Friday, October 20, 2006

January 10-12, 1956

Dear Folks

Got a total of six letters today—three this afternoon & three this evening. The later three were dated the 3, 4, & 5th. I enjoyed your "sermon," dad. However—you realize I’ve grown up; mother realizes I’ve grown up—but when will I?

Mother was right—I have accumulated a little common sense along the way—the Mighty Ti at the last count had roughly 197 men on the "sick" list. I have no intentions of joining the happy throng. ‘Nuff said?

Anchored about two miles off Palma, & I’ll go ashore tomorrow. Stayed up till three this morning on this inventory—looks like we’ll be at it tonite too.

I’ve been missing flying like mad—think I’ll try buying an airplane & flying home—I think that would be a good idea. Start pricing pontoon planes, dad—we can fly up to the lakes every weekend.

Nine thirty already & no end in sight.

Two days later & it’s over. Up till three-thirty that morning too. Started to rewrite it because I could hardly read this one.

Left Palma this morning—I went ashore yesterday & had a fine time, all on five dollars. As I’d feared, we were anchored the farthest out of the eight American warships in the harbor. The ride in took twenty minutes & was the roughest I’ve ever seen. The liberty launch (forty feet long with almost 100 guys in it) bobbed around like a cork.

Palma is a nice town, much cleaner than Naples—& nobody is dragging at your arm & following you around the streets. Happily, all the inhabitants speak Spanish, though they have their own dialect they use at home. My Spanish is sufficient enough to get me into a conversation, but not enough to get me out. They all seem pleasantly surprised to find that someone speaks Spanish.

Went to a Spanish movie later in the evening, but they spoke too fast for me—I could get the general ideas but not the details.

Earlier in the day, after walking around & finding all the stores closed (they close from 1 till 4 every day), I took a trolley to a real Hollywood-type castle. The trolleys look like the Tooner Trolley’s they used to have in the funnies—small, orange, big glass windows, & seating 18, they’re almost comical. The castle sits high on a hill, overlooking the entire bay & city, & the mountains behind—an ideal place for a castle. Built in a circle, it is surrounded by an amazingly deep moat—ten feet of water would be sufficient to drown anyone, but these were at least thirty. A huge round tower, topped with battlements, stands in the moat & is connected to the main part of the castle by a high arched passageway. No one could possibly have gotten in—or, for that matter, out.

Three stories high, the rooms radiated off a central round patio. All the rooms were, therefore, shaped like slices of angel food cake. They were all quite large &, even though it was a castle & therefore probably exceedingly hard to heat, comfortable. In the center of the patio, surrounded by statuary—mostly Roman, was a well, which no doubt supplied water during sieges. I even saw two bathrooms (something that has always intrigued me whenever I saw a knights-in-armor movie). They were both in the tower mentioned previously, & must have been rather inconvenient, especially during winter & battles, as it is accessible only over the roof & across the connecting bridge.

I climbed to the very top of the tower, up stairs worn down in the center by countless knights, ladies-in-waiting, & tourists. The view was magnificent—a pompous word but the only one at hand to describe it—behind the green hills rolled themselves into mountains, which ran, jagged & increasingly grey, into the horizon. Beneath, in front, & far below, the city lay by the sea; & on its shimmering blue-grey sat eight tiny ships. The wind blew, as it always does on high places, & I walked to the edge of the tower—around which was a lattice of stone; no guard rail—I looked down, down, down into the moat so far below, & I felt frightened, as everyone does when they realize how much nothing there is between them & death, & backed away.

I said the castle sat atop a hill. Well, it did—a small mountain would be more like it. The trolley stops about half-way up. Streets go up a little further, & then they end—from here steps go up a distance more & end at a chapel looking down on the city & up on the castle. From there out, it is sheer mountain-goat territory. A car road does go up, but it winds so it is shorter (distance-wise) to go straight up. I doubt that the castle was ever attacked with much strength or success, for the invaders would be so tired from their climb they couldn’t do much fighting.

And so once again we find ourselves at 9:30. So, with your kind permission, I will close now with


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