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.
I had to wrestle with the story this morning. My Shenandoah Pal wrote me a remarkable recollection of an incident- an unpleasant one- that happened years ago, and wanted to share. It was a powerful read- my It was dark, and intensely personal, so I cannot share it with you. But I was intensely moved, and in a similar mood to her about how to wrap all this stuff up prior to the inevitable. Then, I received one of those threads about old days in the Republic of the Philippines. This one documented a series of outrages, then just fun, which documented the behavior of Naval Aviators who competed for an informal but significant award for spectacular behavior on cruise while on liberty ashore. I did not live the experiences, though they are familiar enough, and felt uncomfortable in appropriating them. Not that I am uncomfortable with a lot of what has happened in this strange and rewarding life, but I read some of the anecdotes and recalled a night in Pattaya Beach, when our A-6 Intruder squadron decided to practice their precision bombing skills with furniture dropped from the balcony of their 8th floor suite.
That, like contributing to the right foundation, is how you can get a personal interview with the Ambassador. The one in Pattaya was not the kind you would prefer, and the only donation involved was to the hotel for the damage, and then House Arrest Confined to Quarters for the remainder of the Line Period for the perps.
It is too bad. I have to be brief this morning, since I am traveling to a memorial service for two of the shrinking number of my parent’s remaining social circle. It is going to be a quick trip, and I am not taking the laptop with me, a first in recent years. I am tired of lugging my entire office IT system everyplace I go. It is going to be the iPad or the smartphone, or nothing.
So expect some nothing over the next few days. Should be a good weekend, with more medical stuff on the menu when I get back. Not looking forward to it, but I am going to be diligent about tracking down what is causing the nagging vertigo.
This is not exactly the way I would have planned all this, schedule-wise, but we have some ashes to scatter Up North, and that is more important than anything else. With the backdrop of this wonderful summer of transition and cool water and warm sun passing away, it makes the ceremony that much more poignant.
It has been wonderful, and it is disconcerting to be concerned with health issues as I feel to be in the best shape in years. The swimming with the water-proof case for the iPod has been wonderful therapy, and something I am vowing to continue. I am sorry about the two iPods that had to die to keep me contented in the water, but c’est la vie.
That could mean relocating to the Powell Wellness Center for my daily swim. We will see what the doctors say on the health matter and plan from there. Of course, you will recall from our life experience the grimly true adage that “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.”
So, it will be Semper Gumby- the unofficial motto of the United States Marines- from here out. I do not anticipate any furniture going off the balcony, but of course, you never can tell.
I will keep you posted.
Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra
Dinner With Family
Editor’s Note: Kimo chimed in from Switzerland to remind me that our pal RADM Mac Showers would have been 97 years old today. I still miss him, and am way behind on putting the manuscript of his life into order and getting it out to you.
In the meantime, this is a reprise of some times with his family that will always be precious in terms of people and place. I have no idea what Mac would say about everything going on today. I wish I could ask.
Mac was with family last night. I confess I am still a bit foggy. I had traveled from the Mountain West via Fort Worth, deep in the heart of Texas, and managed to dump my bags and slide into Mac’s usual stool at Willow with minutes to spare.
The clan had gathered from all the points of the compass: His three children were there: Donna, Mike and Dave, spouses Tom and Suzanne and an assortment of Mac’s wonderful grandchildren.
(Liz-S and Brett attempt to keep pace with the Admiral’s party).
Mac’s family was going to get together at Willow that night, and kindly extended an invitation to share stories and reminisce. I have never seen a commercial establishment display an outpouring of affection for a patron. Jasper was behind the bar with Liz-S, and she came around the bar to give me a hug. Liz was a special lady in Mac’s life- by turns bubbly and solicitous, and the woman who penned the chit granting Mac “free beer” for as long as he cared to have one.
(Jasper from Guam)
Jasper shares the name of Jasper Holmes, the great submariner and code-breaker who saved Mac’s life by preventing him from boarding the fleet submarine USS Wahoo for Mush Morton’s last combat patrol. Jasper is from Guam, too, and there was a special kinship with Mac, since he had served on Nimitz Hill at the forward Headquarters, and Jasper is proud of his heritage, which included the merry man on the civilian side of the bar.
Mac’s family gathered at the very spot at the bar where Mac used to hold court. He always dressed up to go to Willow- the Admiral had his standards, and they were high ones.
(Bell’s Two Hearted Ale with Gruyere Cheese puffs)
Tracy O’Grady sent out a couple orders of the delicious Gruyere gluten-free cheese puffs, and Bell’s lager, with Anchor Steam one of the Admiral’s favorites, flowed right up until the party ambled back to the private room in the back of the dining area.
