1974, May 26: Letter from Peter to G&H

Four-page letter, handwritten on heavy unlined paper.

Includes yet another attempt at a weak pun between a mispronounced Japanese word and an English word, sigh.

May 26, 1974

Dear Parents——

Our delight was boundless when we learned that you could get away for a week to come & visit us Change of pen color —— we eagerly await your arrival... (the other pen was giving up) Another change of pen color (surely one of these must write ... o.k.).

By a miraculous “coincidence”, we had planned to be in S.F. on the morning of the 8th: our church service is held the second Sunday of each month, and that’s the day! So anyway, the service begins at 10:00, the ceremony lasts about a half-hour and would be interesting to you —— it involves putting fruit, vegetables, cupcakes, rice, salt, & sake (as in “it might be rice wine to you, but it’s socki to me”... yikes) on the altar as an expression of thankfulness to God for abundance of material blessings, and chanting a 3000-year-old Shinto “Prayer of Heaven” (Amatsu Norito) asking God to purify the world and our spirits.

Note written sideways in margin: Thank you very very much for your letters of your childhood, Pop——We all loved them, especially Jed & Joaquin...

Anyway, after this opening ceremony, there is a five-minute break, and then an hour-and-a-half sermon in alternating Japanese & English paragraphs. This would probably be less than fascinating to you (i.e. likely quite boring), so you could go into the children’s playroom & play with your lovely grandchildren, or out into the terraced garden, xxx or out walking around the (posh) neighborhood, or ? until the service is over, then we could do whatever in S.F., or immediately head back to Sta. Rosa, etc.

Well, as far as motels go, here’s what I’ve come up with:

*1. Chalet Motel: 7 miles away, “family apts & kitchens; tv; quiet, restful country living” —— $47.50/wk.

2. Highland Dell Resort Hotel: in Monte Rio (23 miles away); $12 - $22/day, seventh day is free; probably rustic

3. Inn Sebastopol: 5(?) miles away; "titillating decor, waterbed suites {{also air conditioning}}, colorcable tv, x free coffee & juice; $16/day, 7th day free; possibility of some $12 suites ...

*4. Astro Motel: “a SUPERIOR motel” —— room coffee, color tv, air conditioning, pool, sauna, beside Julliard Park & Luther Burbank Gardens; $14/day, $70/wk.; 5 miles away. {{6th & 7th days free}}

* = in Santa Rosa

*5. Rustic Motor Inn: 5 miles away; air cond., tv, 2 pools: dble bed = $16/day; twin beds = $18/day; queen bed = $20; large twin beds = $22/day. “deluxe garden style”, a “Best Western” motel.

*6. Downtown Motel: 5 miles away; separate cottages, w/ kitchenette, cable tv, “for a park-like setting downtown; $55/wk.

*7. Hillside Inn Best Western Motel: 8 miles away, pool, tv, sauna baths; $18/day for queen bed.

So. There’s quite a range, and I didn’t know what would strike your fancy, so I didn’t make any reservations: when you decide, give us a ring & I’ll call them. (You could save phone cost by following code: if you want #1, phone collect for Mr. Allistair; if #2, for Mr. Burgess; if #3, for Mr. Cooke; etc.: then from the first letter I’ll know which one to call...!) You want it six nights, right? June 9-14? And should we make return train reservations, or have you? You’ll return the 15th & arrive the 16th? Do you go back to teach oxn 17th? or 18th? Enough mundane details, let’s look at the Big Picture!

Note written sideways in margin:Yes, we’ll meet you at 8:15, 6/9 in San Fran!

School’s out by then, and we have no commitments except a dental app’txm’t on Tuesday, so we can be very flexible in arranging excursions, beach or mountain expeditions, cultural evenings of refined entertainment, hedonic revels in mineral & mud baths at local hot-springs health spas, riverside luaus, long lazy afternoons sipping margueritas in our hammocks while watching the sweating braceros toil in lush tropical gardens —— oops, I got carried away —— I’m supposed to be teetotaling, our garden won’t be lush for another five years, and I’m one of the sweating toilers ...

We’re doing “Nature Farming” in our garden —— like in a forest, only mulch is put down on surface, no compost is dug into the soil. Also, we channel Johrei Light to the Spirit of the soil, and much glass, metal, wire, concrete, stones, nails, all kinds of debris, rises to the surface like toxins coming out of a boil on a person’s skin. It is very amazing to see.

Also, we have a paid staff now: “Sam” (actually Stamatis) does gardening and babysitting, so Marcy & I can escape sometimes.

Love, P, M, J & J

Some Google Docs OCR errors from this letter:

  • margueritas: mortueritas
  • we channel: como porno
  • escape sometimes: escape some limes


I assume the quotation marks were intended to indicate that Peter didn’t really believe in coincidence, and that instead this was part of the cosmic plan.
In Japanese, this word is pronounced more like “sah-keh,” not “socki.” I know that the word is widely mispronounced by non-Japanese speakers, but Peter really should have known better by this point.
Amatsu Norito
The first recording on a Matheson Trust page gives a vague sense of what this prayer was like, though our version had slightly more of a melody, a little bit more like a song and less like a chant than the version on that page.
“letters of your childhood, Pop”
I’m especially disappointed that these didn’t survive, given how little we know about George’s childhood. :(
Someone, probably Helen, crossed out motels 2 and 6, and put arrows pointing to 1, 4, and 6, and crossed out the arrow pointing to 1, and circled various attributes, and added brief notes like “No phone sauna or pool.”
The envelope for this letter is covered with additional notes and comments and phone numbers for the various motels, in what I think is Helen’s handwriting.
collect-call code
Peter and Marcy used a variant of this code when one of them needed to call ahead to tell the other what time they would arrive home; in that variant, they used names that rhymed with numbers. “Collect call for Mr. Grate” to indicate 8:00, or “Collect call for Mr. Blix” to indicate 6:00, etc.
It always seemed like a kind of clever code to me (though also seemed like cheating/going around the rules). I don’t know whether they made it up, or whether it was a widespread thing at the time.
“supposed to be teetotaling”
I don’t have a clear sense of when or why Peter went on and off various drugs, including alcohol.
“paid staff now”
I have no memory of Sam/Stamatis.

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