete to build a barricade that extends for hundreds of miles? The “wall” would make your standard highway construction project seem like a minor matter.
And although all of the bids haven’t been made public, we know what some companies are proposing because they have voluntarily disclosed their bids. One bidder thinks the wall will become a kind of tourist attraction, and proposes a 56-foot-high wall designed with a walkway at the top to allow visitors to enjoy the desert vistas. (“Hey kids! Where should we go on our summer trip this year? Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, or the border wall?”) A different proposal suggests that nuclear waste be buried in trenches along the wall — which presumably would quash any meaningful tourist activity, by the way. Another company wants to erect solar panels on parts of the wall, to generate electricity that can be sold to communities in both the U.S. and Mexico to help pay for the wall’s cost, which would allow President Trump to say that he had met, at least in part, his campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall.
Will a wall actually be built, given the significant opposition to it? We don’t know at this point, but we do know one thing: the bids that have been made public so far indicate the this effort at large-scale wall building could be a very quixotic exercise.