May 1, 1956
And a happy, happy May Day to you! Arrived head-on at Athens this morning, amid the sleepy sunlight & playful forty mile an hour gales that blew an uncounted number of white hats over the side, while their owners stood in more-or-less formation for Quarters. Two salutes were fired as we entered the harbor—a 21 gunner for the King & Queen, & later a 12 gun for obscure reasons. Let’s hope our coming had been previously announced in the Greek papers, or the Athenians might have gotten a rather unpleasant surprise to be jarred out of bed by the heavy "pom-pom"ing of cannon, & rushing to their windows to see the formidable American Sixth Fleet sweeping in on them.
Athens is more or less surrounded by mountains, large & small. The largest part of the city lies in a hollow behind a tall but rolling mountain. In the center (or what appears to be the center) of town is a high hill, shaped roughly like a volcano. On the very top of it perches a white building—I don’t know what it is. In front (toward the sea) is another hill—it is broader & about half as high. It looks as though it were a long ramp leading to a table; in fact it looks as though it were man made. And on top of this hill—better known as the Acropolis, stand the ruins of the world’s first great civilization. The Parthenon, huge & broken, crowns the Acropolis, To the right & rear stands a large mass which may have been a gigantic statue; to the left & almost on the down-ramp, are lesser ruins; small, toppled temples.
The total impression of Athens & its surrounding mountains is one of brown. The city itself is sprinkled with white, & green fields lap at the base of the mountains. But there are almost no trees. On top of the round mountain behind which Athens rests are three trees, looking very, very small. Along the shore can be seen a few more; but aside from them, the land is naked.
Tomorrow I’m going ashore at 1300, armed to the teeth with camera & film. And guess where I’ll be going first thing?
Mail call & I received two letters from you & one from Harry Harrison (NavCad made good). First, to answer your questions—yes, I got the pictures of the cottage, as you know by now—& no, I did not go to the bullfights, which brought no tears to my eyes.
Once again, I didn’t fill in the "home town paper forms" because I do not find it at all a great distinction to have made 3rd class. That’s like Einstein passing a third grade math test.
The chief has appointed me a "supernumerary Master At Arms," which can mean almost anything, good or bad.
I am now down to two pair of skivvies, & don’t know what I’ll do after they’re gone. And with no more of my size on board ship, I am in a slight predicament.
Nick has come out of his shell at last, & today was driving his car (the imaginary one) complete with sound effects, which means he’s fully back among the living. Let us hope he doesn’t try his Garbo again—not until August at least, when I won’t have to worry about it.
Haven’t had time to read all day—trying to type the menu, run errands for various people, etc. It being the first day in port, the office was crowded with assorted Greek civilians, trying to sell produce & fresh foods to the ship.
From the back of one of those clippings you sent, I see Little Annie Rooney is still at it, blabbering happily away about her coming adoption (if I had a nickel for every time she’s been going to be adopted, I could retire), while Zero, her trusty 27 year old dog, is still stuck with the same old line: "WUFF." One of these days someone is going to get wise.
Well, tonight being Shower Night, I’ve got to knock off early. I was up till midnight last night, talking with Jim Bassette about our Paris adventures. Ah, well….
Till tomorrow (or maybe Thurs., since I’m going ashore tomorrow)
P.S. Oh, yes—we’ve been extended—get home around 22 June.