July 9, 1944 to July 12, 1944
Sunday, July 9, 1944
It is now 2:30 AM and I am on gangway watch. It’s not my turn, but Jack, who should be here, is out cold in his bunk from too much vino. So I’ll watch now and sleep in the morning instead of vice versa.
Les and I had a most wonderful time this evening. Shortly after 8 this evening (Sat) we left the ship and headed for the residential section nearest the docks. Les was looking for a little kid who had acted as his guide the night before. The first thing, we were surrounded by about a dozen assorted urchins begging for matches and cigarettes. Les emptied a box of matches in the middle of them, but our cigarettes were too valuable. They bring 40 Lire a pack (40 cents) and our pockets were stuffed with them. Particularly mine, since I had no Italian money. Finally we found his guide’s house and his brother, but the kid was out. However, nothing would do but the brother (married) and a sister invited us in and gave us some sort of a fruit wine–sweet but very good. Les has a little language guide, and with its aid we constructed a conversation consisting of bongiorno (good day) and bona serro (good evening). Discarding the book he got across the idea of getting some laundry done. Presently we made our adieu, leaving a couple of packs of cigarettes.
We then wandered about for a bit, and a few minutes later found ourselves back in the same square (our wonderful sense of direction!). And the same brother smiled at us, slightly mystified. This time our conversation became financial, and he bought a carton of cigarettes from me for 400 Lire and made deals with Les for all sorts of merchandise to be delivered tomorrow, with the washing. This being done, we departed with more bona serro’s.
We were little more than out of the door when we met the guide, a kid of about 12 who understands a fair amount of English. However, he was on his way home, so no go for the night.
Our next encounter was an English sailor who begged for 10 lire, “You wouldn’t turn a Limey down, Sailor?” Having no small Italian change we satisfied him with 10 cents American money. In exchange he told us of a place a few blocks off where we might find someone who spoke English. We followed his directions, but the best we could locate was a fellow who spoke French about as well as Les and I did. Through him we secured the services of a 7 year old who, though he spoke no English, knew his way around. The French-speaking Italian had been a sailor in Genoa, but was no “rien”. It took some talking to get across the idea that we wanted a guide to show us around–not to find some women. But at length with merci’s and bon soir’s, we were on our way.
And then began the really incredible part of the night’s journey. How would you imagine the “native quarter” of a Mediterranean city, based on the movies and stories you’ve seen? Well, that’s exactly how it was. Buildings about 4 stories high in rows, narrow, poorly lighted, cobblestone alleys, turning impossible angles, stairs and turns and archways so that within two minutes you would be hopelessly lost, hordes of people in front of the buildings whose doors opened right in the street., a distinctive fragrance arising from all sides. To this normal scene add an occasional debris-littered hold, or blocked passage where a bomb (German bom-bom—never an American one!) had hit. This is the scene we went through–two Americans following a 7 year old boy, with no common language. I should have been scared to death, but I wasn’t in the least. We stopped once in a curio shop, full of religious statues which are so typical of Italy, yet are unacceptable as souvenirs because they are equally typical of some sections of New York. However, I bought a cute little pipe for Max, and Les bought a crucifix on a chain–each for 50 lire.
When we emerged from the store it was pitch dark, but we followed our guide trustingly, and he really showed us the place. We bought 50 lire worth of nuts somewhere, got mistaken for the police by one shop. Every once in a while a voice would break out lustily in song, and our passage was marked by exclamations of some sort–friendly, I imagine, since we’re still alive.
Finally, about 10:30 our guide took us to his casa where we were welcomed in whole-heartedly. They set bread and tomatoes and avocados and vino before us. There was a father (who was under 40), a mother, and some half-dozen bambinos. They all lived in a two room apartment meagerly furnished with 2 enormous beds and little else. Part of the ceiling had been torn away by a German bomb. The father was a stevedore on the docks, and may have been working on our ship. He looked familiar, but that proves nothing.
Here were these people, poor–destitute almost–by our standards. But mama with 7 children and (I think) another on the way was always smiling. The kids were happy and proud of the few English words they knew. Father was hospitality itself, though dressed only in his underwear. And they were all so friendly. Large glasses of vino, which they even tried to refill. And almost forcing us to eat something. And trying to carry on a conversation by gestures, book, and one kid who knew some American. And all so completely friendly. And so genuine. They would have been insulted if we’d given money. We gave our guide 50 lire and left our last package of cigarettes, but that so far from repaid for the friendship.
