Tuesday, January 4, 2011

To Phyllis and Otto Goldschmid: Adak Island, 25 June 1944

Dear two…

This will serve as a requisition for socks in whatever state of repair and of whatever strangeness in construction. Have you considered darning them with built-in holes at the heels to save wear and tear and also time? 

One of the quaint characters at large on this outpost already has a pair of purple stockings, a first pair at that. He wears them as a scarf. And one of the kids in our hut—Perry, the misplaced MP—got a pair from his girl. They were so small that he put a piece of pipe in one and has it hanging by his bed as an improvised billy stick.

As for the fudge, there is nothing I like better than fudge in my stockings. Christmas or otherwise. But what do you people use for sugar these days? I do not recall any beets blossoming in the backyard, or even a good government printing press in the garage?
Your letter, dated June 19, and the letter you and Rosa wrote from the houseboat, dated June 19, came in the same mail. I suspect tequila, or maybe the U.S. has gone on a doubletalk calendar since I drew this term of exile in Estatiland. 

Life up here is exactly as it was at the time I wrote before, only more so.  As one of the more profound philosophers in the operating room recently remarked, “There comes a time when monotony gets damned monotonous.”

We don’t hear the Corwin show up here. Why, I don’t know. It is the only one outside of the symphonies and “Information Please” that I really would like to hear. The shows that we hear are mainly those broadcast over a local station run by the army. The music and general amusement programs are sent up on records with the advertising removed. So far we are still getting shows that I heard while in Seattle. They sound much better with the blather about buying abridged.  …

The news programs that we hear are shortwaves from San Francisco and transcribed for rebroadcast over the local outlet. We hear them about an hour after they originate. Since these shows also serve as our shortwave propaganda news they are a bit strong on the sugar and leave one feeling mentally diabetic. Whenever possible I try to get a CBS outlet at home. I feel very possessive about the job Columbia is doing on radio reporting.
Down from the tree in August 1944: Bill Walton is at left, Robert Capa at right, and Ernest Hemingway in the middle.
(Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, Kennedy Library)
Remember the time you came up to the Time office with Rosa? I believe you met one of my roommates there, Bill Walton, a big, blue-eyed, baby-faced blond who looked as if he would be a bit afraid crossing a busy street. I see in the current Time that he jumped out of a place with a bunch of paratroops in the Normandy Invasion and got stuck, typewriter and all, in a pear tree. He had a nice boxed story in the War News of the edition with Eisenhower’s picture on the cover.

[Walton went on to become a painter, a good friend of John F. Kennedy (whom he encouraged to run for President) and the head of the federal arts commission. His New York Times obituary is here:

His Time column about the landing is at
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101440619-640079,00.html
It starts like this:
I plunged out of the plane door happy to be leaving a ship that was heading toward flak and more Germans.The jump was from such low altitude there was only a moment to look around in the moonlight after my chute opened.
The fields looked so small that one couldn't miss a tree or hedge. Anyway I couldn't. I landed in a pear tree-a rather good shock absorber. But the trouble was I didn't filter on through to the ground; instead I dangled about three feet above ground unable to swing far enough to touch anything.
My chute harness slipped up around my neck in a strangle hold, covering the knife in my breast pocket. I was helpless, a perfect target for snipers and I could hear some of them not far away.In a hoarse, frightened voice I kept whispering the password, hoping someone would hear and help. From a nearby hedge I heard voices. I hung still a moment, breathless.
Friends. Then I heard them more clearly. Never has a Middle Western accent sounded better. I called a little louder. Quietly Sergeant Auge, a fellow I knew, crept out of the hedge, tugged at the branches and with his pigsticker cut my suspension cords. I dropped like an overripe pear ]
Getting back to the radio programs for a moment – I think it would take Corwin to make Wolfe bearable. Let me know if he does a number on my man Steinbeck.

You mentioned “Lady in the Dark” but do not say what you thought of it as a movie. Rosa and I saw it not long before I shipped out. We found it wildly amusing. The idea of an editor of a smart New York magazine being naively surprised at the basic elements of psychiatry, of a psychiatrist shouting at his clients, and of a girl who didn’t care about clothes wearing those tailored creations that Ginger Rogers had curving around her were all edging toward the surreal. And the dream sequences had all the dreamlike quality of a rare beefsteak or a two ton bomb. I did rather like the touch, though, of having Jon Hall appear in a dream standing beside a symbolic stallion.

Here is a dream for you to practice on. I had a dream that an order came out that everyone on Alaskan duty had to walk on his hands. And we all found it very easy to do. But I had great difficulty in typewriting while standing on my hands.

Speaking of shows, don’t miss “Gaslight.” In the first place, Ingrid Bergman. But besides that , it is a beauty of a job, just as good as it was as a play. …

Thanks again in advance for the fudge and footgear. And don’t forget the letters. (And here’s a hint for economy—it only takes six cents to airmail letters to an APO number.)
Best to both,
Murray

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