Monday, October 8, 2018

I Am Not Unlike Joyce Carol Oates' Father

From an essay "The Lost Landscape" byJoyce Carol Oates; I am akin to her father when it comes to gift-giving.  I like to give someone a gift, but not because it's Christmas or a birthday:

    When we were children my brother Robin and I had been astonished by our father's indifference to gifts.  What meant so much to us, as children, meant literally nothing to him; Christmas and birthday presents for our father had to be opened by others (that is, by us} since Daddy thought so little of the ritual.

     "Look, Daddy!  This is for you" -- my brother and I would plead with our father, who might be reading the newspaper, or involved in one or another household chore, and would barely glance at us.

     We'd thought our father so strange, not to care -- not to care about a present.

     For children, even for teenagers, nothing seems quite so exciting as a wrapped present.  For days beforehand my brother and I would speculate on the contents of packages beneath our Christmas tree, though our past experiences must surely have curbed our imaginations.  But there was our father as indifferent to the excitement of gift-giving as he was to the gifts themselves {invariably shirts, neckties, socks}.

     Of all writers it is Henry David Thoreau who most speaks to my father's temperament -- Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.

     And -- Simplify, simplify, simplify.

     From my father I have inherited my ambivalence about gift-giving.  I understand that it is an ancient and revered social ritual and that, in human relations, it is, or should be, a genuine expression of love, affection, admiration, respect; yet, through my life I have rarely felt more anxiety than I feel at the prospect of giving a gift.  For how grateful one must be, for a present which {probably} isn't at all needed, or wanted; how can one reciprocate a gift, without making a social or personal blunder?  Will my gift be wildly inappropriate, too costly/not costly enough?  That gift-giving is so crucial to our society, the very wheel driving the capitalist-consumer economy, seems to me, as it seems to my father, unfortunate; the juggernaut of Christmas rolling around each year, overshadowing much else, invariably a season of apprehension and disappointment for many, seems particularly unfortunate.  The very nicest "gifts" are those given spontaneously, without ritual or custom tied to a calendar, and those one can truly prize' the others, duly wrapped in expensive paper, part of a seasonal barrage of gifts, are likely to be dubious.

     The gifts which I give to my parents now are more meaningful to Daddy than the perfunctory gifts of long ago -- these are books, records, subscriptions to magazines (Atlantic, Harper's, Hudson Review, Kenyon Review, Paris Review in which from time to time work of mine might appear}; of course I've given my parents copies of each of my books, of which several have been dedicated to them.  {Daddy has joked that he's had to build a special bookcase in their living room, to accommodate my books.}  They have an ongoing subscription to Ontario Review.

Friday, March 9, 2018


In those "London Life" days I wrote about above (Aug. 22 to early October, 1966), there were at least three tabloid-style weeklies about rock 'n roll -- I remember New Musical Express, Melody Maker, and Music Echo.  We bought every issue.  It was great to have so much to read about the music and musicians we loved.  It was also a novelty; in the States we had had no such thing; Rolling Stone magazine didn't start until November of the following year.

(And, as for that, it has always sort of amazed me that on a lunch hour I walked into a rather old-fashioned pharmacy on Washington Avenue in Lansing and there, on the bottom rack of the magazines, was the very first issue of Rolling Stone -- how did it ever get to Michigan, I later wondered, and to Lansing, and to the last place in town you'd expect to find something so new, and which, naturally, I'd never heard of, but which, with a picture of John Lennon on the front, I had to have?)

In one or the other of those British magazines, a short article reported that John Lennon had designed a Christmas card for Oxfam (England's version of The Salvation Army), and that the cards would go on sale on such and such date (probably October 1st) at the headquarters of Oxfam's offices, and the address of this place was
provided.  We got out our London A to Z book of maps; the place wasn't easy-to-find but we scouted it out ahead of the date the cards were to go on sale, noticing a sign on the door that listed the opening hour as 10AM.

At ten on the morning of the day the cards were to go on sale. Dennis and I were waiting outside the door.

I have a vague memory of there being some discussion amongst the two or three ladies there as to whether or not they were allowed to begin selling the cards.  We said that it had been announced in a newspaper; we even had the paper with us, which we'd brought along to have the address, and we explained that we were from the states and had to return very soon, so we couldn't come back later after whatever the problem with whether or not the cards could go on sale was settled.  I'm sure too that our faces and demeanors betrayed desperation, because we were desperate.  We had to have some of those cards; our hearts would be broken if we walked out of there empty-handed.   After further discussion amongst themselves, and with what seemed to be an amount of pity taken upon us, it was decided that they would sell us the couple boxes we each wanted.


At some point I wondered if these cards might be worth any money.  I did a Google search on "John Lennon Oxfam Christmas Cards" and got some 77,600 hits; leave out the "Oxfam" and you'll get nearly five million hits.  Of the Oxfam hits, every one of the many, many that I checked out was about a 1965 card design Lennon did for Oxfam, known as the "Yellow Fat Budgie" card. Over a period of time, I spent a lot of down-time at work searching through these google results, but could find not one single reference or picture of the cards Dennis and I had bought.

This led me to speculation.  I imagined that final legal permission for the use of the card had not been procured, and that five minutes (or whatever) after Dennis and I walked out the door a phone call was received at Oxfam Headquarters from some barrister who announced that the cards must not be sold; indeed all stock on hand must be gathered for destruction.  I fancy this as a screw-up amongst Beatle management (running amok as it often was, especially during this period), and some lazy-assed barrister who just didn't stay on top of things -- the note he or she'd made to legally assign Oxfam permission had been lost near the bottom of a stack of disorganized papers.  I can not imagine the kindly John Lennon himself taking back permission for this charitable contribution; if you read a lot of books about the Beatles, as I have, you can well imagine that he was totally unaware of the screw-up; both their personal and their business lives were hectic beyond hectic.

I hope ... I really do ... that none of those two or three ladies who took pity on Dennis and me lost their jobs, or got their derrieres reamed out.  "What are we going to do?" a worried Penelope might have said.  Then, after a quick thought, "They're not going to count the boxes ... let's just keep it to ourselves.  Here, Clarissa, take the money the boys paid and put it in the collection at next Sunday's services, so we don't have to account for it!"

Were Dennis and I the only ones in the whole wide world who owned one and more of these cards?  If so, and the provenance could be established (simple enough; go to the British Library and locate the article that announced the cards, and then look at my innocent face), wouldn't one of those rabid collectors give me $100,000 for one?  A million for one?

Well ... at least fifty bucks?

No, thanks, to any offers.


I don't remember, but there would have been ten or twelve cards in each box.  I wonder who Dennis sent his to?  (I can't ask him; my closest friend died in 1989).  I wonder who I sent most of mine to? I wonder if any of the recipients saved theirs.

I saved two or three of mine as keepsakes.  I had one framed about thirty years ago, and a year or so ago, I passed it on to someone I love who loves Lennon so much that, in emulation, he named his first born son Sean.

I came across another one amongst my papers about two years ago; I gave it to a co-worker named John who is way younger than me, and who delights me with his mastery of rock 'n roll trivia; indeed, for a birthday present, his mother -- herself an expert at rock trivia -- gave John a brick that is embedded in the plaza of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland; it is inscribed with John's name and a designation as "Trivia King."  What a cool mom!

Detail copied on b/w copier; I colored the mistletoe berries with a red magic marker.

It has occurred to me that I might send a copy of the card to Yoko Ono; she is known to have a vast amount of Lennon/Beatles material; maybe she has information about it, or would at least be interested in what I have.  I will do that ... I will write Yoko a letter,  She might answer.  After all, when I read the excellent Jon Weiner biography of Lennon in 1984, I was so moved as to write a letter to Yoko, telling her how much I loved John Lennon, and expressing a wish that she would open a museum full of Lennon memoribilia, so that we who loved him could visit it and feel closer to him.  I didn't write in a way that asked for a response, but she nevertheless was kind enough to send me a Christmas card that year; I framed it and treasure it.

And if I should run across another of those cards amongst my vast piles and files of papers, I could send it to Yoko if she doesn't have one, as seems likely.  Then maybe I'd get another Christmas card from her!


In 1959 I arrived at the small Muenchweiler Army Post in Germany, which comprised a Station Hospital (as opposed to a Field Hospital) and a Med Evac company --  about 300 troops total, and only about 30 patients in the 300-bed hospital). Having trained as a Medical Corpsman at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, I was lucky enough not just to be in a wonderful small town-setting in Germany, but also to be assigned as an Accounting Clerk in the Mess Hall of the hospital.  My boss was a Warrant Officer named Phil Alden.  He was a native of Texas who had married an English woman named Ella Renfield just after the war.  Ella possessed an astonishingly beautiful soprano voice, had had the beginnings of a career in opera; her aspirations dwindled to a halt as a result of the actions of a man named Hitler.

Ella became so precious to me in so many ways, and I hope to write about her at greater length in a future post I'm planning about my Army days -- but this post is about London.  Ella talked a lot about life in London, and it was certainly her influence that caused me to decide that I wanted to live in London someday.