(The ladies with Mac’s portrait, the one taken right after FADM Nimitz pinned the Bronze Star on his chest in 1945.)
Mac’s portrait went along, of course. It had occupied the place in front of the empty chair at the private table at the Peking Gourmet the night before, the evening of the last day of his remarkable life.
That is the same excellent restaurant the Iranians wanted to blow up- and a hangout for Mac’s clan all their lives in Washington.
(Gallo jug wine used to come with a thumb-hole for easy pouring).
Willow permitted a corkage for a special vintage of red wine: remember an America that as not nearly as sophisticated as it is now? This bottle would not make the exotic wine list of today’s fine dining establishment. The stories flowed with the Gallo jug-wine that Mac and his beloved Billie use to have on the family table- and those dinners would last until the last of the
It was a remarkable evening. Sorrow could not penetrate for long. There was too much love in the place. It was just the way Mac would have liked it.
Rest in Peace, Admiral. See you for Liberty Call on the other shore.
Copyright 2012 Vic Socotra
(L-R: President Harry Truman, his rental home and Feller the Presidential Cocker Spaniel).
If the lease did not specifically prohibit it, I would be looking for a dog. That is what President Truman said about DC, right? “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
It would be a good time for it. We have emerged from the Dog Days of August here, and the pooches will be more comfortable in the temperate beginning of the week. It will get sweltering again, probably a couple times before the leaves turn colors and then bury the parking lot at Big Pink.
I was desperate to avoid what is happening in the media, but I got a note from a pal saying there had been a terror-inspired attack down in Roanoke, VA, last night and I wanted to know more. I was soon inundated with strange news but the attack was on News-and-Weather-on-the-Eights. You will be happy to know that the weather will be great this week and we can keep the windows open. As to the attack, it was being reported as “motive unknown,” except that the perp accompanied his assault by shouting “God is Great!” He attacked a couple returning to their apartment building with a knife, and injured them both. The victims apparently inflicted enough damage on the attacker that when he showed up at the ER the police arrested him.
I personally am of the belief that a good dog would provide deterrence from this sort of thing. Particularly if the pooch is a large size canine with ingrained protective tenancies. That was not true of President Truman’s dog Feller, but the Truman family preferred to be pet free and gave the cocker spaniel pup to the the presidential physician, Dr. Graham. It would seem that with him the “Buck stopped here,” but the pets could move on.
I started to wonder about the current candidates and their pets. The Clintons currently share three dogs: “Seamus,” the First Pet and Chocolate Lab, “Tally,” a toy poodle mix with whom the Candidate is most enamored, and Maisie, the junior dog and a “curly haired mutt.”
Mr. Trump either does- or does not- have a dog named “Spinee.” It is entirely appropriate that his status as a dog owner is an enigma along with everything else. He may share President Truman’s opinion and actual predilection about pets- nice in concept but too hard in practice.
(Presidential dogs Bo and Sunny at rest).
I had the Socotra House summer interns scour the Internet for additional citations- they told me the irascible and incendiary Bernie Sanders was resolute in not employing any service animals. The Obama family famously has Bo and Sunny, the Portuguese Water Poodles. And what is more, one of the Interns made the astonishing claim that Mr. Truman had plenty of friends in Washington, most of whom played poker, and that he never said the quote about canines.
I was thunderstruck. That had always been my favorite Harry-ism. The proof was in the citations. The intern held her ground. “In 1949, a newspaper columnist named E. V. Durling asserted the following: “Why doesn’t Truman have a dog? It is my understanding Truman does not have a dog because Mrs. Truman thinks dogs are too much trouble to care for.”
I shooed the interns back to the bustling current news center at Socotra House. I made a steeple of my fingers and pondered what it all meant. There is no evidence that Truman employed a dog as a surrogate friend while he was in the White House, or at the Winter White House in Key West. But by the end of the decade, his association with the phrase had slipped into the popular lexicon. Time magazine in 2008 (I had no idea they were still in business) attributed the quote to corporate raider Carl Icahn and was later immortalized by the character Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film “Wall Street.”
The Gordon Gekko character (created by screenwriters Stanley Weiser and Oliver Stone) said it this way: “You win a few; you lose a few; but you keep on fighting. And if you need a friend, get a dog. It’s trench warfare out there, Pal.”
The quote appears to have been malleable over the years, with “Washington” being replaced by “Life,” “Hollywood” “This World.” In fact, it may actually have originated with that Mad, Bad and Dangerous To Know Lord Byron, who observed “nobody need want a friend who can get a dog.” It is well documented that the Poet, Lover and Adventurer who once swam across the Hellespont from Asia to Europe, had plenty of friends.