As we went to bed an hour later I said to Les, “There’s only one thing I regret–my wife wasn’t here to share it” and he said the same. Somehow hearing someone else miss their wife too made me feel less removed from you, Thea.
And so ended our night’s adventure. And the amazing thing was we returned home with more money than we started with. And since cigarettes cost us only 65 cents a carton, we actually showed a profit for the evening.
I don’t know what to think about that cigarette business. It’s not legal, of course, but everybody does it. If I didn’t buy the cartons and sell them, the purser would (in fact, being a purser or a steward is quite a profitable business!). But rather than casuistry I admit it’s probably wrong, but not very. And I’m not trying to make a profit–as many of the boys do. I just want to meet expenses while I’m here–and if I still have some left when I leave I’ll give ‘em away.
I’m glad I’m me! By that I mean I’m glad I’m not Tex or Duke or about half the crew. They go ashore for liquor and women–and maybe a fight. They spend maybe 1000 lire a night, come back singing and swaying, and wake up the next day feeling lousy. So tonight they do it all over again! To them this town is a dump. The vino’s no good (as it isn’t for steady drinking)–the women are dirty. T’hell with Bari. The thrilling trip through the residential district we took would be a complete waste of time to them. I repeat, I’m glad I’m me.
We arrived in Bari Friday. In case you don’t have an atlas handy, Bari is on the East coast, north of Brindisi, south of Foggia. That’s where they had the terrific air raid–17 ships, hundreds of men killed–several months ago. You can see the harbor lined with sunken ships.
Bari is primarily English controlled. There are some American troops, but not many. The ships are unloaded by Italian stevedores working under the supervision of English (Limey) soldiers. And it’s really funny to hear the limeys swear. Somehow the term “Bahstad” hardly strikes my ears as derogatory–merely amusing.
It was funny coming into Bari. Friday morning we were up bright and early and started to bring in the lifeboats. We had one all in and secure when the convoy all turns around and heads back for Brindisi and the captain says to put the boat back out. Which was no sooner done than the procedure was reversed again, and this time we really got there. Some other convoy coming out of the harbor was, I believe, responsible for the mix-up.
The sun is now beginning to rise. 5 AM and my watch is half over. Really though it’s a soft life. We can sit or stand–read, write, or talk. And this is our only work in port. And Sunday we get paid overtime for it. All I have to do is keep the gangway in sight and ask any Italians for their pass. And this watch I haven’t asked more than 2 or 3 so far.
I finished Don Quixote today. It’s really quite a book. The style is old-fashioned–all nouns capitalized and some funny spelling. At first it’s annoying, but once I got used to it, it added to the effect. Part of the satire was lost, of course, since I never heard of the romantick novels it ridiculed. And the second part seemed a bit too long. But on the whole it’s a very amusing book and worth the reading. It’s a book to be read solely for enjoyment. At this date it inspires no philosophic reflections of any sort.
When I see people like we saw last night, it helps restore my faith in people. Some of the boys say why should we help the Italians–a few months ago they were killing Americans. But the every day common people weren’t fighting us. They may have been in the war as they were told to, but they had no quarrel with us. The hospitality and friendship they show us prove that. If only all Americans were worth that friendship! These people have more right to peace than we have. And with all they have suffered they can still smile. The brother and sister we visited first, for instance. Their grandparents are buried in the building they were bombed in–and it may well have been an American bomb that did it. I’m proud to be respected as an American–but I sometimes feel a little hypocritical when I see some of our samples of Americans.
Monday, July 10, 1944
“Lay that pistol down, babe, lay that pistol–Pistol packing mama, lay that pistol down”–No, darling, I’m not drunk. That’s what all the little bambino’s sing here. And have we seen bambinos. By the carload. Ragazzos and ragazzas and some we weren’t sure of. Sigaret? Sigaret? Even by little tots who can hardly talk. What a town–what a town.
