Tuesday, November 28, 2006

19 March 1956

Dear Folks

A mail call today—in fact, two of them; first one for days. I got the St. Pat’s card, the one from Stormy, & three letters from you (which were as always very welcome).

Dad asked about whether we would join the Sixth Fleet. Father, we are the Sixth Fleet—us, the Lake Champlain (she’s returning to the States this month), & fifteen tin cans. The only really trouble spot we’ll be hitting is Algiers, & we might not even go there, if it gets too bad.

I hope, for the Andersons’ sake, there is no Arab-Israeli war; we haven’t a single battalion over there to protect them.

The last two days at sea have been weird ones—the sea like glass with a silver-grey haze blending sea & sky. Yesterday was beautiful in its "difference"—today was more drab.

A tour is leaving from San Remo to Venice & Milan—four days for only $49.00. Unfortunately, I just can’t afford it, so will go on a one-day Riviera tour. By the time I get home, I shall have traveled both the French & Italian Rivieras from Cannes to Genoa.

Our schedule, unless something unforeseen happens (such as going to war—unlikely—or the bottom of the ship falling out—probably), will be almost exactly as you have it.

Received two rolls of film from Rome & an entry blank to NISC. The film came out excellently. I was a little disappointed to find Northern only offers a minor in Journalism. Oh, well….

Tonight’s movie offering was that all-time classic "Fireman, Save My Child" with Spike Jones. I forced myself to stay away. When I get back to the States, I plan to take every weekend off—Friday nights will be spent at the movies, Saturdays shopping for clothes & at the movies, & Sunday getting my pilot’s license, & going to the movies.

Tomorrow is Tuesday already—Hooray! As of today I have only 146 more days to go.

Let’s see—it’s nine o’clock—have I time to tell you of my last day in Rome? Well, I can try—briefly.

I slept through breakfast & hated to get up for the tour at nine. We went first to the Vatican museum, & the Sistine Chapel. The museum itself is vast, ranging from the modern, pleasantly blended colors in some of the rooms of statuary to the gaudy & over-elaborate Library, whose books are securely locked in cabinets & whose every possible surface is covered with paintings—on the wood, wall, ceilings, & supporting pillars. It would take years to see it all in detail.

In a different section of the museum are the large paintings by Raphael (done when he was between 15 & 18 years old) & other famous painters. And then, into the world-famous Sistine Chapel. Built by Pope Sixtus IV, it is here that the Holy See meets to elect new Popes.

Michaelangelo was contracted to paint a mural on the back wall of the long, high, rectangular room. This he did in two years or so—depicting Judgment Day (I have a feeling I’ve written all this before—but I’ll do it again, for practice). The wall is about fifty feet square, broken only by a single door in the lower right hand corner. Before this wall stands the main altar. In the center of the wall is God, hand raised in passing judgment. He looks young, beautifully muscled. To his right stands Mary, unable now to intercede for the sinners, & about Him stand the Disciples, all with looks of awe & fear. Above Him are the Angels, hovering among clouds. Below is Earth—to the left, a graveyard with the souls & skeletons leaving the graves & ascending into Heaven, amid Angels & cherubs. To the left, Charon (a black, featureless form) rows the dead across into hell.

When he painted them, he made them all completely nude, figuring that no one would have time or need for clothing on Judgment Day. However, even in Michelangelo’s time there were prudes. One critic complained so loudly that Michelangelo was told that the figures would have to be clothed or the entire wall cleaned & begun again. Michelangelo became rightfully fed up & went back home. One of his pupils, trying to save the day, laboriously painted flowing bands of cloth over everybody, including God, which seemed a little presumptuous of him. Michelangelo was finally coaxed back, & when he saw what had happened, he because so furious with the critic that he painted him, naked except for a large snake wrapped around the appropriate places, & with the ears of a jackass, leading the condemned into hell.

The critic rushed at once directly to the Pope, insisting Michelangelo be punished or at least repaint the portrait. The Pope informed him that he was very sorry, but that he had no power whatever over hell.

And there he stands today, over the door in the lower right-hand corner, jackass ears & snake & all, glancing over his right shoulder & leading the souls into Hell….

Yes, I’m sue now I told you all this before. Just in case I haven’t, tell me & I’ll continue. If I have, accept my apologies.

Almost Taps, so I’ll close for now.



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