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Socotra House Publishing: Purveyor of Glib Words to the World

Socotra House Publishing is a small press dedicated to publishing and distributing the historical works of Vic Socotra, a non-mortal fellow who captures American and military history with aplomb.

#3, With Bacon


I am back Up North after checking in on the equestrian trials at Rosmarie’s Summerduck Run Farm just up the road from Refuge Farm. The ten-year-old Russian Princess is jumping her chestnut gelding and there was a opportunity to view the newest resident of Culpeper County, and adorable baby girl who has joined the clan across the fence.

The trailers were all lined up neatly as the parents ferried in the horses who do not board with Rosmarie, and the radiant faces on the Mom’s and daughters was a joy to behold. The ponies were pretty cool, too.

My pal had a plane to catch, though, and so we were off early from the event, stopping only briefly at the Bright Lights of little Winston to show off the sturdy but dilapidated stone chapel devoted to the memory of a Winston Heir who did not survive typhoid caught at UVA more than a century ago.

There is more to the story, though, as you might imagine. The brownstone chapel has been unused for many years and is falling into disrepair. Locals at the Winston Ordinary will tell you, I explained as I swing the Panzer around the access road to give my pal a good look.

“The patriarch of the Winston clan left a provision in his will that the ownership, care, and maintenance of the chapel was a responsibility of the Winston successors. As the gal behind the counter tells it, the Winstons were at odds with another local family, the Somervilles. There was money in this, and land and the people who lived on it, and so it is not exactly Hatfield and McCoy skirmishing sort of stuff. More lawyers, I think.”

Anyway, the Somervilles constructed their own church over in the village of Mitchels, which is still a going concern today. As time went on, the families remained at odds, with the exception of two young lovers who, as you may have guessed, ended up getting married, linking the two families. As time passed, the Winston family members have all passed away, and through inheritance, all assets (including the family chapel) ended up in the hands of the Somerville family.

“There is one remaining descendent, who is a Somerville, and really could care less. It is a charming relic of a time gone by in the country.”


But local history aside, we were hungry. At least I was, and then it was into town for breakfast at the jam-packed Frost Diner, a #3 ham-and-cheese omelet, hash browns and English muffin with a side of crisp bacon. It looked like everyone had the same idea as we did, and had skipped church to make it happen. The intricate ballet of the wait staff hovering around the central griddle running food out to the packed restaurant was fascinating.


Then a stroll up historic East Davis Street, a look at the new restaurant that has opened up next to the ever-reliable “It’s About Thyme” and back into the Panzer for an uneventful ride up Rt. 29 to I-66 east to Rt. 28. Along the way I mentioned the usual stuff- the Brandy Station Battlefield, the Graffiti House, the place where Gallant Pelham Fell, the place Little Mac McClellan had his farewell parade after Mr. Lincoln fired his ass, and the place where history might have been changed if the Rebel gunners had not missed Brevet Brigadier George Armstrong Custer on his horse on the Buckland Mill Bridge.


Then the last jog into IAD to drop my high-school pal off at Icelandic Air for his hop to Reykjavik and Copenhagen en route Munich, GE. We have doing things like this, off and on, for nearly fifty years.

We had a grand time drinking and grilling and took champagne to the Russians to celebrate the arrival this week of their new Granddaughter and played with Jack the Amazing German Shepherd and Biscuit the Wonder Spaniel.

Then, back to town on the Dulles Access Road, sliding into a still-rousing Arlington. So, with the laundry put away and all the devices charging, the morning already had everything nice and now there is no alternative to working, which isn’t, and is actually what I should have been doing Friday afternoon and yesterday. Somehow, my heart just isn’t in it.

Retirement is becoming an imperative that I just can’t fight. The sun is coming out. Maybe I should go swim. I think half of that Beef on Weck sandwich from the Willow on Friday is still in the fridge for later.

I was going to write a story this morning but never got around to it.

Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
Twitter: @jayare303



It got sloppy out last night. We had to watch carefully as one of the regulars navigated across Fairfax Drive on the way out. He was fine once he actually found the crosswalk, though the start of the transit was a little sloppy. Or maybe that was the night before; it was going to be Buffalo Night on Friday, last one of the month, lurching into Labor Day, and you could sense all of the Ballston neighborhood starting to hold its breath.

There was just something sloppy about the whole day. Something ill-fitting, as though the entire period from before breakfast right through exercise and the swim had been thrown together by complete amateurs. I like to think of my days as carefully-crafted gems of harmonious integration.

I once had an actual secretary who printed my schedule for the Pentagon day on a little three-by-five card for easy reference. It was very precise, and I always felt super-organized. Then everyone started retiring on me.

So, I am still getting up at some ungodly hour, and now, having friends at leisure from the Far East to Europe, there are important things on which to comment, and cat videos and all that stuff before the East Coast has stumbled to the kitchen to put on the coffee and fuel the morning rants.

There is plenty to rant about, and I have pals on all sides of the issues. Which leads to writing things that are too intemperate to publish, publicly, at least, and trust me I get them from left and right.

So, by the time all the get-off-my-lawn traffic killed, it is ten o’clock, I am thinking about the second pot of coffee and what the exercise routine is going to be later in the day, and then some politician will say something stupid and the whole address book goes crazy.

By the time I get things tamped down in the afternoon, it is time to try to get some exercise, and then it is Happy Hour at Willow. Rinse and repeat. I have no idea what to do about the exercise piece after the two bonus swim weekends in September are done, and I need to get serious about getting the yoga mat out again.

I was thinking the Chinese might be amenable to sharing the thirty thousand yoga routines that Secretary Clinton gave them off her home email server, but you can’t tell if they want to publish them separately. It is a sloppy process, but you have to do what you have to do, I suppose.

I actually had lunch at Willow- a delicious heirloom tomato salad and a couple impertinent glasses of Sauvignon Blanc with a colleague who was also “working from home.” It was a rollicking time, and really only phase one, since this evening is Buffalo Night, and I then lurched into a drive out to Dulles to pick up Sunny, a pal I first met in 1967. He is on a lay-over on his way to Germany, where he says the people are very tidy.

He won’t find it that way here, and after we had a drink and a dip in the pool we were ready for drinks at Willow, and hand-cut pommes frites, and those fabulous thinly-sliced beef on house made Kemmelweck rolls.


Apparently they are not the greatest sandwiches in the world, or I was informed by no less an authority than the chef herself, Tracey O’Grady. “They are good,” she said, “but you should have seen the ones we made with the left-over Prime Rib from the Sausage King’s daughter’s wedding reception.”

The gang was out in force, as is usual on the last Friday of the month. Barrister Jerry, Old Jim,Chanteuse Mary, TLB, dapper Jon-without, K2 in casual mode, Brian and ann Marie and more new friends we had not met yet.

