Miss one? Check the chronological list.
The short-form letter writing doesn’t last long as our hero bounces back to his usual long-winded style.
October 25, 1960
I’m writing this while the maid is cleaning the room.
A MAID. IN COLLEGE! HOW IS THIS REAL LIFE!
If I’m not careful, she’ll sweep me out of here.
I mean, she might sweep you out the room, but she certainly won’t compete with you for jobs.
I need to lie down.
I sympathize with your situation entirely. I feel like I’ve been through a wringer, and all I’ve got to look forward to is hours, hours, and hours of work.
BUT NONE INVOLVE CLEANING.
I’ve got an hourly exam Friday and a week from tomorrow. The math exam bothers me most, because I am not prepared nearly as well as I would like to be and have only a relatively vague understanding of the miserable thing. We’ll see what happens. Maybe I worry too much.
Maybe it’s because you don’t have any actual worries.
And serving as the final touch you are 130 miles away. If I weren’t going home this weekend, I wouldn’t last as a sane, rational human being until Thanksgiving.
Curse the Alum. Board members. Standard future excuse: “I’ve got to leave town to visit a sick friend very close to death.” (You really would only be telling a smile lie. I’m not close to death exactly.)
Karen’s a “hostess” at St. Xav’s, which probably means she has to clean the Alum. Board’s houses because it’s 1960. I’m not clear, but I’m guessing it involves grunt work on top of school work. [And it does! See her list of duties here.]
I’ve got to run to my 2 o’clock class. See you (on paper) in an hour.
Classes are over for the day, thank the powers that be.
Re: excuses: This simplest one is: “I have plans already made which cannot be changed.” Can’t argue with that one. Especially if you don’t mention exactly what the plans are. Memorize these excuses now so that they become reaction to unpleasant requests.
This is not terrible advice, actually. If Karen was a people-pleaser (as I suspect), she’d have a tough time juggling her responsibilities. I’m guessing Bev just did whatever the hell she wanted, which is why I’m Team Bev.
Enough crying over spilt milk, though. It was a beautiful day, but we will see each other next Friday, Saturday and Sunday? Now you can’t back out. You got yourself into having me, haven’t you?
There are a few ways to read this but without Karen’s letter for context, I’m going to assume she’s overbooked and wants to spend time with her boyfriend because surely making out is much better than hearing his opinions on The State of the World in 1960.
You must have been studying too hard before you wrote the letter you sent and wrote “When you come home this weekend go into hibernation until you have to go back to school.” in a state of derision.
This made me laugh out loud because I just imagined her being like: AND DON’T COME OUT UNTIL YOU SEE THE ERROR OF YOUR WAYS.
Maybe you didn’t know what you were writing. In any case the idea does not strike me as very good. It’s not sleep I need so much as relaxation anyway. And I get that best with you.
One more derogatory remark about your appearance and you get spanked.
(re: Your dress: “I look like a blimp in it!”) (ref: Previous letter by this author regarding his favorite people and uncomplimentary remarks.) This is intolerable. Especially in writing where it’s permanent. I am confident that I can refute any arguments contrary to the observations that you are beautiful, impressively so. Your ancestors would turn over in their graves if they heard you make such remarks.
Russ has a weird thing about their ancestry, no? Also, ugh, Karen has such low self-esteem! I’m pretty sure self-loathing was the emotion I felt most keenly at 19, so I can’t say much about it. Still. Aww, Karen.
Incidentally, the saleswoman didn’t know what she was talking about.
It is you who will enhance the dress. If the dress is good-looking, which I’m sure it is since you picked it out, then it was chosen for you by fate to bring out all the dress’s better qualities.
And I’m not the only who thinks so. Everybody who sees your pictures remarks upon my good fortune. This sort of attention is not to be ignored. Do not be influenced by the remarks of the jealous peasants such as Ellen A__, and others whose names I do not know. I must stop now, or you’ll begin to think yourself too good for me.
Actually, Ellen may have been a mean girl in 1960, but she went on to get advanced degrees from both the University of North Carolina and Tulane. She also studied at Oxford. She was a lifelong learner and teacher. She also had a long-running TV series about books on a local TV station in North Carolina! She died at the age of 71 in 2014.
O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close
In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,
Or wait the “Amen,” ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities.
Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes;
Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul.
And another poem follows:
When the lamp is shattered
The light in the dust lies dead –
When the cloud is scattered,
The rainbow’s glory is shed.
When the lute is broken,
Sweet tones are remembered not;
When the lips have spoken,
Loved accents are soon forgot.
As music and splendour
Survive not the lamp and the lute,
The heart’s echoes render
No song when the spirit is mute –
No song but sad dirges,
Like the wind through a ruined cell,
Or the mournful surges
That ring the dead seaman’s knell.
When hearts have once mingled,
Love first leaves the well-built nest;
The weak one is singled
To endure what it once possessed.
O Love! who bewailest
The frailty of all things here,
Why choose you the frailest
For your cradle, your home, and your bier?
Its passions will rock thee,
As the storms rock the ravens on high;
Bright reason will mock thee,
Like the sun from a wintry sky.
From thy nest every rafter
Will rot, and thine eagle home
Leave thee naked to laughter,
When leaves fall and cold winds come.
