• VicSlider1
  • VicSlider4
  • VicSlider5
  • VicSlider2
  • VicSlider3

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.

Rocket’s Red Glare

070116

Gentle Readers,

I commend today’s installment of “Life and Island Times” to your attention as our faithful correspondent Marlow ticks off a couple hundred reasons he will be missing Key West from the vantage of a new home on the Mainland.

I share a little of his passion for the lovely Key at the southernmost end of the United States. What a loony and delightfully demented place it is!

I had the opportunity to attend a meeting festooned with operators, spooks, scientists, four-stars and former Secretaries, and found my passion for history, and the wonders that this nation accomplished in the past, and the great things it can do when it sets it’s collective mind to do so.

I wish I could say more, but alas, I cannot, any more than any of us could in the past. Suffice it to say that we considered strategy, implementation, training, sources and methods, and the constant burden of deterrence. It was heady stuff, and all the people in the room had contributed significantly to success.

Suffice it to say, as we sweep toward the celebration of our Independence, I am not dragged down by the sordid events of this time, but buoyed by the memory of the great sacrifices that made us the envy of the world. Anyone who bets against us is holding a losing hand.

I would prefer to consider that, amid the glory of the Rocket’s Red Glare.

I will be reporting on that from the road.

Happy 4th of July- our Independence Day!

Vic

Save

Why Marlow Loves Key West

Life and Island Times July 1 2016 – Why Marlow Loves Key West

For many years during his current coral island sojourn, Marlow wrote down every day the reasons why he was thankful to live in Key West. By the 2012 holiday season he compiled from the thousands of random thoughts a “best of list.” In view of his and W’s imminent departure, he thinks it should be shared once again.

