Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Umnak Island, 22 September 1944

My pretty paddle swinger…

This rounds out the fifth month that I have been up here. One more on the uphill pull and from there on we coast, or so the vets say. Although I manage to keep my days fairly full, they do not add up as fast as even you going over a laundry bill.

Today was particularly slow, but that was because I spent it all in bed. Yesterday I made the sad mistake of slipping out of the sack and going to see “The Adventures of Mark Twain” which I think is the worst biography ever filmed, the worst job yet done by Fred March, and, on top of everything, a bore when taken purely as entertainment. In addition, I found a worse cold than the one I had just lost.

I did not get entirely rid of my new super-sniffle by clinging to my cot for almost fifteen straight hours, but it is pretty well cracked and I hope that another eighteen today will fix me up. Al Hesse owes me a couple of hours work and I think I shall claim them for this next shift.

Today’s mail brought a letter from Dad … and a note from Bill James, already restive after a week of doing nothing in Juneau. Please tell me more, my piltzer, about Bill’s plans for having Myrtle come north. Such things interest me greatly. You mentioned his phone call from anchorage and asked if I could phone you from here sometime. I’m afraid you had better talk to Ralph Gundlach about the results of his mental telepathy experiment, for nothing short of that could make it, Nunny. [Ralph Gundlach was a psychology professor at UW who did studies on perception, who later was fired during the Canwell Committee-backed purge of suspected Communists on the faculty]
The mail comes in more sporadically all the time, and the fellows say that for the rest of the winter we can expect only a couple of deliveries a week at best. I suppose that it will be as bad outgoing as incoming, so don’t think I’m not writing as the gaps between letters are a bit longer. I think that yesterday was the first time I have missed in about a week.

Lawrence is supposed to have written The Plumed Serpent here, at Lake Chapala
My cold has sort of clogged up my writing (professional) but I have been doing a lot of reading. I finally got around to Lawrence’s “The Plumed Serpent” and without equivocation list it as the most stupid book written (1) about Mexico; (2) by Lawrence. He accomplishes the remarkable feat in four chapters of making me as fed up with his belly-growling mysticism as I was after wading through four books previously. About every page he mentions “the great heavy reptilian evil” that underlies everything in Mexico, and he goes from that into fruity descriptions of the Indians as columns of blood. I won’t go any further in describing it and I certainly won’t go any further in reading it. 

Having given up on the Serpent, I turned to John Barrymore. The Armed Services edition of “Good Night, Sweet Prince” came in this week and I am racing through it. Gene Fowler writes almost as always, with a sort of rococo restraint, understating the emotions and overstating the surface color. Two of the anecdotes I liked particularly. One deals with a drunk that Barrymore went on when a young actor. He started out from the Lamb’s Club (Saloon) with a set of sots and finally shinned the column of the Dewey Memorial and stole the sword from Victory’s hand. The next day the cops were making the rounds. They entered the Lambs, where John was beering off a hangover, and said, “We here the habitués of this place stole a sword last night and..” Barrymore interrupted. “There are no habitués here,” he said, shaking his head carefully so as not to dislodge the eyeballs, “only sons of habitués.”

The other story deals with his experiences in the San Francisco earthquake. He was reported missing and, fearing that his brother and sister and uncle might worry, persuaded a newspaper man to let him tack a note to the folks on the end of a dispatch. He wrote as dramatically as possible within the thirty words allotted him of how he had been thrown out of bed, had wandered dazedly into the street, where an army sergeant put a shovel in his hand and made him work for twenty-four hours among the ruins of the city.  When Ethel read this message to John Drew (his uncle) and asked, “Do you believe it?” Uncle Jack replied, “Every word, it took an act of God to get him out of bed, and the United States Army to put him to work.”

Another bit of reading I did this week was in the New York Time Sunday radio section. There was a column by “Private Dick Pack” about a new Army radio show. So I guess Dick had landed a publicity spot with the Air Forces somewhere in the New York area. I’m going to write him again. He and Laura already owe us a couple of letters and I hate to lose track of them.

On the local front, the battle of the homebodies has come to an end with Jack winning the first trip out. Since his replacement has already arrived, all he has to do now is sweat out transportation. He will probably hit Seattle about the same time as this letter.

I have been thinking quite a bit about the attitude which has been engendered by this race for relief. Here we live in a society which has almost not monetary basis. We are all fed alike and we all have the same type of quarters. Some of us draw more pay than others but as there is little to do with money here, this causes little friction. But where there are privileges to be had, as in the case of who gets out first, the competition that develops is of the same cutthroat quality engendered in business competition. Which, of course, proves nothing as the attitude toward competition was developed under a business economy and there has been no conscious reorientation. Looking back over that last paragraph, it seems to me I sound as heavy and hopelessly clogged as Thomas Mann with a sour stomach and a hangover. I’ll quit ere I pronounce cant like Kant. 

This afternoon I clipped some back copies of the NY Times and PM, and I’m sending along a random assortment of items including a pair of pictures, one of which will make you beam your prettiest, and the other will produce a different feeling…the notice of the loss of Saint X reminds me that I still haven’t any report from Ann Elmo [Murray’s agent] on the article for the New Yorker. I wonder if the loss of her final European kingrin writer will have any effect on the AFG?...The lacing that Ickes gave Smith is in the best tradition of American political vituperation. The old curmudgeon can be quite charming…and from the Time’s report of Clare Booth’s latest, I think she really is turning into an intelligent Elizabeth Dilling.

One clipping I cut out I want to save for awhile up here, but part of it you will like especially. Louis Kroneberger went back to see “Oklahoma” after about a year. He wrote another rave about it, but the reaction I found most interesting was this:

“The songs and dances make you realize how, in the absence of a genuinely simple mind, it takes a really sophisticated one to create an air of attractive simplicity. Oklahoma is anything but real folk stuff, and when—in its book, its humor, its clowning—it pretends to be, all too often the result is merely crude or corny or cute…but the songs and dances, by relying on art rather than imitation, capture the spirit that something like Oklahoma should have.”

It seems to me that is the point we all got around to agreeing on in one of the all night bullsessions at the houseboat just before the Army ripped up our lives. 

Darling, five months is an extremely long time, and after meditating on it steadily for this long, I find that I not only love you more daily but all along I have loved you more than I ever could love anyone or anything else. You are everything, for nothing else is worthwhile, is even interesting, when I cannot share it with you. …

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