Thursday, November 18, 2010

Umnak Island, 1 September 1944

My darling…

This is just a note. I just finished work this morning and am dog tired but the day is so nice that Jack and I are thinking about climbing our mountain. We will probably compromise on a walk to the sea but since I didn’t write yesterday and haven’t had a chance today I’m whipping this one off before running over for breakfast.
The reason I didn’t write yesterday was that I spent all my time working on a New Yorker piece about the library. I have it in final shape now, ready for retyping , and I’ll send you a carbon. It is very much as in the letter I wrote to Bos, but there is a bit more detail. 

The last time I was over to the library I had a talk with the librarian who wrote all the marvelous reviews. He is from Chicago, not Brooklyn. He was drafted right out of high school and placed in the MP’s. From there he was transferred into cooking school, and I know you’ll remember the gag about there being a lot of good cooks in the army. After that he got in artillery and came to the Aleutians as a gunman. But up here he decided to try something different. When he heard they needed a librarian he decided to try. “I submitted a list of my qualifications,” he said. “There was one man more qualified. He had been with the Library of Congress. But his commanding officer would not release him so the job became mine.” I can hear the real librarian gnashing his teeth. He is probably filling some useful niche—like filing clerk. 

Gail Fowler has been regaling me with tales of Seattle and of our sporting friends. He received a letter recently from a former Washington State halfback, now in China. The halfback got there by way of Australia and he liked the Australians. He also liked their remarks about Americans. A favorite Aussie joke now concerns an American who was complaining about a train. Finally he asked his traveling companions, “Do you know what we’d do with the train back in the good old USA?” And a girl across the aisle said, “Judging from your previous conversation you would either eat it, drink it, or make it pregnant.”

Slim Lynch photo, Seattle P-I, 1938
Gail also told about Mike Abalonthea (last name spelled by ear), the ACS photographer whom I talked to you about while in Seattle. Mike is a rather strange character and gives Gail grief. Recently this happened. They were to take pictures of some ceremony at Fort Lawton. Gail arranged for a car and Mike was to be there at one. At a quarter of one Gail started making inquiries, for he hadn’t seen Mike for some time. No Mike. One o’clock. No Mike. One ten. No Mike. One twenty and Mike shows up but without equipment. One forty-five and he shows up with equipment but minus flash apparatus. One fifty-five and they are on their way to the fort, not speaking. They make it in time for the end of the ceremony. Mike explains, a week later, what had caused the delay. He had been thinking about the ceremony and suddenly realized that there would be a lot of officers present. So he had gone into a barrel joint and had his pants pressed. It took more time than he wanted. Gail, who has been around sloppy snappers like Slim Lynch, said: “Photographer, hell—he wants to have his picture taken.”

No letter from you yesterday but the one of the day before, telling of Bill’s [Bill Speidel] incredible performance with the Boilermaker paper on press day, was a gem of purest ray serene.
And now this does it, for I must eat if I am to tackle any pinnacles today.