I certainly didn't have a nest egg when I was discharged from the Army.  Back in the states, working for Western Union, it took me five years before I had built up a stash large enough that I thought I could get myself settled in London; I felt certain that I could get a job with Western Union Telegraph Company there; I was a whiz at a teletype machine.  (Upwards of a hundred words a minute!  Not to brag, but sometimes people standing at the counter, who'd come in to send a telegram or a money order, would stare in amazement, often making a comment, as they watched my fingers fly over the three rows -- not four like a typewriter -- of teletype machine keys.)

I'd always supposed I would go to London by myself.  About a year before I began making serious plans to go, I told my friend and apartment-mate Dennis in Lansing what I hoped to do.  He was sort of my boyfriend until we realized that we made much better friends than we did boyfriends.  He immediately -- this was in the boyfriend stage --wanted badly to go with me but when I told him I intended to go in a year or so, and he had no money to speak off, and I really couldn't see him making and saving enough by the time I intended to become, like Hemingway and Stein and T.S. Eliot and all those other cool people, an ex-pat, I said I thought it would be best for me to go alone as planned.  I'm sure I cited an old Chinese proverb Phil Alden had impressed me with: He who travels alone travels further. 

The time I planned to leave grew close, and then closer.  One morning as Dennis was ironing a shirt before going to his job as a clerk in a record store, he asked me again if he could go with me. "Where're you going to get the money?" I asked.  He pulled his copy of Gone with the Wind from his bookshelf; tucked within was a stash of cash, some $1000 dollars or so.  I said I still didn't think it was a good idea ... I was going to London to make a new life.  From overseas, I planned to write him and other friends and family beautiful letters.  Re-aligning my dreams to include a fellow traveler would be, at best, uncomfortable.

Tears came to his eyes.

There was only one way I could deal with the sight of tears.  Okay, he could go -- it was rash, but I would work it out somehow.  (As will be revealed by the end of this post, his going with me turned out to be for the best.)

When I asked him how he'd saved so much money in so short a time, he said he'd helped himself to up to twenty-thirty bucks a day from the record store's till.  The rich, in this case, got poorer, and the poor got richer.

The Communication Workers of America, the union I was a member of, planned to call a strike on a certain day in July if certain conditions were not agreed to by Western Union.  Most people didn't think a strike would really be called.  There had been so many past threats, but never, my elder co-workers said, a strike.  Dennis and I made our reservation to fly to Luxembourg for the day after the strike was to be called

So when a strike really was called, it didn't matter much to me; I'd made other plans.  While my co-worers were picketing, Dennis and I were boarding the train in Lansing, bound for an overnight ride from Detroit to New York.

After a long day of walking around Manhattan, seeing the newly released movie of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" -- all the while full of really really deep regrets that we were leaving the USA one day before Dylan's Tarantula would be on sale in bookstores -- we boarded an Icelandic Airlines plane that was headed for a stop in Reykjavik and then, as I wrote in my Irish Diary above, Luxembourg.

Before we'd reached New York, the strike had been settled.  But for me there would be no turning back; not, at least, for now.


So, when Dennis and I passed through London on our way from Paris to Dublin, staying eleven or twelve days, lodging in inexpensive hotels, moving from one to another when we came across a cheaper one, and spending a lot of time visiting an extremely charming man who was already past seventy, named Leo Welch, who was Ella's best friend.  I had already met Leo, who lived on Red Lion Square, when I'd come to London in 1961, on one of my leaves from the Army, and when he'd come to Muenchweiler to visit Ella. I loved Leo.  I also loved Leo's flat in London; just a bed-sitter really, but in a modern building, and with a bathroom and a small kitchen with, as Leo put it, all the "mod cons."  Dreaming even then of living in London, I asked him if he would mind telling me how much per month his apartment cost.  "Fifteen pounds," he said; about $42.00.

The building that housed Leo's flat, which was perfectly
situated on the ground floor corner below these signs.

Dennis and I loved calling on Leo; his flat was in the West End near London's entertainment center.  Leoe was clever and witty and fun; curious as to our comings and goings, curious about our generation; by our love of the Beatles.  Leo was on a level,really, with my beloved Ella -- fascinating, fun, intelligent, friendly.  He nicknamed Dennis "Babycham" because that was the name of a bottled slightly alcoholic drink Dennis brought to the flat one night when we were changing hotels and were invited to sleep on Leo's carpeted living room floor.

When we got back to London from Ireland, we got a room at the YMCA, but it was just a few days before we found our own place.  The rent was shocking, nearly forty pounds a month, but, frankly, we'd checked out several places and this was the cheapest of them all.  It was just a large room, with a double bed, a bathroom, and a hot plate for cooking; a couch; and a nice table with two chairs at the windows.  It suited us alright; our diet consisted mainly of boiled potatoes with butter, and, for variety's sake, some version of eggs, as well as, when we were out and about, a lot of Wimpy burgers, and, when we really felt like splurging, an omelette at a sort of classy (for us) sit down restaurant.  (A Wimpy Burger, sort of like a White Castle but tastier and larger, came with chips and cost about 75-cents!)

An inconvenience, and a surprising expense, was that to get hot water or heat for the hotplate, one had to put a shilling into a meter installed in the flat (as was the case in most other rented flats); it would provide heat for a certain amount of time; if you wanted to boil some potatoes or take a shower, you needed to make sure you had adequate shillings to buy adequate time on the meter.  I could not imagine how many shillings you'd need for heat when winter came.

Our flat was far up in the Kilburn district, a good forty-five minute Tube ride from what we considered the West End, or central London. 

Our flat was on the 3rd floor; the one with the opened windows.

When I told Leo how much we were paying he thought we were being ripped off, but we were settled in and, frankly, having learned how much apartments were going for, I'd had to come to have second thoughts about my ability to live alone in London.  Dennis had, from the get-go, no intention of staying forever.  I asked Leo how it was that his great and centrally located apartment cost him only 15 pounds a month, a fact which I'd used when strategizing my future in London.  "Because I'm an old-age pensioner," he said.  

Before we set out for Ireland, I'd gone to the main Western Union office in London and asked if they would give me a job; the nice man there, seemingly both amused and charmed at the novelty of a Yank applying for a job, thought they could.  Right then and there he sent a telegram to the manager of the Western Union office in Lansing, asking for a character reference and so forth. Because it was late in the afternoon in London, and about eight a.m. in 
Michigan, a quick response came by wire:  I was said to have been a good employee except that I had not showed up for work after the settlement of the recent strike; he joked, however, that this must have happened because I was too far away for an easy commute.

I said to the Western Union man in London that I was going to Ireland for a couple weeks.  He said he would send me particulars about employment in a letter which he would post to me care of American Express in Dublin:

When we returned to London from Ireland I went to Western Union and gave them the necessary details. 

Then, on instructions from the man at Western Union, I went to some sort of immigration office and said I wanted to get a work permit.

There were about twenty people ahead of me in line, and then about twenty behind me.  I finally, at one of the desks up front, faced a fifty-ish woman with poorly dyed red hair and a presumably permanently soured countenance.  I said I wanted to apply for a work permit.  

Wow! I'd arrived at the worst possible desk!  This redhead went ballistic!  Screaming at me so loud that every one in the large room was turning to look and listening in.

I was initially startled.  One of my favorite poems to recite aloud was Oscar Wilde's "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" and it crossed my mind that I might be jailed -- or gaoled -- for having committed what must be, judging by my inquisitor's fierce disposition, a serious crime!  Would I soon be a guy similar to the one in Wilde's poem?

I never saw a man who looked,
with such a wistful eye,
upon that little tent of blue,
which prisoners call the sky. 

Who did I think I was, she shrilled?  I had broken Her Majesty's laws when I'd passed through immigration claiming to be a tourist; had I been truthful and told them that I was going to look for work, I would have assuredly (her exact word) been sent back to Calais on the return ferry.  "Why did you lie?" she shrieked!

I lied again, telling her that I'd had no intention of looking for work when I came ashore.  She screamed some more.  I said I'd just dropped in at the Western Union office to chat, and ended up thinking it would be fun to work in my field in a foreign country, and a man I spoke with there thought it could be arranged.

She screamed some more; it did seem I should perhaps feel embarrassed -- every one in the room had be staring at me, but I thought: what do I care?  I'm never going to ever see a single one of these people again.  It even occurred to me that if she wanted to turn red-faced with anger, it was her blood pressure, not mine.

I telephoned Western Union, explained my dilemma, and the head of personnel said he would do what he could to get me a work permit, and that I may have to leave the country to get it.  I said I'd visit Amsterdam,pick up my work permit there, and re-enter Great Britain legally, and gave him Leo's address as a contact point.