I don’t expect I will get lucky enough to see one of those, and will have to be content with the commercial-grade Best Sandwich on earth.

We eventually weaved our sloppy way out of the bar and returned to big Pink, where we set up camp on the patio and solved world problems until well after my usual bed-time.

Off to the farm now, and the cheaper booze I serve here at big Pink, and then maybe weave down to the farm in the morning.

Life is grand these days, even if it is a little sloppier than I am used to. I saw this one fly around an decided I liked it:

I am a Seenager. (Senior teenager)

I have everything that I wanted as a teenager, only 60 years later.

I don’t have to go to school or work.

I get an allowance (pensions).

I have my own pad.

I don’t have a curfew.

I have a driver’s license and my own car.

I have ID that gets me into bars and the Beer Store.

The people I hang around with are not scared of getting pregnant.

And I don’t have acne.

Life is great.

Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra


All’s Right With the World


Well, you know that is complete nonsense. But the sun appears to be coming up in the East this morning, and if our retirement funds are a couple dozen thousand dollars lighter this morning, oh well, easy come, easy go.

It was easy enough to get sidetracked on the awful events down in Roanoke yesterday. The horror of it incorporated all the appalling trends of modern life- a jumble of technology colliding with social media- that has served the barbarians f ISIS so well. The murders not only went on live television, but were recorded by the gunman and posted to social media shortly after the carnage was committed.

I could throw in all the other luggage that is captured in microcosm in this sad, tragic event, but why start. Everyone has a handy narrative to grab onto, and it is off to the races, damn the truth. The facts, as they emerge, supports the notion that a troubled man (it is always men, troubled men, isn’t it?) acted out to gain a few moments of infamy at the awful cost of two young and promising lives.

And unlike that wimp Martin O’Malley, I will just say this: All lives matter. Except for those that think killing is the answer to anything. Maybe we ought to concentrate on culling the monsters, you know?

We talked about that at Willow. I was feeling pretty good, all things considered. I got a full hour’s swim in the warm sunshine after completing a mind-numbing analysis of a Government solicitation. did some curbside romantic counseling from my stool near the apex of the Amen Corner, though one should factor in the fact that my specific performance in that sector is subject to debate by reasonable observers. Doc popped in from Arizona to try the award-winning Smokey Sliders, which were on special at six bucks for a brace of them, and bemoaned the state of IT contracting in this town.

I commiserated. Things have become so crazy and convoluted in the world of government contracting that it is quite enough to drive one to distraction, though with the plummeting price of oil, driving away from it all is an attractive option.

The Lovely Bea and Jon-without are back from the time-share adventure in Mexico, which sparked a round of Spanglish between the morning Miguel the morning sous chef, and bartender Marvin, and Jon and TLB. It was grand fun, mangling a proud tongue, and we watched videos of the cliff jumping on the hand-held devices that got passed up the bar. The Missile Twins came for their Wednesday flatbread-and-happy-hour red, and despite the ominous portents of the day, things seemed to be going pretty well.

The sun was shining, the birds sang, and life was going on.

When I got back to the flat, it was full dark and there was enough of a chill in the rising breeze that I decided to eschew the second swim of the day, and walked over to tell Pavel the Lifeguard that he didn’t have to hang around on my account. When I returned to the unit to make the coffee for the next morning, I noticed a note had been slipped under my door. It wasn’t signed, but I knew exactly who it was from, a fellow member of the Aqua Underground with an interest as acute as mine. The Board had made their decision:


Four more days of swimming before we have to figure something else to do for our cardio.

All might not be well with the world, but some of the small things are just fine. Thank God.

Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra


Twitter: @jayare303


I am left speechless.


Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 9.38.02 AM
(Image courtesy of WDBJ7 Television, Roanoke, Virginia).

They were broadcasting a story about local tourism. Have we collectively taken leave of our senses?

Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra


Twitter: @jayare303

Jameson’s By the Sea


Was it just six months ago I was sitting at the bar at Jameson’s By The Sea, in historic Haleiwa on the North Shore of O’ahu?

The year has flown by since then, and it has caused an odd time warp, since the period between the times I was a regular visitor had preceded that trip by nearly thirty years.

I guess it goes to show that you should really carpe diem, since I got a note in the morning traffic that I am not going to be visiting there again. Ever.

For a perfectly good reason, I had anticipated returning to the happy Isles at least annually for a while, and likely will. But Jamesons’s will not be on the menu of activities.

Some of Oahu’s North Shore destinations will be, of course. Bellows Air Force Station and it’s lovely beach under the jagged spines of the steep side of the Ko’olau mountains. Kaena Point on the northwest corner of the island where the big surf lies, and Dillingham Field where we saw a polo player get killed one summer long ago. Some destinations on the good side of the Dole pineapple fields, away from the sprawl of Honolulu and the bright lights of Waikiki.

There are only a certain number of places to go on an island, after all, and the reference points are about only two directions- toward the mountains (“Mauka’) and toward the ocean (“Makai”).

Everything will eventually take you Makai, even if you start Mauka. In the future I will split the difference between the Ko’olaus and the Waianai range, hitting the ocean again at the historic old town of Haleiwa.


The last trip, I wanted to soak in the memories, and wanted to do a late lunch at what had been my favorite bar on the island. As it turns out, it was a fortunate choice.

Haleiwa is a funky tourist town. You can feel how different it is from the urban southeast part of the island. You can feel that all just slide away once you are past the Dole Plantation visitor’s center. I didn’t feel like joining the throngs looking for shave ice, the commodity for which Haleiwa might be most famous. The signs warned of high surf, which was good, and I pulled off the road to look once I was across the bridge at the north end of town.


Jameson’s was s t ill there, and the lot was only part full. I steered the rental Mazda into an open spot, hoisted my backpack, and went in. The porch had a few open tables, but you never get any good stories at a table by yourself, and I nodded to the hostess and told her I was just going to get a seat at the bar and have lunch.


She nodded and smiled, and I walked in. Bree’an was the duty bartender, and things were just the way I remembered. Judy was next to me, she had been there thirty years doing the books for the restaurant, she was next to Bill, a restaurant manager from down the road on his day off, and Malia, a local lady with a big smile and a personality to match.

I got a vodka and settled in to listen and learn. There are signature mai tais, of course, but I regard them as being for amateurs. I could tell you the stories about how everyone wound up here in this pleasant little place. But though they are all different, they are all the same. I was led to a discussion of how fresh the food was, and whether or not the sashimi was as good as it sounded. Here is the presentation:


I remarked to Bree’an that the wasabi dipping sauce was spectacular. She gave me a sly smile and placed her index finger next to her nose.