4. Sandals & shorts 24/7/365
10. Answering tourist questions like “Will the sun set tomorrow like it did today?” with a smile and not a snark or a smirk
13. The “Ah ha!” look that our mainland visitors display when they finally get it why we like this place
14. Loud F/A18s from the Naval Air Station five miles distant as the crow flies
16. Poetry on bar bathroom walls
18. Watching men dressed as 250 pound, 6′ 7″ tall women promote on Duval Street sidewalks the nightly drag show out front of the 801 Bourbon Street Bar
21. People copulating on public streets and in bar and restaurant restrooms
30. The running Cardinal of Key West
38. Amazing music you hear at local bars
42. Waving at someone the next day after chatting with them the night before at a wine or cigar bar
44. Tubing down Duval Street atop storm sewer back ups
46. Defaced street signs that read “pee Limit 25”
69. Finding a misplaced, two-week overdue bill from a mainland company and calling them to forgive the interest and penalties due to poor mail ship delivery service to our disconnected Caribbean location
70. Hot Russian waitresses and the Israeli green card exotic dancers and entertainers
125. Telling your “how I came to live here in paradise” story to a stranger in the time it takes you to pour them a sip of wine
151. Rainbows and waterspouts
155. The mosaic of Key West’s One Human Family
244. Good looking, painted females who, without being asked, tell you that the “curtains match the carpet”
268. Uplifting affirmations on public bathroom walls
269. Correcting bathroom wall graffiti grammar, meter and rhyming errors
270. Correcting my corrections when sober
272. Solar flares make us a bit crazier than normal
371. Standing at the corner of Duval and Green Streets facing south at 4 AM to watch the bars sweep out the last of their customers; for a few brief minutes it becomes an unforgettable, neon-lit, festival pageant of silly walks and Gumby body jive
400. Stepping outside, opening one’s eyes wide, breathing deeply and getting an instant attitude adjustment
453. Watching the daily 10 AM cruise ship tourist tsunami crest atop the sidewalks of lower Duval to hear the faint announcement in one’s head, “Attention WalMart shoppers . . .”
522. Southernmost Santas
555. Visiting and resident writers – celebrity, wannabes and clandestine – seeking a version 2.0 prolonged enhancement of their content and craft
640. Ambience of favorite haunts twelve hours after a visitor hurricane evacuation order takes effect
671. Doing laundry at the White Street M&M Laundromat early in the morning, sipping a cafe con leche and enjoying the to and fro of the local Hispanics and their playful banter
751. Monday mornings spent in phone teleconferences with mainland clients while ensconced under a “Coffee is God” sign in a zen garden while Kermit, the Key West Lime Pie tycoon, hawks his wares somewhere out just beyond eyesight on Caroline St’s sidewalk
788. Childlike sensation that it was Christmas In April when a new graffiti in the Green Parrott men’s room was found
903. A “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment: overhearing Partridge Family’s song I Think I Love You emanating from a local gym
1001. Received wisdom: do not eat the last “all-breeds” hotdog at the Chart Room
1030. Brief cognitive dissonance moment: hearing James Brown’s It’s a man’s world wafting out of the Bourbon Street Bar
1255. The ceiling at Captain Tony’s Saloon
1282. After being here over four years, I believe there is no more intelligent and entertaining life anywhere else in the universe
1301. Mad(e) in Key West is not a misspelling
1418. While no one can give me a good reason to convince me that I am not in Mexico right now, yet why can’t I find a good burrito
1464. Helping a neighbor encrypt her laptop’s WIFI so her Skype-sexing sessions with another neighbor overseas would cease being publically available
1500. Observing yoga on the beach
1505. Escape tunnels are impractical
1573. Thankful that the Cold War was cold
1600. Chicks with tight buns — okay, some of them are not chicks
1627. Spring breaker hangover rush at two PM to local bodegas for native cures like a double buchi
1799. Cold toilet seat season does not exist here
1812. Impromptu collages atop bar bathroom floors could be considered modern art
1841. From my perch on the front porch of Vino’s, watching visiting drunk hetero males hitting on the 801 Bourbon Street Bar transvestites & being convulsed by the conclusion that their chances of getting a piece of ass is about as likely as their riding a unicorn
1881. The mildly perverted or slightly insane need not apply for Conch Republic citizenship
1889. The day I gave away my windshield ice scraper and driveway snow shovel collections
1911. Michael McCloud’s Conch Republic national anthem
1914. It is the perfect spot to observe the (choose one: global warming, world financial collapse, American electoral college, European and Chinese real estate implosion, war of terrorism) apocalypse
1915. Tropic Cinema
1918. The Cat Man act at Mallory Square
1929. Randomly sifting through moving boxes of stuff I have not touched in decades and trying to figure out where it came from
1955. The revolution started without me – I did not get the memo
2011. Late night bar closing parades on upper Duval Street are like dress rehearsals for Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video
2013. Air conditioning
2112. Given the dysfunctional mainland world, this is the new Camp Normal
2189. Stories of our grandchildren explaining to their Catholic elementary school classes in northern Indiana the suggestively named treats they ate and saw served at our island’s dessert-only Better than Sex restaurant
2244. My eyesight loss rate arrested/slowed
2393. Occupy Key West – WTFO? We were here first
2423. Halloween costumes may be worn year round
2447. The expression “What up, my bitches?” is considered acceptable in many island social circles
2472. Cocktails: key lime pie martinis at the White Tarpon; Courvoisier and a stogie at Berlin’s; mojitos at La Te Da
2489. The fifty yard advanced warning of a working woman’s arrival on your block of Duval by her bathing in a perfume that has bits of Amazon panther organs in it; absolutely guaranteed to turn heads to catch a glimpse of what is coming
2500. The non-celebration ICW the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” We never had a DADT, so its repeal didn’t mean crap
2573. US 1’s 17 mile stretch (MM 107 – 124) – proof of black holes for transportation purposes between worlds & dimensions
2874. Duncan Donuts is back in town after a four year long absence.

