July 4, 1971
Gulf of Mexico, bound for South America
In the morning, sea and sky in imitation of art—surfaces in layers glossed like paint. Clouds and light reflected on the water, immobile and eternal as Canaletto saw them. Later the surface of the water gently rasped by the wind-stirred to movement. The Greeks rightly gave the sky to Uranos. It is the sky that breaks and reunites the world.
This is the end of individualism—or the end of a cycle. The artist, exhausted by himself—by his processes. The breakdown of the walls of the museum, of the separation from the outside world. Direction towards the end or the beginning. The beginning is unity—community—the end is conformity—destruction.
July 16, 1971
Dearest Joe – I have written several letters and destroyed them. At this point I cannot really think of what to say, except here, with plenty of opportunity to recall the past and to think about myself, I can only come to the conclusion that I love you—and that all the things I’ve done wrong is because I’ve loved you in the wrong way and because I’ve had no faith in myself.
I realize, in part, how difficult I am—and how my desperate tongue carries me away And because of that—and so many other things—I just no longer have the courage—or audacity—to ask for anything more from you.
For me you’re a great person and always will be—and a very gentle one. Its true that I’ve never done anything for you. You needed someone very different from me—I guess I needed someone very domineering and firm—but then, who ever needed me?
You have given me everything. I realize that. I wish I could do something now to help you. That last night at the airport my heart sank because I knew you needed something so much-and I felt helpless to give it to you. And I was running away again so far.
Well, it is for you to decide. I want you to be happy and to achieve everything that you can achieve. I wish I could be by your side—but I guess God never meant me to be a “helpmate.”
I love you no matter what you decide.
July 25, 1971
Tension that exists between Sacred and Profane.
Now between between natural or authentic and machine, artificial—between art and artifice.
Harmony in nature. The tree of life.
A return to Garden of Eden
Saint Augustine—the City of God (Platonic)
The Garden of God (Biblical)
City in imitation of the garden
The concept of production—consumption, language, etc-as production (after Marx)—very bad.
Difference between creation and production-
Not possession, appropriation—but participation
Not accruance to ego (centripetal) but centrifugal
We have come to an end in arts, etc
Where there is a reversal—a destruction—an age destroying itself—the desperate accumulation of goods rather than the divestment.
The end of the age of control (Aristotelian)
Manipulation—in politics as well
Edenics—The creation and maintenance of the garden—agricultural—rural
July 31, 1971
Dearest – I hope you’re well. There isn’t hardly a moment of the day in which I don’t think of you and worry about you. I am glad to know that your work on your book is progressing.
As for Buenos Aires—I felt terribly depressed the first few days. When the boat turned into the River Plata, the city looked so gray in the distance. I don’t believe the sun ever shines. It is terribly cold and foggy. But of course, it’s winter. It’s not really the time to spend in a small cold hotel room. If I didn’t have that nice cape I bought, I don’t know what I’d do. I feel very homesick and tired of big cities. This one is terribly polluted and the Argentinians have never heard of ecology. Yesterday my spirits picked up. My health is good after the long voyage and I seem to have a resistance to colds, etc. It’s a very interesting city and reminds me of Barcelona and Madrid. The people are very Spanish here. Occasionally one sees an Indian face—but the distinction between the capitol and the provinces is very sharp. There’s still lots of tradition here. I am surprised at the richness of the tango which is still sung and danced. The architecture is wonderful-but the air is really foul and the buildings covered with smoke. I am staying in an old hotel near the port in the heart of the old area which is slowly being destroyed. The hotel was splendid in its day and still is, for me. Beautiful tiles and wood from Spain—carvings, decorations—stained glass. In contrast the rooms are like monks’ cells—at least mine is—but I like that style. I am sitting in the restaurant which is like a museum—but the waiter says hardly anyone comes anymore—and no one takes care of the beautiful tile and woods. Too bad!
It really costs too much to stay here in the capitol. My room is about $3.00 a night. I try to eat cheaply—but it’s hard to figure out a good budget without knowing everything. You would love the food. They serve a delicious pastry called empanada filled with meats, chicken, etc. The coffee is very strong and one wonders how could anyone stand the watered-down stuff they serve in the U.S.-now that I see the stores here, I could cry that I didn’t save every penny in the U.S. to spend here. There are wonderful things to buy—souvenirs or all kinds—wonderful wool things—and leather—all kinds of handiwork. I could buy you some beautiful alpaca sweaters and scarves. The shoes are excellent and very cheap-about $10 a pair. I have seen many things that you and David would like.