“It is not Wasabi,” she said. “It is a specialty here at Jameson’s.”

“Don’t be coy,” I said. “What is it? Tastes as hot as wasabi.”

“It is soy and Coleman’s mustard powder,” she said brightly. “It brings the heat and just the right texture.”

I smiled right back. The Irish coffee to conclude the visit was just to let the vodka level drop low enough to be alert for the drive back over the pineapple plantation. I thought I might hit the Paalaa Kai Bakery on the way, and grab some of their delightful sweet-tasting bread to have with breakfast the next day. And then the languid trip back across the island to the BOQ at Makalapa.

No one mentioned that the lease on Jameson’s was up this month, and there was going to be no extension. They shut the place on the 16th. I should have felt a shudder in The Force.

Jameson’s was owned by Andy Anderson, former Republican candidate for Governor. He also owned the legendary John Dominis restaurant down in Honolulu, and you could not have two places with a bigger contrast in style. Andy was big back in the Frank Fasi days. Frank was the Mayor of Honolulu when they were still shooting Magnum PI on location there, and the world was young. He was a colorful rascal.

Apparently Anderson decided the place needed a face-lift after 33 years decided on a renovation to make it more appealing and draw a bigger and thirstier crowd than geezers of my vintage.

The bar will supposedly be back as a thing called the “Haleiwa Boat House.” Supposedly, there will be a sports bar on the bottom with TVs and games to draw in the younger crowd so they don’t have to look at the ocean, and a dining room upstairs that will feature the view of the harbor and sunsets.

I wasn’t planning on being back at Jameson’s until next year, anyway, and maybe the new place will be open by then. I will let you know. In the meantime, there is an opportunity to purchase a piece of history. I am thinking of a couple stools from the bar and maybe the fish tank. Act now. The Auction is Wednesday.


Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
Twitter: @jayare303

Citizen Doe


I have a project that is dizzying in complexity and daunting in scope. I have had a hard time getting my arms wrapped around it, and the weather has just been too darned nice to do anything except savor the end of summer.

I have been delaying putting pen to paper- or digits to digital prose- on an essay intended to showcase the dimensions of the threat to the homeland.

Like you, I follow the news cycle through week, and there is some pretty incredible stuff happening. In fact, there is so much of it that it is hard to keep straight in my mind. I thought I would take a stroll through the elements of what constitutes a threat to the homeland.



There is no question that natural disaster can be the number one threat to homeland security, and always will be. 2005 saw the nightmare of Hurricane Katrina, and its devastating impact on the Gulf Coast in general and New Orleans in particular. Despite the nine years since a major tropical storm came ashore, storms like Sandy demonstrate the consequences of poor building practices and zoning when confronted by the power of nature.

In 2009, the economic meltdown had everyone concerned. There was a real threat to the homeland, but it was purely self-inflicted. No mass public disorder resulted, though times were tough and public anxiety was high. Many homeowners were underwater. Life savings were wiped out.

As unemployment soared to 10.2%, spendthrifts became tightwads, a new age of austerity dawned, and the era of easy money lurched to a close. With the financial system coaxed back from the brink, the Obama Administration injected massive sums into the sagging economy with stimulus packages and incentives like the wildly popular (if myopic) Cash for Clunkers program. But even as experts grasped for green shoots amid the wreckage, the debris continued to pile up.

Overseas, two wars continued to rage- three or four, if you include Abu Sayef in the Philippines and the tendrils of al Qaida elsewhere. The Sunni Awakening in Iraq’s Anbar Province suggested that the insurgency could be defeated and the central government of Iraq could be stabilized.

“Mowing the grass” against the Taliban seemed to be having a positive effect in the war there.

So, with our attention split between the economy and the wars overseas, the threat to the homeland seemed to be something for the economists and the Stimulus on one hand, and the force of arms and good tactics on the other.

Then came Christmas Day over Detroit, and a man wearing a bomb as underwear attempted to bring down Northwest Flight 253 over the city. The act was not successful, but it presaged the arrival of IEDs right here in America. Something fundamental was changing about the nature of the threat.

Hacking and identity theft were becoming also becoming common, though on the whole, the cyber world offered incredible opportunities to improve commercial activity.


Citizen Doe arises and logs on to check the bank account information and pay bills on line. Doe is startled that the balance in the checking account is zero, since the information on the ATM card was skimmed with log-in and pass-code keystroke theft.

A massive compromise of identity and credit card information on a mature dating site has been disclosed. Doe is identified as a member, and an intimate partner is intensely concerned. A bitter dispute rises as both parties prepare to go to work.

While driving, the air conditioning in the Doe SUV begins to behave erratically, and the cruise control flicks on and off as though someone was tampering with it.

At lunch, a personable Chinese individual approaches with a business proposition that reveals a curious familiarity with the details of Citizen Doe’s personal background information.

Unsolicited calls regarding medication for a high blood pressure and anxiety begin to come on the phone. Both conditions are real and had only been discussed with Doe’s physician.

The commute home is disrupted by protestors who link arms across an interstate highway, and others have established a camp in a public park across from the office building.

Court proceedings have sparked large-scale unrest in a large city nearby. Law enforcement presence is beefed up and check-points are established to maintain good order.

A long-shuttered mining complex has been emitting water contaminated with heavy metals. In attempting to mitigate the flow, a government agency inadvertently releases three million gallons of waste water contaminated with arsenic, cadmium and lead as well as other toxic elements into the river system. The toxic spill affects waterways of municipalities in the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and the Navajo Nation.

A halfway house for undocumented immigrants is established in Citizen Doe’s neighborhood. Some have criminal records, but the city has Sanctuary laws in place to protect them from deportation.

Across town, a man attacks citizens, apparently randomly, with a hammer and a knife. Public safety appears in jeopardy. Scattered shootings across the area suggest a sniper is also active in the area, targeting citizens apparently at random.

Unsettled about the apparent hacking of the bank account, Citizen Doe checks his credit score and discovers several new accounts have been opened in Doe’s name, including a mortgage. Doe’s identity has been stolen by persons unknown.

Overseas, a terrorist state announces that it has achieved the capability to launch a nuclear device and explode it over Kansas, creating an EMP event that could disable every integrated circuit or microprocessor within line of sight of the blast. If programmed to detonate for 240 miles in altitude, such and event would cover most of the Continental United States.

Another group announces it’s intent to strike an urban area with a dirty bomb, time and location to be determined.

Unsure of the reliability of the Doe vehicle, the citizen decides to take public transportation, where the platforms have been cleared due to discovery of an unattended backpack.


One of Doe’s cousins has been on travel, and the Boeing 777 on which they were traveling has vanished without explanation.