Meanwhile, Dennis and I were having fun exploring the city.  We walked and walked and walked, hanging out especially in book stores and record stores, visiting tourist sites, sitting in Russell Square, near Leo's, which had a concession stand, having what the Brits called a "cuppa," -- a cup of tea that was 4-cents, and reading from whatever paperback book each of us carried in our jacket pocket.  (Amazingly, even tea in such a humble place was excellent; years later at the airport in Dublin I was dismayed to see that tea was served from gigantic urns, and then delighted to find it tasted great, better than anything in the States!)  Occasionally we'd have a beer, which would be served warm, but the pubs -- open only at certain times of the day -- were cozy and comfortable places to have a rest and read a newspaper.

It would have been hard to be drunks in London, as we'd often been back in Michigan.  Pubs were closed in the evenings; if one wanted a full night of drinking you had to join a private club; we could not afford the annual dues.

Some days we lazily spent in our flat, boiling potatoes, reading, and listening to rock 'n roll on Radio Caroline, a "pirate" radio station that operated on a ship anchored just outside the reach of the law of Great Britain's BBC monopoly.  Radio Caroline was a blessing because stations licensed in England sucked.  Sometimes one or two hours a week of rock 'n roll might be broadcast.

Being rock 'n roll nuts, it was thrilling to see, at the famous Marquee Club on Waldour Street, the earliest (best) version of The Moody Blues, who'd recorded the gigantic 1965 hit "Go Now" which we were crazy about.

And then, on September 23, 1966, we had tickets to see The Rolling Stones at Royal Albert Hall; I think the tickets cost about five bucks each.    And, boy, Dennis and I could hardly get over how cool we were!  The Stones!  In London!

They were fronted by The Ike and Tina Turner Revue.  Tina, wearing an amazing electric blue-sequined mini-skirted dress and matching electric blue 5-inch heels, was simply mesmerizing as she sang and danced and shimmied back and forth across the stage.  As an encore they did their current great Phil Spector-produced hit "River Deep, Mountain High."  Ike and (mostly) Tina were awesome.  Every fiber of my being was filled with awe. 

As for The Stones, this was the era of young girls -- and probably some boys -- screaming throughout the performance, so you couldn't really enjoy the music; indeed, you could hardly hear it.  And Mick Jagger had not yet learned to "move like Jagger," -- I think he learned some moves from Tina, and have read that one of the managers of the Stones, Andrew Loog Oldham, who was gay, taught Mick how to swish.  But despite the screams and despite Mick's boring stand-in-place dancing, the entire show was still a spectacle.

A reporter named Norris Drummond, who was reviewing "the pop world's social event of the year" for The New Musical Express, wrote: "Keith Richard was knocked to the ground, Mick was almost strangled, while Brian Jones and Bill Wyman took to their heels, followed by dozens of determined fans.  Charlie Watts sat quietly behind his drums watching the scene."

Order was eventually restored over and over again.

Dennis and I returned to our cruising around, spending our money, being half-lazy, curious, fascinated by the city.

By the time I got the following letter from Western Union, our cash stash had dwindled.  

One day Dennis and I encountered a couple of our neighbor ladies on the 2nd floor landing, and they chatted us up.  Somehow it came to their asking if we would mind saying how much we were paying for our flat.  They were shocked, and both told us that their rents were considerably lower and their flats nicer than ours.  "He's just charging you more because he thinks Americans have lots of money."

So now we were pissed, but also by now we had picked a date to get back to Luxembourg to fly to New York.  We would take a ferry to Holland, see the sights in Amsterdam, pick up my work permit even if I'd never use it, and then entrain to Luxembourg.

On the last day that we would be paying our rent, we told the landlord that we were going to Amsterdam just for a long weekend.  Lo!  He played right into our hands!  His eyes behind the thick lenses of his glasses lit up, bulged with greed, and he asked if we could bring him back whatever the allowed limit was of duty-free fine chocolates and cigars.  We said we'd be glad to do him that favor.  Later that day he brought us a list of what he wanted and fronted us a considerable amount of cash to pay for it.

The crook thought we were such nice boys.

The night before we abandoned the flat, we broke into the electric meter box and took out all the shillings we had deposited.  Then, afraid that he might step into our apartment and discover our criminality, we were afraid he'd call the police and have us arrested at the ferry embarkation point, so we lay low at Leo's for four or five days before we actually took the train to Harwich where we caught the overnight ferry for Hook of Holland, and then a short train ride to Amsterdam.

I picked up my work permit at American Express.  Like I said, I'd never use it but, for the bawling out I'd endured, I for damn sure wanted to see what it looked like.

In those days you could buy a round-trip ticket, which we'd done because it cost barely more than a one-way, and you could just show up at the airport in Luxembourg on whatever day you wanted to use your return ticket.

We arrived at JFK Airport on Sunday, October 9th.  Dennis bought a ticket for San Francisco to visit a friend.  His flight was about noon and I went with him to the gate, as you were allowed to do in those days.  My flight for Fort Wayne, Indiana, was late in the afternoon.  Game 4 of the World Series was being broadcast all over the terminal on radios and television.  I loathed all sports except basketball. (It is against the law to not love basketball if you are Hoosier-born.)

I felt alienated and lonely and lost and out of place.  I was surrounded by idiots screaming and cheering and roaring.  I didn't care that the Orioles were sweeping the Dodgers.

I took a seat in a sort of remote area, leaned forward, put my hand over my eyes, and wept.

I got a good job at Magnavox in Fort Wayne.  Having no car, the only room I could find close to work was above a loud bar down the road from my job.  I could walk to work.

A young black man and I were charged with inventorying every piece of property in the truly gigantic factory.  The man who would oversee our work took us to look at a typing pool; I swear that in this gymnasium-sized room there were eight or nine rows of typists, all female, maybe 30 to a row.  Jesus!  One of my jobs would be to get the serial number, make, and model of each and every one of these typrwriters.

I could handle that.

My colleague was less easy to handle.  He had a degree and I didn't, but we were making the same wage.  He made a point a couple times a day of letting me know that he was seriously Christian.  I brought a book to work to read during my breaks and lunch periods.  It was a paperback of La Batarde, by Violette Leduc.  One day he picked it up, examined its front and back, asked me what "La Batarde" meant, and then said, "Why would you want to read a piece of trash like that?"

I didn't even want to respond.  Nothing he said interested me, and I supposed that nothing I cared about interested him.  Much of every day was spent in a relatively small room with him.  The situation hurt my brain.

I worked two weeks and now had enough money to put down towards a used VW Bug.  I packed up my books and clothes and headed for Lansing.  I crashed with two girls who had been my friends since they were Juniors in High School, and I was then 24.  They used to tell their parents that they were going to stay at one or the other's overnight, and then they'd come and party all night with Dennis and me and whoever else was around, crashing on the floor.  Hippie-dom was approaching!

I dropped in at the Western Union office.  They were glad to see me and put me to work the next day.

I had dreamed of living in London.  I'd tried, but I was now right back where I'd started.  I was teletyping.  Teletyping really really fast.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY - 2-22-1892 - 10-19-1950

Photo: Carl Van Vecten
Edna Millay was the first poet with whom I fell in love. I discovered her at 19 when I bought a paperback of her poems, and I would lay on my cot with its brown wool blanket, in a barracks in Germany, and read her lyrics and sonnets over and over, memorizing several of them.  I had not been a good student during 12 years of schooling in Mentone, Indiana, but Edna Millay turned out to be an excellent teacher.  Through paying attention to her, I began to notice her precise punctuation; she was like Dylan's Louise who makes it all "too concise and too clear," and I picked it up easily.  My love for Millay has been constant for all these close-to-sixty years.

i couldn't pick a favorite sonnet, but if I could it might be XLVII from Fatal Interview:

Well, I have lost you; and I lost you fairly;
In my own way, and with my full consent.
Say what you will, kings in a tumbrel rarely
Went to their deaths more proud than this one went.
Some nights of apprehension and hot weeping
I will confess; but that's permitted me;
Day dried my eyes; I was not one for keeping
Rubbed in a cage a wing that would be free.
If I had loved you less or played you slyly
I might have held you for a summer more,
But at the cost of words I value highly,
And no such summer as the one before.
Should I outlive this anguish -- and men do --
I shall have only good to say of you.

Photo: Walter Skold
Millay's eventual and last home was a large farm near Austerlitz, New York, just across the Massachusetts border, and southeast of Albany -- a 3-1/2 hour drive from my home; Millay named her home Steepletop.  I have visited it three times; once by myself, once with my brother Bernard, and once with my friend Ellen Farnum.  Thousands of books line many shelves, arranged just as Millay left them; I always want to stay and look at each one, but touching, of course, is not allowed.  Her simple gravestone is in the woods on the property.  My friend, Walter Skold, founder of Dead Poet Remembrance Day, decorated it with autumn foliage for his picture above.  The picture of Steepletop, below, I swiped from Google Images.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Irish (and a little Luxembourg) Diary 1966

For Johnny, who was born in 1966 while I was in London;
posted on his birthday, October 14, 2017.

