World War Two had certainly made everybody very tough. And I became a public relations man for General Electric in Schenectady, New York, and a volunteer fireman in the village of Alplaus, where I bought my first home. My boss there was one of the toughest guys I ever hope to meet. He had been a lieutenant colonel in public relations in Baltimore. While I was in Schenectady he joined the Dutch Reformed Church, which is a very tough church, indeed.
He used to ask me sneeringly sometimes why I hadn't been an officer, as though I'd done something wrong.
My wife and I had lost our baby fat. Those were our scrawny years. We had a lot of scrawny veterans and their scrawny wives for friends. The nicest veterans in Schenectady, I thought, the kindest and funniest ones, the ones who hated war the most, were the ones who'd really fought.
I wrote the Air Force back then asking for details about the raid on Dresden, who ordered it, how many planes did it, why they did it, what desirable results there had been and so on. I was answered by a man who, like myself, was in public relations. He said that he was sorry, but that the information was top secret still.
I read the letter out loud to my wife, and I said, "Secret? My God--from whom?"
Top secret. For the last three days, I have been battling frozen water pipes. I have e-mailed the city manager, gotten up in the middle of the night to flush my toilet and turn on faucets, and slept poorly. Yesterday, I finally called a plumber. The plumber was supposed to show up today, but postponed because of people with more urgent situations. The plumber is supposed to show up between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. tomorrow. The actual time, I guess, is top secret.
Another top secret--the book I will be focusing on next year. That's right, the year of Kurt Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse Five is drawing to a close. A new year will soon be upon us, and I have to choose a new novel, poetry collection, or work of nonfiction. I can't say that I'm leaning toward any specific author.
I've been thinking about Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Or the Complete Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Another possibility--Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Usually, I've already made up my mind by this time of the year. Not so much this time.
Tonight, I plan to go home and peruse my bookshelves. I'm hoping some title will jump out at me. or that a book will fall on my head. I need some kind of inspiration. This evening, however, after several almost sleepless nights, I'm not feeling the touch of any muse.
So, if you are out there, Constant Reader, send me some book suggestions. I will seriously consider any work except The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump.
Lend tired Saint Marty a hand.
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