Monday, January 08, 2007

31 May 1956
Istanbul, Turkey

Dear Folks

And here it is 73 days B.D., & I honestly don’t think we’re going to make it. I used to build sand houses, & then poke a stick under them & raise it slowly up, watching them crack & crumble. That’s what has happened to this ship—not structurally, but morally. Surely a lot of these guys have been on equally long trips, if not longer—but this one seems to be a special case.

Me—I’m torn between behaving like Chicken Little, dashing madly off in all directions, afraid the sky will fall in, & a stoic, dumb acceptance, not giving a damn if it falls in or not. The Chicken Little part is the contagious one, the one I mentioned yesterday.

Payday today---doesn’t all this seem awfully boring? Here I am, sitting in Istanbul, Turkey, which should be very exotic & call to mind visions of beautiful women with long black lashes & veils; of snake charmers & Ali Baba, & of gongs beating somewhere in the dark oriental hills.
But it doesn’t. I haven’t seen a beautiful woman, long lashes, or a single veil. There are no snake charmers &, to the best of my knowledge, no snakes.

I have said it before & I’ll say it again, for clarification—you have a weird son. The other day, when we were in a taxi stalled in a narrow street by the Grand Bazaar, an old woman—bent & twisted, hobbled by in a shaggy grey shawl. Her stockings were sagged & had large holes in them; she carried a basked of something in her right hand. I couldn’t help but think, as I saw her & the other poorly clothed people around her: "Where do they live? What do they do all day? They can’t just pop into existence for my benefit, then vanish when they go out of my sight. That old woman—she has lived for years & years. How? Was she young once, & did she laugh & talk & have children & friends? Where is she going now?" And what were the others in the cab thinking? They were engrossed by the back of a young woman in the cab ahead of us.

Not to give you the wrong impression of Istanbul, for Istanbul is alive, cosmopolitan, modern. It is only in the out of the way sections that the tourists only glimpse as part of the scenery, where time flows more slowly, or lies in pools & stagnates. America has her share of these people too. We just never see them. We don’t look.

When I went "off to the wars," Ann Zubas said: "Don’t let them change you." Hmmm. Well, you can see for yourself in a few months.

Wrote to Gilbert Hall today for room reservations—I asked to room with someone who’s never been to Northern before. Why I don’t know.

Dad told me last time he wrote to write every night, even if it was just to say Hello & Goodbye.

Hello. Goodbye.



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