Ettelbruck Railroad Station

Ettelbruck, Luxembourg - July 16, 1966

     On the train from the airport, when we want off, we are jammed in with those getting onto it. From outside a conductor slams shut the door. I am yelling "Raus! Raus!" which I think is German for "Out! Out!" Then the people around us realize; one of them opens the door and shouts to the conductor, who shouts toward the engine. I get off and turn around to see Dennis squeezing through.

     We walk across the street and into a hotel. We meet a man from Rotterdam who speaks English. He makes inquiries about the price for us, and we book a room.

     And now we have walked through the town and are sitting in a famous hotel's cafe having coffee, and I'm having a sausage sandwich. The sandwich is composed of many one-to-two inch thin discs laid upon two good sized slices of well buttered bread, some tomato and pickle on top. I like the way the coffee is served. It comes in your own little china coffee maker. In the top they put the coffee and water; the water drains into the lower part and when it is finished draining you remove the top and the bottom becomes the cup you drink from.

     One of the bridges in Luxembourg City is majestic. While walking around Thursday night we happened onto it and decided to stay on through Friday and see the city in daylight. We walked through the park which is in a valley over which these old and new beautiful bridges span up and down; very scenic. Lots of green. It's fun to watch the dogs – at our hotel was a dog named Mac who begged at our breakfast. This morning I saved him a bit of my roll but he refused it and later Monique told us he wants only sugar cubes. The hotel room is good, roomy, and clean, and Monique and the older couple there, whom I presumed to be her parents, amused us. If they smile at you it makes you feel good.

     On Thursday night we each had a filet mignon that was covered with a delicious sauce, and french fried potatoes, and salad – no, no salad! - and a tomato soup that had a liquor base, and green beans, and ice cream. I loved it for only $3.00. On Friday night we had weiner schnitzel for less than $2.00, but it was not good – I mean it was in itself tasty enough and we enjoyed it, but it didn't taste like the good meals of weiner schnitzel I had had in countless German restaurants when I was a soldier.

     We've gone to several bars; we look for one with a jukebox; it's fun to see what English songs happen to be on them, and also to listen to the foreign songs. Yesterday we went into a record store and looked over all the different record jackets. And I bought a pair of black sandals down the street and a pair of sunglasses. Here today Dennis bought a pair of sandals and a Harris tweed sports coat.

July 7, 1966 – Diekirch

     We just arrived here by foot; it is 5 kilos from Ettelbruck. I have a new rucksack that is jammed with a hard bread loaf, a stick of sausage, two kinds of cheese, a jar of pickles (the jar itself cost 3-cents), two oranges, a bottle of wine and a package of what must be home-made potato chips; the latter was given to me by the lady in the shop where we bought the food. We'll stop along the road on the way back and have our meal. The walking is fun, but we must get more used to it as Dennis is getting a blister and I think I may be getting one on my little toe, but perhaps when we hike we should wear our shoes instead of new sandals.

     Diekirch is a little smaller than Ettelbruck, although it is the seat of the county which both are in; the county is also called Diekirch. And here in this city is made the Diekirch beer which is apparently the most popular in Ettelbruck. All the beer has a better, more distinct taste than in the U.S.A.

     While walking around Ettelbruck after my sausage sandwich yesterday afternoon we passed a Famille de Pension – the menu and prices posted outside looked good so after returning to our hotel and cleaning up some we went back to this place. It was late for dinner and we were the lone diners. But the waitress, Palmyra, spoke excellent English, and had six weeks ago married an American Airman. Palmyra jabbered and jabbered and we were there until 10:30 p.m. We had beef steak, french fries, salad, three beers, and two coffees for only 162 francs or $3.24. Palmyra was very interesting, showed us her scrapbook filled with pictures of the wedding and honeymoon. And answered many questions we had about Luxembourg and things we had seen. She confirmed that the people here have a low regard for the Germans. I had wondered what had been Luxembourg's fate in WWII. There was, Palmyra said, not a street which could be looked upon without viewing great destruction; in Palmyra's own house one could stand on the ground level and look up to see the sky. When her parents came back after the war it was required that they have a business – everyone was required to have some sort of business in order, I guess, to get some sort of an economy moving again. So her family opened this room and boarding business and today they still have their very first customer – a Germany from just over the border. She showed us some of their guest rooms on the upper floor; they were beautiful and spotlessly clean as well. Her father had a Chow-Chow dog with the cutest face and we asked her if we could be introduced to the dog. So when her father returned from a bar where he had gone to get the winning Germany lottery numbers off the television, he brought the dog to us. His name was Mickey. Palmyra was terrified that he would leave one hair in the dining room.

     I asked Palmyra about General Patton and she said, “He is a god to us.” His forces liberated the city in 1944 and he was, after the war, killed in Luxembourg in a jeep accident.

     Since we were not pleased with out hotel room across from the bahnhof Palmyra told us to come in the morning and take one of her rooms; we checked out then this morning but we had overslept; it was past noon when we arrived at Famille de Pension, and she, worried that we'd not come since we had said morning, had let our room to someone else. But we walked down the street and got a nice, bright looking room above a beer room. It seems that almost every building houses not only someone's home but also a beer hall or a hotel or a restaurant or all combined; I suppose this is a result of the days when every building was required to house a business.

     After leaving Famille de Pension last night we went into a bar in which we had spotted a jukebox on our afternoon walk. The big song to hear here was “Long, Long While” by the Rolling Stones, which, on this side of the ocean, is the flip side of “Paint It Black”. After we'd been there a while and Dennis was in the toilet, the youngest waitress came and sat beside me, saying, “Excuse me.” And there she sat talking with us until the place closed at one a.m. … sat with us except when one of the local boys asked her to dance. She was not so interesting, except inasmuch as any foreign person being friendly to you is interesting. I spoke almost as much German to her as English, and she understood me fine; I had been having trouble making myself understood. This cafe was run by this girl's mother and two of her sisters. This girl claimed her name was Baby. We witnesses a very funny incident: One of the local men asked of one of Baby's sisters at the bar if she were, as Baby put it, “a girl for money.” The mother grabbed one arm and one ear, the insulted sister grabbed the other arm and the other ear; there was much shouting and they led the man quickly to the door where they farewelled him with a loud slap on the face.

     And now we have rested enough. Dennis Little just snapped a picture of me writing, and we must start back to Ettelbruck.

Paris, July 8 , 1966

I didn't keep up my diary while in Paris, but we did pose in our hotel room's window for pictures:

Farm boy from outside Williamston, Michigan

Small town boy from Mentone, Indiana
Nor did I keep my diary while we were in London camping on the floor of a friend before taking the train out of Euston Station for Holyhead in Wales where we caught a ferry for Ireland.

Dublin, August 6, 1966

     So I've gone all this time without writing. I didn't intend to ignore my diary but in Paris and London there are so many impressions I wouldn't have known how to begin. But Dublin is a smaller and quieter place and we are heading for even smaller and quieter places. We left London last night at 11:30; the seats on the train to Holyhead were terribly uncomfortable; I slept but seemed to wake every five minutes and change my position. The ferry was comfortable; in fact it was almost like a nice chair in a living room and I slept at least three hours of the four hour crossing. We landed at Dun Loaghaire at about 10:30 this morning. A guidebook we

Dennis Little at Dun Laoghaire landing dock; that's a
torn spot on the photo, not something white he's holding.

have describes Dublin as a beautiful city and as far as I've seen it couldn't be less accurate; I don't like it at all, and if all of Ireland is similar to it I'll leave quicker than planned. First of all, it is the dirtiest city I've ever been in – there is litter all over the sidewalks, a bad odor almost everywhere, and those openings beneath sidewalks covered with gratings are usually piled with a foot or more of trash. Give me the bright cleanliness of Holland or Luxembourg! The people here seem wretchedly poor. We had a long walk through a residential area, composed of large brick apartment buildings, each window covered with tattered and dirty lace curtains – or so it seemed. Children played on the sidewalks and they were filthy, their clothes little more than rags. On the main streets there are girls soliciting funds for some charity – you give coins and they stick a little badge on your lapel. Two nuns were standing at either side of an entrance to some building with tin cups held out. A little girl tonight begging us for six pence because she hadn't bus fare home. Such poverty upsets me. All those people making donations on the street probably have poorly clothed children in their families. And the church probably has more money than any other institution.

[2017 update:  This seems like a pretty harsh assessment of Dublin. I wonder why we didn't visit any of the famous sites -- St. Patrick's Cathedral, the National Gallery, Trinity College and the Book of Kells.  I can attribute this only to an ignorance, and a habit we had of not reading official guides but just setting off in whatever direction to see what we might see, thinking we wanted to see the real city, not the one the tourist office wanted us to

see.  From the Frommer's guide we used, and which I still have, I can identify the guesthouse we stayed in: The White House Hotel at 62 Amiens Street.  It was fifty yards from the railway station.  If we had happened to wander whatever which way there's no telling what sorts of neighborhoods we passed through.]

August 7, 1966

     A better day as far as sights go. But it started off in our hotel where we were served a lousy breakfast. Dennis couldn't eat his except the egg; I managed to eat the bacon but left the sausage which was not tasteless but of a very bad taste. But the hotel is cheap and we should have expected this.