Percy Bysshe Shelly
I’m such a busy copy and paster of poetry these days. Weird the way life turns.
Hmm, I wonder how that presidential election is going in 1960? God knows we don’t get enough politic coverage in our lives in 2018!
Sen. Kennedy just issued the statement that Vice-President Nixon is totally uninformed on the American position abroad. Vice-President Nixon has done similar things. Why must political campaigns include these ridiculous statements.
I sorta wish I’d found these letters two years ago, and Russ and I could have started a cross-generational podcast about politics. That would have gone well.
As Vice-President of the United States, a man couldn’t possibly be uninformed on our position abroad. Even the average college student has a fairly accurate knowledge of that. Certainly, one can claim Sen. Kennedy’s observation to be true, but he would be unrealistic.
The same applies to Nixon’s statements about Kennedy. Some of them may be similarly classified as ridiculous and unrealistic. “Mud-slinging” is childish and should be out of place with men aspired the presidency.
Just gonna take a second to let that “men” aspired to the presidency thing sink in after last week’s screed.
Maybe Eric Hass will get elected and all our election problems will be solved. For a long, long time.
Just when I think I have Russ figured out, he throws me a curveball.
I wonder how the election of Eric Hass would strike the rest of the world. The proletariat could rise against the tyranny of the aristocracy. That would shake up the rest of the world considerably.
Russ is a proto Bernie Bro?
Everybody should make it a point to find out what Mr. Hass’ views on education, foreign policy, national defence, business, etc. are. Maybe a big campaign in his behalf would keep things alive around here. Give the students something to do and the Chicago Tribune something to write about.
Fun fact: Socialist Labor Party candidate Eric Hass got 47,522 votes in the 1960 election. I also read that after the surge in socialism of the 1930s, it plummeted in the 50s (obvi) and while the hippies were into them for a hot minute in the late 1960s (the old guard didn’t want to share their meager power with the Flower Children, I guess), they never really got it together and pretty much have disappeared as a party in the 2000s.
Dinner is calling, but I’d rather continue writing. However, I must go soon or the cafeteria will close and I will go hungry. This might not be a bad idea considering the quality of MRH food.
He switches gears here and it must be in relation to Karen’s talking about changes to their hometown of Evergreen Park:
Hey! Evergreen Park has good streets now. Are you complaining about our nice, new streets? Don’t complain about the old ones, either. They gave Evergreen Park a great deal of distinction. They suppressed that “metropolitan look” and made it look suburban. Now that we have our streets and curbs we have lost a great deal of “character.” We’re just part of the city. Evergreen Park does not stand out from all the other parts of Chicago around it anymore. This is a great loss.
And he switches topics again:
So who needs Gina? (re: the dance). Look who I’ll be there with.
So, I’ll be on display, eh? Should I bring my display case and name plate? (This isn’t meant sarcastically; It’s just a good opening for some more nonsense.) If this is to be the case then I want the proper tour guides and background. Actually, maybe you shouldn’t have told me. Whenever I’m on display and know it I always manage to make the worst impression.
That’s because you’re a prig, as my grandmother might say.
After Saturday night, all your friends may be wondering what ever possessed you to encourage such an excuse for a man. Beverly’s original conception of myself might then be everyone’s conception — without exception. (Alliteration without even trying. Illiterate alliteration.) (I’ve been studying too hard.)
My instructors want everybody to cut off the ends of their fingers and write exams with that instead of ink and pencil. We have very colorful instructors at the U. of I. The idea of exams signed and written in blood appeals to them. They feel this would be in keeping with the type of studying they require to pass the things.
Tomorrow, I have ROTC at 8 o’clock in the morning. At least you don’t have to put up with that Mickey Mouse.
Right. Because women weren’t allowed in the ROTC until 1972.
I think I left off the last page of my last letter.
WHEW, I THOUGHT I LOST IT.
I put it in an envelope this morning so hurriedly I forgot to notice if I had completed the letter the night before. Takes all kinds of brains. In any case, if you were wondering what happened or what I was trying to do, that’s the explanation. A very simple-minded, stupid mistake.
Incidentally, I’m going to put his letter in the mailbox tonight. I would like to know exactly when it arrives. Unfortunately, I don’t think they send any mail out of Champaign-Urbana before 12:00 noon or after 4:30 p.m. but this is one way to find out. Maybe I can get one-day service to Chicago. One wouldn’t think this is so difficult considering that there is only 130 miles between here and Chicago. Not exactly commuter distance, but not a huge amount of feet either.
I keep thinking about Oct. 28-30. This is a red letter day in this semester. Three days to go. Now I’m going to have to get next weekend out of my mind, partially anyway, and study math for awhile.
Oct. 26, 1960
Studying math carried right up till 12 o’clock last night and with my 8 o’clock this morning I needed sleep. Damn the Illinois Central. I can’t get a train out of here until 5:30 Friday. I led a cursed life. We’ll get this out in this afternoon’s mail.
See you in 2 days. Auf wiederschauen. Be good and take care of yourself.
Love and kisses,
Next week: Russ is super insanely in love with Karen after their Halloween weekend meetup.