1-070116-LIT
The “ladies” of the Bourbon St Bar

2-070116-LIT
Duval Street late night
3-070116-LIT
Two Southernmost Santas
4-070116-LIT
Mallory Square bathroom wall over the sink, where a mirror would normally have hung
5-070116-LIT
6-070116-LIT

Various photos from 2008 through 2010 of the colorful waters along the lower Florida Keys

Copyright © 2011/2016 From My Isle Seat

Duval Street

Life and Island Times June 30 2016 – Duval Street

063016-LITv1
Key West’s Duval Street at night in the rain

Winding our way down on Duval Street
Light in our heads and dead on our feet
Another crazy day in the world, we’ll drink the night away
And forget about everything

The world events make you feel so cold
So many bad things happen, are we losing our souls
And it took us so long to find out we were wrong
When we thought Duval Street could hold everything back

We used to think that it was so easy
We used to say that it was so easy
But we’re tryin, we’re tryin now
Another year and then world wouldn’t be so crappy
Just one more year and then the world would be happy
But we’re cryin, we’re cryin now

Way down the street there’s a light in a dark place
We open the door, screwing up our face
And we ask ourselves where we’ve been, can’t remember who or what we’ve seen
And we talk about anything

We got a new dream about buying some land
Not giving up, we got a new magic plan
We’ll settle down in a quiet little southern town
And forget about everything

We might be crazy to keep on movin
Others tell us we’ll never gonna stop movin
Cause we’re rollin, we’re rollin stones
And when we wake up it’ll be a new mornin
The sun’ll be shinin, it’ll be a new mornin
Cause we’re goin, we’re goin home

063016-LITv2
Savannah’s Broughton Street at night in the rain

When we’re alone
We’ll dream on the horizon
and words will fail
Yes, we know there is no light
in a room where the sun is absent
The windows show everyone our hearts
Which they set alight
And enclose within us
the light we encountered on the street.

Time to say goodbye
to those we saw and shared with
now, we shall sail on ships across safe seas
which, we know, no, no, exist no longer
It’s time to say goodbye

Copyright © 2016 From My Isle Seat

The Other Side of Life’s Loose Ends

Life and Island Times June 29 2016 – The Other Side of Life’s Loose Ends

062916-LIT1

You know this isn’t a secret. So, it’s not just between you and me
We don’t know where this is going next, and unsure what’s gonna be
Yeah, and that’s the other side of this life the world is leading, yeah
Yeah, and that’s loose ends of the other side of this life

Well, the whole world’s in an uproar, our whole world’s upside down
We don’t know where it’s leading, so we’re always bumming ’round
Yeah, and that’s another side of this life the world is leading, yeah
Yeah, and that’s the loose ends of the other side of this life

Well, we don’t know what we’re doing, half the time, we don’t know where we’re going
Maybe we should get us a sailing boat and sail the Gulf of Mexico
Yeah, and that’s another side of this life the world is leading, yeah
Yeah, that’s the loose ends of the other side of this life

We’ve decided to head up the coast to the Hostess City
Its “waddya having to drink?” ways seem appealing to me
Yeah, and that’s the other side of this life we’ll be leading, yeah
Yeah, gonna tie up loose ends on the other side of this life

Would you like to know a secret? Just between you and me
I don’t know where I’m going next, I don’t know who I’m gonna be
Yeah, and that’s the other side on this life I’ve been leading, yeah
Yeah, and that’s loose ends of the other side of this life

062916-LIT2

Copyright © 2016 From My Isle Seat & Jefferson Airplane

TAPS: RADM Ted Sheafer

Screen-Shot-2016-06-29-at-8.49

There is some pretty crazy stuff going on in the world this morning, and I was tempted to break my self-imposed embargo on commenting on some of the most egregious examples of the lunacy. I stayed in last night after a comforting hour-long swim and soaked in what details were available on the bombings at the Istanbul and a t4ext from a journalist pal who was headed there to report on the carnage.

So light an ironic would have been the keynote for the daily drivel this morning, except for the fact that life got in the way in precisely the way that it has a habit of doing.

I do obits for some of the people I know, or knew well as a matter of personal and professional courtesy. The first one I really collaborated on was that of Mac Showers, who was as meticulous about preparing for the next world as he was in the one we shared. Art’s was last week, and I will miss him a great deal, since he was like Denny Harman in being larger than life, and striding through the secret world with bold and sometimes caustic aplomb.

But none of them had the raw human power of Ted Shaefer, and when I got the note about his passing while aimlessly reading mail in bed last night I sat bolt upright.