     The single reason I wanted to stop over in Dublin was to go to Dun Loaghaire, to a place beyond Dun Loaghaire actually, called Sandy Cove, to visit a James Joyce museum. So out on the street this morning the newspapers informed us that the busses were not running – a strike. So I asked directions of a man and we began walking the 7 miles to Sandy Cove. We would begin hitchhiking when we were out of Dublin but just as we passed a house where Oscar Wilde had lived, a Volkswagen stopped and the driver shouted that we could have a lift. I crawled in back with his two children; Dennis sat up front. “You must be a couple of Joyce disciples,” he said. Yes, we were. So he began talking a storm; he obviously did not approve of Joyce's picture of Dublin (Ulysses is banned in Eire!), and he defended the actual character of a man whom Joyce, according to our host, had maligned in his novel. He was a good friend of this man's (Gogarthy?) son. Our driver was obviously very religious; he made the sign of the cross often, presumably every time we passed a church, so it is easy to see why he'd knock Joyce.

August 8, 1966

     I was writing in a pub last night and it became so crowded that I stopped in order to watch the people. But I should add to yesterday that we were let off two miles from our destination and we walked along the coast which is beautiful – many places they were swimming and the sun was bright. We visited Martello Tower, an old tower on the coast in which Joyce once lived with two friends – it is now a museum in his memory, housing photos, original manuscripts and letters, and various items which belonged to Joyce. Returned on train.

We began this morning in Dublin trying to rent a bike but there was a rush on them because of a bus strike so we began hitchhiking. While still in Dublin a very pretty and young teacher picked us up in a tiny Morris and took us past Dun Loaghaire. Then a man in a Jaguar sedan took us quite a distance, as far as Enniskerry I believe. I told Mother in a letter from London that hitchhiking was “safe” over here but this man's driving was hardly safe. Then we began walking along a mountain, going up and around it. We were on a less-travelled road and we walked for nearly four miles for our next ride which was then only a mile long! We walked over a mile more and were picked up and brought to within a mile of Glendalough, our destination. We were too tired to look at the nearby ruins of an ancient monastery this evening so we walked back a mile to this place where we have a nice room for the night. We bought twice as much groceries as we needed and had our supper in the lawn – we were hungry as we hadn't eaten since Dublin. We'll look at the ruins in the morning and then try to make Kilkenny by tomorrow evening – probably won't be so lucky but it doesn't matter – wherever we are in the evening is where well spend the night. As for tonight, we're tired and though it's only 8:30 we're going to sleep.

Rathdrum, August 9, 1966

This is a beautiful little town, apparently about the size of Mentone. We are having high tea – a pot of tea, 4 cups each, several slices of bread with butter and strawberry jam, and a cupcake each. But getting here was all hiking – not one of the few cars which passed stopped for us, and at times it was pouring down rain. We have come only seven miles from Larogh! But the country-side is beautiful, not quite mountains, but very close. Very green; cute little farms along the road – really the nicest scenes I've seen. We rested half way here at a tiny store along the way – the lady was friendly and would have got us a ride to Rathdrum with the bread man except on Tuesdays he goes another way! We mailed our letters with her little post office, bought an ice cream bar (3 pence) and a banana (5 pence), then came on our way.

The worse of all this rain is that we didn't get to leave Lilac Cottage until noon and we decided to get started on our journey rather than back-track a mile to see the ruins. So we saw only what we saw last evening – the tower, which is almost perfect after over 1000 years. And we also trudged a steep hill and saw the St. Kevin's Church in use today.

We were served a good breakfast this morning, started off with crushed grapefruit. When we went out on the road and looked beyond us the hill tops were half hidden in fog – it really is one beautiful scene after another!

As soon as we got into town here we went to a “drapery” shop to purchase raincoats. The shop had none large enough for us but the two women running it were friendly and we talked for fifteen minutes. They laughed at my Irish name, thought Indiana was near Texas, and that Chicago was not hot or cold but just windy. At the third shop we went into they had our size and we bought thin plastic raincoats for 70-cents each. They were regularly 76-cents but were on sale!

Enough – we'll try to get to Arklow, on the sea, before dark.


We made it; our luck changed. We left Rathdrum around six and three rather quickly gotten rides put us here by seven. And the sun even began shining this evening. This is a beautiful seacoast city of, I would guess, seven or eight thousand. We got a clean bed and breakfast for a pound, then went out for a walk – first down a row of sweet little residential houses all cement with brightly colored frames for doors and windows, down to the sea, then up along a “river” which is really just a stretch of backwater from the sea. From a bridge across it you can look northwest and see hills, green, green hills, as far as the eye can see – Ireland, so far, has been beautiful in the countryside – I couldn't even begin to make a picture in words that would convey to anyone how beautiful the scenery is – to be walking along a country road lined with trees and a stone fence, to look down into a valley and see a river running through it, and a footbridge crossing the river, then to look up and see an infinity of green hills, to see clear to the top of some of these hills where there are neatly divided and cultivated plots. To stop at a country store and compare it to a supermarket – one of these stores usually serves as a post office as well, and they sell mainly only those things which the farmer can't get for himself from his own land.

After getting back to the bridge we walked up and then back down Main Street, looking in the shop windows, and ending up in an upstairs restaurant where I had a bowl of good oxtail soup with bread and butter, and a large pot of tea for 30-cents.

Coming into our guest house, called Elsinore, the hostess invited us into her living room where we chatted with her and a friend of hers, Mary Redmond, who lives on the edge of town. This was our largest taste of Irish hospitality. They were immensely entertaining, witty, broad-minded. They don't like the President of Ireland – particularly they dislike the recently enforced requirement that Gaelic be the official language.

After our chatting the hostess served delicious coffee and toast; I then had my first bath since we left England, feel clean, and tired and ready to sleep

Kilkenny, August 10, 1966

Often during the day we didn't expect to reach this far by dark. But despite the fact that we waited so long for rides it turned out that we got some good ones. Quite a day it was, beginning with a good breakfast at Elsinore; then we stood outside Arklow for an hour before two boys from Bristol, England, in a Gazelle convertible, gave us a lift. At Gorey they were heading over secondary roads to Courtown on the sea; we preferred to stay on the main road south so they let us out. We walked a short distance, heading out of town, when I discovered that I'd left my camera in their car. My heart was broken. Dennis said, “What do you want to do?” and I said, “I want to cry” All I could think of was all the pictures we'd taken which were still in the camera, and all the pictures of the rest of the trip we wouldn't now be able to take.

     We decided to turn around and head for Courtown ourselves, hoping to find the Gazelle there, though it really seemed doubtful we could get a lift on that road. Luck! A doctor from Dublin stopped for us. As soon as I told him my dilemma he accelerated and, sure enough, there on the street, the green convertible was parked. I stayed at their car and Dennis went to the beach to look for them. They returned to the car before Dennis, and my camera was again in my hands. More luck: They were disappointed with Courtown and had decided to get back on the main road and drive further south, so they gave us another lift, this time to Enniscorthy, where our route to Kilkenny split from theirs to Wexford. As it turned out we left them in Enniscorthy with a broken down car – something suddenly gone wrong with the gearbox. Outside of town we jumped into a wagon pulled by a tractor which took us four miles. Then a man delivering bathroom fixtures took us to within one mile of Clonroche. We thumbed for an hour and eventually walked into Clonroche, a tiny place where we couldn’t even find a place to have tea. And we waited over an hour for the next lift; a woman with her two daughters took us to the junction one mile north of New Ross, which, incidentally, is where President Kennedy visited his relatives on his trip to Ireland. From there a man brought us clear to Kilkenny. He was very talkative and friendly and stopped a few times along the route to allow us to get out and see the view. One vista was especially beautiful – far below in the green valley was a river and in the river were some islands. And this scene was framed by the trees right in front of us so that we had to stand at a certain place to see.
     In Kilkenny we first had soup, bread, and tea, then got a room for only 15 shillings each; the landlady possesses a subtle wit, very friendly and amusing. Then we went to 35 Friary Street, the address of my pen-pal, Flo Brennan; we’ve not corresponded since ’60 or ’61. No one was home so we went to a pub a few doors down and had two beers. The bartender told us that Flo still lives there with her mother, and that she works in a “drapery” shop on the main street so we’ll be sure to see her tomorrow.
August 11, 1966
     After breakfast we set off down High Street stopping at each “drapery” shop asking if they knew Flo Brennan. Someone at the third one knew her and said she was married, had two children, and lived in Tipperary. We knocked again at 35 Friary; no response. In the grocery store next door the lady confirmed that Flo was married and she said she’d tell Mrs. Brennan we’d called, and that we should try later.
     Next we went to what is called the “Design Center,” – a place where people do exactly what the name says. In laboratories and studios they design various items and they sell these designs to factories where the item is manufactured and then marketed. This center is semi-government sponsored and its purpose is to design goods mainly which can be exported, thus strengthening Ireland’s place in the Common Market. The items were beautiful, made of marble, of silver, of wood, or of various fabrics; some things were for sale, one of which was a silver ring, very unusually designed. It thought it was beautiful and bought it for the amazingly low price of about $9.00. The lady was very nice and took time to answer our questions and tell us such things as that the building they are housed in was originally the stables for the Kilkenny Castle across the street.
     Later we went to the castle, a huge grey building that is beautiful from certain points, such as from the bridge on the Nore River behind it. The inside was not much to see – a number of empty, dark, dreary rooms really, the same as all old empty buildings. But they are going to put the Castle to use by putting in an art gallery and also making some areas into studios to be rented to artists.
     We visited also St. Canice Cathedral, a 13th century Gothic monstrosity – Dennis loves such things. The yard around was full of graves and a strange assortment of markers. As well, the inside of the church was full of tombs and inscriptions, in remembrance of such and such “dearly beloved” person. I thought it very eerie. The most interesting fact in the Cathedral’s history is that during an English occupation, Cromwell’s men desecrated it; among other things, his men used the baptismal font as a trough for the watering of their horses.