Bill, Les, “Drydock” (a navy boy of whom I’ll say more some other time) and myself. We started out with a bag of laundry (and some cigarettes hidden within and made our way to Pepino’s house. Pepino is the little guide Bill and Les first acquired. His brother is Achille and his sister Luigia. We had previously dickered with Luigia to do our Laundry. We bargained with the father over our cigarettes, haggling for lire. Then they gave us some more of that wonderful brandy or whatever, and we passed around cigarettes and gum. We ate there and talked quite a while, Pepino and Bill acting as interpreters. In spite of our books and dictionaries, I’m not quite at home in the language! But we got along famously, and are invited for dinner tomorrow night.
Luigia, by the way, is 22, unmarried, and quite good looking. Les and I are rivaling for her affections. Just as a game dear, I assure you–at least on my part. I’ll let you know who wins, if either.
I have a strange feeling in my stomach. I’m sure it can’t have anything to do with the fact that since dinner I’ve had brandy, fruit, onions, vino, and walnuts! And I still have more money than I started with.
At one point in the evening we gave away ice cream. What a time. There were about 20 children in the store when we started and I’m sure over 70 when we finally desisted! I haven’t had so much fun in ages. And Bill shouting (in English) “I can lick any bum in the place” just for effect. Not that we were drunk, I assure you., just having a good time.
Another time we stood and listened to a man play a guitar. And he was good. Later a group of men were playing and singing an Italian version of Pistol Packing Mama.
We wandered around the same alleys and more, stopping when we see anything new and (ergo) interesting. We visited a magnificent church, being repaired from German bom-boms (the Americans dropped all theirs outside the city!). We tried intermittently and without success to find a Signorina for Drydock, who did not fully share our enjoyment, although he usually had an urchin or two in his arms.
The place is so artistic. The buildings at first glance look the same–but different curlicues and designs make them all different. Even the backboard of a vegetable cart wasn’t plain wood, but had a design carved on it. Everywhere is the religion. On walls are bas-reliefs of the Madonna with a candle-imitating light before it. Most of the houses we saw have their little shrine with a light burning. I wonder if it’s more a cause or an effect of their friendliness.
If this narrative seems a wee bit incoherent, blame it on the lack of sleep. I’ve had a total of about 5 hours since Friday night and it’s now 3AM Monday. I’m on the 2-8 watch again. But I’ll catch up when we get back to sea. Now there’s too much to see and do.
This afternoon Les and I wandered about. Les got a haircut which should cost (as he found later) 7 lire, but he handed in about a 50 lire note and got no change. A little guide led us around and kept talking about Signorina’s but ended up by taking us to his home and trading some vino for some cigarettes. We then wandered about and saw a sign that said “Bathing Beach”. It looked far away so we stuck out our thumbs and a couple of Canadians picked us up in the Phaete. When we got there we found there were no suits to hire, so we wandered about and thumbed back, getting a ride in the back of a truck. While there we bought some ice cream, which tastes a little as though it were made of buttermilk, although I don’t suppose it is. It’s peculiar but rather refreshing. We have more fun doing nothing. I do so wish you were here to make my happiness complete.
Ten P.M.”¨Â Â Â By the calendar it’s still the same day, but by all other criteria it’s the next one. I didn’t write much before because I was too tired to think straight. Read a bum mystery instead. When I finally went to bed at 8, I slept like a log until 2.
Bill and I spent the afternoon trying to mail some letters to you. That is, I tried and Bill came along. He said he hoped you appreciated the miles he walked on your behalf! First we just asked for Post Office–and got a little Italian hole-in-the-wall which was no help. Another long walk and we found the YMCA (British) which directed us to the Post Office. Turned out to be the main Italian PO, which, after much haggling, gave me a couple of stamps, but left the general impression that all was not OK. So we travelled a bit further to a British APO. After a long wait in line, we got the info that we needed an American APO, which was somewhere. A few blocks brought us to the American Red Cross, where we got directions to the American APO as being 4 blocks away. We walked 6, and found it! So 2 hours after we started, we put the letters in the mail. I hope you get them OK.
We got back to the ship just in time to clean up for our dinner date. I dressed up all spic and span in my new uniform and mustache to impress Luigia, and Les did likewise. Bill looked like a tramp in comparison, but since he was the only one who spoke the language, we were glad he wasn’t in the competition. We brought bread, meat, cheese, olives, fruit, coffee, canned milk with us. But it seems we were misunderstood, since the dinner was composed solely of our offerings and I had been looking forward to some real Italian cooking. We were further disappointed in that the women didn’t eat with us.
