Ed Schafer Letters
January 2nd, 1946
This is just a feeler to get you properly located. If it reaches you O.K., drop me a line and I’ll write at greater length. A bunch of publications in the Malay language which I sent you long ago too your old Navy address were returned to me “addressee unknown” or words to that effect. I have tried calling BuPers, but they have a whole rafter of J. Murrays and were unable to tell me which as the most likely candidate. So I hope this will reach you via your old homestead. I am particularly interested in hearing from you now, because I plan to move to Berkley, California in about a month, and before then we may be able to make a short trip to New York—if so, we’d like to see you and your wife and baby, and have the celebration we planned long ago.
I’ll reserve the details of my autobiography until I hear from you—then I’ll give you a conscientious lowdown. Hope you and family are flourishing. All is well at this end.
Lt.Cdr.Edward H. Schafer Jr. USNR,
1460 Channing St. NE,
Washington 18, D.C.
Christ, it looks like anybody can be a J.g nowadays– when will the Navy learn to discriminate between the deserving and the hacks? Nonetheless– appropriate congratulations on this, and also on your state of wedlock, and the embryonic Murray too.
You ask about Hitchcock and Co.– well, Hitc is here with me, and Co. is having the time of her life in Washington, somewhat to Hitch’s annoyance. I fear me. He and I share a couple of rooms dignified by the title of “suite,” and by god it’d be a fine place to thrash over old times and contemplate the new, if only you’d get a chance to drop in at Navy 139 one fine day. There are few suggestions of home thought– except for the Chinese scroll and the big goudy print of the Guardian God, which you may remember from Cambridge– these and a few of my favorite books arrived only a week ago, having been over 6 months en route, a sort of new record I think. Hitch and I work like veritable bastards, and we’re both sort of thin and grey around the gills from lack of sleep and repeated 16 hour sessions at the treadmill. Naturally we envy like hell what we imagine to be your carefree (relatively) and healthy life aboard ship, and would give our right arms and maybe even our best liquor to get out of this hole, particularly as there is little love lost between us and the Australians, a theme on which we could expatiate for hours, but I’ll spare you this.
Among the few relics that came in my sea-chest I find 1) “The Land of Unreason” illustrated by Cartier– which I still insist is a masterpiece of storytelling. 2) The sketch you did of an imaginary (I suppose) wench with pointed ears, pointed chin, great eyes, and most delectable breasts– Hitch and I are trying to find an appropriate bit of wall to attach this to I hopes of shocking the prim old gal who “does for us.” By god—those were fantastic nights with the cheap wine, the familiars, and the ukelele!
Astonished to find you studying Malay too. What brought you to this state of things? Hitch and I continue to bang away at it sporadically, fortified with some little volumes of the “Malay-made-easy” type, which are unscientific and unsympathetic as hell, and the little ole’ dictionary I bought in Hawaii years agoWhat we lack is texts to practice on, which we long since exhausted the little tales in the back of the grammar– and opportunities for speaking are scarce, except with the refuge-colonial-Dutch, whom we avoid like the plague, being as how they are mostly extremely snobbish, “native-hating” and addicted chiefly to memories of the gay old days in Soerabaja with lots of servants, lots of gin, and no thoughts in particular. There is, I understand, a Javanese here who gives Malay lessons, and if Hitch and I can arrange an hour or so weekly, we may investigate his pedagogy.
By the way, if you can use any books, let me know and I’ll send you some. There’s not much choice here, but I could probably find something to keep your little mind busy once in a while.
Well, tell me more about this Virginia; all I can get from your letter is that she cares about books and records, which is not surprising, since I hardly suppose you’d make the jump with someone who sniffed at such things. Where did you meet her? What’s she like? We must have a gigantic weekend in New York one find day. You & Virginia & Donna & me– with champagne, shows, art galleries, French restaurants and all the rest– howaboutit?
Most of my time not at work I spend writing to the lass, with a phenomenal productivity I must tell you– sent my 100th letter yesterday. It’s a good thing, this marriage, and I’m faintly astonished, in view of our Cambridge discussions about the emotionally biased content of conversation with women (you recall the remarkable Jeannie?), to find that it’s possible to have such a solid, intelligent friendship with someone you’re quite in love with. You no doubt know what I mean.