St. Canice Cathedral; Kilkenny
At about eight tonight we knocked again at 35 Friary. Mrs. Brennan answered and welcomed us. In the living room we met Flo and her sister, Rosemary! The grocery lady had told Mrs. Brennan about us. Mrs. Brennan then telephoned Rosemary, who lives 18 miles away, and Rosemary drove and collected Flo, who lives 35 miles away and has no phone. So all were there to meet us, including a batch of children. Flo has two girls with Gaelic names – the oldest one is Maeve, the youngest is, Aoife. Flo is as pretty as the several pictures I was sent over the years, lovely blue eyes, and a wonderful smile. Rosemary is also good-looking, wearing thick glasses, and clever and really really funny, always something funny to remark upon. Dennis and I like them both so much. They have poise and such friendliness. Rosemary has four children. Mrs. Brennan is friendly, too, and we were served high tea and, later, coffee. I found out why I like their instant coffee: it is made with milk instead of water, very good. After a while a girl of about 28, named Bridey, came home. It is she who works in a “drapery” shop and she makes her home with Mrs. Brennan. She is also Flo’s long-time best friend. She, too, is fun and friendly. Foreigners seem to have so much more fun together than do Americans; it’s fun to be with them – they seem to have no petty ideas or prejudices, are completely content to merely have a good time among themselves.
     We intended to leave Kilkenny tomorrow but Rosemary was very anxious to take us pub-crawling tomorrow night so we willingly extended our stay. Flo is staying overnight and tomorrow we are having dinner [lunch] at 35 Friary and then are being driven to wherever we’d like to go in the countryside.
     I wish I could say in words how wonderful and interesting these people are. Everyone is equal, no-one is a show-off, and everyone loves to laugh. We Americans, especially me, could learn so much from them. But perhaps it’s some quality that can’t be explained and I shouldn’t even try.
August 13, 1966
     We lunched yesterday at one o’clock with Mrs. Brennan, Flo, and Bridey Dunne. We had just had our usual big breakfast 3 hours before and were afraid we’d have no appetite, but the food was good and we stuffed ourselves on cod, boiled potatoes with a white gravy, peas, and a delicious dessert made up of custard drowned in canned pear juice and topped with a couple halves of canned pears.
     Then we set off in Flo’s Fiat to visit ruins in the countryside. Our first stop was at an ancient Cistercian Abbey. The sun was so warm, the grass so thick and green, and the Abbey is a gorgeous place. I don’t know much about architectural styles – if you say Georgian to me I’ll know what you mean; if you say Gothic I’ll know what you mean, but if you say anything else to me I probably won’t know what you’re talking about. And I don’t know what this Abbey was in architectural descriptions, but it was beautiful to me and I’m hardly ever impressed by such things. The tower was still intact and we climbed to the top via a narrow winding inside-stairs. Up there, Flo, who stayed down, said we were little specks. The Abbey was built around a courtyard and between this yard and the buildings was this cathedral window pattern of what I surely shouldn’t call a fence of archways. Whatever I should call it, the courtyard was enclosed by these designs shaped like a cathedral window, perhaps ten feet high, and four or five feet wide on the ground. The Cistercian order, like the Trappists, have a vow to remain silent and maintain a minimum of contact with the world outside their Abbey. This place is officially called the Jerpoint Abbey; it was founded in 1158, and suppressed in 1541.
     Then we stopped at a pub along the road where Dennis and I had a half-pint and Flo and her daughter Maeve had a form of apple cider. If you order apple cider here you would be served an alcoholic drink, but they had some other product based on apple cider. Later in the evening Flo asked for a Bitter Lemon in a tavern – in the States this would be an alcoholic drink; here it is not.
     But after our afternoon refreshments we went on to a place called Burnchurch – the name of the ruins of a castle inhabited in the 13th century by a family of Fitzgeralds; across the road were four or five Fitzgeralds buried! But this place was not beautiful, just interesting. Again Dennis and I went up narrow dark stairs to the top – the passageways and nooks are fascinating. All that is left of this castle though are two sections, both about 100 feet high, and about thirty feet from each other.
     After returning to Kilkenny and having supper with Mrs. Brennan we went with Rosemary and Bridey to a nearby town called Freshford where Rosemary had to pick up some pork – her husband, Paschal, is a victualer – a butcher – in Johnstown, another small town 18 miles from Kilkenny. But the pork wasn’t ready so we headed back to Kilkenny to collect Flo. One of Rosemary’s daughters, named Jacqueline after President Kennedy’s wife, is a cute little six or maybe just five year old – she knows she’s cute and is really a flirt! I played games with her and one of these games was that I would imitate her facial expressions and I was amazed at how much of an actress she is. I told Rosemary that she’d become a great actress, no doubt.
     We first went to a county bar where a girl was badly playing the piano; then to a place on High Street called Jug of Punch, owned by the Clancy Brothers, who are folk singers with some repute in America. The songs were all Irish and very interesting because we’d heard none of them before – for instance, there was one about last Easter’s blowing up of Nelson’s pillar in Dublin. For 157 years Nelson’s statue stood there to remind the Irish of the English rule.       So on the 50th Anniversary of the end of the Irish rebellion the pillar was mysteriously blown up at one in the morning. According to this folk song, Nelson is Ireland’s contribution to the space race; he is their astronaut!
     To continue the above: The bars close at midnight; out on the street we were all feeling good and Rosemary said we must all ride to Freshford to pick up the pork; it was decided that Rosemary was too high to drive, and as Flo was sober, she took the wheel. Rosemary, Dennis, and I sat in the back; Bridey rode in front. Oh, how we sang! And what we sang! It was so much fun. We tried to sing Irish folk songs; we sang some pop tunes; we sang even “Bicycle Built for Two.” Everyone was happy and in the bar we had all done the Irish custom of entwining our arms and drinking to eternal friendship. “Isn’t it lovely?” Flo had said. And it is. We collected the pork and headed toward Kilkenny. At some point, Rosemary, whose voice is good, was singing “Rose of Tralee.” Just before she was to sing the last words a noise in the rear of the car had become a loud bang-bang-bang. Suddenly the car swerved slightly; there was a loud scraping on the pavement, and we came to a stop many feet down the road. Throughout this Rosemary finished the last few bars of the song. We all piled out. We had no rear wheel on the left side!
Flo and I flagged down the first passing car. Everyone but Rosemary and I ran up to this car, and the tire was found in the road. Rosemary clung to me and said she was worried, she was afraid she’d spoiled our holiday. I told her it was nothing of the kind, that we were having the best time of our life. And we were!
The car couldn’t be repaired on the spot so were lifted back to town by the kind man. At 35 Friary Mrs. Brennan had had our tea ready for two hours, as well as my favorite sandwich – cheese and tomato. It was decided that Flo would drive Rosemary and her pork to Johnstown. We loaded everything into the car, including Rosemary’s son in a basket, and the car wouldn’t start! What luck! We pushed it and got it started. It died and we pushed again. No luck this time. So Rosemary and family and Flo and family would spend the night with Mrs. Brennan. While pushing the car Dennis noticed a very funny thing – the Irish are very strict Catholics, and invariably cross themselves when passing a church. While pushing the car we went past a friary and Bridey lifted her right arm from its task and crossed herself. “Cross yourself, Rosemary!” Dennis said.
     So the three girls walked us home a short cut down back roads. We laughed a lot; how much fun we had I haven’t time to record. At our guesthouse we rang the bell, wondering if we’d get in the house at two a.m. No response. We rang again. In a moment Miss Coogan’s voice came: “Who is there?” “Fitzgerald and Little,” I said. And she let us in. Dennis told her our car had broken down but up the street a short ways, watching to make sure we got in, were the girls, and Miss Coogan heard their heels, peeked her head out the door, and looked their way. She gave us a disgusted look; we’re sure she doesn’t believe us!
     In bed at last I thought for a second that the room around me was going to spin. It didn’t, and I didn’t hear the breakfast knock on our door this morning. Fortunately Dennis did.
     We ate, paid Miss Coogan, and went to a shop and bought a selection of fruit and a box of candy for Mrs. Brennan. At 35 Friary we were right away served tea and again my favorite sandwich. Such hospitality! We were beginning to feel part of the family! Rosemary had already gotten a ride to Johnstown and Flo’s car was being repaired. Bridey had not gone to work at all. My girlfriend Jacqueline had stayed with her grandmother. Jacqueline is very beautiful – blue eyes, dark, pixie hair, and the darlingest face you can imagine.
     Flo’s car was returned. We said some of our goodbyes – to Mrs. Brennan, Bridey, Jacqueline, and a couple of dogs and a couple of neighborhood children who seemed to be hanging around the front to see the Americans! Then off we went with Flo to Johnstown where Rosemary was expecting us for lunch even if, she said, we didn’t arrive until midnight.
     Right away Rosemary, a truly charming and vivacious and fun-loving girl, opened beer for us. Her husband’s butcher shop is next door to her house and he came in to meet us – his name is Paschal Tynan. Their home is so cozy and secure to our minds. I can’t describe it, but I will say that it looks like a home where love lives.  Everyone seems happy and fun-loving.
     Our lunch was delicious, beefsteak, peas, and boiled potatoes. Dessert was a combination of jello and cake, topped with ice cream. Farewell time came too soon and I should die if I thought I’d never see Rosemary again … and my girlfriend, Jacqueline. Incidentally, Rosemary’s mother telephoned her while we were there; Rosemary talked to Jacqueline and Jacqueline said, “I am lonesome for George!”
     We went to the shop and said goodbye to Paschal. And then to Rosemary and the girls. Rosemary gave me a little package which I’ve found contains fifty Players cigarettes, the brand I’ve taken up as I’ve run out of the Camels I bought on Icelandic Airlines.
     Flo brought us to Cashel, where there are exquisite ruins for us to visit, some from the 9th century. We said good-bye to her and her two little girls; she said we must come again, and stay with her next time. I forgot to mention that Flo earlier had given Dennis and me each a little doll dressed in the native Irish costume.
     I’m so happy! These words are inadequate to convey to anyone my happiness. I shall become sentimental and say that sometimes when I’m riding through the green hills of Eire I actually feel that I’m a little boy again and that all the world is mine. And while riding I invariably feel sleepy and almost feel as if it is 1948 and we are riding in our 1936 Chevrolet and because I am sleepy I can lean my head on Dad and have a nap, while Tommy, an older brother, is driving. It’s a strange and wonderful feeling to have at the age of 26!
     And somehow, sadly, we realize that the highlight of our journey is in our past. All those wonderful moments in Kilkenny will never occur again the way they did this time. We entered Kilkenny as strangers on Wednesday; now it is Saturday and we love some people there. For that is all we can say: we love the people who gave us so much kindness and friendliness.
     Now Cashel. We checked at four bread & breakfast places and then came back to the first one. A nice room in a place that has some gorgeous furniture, although neither Dennis nor I is interested in antiques, we both thought the twin chairs in the foyer were what we call sharp. I cannot, of course, describe them. After putting our packs in our room we went to a pub, had two beers, and now, at 11PM, it’s time to go to sleep.
[Note in 2017: It amazes me that on what was one of the most memorable times of my life, I took no pictures, not of Flo, not of Rosemary, not of anyone.  I don't know what I was thinking ... no film? ... having too much fun to think of needing a reminder of it? ... I just am kind of stunned that, for whatever reason, my camera went unused in Kilkenny. And just now, on Oct.14, 2017, I note that in my next entry, I bought a roll of film in Cashel, so presume I needed it in Kilkenny but just didn't get it bought.]