However, we really had a marvelous time. We’re not taking this at all seriously, so her absence was as much fun as her presence. And we definitely don’t want to do anything which would lose the friendship of the family. They gave us wine with dinner and that brandy after–which is very good. I’m going to try and bring a bottle home with me. We left early–me to go on watch–Les and Bill to continue their tour of the town. Tomorrow we’re going to catch up on sleep, but Wednesday Les and I have a date (we think) to take Luigia and Achille to the movies or something. I’ll be sorry to leave this town.
The mailman brought good news again today. A letter each from Mary, Mother and you, dearest wife.
The watch (8-2 evening) is less serene, but more interesting. It is interesting watching how different people react when they’re drunk. But it reaffirms my decision to get drunk only in my own home if at all. I don’t care if you think I’m a damnfool, sweetheart. But when I see how most of them feel next morning, I don’t think I want to get drunk anywhere. But anyhow, the interruptions explain any lack on continuity. Or most of it.
That idea of an official labor representative in the state dept sounds pretty good. Organized labor is a powerful potential force and the more official representation that force has, the more chance there is of its being used wisely. Although, as you say, the particular men in it will be quite a factor.
The pressure behind the GI bill is not wise, I agree. The idea is politically to give them a lot of special privileges, instead of trying to honestly give them a better country to return to. But many of its provisions are, I feel, wise. After all, men have been taken from all different positions and responsibilities through no fault of their own and should be given every opportunity to get back on their own feet. But whatever it is should be a predetermined amount at the end of the war and not any long term pensions and bonuses. But, it has been done, so I hope they’ll include the Merchant Marine as well. Not that I feel we really deserve it. Sure, we’re subject to danger and all that, but we really do get more money and more freedom during the war. Of course, it would really be more fair if we got less now and the same advantages then–but I’m not complaining. I like the sea and I’m making out all right. So -why worry?
Tuesday, July 11, 1944
I’m mad. As fast as Italians build up my faith in human nature, Americans and British break it down. The seeds of the next war are being sown right here–and as far as I can see, they’re not being sown by Italians. In fact, it looks to me as though the chief difference between the German and Allied occupation is in theory rather than fact. That’s not entirely true. There probably are some of the higher officials who are more like Major Jopollo. But I’ve yet to meet any.
And it all seems so unnecessary. From the point of view of winning the war (not to mention the peace to follow) it would seem as though a kindness–a meeting halfway would be so much more efficient. Elementary psychology stresses the importance of both rewards and punishments. If the rewards are meager and the punishments great, the tendency would be to evade work and (more important) to engender hate.
It’s all the damn feeling of superiority. America is the biggest and the best and richest and…, therefore anything different is no good. And it isn’t really America that’s best. It’s the small particular segment of society we happen to come from. The Negroes, the Jews, the immigrants–they’re not different. They’re no good. With that attitude, the result is not surprising. Why bother to learn their language–it’s no good–and you can shout and gesture and threaten so they’ll eventually understand.
If they gesture friendship, it is rebuffed as impertinence and not knowing their place. It might be a little different if these people were savages. (The facts might be different, though the principles wouldn’t). But they’re not. Maybe they don’t have steam heat or gas stoves. But their architecture makes much of ours look primitive. Their small churches in small towns compare favorably with our few famous ones. More important, though, is that they have pride. Not the arrogant, exclusive pride of the Americans. They don’t feel they’re better than anyone else, in fact most of them will probably admit that Americans are better in some ways. But they do feel they should be treated as approximately equal, not as an inferior form of humanity. The result is snowballing. The higher class Italians stay away from the Americans and so meeting only the lower class ones, the Americans’ opinion is, if possible, lowered even more.
I say American because I can see it in the making on the ship. Actually, I think it is even more British. Although it is difficult to detect any difference between the arrogance of the American sailors and soldiers and the British unloaders on the ship. The people we meet often say–British no good, American OK–but I suspect that’s because I’m American.
Even if it weren’t so much fun, I’d feel it was my duty to go ashore as we do. To show at least a few of the Italians that all Americans aren’t the same. That some of them want something besides wine and women and don’t curse the town when they don’t find either any good.
Well, I feel better for having blown my top a little. But I still mean everything I’ve said.
Wednesday, July 12, 1944
These gangway watches are really all right. I get all my reading done on them. Result is I can spend all my free time seeing the town.