(Reproduction of a detail of a portrait of Lord Byron by Thomas Phillips).
Based on a survey of the literature, I can’t come to any substantive conclusion. The Clintons have multiple dogs. Mr. Trump either does or doesn’t. Should the unlikely outcome of his election occur, my recommendation is that he seriously should consider getting one. A big one.
Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra
I had forgotten how much fun it is to visit thee laboratory and have blood drawn. The lady was nice, her office impossibly small with only the two of us there. There was not long wait- apparently the guy ahead of me was having problems producing enough fluid for the urine sample, another of those little joys I have been missing since the last annual physical years ago.
I walked down the hall to the single rest room to collect sample, and in the process noticed my hands were shaking when I tried to write my name on the sample cup. In fact, it became a challenge, just as it had at the DMV office last week when I was standing at the counter trying to fill in a change of address form- I have lived in five units in Big Pink and rarely think to change the apartment number with the Sates.
Call me a revel, but I had to give up on the attempt. And no, I didn’t try to write it on the side after I had produced my specimen. I just used the Sharpie pen on an empty one, and poured the contents from the original, which I had not noticed had a space for my name on the side.
My lab tech was good on the needle. She tied off the elastic on my right upper arm, under the mermaid on my aloha shirt. She was dead on the mark as she instructed me to ball my fist, and in it went, where the blood began to surge down the catheter into the sample vials.
I have no idea what they are gong to be looking for. Naturally, I hope it is nothing interesting. There has been quite enough of that sort of thing going around of late.
The whole thing went smoothly, and made an appointment for an exam the day after tomorrow. I was back out in the street in the blinding sunlight in a half hour. This medical thing is sort of cool, now that I know that I can actually access health care with my two little insurance cards.
Very cool. Now, I just have to hope that it was all a waste of time. We will see.
Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra
A Month of Mystery
Our pal Jim Mueller is having a great August. His reporting this morning of attending a program in which noted car collector and sometime late-night host talked about what was hot and what was not in the world of cars, some wild parties with classic cars as the backdrops, and the famed Concours D’Lemon meet of appalling and quirky old cars coming up, he is in auto heaven. There are no mysteries that Car People will not examine.
By way of contrast, I got a basket of mysteries this month that have made it the strangest August of my life. While that is a bold statement, I am going to say it. The carnival of mystery started in Atlanta, of course, at the big DoD IT show that demonstrated just how strange the future is going to be. The Cloud. Cyber threats. Offensive and defensive tricks that could disable a notional infrastructure. uncertainty about where all this technology is taking us, and whether humans are going to make themselves obsolete.
I was billeted on the 65th floor of the Peachtree Plaza, a modern if slightly quirky circular 73-story hotel with a mirror-glass facade and over 1,000 rooms. The saltwater pool is on the eleventh floor, and was delightful. I gazed out the circular-curve of the windows at the staggeringly lovely view when I guy dropped by, washing the windows. I have worked at some odd things in my life, but this demonstration of cool prowess by a calm young man suspended by ropes from the roof eight floors above me was quite extraordinary.
I never want to work that hard again.
Then, returning to the airport, there was the call about the Turkey Vulture invasion at the farm, and things just got weirder from there.
I got down there expecting the worst, but Edgar the Vulture was striding boldly around the pasture, apparently fine though still flightless, and with him out of the barn. I hustled down and wrenched the doors closed, the first time I have had them shut in years, preferring open access to providing a low-rent Peachtree haven for critters that might burrow under the walls and set up shop. So we will see if my preventive actions keeps Edgar out in the wild where he belongs. In the process of attempting to horse the doors along their mounting tracks, I may have done injury to my leg again, but the job had to be done and switly.
Amid all this was the process of starting a new job, which was complicated by trying to savor the last couple weeks the pool is going to be open- where did the days go so swiftly? I may have overdone it, between the swimming and the barn door adventure. The morning after I got back to Arlington, I vaulted out of bed and kept going, as my damaged leg did not seem to be working properly. I was back to the cane to hobble around. That was eascerbated by the minor but persistant vertigo, which I associated with being in the water so often. I finally asked about how to see a doctor, since I have been accustomed to the rough ministrations of Walter Reed and military medicine for the 38 years. I now have been ejected into the formal halls of geezerdom and Medicare, but it all seemed to work out with the supplemental coverage of TriCare, a system funded by DoD and thus naturally a target for budget cuts just like the Commissaries, which the powerful Supermarket Lobby has been after for years.