A local coal-fired electrical generating plant has been shuttered in compliance with tougher air pollution limits before renewable energy from wind and solar farms have come on line. No natural gas plant has been built to backstop the erratic renewable energy sources and the grid is under stress, creating rolling brown-outs across the region.

A local power substation is targeted by gunfire, with shots being fired into the radiators of giant transformers, disabling but not destroying them. Two manhole covers were removed, and communications lines were cut. The utility says damages came to $15.4 million and is a single point of failure for a large part of the city.

Local advocates announce the intention to have a free-speech in which controversial cartoons will be displayed. Police brace for possible violence.

SCADA systems at a nearby hydroelectric plant are hacked, causing floodgates to open, flooding nearby residential areas and eliminating back-up power that further stresses the grid.

Citizen Doe is watching the news with growing alarm. It is December and a cold wave has hit the city. Then the lights- and the heating- go out. Doe hopes there are batteries for the flashlight. And that there is a sleeping bag handy.


With the exception of the EMP threat, all these things have actually happened this year, and you will note that I haven’t advanced the thesis that it is all related to jihadi self-radicalization.

I am not sure if the North Koreans have actually stated their intention to loft an EMP device toward the homeland, but they have announced that they can nuke Hawaii, right?

It is not that any of it was implausible in 2009- we were talking about the use of nukes against us in 2002 when I was still in the government, but the dimensions of the problem have metastasized. I don’t know, but the pace of things seems to be accelerating.

I am not even sure what direction to be looking any more. I am feeling a lot like Citizen Doe these days. How about you?

Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra


Twittter: @jayare303


Ain’t No Cure…


There are not many Saturdays left in this curiously temperate summer. I think yesterday might very well have been the most beautiful days I can remember: perfect temperature, low humidity, high cirrus clouds to block the glare but provide plenty of light to warm the skin, water in the pool perfect refreshing temperature. I was in the pool three times- a half hour treading water after lunch, then an hour after a conference call, and a dip before closing.

It was magnificent. Doc and Alec were there at the table in the corner that we call the clubhouse- our place to park our towels and flip-flops when we are swimming, and the place to sit and gossip about everyone who isn’t there when not actually in the water. I was interested in hearing about who had been led out of the building in handcuffs- not surprising, I suppose, but still interesting.


Then the matter of the pool politics. I am positioning myself to be the last one out of the pool again, as I have for the last fourteen years, but it is a ticklish matter that requires intricate planning. I am normally the last one out of the pool every day. That is neither a challenge nor a requirement- I am always out in plenty of time so that the Mattias or Pavel will be able to lock up a few minutes before formal closing time and ride their bicycles off into the dusk.

The last time out of the water for the entire season of darkness, though, that is a matter of some gravity. We have all been a little agitated about major construction project required to fix the pipes buried under the concrete of the pool deck. It is going to particularly impact The Queen of the Dogs, since the pipes lead under her patio and it going to require digging underneath it.

The only thing to mar the perfection of it all is the knowledge that it is coming to an end. If there is a case for the Summertime Blues, it is exactly that: two weeks to go before the Polish lifeguards fly off to their adventures in North America before returning to middle Europe, and no certainty that the Board will offer the two bonus weekends of an open pool after that.

So, Management had published a calendar showing that the pool was going to close on Monday the 7th of September, and not be open for the bonus two weekends that follow when the Poles are gone and actual Americans have to do the lifeguarding. We are used to that, though Doc naturally would prefer that it was open during the week, too, since that is when she likes to swim.

I am totally onboard with that, and view those extra four days as cruel reminders of how good it feels to exercise, feeling nearly weightless, suspended in space. I really have to get serious about finding another low-impact way to get my cardio. I always say I am going to walk or use the fitness center and it just doesn’t work out that way.

Anyway, the uncertainty of the closing date revolves around a vote to be held next Wednesday at the monthly Board meeting. I have ascertained that the construction project does not require a complete closing on Labor Day, though I will have to be the last one out, if only to cover the streak for the regular season. We will see if I have to be there in the gloom of September 20th.

No one brought up politics of any scope beyond the ones in the building, which was a relief. Everyone seems so angry about everything, left right and middle, that it is making me uncomfortable. The answer to that was, of course, a sortie over to Willow to confer with the regulars. I drove the police cruiser under those sunny skies, and of course there was a spot at the curb right in front of the restaurant to slide it right into. The perfect day continued.

I had left Big Pink just before the news began to spread about the American Air Force guys who stymied another loony Jihadi on the French high-speed train, and Chanteuse Mary mentioned that and the fact that the Dow-Jones was down another 550 points, ninth worst day ever on Wall Street, and bringing the week to a real disastrous end. I made a mental note to not check the portfolio and did anyway on my idiot phone when Jim went off to the head. But even the shock at the plunge in value couldn’t unhinge the beauty of the day.

An interesting young entrepreneur named Rob was holding court at the far end of the Amen Corner, and he expressed interest at the “reserved” signs that mark our places at the apex of the bar to insure no other riff-raff occupies them in our absence.

He was shortly joined by another well-dressed young man who revealed that he was one of the “maths,” the slang term for the Quantitative Analytics Specialists who do the algorithms that control the stock market. It was a fascinating and scary conversation all at once, since no one except the algorithm seems to be in charge.

In between, Jim had also conducted a clinic on the life and times of Jimmy Breslin, the great Irish writer for the New York Daily News, Pulitzer Prize winner and drunk.


Rob had never heard of the gifted and irascible writer, and kept referring to him as “Jimmy Dresden.”

I had to correct him. “Rob,” I said, “get it straight. We bombed Dresden in the War. You get bombed with Breslin.”

Jim smiled. “Yeah. I had drinks with him one time and it was getting on to tomorrow morning and he called home to say that he probably wasn’t going to be home last night.”

Rob must have liked the discourse, and be one of the 1%ers we hear so much about. When Brett the bartender brought my check, he waved it back and stunned us by springing for free drinks for all the regulars at Willow, completely out of the blue. Just because.

It was, I thought, preparing to take that last plunge into the pool a half hour later, in almost all respects, a splendid day to be alive in a glorious world!

We will get back to reality shortly, I presume. But in the meantime, I intend to have a nice day today, too.

Already the sun is well down by the time I straggle back to the unit, and that means…well, you know.

The next thing people will be talking about pumpkins and Halloween. There ain’t no cure for that.

Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra


Twitter: @jayare303

A Very Good Year


Sorry about yesterday- things have a way of getting away from me these days. I bought coal stocks the other day when I heard the George Soros was making a seemingly counter-intuitive move on the market, and what the hell, despite the fact that the market seems to be tanking along with the Chinese. I made a couple bucks on what otherwise is junk with no future in the energy sector. Go figure.