Ted was a Captain when I first encountered him. Later, I entered his orbit at the Pentagon when he was Joint Staff J2, and the first Gulf War waas puling us in. It was then that I realized how he brimmed with ideas that were much vaster than the OPINTEL world in which I learned the trade of fuzing together the various streams of SIGINT, IMINT, HUMINT and some really spooky programs to be able localize, track and kill Soviet submarines, if required.

It was in the Pentagon, prowling those dim and un-reconstructed WW II-era corridors that I first heard of the Predator drone program, one of Ted’s concepts that literally transformed the nature of both intelligence collection, the means of making war, and conducting an armed foreign policy, all without the risk of having an American pilot shot down and dragged through the streets of some foreign town surrounded by howling mobs.

Vision? Shoot, we had the idea that it would be useful to be able to exchange highly classified material between intelligence commands, and that birthed the revolution that was the Joint Worldwide Communications System, the JWICS system that has become the command-and-control communications system used by everyone in Government from the White House on down.

I remember him telling me something about that one time in the fifth floor Pentagon suite of the Director of Naval Intelligence. They had just outlawed smoking in the building, something that pained me a great deal at the time. Ted had his ashtray in a desk drawer, and he pulled it open, and puffed away as he was telling me what to think. I did not dare pull out my pack of Marlboros. That was just how Ted operated.

He was still doing it when I was working with Bell Labs after the Navy. Constantly innovating, constantly meeting the challenges of a dangerous world. He is one of the men who strode through it all boldly, and changed it himself. The formal account of his life will be along for the papers this weekend, but this is what I wrote to tell his professional colleagues this morning:

Passing of RADM Edward D. “Ted” Sheafer

Screen-Shot-2016-06-29-at-11.03

Former DNI Rick Porterfield passed this sad news last night, from Admiral Sheafer’s daughter, Elizabeth. She said that he passed on Monday, 27 June, in Pennsylvania. His formal obituary will be in the
newspapers this weekend, and we will publish here when they are available.

After graduating from the Naval Academy, Sheafer served as a surface warfare officer for a decade, commanding the minesweeper USS Persistent (MSO-491). Following a tour in Vietnam, Sheafer attended graduate school at Georgetown University, receiving a master of science degree in Foreign Service.

Sheafer’s career included assignments as JCS J2 under Admiral William Crowe and General Colin Powell as well as Deputy Director of DIA during DESERT STORM. Sheafer served as Director of Naval Intelligence from August 1991 to September 1994, commanding a workforce of 2,500 people and a budget of more than $2 billion. Sheafer pioneered a number of efforts which have become ubiquitous far beyond the Intelligence Community, including the Predator UAV and is known as the father of the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS) which has become the de facto national SCI messaging, bulk data transfer and teleconferencing capability.

Other OPINTEL positions Sheafer held in his impressive career included:

Fleet Intelligence Officer (N2) for Commander Seventh Fleet (Pacific/Indian Ocean)
Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Fleet Ocean Surveillance Information Center (FOSIC PAC)
OIC Fleet Ocean Surveillance Information Facility (FOSIF WESTPAC Kamisaya, Japan)
Soviet Submarine Analyst, Commander US Naval Forces Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR, London)

Retiring after 35 years active service, he retired from the Navy in 1995 and relocated to Pennsylvania where he acted as an adviser to senior levels in the defense and intelligence communities and continued his pioneering work in advanced wireless communications capabilities, and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) product development.
No funeral or internment details are available at this time, though we will pass them along as they are made available.

As Rick noted, “Ted was a friend and mentor to many of us, and I am saddened by his passing.”

Please pass along this note to any contacts you have that may have served with RADM Sheafer.

Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

Life Threatening Loose Ends

Life and Island Times June 28 2016 – Life Threatening Loose Ends

Marlow and his sister, Harvard, have been trying to keep fraying loose ends from totally unravelling, since last December. These were life and death matters for their ward and younger 60 year old brother. He had been living in long term care facilities built and operated by V. Things had turned sour financially and health wise for V, so the facility’s minority owners closed the Virginia Beach, Virginia, facility with very little notice in late February. In point of fact, they had not provided the family the legally required 60 days’ notice and had been actively working with the payers to relocate their brother to another of their facilities behind the guardians’ backs.