It is a lot more expensive than I had thought- between Medicare $350 a month, TriCare $125, and Long Term Care $180, I am frankly startled by an expense that I did not have before and one that everyone else has to deal with in the midst of a major restructuring of the national healthcare system. It is certainly going to take a bite out of Social Security, which is still painfully distant.
Whew. Not to mention the competing circuses of the Olympics and the endless Presidential campaign in the background, the amazing proficiency of the athletes and the bottomless mendacity of the politicians fully on display as Louisiana is inundated by endless rain. It would ordinarily be enough to make one’s head spin, but thankfully I already have that one covered. The vertigo has the real potential to save me a tone on bar tabs, since I normally have to spend cash to feel this disoriented.
And the month isn’t even over yet! What next? Uni-sex bathrooms in all federal Buildings?
Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra
TAPS: CJCS John Vessey
The New York Times is reporting the passing of former CJCS John Vessey. While not a Naval Intelligence figure, many of our members (including me) served under his time as the senior military officer in uniform and the Reagan expansion of the DoD budget. The following obituary was written by Robert D. McFadden, and appears in the 19 August print issue on page A21 and in the on-line issue of the Times.
(Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, left, and Sgt. Maj. Lee Gil-ho of South Korea viewing a painting of Gen. John W. Vessey Jr. Credit Master Sgt. Terrence L. Hayes/United States Army).
Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., a soldier’s soldier who lied about his age to enlist in the service, won his commission on a battlefield in World War II and became a four-star general and then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Reagan administration, died Thursday night at his home in North Oaks, Minn. He was 94.
His death was confirmed by his daughter, Sarah Vessey Krawczyk.
When his military career was finally over in 1985 — after the wars and killing, the medals and promotions, the White House meetings on defense and nuclear strategies, and the 46 years that had made him the nation’s longest-serving active soldier — General Vessey did not quietly fade away.
Instead, in retirement, he went back to Vietnam repeatedly, as a special envoy of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton, to find out what had happened to the hundreds of Americans listed as prisoners of war or missing in action since 1975, when North Vietnam defeated United States-backed South Vietnam.
The fate of the P.O.W./M.I.A.s has been one of the most divisive and troubling legacies of the war.
General Vessey’s breakthrough talks with Hanoi in 1988 led to on-the-ground searches by Pentagon teams that uncovered the remains of about 900 American military personnel over the next two decades, and to official conclusions that no American prisoners were still being held in Vietnam, though hundreds of cases remain unresolved, a source of continuing political controversy and grief for families.
(General Vessey, then retired, at the dedication of a World War II memorial in St. Paul in 2007. Credit Jim Mone/Associated Press)
Far from a West Point or Annapolis man, the future general was a Minneapolis high school boy, not quite 17, when he slipped past recruiters (minimum age was 18) and joined the Minnesota National Guard in 1939. His Army infantry unit was activated in 1941, months before America’s entry into World War II.
By 1943, he was a first sergeant fighting in North Africa. His unit took a strategic hill in the American drive to seize the Tunisian port of Bizerte. Allied victories there and at Tunis proved critical to the defeat of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in North Africa.
A year later, as American troops clung to the Italian beachhead at Anzio in some of the war’s bloodiest fighting, the sergeant and two other noncoms in his unit won battlefield commissions as second lieutenants. They were dispatched as forward observers; within days one was dead and the other seriously wounded.
After the war, he served in Germany, a Cold War hot spot, and in Korea, though not during the Korean War.
He next saw action in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. He was wounded and won a Distinguished Service Cross for defending a firebase that was partly overrun by Vietcong, the Communist insurgents in the south. The invaders were so close that he and his men had to depress their howitzer barrels and fire point blank into the onrushing enemy ranks.
After assignments in Europe and Southeast Asia and at the Pentagon, where he was in charge of operations and plans, he won his fourth star in 1976.
For three years he commanded American forces in South Korea. There, amid threats from North Korea, he persuaded President Jimmy Carter not to withdraw American ground forces from the Peninsula.
General Vessey was a surprise choice for chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 1982. Plain-spoken, he had none of the polish of former chairmen, and unlike most of them he had never been a service chief. He had mostly been a combat officer, out of Washington’s limelight. But he was regarded as a leader of proven courage and integrity who inspired confidence. He was also an old-fashioned patriot, and Reagan liked him.
The general oversaw enormous growth in military spending and global military presence to counteract Soviet expansion. He deployed missiles in Europe and maintained strength in Southeast Asia, but was leery of military interventions in Central America. He directed a Caribbean operation to rescue Americans at risk in Grenada, but opposed using American troops in a multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon. Those troops were withdrawn after a 1983 truck-bomb attack in Beirut killed 241 Marines and Army soldiers.