Then the Midway Veterans wanted me to scan the manuscript for Nick Danger, so they can sell it at the gift shop on little thumb-drives, like Hillary’s lawyer has, and that got me completely sidetracked along with the pool stuff that had to be done whether it was crappy weather or not.

Then, I was trying to figure out the schedule for the Amtrak car train to keep the 900 miles between Pensacola and Refuge Farm off the ’59 Rambler and some other assorted issues, as well as following the events of the day, which we are being bludgeoned non-stop as we hurtle toward President Trump, or Sanders or whoever is going to inherit this mess. That was all depressing enough that I wanted to get back to the past where things are safe- or safer- and was searching the archives for the images of some renderings that Dad did to go along with the station wagon.

He was enamored of the motor-camping that the icons of industry had done when cars were new, and he updated some cool ideas to go along with the station wagon concept of the 1950s- the original SUVs. If I can find them, I will do display boards for showing the Rambler Custom, but have not succeeded in finding the pictures yet.

Anyway, I was thinking about Dad and his life and times and discovered something I wrote him when he turned 70. That was 22 years ago now, and I find myself precariously closing in on that age which I thought was so ancient, and marveled at the cheeky tone of the younger me.

It all seems to fit in with the car stories and the rest of it- and is before things began to get all washed out and sad. Anyway, I can only ask your forbearance.

And Frank Sinatra’s, too. Can’t believe that whole world is passing away, almost completely gone now.

Anyway, here it is:


It is a Sinatra song; one of the ones he sung later in the catalog when he knew that even his own wild jitterbug ride had assumed a certain measured tempo.

“When I was seventeen, it was a very good year….”

And was it! It was at the Paramount in the Big Apple that it began to come together as an adult, a bit gawky still, but one who could grab a bowl of the best chowder at the Oyster Bar in the greatest train station that mankind ever made in the most exciting city on the planet.

Maybe the dream began to coalesce before that, the view from Bumblebee lane down the made summer-buzzing New Jersey hills of Maplewood. Late at night watching the infinity of lights glittering across the water from the gables of the impossibly big Victorian house on Sagamore Lane. The pinpoints of color dancing, tantalizing, singing their Siren’s song to you….

“Watson, come here. I need you!”

The underpinnings of the tale begins with your father’s tales of exotic foreign lands and tropical islands, of gentlemen in white linen suits and solar topees and practical matters involving telephone cable and repeaters, telegraph keys and voltage-on-the-line. How things could be made better, part of the unending improvement and progress across the spectrum of modern life. How a trip to a borrowed beach cabin could be turned into a metaphor for how to live. Dad had left the cottage so much improved through his tinkering that the owners were pleased to have you all back anytime.

J.B. was a mythic figure, a gentleman of the old school and Brother Jim supplied a crucial bridge across the years. From the Twins, Jim and Rhoda, came tales of life in wartime. Of fires burning, unsettling, out on the Jersey beach horizon far beyond the breakers when the Kaiser reached out to America across the waves and the tar washed up upon the beach and for years the driftwood bore the marks of shipyards.

The thought of those sailors who died out there on the deceptively gentle waves was a source of wonder for the children who played on the shore.

Later, more Germans would drift through your skies. The mighty zepellin Hindenburg majestically plowed over the house as it coursed inland from the sea and across the piney barrens, where perhaps in fear the ignorant took pot-shots at it. On the gigantic tail was emblazoned the hooked cross in crimson and black; it’s enormity against the sky made you think that technology could achieve anything, overcome all odds. Even it’s awful death at Lakehurst presaged a time scant years later when Oppenhiemer at Trinity Flats could watch the incandescence of the Bomb and recognize that man’s relationship to Nature had fundamentally changed.

“When I was twenty-one, it was a very good year

for small town girls, and soft summer nights….”

Mr. Bell and Mr. Edison were contributors to your patrimony. Orville and Wilbur, too, and through the years they weave around your life and your family, lifting it to the sky with the roar of a mighty radial engine, pulling against gravity itself to lift the Yellow Peril into the pastel sky. So close were the brothers, linked to your brother, that they were the guiding spirits to the Great Game, as it led from fabric to stainless steel to space itself.


It runs quickly, like AVGAS down the line from the tank to the massive cylinders of a Pratt & Whitney. Not over, certainly, though perhaps past its mid-point; well started. Imagine sailing with Grandsons, watching your son and yourself the gestures and movement. The children’s wit and quickness are yours, and their existence the very proof of immortality, of the life everlasting that roars down through the generations. We borrow it’s energy only, for it is only ours to live and to give, never to keep.

The older generations gave. What were their stories? Did this part of the adventure begin with some bold peasant who looked at the devastation of the ’45 in Scotland and swore he would not live in a land shackled to the Crown of England? The times would match, for there the doughty Clendenins were in the western marches of the Old Dominion, founding Charleston, West-by- God Virginia. Building their blockhouse to defend against the Indians.

Fighters in the Revolution. Bourgeoisie for longer than there has been a United States, and damned proud of it. Mingling with German stock in the green rolling hills of Pennsylvania, watching the train slowly rolling out of Shippensburg just ahead of the ragged Confederates, who watered (or worse) the sugar and dry goods they could not carry away to the east, in the direction of a crossroads town called Gettysburg. Find yourself in knee-pants at the pier, saying goodbye again to Dad, as the Bell system calls him once more to bring the miracle of the Telephone to another part of the colonial empire.

Later, times hard, Mother said that if you were going to have a sweater, it was going to be a cashmere sweater. Never mind the cost, but just take care of it. Don’t get Pup the Collie’s dog-hair all over it. Tennis at Camp Aldercliff, a leather football helmet. Mom never let you down. The baby of the family, she gave you wings.

Find yourself suddenly at the ’39 World’s Fair, still a bit self-conscious of being jumped a year ahead in school, but practicing the high-stepping gait of the Drum Major. See the miracle of Flushing Meadow and the tantalizing possibilities of the future. Look at the streamlined ocean-liners! The Dirigibles that could carry Doc Savage and his crew high above the Colonies and Protectorates below. The Future is now. The word is challenge to create the great Liners of the sky and the speedy autos we will require to make it all happen.

Sure, there were troubles in Europe, but it was a phony war. A Sitzkreig. Certainly there was a Bund, even here, but even Mr. Lindberg said we should stay out of it. Pearl Harbor. Downtown Manhattan, you are traveling back late in the afternoon to a Jersey that will shortly cease to exist in the same way. The rush to the draftboard, and after beating down it’s initial misgivings, you are selected for the most prestigious and challenging of the Service air Arms; it is only right. Brother Jim is expediting, to get shaped steel to the plants that need it. The pipeline is long and there are bottlenecks everywhere as the nation lurches to full mobilization.