The brat is expected any week now, and I’m gnawing my knuckles through waiting for the fateful dispatch– giving sex, weight, number of heads, and like essentials.
Well, Whaths, write at length, chum, if you can spare the time from your heroic activities.
PS: What the devil is the (N) in AV(N)?
Most pleased to get your mis-spelled scrawl, which I am answering at this early date only because you seemed anxious to get Virginia’s pictures back, knowing how much these ghostly representations mean to a man. In some miptical, intuitive way I feel that it’s the picture of just the kind of girl I would have expected you to marry. This is strange, since I can’t remember you even going into visible raptures over a similar creature in the past. Anyhow, the aspect of her is most pleasing, and I offer innumerable felicitations and much joy of her.
The chief news at this end is that I became a father at about 7:15 P.M. March 9th (E.S.T.), an event I remained unaware of until 2:15 A.M. March 12th (whatever time we circulate in here), when I was roused for a perfectly good dream to be told by the watch officer that things of interest had happened in the old homeland and did I want to listen? I did. The news came by Navy Dispatch, an arrangement I had worked out long in advance, but even so took an incredibly long time getting here. I don’t know why they couldn’t have written “Operational Priority” all over it, but you know how stuffy some people are about really important things. The brat was female, and weighed only 6 pounds– a most insignificant wench. The name we agreed upon in advance, when we found that no amount of crystal-balling would give us a clear estimate of its sex- so we hit on Tamlin (Irish name) which being relatively unknown to the masses would do equally well for boy or girl, also capable of numerous abbreviations, quite untwistable into obscene or slanderous epithets. And remarkably euphorious of later events I know very little, since Donna couldn’t write immediately, being somewhat dazed and shaken by this & that so that all I have are some gory details from her mother. A most unlovely little animal I have procreated, buy all indications.
Hitch & I were both horribly amused by your griping about the miseries of life on a CV. Come now, my young hero, octave will make a man of you, lube oil will stiffen your muscles– you will be in infinitely better shape a year from now, than either of us, with our tissues rotting form overdoses of Old Rarity and Johnny Walker—pernicious stuff– we would be, well rid of it.
Aneut the Malay and you complaint that you lack reading material– we are thinking seriously of consulting the Dutch propaganda agency, here and taking out a subscription to Malay periodical which is allegedly circulated among the loyal Javanese in this area. We have not bestirred ourselves greatly over this yet– but we may in time. In which event, would you like us to arrange to forward some of this staff to you? The problem of the dictionary is somewhat more difficult– we have only one, which we will never part from. But maybe we can find another somewhere, who knows? Will inform you anon.
Do you have any experience with Australians? Probably not, oh fortunate soul!! Every day, in some new way. Here’s an incidient which provokes us to renew our oath to open up this country to unlimited Japanese immigration after the war in the hope that it’ll improve the stock. Actually we’re not very optimistic of the prospects of any such improvement by whatever means. The least of our worries intellectually (tho’ not so soothing emotionally) is the strong anti-foreign prejudice among the bulk of the populace, which often takes the form of “Damn the blood Americans,” and beatings-up in back alleys by groups of thick-skulled Aussies. More important, and almost as provoking to American sensibilities, is the intense resolution prevailing among all classes that they will never, never sacrifice a Saturday afternoon, a Sunday, or any of the immensely frequent holiday, for the war. So we trudge off to work 7 days a week, while the good neighbours throng the race-tracks, the chief source of cultural uplift here– they go on lend-lease gasoline too. Alas music, literature, painting + related interests are widely considered to be pailor amusements for women, or sickly undernourished and undermuscled and very-unaustralian youths. All of this, and many other things, do not make our stay here a thing of beauty + joy forever– hence our impassioned wish that we might be on any old fub or any old island– anywhere but the Great Fighting Democracy. These recriminations will sound a little harsh and unbalanced to you, but I assure I came to this place with an open mind, hoping to find a land of promise, and hence it is all disillusionment, not prejudice. If old the Australians would do something, instead of laughing at Americans for being over-active, over-interested imbeciles!
Enough of this.
Do you read detective stories or the like? I might mail you some at small expense, if they’d help to break the weary hours on the salt, salt, sea.
Cheers for now,