January 14, 1944
Yours of the 5th (V-mail) (Incidentally, where did you acquire the habit of writing the date as such: 14 Jan. 44.) (I like it.) was in the mail this morning. I'm glad you won, especially after asking for a few “spares” in my previous letter. I'm contemplating the purchase of three rather expensive items, to wit: a sports coat (mine is completely shot and I've outgrown it). (I saw a lovely red camel hair fitted coat with a black velvet collar that I'd like to own, but the price was a bit too high $49.95) a dress (I haven’t a decent dressy one in my wardrobe) and that hat I mentioned in my previous letter. I'm still waiting for your suggestion. I'm fairly set on a medium size off-the-face, as a large hat would be too much for the bulky coat. I don't know whether to get a “made up” hat and have it trimmed with the fur or have the whole thing made. Do you think I'm getting extravagant? I saw the enclosed ad in the paper and thought it would be nice if Adele and I could have such a set. There will be plenty of nicer ones when the warmer weather sets in, but I wondered at your opinion of these. I would prefer “pinnies” with ruffles as they are more feminine. So much for clothes, except that I'm going to accompany Ruth to 5th and Olney to help her select address and shoes for her graduation, which comes on Jan. 28th. She goes into her second year of “high.” She has gotten thinner and shapelier—she's developed more than I am and is quite attractive. She still has some babyish ways, and when they disappear, she will be quite an attractive young lady.
A few people were hurt ’cause you neglected to send them your picture (isn't it always the case?) I gave mom the spare, but she gave it to Harry and Goldie to pacify them. Etta and Nat also said sumpin’, but I set them straight. That 8 by 10 still goes. Betty says they come through alright, as she got one from her brother in Africa.
We got two V-mails from Jack S. and he wishes us well, as usual. His morale is unusually high considering the fact that he is in New Guinea.
I’ve finished Mom’s fascinator. I did a lot of hard work yesterday and today—I took the mattress off our bed, cleaned the springs and turned it over (Ruth helped). I cleaned the windows in our room and all those on the porch. I washed the floors, a whole cellar of clothes and pressed. I dusted, polished and swept. Sarah and I took Adele for a walk to Broad Street.
I guess there will be a pile of mail for you when you get back from your furlough. Wish I could be there, too. I love you so much, Phil.
After two days of almost continuous activity, I'm taking it easy. If I leave the club at all today, it will be to go to services. Now to resume where I left off—after finishing my letter of the 12th, (it was about 8:00 P.M.) I wandered into the ballroom where the Hans Crescent table tennis team was playing against the team from General Electric. The teams were pretty evenly matched and the players of pretty good caliber, and the action was hotly contested, which all served to make it interesting for the spectator. After an hour or so this, I suddenly remembered that there was a command performance of symphony records scheduled for the “music room,” and I wasted no time getting there. The “Red Cross” girl in charge had just put on Handel’s “Water Music” when I entered. There were about 20 G.I.s laying about the place in easy chairs, with that faraway dreamy look in their eyes. I sat myself down in a straight-backed wooden chair that was the only unoccupied seat, and in a jiffy, was “one of the mob”—dreamy eyes and all. The chair was damned uncomfortable and I was forced to change position from time to time, but in spite of it all I managed to enjoy the music; very much so. After the “Water Music,” the ballet music from “Prince Igor” Borodin. This particular record brought memories flooding in its wake. It was once a favorite with Jeanette and myself. The music is Oriental in quality and very colorful and exciting. Then Fritz Kreisler playing “Hymn to the Sun.” Very insipid after the grandeur of “Prince Igor.” The “piece de resistance” of the evening was the entire “Scheherezade Suite” of Rimski Korsakoff. I say the “entire suite” because it is very seldom that one gets the opportunity to listen to all twelve sides of this rather lengthy work. Well, Chippie, you can well imagine what a treat this was for yours very lovingly. So utterly delightful did I find the “Scheherezade,” that I promised myself that that would be the first purchase when we start our collection. It's recorded by Leopold Stokowski and the Phila. Symphony. Next times you are in town, Sweet, stop in at one of the department stores and let them play it for you. I think you will find it well worth your while. Tell me if you agree that it would be a fitting selection to start off with. This just about covers Wednesday. I had a snack of coffee and cake before I went next door to the annex where I am bunking and turned in. I slept snugly and heavily, gratefully conscious of the pleasant and unaccustomed feel of fresh sheets. I must have been very tired, for I didn't wake ’til 10 A.M. the following morning.
