(Mac dressed to kill for his 90th birthday cruise on the Potomac).
I sent yesterday’s story on Mac Showers and his involvement with the emergence of the “technological transfer” issue with unvarnished relief as I mashed the button on the wireless keyboard. And it came with not a touch of wistful melancholy. Then I saved the file in the proper format and located the drop-in point in the larger of the two narrative files that contain an increasingly unwieldy document.
I have a great deal of sympathy for you, Gentle Reader. I have released these essays as I found the source notes, and have shamelessly recycled some older accounts. I think I have got them all, finally.
It is daunting- and large enough that the manuscript must, perforce, be separated into The amazing saga of the Pacific War takes up a good chunk of the book- but the second and third parts were equally fascinating to hash out at the Willow bar.
Sure, we talked in his apartment at The Madison if something came up that had him engaged, like a particularly satisfying obit he noticed in the Washington Post. But mostly the Willow was a good excuse for him to get dressed up and get out of the sameness of his lodgings. That meant that Willow and the lush pallate of bartenders, chefs and servers all melded together with the Usual Suspects on the consumer side of the bar into one extended narrative flow.
I doubt if I will ever see anything quite like it- between the quality of the food and beverages, Mac’s beatific presence and that of the rest of the crew at the Amen Corner, it put a sort of decade-long exclamation point at the end of the American Century.
So sitting down with the piles of old cocktail napkins, assorted notebooks, and a look through the hundreds of pictures is just about done. The key points are completed with the manuscript. That is an accomplishment in which I take some satisfaction. I told Mac I was going to do it, and actually got a slim volume published about his war year while he was alive to see it. There are some hanging chads, though, I know. Now the second pass must begin. There is the cover art to be dealt with, the table of contents and ISBN to be affixed, the basic formatting of the manuscript into three or four parts, the piddly stuff that requires thought but no mental heavy lifting and very little in the way of emotion, actually living the moments it was being created in the cheerful dimness of the bar.
I feel good about getting to this point, though I am also painfully aware that the project will never really be done. If I can’t find a decent editor, there will be my trademark typos, things I mis-heard, or just got wrong. Mac was never guilty of any of those.
And of course there are loose ends. They include the Jack Graf affair, the un-mentioned matter of Mac’s participation in the FISA Court establishment and the project that spawned the documentary about that other event in the Pacific. That one came with a warning from the then-Director of Naval Intelligence not to talk about it, so I won’t, though Mac had some great stories about the
And with that, the story is pretty much complete. I am hoping that the unstated history of how a life can be lived in full can come through- and why it is important to talk to those who have been privileged to have waded vicariously through the most significant events of Mac’s 93 years on the planet and his ring-side seat at the circus.
With this project now down to the mechanical phase, I may have to go back to thinking one of these mornings. I am a little uneasy about that. Everyone seems to have lost their sense of humor, and frankly it was a relief to zorch off into other times that were just as complex and alarming as ours is now. But there is a certain comfort in that, since we know how those events turned out, and have incorporated them into what we call ‘history.’
I am no particular fan of Francis Fukuyama’s musing about the end of it- history, that is- and having to actually generate original material again in the morning brings up an entirely new kettle of fish.
With so much of the world roiled in religious strife, it should not come as a huge surprise that I have tuned out the Christian Holy Week. If I was following the traditions, which I was, in a manner of speaking, since I was glued to coverage of the Masters golf tournament over the weekend- I would have noted the previous three days that were awash in drama.
First of course was the commemoration of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The cleansing of the Temple and continued Temple controversies would have occupied my thoughts, had I thought them, and now we have arrived at the anniversary of Wednesday, April 12, A.D. 33, and it comes with a memory from the second oldest trade practiced by humans: espionage.
So forgive me for continuing to plow the furrow I have been laboring on since before the holidays. Evil was afoot in Jerusalem this day long ago. I was startled to think of it as a fresh memory. I walked to The Garden there in Jerusalem twenty-seven years ago. The memories should have been sepia-toned, right? But instead they were fresh as could be. Then I realized I had mentally walked there again when I transcribed my notes a couple years ago for “Cruise Book,” the account of the USS Forrestal Med Cruise that accompanied the Fall of the Berlin Wall, and the resurrection of a whole new world.
The Church has long called this day “Spy Wednesday,” marking the days distinctly as the conspiracy against Jesus raced forward. It was not just the Romans, but it now included a traitor from within. It is this day when the key pieces come together in the plot for the murder of the Messiah.
Jesus woke this Wednesday just outside Jerusalem, in the village of Bethany, where he has been crashing at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He intends to teach again on Temple Mount, and attracts a crowd. But now the local community leaders, silenced by Jesus the day before, will leave him be. Today they will avoid public confrontation and instead connive in private. Caiaphas, the high priest, gathers to his private residence the chief priests and Pharisees, and a deal is struck that will compensate a member of the inner circle for the betrayal.
Well, as much as those who have spent a life in the shadow world dislike admitting it, that is part of the nature of the business. Many people observe this day as “Holy Wednesday,” or “Good Wednesday.” I am going to remember it for what it was.
Oh, I almost forgot about the plump little man in Pyongyang. They are going to have a massive military parade this weekend to showcase their latest murderous missile and commemorate the 105th birthday of the founder of the ruling brand, Kim Il Song. I may get out the lapel badge the Northerners presented to us when we were leaving the capital. The parade may be a low-key way to showcase their capabilities without actually conducting an ICBM launch along with another nuclear test. After all, the Chinese have moved 150,000 troops to the border along the Yalu River just in case something happens untoward.
In the forty years I have been watching the Korea Problem, I have never before felt that something might change in the endless Armistice on the Peninsula. Maybe it will.
Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra