Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Umnak Island, 14 October 1944

My cherished simpalili…

I have been having a wonderful time with the symphony program you sent me. Every time I look through it I find something new that your marked. At first I couldn’t figure out why you noted the names of Sam Couch, Annie Tschopp Gombosi and Claire Garlick in the orchestra. But then I found out that the incredibly cognomened Annie is a houseboat habitu√©, and I guessed that Sam Couch is the artiste of Associated. But that still leaves me off the scent of Miss Garlick who, as far as I am concerned, is neither fish, flesh nor good red rutabaga. 

[Swiss-born Annie Tschopp was a violinist, a proponent of early music ,and the founding director of the Boston Camerata. She was married to the Hungarian musicologist Otto Gombosi, played in the Seattle Symphony, and was for a time associated with the Cornish School, an arts college in Seattle. Claire Garlick studied music at UW and played in the Seattle Symphony. After her marriage to Henry Peterson, she became, among other interests, a well-known local pyrotechnist.] 

I was in an especially good mood for looking over the symphony program this evening because I had a symphony on the shortwave. The rest of the fellows in the hut took off about seven o’clock to go to a show and I stayed home to work on the novel. I wasn’t getting anywhere with the writing, so I started fooling around with the shortwave and lo! XUU, Ciudad de Mexico, broadcasting Prokofieff’s Classical Symphony with Sir Thomas and the London Philharmonic, Enesco’s Rumanian Rhapsody and Berlioz’s Fantastique. Which, you must admit, could not be surpassed on order.

Those rare occasions when I can listen to a symphony all the way through without interruptions or heckling are real delights and this one was the rarest of all, for I had tea already brewed and rum cakes ready to savor and a beautiful need for rest.
Yesterday I went to bed right after work and slept for fourteen hours, with slight interruptions, and when I awoke I felt as thought I had been clipped with the curse of Caracuaro. I staggered off to work, first imposing on my stomach some beets and boiled beef. Fortunately Al Hesse wandered in just as I was depositing dinner in the wastebasket, almost in its original form. (Hesse: “It looks like Robbie’s cooking”) and Al took over for me while I beat a retreat to the latrine where extensive review of my recent meals revealed that the culprit was probably some tinned tuna that I ate after it had been sitting in an opened can in the kitchen for several hours. Anyway by five o’clock I felt fine. And I still do.

Except for the symphony today was very quiet. I went down to the hospital in the afternoon to have my locks shorn. It looks like a good haircut to me, although all the fellows insist that he carved my initials on the back of my head.

Speaking of trips to the hospital, a couple of months ago it was raining when we were called for the monthly short arm examination. Some of the fellows went down in a truck. On the way back it hit a bump and Mac, the cook, was almost thrown from his seat. He finally went back to the hospital to see about a pain in his side yesterday and found that he strained himself badly, presumably on that bump, and will be laid up for some time. They have the craziest casualties around here:  Jack was on crutches after colliding with a telephone pole on a ski run, Robbie was laid up for several weeks trying to play baseball, before I got here a man I never met fell off a board tied behind a truck--they were smoothing the road around the mess hall--and sprained his neck. We seem to be following the Duce dictum, Live Dangerously, in spite of our status as cushion commandos.

The last mail brought the September Harper’s and I have been rocking with DeVoto again. He had himself quite a time with Title V, the now amended amendment to the Hatch Act, which forbade distribution of political matter to the soldiers. …
[For examples of books that were censored under Title 5, see http://www2.lib.virginia.edu/exhibits/ase/Chapter_7.html
DeVoto said, amidst much more…]

Bernard DeVoto
"including a biography of George Washington Carver, the selected writings of Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Lippmann’s U.S. Foreign Policy, The Grapes of Wrath, and Plato’s Republic. Such books were forbidden by Title V. On the Acting Adjutant General’s showing, all books this side of Patty Goes to Boarding School were forbidden, and God knows if it is safe to stop with Patty. Nor could the old army game be worked here if these books had gone out through channels and on order. If Senator Taft should rise to a question of privilege  and denounce the army for sending out the Emancipation Proclamation or Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, the responsible authorities had only the feeble answer that they had also distributed Plato, who was in favor of slavery.”

The DeVoto lad can make a mace out of a pencil.

A few odds and ends about what passes for life in the Aleutians: we now have three Tacoma men in the hut and have named the central aisle Tacoma Avenue; the hut’s official name is “The Empty Arms.” The two pups, looking more like Bluey daily, are now big enough to chase the foxes; the CO has wrangled us a washing machine from somewhere, which means—thank God—no more washing week old shorts in the hand-and-face basins; there was ice on the mud puddles one day this week; I have just finished a stretch as duty CQ for the hut, which means that for the past week I’ve had to sweep the floor daily, mop it once and, on bad day, pump fifty gallons of oil into our barrel, this job complicated by a wind which couldn’t make up its mind and a rainstorm that did decide what it was going to be—and just at the wrong time. There is one character here who rides around in the command car, his feet out the open door, shouting “Geronimo,” the paratrooper leap-cry. So far he hasn’t jumped.

Clare Booth is getting a bit more Dilling dongy, wouldn’t we say. I’m getting to the stage where I think we ought to deny any rumors about having met her or accepted her tickets to her play. Or her hubby’s pay…And tonight I heard General Hershey’s admission that the “Keep the boys in instead of on relief” was his own idea and that he is, was and always has been a Republican. I can hear Governor Dewey moan way up here. Or maybe it’s the wind.
And that, my darling, is all that I can stay awake to do. Another week and it makes six lunar eternities away from you. I suppose you could say I’m getting used to it—like a guy could get used to being without both legs, both arms and both eyes…
M


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