64: The Selfsame Bud.

13 April

Dear Girls,

The selfsame Bud of course. I can picture him perfectly, sitting on a red velvet cushion in a dusty section of the Kasbah–in the nude, of course–clapping his hands for a couple of Ouled Naïl native girls to fetch him his hookah.[1]

Quite a time he’s had though, certainly seen a great big hunk of what’s going on in Europe. I don’t blame him for his lassitude now though–that job can drive anyone wild, I know, from what little I did of it just for our battalion.

I bet he does end up out there though–running a restaurant with his barmaid–she must be either fictitious or not quite so understanding as he would imply–or running a high class bordello in Algiers.

Remember what we all said–if there’s one man that needs the Army it’s Bud–I bet he changes the Army rather than vice versa.

P

[The enclosed letter:]

Sunday, 2 April 1944

Dear Phil:

Your letter of 7 March arrived this morning, following by my copy of the Garnet Letter which I had vainly thumbed through in search of some word of you.[2] And I was most pleasantly surprised to hear from you after this long interval, particularly since, after thrusting a couple of letters in your direction many months ago without response, I had concluded that perhaps I was no longer on your distribution list. Anyway it was good to hear from you at long last and to realize that someone anyway is actively contributing in the prosecution of the war. Needless to say, and without meaning to cast aspersions, it is impossible for me to picture you in your present activities. One can only say; “Phil Wood? Oh, yes, he’s in the Marines–somewhere in the Pacific–strange, the vagaries of war…” and let it go at that. Nothing more.

So here I sit in the well-upholstered office on an English Sunday afternoon as section duty officer, catching up on my correspondence, reading some stale New Yorker issues, answering the phone to say that the Colonel is out for the afternoon, and looking out across the park to where the one white swan sails up and down the artificial pond into which the cherry trees are showering their blossoms. When I get round to it there are some letters of commendation to write, a couple of condolences to next of kin, and a recommendation for the Legion of Merit that needs a bit more bullshit thrown in to get approved. And life drags merrily along in the Rich Purple Prose Department. No one was ever in a war and so much out of it. My chief worries at the moment are (a) when the tailor will have my new blouse ready, (b) whether I will be able to get theater tickets and dinner reservations for a night in London next week, and (c) how tactfully to get out of an engagement I made last week and to which I prefer something else.

My sister is here in England, doing social uplift work at a fighter base and sending me the pieces of a heart broken in an unsuccessful affair in the States. I see her frequently in London, which is a madhouse these days with too many crowds and too much commotion to make it really enjoyable. For the most part I spend my spare time at a conveniently located pub where, through a mutually satisfactory agreement with the proprietor’s daughter, I am supplied with all the Scotch I care to consume which, last night, was sufficient to land me kerplunk in a ditch at the side of the road.

So I leisurely and pleasurably am going to seed, though not quite so comfortably as I did in Cairo, where the tempo of life and the availability of its good things was considerably more to my rapidly degenerating standards, and where I had a comfortable suite of rooms with slaveys to wait on me at the clap of my hands on the top floor of a pension in the center of the city. In all my wanderings of the Middle East from Syria to Algiers I became completely enamored with that effete and hypercivilized quarter, and am continually racking my brain to devise schemes of going back after the war and seriously settling down to this business of languorous living. Latest plan is to set up (naturally with generous backing from some gullible soul like Marshall Field) a violently pan-Islam weekly magazine, tentatively entitled Caravan. Or, more practically, and with the backing of my devoted barmaid, to open up a plushy cabaret in Algiers or Cairo.

So I fritter away the time in idle musings, and drag out through the day what work I could get done in an hour, and sometimes wish I were doing something more purposeful, and half rouse myself to get a transfer somewhere, anywhere, but preferably India, and then sink down in lethargy, taking the line of least resistance, and drifting edgewise through life, not really caring a damn about anything, and not particularly caring a damn about when the war is over, or whether I ever get home or not. Which is a perfectly dreadful state of mind for any supposedly intelligent person to get into. But there it is. No doubt I have had it too soft; and, aside from four months service with RAF advanced HQ in the desert during the Tunisian Campaign, and service with and advanced fighter group in Sicily doing signals work, I have seen nothing of the war at all; but this apathy and indifference, in which I am not alone, is a sort of dry rot that seems to affect one a prolonged period of existing easily without particularly pressing responsibilities.

I have not heard much from Swarthmore people. For some time I have been carrying on a lengthy correspondence with Marian Parker, but since her marriage to Vic Mills, which I regretted, it has sort of petered out.[3] I have not heard from Ed in over a year. Ran into Bud Isgrig (Capt.) in London some time ago.[4] He was dining and wining some Mayfair floozie, and has gotten fat, balding, and dissipated looking. Understand there are other Swarthmoreans over here, but I have not as yet exerted myself to dig them up. Too much delving in ancient history is too often unpleasant. I recall going back to Swarthmore shortly before I left the states some fifteen months ago and it seemed dismal and morgue-like. One loses touch with the past and turning back to look at it finds that it is gone or strangely altered.

But all this morbid chitchat cannot be of interest to you. Blame it on a rainy Sunday afternoon, and do write again.

Sincerely, Bud

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_____
FOOTNOTES:
[1] An Algerian tribe, exoticized in the West for their dancing women.
[2] “The Garnet Letter” is the Swarthmore alumni magazine.
[3] Mary Ann Parker (’41) and Victor Moore Mills (’41).
[4] Walter E. Isgrig (’40).

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