Tuesday, November 21, 2006

5 March 1956

Dear Folks

Last night, after a landslide receipt of mail (your letters of the 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, two manila envelopes—one of mangled cocoa packets & the other contained on Science Fiction book; one large box of brownies (excellent), one letter from Ann Margason, one dated Feb. 24, 1483 & signed by "Richard, Duke of Gloucester"—return address 910 Windsor Road; two rolls of developed film, & one photograph—8 x 10—of the interior of St. Peter’s Church in Rome). I started a letter. However, by the time I finished reading it all—including a Reader’s Digest I neglected to mention & merely glanced at—it was time to go to bed. Somehow, between then & now, the letter became lost. So here I am—"and here’s the show."

Yesterday, Nature came out with her beautiful 1956 Spring model, featuring deep blue skies (neatly offset by attractive sheep-wool clouds), a brilliantly polished sun, and neutral temperatures (which are the very best kind, for that is when the body is not aware that there is any temperature).

Rhodes is a clean, pleasant city, whose differences are far more acceptable than most of Europe’s almost-similarities. Turkey can be seen only a short distance across the straits, & its influence is apparent in the minarets of several mosques, the style of several buildings, & certain fashions—especially the white headdress of the women. These headdresses are like shawls; over the head & then one end wrapped around the face like a veil.

I think I had more fun yesterday in Rhodes than I have anywhere in Europe. We (Carl Greiner—an ex NavCad--& I) rented two bicycles & went peddling all over the city. I couldn’t help laughing just for the joy of laughing. Up hills, down hills, into the narrow, stone streets of the walled Old City—through parks & down tree-lined residential streets of stone homes; my cameras (both of them) bouncing in my lap—my new one was around my lap.

Rhodes could best be described as "picturesque"—I like it very much, though I don’t think I’d care to live here. We hated to turn the bicycles in.

Everywhere we went—on bicycle & on foot, kids run after us—"Cigarette for Poppa—Cigarette for Poppa." The people are very friendly & seem to like Americans—a pleasant surprise.

The USO was doing a thriving business—feeding almost 5000 men from the Ti, four destroyers, one AK (Supply ship) & the United States Coast Guard Ship Courier—a radio ship broadcasting to communist countries. Unfortunately, the entire expense for all that food, & the food itself, is borne by the Ti. And we can’t afford it, in the shape we’re in.

We returned to the ship in time for supper, well pleased with the whole day.

Monday morning I went on the tour. So did about 300 other guys—the largest tour party I’ve seen. It took twelve busses—old, battered & uncomfortable—to hold us all. Three busses did not have English-speaking guides. Ours was one of them.

I sat with Cannon, a guy who had been a yeoman in my barracks at Saufley Field—he’s on board with one of the squadrons.

Once outside the city of Rhodes, which lies at the very tip of the Island of Rhodes, the land becomes mountainous & semi-barren. The hills & mountains are rough & choppy—reminded me of a bunch of solidified waves.

The entire trip, coming & going, we passed only four automobiles. The main source of private transportation are mules, donkey, burros, & jackasses (I can’t tell them apart). Only saw one horse & very few cows—several small flocks of sheep & many goats.

The houses & villages are all white square structures, looking more Arabian than anything. Almost everyone waved at the busses & we waved back.

Some of the villages were merely scatterings of house with flat roofs of grass, & no streets or sidewalks. Only near Rhodes did the houses have peaked roofs.

The scenery, especially where the sea lapped at the mountains, was beautiful—the Mediterranean is definitely the world’s most beautiful sea—greens & blues & greys—liquid colors against the brown of the land.

We passed through one area—the only large level area along the sea, where not a single house stood—only broken ruins—square windows shattered to round holes by explosions.

Someone—odd how quickly the memory of war dies—had built an airfield there (skeletons of planes still lay among the trees) & someone else had pulverized the entire area. Bomb craters gaped between the rows of trees & in the fields. Then, as abruptly as it had begun, there were houses & villages again, all white & unmarked.

Climbing higher in the hills, toward Lindos, the hills burst into color; millions of flowers lay strewn over them like gay Easter eggs. It was one of the prettiest sights I’d seen in Europe.

Lindos was our destination—it nestles at the bottom of a lone hill, standing beside the sea, apart from all the other mountains cluttered in the background. On the top of this hill is the Acropolis of Lindos—temples erected countless years ago by the Greeks who lived in mythology.

The busses stopped at the base, & we climbed through mosaic streets of white & black stones. The top of the hill had been surrounded in the Middle Ages, no doubt, by towering walls, making it a fortress.

But within the fortress stood the temples of the Acropolis—proud columns not of marble but of some light tan porous rock which evidently weathers better than marble. A row of these columns stand at the base of a wide flight of steps, leading to the very top of the Acropolis, where one temple still stands, roofless & without one side, but more real than many of the cheap, dirty cities that came after it. It is built on the very edge of an unguarded cliff which falls away, hundreds of feet, to the restless sea.

The view? Unbelievably beautiful—the water so clear you can see bottom, winding along the shore in white rollers, turning to a shimmering silver in the sun & fading off to a rainbow of blues & greens as the shore recedes & disappears around a mountain.

And whom should I meet, standing on the steps of a Greek temple 8,000 miles from the world we know? A former NavCad buddy, stationed aboard one of the destroyers with us. It isn’t a small world—it’s just crowded.

Almost Taps—I’ve go to close now or I’ll never get this mailed.



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