Sunday, December 12, 2010

Umnak Island, 1 August 1944

Rosita darling...

I have unfortunately, changed shifts. I am now working swing and not liking it at all. It disastrously disrupts the fine schedule I had worked out while on graveyard.
If things remain as they have been the last two days, I will have far fewer hikes on the good days, I will have far fewer hikes on the good days and less time by myself in the hut on the bad. That means less writing. And I feel bad about ut because I was getting in the swing again.

On swing we go to work at four. Two of the other fellows in the hut are on the same shift and they stay inside all day.  They like the hut very hot—above eighty—and that adds to the difficulties of concentrating while writing. They just changed shifts too. Formerly they were on days and spent their evening at the rec hall drinking beer, but the bar isn’t open days so they just lie in their sacks and moan if fresh air seeps in.
I didn’t write yesterday. There was nothing to tell you except the bird. When I came into the hut in the afternoon there was a dead bird lying on my typewriter. At first I thought someone had fund him and brought him to me as a joke. I am always returning with flowers or weathered wood and, once, a whale’s eardrum (really). Then I realized that the sparrow had flown into the hut when the door was open and crashed into the window while trying to fly out. I picked him up to take him outside and while I was examining his double feathers he came to and pecked me on the nose. Somehow I held on to him. I started to take him over the to operations building to show the rest of the fellows, but he was too excited. I let him go. He was still flying when I saw him last. 

In the evening, when I was walking from mess, I was thinking about the bird and looking at the stars. Suddenly there was a flurry at my feet and when I touched ground again and swung my flashlight  in the direction of the sound, there was a big red fox. He was not terribly timid, but moved slowly away as I walked toward him. I finally left him standing about fifty yards from the hut. It was too dark to chase him and anyway I liked the idea of his being around.
Fancy Free
The ballet programs make me excessively homesick. You did not tell me anything about Fancy Free in your letter. … It is the ballet I am most interested in seeing—even more than Petroushka or Bluebeard or The Red Poppy. Also, how did you like Tally-Ho? I especially enjoyed in the cast the descriptions “A Lady, no better than she should be: and “two others, somewhat worse.” Of the seven ballets you saw, five were new to me. 

Speaking of music, did you notice in the Duke Ellington sketch in the July 1 New Yorker that comment, "As Bach says," Duke may remark, speaking about piano playing, "If you ain't got a left hand, you ain't worth a hoot in hell."
I remember, vaguely, either writing or talking to you about the phrase, "black as the inside of a cow." As I recall, I said that I thought it was rather apt and showed imagination on the part of the user, and you said you had heard it before, which I questioned. I ran in to it yesterday in Chapter Eight of Mark Twain's "Life on the Mississippi" and he says there it is an old steamboatman's phrase.
...
In regard to the “tired old man” phrase we discussed the other day, here is what Max Lerner has to say about it: “Walter Lippmann … insists that there are no issues between the two parties and that the only question is one of exhausted or fresh personalities. That is a sort of glandular or personal energy theory of history and the logical upshot of it would be to run Lionel Strongfort for president, with a cabinet made up of gym instructors. 

I miss you terribly my sweet. There is no way of saying how much.

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