General Vessey improved interservice cooperation, defense budget analyses and military planning. In 1983, he suggested to Reagan that weapons in space might be used in the future for defense against Soviet missiles. The president seized on the idea and proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative, the space-based system called “Star Wars.” It was never fully developed, although it led to better antimissile systems.
The general was entitled to wear seven rows of battle decorations and campaign ribbons, but kept most of them in a drawer. On Memorial Days, instead of riding in staff cars, he marched to Arlington National Cemetery to pray at the Tomb of the Unknowns. He disliked jargon; to him, “restoring peace on favorable terms” meant winning the war. He rarely gave news conferences or interviews, and avoided the spotlight.
“We have had a lot of famous generals who have been in the public eye, and I think rightly so — MacArthur, Eisenhower, Bradley,” he told The New York Times in 1984 as he approached retirement. “I am not in that category. They don’t need to see me. What they want me to do is to make sure that the armed forces of the United States are as effective as we can make them.”
John William Vessey Jr. was born in Minneapolis on June 29, 1922, to John and Emily Roche Vessey. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1940. He earned his first college degree, a bachelor of science from the University of Maryland, when he was 41 and a lieutenant colonel. He later received a master’s degree from George Washington University. When he graduated from helicopter school at 48, his classmates were young enough to be his children.
In 1945, he married Avis Claire Funk, who died last year. In addition to his daughter, General Vessey is survived by two sons, John W. 3rd and David; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
He was active in the Lutheran Church and once considered a career as a minister.
For his post-retirement efforts in Vietnam on behalf of American prisoners of war and those missing in action, General Vessey received from President Bush the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1992.
Niraj Chokshi, Jack Begg and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.
Many novice sailors, confusing the words ‘binnacle’ and ‘barnacle,’ have wondered what their illnesses had to do with crusty marine life growing on the hull of their ship. Their confusion is understandable. In nautical terminology, a ‘Binnacle’ is defined as the stand or housing for the ship’s compass, normally located on the navigational bridge.
The term binnacle list, in lieu of sick list, originated years ago when the ship’s corpsmen used to place a list of sick members of the ship’s company on the binnacle for ready use of the Captain in monitoring the state of his or her crew. After long practice, it came to be called “the binnacle list.”
I would like to introduce it as a feature for the on-line Naval Intelligence Quarterly as a means to solicit good wishes and prayers for members of the community who are in ill-health, or fighting lonely battles to regain their health.
I am particularly attuned to that this very strange month, which began in Atlanta, and which by month’s end, had me actually visiting a doctor and taking some prescription medication to moderate some small but annoying symptoms of equilibrium and blood pressure.
There are others who are not so fortunate, and are battling hard against their afflictions.
I commend your attention this morning to two shipmates this morning.
The first is CAPT Ted Daywalt.
Since 1999, Ted has been the president and CEO of VetJobs, the leading military job board on the Internet. He served on active duty in the Navy for seven years. He initially served as a Line Officer on a destroyer with cruises to South America, Europe and Russia. He was then assigned to the Commander United States Naval Forces, European headquarters in London, England, as an intelligence watch officer and later as a geopolitical analyst with responsibilities for the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa. In 1978 he transferred to the Naval Reserve Intelligence Program, from which he retired as a Captain (O-6) with 28 years of service. He is currently engaged in the toughest challenge of his life, and please keep him in your thoughts and prayers as he valiantly fights to regain his health.
The second name posted on the Binnacle this morning is that of CAPT Rich Gragg, a shipmate of mine from USS Midway days. He is fighting the same treacherous disease that has afflicted four former senior naval intelligence officers at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Rich has had a distinguished naval career with service all over the world, later specializing in It and communications, where he worked as a senior official at the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) as a civilian. He and his lovely wife Mayumi could use your thoughts and prayers in his courageous fight.
I am hoping that the Binnacle List will be short and all whose names appear on it will return to full duty shortly. In the meantime, keep them in your prayers.
Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra
The departure of the high-pressure front last night gave us a spectacular set of booming thunderstorms and lightning strikes that I was confident were going to knock us off the grid. I stayed home to watch it, since I am working with a knee strain and a prolonged bout of vertigo.
I started out the morning with a baleful look at the passing parade and an exchange with some old colleagues that concluded with the observation that “This is not madness, but assisted suicide.”
Thank God it is car week out in Monterey, California, and our pal Mules is doing his usual cracker-jack job of reporting on lovely machines that I could put the entire retirement account into for a spin around the block. There is something about the sound of the high-compression engines that makes me come alive. I am down a quart on cars and car-shows this summer. Maybe that is why I feel a little out of sorts.