August 1, 1971
Today is Sunday. It’s the first time I’ve seen the sun. I’ve walked about a bit and the buildings are very beautiful and old but, like London, so covered with soot that at first glance appear ugly. The streets, even on Sundays, are full of movement. For me the faces are all Latin, although there is supposed to be a sizeable population of Germans, Jews, Japanese and even Turks. I guess the predominant population—just as the Anglo-Saxons in the U.S.—have Latinized the others. Occasionally one sees an Indian—but rarely—just like seeing an Indian in New York City almost. But Argentina is much more dominated by the Indian in the interior than the U.S. ever was. I think the reason is that the North American settlers brought their women with them and the Spanish conquistadores did not—and consequently thoroughly mixed with the Indians (the term gaucho means bastard). I am anxious now to see something of the interior—but not only am I a bit afraid of the cold—the political situation here—and in all South America—is terrible! Americans are being kidnapped and held for ransom. The revolutionary groups are very active. The city here is full of turbulence, constant demonstrations and actual shooting in the streets. The economic situation is simply terrible! Since I’ve been here the peso has already fallen. But it doesn’t help me because prices consequently get steeper. In fact I don’t think I can stay here very long. I have an almost rock bottom hotel room (without going to Skid Row) and I only eat once a day—or fill up on pizza, etc. But living in a city is costly. What is worse-is that everything is at your expense. And if I felt badly before—you perhaps can guess that now it is much worse. Joe dearest, I never wanted to take advantage of you. I wan’t like that. Before I knew you, I nearly starved rather than take anything from anyone. I know that what I take from you shouldn’t be for me, but for a home and family. Well, anyway, here I am and it all comes out of your pocket. Joe, we are both so lucky—to have our health, to have so much. The other day I walked near the waterfront to try to get some fresh air-and I passed people living on the sidewalk–-barefoot and half naked in the cold—with little fires burning in tin cans. The worst thing was their faces. Their eyes were so hopeless—like sick animals—and they didn’t even look at me as I passed.
Last night I went to see Black Orpheus for the fourth time mainly because I now have been in Rio de Janeiro. But the film was even better this time. I thought of you and of how much we loved each other—and of how much I still love you. I can’t ask you ever to love me again—if you cannot—but I know that it wasn’t all a dream—I know that underneath you are still the Joe I knew and loved and will always love. I can’t ever forget you. You are in all my thoughts and dreams. I am sorry that I wasn’t the woman you really wanted. But sometimes I hold on to the hope that maybe I was—and that we had to go through this terrible period—that I had to learn a very hard lesson. I know (I always knew) that I only have one home and that is with you.
August 5, 1971
Dearest – I am in a café that is part of the museum across the street from the Law Faculty. The sun is shining and I feel better. Too bad about Buenos Aires! It could be fine it it weren’t for the vehicles . Every street is a race course and clogged with speeding maniacs. The air is incredibly foul. I got off the boat very healthy and this has protected me so far against colds. But one can’t last long here. Everyone looks very unhealthy. I’m glad I came to South America because no matter how much I would have read, I never would have known this place or what it was all about. Suffice to say that is’s a mess! Argentina is on the verge of bankruptcy. I read that the rate of bankruptcy of private businesses this year is up 58%. A huge robbery was just discovered in the government. I have the impression that everyone is trying to get his hands on as much as possible and to heck with what happens to the rest. The capitol is the country and no one cares about the provinces. Well, anyway, I have totally new perspectives now and I won’t bore you with them. Actually, I feel things are so unsettled that it is dangerous. I want to go to Cordoba (in the interior) but there are constant assassinations in the streets—and a running war everywhere between the police and the revolutionists.
Buenos Aires is full of art and concerts—but the truth is, that just going out on the streets at night exhausts me—the cold, the cars, the dust and the terrible air. Living as I do is quite expensive. But last night I finally sampled the beef. For a dollar in a cafeteria I had a filet mignon which was really delicious—also for another ½ dollar I had a big salad. But the beef is fantastic and these people consume it at an astronomical rate. Next week the government is resurfacing the one week beef—next week no beef regulation.