The Navy itself has bottlenecks in the training pipeline. You embark on a training odyssey across America. Tennessee you see, beautiful downtown Millington, and a host of other parade grounds and ping-pong tables. Formations and boxing smokers on the way to a Training Command seat and a Yellow Peril or a Stearman and a chance at the Cadet-of-the-Day Contest, where some hapless young man bought a Cyprus tree up close and personal, or a radio tower or a smokestack in the oppressive Gulf heat. Then the Command sent the telegram and moved on to the next training objective, nothing personal, after all there’s a war on.

Then Europe was finished, Hitler dead in his last bunker and against hope the invasion of Japan was rendered unnecessary by Dr. Oppenhiemer and Dr. Teller and it was over, the most titanic event in the history of human affairs. Your class got it’s Wings of Gold, the third to last before the cadets were sent home with nothing but the mimeographed warm thanks of a grateful nation and a Ruptured Duck. Forever after you were a member of the most exclusive club in the world, the Dauntless Dive Bomber Club, and it’s later derivative, the AD-4J Association: The Greatest Piston Driven Engine That Ever Flew. Even Uncle Dick the Famous Bomber Pilot never had a thrill like that!

The VETS came home. They did pylon-eights in their Hellcats around the Empire State and the Chrysler buildings, where a very attractive Texas Company employee looked out the window at the First City of the First World. Unexpectedly freed from the shadow of the hills around the Valley, the change brought by the War was not yet realized. The bold young heroes did over-and-unders on the East

River Bridges and a generation began to think about Living With the Bomb.

Beer Jackets, the 21 Club and the Rosenbergs. That was all part of the kaleidoscope as the demobilized came home, pockets full of cash. There was a giddy feeling in those days on Manhattan. You knew as soon as you got back. You had some things to catch up on, some learning and living to do. You put away the crisp blues full time and signed on at Pratt Institute.

The demand for goods not painted green or khaki was pent up and ready to be met. They were going to need industrial designers to make the sleek new products of the future; it was going to be a boom market!


There was also a blind date, arranged by Ray Rappaport, who brought to your attention a bright and quite lovely young women with a quiet and fierce determination. The motion pictures of the period record you in sepia, emerging from the Little Church Around the Corner, with a mature but very lovely Hazel in attendance. Life on a shoestring in the Village; amusements changed to focus on a new life as a couple. A Radio Quiz Show brought a little glamour to daily life; the studies of form and shape infusing everything with the concept of smooth and functional line, whether it was pottery or furniture or even steel….


So when Bob Veryzer called from out West to say that the way that consumer demand had mushroomed Detroit was hiring! And before you knew it, it was the heady world of auto design, modeling at Ford, breathing the tangible vision of streamlined speed into the inanimate brown clay. Making it sleek and smooth and alive. Throwing the baseball at lunchtime; marveling at the Rotunda, with it’ ring comprised of segments of all the famous roads of the world, because that is exactly what the Motor City was; the heart of the most dramatic transformation of a Society since the Railroads went West.

You designed it, along with the other bright young men, the Ed Andersons and Lee lacocas and George Romneys. Men with visions and dreams and talent. And “Radar” Reddig was flying still, out of Gross Isle and proudly conducting the once-a-month raid on Toledo’s number one objective, the oil refinery. Returning one hop after a perfectly executed simulated ordnance delivery, you smiled and punched the lighter on the instrument panel to have a victory cigarette, just like John Wayne. Cracking the canopy, you toss the butt out with a nonchalant flick of the wrist…..

Where it delicately pirouettes, flies back in with the slipstream, down between your legs and rests six feet below you atop the main wing spar, smoldering in the high octane gasoline fumes. Lowering the armored seat didn’t work, the tiny time bomb was still out of reach of your desperately flailing foot. There was nothing for it but to unstrap and climb down off the seat, holding on to the stick now above you, unable to see, and finally crushing it out before it blew the airplane to disassociated bits.

It wouldn’t have been the first accident up there for the Reserves; a young Lieutenant named Jansen bought it one afternoon, you heard the radio calls as it went down.

“How was the hop, Radar?”

“Routine, no big deal.”


Children. Your first born in the early summer, this was uncharted ground. Better get down to the cafeteria for a piece of pie to fortify yourself for what could be a long and complicated evolution……

Living in the City itself, the D&W Oil Company just down Kentucky street. Small children now, eating dirt in the backyard and running in and out.

You’ve left Ford and struck out for the greener but riskier pasture of AMC, where a bright young man can get ahead. Then the landlord terminates the lease, they have a new class of tenant who will pay more for the place, and suddenly You and Betty are driving around the northern suburbs. You alight in the old central district of Birmingham, and settle in to the perfect suburban life, an active, attractive wife, three healthy children, a dog, the PTA and everything.

The men nearly falling off the roof on Fall days when the Lions were playing in town, trying to adjust the antenna so you could get Lansing’s week signal, anything to beat the blackout. Listening to Bobby Lane win another one in the last two minutes at Ed Anderson’s place out at Skoll Acres.

Remember it all? The Constitutional Convention, “ConCon,” the Citizens for Romney, the heady notion that citizens really could make a difference. Dick Breck vaulting to the City Commission, the Balloonist Association of neighbors who drank beer in the back yard and painted tomatoes red to claim first honors of the summer, packs of children in and out of the house. Hamsters that could gnaw right through a pair of your dress trousers, a 78RPM record player in the dining room where the children would gyrate to Heartbreak Hotel and the cool jazz of Brubeck and the Australian Jazz Quartette. A child’s arm jammed through a jagged glass sun porch window and a surprising cascade of blood.

JFK shot, and young Capt. Groves from next door organizes a perfect cortege and dies of stress two weeks later himself. The world had lurched into something else, a strange and malevolent period, with RFK and Dr. King to follow, and George Wallace gunned down, something fundamentally changing in the air, plain as the massacre at My Lai in the evening news from the South East Asian War or Woodstock or the riots that ended Detroit as a real town.

“When I was forty-one, it was a very good year……

We’d ride in limousines…..”

But we didn’t know that the decade would be that strange. You were occupied with career, moving up out of automobiles and into the Originals; following the kids sports and school. And devoting a few hours each weekend for the 500 mile round trip to Martin Lake…..Where in the pines of northern Michigan we found contentment and respite from thetempo of the Motor City, and an easy family environment that provided a way to grow and share common interests in a time when so many others were growing apart.

