Sunday, October 10, 2010

Umnak Island, 9 November 1944


Happy Birthday, Nunny… [Rosa’s 26th]

Everything conspires to make me homesick for our many homes. On Monday I saw the short “Birth of a Volcano,” which is far more about Patzcuaro than about Paracutín. Then on Tuesday there was the election and the memory of that wild, weird night four years ago when Koski and the porcine butcher were passed out in the corner, RVM was writing incoherent leads about his defeat by Martin Smith, and we were racing around in the Ford (water dripping through the ventilator onto your legs), picking up results at the outlying schools and basement polling places. And now as I write, on Wednesday night-Thursday morning, Radio Calcutta, of all places is playing the intermezzo from Hari Janos, the Hungarian opera, and I can almost smell the warm soft smell of the Danube and feel the cool of the night on Margaretan Island [in the Danube at Budapest]. Last night we tuned in on Radio Tokyo to see what they had to say about the election and got instead the Fantastic Symphony. 

About the election. Because of the time differential, it was only two when the polls closed in most of the eastern states. We began getting the results over shortwave from San Francisco. The United Network—the shortwave stations in San Francisco which we used to listen to from Mexcio—had a system worked out which divided the time between the networks. About every quarter hour they switched from Blue to National to CBS to Mutual, but before long CBS and National were so far ahead in adding up the results that most of the time they stayed with them. CBS was an unprejudiced best, mainly because all the National broadcasters got so interested in describing the elaborate procedure they had evolved for getting the results fast that they forgot to say what the results were. 

I caught only a couple of hours sleep in the in the early afternoon. My alarm was set for three, and when it went off I put on the tea, turned on the radio and settled down for the day. In our hut we were largely pro-democratic. (In the hut next to ours Col. McCormic would feel at home. They burn tapers for [Westbrook] Pegler on Labor Day.) Of those not on duty when the broadcasts began, everyone in our hut was pro-Roosevelt, with the exception of one kid from Alaska, who could not vote for President anyway. (We kid him about being a second-class citizen). Consequently we enjoyed the listening greatly.
Listening to the returns
By five o’clock, when it was time for dinner, there was no decision yet. I could not bring myself to take time out for dinner, partly because I wanted to keep on listening and partly, I suppose, it was a subconscious reaction based on my desire to be in a newspaper office with a partly filled dummy spread on the desk, the stacks of teletyped news piling up around me and the backshop boss clamoring for copy. If I could not have the type of confusion I wanted I would not take the confusion of the mess hall. So I missed a chicken dinner. But it got in cold at midnight, which was even better.

By six o’clock it was dark enough outside so that we could pick up the domestic band stations and I alternated between KNX Hollywood and KOL Seattle. MNX is CBS, and the only drawback was that it had no returns from Washington. As a matter of fact the Congressional results in Washington still haven’t come in, except for the good news that we still have Coffee in the House and that DeLacy is to be, as your friend put it, broadened. [Rep. John Coffee’s resolution to allow live radio broadcasts of the House of Representatives proceedings, though not fully implemented before he was defeated by Thor Tollefson of Tacoma in 1946, eventually paved the way for C-SPAN]

Once Dewey had made his nice little speech, tardily, I went over the see if there was any mail. I had two letters from my one love, one of which was written on the Muni News report. Reading that I felt really sorry for Lorin [Peterson]. The oblique attack on the P.U.D. bill without mentioning the Pacific Power and Light Co., and the listing “Identified with left wing bloc” always matched with “Intelligent. Respected in his community” for his opponent.

If the Washington local elections followed the national election, however, and the only time I can think of that they didn’t was in the 1940 election of Langlie; and since Wallgren got it—thank Tao—I think it isn’t too much to hope that the Third District got rid of its sad specimen in the House. I find myself unenthused by the election of [Warren] Magnuson, but he was the lesser evil.

Today the Republicans, especially the noisy ones, are having a rather rough time. A couple of them did not show up for breakfast. And one of them got so mad he stomped out without eating his eggs. Many of the comments were considerably below the level set by Dewey and Bricker. The Corsican [Enrico Traina], for instance, blamed the results on “the niggers and the Jews.” And one of the men claimed it was the WPA votes, which shows how deep habit runs in politics.


As for the people next to you at the symphony, my sweet, I have often had the same reaction, although up here we did not get very steamed up about the election.
One thing about the election which I wonder if you could find out for me. One of the most wrapt Republicans here claimed that he heard a radio announcement on Monday night in which Stalin asked for Roosevelt’s re-election.  Now I am quite sure that Stalin would be all for it, for obvious reasons, but I cannot conceive of his pulling a political boner like that. Was there anything about it in the U.S. papers?
Janitzio, in Lake Patzcuaro, from http://www.lakepatzcuaro.org/DayOfDead.html

About the picture of Patzcuaro and Paracutín. It had a lot of pictures of the island, in very good Technicolor, and shot of the west end of the lake, in which I thought I could catch the white of the Ford’s house. I recognized several of the Indians, and the pats of Janitzio looked so familiar I almost smelled the pescado blanco cooking. While the show left me horribly lonesome for you, it has made writing on the novel much easier. Details come to me so much easier. This month should see the end of the novel, thank god. After that I think I will do a couple of short stories and then either work on the Guggenheim preliminary stuff, if that seems warranted, or perhaps go back to “And Shadows Fall.”
In her last letter Carmen said that she and Myrtle were going to have a party for you this afternoon, plikka. So I will sort of sit in on it with your from seven o’clock on. I can think of very few things I would not give to be with you today…
M

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