I have been wanting to bring the little hot-rod Syclone up here to make an appearance at the regular summer Saturday morning gathering at Katie’s Cars Coffee & Cars in Great Falls. We were supposed to be at Peru, IN, for the August rally in the ’59 Rambler wagon, but things got too hard for either my brother or me to make it. Next year, for sure.
It is much more fun to ogle the people and cars at the meets than follow current events. There is a lot of darkness out there, and too much to be worried about. For example, I got two prescriptions from my new doctor, a nice fellow out in Falls Church who seems to think my blood vessels need stretching or something, and another to keep me from tipping over. Both drugs have warnings of potential side-effects, including drowsiness, which…..snore…..Wait, I am awake! I was just resting.
I had been thinking that my issue with the latter physical malfunction was a function of swimmer’s ear, which I wasn’t that concerned about since the pool is only going to be open for twenty-two more days, total, and shuttered during the week after the5th of September when things start to accelerate toward the season of the Big Dark.
Easy come, easy go. Then it is back to having to figure out where and how to exercise, which is what started me on the yoga kick last year, but my knees are getting so bad that I am back on a cane to stay reasonably upright and being in the water is the only sure-fire low-impact cardio that makes any sense.
One of the hard- core group of swimmers at Big Pink is a devotee of the Arlington County indoor pools, but the thought of that strong chlorine hot-house fills me with trepidation. I guess I will fall off that cliff when I get to it.
It is hard to believe that the whole enterprise is coming to an end so swiftly. It really does seem like just yesterday we were meeting the new crew of young Polish guys who shared our summer, and who will now jet back to their homelands, our months of daily interaction done.
And that, in turn, argues powerfully for a change into the bathing suit and a trip to the pool deck while I can.
Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra
So, we were talking to lovely Heather at Front Page about what had happened since the last weekend, the progress in her attempt to model her romantic life on a country and western song. Jon-without was in shorts, a remarkable fashion statement for one who is normally sharply turned out. “Power transformer caught fire and blew up. Knocked out our whole block and they are saying the power will not be back until tomorrow afternoon. I worked from home. It was pretty cool.”
“I find it a little existential,” I mused, sipping on my drink. I need to get out and talk to human beings at least once in the day. It is OK when the pool is open, but the world is going to get much smaller in just a couple weeks when the Polish lifeguards retreat to Europe and the concrete deck is empty and the green tarps covers the blue sparkling waters. There are a lot of new younger people by the pool this year.”
“We are taking over,” said Heather
Thomas the Key Grip commented that the Millennials working for his film production company had the work ethic of pine-cones and wandered out to the patio to smoke a Camel Blue, which isn’t. It used to be called “Camel Light,” but the FDA told them that term implied that there was less danger from them and they had to call them something else.
We almost started to talk about politics- we had all heard something juicy that day and it took a real effort not to dwell on the fact that of who the candidates are that are running for the highest office in the land, will mold the Supreme Court for a generation and all that money flying around. We decided last weekend was a safer topic and Heather revealed that she had taken a trip to Pennsyl-tuckey to visit her folks. “In fact,” she said, I have six ears of sweet corn, fresh from the field last Sunday. Neither The Key Grip nor Jon-without expressed any interest, and I would up the beneficiary of all six of the green hefty pods, which I swung jauntily as i strolled back to the Police Cruiser for the ride home.
We have talked about creative things to do with corn when the crop comes in- throw them on the grill in the husk after slicing off the stem, or doing the same thing in the microwaave. Peeling up from the bottom means there is less floss left to pick off, and is a pretty slick way to go.Or just roasting them on the griddle with the green wraper keepoing the kernels ice and moist.
But I had six of them. That would take the better part of a week to work through as a dinner side-ish, so I decided to take a stab or a corn-onion-and-tomato medly.
I like coking after Happy Hour. There is a certain daring in taking a sharp knife in hand to slice off the firm yellow kernels into a bowl with the chopped Vidalia onions and the can of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes:
The ingredients, seasoned with pepper and adobo spices, can be composed of just about everything in the fridge. The corn is the key, though, and this is as fresh as it gets.
I sautéed everything on low heat and stirred in a dollop of sour cream and piled on some Mexican grated cheese and slid it under the broiler to brown to a light crust..
It was wonderful, and there are still three ears of Pensyl-tucky corn to go.
Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra
TAPS: Joyanne Jewett Johnson
Editor’s Note: The Navy family is smaller this month. Joy Johnson left us unexpectedly. Spouse of ADM Gregory G. Johnson, she was a presence in the life of dozens of air intelligence officers and members of senior staffs. She made the world better for living in it. “Grog” Johnson penned this loving obituary of a remarkable woman.
