Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Umnak Island, 26 July 1944

Hello Little Darling…

The only things missing were you dashing to investigate the crashing in the darkroom and Manuel stomping around in sheet and serape.

I woke early this afternoon ready to curse the reviled Reger for making even more noise than usual on his way to the toilet. But Reger wasn’t there. Next I thought the oil stove was shaking, for the one in our hut has the same habits as the one in the houseboat. The stove was shaking, but so was everything else. By the time it was over I realized: earthquake.

The temblor was short and far from snappy. It did no damage to anything except my sleep. Were it not that it reminded me of my only other shaker it would not have been exciting. But as it is, I have spent the day thinking of our February flip in Patzcuaro and the subsequent birth of Paracutin. I will have to remember to look around tomorrow and see if we have any new mountains sprouting in our back yard.

Besides bothering my sleep for a good five minutes, the quake had one other effect. It reminded me again how new this country up here is. Because the meadow is soft and green and the hills smooth and green, I seldom think of the Aleutians’ birth in fire and tidal wave. Usually this spot seems older than the Puget Sound country, mainly because there are few obvious manmade scars on the landscape. But the quake reminded me that in a geologic sense the Aleutians haven’t quite got it made.  

I have another story to tell you about our library. This one is relayed by Jack, who went over tonight to return a couple of books. Looking over the racks he picked up “Look Homeward, Angel,” the same Modern Library edition that we have. Not convinced by my tirades against Thomas, evidently, he decided to take it out. The librarian said, “That isn’t no library book. It’s mine, but I’ll loan it to you all right.” Jack said thanks and asked if he liked Wolfe. “Sure thing, I like the whole series.” Jack said, “Oh, you’ve read all Wolfe’s books?” “Ah, no, fella. I like all them giants.”

The local radio station also came up with a magnificent snafu today. I believe I have told you how we get our news. The station relays the shortwave broadcast from San Francisco. At seven o’clock tonight the local announcer made his usual bridge, “We take you now to San Francisco where we join the United Network for the news.” There was a decent pause and then a metallic voice started talking about “the enemy naval attack on Sumatra.” Radio Tokyo talking. After about two minutes of Jap propaganda, our local announcer must have decided something was a bit off beam. He mumbled something about “technical conditions beyond our control” and for the rest of the news period we heard Spike Jones and his city slickers breaking down “Begin the Beguine” and “That Old Black Magic.”

We had better music later, the Philadelphia Symphony with Ormandie conducting everything from a Bach fugue (bloody) to Tales from the Wienerwald. In between was a violin concerto concerning Spain with Milstein playing. I didn’t get the composer’s name.
Bill Fett watercolor, 1940s
As I listened I went through the drama sections of the New York Times that came last week. (I have received no papers or packages since then, but the phonograph needles came all right.) On the art page I found a brief mention of awards in the Chicago Art Institute show. Bill [Fett] didn’t get any of them. But the same article mentioned that a one-man show of watercolors by William Fett was being held. Now I await eagerly the next edition of the Sunday Times in expectation of a review of Bill’s latest work. Has he sent Carmen any news about it? 

Other items I ran across in the art and drama sections included a review of some Chirico painting and a reprint of one (a girl and railway station in strange perspective), a note that Sir Thomas Beecham is to conduct a Mozart festival in Mexico City this summer, and Jerome Robbins won a prize for the best ballet of the year.

Wedding picture: by Rosa Morgan for Dolph Zubick
By the time you get this you will probably have quit Zubick’s, unless he talks you into talking a vacation instead. Since you complain little in your letters I don’t know what brought things to a head. But whatever you have decided is quite all right with me. I am not particularly enthused about society pictures. In fact my only real objection to your leaving is that I knew what your darkroom was like there and could always imagine you in it. Now, until I get more letters, I cannot even picture your routine. I hope you get another photographic  job. While it would be nice for you to be working with Carmen at Boeings, I think you would enjoy yourself more messing with chemicals, developers, and sensitized paper. 

I think that something should be done to bring the matter of Jean’s [Elliott] presence to an end. There is not point of your living under nervous pressure both at work and at home. Obviously it is not working well to have her with you. So can’t I write a gentle letter hinting that she would be much more comfortable in San Francisco, Salem or Savannah?
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Tonight, John Hazen joined Jack and me in our evening tea and, probably because of a bit of high school reminiscing, the conversation got onto the general subject of education.
Hazen is pontifical as a Pius in his approach to any discussion and his rumbling voice and slow “Well…now…I…don’t…know…that…that…is…right” after each statement by someone else infuriates Jack. Jack started out to bait him by saying that education in Germany is probably superior to that in the U.S. Hazen snapped it up with the slow positiveness of an old bass taking a moth and from there the subject went for afield. I kept trying to bring them back long enough to get definitions, but it was never settled whether Hazen was referring to education as assimilation of facts or creation of an attitude, and whether Jack thought that an individual indoctrinated with both a love of the classics and a hatred of other races could be considered better education than a man with far fewer facts and a little more tolerance. Somewhere along the line Jack began to take the intellectual game we were playing seriously. He became quite intent in defending his position that political and racial bigotry in education does not necessarily hamper the capacity of the students for scientific studies. At last he jumped up and stomped out, apparently angry with John. It will be a good thing when Jack gets his furlough. He has been up here two years now. But boy how I will miss him.

Your letter today asked what I think about the nomination of Truman as VP to run with Roosevelt. Well I’ve already told you about my lack of enthusiasm but intention to vote for Roosevelt anyway. I intend to cast a write in ballot for Wallace.

To me it looks like another of Roosevelt’s smart political tricks. He wrote a letter backing Wallace so that he could not be accused of running out on him after forcing him down the throats of the convention four years ago. But he would not follow through with any pressure other than the letter. And he put the tab on Truman as number two, which was practically an invitation for the convention to go that way after the first ballot.

Paul Robeson and Henry Wallace: 1948 Democratic Convention
As a political candidate Wallace is dead as a dinosaur, but there is a strong possibility that FDR will appoint him to some rather good post in the government after the election. Roosevelt has so far taken pretty good care of former New Dealers. But the whole thing rather sticks in my craw. Politics, like Spam, is an easy thing to get too much of. 

Sometime when you have nothing else to send for the week, please ship up my Bulgarian fur hat. The fellows say you need something over your ears here in winter and that cap should not only be warm but sensational.. Also if Bill is still around ask him to check up in the mailing room and see that my APO number has been changed in Seattle because I still have not received any magazines direct. All of them have been forwarded from APO 980. Also in some package please enclose my copy of “The Prince and the Discourses.”

About the job again, Nunny. I am awfully glad that you are going to be able to take a vacation. The most important thing of all is your health. I want you to be in shape to paddle me down the Mississippi.

You are much loved, little one, and so are your letters.
M

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