The skiing was the best; from Mike and his Sears Skis to our notched hunting boots. We went downhill fast on that, sliding through the decade of the ’60s and into the ’70s on the Ski Patrol at the lovely Otsego Ski Club. By that time, you had put the kids through college and become the Chief Executive Officer of a major corporation. Everyone finished school, that was a relief, and despite a certain lack of direction, it appeared that they all were on track to go somewhere. By the ’80s, all had married and there even were Grandchildren, the little Hawaiians Nick and Eric, and the Rocky Baby out in Anchorage.


As Betty once observed when one of the kids, fed up with the histrionics of a two-year-old tantrum at the Mall, asked what the toughest stage of a kid’s life was, “Thirty to Forty.” And right she was. The ’90s brings two more grandchildren, Kelsey and Dana to round things out (so far) at five. A fine number, descriptive of five great young human beings.

“But now I think of my life as vintage wine,

From fine old kegs.

From the brim to the dregs,

It pours sweet, and clear.

It was a very good year.”


Love you, Dad.


Copyright 1993 and 2015 Vic Socotra


Twitter: @jayare303

Back to the Future


I am both exhilarated and appalled at my latest adventure with my brother- the purchase of a 1959 Rambler Custom Cross Country Station Wagon, the lovely old gal in pale pink with white inserts on the fins. This bit of personal and clan history has been something I have been meaning to address for years.

It won’t come as a surprise, but I have to be brutally honest. I am a recovering car guy. I am writing a book about the people who inhabit the strange world of classic and hot rod automobiles. Dad was a car designer, starting as a clay modeler at Ford’s and then at American Motors, rising to be the assistant head of design under the direction of the Head of Styling, Ed Anderson.

Ed was a Navy vet, and when I was a kid, he gave me a Japanese Naval Sword he captured on Guam near the end of the war. We were among the most heavily armed kids on the block, what with the war surplus stuff we collected. Dad would even let us purchase real rifles at the gun shop out in Pontiac, from the $6 barrel, and bayonets from the nice people at Silverstein’s Army-Navy Surplus on McNichols down in Detroit.

Of course we went in the Rambler wagon with the fancy luggage rack on the top. Nice car to drive, after a war, to paraphrase Mr. Bob Dylan’s lyrics from his epic “Talkin’ World War III Blues:”

Well, I seen a Cadillac window uptown
And there was nobody aroun’
I got into the driver’s seat
And I drove down to 42nd Street
In my Cadillac
Good car to drive after a war.

The Rambler thing has always caused me to have a chip on my shoulder around the guys whose fathers contributed to the design of the Caddies or the hot wheels of my youth- the Camaros, GTOs, Chargers and Firebirds- but this eccentric wagon called out to us. Dad actually contributed to the design, which is something fairly special- the “notch” on the roof-line permitted the same tooling to be used for both the wagon and sedan models of the Custom, saving the little company thousands on tooling costs.

A group of otherwise quite sane Rambler enthusiasts in Indiana named their annual summer show after Dad, and I starting going with him during his decline and did presentations in his honor after he died in 2012. I conned my brother into attending the show this year, and he got hooked and did all the research to find this gem of a wagon.

Now I am not completely sure what we are going to do with it, except it looks like it will be coming to live at my farm, at least temporarily. More on that adventure as it occurs, but a wise counselor who owns a brace of classic Packards and a ’65 Mustang he bought new made this recommendation for what is now an impending journey:

“Bring oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze and brake fluid. Stop often and check fluids. Watch temperature gauge. I have driven ancient cars for thousands of miles on the highways and they have (almost) always made it. Biggest problems have been overheating in traffic and resultant vapor lock. If that happens, let the car cool down and start again. That Rambler is a survivor. You will make it!”


He offered me the loan of his trailer, too, which was too kind, and would be the way to avoid making this into a complete adventure, but I don’t have a truck to pull it. Requirements would include a truck/SUV equipped with an electric trailer brake controller and capable of towing 6000 pounds (car and trailer). Maybe I need a truck, too.

We are definitely going to burn some gas getting the Rambler back up here, though the wagon was advertised as getting 24 MPG when it was new, which is exactly what the Panzer gets on the highway on a good day with a tail wind.

Which got me to thinking about something else. I have not talked about the EPA lately, and it is not because I am not passionate about the things it is up to, but in the context of the automotive industry, they have announced a goal for fuel economy of a Fleet Average of 54.5 MPG.

That is sort of mind-boggling, since according to Professor Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, “…in the last two decades, fuel economy gained by just 4 percent. Average vehicle fuel economy is down to 25.4 mpg this year, consistent with the increased market share of sport utility vehicles (SUVs).”

Which puts the pink Rambler in the heart of the current market. Considering that there are less than two product cycles until the new mandate comes into effect, I think you can see what is coming. Someone is going to be telling us what we can drive.

Marge Oge, the former director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, wrote about the scheme in her account of the 2009 mpg negotiations in her book “Driving the Future: Combating Climate Change with Cleaner, Smarter Cars.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 11.31.36 AM

That may be a worthy goal, you know, saving the children and the planet and all that from a trace gas necessary to life, but according to Margo, the administration wants to use the mpg mandate to force a fundamental change in engine technology, in the same way that federal lighting standards were aimed at eliminating the incandescent light bulb.

Here is the deal: if automakers build alternative-fuel vehicles, the EPA will award credits to soften the mpg mandate.

As a result, automakers are spending billions on electric-vehicle (EV) technologies to game the government rules, even though electric cars are currently charged by juice that comes from coal-fired power plants. There are not going to be a “million electric cars” by 2015.

In fact, there are around 280,000 of them by this year. That stands in contrast to the total number of cars on the roads in the U.S., or a little over 250 million. That makes this market segment, despite the urgency with which the Government is treating it, 0.11% of the cars on the American road.

I think it is like the new light bulbs. I don’t like them, will use them only if that is the only thing I can get, and don’t know how to safely get rid of the more expensive ones when they burn out, filled with toxic materials as they are. If an electric car works for you, and you desire one, I think you should buy one. I am opposed to subsidizing it, since they emphatically do not work for me.

The average age of the car on the road these days is a little over eleven years. That is getting long in the tooth, compared to the ones I knew in my youth. The Rambler wagon has been off the assembly line in Kenosha, Wisconsin, for 56 years.

There is something else about the new mandates. I think there is going to be a significant market for re-built, reliable old-tech automobiles. I fail to have any valid requirements for a gutless, lightweight vehicle that will crumple around us in a crash, or report where you are and have been, that can be hacked, and generally tell you what to do, all while being completely controlled by microprocessors vulnerable to EMP.

