Memoranda Of A Decade


I circle several times while I lose altitude, trying to penetrate the shadows from different vantage points, getting the lay of the land as well as I can in darkness. At one thousand feet I discover the wind sock, dimly lighted, on top of some building. It’s bulged, but far from stiff. That means a gentle, constant wind, not over ten or fifteen miles an hour. My landing direction will be over the floodlights, angling away from the hangar line. Why circle any longer? That’s all the information I need. No matter how hard I try, my eyes can’t penetrate the blanket of night over the central portion of the field. …

It’s only a hundred yards to the hangars now—solid forms emerging from the night. I’m too high—too fast. Drop wing—left rudder—sideslip—— Careful—mustn’t get anywhere near the stall. I’ve never landed the Spirit of St. Louis at night before. It would be better to come in straight. But if I don’t sideslip, I’ll be too high over the boundary to touch my wheels in the area of light. That would mean circling again——Still too high. I push the stick over to a steeper slip, leaving the nose well down——Below the hangar roofs now——straighten out——A short burst of the engine——Over the lighted area——Sod coming up to meet me——Deceptive high lights and shadows—Careful—easy to bounce when you’re tired——Still too fast——Tail too high—— Hold off——Hold off——But the lights are far behind——The surface dims—— Texture of sod is gone——Ahead, there’s nothing but night——Give her the gun and climb for another try?——The wheels touch gently—off again—No, I’ll keep contact—Ease the stick forward——Back on the ground—Off—Backthe tail skid too——Not a bad landing, but I’m beyond the light—can’t see anything ahead … Uncomfortable … jolting into darkness—Wish I had a wing light—but too heavy on the takeoff——Slower, now—slow enough to ground loop safely—left rudder—reverse it—stick over the other way—… the Spirit of St. Louis swings around and stops rolling, resting on the solidness of earth, in the center of Le Bourget. …

—The Spirit of St. Louis


Among the publications that reflected the way people thought and behaved in the Twenties was Harold Ross’ urbane magazine, The New Yorker. In 1925 Ross announced its aims in the following prospectus: THE NEW YORKER will be a reflection in word and picture of metropolitan life. … It will hate bunk. … THE NEW YORKER will be a magazine which is not edited for the old lady in Dubuque. It will not be concerned with what she is thinking about. This is not meant in disrespect, but THE NEW YORKER is a magazine avowedly published for a metropolitan audience and thereby will escape an influence which hampers most national publications.…

Unlike Sinclair Lewis, who found his characters in the Midwest from which he sprang, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote almost exclusively about a rich and rootless eastern society. In The Great Gatsby (1925) he described the lavish parties at Jay Gatsby’s country house: There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor-boats slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam. On week-ends his RollsRoyce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains. And on Mondays eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbingbrushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.

Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York—every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb.

At least once a fortnight a crop of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening horsd’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another.