So with little time and quite pissed off, Harvard and Marlow embarked on a country wide search for a new place. They had succeeded against all odds in less than three weeks, only with the help of other family members’ expertise and assistance.

The new facility in Richmond, Virginia, would not have a bed available until six weeks after the old facility closed. So, another plan was hatched to put their brother on a therapeutic road trip, a bon mot created for the Probate Court’s approval of their brother’s multi-state peregrinations and eventual relocation. Visiting old haunts, residences and care givers sounded good to the Court, so it sanctioned it and the move in less than three weeks – a scant five days to go before their brother would have legally become homeless, when the Virginia Beach facility closed its doors.

Time coincident with all this flapping about, Harvard and Marlow were putting the finishing touches on the annual filing of close to a thousand pages of accounting, reporting and plans for their brother to the probate court. The court had been jerking them around with ever changing report dates and timeframes, increasing the cost of these processes by thousands of dollars during each of the past two years.

When the court entered a Guardianship Audit Deficiency Notice in March 15th – six weeks before the end of the court’s previously ordered truncated reporting period. Marlow became irate. Searching the County Court records, it became apparent that this judge was the only jurist in that district who used such notices and was more than likely using or tacitly approving their improper use. It also became obvious during oral conversations with their ward’s probate attorney that the clerk of courts and/or the guardian specialist in Lee County were likely working in concert with this judge.

063016-LIT

Marlow and Harvard had seen this type of bench behavior before. It was case dumping to clear their dockets. This time, it was more observably blatant.

So yet another stratagem was devised and executed to file draft orders for the court to sign and play a wait-and-see game with the court.

Meanwhile after the brother arrived at his new facility in early May, his new caregivers launched a 360 degree multidiscipline review of his health. What they found shocked and dazed his guardians. There were items that had been long overlooked, conditions not heretofore recognized/treated and weighty issue to be decided regarding his physical well being.

For the past six weeks, teleconferences, visits and doctor consults have been sought. A late-night, mid-June. Emergency Room visit occurred when their brother experienced heart attack symptoms. A long review of this showed it was not such an event, but that more tests, doctor visits were required and additional therapeutic strategies implemented.

Despite being slammed by multiple tsunami waves during a typhoon at sea, Harvard and Marlow feel like they have a handle on the ropes that moor their brother to this world. They are thankful that they have such a good crew of shipmates to assist them.

063016-LIT2

Copyright © 2016 From My Isle Seat

Dining in the Country

062816-1
(The Inn at Little Washington, site of two out of two of the most amazing meals of my now unsettlingly long life, courtesy of the Webb Family).

I had a minor adventure over the weekend- well, three, if you count the farm and the chores that made me justify a trip to town for a decent breakfast- but the contrast between the Hispanic short-order cook at the Frost Diner in Culpeper and magnificent excess of Chef Patrick O’Connell’s Inn at Little Washington could not have been more amazing. I am still leveled by the experience. Hell, both of them. But I get to do Frost whenever I feel like it.

The Inn at Little Washington, just up Rt. 522 from the farm, is a life changer.

Short order: (Pictured is the morning’s base stack of home-fries prepared for the after-church crowd being. The whole thing (including my two eggs over easy, English muffin and corned beef hash) was worked by one man of astonishing talents and the ability to multi-task based on glances- no more- to the green paper bills on the chrome rack to the left of the immaculate grill). There is no charge for watching, or having a stool in the kitchen, since that is what the whole place actually is. But it is kinda fun, and the jaded waitresses are as awesome in their way as the short-order cook is.

IMG_20160626_073538627
(This guy is amazing, the single point of failure in The Place To Be on historic East Davis Street in Culpeper. I am pretty sure he had a name, but he won’t wear a tag that says what it is, and he doesn’t talk to you if you are sitting on a stool. He is too busy).

