Notes from the Thirties

PROVINCETOWN 1932

—On rainy days and in dreary winter weather you felt cooped up on the narrow land,…like all places where life is so much the water.—A sailboat slipping by at night refreshing the night by a tracing of silent life across it—the dark church of Truro set high on its hill on one side of the harbor and white Long Point light at the end of its sand-spit on the other.

—pack of German police dogs on the sand flats

—children in kayaks like water bugs

—Sunset: the oystershell harbor—the water roughened and shell-blue, the Long Point lighthouse and the building behind clear white like bits of shell—then a sail and the lighthouse sharp white on a uniform dim pink-gray of sea and sky, the sea now smooth—then the sea delicate pink over blue, silken, the sky a baby blue at the horizon that deepens toward smoke-blue of night and above it a layer of cloud a slightly brighter pink than that of the water—the sailboat and the houses on the point came out suddenly, it seemed, clear yellow as the color of the sun struck them—then a pink pale ruby came out in the lighthouse.

CHICAGO 1932

Unemployed. In schools, factories, warehouses, old jails—whitewashed furniture—factory walls, yellow school walls soiled, blackboards punched through, thin blankets and a sheet, men in holey socks and slit union suits, tattooed with fancy designs and with the emblems of services they no longer served, with fallen arches taken out of their flattened shoes and done up with bandages of adhesive tape, or lying wrapped up in their blankets on their backs, their skin stretched tight over their cheekbones and jawbones almost like the faces of the dead—the smell, peppery-sweetish stink: sulphur fumigations, cooking food, sweat, creosote disinfecting, urinals, one element or the other figuring more prominently from time to time but in the same inescapable fumes of humanity not living and functioning naturally but dying on its feet and being preserved as best one could, venereal disease, Negroes with t.b., lonely as a pet coon, men poisoned with wood alcohol—fifteen cents a pint—two sick and one to the psych hospital—benzine, kerosene, and milk—I say, which will you have, your bottle or a bed?—and they won’t give up the bottle—I wouldn’t be surprised if a hearse drove up and a dead man got up and walked out and asked for a flop—a cripple drunk again—one man so lousy no one would go nearum and they puttum in the stable with the horse and the horse tried to get away and then the next morning they gaveum a shower and scrubbedum with a long-handled brush.—They fumigate the clothes and if they’re moist it ruins them.

Chicago is probably doing as good a job as anybody.—Entertainments so that they won’t hold meetings and get ideas of revolt—the recreation …

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