Every now and then I like to go back to the letters I wrote my parents while in the Navy—and which have been published in e-book form as A World Ago—a Navy Man’s Letters Home, 1954-1956, to see what I was doing on the same date nearly 60 years ago. I found this, and thought I’d share it with you. (The “Lloyd” referred to was a shipmate on whom I had a terrific crush, even though he was totally and irredeemably straight. Needless to say, though I’d been gay since the age of five, I had to be very careful not to let it be known.)
6 - 7 May, 1956
After several days’ silence, I rise from the dead and take pen in hand once more. Today is the Greek Easter. Today is also the morning after the night before, though I am quite proud of myself, having come through the entire ordeal with what I consider “flying colors.”
Lloyd and I went on tour yesterday. The tour got over about three thirty―we got back to the ship at five minutes to twelve. Between the hours mentioned came God only knows how many bottles of wine. If it hadn’t been for the goodness of three Greek sailors, we probably never would have gotten back. We met them in the subway, and stayed with them a couple hours. A grand time was had by all.
I suppose I should be ashamed of myself―I’ve been spending far too much money, but who cares? This will be the last good liberty port we will hit until we return home. Which reminds me―did I mention our month’s extension? Now we’re not supposed to get back to the States until July sometime. (And then again, I heard today that we’d received another dispatch canceling the extension.) Oh, well, think what you will.
The guide we had on the tour did not have the gift of narration that would have been so helpful―I knew more of the legends and mythology than he, and carried on a sort of secondary running commentary on whatever he said for those who didn’t understand what he was getting at. Still, it was interesting to see what I’ve been reading about.
And here it is still another day―I have developed a muscular tic in my left arm, which is going to town at this minute. It only goes away when I concentrate on it. There―it’s gone. It will be back.
The weather here has been from warm to mild, with occasional showers and cold winds in the hills and mountains. Other than that, it’s been excellent. I shot another two rolls of film on the tour Saturday, and so when I get home we’ll have to spread them out over several evenings.
I got a kick out of mom’s saying that the sea air might harm the film―they are inside a steel box in a metal locker three decks down in a steel ship. They never even see daylight, let alone salt spray.
Tomorrow we leave Athens―it doesn’t seem possible that we’ve been here a week.
Someone has donated a tape recorder, to which we are now listening―the current selection is a classical gem called “Who Put the Devil in Evelyn’s Eyes?”―a question which remains unanswered through the entire three minutes it takes the vocal group to ask the same question one hundred thirty-four times.
Later this evening Lloyd and I are going to play canasta―for which we bought two decks of cards.
You know, Saturday night we tried to figure out just why it is we should be such good buddies―I’m not the kind to have tons of friends―in the Navy, anyway. I came to the conclusion it is because he is everything I am not, or would like to be, rather; and he looks up to me for some reason; I’m a combination of big brother and conscience. At any rate, we get along. Besides, I always wanted a brother.
Oh―now they’ve got a real tear-jerker―a “mountain-William” with the heartrending repetition of the phrase “Dawn’t let me hang around if yew dawn’t care.” (Excerpt from a conversation―highly intellectual―about the new records of a friend―“Man, they got some terrific stuff―Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb―man, that’s fine music.” The horrible thing was that he meant it!)
I’m getting several members of our little group highly irritated. Now, I fully believe that “to each his own”―but why THAT?