I received the check—but I should have said only a hundred dollars because now I feel I must stay here at least a month. I don’t know what you think. It is a long expensive trip home. I suppose it’s cheaper to return by plane. And if I had an “open” ticket, I could stop at Santiago and Lima—get off wherever.the plane stops. I really enjoyed the boat trip. It was really good for my health—but after all this, I can’t count on emerging in too good a condition. I must be very strong because I’m sure that living like this would break anyone’s constitution.
I feel very disoriented—but I guess I must live for the moment as the Latins do. It surprises me how they’re quite happy with everything falling apart around them—of course, Cesar wants me to stay here with him and he loves me—but it’s all absurd. I love you.
I received all your letters, I believe. The ship’s agency was very responsible and forwarded your second letter from Rio…I hope David is alright. I know nothing of his life. It all makes me very sad—but at least he isn’t using drugs any more. I think often of your father. It was an experience I can’t forget—the indignity of dying like that. I am so sorry I didn’t visit him more often. Life suddenly seems so short.
I called the Chafetz’s here—but they seemed confused and didn’t know your mother. They invited me over but considering this, I didn’t want to barge in on them. I noticed that there is an Herman Molina in the telephone book (remember him—the tennis player?) I called but he wasn’t in. I’ll try again.
The men here think I am very attractive. Heaven knows why. I am disappointed in the women—all in hot pants with terrible makeup.
I am so happy about your book. Please work hard and relax too—write and tell me about the situation concerning a ticket home. You should buy it there and send it to me.
August 9, 1971
Dearest Joe – I hope that summer weather is better in Berkeley and that you are playing tennis. Here in Buenos Aires I think longingly of summer. Fortunately, the boat trip was so very healthy that so far I haven’t caught a cold here. But one’s resistance can’t last long in this environment. It is cold—but what is worse, the city is simply choked with cars and buses. The pollution is dreadful and when one returns to one’s room after a short time on the streets—all one’s clothes are filthy. It must have been a beautiful city at one time—I am very anxious to leave but unfortunately I don’t know quite what to to. I have thoughts of going to northern Argentina which is supposed to be interesting—but I would have to return to Buenos Aires probably, in order to leave for home. If I had my ticket, I could stop in other countries to see what they are like.
My impressions so far add up to this: South America (what I’ve seen so far) is a disaster! This county is on the verge of civil war. I expect fighting in the streets at any time. I don’t know if much news appears there, but there are constant bombings and assasinations in the streets. Everyone is confused and discouraged—businesses are failing right and left. Posters this morning all over the city—“I work; you work; we work—but for whom?” and there is a list of foreign owned companies. As you can guess, the idealistic revolutionaries here are as naïve as everywhere. The government corruption is simply incredible. The other day a deficit of 80 million was discovered. Someone had stolen what he could-which is the custom here. I could go on and on-there is no sense of ecology—everyone wants to come to Buenos Aires
Well—there’s no sense in writing all this. If this were a healthy place to be, I might enjoy it. I am very grateful for one thing-it has really been an education to come here. I could never have known what it is really like. Moreover, it has given me completely new perspectives.
I like the people in general—but like the Spanish, these Latins laugh at everything and its somewhat unsettling. The men are terribly flattering.
Cesar is to receive his orders today and he is begging me to go wherever they send him—probably to his home in San Juan. I feel guilty about encouraging him because he’s very serious. I’ve told him that I love you but he thinks you have abandoned me—and of course I don’t really know. How can I tell him otherwise when you are living with a young girl? I must say that on the boat he was more or less transformed into a monster of jealousy—and now he says things like the gaucho is master and has a right even to kill his woman. So naturally I feel a little apprehensive. I can’t see myself in the role of a passive gaucha. If I wanted to be meek and humble, it would have been for the person I really loved.
Well, dearest, I don’t know exactly what to do—but I think you’d better send me a ticket—because I might get caught in a war here. Last night the streets were lined with police with shotguns-and there were knots of angry crowds. All of America is seething—and these people are serious. Everybody is discontented.
Send me the cheapest ticket possible. I guess they’re all the same. Avianca is supposed to be good. I can stop over in other countries if you buy an “open” ticket. I assume you can pay later. Try to send the actual ticket, if possible, so that I don’t have to pick it up here at an agency and pay the big government tax. Please write immediately.
