Only a sketchy line or so to let you know that I am cross-eyed, tongue-twisted, hairless gibbering, shaking and explosive with correcting papers--and papers--and papers--while under the unbearable strain of remembering what a completely, crazily, forgetful good time you and yours gave me. If I'm packed off in chains to spend the rest of my life laughing like Pagliasci over the rib digging humor of Webster's unabridged read upside down--take unto thine own fair self the blackness of guilt in that blight, and retire to white shrines and calloused knees for daring to mislead me into bewildering San Francisco at the flower time, when school had another month to go, and I had the spring itch anyway. Though you might make Murph pray a bit with you--since she has me going ga-ga and pfff-pfff-pfff with my feet behind my neck, from trying to make a whole number out of 1/2. But I find it takes two to do it--and I'm alone. Praise be unto Allah and all the lesser gods that Euclid never got to Redwood city--or engineers would be working out stresses and strains on a bead rack.
But all frantic fury aside--I can't imagine how I could have had a better time --and besides the most pleasant memories of you and the many other very good friends, I shall never forget other matters you gave me-- the skyline at night and in the afternoon, with the wind like a river in the trees; red and yellow Chinatown, the peninsula in the new season,the hours into dawn at your house, the sunrise from Twin Peaks--the sun path on the distant bay, and San Francisco like a ghost city in the mist, and a chocolate egg after two helpings of everything at a very big dinner.
No I did not have to use that going away bottle of specialist champagne. I feel fine. We gave the purple top flask to Montgomery. He likes the stuff. Drinks it up to keep his joints oiled, his hair smooth, his nails polished--and uses it as an after shaving lotion--and to keep the moths out of his tuxedo. He gives it to the night watchman to grease his disposition and pours it into cream pitchers at the dining hall. It takes the squeak out of Hannah Widget, and makes mellow and mellifluous the meanderings of the Roxie vitaphone. He found only one fault with the wine --there wasn't enough for the size spoon he uses.
Now where was I--oh yes-- enumerating all that you had done to put me in this state of double jointed cranial cramps. Well--enough --we need go no further with that. You know as well as I do what was done to me-- and why I now smile sweetly upon my lisping students while the yellow jaundice of desperation comes more and more forth from my bloodshot eyes.
But all strange stragglings aside--it was a wonderful weekend--one to leave me eternally in your debt--unless I may introduce you to Lake Tahoe and Pyramid--and favorite places in my mountains. Thank you again endlessly. And may our paths have other crossings. My best regards to your Mother and Father--and to M--no!--tell Murph I hate and despise her -- and I slap her memory all out of shape for leaving me with a fraction. I loathe fractions and I'm rotten at mathematics.
Hoping for more Easter morns on Twin Peaks--and coffee and sleepy cigarettes before dawn. Life is long--may it be as good often again.
Walter Van Tilburg Clark wrote this letter in Spring 1932 when he was teaching high school in Reno. Thanks to his son Robert Clark and Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno, Library for permission to print i t.
Photos of San Francisco, 1940 and Lake tahoe, 1912, from Jim Bell Collection
Copyright © 1997, Great Basin News Service
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