And in the same day- I kid you not- I went from the thoroughly blue-collar ambiance of a classic country diner, to the classic astonishment of haut cuisine not thirty miles away, and closer to the real hills. I had the opportunity to be with Master Chef Patrick O’Connell with my great pals the Webbs, of Kalamazoo. The Inn at Little Washington, Patrick’s playground for the last few decades, is one of life’s most amazing adventures. The pictures of this particular outing are on Facebook, if you want to see some extraordinary dishes, and I won’t try to put them here. And the wine was, well, extraordinary.

If you want a more thorough account of what it is like to dine at one of the two tables actually placed inside the kitchen of the Michelin Guide-rated Inn, check this one from a year ago this week:

www.wordpress/2015/06/the-inn-at-little-washington

I wore one of the nice aloha shirts to The Inn. It is only appropriate to show respect. I think I was in a t-shirt at the Frost Diner.

Screen-Shot-2016-06-27-at-3.13
(The Webbs, left, that idiot Vic in right center, and legendary Master Chef, Innkeeper extraordinaire, the redoubtable Patrick O’Connell to the right).

Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

More Loose Ends

Life and Island Times June 27 2016 – More Loose Ends

W and Marlow had been working to keep several loose ends from further fraying during the past twenty months. They knew that living on their isolated coral rock island was a risk. Their concern wasn’t the seasonal hurricanes that buffeted the island.

The risks they focused on were the stealthy ones that most people don’t see and plan for until the hazard is upon them. They saw their risks as aging and ill family members on the mainland and their own inevitable and growing need for specialty health care as they aged.

Despite modern jet travel’s availability to and from the island in 2005, it still took an average of twelve hours to get anywhere on the mainland when a family emergency popped up. Even though the Keys have three hospitals and a myriad of specially care doctors and treatment facilities, this island chain is so medically deprived that insurance companies and Medicare provide supplementary payment to providers to locate and treat patients there. Telemedicine with mainland specialists remained a distant promise. It was as if the Keys were a farm community in the desolate outreaches of northern Montana.

These risks were unacceptable given their experiences with personal and family health issues during the past five years.

Initially in late 2013 they made lists of likely relocation areas that would be ready for them when the need arose. The list included cities along the coasts of Florida, Georgia and Virginia spanning 1200 miles. In 2014 they began visiting and assessing the candidates. They felt no rush.

After two years of looking they had crossed off four of the five contenders for either being too remote, too boring, too urban, too rural and/or too cold.

The last one was Savannah, Georgia. When they visited it late this past April, the loving tendrils of their sweet island had them firmly in their grasp. Consequently, they were looking for an apartment that they could renovate and inhabit during these times of crisis.

Like several of the other aspirants, it had all the niceties of modern American urban life – youthful and creative vibe, history and mystery, and superb shopping, dining and entertainment. It was graded out second in excellent healthcare system and reliably short transportation times to family members.

It was no surprise to them when they found as with the other cities (save for Old Town Alexandria, Virginia), Savannah real estate was cheaper. What surprised them was the confluence of positive factors with Savannah’s overwhelming charm.

They looked at lots of properties and quickly dropped the idea of a second place This was happening faster than they thought possible. Almost like a teenage first love swoon.

They came back to Key West, put their place on the market in May and made an offer on a 135 year Victorian house off of Forsyth Park. In less than two months, contracts were signed, contingencies made and removed, loans and insurance acquired.

062716-isletimes
Home

It all became concrete and final in their hearts and minds when their Key West real estate agent told them this Monday to start packing.

Securing these loose ends, however, meant encountering another one that Marlow deals with very poorly – saying goodbyes.

They’re going to a new home. They’ll think of some way to tie up these loose ends. After all . . . tomorrow is another day.

Copyright © 2016 From My Isle Seat

Loose Ends

Life and Island Times June 26 2016 – Loose Ends

062716-1

Endings are always more important than beginnings. If you flop at a project’s beginning, you may always put it aside, come back later and finish it off. Or you could abandon it as fruitless and move forward.

But if the ending fails, then . . .

Creating perfect or at least acceptable endings is not easy, but it boils down to one essential objective – the feeling of satisfaction. How does one do that? The answers are manifold.

Marlow was not fond of loose ends. He always had various projects that were at various stages of completion. On the big ones, he considered not tying off all of the loose ends and settling a sense of improvement from where he started. This had worked for him for over four decades in work and at play. An 80% solution was better than none at all.