August 9, 1971
Just after mailing a letter to you I received your letter telling me about David. It was quite a shock. I guess mothers always feel that way. In my dreams he always appears as just a little boy. What can I say? Life goes on in its own way. One has control over nothing—even oneself. I wrote them a letter to wish them happiness. I guess I was glad to learn that she likes flowers and is good to plants. And I guess you all agree that she can’t be a worse wife than I. I hope they are happy.
I am so glad to find out that you’ve practically written your book. I feel that it will be a great success and that my husband will really be famous. With a wife like Mme de Gaulle or Helen Meiklejohn you would have been a great leader. Poor Joe—you are too gentle—too trusting. You know that I never meant any cruel word I said to you. I feel that perhaps you didn’t mean all that you said to me.
This morning I asked for a ticket back home. As long as you don’t have to pay it all at once, it’s a good idea for me to have it so that when I feel like going to another country I can. Or in case of a mail strike here—or, heaven knows-a revolution.
Yesterday it was actually hot and the air was so heavily polluted I couldn’t breathe. Today it is glacial. I suppose the weather depends on whether there is a south wind or not. I am trying to fight off a cold.
I hesitate to go into the interior of the country for two reasons—1) I’m not sure about whether you will send a ticket right away and I want to see what the situation is 2) Everywhere is in such turmoil—trains stopped for days by discontented workers—bombs everywhere, etc.
If you have the ticket, don’t send any more money. Its very expensive here—but I don’t intend to say. If you have already sent money—I will wait to see if you’ve sent a ticket—and if so—I simply won’t collect the money so that you can cancel the check. If I don’t buy any gifts and eat less often I can manage on what I still have.
One doesn’t see hippies here. There are some who think they are—but they aren’t really. The girls dress like princesses—the boys like princes. You wouldn’t believe how the men dress here. They dress like millionaires and they don’t have a penny in their pockets. There are more mens’ dress stores than womens’. But none of them look as nice as you do in your beret and coat. By the way—if the tennis sweater is too large—take it to the cleaners and ask them to block it according to your size. I forgot to tell you this. Do you ever wear it? The girls are really beautiful—but the city is hard on them—and—like in Paris and New York-the older women are witches. What’s worse, everyone smokes like a chimney. All in all, being in a city and looking at all the people, I tend to agree with Loren Eiseley, who called man “the planetary disease.” En masse he’s not very pleasant (in general, I must say that Latins are very warm and friendly—aside from the inevitable cheaters).
I read all the newspapers I can in all languages in order to know as much as possible. Sometimes I get a little tired of speaking Spanish. They speak with a special accent here and I’m beginning to acquire it.
I hope you’re keeping well and healthy. Please write.
August 16, 1971
Tomorrow is a holiday in Argentina (and other parts of South America). It’s the anniversary of the death of San Martin—the liberator from Spain. I saw his tomb in the cathedral here. Its also our anniversary. I don’t know if it means anything to you anymore, but it does to me. If only I hadn’t been so ignorant of everything that day I married you…so much is just a matter of luck and what one learns one hardly even has the opportunity to apply directly. However, there is one thing that hasn’t changed. I still love you. That day I married you, you were my ideal. Whatever has gone wrong is because you were too good, perhaps.
I read about Nixon’s speech this morning in La Prensa. He seems terribly stupid as an economist. I know he was forced to take to measures he has to strengthen the dollar. The Prensa is a good newspaper and certainly has more ness than the Chronicle. It’s on a level with the N.Y. Times. There seems to be a free press here.
I am writing about Buenos Aires—but I’m afraid it isn’t what the New Yorker would like. It seems to me that you could do that kind of writing. I am writing it in English—but will rewrite it in Portuguese.
Buenos Aires has an extensive cultural life—and it would be a nice city if it weren’t for the terrible pollution. But there are people who are concerned—in general, I like the people and its quite sad to see them trying to maintain an old world courtliness in this awful atmosphere of noise, speed, pollution, etc.
I’m just wating to hear from you before leaving. The country is so dangerous that I don’t believe I’ll visit Cordoba. There are constant bombings, shootings in the street. It’s a terrible struggle to keep clean. My small hotel room looks like a laundry. After being out on the street, I return completely black. Everything is very expensive—compared to Portugal. Heavens knows how the people live!
This morning I felt so sad because the maid in the hotel brought me a little gift. She works so hard and earns so little. It was very touching.
