16. Journal, Fall 1970

Journal Entries – Fall 1970

August 3, 1970 – Monday night – I am spending the night tonight in – of all places – Evergreen, Alabama, in a $5.20 motel room, on my way to Alexandria. Today I stopped in Albany and called Susan, just to see if she was home. More or less on impulse, because I had about gotten her out of my mind. Talked to Jill the other day, she mentioned the old days. Daddy was looking at the map, suggested I could go through Albany… So I did. Crazy.

So I call her and she’s about speechless. I’m a little nervous myself now that I’m at her house.  She comes to the door and I’m fucking speechless. She’s even more beautiful than I remembered. Now she’s putting her arms around me and laying her head against my chest, and I know I should never have stopped. Bad idea. It’s all on again. I am so crazy. I am so crazy. I am so crazy.

So we go inside and sit down, we’re just going to talk. It’s been a long time. Lots of water, all that. I try not to look at her, know she’ll see it in my eyes. She always did. We’re talking about something, nothing, and our hands meet. I touch her arm, she touches my face. I guess she sees what that does to me, even though I try to hide it, laugh it off. She just smiles and shakes her head. Then she leans over and kisses me. And it’s all over.

For the next six or seven hours, we talk about everything and it’s just like we had never been apart. What, over a year, more than that since we really talked. We communicate so beautifully, even about our problems, why we can’t be together, all that. And somehow, it seems like we will be together in spite of all that. We part on that note, with promises to think happy thoughts. And I love you.

Of course, it’s just crazy and it’s making me crazier. What am I going to do now?

August 11, 1970 (England AFB, LA)

Today, I found out what it will be like in Viet-Nam. The general picture is not too bad, though daily life will lack many of the refinements which make it enjoyable for me, and will offer unaccustomed danger to life and limb. I think I will be able to adjust to it and still maintain my values and mental stability.

I have been here one week now, and it seems like a month. Time drags by, since we are not yet flying and there is little to do in the way of recreation in this lovely locale. I’ve written to Susan (SB), talked to CJ twice, but said nothing. I didn’t know what to tell her. Hoping my mind will settle down and I’ll know what’s going on….

August 13, 1970 (England AFB)

I had my first ride in the C-47 today! The venerable old Gooney Bird! Danielson and I, and Capt. Messinger of course, took off at 0915 in a/c-507. I got three patterns, and put them all on the ground with no dangerous difficulties, but with a lot of help from Capt. Messinger.

Flying that old bird for the first time is truly an experience! Walking up to it sitting there on the ramp with its funny nose up in the air, it’s easy to see where it got the affectionate nickname. It almost makes you laugh – its personality is so definitely gooney! Then you perform the preflight, mainly to see if oil is leaking in all the right places, and that the fabric control surfaces don’t need darning. Crawling in the back door, you make the long uphill trek to the cockpit, deftly dodging circuit breakers, hydraulic lines, and navigator’s feet as you sidle through the passageway.

The best thing was when I hit the start switch and watched those big props start to slowly turn, and that thrilling gutty sound when the engine finally caught and those throaty props started humming. Taxiing is something I’m not quite sure is possible without magic. The initial takeoff was only mildly frightening, as the lumbering, weaving, shuddering beast does actually become airborne pretty quickly. Those last few seconds, though, you begin to wonder.

October 5, 1970 (Home)

Monday night, October fifth (1970) – Janis Joplin died today. I feel like part of me or some close friend or something is gone. All day today, one line has been on my mind: “I feel so useless down here…” – a line from “Work Me Lord” on the Kozmic Blues album. And all day I wondered why, only to read in the evening paper that Janis had died today. It has gotten on my mind real heavy – terrible, terrifying depression. Even pain and a sense of personal loss and intense frustration – I’ve always related to her very strongly. The significance of that line keeps hammering around in my head… gives me a terrifying sense of cosmic awareness.

The emotional shock of all this, coming home to Daddy after his heart attack, plus the emotional strain I’ve been going through with SB the last week and a half, plus the emotional strain of the approaching catastrophe, my departure for the war – has just about been more than I could handle tonight. Listened to Kozmic Blues and had a good long gut-wrenching cry and now feel a little better. Completely drained and tired and like I’m gonna be sick.

October 20,1970 (Fairchild AFB, WA)

USAF Survival School, Fairchild AFB, Spokane, Washington – I have made it through the first half of survival school, the compound. Haven’t written much here in the past few months. Lots has happened – finishing up at England, daddy’s heart attack, seeing SB again, saying goodbye to everybody. But when the wheels are in the well out of Travis my year begins. That will be on the 28th or 29th. So I’ll be back to her by next November for sure.

November 2, 1970 (Clark AFB, Phillipine Islands)

Well, my year has begun. I am now in the Phillipine Islands, at Clark AFB in Angeles City, having left Travis on October 31. Somehow along the way we skipped Nov. 1, so I arrived here at about 2 a.m. on the second. I talked to the folks and to SB Saturday before I left. The talk with her was a little depressing, in that she said she’s finding it difficult to be optimistic about us….

This is a strange place, full of strange pleasures, and equally full of strange fears. The official warnings about the local hazards, the oriental strangeness of the people, the barricades and weapon-carrying guards all around the hotels, all give it a dangerous, but exciting, atmosphere. The only place off-base I’ve been is the Oasis Hotel, where the stews and TDY people stay. It’s a pretty good place, delicious cheap food and drinks, mysterious casino, pretty oriental chicks everywhere. These people are so anxious to please it makes me nervous.

I’m staying in the VOQ with Morton, but we may get a hotel room, as we have a few free days before classes. It’s warm and humid, lots of rain. The facilities are adequate only, with the added attraction of numerous small lizards, insects, spiders, etc. populating the general area of our room. But a good time is here to be had, so I suppose I’ll at least make the effort. But I sure miss SB… I’m constantly afraid she’s the one I’ll lose, ‘cause she’s the only one I really want. I did write to CJ, told her about things with SB….