August 11, 1966
     Outside the town of Cashel, north, is a huge rock, upon which are well preserved ruins of a cathedral, a palace, two towers, and Cormac’s Chapel. We have just visited for nearly two hours and now are having minerals on the terrace of a little shop. The sun is very bright – I can hardly stand the glare of it on this white sheet.

Dennis on Rock of Cashel
     It’s a fascinating place. We went to the top and the view is tremendous – green hills on three sides and the village on the other. These old places fascinate me – the all rock construction, the dark passageways, the winding stairs, often very steep and very dark. I can’t begin to record all the interesting points about the Rock of Cashel – it would become a many-paged guide book. But I’ll mention some highlights. In the North Transept of the Cathedral is a stone about three feet high on which is carved an image of the Goddess of fertility – this stone is placed on a ledge about fifteen feet above the floor. She has an ugly face, huge breasts, a swollen womb, and, as a symbol of virginity, the legs are grotesquely twisted. This stone was discovered buried under the floor of the Round Tower ninety years ago. It was customary to bury the evil people face down, and that is how this stone was buried. Neither of our guidebooks mentions this small statue and our knowledge of it comes from a chemist in town where we’d bought film; he’d told us where to find it and to be sure to see it.
     Carmac Chapel is a cute little building, beautifully constructed of stone. Each stone on the inside has designs on it, and each design is supposedly from a different craftsman. The architecture, a book tells me, resembles the Romanesque of the Rhineland. One of the stones inside in an inner doorway has carved on it an ugly face—smiling and with huge protruding teeth.
     When Ireland had Kings, Cashel was the residence of some of them. It was here that St. Patrick, in a.d. 450, baptized King Angus and received the King and “all his people” into the Church.
     Imagine all this on a rock overlooking the town; it’s an impressive place to see from near or from the south side of the village of Cashel.
Cork, August 14, 1966
     This is the second-largest city in Ireland and I’m uncertain as to why we’re here; we prefer visiting the small towns. We thumbed outside Cashel for 45 minutes and then a car with two ladies and a young boy lifted us all the way, some sixty miles, the longest lift we’ve gotten. Compared to Dublin this is a clean and pleasant city; we enjoyed walking around and window shopping.
     Yesterday three policemen in London were murdered and everyone has been alerted to watch for and beware of a bearded man. Dennis still has his beard; I shaved mine off on Tuesday. When we knocked at the door of this last bed and breakfast place, the lady peeked at us through the letter slot, and she connected us with the murder. But we told her we were from the U.S.A. and she made us prove it by showing our passports. When she saw my name was Fitzgerald she said her name was also Fitzgerald and thus she could not turn us away.
     We’re going out now and sit in the pub as we did last Sunday night – they’re open from five to nine p.m. on Sundays. The Irish national drink, Guinness, is too bitter tasting but I like some of the light beers.
Ballyvourney, August 15, 1966
     The landlady in Cork had a great accent and I could understand only about one word in ten. So the visiting she did this morning at breakfast was mostly in vain. She was friendly enough, though, and after I admired her Fitzgerald Coat of Arms that hung on the wall she gave me a smaller one made of plastic. She brought her parakeet into the room and it promptly flew out of its cage and lit on Dennis’s shoulder and began saying its name – Jackie!
     We walked to the end of the city and promptly got a ride right to Blarney Castle, five miles north. It’s quite an impressive building, particularly from the front when much of the lower half is hidden by large trees. Some of the walls are a fourteen foot thickness of concrete! You go up winding enclosed cement stairs and can stop on many landings and see in some of the rooms – a couple of them were cute little bedrooms with the walls rounded up to a point at the top. At the end of the stairs you come out onto the open top of the castle and this is where we kissed the Blarney Stone – an act that according to legend makes you gabby or gives you keen abilities to persuade. Contrary to what you hear and contrary to many guidebooks the kissing of the stone is not dangerous. You set on your rear, lean back over an opening while an attendant hangs onto you; you have your hands on two iron bars above the stone; then you slide down and kiss the stone which is just above an opening in the castle wall on the level below. But if you did slide you’d have only a foot to fall and what with all the bars and so forth it’s unlikely that anyone could fall. But a man who gave us a ride later today said that 30 or 40 years ago a few people were killed – evidently before the bars were installed.
     We had two minerals as the day was very hot; then we got another quick lift back to the center of Cork. Then we walked to the opposite city edge that we had walked to earlier and began thumbing. Our first ride was only four miles. We then lay on a concrete abutment for an hour reading our novels and then waiting for nearly an hour for our next ride, which was by an Englishman on holiday – although he had three of his children and a friend with him he was still kind enough to let us pile in. We sat in the backseat, I on Dennis’s lap, next to two very poised and interesting girls of about 22.
     They let us off here and we first planned to go on to Killarney, seventeen miles further, but a lady in a grocery told us of this guest house which charges only 15 shillings, so we decided to spend the night here. We were served tea in the dining room, then walked to the bridge over the creek off a side road where we read some more – it was very beautiful scenery from the bridge, each way you looked there were green mountains and then the water flowing over stones below us. And as soon as you jumped off your seat on the bridge the noise of the water flowing seemed instantly far away.
Killarney, August 16, 1966
     Within a minute after we began thumbing this morning we were picked up by two men and brought here. We had tea, and I had two cheese and tomato sandwiches. We got a room and some of our tiredness caught up with us – we lay on the bed for over an hour and washed out our clothes before we left the room. Then we walked around the town and had tea, bread, butter and jam, a double helping of it. Then we took what is called a jaunting car – a horse pulling a buggy – on a ride through Kenmore Estate – it was not worth the $1.40 each we paid because we could easily have walked where it took us, but we did have what is the most beautiful scene of anywhere I’ve ever been – and that was a view of green mountains shrouded in fog and clouds across Lough Lean. Then we came back to our room, slept for two more hours, then went to two pubs. At the last one, as soon as the bartender found out we were Americans, he insisted on playing a tape of some bad voiced friend of his singing Irish songs – if we had planned on a second drink there this would certainly have changed our minds. That joker was too friendly for our taste. [In 2017 I don't know what I meant by that last comment!]
     In the morning, Tralee, only 20 miles north and a little west of here.
Tralee, August 17, 1966
     I had often imagined that this would be a pretty little town surrounded by beautiful green hills. But it has in fact a population of around 11,000 and there is not much quaintness about it – it looks as progressive as any city I’ve seen in Ireland. And it is very clean and there is much painting going on, apparently getting the town ready for the Festival of Kerry, which is a celebration somehow connected with the song “The Rose of Tralee” and which will commence later this month. But the green hills are true and they are beautiful, especially on a damp day like today when some of the hills are hidden in mist and clouds.
     We waited slightly over two hours for our ride here, as the road was peppered with hikers on this side of Killarney. We were lucky to get a ride at all.
     Our room is nice and is 17/6, about as inexpensive as we’ve gotten except for the 15 shilling room night before last. Right after we deposited our packs in our room we went to the rectory of the main Catholic Church where, we had been instructed, we should ask for Mr. Joe Doyle, who would check on birth records for me. A maid answered our knock and said that Mr. Doyle was not there but we should come in and maybe someone else there could help us. We were ushered into a small room off the hall that was furnished with only a round wooden table and three chairs. In a moment a priest in his black cassock, who appeared to be about 40, came in and we stood up. He was very kind, asking what we thought of Ireland and of the people. I gave him information about the birth records of my father that I wanted and he wrote notes on a piece of scrap paper and told us to come back at 2 o’clock Friday and he’d have the information for us. He said the church birth records go back to about 1770 and it would be easy to find the name of Dad’s parents except that Fitzgerald is such a common name here.
     Then we splurged on a dinner, but we’ve done so much economizing that we can afford it. I paid $1.12 for a cheese omelette, a large serving of chips, bread, butter, and tea.
     But worse than that extravagance I later paid 80-cents for a pack of stale Lucky Strikes. I ran out of American cigarettes last Saturday and have had nothing satisfactory since. I certainly can’t afford another pack of 80-cents cigarettes so guess I’ll have to cut out smoking. Even plain English cigarettes are 50-cents a pack, more or less.
     And worse than the above two items, I went in a pub tonight and thinking of having a Bloody Mary I ordered gin and tomato juice rather than vodka. Dennis thought it was very funny. It tasted bloody awful and I did not drink it. The lady looked at me rather funnily when I ordered it but I never thought I’d make such a stupid mistake. I knew well what a Bloody Mary is!
Limerick, August 20, 1966
     We actually left Limerick some 15 minutes ago, are on a train heading for Dublin. It is an uneven ride and too difficult to write so I’ll continue reading Lions and Shadows by Christopher Isherwood.
Dun Loaghaire, August 21, 1966
     We were in Tralee and on Thursday there it rained practically all day and we did nothing worth noting unless it was our visit to Rathass Church, a mile east of town. We saw the ruins of a 9th century church, but there wasn’t much left to admire – only the two ends standing, and a doorway in each of them. But it was possible to imagine how it once was and it is interesting to wonder how they built it and to notice the size which, considering the vastness of some ruins we’ve seen, was very small. Surrounding the church, as usual, is a cemetery, and we walked around it, noticing many Fitzgeralds, and Dennis noticed the strange practice of recording only the date of death on the marker, and, since part of the fun of walking through a cemetery is to see how old such and such a person was, it isn’t nearly so interesting; the date of birth seems more important to me.
     On Friday morning we visited St. John’s church in Tralee, a building 109 years old which recently has been renovated. It is, on the interior, the most beautiful church I’ve ever been in. The colors are light and the place is huge. The altar is about three quarters of the length up from the vestibule and is canopied, giving it the effect of theater-in-the-round.