I’ve met some intellectuals here and woiuld you believe it? They are so much like me in their ideas. I nearly feel off my chair when I was talking to a teaching assistant in the Faculty of Architecture here. He practically repeated all my own thoughts.
There are many good people in the world and I have faith in what is good. At least it is as great a force as evil—if not greater.
I dream of you every night—but my dreams are never happy ones. The other night I dreamed I returned to find our home deserted and in ruins. But of course it is my fault. The woman has to keep the home safe. I think about Davey and I wonder if he’ll be happy. He seems so innocent—so young.
I know that you must be happier now, dearest—since you are working on your book. I am sure that it will be the best and most original of anything you you have written. I am very happy that you are finally able to do it.
Joe, I love you. I’m proud to be your wife. I love the “real you” who I know so well. You are too good and gentle for this world. Nobody has protected you. It is what I should have done. I know that you forgive me in your heart.
August 18, 1971
Last night I was in Herman Molina’s home. You wouldn’t believe that he looks exactly as he did when we last saw him. It’s very good for men to play tennis regularly and to keep their weight down—(I hope you do). He has 3 sons—the oldest 12—and of course they all play tennis—but none as well as David did. Their apartment is very nice—his wife paints and is quite artistic. Her father was there-he was in the diplomatic corps—now retired—once stationed in San Francisco. Herman is an architect here and drove me around to see the buildings he’s planned. He’s been very nice to me. I told them last night that it was our 28th wedding anniversary and everyone was surprised, naturally.
Prices are terrible here. As soon as I hear from you, I’ll go on to Chile, I guess.
August 19, 1971
Dearest – I received your letter yesterday telling me about the ticket. I am glad that you’re arranging it because then I’ll be able to leave.
Since your write—as you know—the economic situation has changed. The market here is closed pending information about the international markets. I still have some money so it doesn’t effect me immediately. On the other hand, I don’t want you to send money on the Chile because aside from the dollar crisis, political relationships with the U.S. are so bad. Everyone says Chile is much cheaper. Here it costs a fortune to live and I swear I have never seen a country in a worse mess. Heavens knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. Businesses are failing right and left—there are robberies, kidnappings, assassinations, bombings, etc. The other day there was a parade in honor of San Martin. It was near my hotel (which is near the Casa Rosada, Argentina’s White House) so I watched it. But is was a pathetic parade without spectators–-because people are afraid of bombs. I feel as if I were in the eye of a hurricane—in which everything seems almost eerily normal—but I know very well that the storm surrounds me. But of course no place in the world is in very good shape. I expected the devaluation of the dollar two years ago—but good old Nixon has been playing Horatio Alger to the hilt. The means he has taken are quite inadequate. U.S. gold reserves have been dropping steadily while Americans have been spending like mad. On the other hand the Germans have been spending little and building up their reserves. The day of reckoning is at hand. Poor U.S.A.!l
Herman Molina has been very nice to me—showing me the sights, etc. Everyone wants me to stay here in Argentina. Everyone adores their Buenos Aires. But I can hardly say “I wouldn’t take your country if you gave it to me on a silver platter.” Poor Cesar now sees his country in a new light. He has now been here nearly a month and the army hasn’t yet given him his orders, just telling him to report twice a week so that he isn’t free to go home. He wants me to stay and says if I run out of money he’ll rob a bank for me. But I told him that I could forget him easily but I could never forget you. And so it isn’t fair to him. He and Miguel are really very nice, decent boys. But there is no one like you—and never will be. I feel to blame for everything—I know that you are good. I don’t blame you in the least for finally getting tired of everything. I know you loved me and if I’ve lost you forever, I know I was just too much.
And here I am—still spending your money. You must have been bad in a former existence.
My tentative plans are—barring some development that might make me want to stay—I will head home soon. In case I stay and need more money, I will write immediately.
By the way—in case of an emergency in which I must return—can you put the house key someplace where I can find it. Last time I had a terrible time getting in. I thought of the big pavement slab by the porch. I don’t expect to arrive so suddenly—but who knows what will happen tomorrow?
David never wrote to me telling me he was married. But I guess my little boy is like that. And also he knows that I never have and never will ask anything or expect anything of him—I only want that he be happy. I hope that he won’t drive too fast on that trip. I couldn’t bear to lose my only child.
Joe, how difficult life is. One must recognize happiness when one has it. My thoughts are always with you and always have been.