This had become a trap, since, as he aged, he had begun settling for 70%, then 50% and finally four years ago 20% solutions. These 20%ers had nearly killed him.

Since then, he rediscovered a desire for closure as big things became more and more important. Finding the appropriate balance for which details had to be tied off and those that could be left to dangle tantalizingly before those who would take over for him on this or that project became the key.

Marlow is about to tie up several projects’ loose ends.

The first one is the recovery of the American Legion Post’s missing $50,000. Tying this one up did not require the magic ingredient of originality, just a four month-long, mind numbing slog through thousands of pages of insurance policies, invoices, bank account statements, checks, and spreadsheets with an insurance company risk service firm and forensic accountants.

He did this on his slowly failing laptop via emails and over the phone with these entities. No one knew that he was doing this. All of them thought the Post had no insurance coverage for such a loss. The theives accused him in February that not having such coverage was a criminal failing of his. In response, he nurtured their ignorance.

The thieves finally found out about what he had been doing earlier this month, when the insurance company told them in USPS certified letters that they had been implicated in the missing monies. They became apoplectic. At the mid June Executive Committee meeting, the thieves’ proxies accused Marlow of going to the police. He stifled a laugh and pointed out that the letters said otherwise and he had filed an insurance claim.

Several said the Post had no such coverage. Marlow corrected them repeatedly telling them that the post had had such for at least a decade. He offered them copies of the policy to read. There were no takers.

Changing tack, they demanded that he should have gotten their prior approval for this. As they sputtered, their beards became flecked with spittle.

He rejoined by telling them that he did not need their approval to do so, a finance officer’s fiduciary duties being what they are. As they thrashed about, he asked them the binary question: do you want the $50,000 back., yes or no?

Their response was silence.

Lastly the thieves’ proxies announced to the assemblage that the thieves intended to sue Marlow and the Post. Marlow smiled demurely and said that he would see them in court. None knew that the Post’s insurance policy would pay Marlow’s and the Post’s legal costs.

The last loose end with this recovery project will be the filing this week of a police report with the State Attorney Office and providing them the forensic accountants’ forty page report. With the SAO file number, the insurance company will pay the $50,000 in substantiated losses to the Post.

Testifying at the ensuing American Legion Post administrative and State of Florida criminal trials will tie up the two remaining loose ends.

Copyright © 2016 From My Isle Seat

Epic Fail

Screen-Shot-2016-06-26-at-11.34

Well, if you have to fail, do so spectacularly. Teddy Roosevelt said something like that, I forget when, but screw it. He was right.

And we did. Fail. Epically.

I have to acknowledge my partners in the failure, who contributed with élan and espirit, and a certain indomitable panache that made me proud to be part of the shambling human race.

Maybe I should back up a second. When last we shared some time, we were about to launch boldly on the conquest of the Last Stone: Southeast 9, the one left cut off on the wrong side of the Potomac by the slash of concrete we know as I-295. We knew that it was a challenge. The undergrowth is much as it was when Major Ellicott and his merry band of surveyors planted SE 9 at Fox Landing, by the banks of the Big River, and completed the erection of the first National Monument of the United States of America.

Argo and I had already tried it twice: we essayed the overland route from Oxen Hill Farm, only to be defeated by the rip-rap that surrounds the highway and the bridge at Oxen Cove. We were smart, or rather not as smart as we thought, and the second time we rented a kayak down at National Harbor and paddled north under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, not understanding the power and imperative of the Big River rolling down to the sea.

It was the River, and the wet, that was our undoing that time. But we were on to something, and vowed to conquer the stone from the River next time, and yesterday was to be der Tag, the day of victory.

It did not work out that way, though we saw all sorts of amazing things, learned new skills and found an altogether unprecedented new summer cocktail along the way.

I was giving a lecture a couple months ago about China’s adventurist policies in the South China Sea, a body of water about which I have a certain jingoistic residual feeling from my days as a member of the elite corps of the Overseas Family Residency Program, a Midway sailor. Louis was a Coast Guard civilian in the audience, and we shared some thoughts once the formal presentation was done. We stayed in touch afterwards, and that was the genesis of the morning’s plan.