06 August 2016. Joyanne Jewett Johnson of Harpswell passed away on at Mid Coast
Hospital’s Bodwell Hospice Facility in Brunswick. She was in the presence of her loving family.
She was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in late March. Facing her foe with grace,
courage, and dignity, she spent the last four and half months battling this implacable disease.
She forsook the traditional chemo therapy protocol and sought treatment in Japan where
she spent a month undergoing regimen of immune and gene therapies at the Saisei Mirai
Clinic in Kyoto. She achieved temporary relief, but the complications of the disease soon
continued their inexorable march.
The family wishes to thank the entire team at Mid Coast – Parkview Health, especially at the
Bodwell Center and Hospice Care Facility, for their caring professionalism and
comforting compassion as well as the team at New England Cancer Specialists. We
also want to thank Dr. Toshio Inui and his team at the Saisei Mirai Clinic along with her
ND, Dr. Frederic Shotz, who provided immeasurable support and helped her find Dr.
Joy was born in Castine, Maine June 17, 1946, and grew up in Bucksport. She was the
daughter of George Hebert Jewett and Ellen Louise Randall Jewett who both predeceased
her. She attended local schools in Bucksport. In 1968 she graduated from the
University of Maine With Distinction earning a B.A. degree in Sociology. She was a
member of Phi Mu Sorority, Secretary of the Student Senate, a Varsity Cheerleader,
and an All Maine Woman. After graduation, she remained active with the Class of ‘68.
Since returning to Maine in 2004, she has been very active in Class and Alumni
activities coordinating and hosting numerous alumni events, including many in the barn
on Snow Ridge Farm which was the salt water farm where she lived with her husband,
animals, and gardens. It was here that her two daughters and all her grandchildren
spent each summer with her.
She became an avid fly-fisher and spent a good deal of time on most of Maine’s best
cold water fishing venues with her husband, family, and friends. There were both canoe
and drift boat trips on the West Branch, drift boat trips on the East Outlet, annual family
visits to Grand Lake Stream and the St. Croix River, and trips to the Kennebago,
Magalloway, and Rapid Rivers
At the beginning of her sophomore year, she met her future husband, Gregory G.
Johnson of Westmanland, Maine. Following a three-year courtship, they were married
on July 6, 1968. She commenced a short-lived employment working for the State of
Maine Department of Health and Human Services as a Social Worker while her
husband entered Aviation Officer Candidate School and was commissioned in
She then began a 36 year run of the nomadic life associated with being part of a military
family. During the first 25 years her husband was deployed over 2/3 of the time which
meant during that period she was more often than not a “single parent.” She was a
loved and caring mother to her two daughters, Sydney Randall Johnson Mroweic and
Ashley Em Johnson Techet.
From 1978 to 1990, the family was fortunate to reside in Jacksonville, FL in the same
house, on the same street, belonging to the same church, enjoying the continuity of the
same friends, classmates, and neighborhood. For a significant majority of those 12 years
she was a “single parent” and she worked hard to make life exciting and interesting
for her daughters. She had the capacity to turn activities into great adventures. There
were numerous trips to Cumberland Island, tubing on the Ichetucknee, visits to the
Okefenokee Wilderness, class trips to Washington, D.C., and summers with her daughters
at Skyland Camp in Clyde, NC.
It was also during this period that she began to perfect the tradition of turning every birthday
party, social event, and milestone occasion into something special. She was the master of
memorable parties which continued to her last days when she organized with her daughters’
help a memorable co- 70th Birthday Party for herself and husband which she shared with
their family and friends.
In addition to being a loving and supportive mother and spouse, she always found ways
to establish her own identity. She found interesting employment wherever we lived; founded
a business, Canvas Cutters, which she could take with her whenever she
moved; served for several years as Director of Arts and Crafts at a girl’s summer camp
near Clyde, NC; and always found ways and time to help those whose lives were more
cluttered and complicated than the life she enjoyed.
During the last 1/3 of those 36 years as a Navy Spouse, the assignments included time
on large senior staffs or command of large U.S. and NATO staffs with demanding
social, entertainment, and cultural responsibilities. Her creative talents came to the fore.
She was an elegant and gracious hostess. A Joy hosted event was always one where
the guests enjoyed themselves, had fun, and went home with fond memories.
In addition to her family, her abiding legacy will be the work she did throughout her life
helping those facing difficulties. She possessed a unique trait that many aspire to but
few genuinely achieve – the ability to be truly non-judgmental and totally unconditional
in providing care and support. That is what made her so effective working with those in
need. Her genuinely caring demeanor resulted in an immediate and deep trust.