St. John's Church; Tralee; 1966
     At 2 o’clock we knocked on the rectory door and were again led into the sparse room; within a minute Father McCarthy came in – a very friendly man, and so kind; I was very impressed by his character and so was Dennis. An examination of five years of birth records around the time of Dad’s birth had revealed seven Thomas Fitzgeralds. And the only one near May 20th in 1878 was born on 17 December, the son of John Fitzgerald and Catherine (Slattery), who lived at Lisbusa, a place in the country near Tralee. So it is likely that Dad was from the countryside around Tralee and was registered in the records of a parish nearby. Father McCarthy took us into the sacristy and showed us the birth records – huge ledgers with fancy penmanship. He said that if I want to investigate further that he’d be glad to assist, and that I should write directly to him. If only the priest at our church in Warsaw, the awful Father Reddington, were like Father McCarthy.
     We left Tralee at six p.m. and two rides got us no further than Castleisland, only twelve miles away. We stood outside this town until dark, at which time we walked into town and got a room above a pub. The pub owner’s son talked with us for about an hour – he was very smart, has been to England “a dozen times” and, of course, all the things he said about life in London interested us, since we’re going to be living there soon.
     In the morning, after the best breakfast we’ve had – we even ate the fried tomatoes – we stood in the rain for an hour and a half and finally got a ride to Limerick with a couple who were here on holiday from Glasgow, Scotland. They were very nice, as almost everyone we’ve met has been; he is a professor of mathematics at a university in Glasgow.
     At Limerick we got thoroughly drenched standing along the road and after two hours we gave up and took the 3:30 train to Dublin.

     [I didn’t continue my diary after Dennis and I went to London, where we found a flat in Kilburn and stayed through until close to the end of October. I gave my written diary to my mother. She wrote on the last page of it: 

     February 10, 1984 – This letter from Amsterdam was written following a subsequent visit by George to Ireland and he continues his story of his pen pal Flo Brennan and tells of the death of Flo’s sister Rosemary, so I thought I should add it to his story. I really wish he’d continued it (the diary). (Signed) Iris Fitzgerald.
     When I found my diary in her home after her death, I saw that she’d tucked in an Oct. 28, 1977, letter I’d written to her from Amsterdam, reporting that my brother Gerald and I had been in Ireland and found our Dad’s birthplace:
     Dear Mother – Gerald and I had a very nice and interesting time in London and Ireland, including seeing the remains of the house Dad was born in! We spent only two days in London, taking in the sights, then on train and boat to Dublin. There at the official records place we got Dad’s birth certificate, but he was born on May 20, 1878, rather than in 1879, as I’d written down. He was the son of Francis Fitzgerald and Mary Bunyan, born in a small town called

Castlegregory, about 15 miles west of Tralee on a quite mountainous peninsula. Francis Fitzgerald was a farmer. So we rented a car and drove first to Kilkenny to visit my pen pal Flo. Went to her mother’s house and was shocked and saddened to learn that Flo’s sister Rosemary died four years ago, age 37, of cancer. I liked Rosemary so much, you can read in my 1966 diary what a good time Dennis Little and I had with her. But Flo came into town for the evening with the two oldest of her children, which were all she had in 1966, but now has 8 more, including a set of twin boys! Her husband is a dairy farmer. Flo does just fine with her big family, despite, as she put it, having 200 fingers, 20 ears, 10 faces, and so forth to wash on bath day! Her oldest child is 14 or so. We went to a bar for drinks and had a nice reunion. Then Gerald and I drove to Castlegregory. We were very lucky and almost immediately met a couple in their fifties who as things turned out both would be our distant cousins. They were Michael and Eileen Killiher. She was a Fitzgerald and her mother was also so they themselves were 3rd or 4th cousins to each other. Michael remembered his dad talking about our dad and dad’s mother, Mary Bunyan. Dad was very young and was nicknamed Crumper because he had bad feet – Crumper being a Gaelic word for someone who has bad feet! Dad had older brothers & sisters who all went to America. Then his father was killed as a result of an accident, either falling off a hay wagon or loading things onto a train. He leg was injured and gangrene set in. So after he died Dad’s oldest brother, Frank, came from the states and took Mary Bunyan (his mother) and her son, our Dad, to America to be near her other children.

The next day in Castlegregory Michael took Gerald and me to see where Dad had lived – all that remains of it is a piece of stone wall and some stone fence and a rusted iron gate, all out in the middle of a field. But it was nice to see it, and we had our pictures taken in front of it. Now I’m in Amsterdam; Gerald has returned to London to catch his flight home. Write me to address on outside if you like (c/o American Express, Promenadeplatz; Munich, Germany). Will drop postcards on my travels. Love, George