I rolled out without any further ado when I noticed the lateness of the hour. Grabbing a towel, I washed up, then dressed and got out of there. The dining room at the Hans Crescent was jammed to the doors with the queue of some hundred soldiers waiting to get at the counter. Not for me! I had no definite ideas as to what I was going to do and I was in no mood to wait in line for breakfast. So I decided to walk until I chanced on a restaurant. When I got outside, however, and saw the leaden skies and felt the damp and chilly breeze, I changed my mind about walking. I decided to do my sightseeing from the comfortable vantage point of a top deck of a bus. Hopping the first one that came along, I rode to the end of the line, which happened to be Aldwych and the Strand. By this time I was thinking only of breakfast (or brunch—it was now 11:30). As I walked up the Strand, I saw a sign “Tea Shop.” That was for me! I breakfasted on savoury and tea. The “savoury” consists of eggs mixed with cheese on a piece of bread and the whole toasted. Doesn't sound like much, but it was surprisingly tasty. I'm sticking to tea from now on ’cause the English coffee is almost undrinkable (for an American). Breakfast over, I continued my stroll up the Strand. The Strand is a very busy thoroughfare, and I soon got bored with trying to walk in that mob. A fine drizzle had started, and I decided it was high time to look for shelter. Luck was with me, ’cause a block further on, I spied the “Tivoli” where they are showing “Guadalcanal Diary.” I had no intention when I started, of seeing a movie—especially since I had a ticket for the “The Bell” for the evening, and I guess I could have hopped bus at about that time and returned to Hans Crescent and a quiet afternoon loafing, but I did want to see the picture and I never was one to deny myself, so, albeit uncomfortably mindful of your disapproving eye, my Sweet, I treated myself to a ticket. “Guadalcanal Diary,” while a very interesting, fast-moving, realistically action-packed picture, and one bound to impress, is hardly for your stomach, Baby, so pass it by. As for me—well, it was a good picture, so I enjoyed it. After the show; back to the “Tea Shop,” where I repeated my order of a few hours earlier. But before I go on—as if to illustrate further the English affection for “Yank gum” the girl in the ticket booth at the cinema, as she gave me my ticket, inquired, “Do you have any gum soldier?” I'm getting used to it now, so instead of gaping foolishly, I reached into my pocket and gave her the few Chiclets I had left. Anyhow, there I was demurely sipping my tea and reading a newspaper when a well-dressed, well-groomed gentleman in his early forties begged my pardon and wanted to know if I minded if he shared the table. Of course I didn't mind, especially when he showed an inclination for friendly conversation. He proved to be very intelligent and we talked on a variety of subjects over our tea and cigarettes. After a half-hour or so of steady and congenial chatter, he excused himself to keep an appointment. On parting—a healthy hand clasp, “Cheerio, and all the best.” He had not been gone five minutes (I had resumed my perusal of the paper, being in no great hurry to get any place in particular), when another bespectacled gentleman, after asking my leave, took the seat opposite me. He soon evinced the same desire for conversation and I, nothing, loath (both?) obliged him by answering as best I could, the questions he put about America. He proved a very eager listener, and to my great surprise and gratification came back with a few theories and opinions that tallied identically with my own. We got onto the subject of religion and he was surprisingly (for a Christian) well versed in the manners and customs, (even the rituals) of the Jews. We must have talked for close to an hour; when I looked at the time it was 5:30. “The Bell” was scheduled for 6:30 an I wasn't taking any chances on being late, so when the other gentleman got up to go, offering his hand at the same time, and thanking me (can you imagine?) for a very pleasant chat, I was right behind him. The Strand was jammed with people coming out of the various matinees and I literally had to push my way through to Leicester Square (about 10 minutes walk). Lady, you never saw so many uniforms as there are in London now. They seem to outnumber the civilians—I daresay they do. When I reached the Eagle, I had about 45 minutes to “kill” before show-time, so I parked myself in the lounge and finished reading the day's news. At precisely 6:20, I preceded to walk to Haymarket. I have been looking forward to this particular picture, having read some very favorable reviews on it, but I wasn't at all prepared for the surpassing masterpiece it proved to be. I had overheard a G.I. say of it “What is there to it? They blow up a bridge—that's about