Tuesday, October 17, 2006

7 January 1956

Walking through cold, metal passageways—from an open hatch leading to a compartment comes the sad soft voice of an accordion. Into another compartment, past tiers of racks, guys standing around in skivvie shorts & heavy sweat shirts. Down through a hatch to the mess decks & a long line of guys waiting to buy lemon sherbet & strawberry topping at the gedunk. Into the office, down at Mr. Clower’s desk, & up with the pen.

Someone fixed the office door today—it’s been badly sprung for almost two months now; seems strange not to have to batter your way out.

On the mess decks the night mess cook crew is busy buffing. All the tables & benches are folded & stacked in racks along the bulkhead, leaving the halls clear. One guy goes along with a pan of soap, sowing it over the floor like Hannah the Chicken Girl. This makes the floor (deck) look like it’s snowed, & is quite pretty, if you have a vivid imagination & aren’t too particular. It also makes everyone sneeze. After the soap has been spread liberally over the deck & anyone in the way, another mess cook comes along with a pitcher of water, which he sloshes indiscriminately around. These two flower girls are followed by an electric buffer, with steel-wool under the regular brush. This turns the white soap & colorless water into a dirty slush, reminiscent of State & Main on a busy winter afternoon. After all this is done, the whole place is swabbed, & the deck glimmers brightly, almost (but not quite) shined enough to cast a reflection. It lasts about an hour, or until a sufficient number of transients to & from the Gedunk have the opportunity to slosh strawberries & sherbet over everything.

Didn’t go to the movies tonight—I’d seen it once & it hadn’t impressed me as being worthy of seeing again. I get the biggest charge out of these up-to-date "Telenews" sports shorts they show. Not that they’re old or anything, but last night they had an interview with some football coach, & the interviewer asked "Well, Ty, what would you say your team’s prospects are for ’52?" Oh, well….The last two nights’ offerings have been "Madame Curie" (vintage 1940-42) & "Donovan’s Brain" (??). Whenever we’re at sea, movies are held on the mess decks. Try sitting for two hours on a metal deck with three hundred other guys in a space about the size of the front half of our house.

They were in an unusually benevolent mood last night, & showed a cartoon—if you can call it that. It was one of those "join-in-the-singing; just-follow-the-bouncing-ball" things. Though it was fun singing, the cartoon itself was very unfunny. It is amazing what some of these guys will laugh at! But, as I said, it is so rarely we get to see any sort of cartoon, we have to make the best of whatever we get.

Went to the library tonite (for which I had to change from dungarees into blues) just to see if they had a large map of the United States (a mythical country located somewhere between Olympus & Valhalla). I wanted to find a road map, to plot my course home—not that I’m anxious or anything. Naturally, they didn’t have one.

On thinking it over, I have come to the conclusion that this is an extremely unorthodox journal—if it can be called that. For one thing, there are entirely too many "Naturally," "Needless to say," "However," & "Actually"’s to suit any self-respecting English teacher. For another, they should never mention "you"—it should be "one" or something like that. Never in literature or anywhere else have I seen the dash (--) used as a punctuation mark. Perhaps I’ve started something new; if so, I won’t have been a total loss. As for the "you," I’m addressing this to you, whoever you are. Next, "one" does not emphasize words by underlining them—this is just not done. Well, I do.

Nick incurred my wrath this afternoon by telling me I’m getting a bald spot. The idea of getting bald & that of growing old have always been my greatest dreads—ever since I’ve been very (which should be underlined) small.

Anchored today off Majorca, singularly uninviting spot, with crude bare hills & mountains looking like third-class Hollywood scenery. No forest, not many trees; a few houses perched here & there, but we’re too far out to get a close look. The weather is cold & gloomy (naturally—we’re in sight of land.) We anchored at about two this afternoon with absolutely no fanfare.

The entire crew is in a sort of a mechanized lethargy, where nothing either disturbs or excites us, save the frequent rumors of home.

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