Argo and I had decided when the River defeated us that a real boat was in order for the next assault, and since Lou is a rated master for vessels of unlimited tonnage, I asked him if he had a line on a skipper and a boat we could rent to finally finish the saga of the Stones.

“No,” he said. “But I have an idea on how to do it.”

And so began the epic fail. We arranged to meet at his rowing club’s boathouse yesterday morning, and Jon-without agreed to be part of the final triumphant amphibious landing.

I will confess that I could have done a little bit better on the final planning, and I did not bing my “A” game to the morning. I had to pick Jon up at 0715, which I made to the minute, and we only screwed up the approach to the George Washington Parkway by inadvertently driving into the District, but we eventually wound up on the correct side of the Potomac with minutes to spare, and there was a near-empty parking garage immediately adjacent to the Alexandria Seaport Foundation, and we stuck the Panzer in there, shedding much of the water-soluble baggage.

Key fob? Wallet? Whatever.

Lou was relaxing outside the boathouse, and we were minutes early, even if a bit flustered at our inadvertent tour of Downtown. The River really is something that divides all sorts of good sense from other things.

Did I mention that learning to row on a Cornish dinghy is way cool? How graceful that wooden lack-strape cockleshell is, and the way it dances on the waves? Or shipping your oar on a peg with a round of rope as your oarlock? Or how big that damn River is when you are in the navigational channel and do not have the right of way with a hangover?

Anyway, presently we found ourselves across the channel and into the shallow water with the spawning carp and on a wild and distant shore. The number of things that could go wrong on this adventure were legion, and got worse. After an uneventful beaching and disembarkation, we got separated in the dense undergrowth, the directions made no sense, and despite having connectivity via phone in a plastic bag, I could not find the GPS coordinates I should have downloaded to get us to within eight feet of the Stone, assuming that the idiots who share my ill-advised passion actually had actually really been there.

The directions are clear and simple. And wrong.

Screen-Shot-2016-06-26-at-11.36-2

After crashing through the mounds of plastic bottles, washed up coolers, motorcycle helmets, footballs and basketballs, with evidence of the other mammals that actually live in this thicket of wilderness in the heart of the Capital of the Free World, we had lost Mallory and Lou, I was immobile on a stump with my feet in the Potomac, thinking that perhaps that this foolishness was going to cost someone their pride, if not their life.

I was shouting into the green for Lou and Mallory, and later just at SE 9.

“I do not surrender, SE 9! I will piss on you next time!”

Actually, Lou and Mallory wandered up the tangled beach a while later, Jon returned from his last foray into the wild to try to find them, and we re-embarked the dinghy, accepting temporary defeat. Lou let me take the cox’n position, and despite my manifold lack of training, we conducted an uneventful transit back to the civilized side of the River.

Upon mooring, we broke down the equipment on the dinghy, oars, rings, footboards and rudder and got them properly stowed. All electronic devices, even the inadequate ones, were liberated from their waterproof containers. We parted after a tour of the Seaport Foundation workshop, and Jon and I swore to contribute lavishly.

We had to. We will be back. And we will conquer that god-damn Stone. And I am going to do what I told it, the last time I was close enough for it to hear me.

Jon-without and I were grateful to Lou, the master mariner, and to Mallory whose stroke was elegant. In tribute to their expertise and access to watercraft, we walked up to the Union Street Public House, eponymously named for its location, only two minutes before the formal opening hour.

Bruce the barkeep opened up early, on general principle, and over the course of the next therapeutic hours, introduced us to an amazing concoction composed of Stoli Vanilla and diet Schweppes, eerily and insidiously tasting like a Cream Soda of old, and possibly the best new drink of the summer.

Screen-Shot-2016-06-26-at-11.36

And that, my friends, was only the before-noon part of Saturday, and there was plenty more to come.

Hell, I am in Culpeper this morning, and actually remember how I got here. So, it may have been an epic fail, but there is more to come on that, and what an amazing summer is it starting to be!

Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com