Friday, September 15, 2006

30 November 1955

Just up brushing my teeth, & as I looked in the mirror I thought: "Who are you trying to kid? Here you want to be a writer & all you can do is write a half-assed journal even I don’t enjoy, so how can anyone else?" What I am and what I think I am are two very different things. My writings are loose, disjointed, & choppy—I can never find the words I need. However, rather than feel sorry for myself, I think it is a good thing that at least I’ve admitted my faults to myself.

There are times, such as now, when I get very zealous, swearing that I’ll really buckle down & work---let’s hope it can be carried out, this time. Too bad there are only 24 hours in a day.

Days—hah—every one is a carbon copy of the one before & a shadow of the ones to come. Read in the Daily Press—our own little New York Times—that the States are really having some unusual weather. Over here it’s an even, steady chill. Below decks it ranges from Sahara to Antarctic, depending on whether the fans & blowers are on full blast or turned off. Whenever movies are held on the mess decks, the engineering department plays a game they call "Turn off the Blowers & See How Hot it Can Get."

Another of my pet peeves in the dear old Navy is the Bos’n’s pipe. It’s quite shrill, & they use it to announce everything. Like most Navy traditions, its practical use has long since terminated, but because it has become tradition, it clings on. The most aggravating is the call to meals—now, they announce over the loudspeakers that "Early Dinner for Messmen & other required personnel, " & everybody knows it’s dinner time, but still they blow it. Not only is it the longest call they have, but they try to set new records in length. God, will I be glad to become a civilian.

The Navy being very rank-conscious (or, I should say "rate-conscious"), there is usually very little open friction between the higher echelons of the non-rated. Today, though, we almost had a battle royal between one of our chiefs & a First Class mess deck M.A.A. The chief decided to hold a meeting of cooks on one of the mess decks while the M.A.A. was cleaning it up. The M.A.A. told the chief to get the hell out. Now, this just isn’t being done, this or any other season. The Chief almost had a stroke, he was so furious. They both came in to Mr. Clower & we (Nick, Coutre, & I) had to leave while they thrashed it out.

Now among peons like myself, things are settled somewhat differently. Last night two of our Mess Cooks got into a little argument. They agreed to meet on the fantail, where they proceeded to beat the living tar out of one another.

Tomorrow we meet a replenishment ship & take 218 tons of gear aboard. With their usual Navy efficiency, they (the Powers-That-Be) let us know yesterday. So we had to type, stencil, run off, & put together 180 twelve-page notices on who was to do what where & when. Ah, such fun.

Some interesting but otherwise useless bits of information about the good old Ti:
888 feet in length, 164 feet in extreme width. Has 1,644 doors, 2, 892 telephones; carries enough gasoline to drive a family car for 350 years, enough fuel to supply fuel for a home for 4,000 years! Also, she generates enough electricity to supply more than 2,800 homes. And, last but not least, her steam catapults are powerful enough to shoot an automobile over a mile straight up in the air. (Now that is a fascinating tidbit.)

Notice the unconscious selection of writing paper tonight—red (?) & green—Xmas. Oh, woe is me. The first time in 22 years away from home. I still remember my first Christmas in a wicker wash basket at Aunt Thyra & Uncle Buck’s. Won’t even have a Christmas tree—green needles smelling like pine, bright strips of tinsel—red balls & silver bells. The little Santa Claus in his red costume, surrounded by a cloud of cotton, now dirty with age.

When I was very small, we used to set out cocoa & peanut butter sandwiches for Santa, so that if he were hungry he could have a bite to eat. And the stockings—we never had a fireplace, but always stockings, put over the back of a chair. It was such a disappointment to find out there was no Santa Claus. Mom told me in a way I’ll always remember: "No there isn’t a man called Santa Claus, but there is a spirit of him in all of us, & that is something very real." Always struck me as an excellent bit of psychology.

Grandma’s on Xmas eve, & her tree, always smaller than ours, & always with three white envelopes in the branches—one for Shirley, Sandy, & me. And I always anxious to go home, to open our presents. I always get as much enjoyment out of what others think of what I gave them as I do with my own presents.

Snow on the front porch, TV & a box of pretzels—the light from the kitchen, Stormy with his head on my lap to be petted.

Aunt Thyra always smelling clean & with just the slightest bit of perfume; Uncle Buck calling me "Guggenheimer"—sitting on his lap "helping" to drive the car—standing on a baggage cart watching for the train to come huffing in, walking in steam.

I’ve always resented growing up—I don’t think I ever will, really. At least, I hope not….

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