I didn’t go ashore at all, though, yesterday. All the time I wasn’t on watch I slept. Result is, I’m wide awake for a change this morning. This afternoon Les and I plan to go ashore and go shopping if we get shore leave. Our holds are almost empty all ready, so I’m afraid we may not get leave today.
Achille has promised to go with us, which should help in finding things and in getting a bargain. Our affair with Luigia has gotten exactly nowhere. Our movie date for tonight is off. Since Papa works, Achille must stay home i.e. Luigia must stay home. Which is really just as well. It was one of those ideas which seemed good when conceived, but on mature deliberation as being risky. On the one hand we might lose the family’s friendship, and on the other we might get in deeper than we wanted.
I haven’t seen the particular horror picture None Shall Escape. And I’m not sure I want to. Such pictures usually have just the opposite effect on me. I know they’re all “dramatized” and I suspect them of more than that. The result is that I tend to throw out the entire effect. My reasons are several. In the first place, there is my natural hesitancy to believe anything ill of my fellow men until it is absolutely forced upon me. And just seeing it in a movie or reading it in a book is not enough to force it on me. I must see it with mine own eyes–or at least with those of someone who’s feelings and interpretations I know to be similar to my own.
Secondly, I have seen too many evil things in our own country. Thus, even if I grant that the particular horrors depicted are true, I can still believe that they are not typical. By concentrating on lynchings, gangsters, race riots, Ku Klux Klan, etc. one could make a pretty convincing horror story of our own wonderful United States.
Finally, there have been too many previous examples of atrocity stories which have later been proven false. Remember reading how the Germans cut off the hands of the little Belgian children in the last war? And from everything you’ve heard, how would you expect German subs to treat the life boats of a torpedoed ship? Well, I don’t know what the usual story is. All I know is that the only case I actually know about is one of the fellows on this ship. On the Murmansk run he was torpedoed. And the sub, far from machine-gunning the lifeboat, surfaced and made sure they had plenty of provisions and told them their best course to land. Now I’m not saying that’s typical. I don’t know. I do know that there is one case that happened that was not published. And if it happened once, the similar story may have happened many times.
I don’t know just where all this fits into my ideas in relation to the war. I think I grow less convinced of its validity. I’ve gone over all the reasons with you. As I see, with mine own eyes, the good that is in people who are not Americans (in Italians who less than a year ago we were fighting) and the bad that is in so many Americans (officers as well as men) I wonder whether the Germans can be so much worse as to make war worthwhile.
Yet I didn’t regret having made my choice. Come the next war or the war against Russia I shall probably again join the Merchant Marine. Part of it is that I’ve no particular faith in pacifism. What I gather from Dick—what Mary says about Art Dole–convince me that pacifism is not an answer any more than monasticism was during the middle ages. Pacifism is a practical __ation of society. The pacifist places himself beyond the pale and thus, even if his words and actions were always what they should be they would not be heeded. For the man who has genuine religious beliefs against war, who would cheerfully submit to any alternative to himself or his family rather than kill a human being, pacifism is the only answer. Whatever the consequences he can do nothing else. He is neither to be reviled nor praised for his actions.
At some future date, such men may yield a big influence. When the people are ready for peace, such men may well lead the way to it. But the people of the United States do not really want peace. That is, they don’t want it enough to make even the small sacrifices–let alone the big ones. The right to hate and despise means more than peace.
You may accuse me of being guilty of the same generalization I protested against earlier. I admit it. When I say “the American People” I am really only talking about the men aboard the SS Francis Marion. And I am concluding, without adequate proof, that such men are more nearly typical of the American People than the people we knew at Antioch. I may be wrong. I hope so. If I’m wrong, the chances for the near future are better than I think.
What then do I believe we can hope for? I don’t believe this is the last war–or the next to last. And I don’t think wars are worthwhile. But as I said before, I will help fight them. Because I feel that war is too big to buck and that to fight against it as such would be to waste my life away with no results. If I were trying to dam a river with twigs I wouldn’t throw one after another in the middle of the stream. I’d start from the very edge far away from the swift current of life and work from the inside. But one cannot swim against the current. If one would change the course of life it must be in small things, with the hope that they will accumulate to large ones.
