Sunday, November 26, 2006

17-18 March, 1956 (Part 1 of 2)

Dear Folks

Here it is once again the witching hour & your son appears in a flurry of paper & unrelated thoughts. We’ve just passed into a different time zone & gained a valuable hour, which I shall employ tomorrow morning in sleep.

Rumors, having fallen so thick & heavy that they crush themselves to death under their own weight, seem to have risen again, Phoenix-like, to sweep the ship. Something, it would appear, has happened to our catapults, so that we are now unable to launch jet aircraft. In order to repair them, it is necessary to go to a port which has a large crane (for what I haven’t the slightest idea). So, consequently, we are not going to San Remo, but are headed for Naples/Genoa/Gibraltar/Home (check one only). Oh, yes, I neglected one—Liverpool, England.

I have before me a sheath of paper—all the different colors the Commissary Office has to offer. Whether I’ll get to use the rainbow effect tonite or not I don’t know.

My pseudo-cold is getting along famously with my throat. I can just imagine it, peering up out of my esophagus with its bead little eyes, just waiting for me to swallow.

I’m sorry, but sleep is winning the battle of the mind & eyelids—I’ll try to finish tomorrow….

Up fairly early for a Sunday morning (9 a.m.) only to read in the Daily Press that Lebanon has had a series of severe earthquakes, in which 127 people died. Beirut itself was apparently little damaged; most of the force being felt in the southern part & in the Bekka Valley—which I think is the same place I described a few letters ago. I hope Baalbek wasn’t damaged. If it was, I may have some of the very last pictures taken of the "grandest ruins on Earth." I’ve got to write to the Andersons today.

Also read where the U.S. has had another blizzard—Nature seems to be in a bad mood.

Today, in the middle of the Med, she is on her best behavior—sun shining (not her very best A-1 day, but a good one), blue ocean, fairly warm. I spent some time wandering around the flight deck & catwalks, but the wind up that high was cold, so I came back down fairly soon.

My cold was temporarily blasted out of my head last night by an overnight barrage of honks, snorts, & hacks. Let’s hope its defeat is a permanent one, though I doubt it.

Well, I have a little over an hour before the Sunday Afternoon Double Feature starts, so shall we go back to last Wed. & fill in the gaps from morning to late evening?

George & I had decided to get the Andersons something as a "token of our appreciation." We bought from the ship’s store a small 1,000-day clock. I typed a note authorizing us to take it ashore & get it through customs, & had it signed by Cdr. Fitzpatrick.

Everybody in the Commissary Department (or office, anyway) was planning on going ashore for one reason or another, & I thought for a minute that I might be "requested" to stay aboard, having been ashore every day but one. Fortunately, no one said anything, & we left the ship at about quarter till two. We had a little trouble getting off—George had the package (wrapped in wax paper & getting white stuff all over his blues) & I was ahead of him, with the note. I was about halfway down the ladder when I realized George wasn’t behind me. The OD had stopped him to ask what was in the box. So I trotted back up, showed him the note, & we got off.

Civilians had been visiting the ship since about eleven that morning, & our liberty boat was half full of them. Up forward, where most of the civilians were, were two women with babies.

Since our new anchorage was far out in the bay, the water was a lot rougher than it is close in. Soon we were plowing through the waves, slapping down on them & sending huge sprays of water all over everyone in the forward part. The women were drenched, as were several Lebanese soldiers & other assorted civilians. The boat slowed down & all of them moved back in the boat so that the hood could be lowered—which gives the whole boat the look of an elongated baby carriage.

Got ashore &, after a brief scuffle with customs officials, a taxi. George had seen Pat at the USO Tuesday night, & told her we’d like to see her folks again before we left; she invited us out again for Wed. afternoon. Neither of us knew their address, so we thought we’d better go to the USO & get it from their records.

Mrs. Anderson was there waiting for us, with their car. Coutre had asked me to send a telegram for him to his sister, whose birthday was Thursday, & I agreed. Also, I wanted to do a little shopping (with the money mother sent me for the call home).

The only place in Beirut where you can send a telegram is the Post Office. I told Mrs. Anderson I’d take a cab there, & come to their apartment later, by tram (streetcar). George would go out to the apartment with Mrs. Anderson.

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