To begin, throughout the 36 year Navy odyssey, she was supportive of and often an
active volunteer with the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society wherever the family was
During the family’s last assignment in Jacksonville in the late 1980s, she began working
for Downtown Ecumenical Services Council (DESC) providing emergency food,
clothing, and financial assistance to people in need. She was fearless in getting out and
about to provide those services to the needy populations in and amongst the most
difficult neighborhoods in downtown Jacksonville and greater Duval County. While
working for DESC, she also participated in the Fall 1989 March for the Homeless in
In the 1990s during her husband’s last two assignments in the Pentagon (1990 – 1994
and 1997 – 2000), she did two stints with the Fairfax County Department of Health and
Human Services. The initial period was during the height of the HIV-AIDS epidemic.
She worked closely with this population which was often abandoned by families and
suffered lonely, agonizing illnesses and ultimately death in public facilities. On her own
time she would spend countless hours attempting to reunite the remains of deceased
AIDS/HIV clients with their estranged families. She also worked diligently with the shut-in
and alone elderly to make sure they had adequate services and support.
The last four years of the Navy journey was spent in Italy. There she became involved
with several charities supporting orphans and those suffering from drug addiction. One
of the first was “EXODUS” which was a live-in drug rehabilitation center near Monte
Cassino north of Naples. During those four years she worked continuously to support
EXODUS as an institution as well as the individual patients. She invited them to her
residence, arranged visits on aircraft carriers during port visits in Naples, had the
EXODUS “Jimmy Buffet Band” perform at official functions at her residence, and
annually treated them to a fully volunteer catered U.S. style Thanksgiving Day Meal.
She left an abiding legacy at EXODUS.
Another effort was focused on the “Centro Laila” Orphanage in Mondragone. Most of
these children were the abandoned offspring of African refugees and immigrants who
worked as prostitutes. Their prospects of being adopted were very remote. She helped
raise funds, organized volunteer working parties, visited frequently, and made sure the
orphans had a front row seat at the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the
NATO Headquarters Compound along with an individual gift for each child.
After returning home to Maine in the Fall 2004, her selfless efforts to assist community
organizations and those in need found new and wonderful entities to support. For three
years she coordinated amongst the various organizations and businesses that provided
the evening meal at Tedford Shelter in Brunswick. That adds up to over 1000 dinners.
Of course, she was the provider of last resort should someone forget or otherwise miss
a commitment. Her freezer was always stocked with extra pans of lasagna to rush over
to the Shelter at the last minute.
She was a member of the Mid Coast Hospital Auxiliary and for three years chaired the
Annual Yard Sale. This was a major undertaking. She loved the special group of folks
with whom she worked. Under her leadership it truly became a labor of love and great
fun while each year raising very substantive funds to support Mid Coast Hospital and
the residents it serves within its catchment area.
Her final quest to help others began five years ago. She single – handedly conceived
the vision for and founded Embrace A Vet (EAV), a 501©3 dedicated to providing direct
and supportive services to Maine veterans and their families living with Post Traumatic
Stress (PTS) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) . It has three lines of services – healing
and wellness retreats, Paws for Peace which provides service dogs, and caregiver
support programs. She served as its Executive Director the past five years until her
death. It was her fervent hope that the wonderful work of the EAV Team will continue
and be her enduring legacy.
She is survived by her husband of 48 years, Admiral Gregory G. Johnson, USN-Ret.
and their two daughters, Sydney Randall Johnson Mrowiec and Ashley Em Johnson
Techet; her mother in law, Carolyn Warrena Peterson Johnson; two aunts, Flora
Morgan Randall Crosson and Nancy Jewett Lord; an uncle, Ralph Joseph Jewett; two
sons-in-law David Bradley Mroweic and Andrew Holden Techet; and five grandchildren,
Warren Bradley Mroweic, Gregory Holden Techet, Owen Andrew Techet, Soren William
Techet, and Emma Scout Techet.
A Memorial Service and Celebration of Joy’s Life is planned for 11:00AM, Friday,
August 26, at First Parish Church in Brunswick, Maine. A reception will follow in The
Barn at Snow Ridge Farm, 69 Shore Road, Harpswell, ME 04079.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donations in Joy’s memory to: 1.) Embrace A
Vet,www.embraceavet.org or P.O. Box 516, Topsham, ME 04086; 2.) Joyanne Jewett
Johnson Scholarship Fund, payable to the University of Maine Foundation, Two Alumni
Place, Orono, ME 04469 or http://umainefoundation.or g/about-thefoundation/memorial/;
or 3.) Clergy Spiritual Enrichment Fund, First Parish Church, 9
Cleaveland Street, Brunswick, ME 04011.