Electro-magnetic Pulse is what the acronym means. The threat briefing about it has been around for a long time, since the Cold War. When the nukes detonate they send out ahead of the shock wave a millisecond burst of energy that fries delicate electronic circuits. I am not particularly paranoid, but an organization as progressive as the American Federation of Scientists notes that: “The first recorded EMP incident accompanied a high-altitude nuclear test over the South Pacific, and resulted in power system failures as far away as Hawaii. A large device detonated at 240-300 miles above Kansas would affect all of the continental United States, since the EMP event extends to the visual horizon as seen from the burst point.”

That is depressing, since whatever you think of the Iranian nuclear deal, it doesn’t seem to get us into the intrusive inspection regime I would like to see, and plops $150 billion into the Iranian treasury. The Russians, on their heels with $45 dollar a gallon oil prices, are salivating at the prospect of selling them rockets. Not to mention our erratic pals in Pyongyang.

I used to be in the nuclear weapons business, at least in the targeting and command and control end of things, and I appreciate not having to deal with them on a day-to-day basis. But based on experience, I do not think of them as theoretical things. I know they are real and I have a suspicion that we are closer to seeing them used than we once were.

So, really, there is another cool feature about the Rambler Custom wagon: it might actually work should the worst happen. What an unusual sales feature, though I have tried to think this through before. I looked up the vehicles on the road that would have a decent shot at operating after an EMP event:

1. Pre-1985 Toyota Hilux 4×4


These are tough little trucks. If you can find a 4×4 with the solid front axle and a carbureted 22R motor, you have a good starting point.

2. Sand Rail or Dune Buggy


The simpler the motor the better, but with larger motors, long wheel travel and skid braking, they will either age you or make you younger. If you like to tinker and weld, they can be a great hobby. Hey, if they are good enough for the SEALs …

3. Pre-1980’s American-made Trucks and SUVs

Ford, Chevy, Dodge, these older US-made trucks are very common and are great candidates for a post EMP ride.

Other noteworthy options to consider for the brief period of interregnum include:

Older Toyota Landcruisers

Pre-1980’s International Scouts

Pre-1980’s Jeep, Cherokee & Cherokee Chiefs

Pre- 1980’s Land Rovers

Volkswagen Bug and Buses

Naturally, if you want to ride in style after the EMP event, the 1959 Rambler Classic is definitely the go-to vehicle for me.

left rear-081915

Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra


Twitter: @jayare303

When the Fever Doesn’t Break


It was fun to write about the growing trend in collector cars- the “derelict car” treatment , where classic sheet-metal is bolted on to brand new custom Corvette running gear. The approach produces a high-performance, brand-new 1948 Buick convertible or something similar. Very neat concept, and I am thankful that the work is so meticulous that it is so impossibly expensive that it cannot tempt a man of limited means.

Dodged a bullet, I thought, and got on with those things that needed to be done at the farm.

I almost got to some real work yesterday- and yes, I did get out in the sun with my shirt off to get the clippers on some of the out-of-control eruptive foliage. The direct TV dish was completely obscured, and some unknown and quite impressive plants were blocking a couple of the windows.

I don’t know what the two prime offenders might be- something like sumac in the case of the towering tendrils, but they were protected by a vile and intrusive vine that produces fierce thorns that grasp and cut at the skin and loop around the LL Bean field boots to trip me and drag me down in the thick growth as the thorns rake and rend my flesh.

Which is why I was wearing shorts, even though modesty is optional for many of the other chores down in the country.

I made it around the house and did some raking in the Zen pebble garden before I could put it off no longer, and went back to reviewing the stupid contract solicitation. Then the Russians came over to show off the ‘year one’ vintage of their dessert wine (sweet but drinkable) and catch up on country gossip.

Jack the enormous German shepherd signaled that he was done with Happy Hour by sweeping a wine glass off the coffee table with his imposing tail before bounding out the front door. The house suddenly silent, I looked at the contract piled up on the breakfast table and shook my head. Perhaps another drink and cook some dinner to go with the PGA final round?

I got to the first part and decided to check the email a last time before surrendering to the night. There was a note from my brother. Apparently the fever has not passed. He has continued to scour the web for the prefect ride to show at the next Hoosier AMC car show.

The bad news is that he found one. The perfect one.


There was a link to the ad in his email, and a cheaper alternative, a 1970 AMC Rebel, but there was no question in my mind about which one was The Car.

The ad was breathless:

“WOW what a cool car!! This is a 1959 Rambler Custom and the odometer shows 3529 but not sure of actual miles. It cranks very easy and idles great, we drove it here @ 65 MPH and it cruised right a long with no problem. This was a California car just drove here across country, the tires are also new. No rust.

It has reverse, low, H1, & H2. No clutch, just gas it and go. Brakes are in good shape also. The interior seats are brand new and so is the pink paint inside and out.”

No doubt in my mind. It is sort of the anti-sexy car, but look at those fins! We had one, and if memory serves me correctly, it hauled us from Detroit to the Pacific Ocean in 1960, arriving at El Segundo, CA, with nary a hiccough.


There is one other item that provides a personal link to the car. Dad designed the “notch” on the roof-line that incorporated the luggage rack and enabled American Motors to use the same tooling to stamp the roof panel for both the wagon and the sedan models. He was a minor legend for achieving the savings to the manufacturing guys while introducing a raffish, sporty look to the boat. And, perhaps you noticed, it is Pink.


OK, OK, I have been through this before. In fact, many times. It is an illness as profound as that of the yachting community, in which it is said that the two best days with your boat is the day you buy it, and the day you sell it.

I have flirted with classic rides for a long time, despite the constrictions of a Navy paycheck. Over the years, I saved a ’75 Olds Delta 88 while I was OCONUS for ten years and drove it another five after that, and then swapped that out for a ’68 Beetle convertible for Florida driving, then a 1986 Caddie Coup de Ville which gave way to a 1973 Mercedes 350SL, and then (finally) the ’91 Syclone tribute truck that belonged to Uncle Dick.

All of them gave me mild cases of heartburn, and the only one in the lot worth anything (the muscle truck) has about twenty grand put into it that I will never see again, even if it is rare and has only 40K on the odometer.

My favorite of them all is the P-71 Crown Vic police cruiser, but that ride is only eleven years old, and so I consider it new. I anticipate that there will be parts available for the next couple centuries, so I may hang on to it for the duration- it is the last “Panther” frame full-sized V8-powered sedan made in America.

Despite my misgivings, I gave into the fever. My brother and I went back and forth on the matter for a while and eventually I said we could split the cost, whatever it turned out to be, and drive it up to Indiana to store at the Kokomo Car Museum. It would be an adventure and a story, all in one, since Dad had done a series of renderings on how station wagons could be tricked out to be functional campers.

I am excited. We will see what happens. If you see something pink flash by at 65mph, you will know what it is.


Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
Twitter: @jayare303