Saturday, September 23, 2006

8 December 1955

Like everything else in this blasted Navy, my journal writing could be piped down at 8:45 every evening, regular as clockwork. I’ve come to think of the Bos’n’s pipe (previously affectionately described) as a sort of Pavlov’s bell. He, as you probably know, was a Russian scientist who experimented on the conditioning of animals to certain bells—ring a bell & give food; ring a bell & give food—until finally all he’d have to do was ring a bell & dogs would start to drool.

Today was the type of day I have now firmly fixed in my mind as typical European—dull, cloudy, & lethargic; the landscape & the city just sitting there, waiting for something. Perhaps it’s only a quirk of my imagination, but I seem to recall that in America, even in winter, we had some nice, clear days.

Tomorrow morning I take a sightseeing tour of Genoa & Rapallo, though I’ve already seen all I care to. The only time Genoa is pretty is at night, & from a distance.

By this time, as you may have gathered, I have become thoroughly homesick—or should I say “Europe-sick.” It is very nice to go to a foreign country, & walk their streets, & look in their shops—but, like skeptics say of a circus, when you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. For each country is just as foreign as the next, & none of them is America. Still I would not trade this experience for anything short of my discharge.

If anyone should ever tell you a ship is not alive, don’t believe them—she pulsates, quivers, & breathes. Only during G.Q. does she cease to live—almost--& then she is frightening. Earlier this evening the movie was called “The Cruel Sea,” which I’d seen before, but wanted to see again. This second time I enjoyed it more, for I felt closer to the action; when the Compass Rose went down, it seemed much more real.

Speaking of sinkings, the other night I had a most interesting dream (as most of mine, happily, are). I’d dreamed once before of the Ticonderoga sinking at her berth; this time it was the entire Brazilian Navy. For some reason, they were scuttling their entire fleet. Several destroyers sank gracefully, one capsizing just before she sank—a huge battleship was listing heavily to starboard, & they were using bazookas to blast more holes in her. A pretty red-&-black freighter at a pier directly across from my vantage point sank suddenly, as though the water had risen up over it, instead of its sinking. I was miserable at the gigantic waste—a Brazilian naval officer said they were all being sunk because the metal of which they were all built was greasy.

Don’t ask me why I chose the Brazilian Navy to sink, or what greasy metal had to do with it—dreams have a wonderful logic all their own, which ceases to exist once a person wakes. I suppose the idea for it came from the fact that I’d seen a couple of sunken ships in Genoa’s harbor.

We will have been gone a total of 140 days when we again reach the States; a notice came out regarding customs regulations on the quantity & monetary value of things being brought into the country. It is proportional to the time spent away. 140 days or more away from the States, & the goods allowable are unlimited (an asterisk explained that we would have been gone just 140 days). Haven’t figured it out yet, but it doesn’t sound like eight or even six months.

Because of the tour tomorrow, I’ll miss Field Day (lucky me) so I’d best clean up a little tonite…..

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