all! I feel very sorry for that particular G.I. if that is all he saw in it. My opinion, for what it's worth: positively the best of the year, and perhaps second only to “Gone With the Wind” in sheer beauty and dramatic power. Ingrid Bergman, as “Maria” is wonderful beyond the scope of mere adjectives. Lovely, appealing, winning are all adjectives that have been applied many times over to far less deserving heroines. How then to describe her transcendent beauty, the heart-piercing quality of her smile, the sheer genius of her histrionics? Words are pitifully inadequate for the task—of that I'm sure. “Maria” weaves a spell that is difficult to shake off. Her love for Gary Cooper as Robert Jordan is the realest, most inspiring, most heart-rending thing I have ever witnessed on any screen—or in real life for that matter. Whether her chief attraction is in her lovely face and figure, or in her surpassing genius as an actress, it is almost impossible to say. Taken altogether though, the effect is not one wit less than devastating. I could write and write of “Maria” and in the end not even come close to doing her justice. Gary Cooper, as competent as ever, is superbly cast in a part that doesn't call for too much scope in any direction. The critics rave and rave about Tina Paxinou's as “Pilar” without once mentioning the very evident fact that the part is fool-proof. Akim Tamiroff, as I see it, deserves the posies in the “acting” department. His role is difficult to play convincingly (Pilar is cut and dried—if colorful), but he, too, is superb in portraying the complex character of Pablo. The supporting cast is everything that could be desired. The story—suspenseful, intriguing; the production—unstinting; the photography—a joy to behold. But strangely, everything is put in the pale by the stark reality of “Maria.” Need I add SEE IT!? Back to Hans Crescent via the U.G. and thinking all the while whether or not Robert Jordan did the right thing by Maria, and watching the jitterbugs in the ball-room and still wondering—(talk about “from the sublime to the ridiculous”) here it was with a vengeance. A snack again,—and still wondering. To bed finally,—and, (you guessed it),—still wondering. Today I'm more or less convinced that there “ain't no such,” I mean, men of the steel that Robert Jordan seemed made of. Seems to me that if Maria is “real” and she is—as unquestionably as love and women are real, then the quasi nobleness of Robert Jordan is a lie. A real man would have understood the love of Maria, and, understanding, would have reacted entirely differently from the well intentioned, but withal thick-skulled Robert Jordan. (Or maybe I'm crazy!) Anyway, there's food for a lot of thought in that ending—you’ll see.
This morning I again woke much later than usual, the time—10:30. For a change, clear skies and a bit of welcome sun. After rubbing my beard, I decided that I better shave—damn it. Breakfast at the Kardomah Cafe on Brompton Road, and, surprisingly, another chat with an Englishman who chose to sit at my table although there were plenty of empty tables in the place. He was a pleasant-faced old man with an iron-gray mustache, and a bit of an intellectual. He wanted to know if I had visited the Abbey, the Palace, etc. He tried to acquaint me with the desirability of a Russian Bath and was surprised when I informed him of my “weakness” for the Turkish Baths. So we chatted about this and that while I put away a prodigious meal of sausage, beans, mashed potatoes, roll and butter, three cups of tea, two cakes, a trifle, and (on his ill-advised recommendation), a cup of the famous “Kardomah Coffee.” Ugh! I bore no grudge, though, and we parted friends, Almost forgot to tell you, Honey; I stepped on the scales yesterday and that hand went to 12s-3 (171 lbs. and stopped right there. Not bad, eh? (Who you callin’ Skinny?)
Directly from the “Kardomah” to Hans Crescent to knock this off, which I'm just about finished doing. It is now exactly 4:38 and time to conclude this with the heartfelt wish that you could be here, Chippie, to share my holiday. My only regret is that this is not so. However, as I've said before, “there’ll come a day.” Until then, I hope my accounts of my own “good times” give you some measure of divertissement without intruding my own sense of loneliness, which is a constant and troubling companion in my travels. Just as constant, on the other hand, are my thoughts of you, my darling, and I never fail to find solace in the memory of your adored face, your tenderly caressing fingers, and—well, I won't go into that—not now, anyway. (Subtle—ain’t I?) I love not only you, dear; the memory of you is a warm and living thing within me—and I love that, too. Keep the punkin’ well and safe for me and the “day”—Kiss her for me. My love, as always to Mom and all the Strongins and Pallers. My best to the neighbors. I am