Thus I will try, by my words and actions to get people to think. To jar them from their ruts of self complacent superiority. If I can convince but two people in my entire life time have I not doubled my own weight. More than ever, I feel that it is only through living religion–and by religion I mean tolerance, and love, and understanding–can one exert any influence towards a better life. And one must accept the big forces and work with them, rather than against them. For instance, I honestly believe I am doing more for peace by being in the Merchant Marine than I would in a CPS camp or in jail. Here I can argue and discuss matters with men who hold a different viewpoint. If I can but half convince one such person, haven’t I done more than if I convince a hundred other pacifists who are already of the same opinion? And by being in a foreign port I can help show the citizens of another country that all Americans are not selfish and arrogant. Perhaps it’s only one family I can meet,–but isn’t that more than I can meet in a CPS camp? And finally, after the war I will be more accepted at home. I can talk of the evils of my country and the good of others and people will know that I still fought for my own. I can say that many Italians have a great many good points–and it will mean more because I have seen it, not just read of it. I don’t mean that I will set the world on fire, or radically change the course of history. But I do mean that my influence–infinitesimal as it may be–will be greater than if I had spent the war in the United States. And I don’t mean that I shall mean more to eventual peace than many men who have chosen the other course will. But I do believe that it will be because they are better men–not because they chose a better course.
There, see what an outburst your one paragraph in reference to a war movie provoked!
Did I tell you how much your letters mean to me? When I first get them there is a gladness in my heart to know what I have to look forward to. Because I don’t read them right away. I treasure them in my heart until I will be alone and peaceful. Then I read them straight through. Then I stop and think how much I love you. I may write you how much I love you. But that isn’t all. Later I shall take the letter and read it again. But this time I shall interrupt. I may read only a line or may read a page. Then I shall take out my own letter and begin to answer you. That’s what I’m doing now. But that still won’t be all. I shall save them and reread and reread them. And always they shall inspire new thoughts. For I know you well, Thea. And thus when you write a sentence I can interpret a paragraph. And I can answer a page. So, my darling, if you ever feel tired–if ever you wonder whether it’s worth writing or not–remember how much it means to your husband, here on the far seas, separated by thousands of miles which only thoughts and letters can conquer.
Do you mind when I keep referring to other men? I know that it is debasing to even compare our happiness with that of others, but sometimes when I feel blue and miss you more than usual it helps to cheer me up to realize how comparatively lucky we are.
One of the biggest factors is knowing that you’re so safe. Not safe from bombs–I don’t worry about them–but safe from life. So many men are worried about their wives financially, or are worried about losing them. But I know you are with my family. And I know what a swell family they are. So when you both write and say how well you are getting on together I know that I’ll still have the same sweet Thea to come back to. And I know that you’ll be happy in the meantime.
Another thing I’ve never mentioned is how brave you are. At one time I dreaded leaving you not just because I would miss you, but because I was afraid the leave-taking would leave a bad taste in our mouths. But our last weeks together were so glorious that I have enough tender memories to last until we meet again. I know it was far harder for you than for me, since I was going and you were staying. Yet you never once broke down. If you really meant the smile on your lips, you were brave to have conquered yourself so. And if you just put it on for my sake you’re a better actress than even I give you credit for. And just as brave for being able to.
I’m so glad you are enjoying the farm. Do you think you’ll like leading a farmer’s life any better? I haven’t done too much thinking about the future. Not just from laziness, either. I know from long experience that I tend to get over enthusiastic about each new thing I tackle. Therefore, I must wait until I can see the sea in better perspective. Right now I’m too much in love with it. But I don’t think it will last.
However, I often wonder what life would have been like if you’d said “no” on that fateful night of December 28, 1942. I would have probably been at officer’s school by now. And being still single I might have picked on the sea as a career. Do I miss it? In a way, right now anyhow. But nearly as much I appreciate what I have had instead. By myself I’m not such a strong-willed person, Thea. I might rise in the shipping business, but I could never be happy that way. No, darling, I am happy in this life only because being married to you has given me an inner peace and contentment which can overcome all of the external vicissitudes of life.
Above paragraphs seem to have wondered from point to point rather aimlessly. Perhaps I’ve thought enough for this morning. One reason I don’t write more is physical. My hand and body get tired of writing before my brain does. I wish I had a typewriter aboard. But I still like to write. It serves 2 purposes. It helps me to capture something of the trip for you, and it helps to straighten out my thinking.