Postcard From The Swamp #13

As a function of habit lately, I got out of bed and shuffled to the living room to check on the storms. We are just looking at reporters under blue skies looking at heaps of wreckage. From what we have been hearing, a difference of just twenty miles in the storm track may have saved $150 Billion in damages. Thanks, Cuba, for scrubbing off some of the angry energy!

Our old neighborhood in Jacksonville is underwater, with the damage stretching all the way to Key West. The power of nature is something amazing to behold, isn’t it?

Almost as amazing as the President having Democrats over to dinner. The debt ceiling can has been kicked down the road to Christmas- meaning more continuing resolutions so no hard choices have to be made right now. And so, it is back to politics here in The Swamp. Hopefully they won’t be ‘as usual,’ but I am not holding my breath.

I am eager to get a copy of Hillary Clinton’s new book, so she can help me understand What Happened. I think I have a general idea.


Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

That Day

(Pentagon, 11 September 2001. I thought I lost my whole GDIP Budget Staff. Instead, I lost my pals in the CNO IP).

I have already been in tears this morning. I must be getting soft. Or just old.

One of the cable networks was re-running the coverage from The Day sixteen years ago on the early coverage. I didn’t mean to do it, since you already know I am a cynical old coot. But watching, I felt the fat blobs of tears running down my cheeks, watching the events of that morning.

I know, I know, I talk about it every year, in one way or another. No reason to elaborate, any more than a simple question to Dad about where he was on Pearl Harbor day, and his matter of fact response. He knew. No one forgets the big stuff. You really only have to say once to galvanize the things that change your life forever.

Suffice it to say, I will go over to Arlington later to say “Hi, I remember” to my pals who died on That Day, and remember all that happened in what followed that chaotic event. Maybe the most surreal moment was the ringside seat that night, having a drink late after getting back to the BOQ that lovely fall day colored with horror.

I stepped out on the balcony of the Fort Myer officer’s quarters where I was staying at the time, and watched the Pentagon burn.

I had worked there for almost a decade. It was pretty crazy. And visiting the graves at Arlington each year, and remembering the march down the big hill from the Old Chapel at Fort Myer to see my shipmates interred when the graves were still red with Virginia clay makes this an intensely emotional day. I will leave it at that.

We are still at war sixteen years later. I have no idea how this will end.

But do know one thing. Those bastards will never defeat us.

And if I have to go to The Show again, I will.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Troop in’

(Poet and Empire story-teller Rudyard Kipling)

Editor’s Note: In view of our renewed commitment to Afghanistan, it is worth re-visiting Rudyard Kipling, Poet Laureate of the British Empir, and recall his thoughts about the troops and service in that troubled land…and America’s longest war.

– Vic


Troop in’
(Our Army in the East)

Troopin’, troopin’, troopin’ to the sea:

‘Ere’s September come again — the six-year men are free.

O leave the dead be’ind us, for they cannot come away

To where the ship’s a-coalin’ up that takes us ‘ome to-day.

We’re goin’ ‘ome, we’re goin’ ‘ome,

Our ship is at the shore,

An’ you must pack your ‘aversack,

For we won’t come back no more.

Ho, don’t you grieve for me,

My lovely Mary-Ann,

For I’ll marry you yit on a fourp’ny bit

As a time-expired man.

The Malabar’s in ‘arbour with the ~Jumner~ at ‘er tail,

An’ the time-expired’s waitin’ of ‘is orders for to sail.

Ho! the weary waitin’ when on Khyber ‘ills we lay,

But the time-expired’s waitin’ of ‘is orders ‘ome to-day.

They’ll turn us out at Portsmouth wharf in cold an’ wet an’ rain,

All wearin’ Injian cotton kit, but we will not complain;

They’ll kill us of pneumonia — for that’s their little way —

But damn the chills and fever, men, we’re goin’ ‘ome to-day!

Troopin’, troopin’, winter’s round again!

See the new draf’s pourin’ in for the old campaign;

Ho, you poor recruities, but you’ve got to earn your pay —

What’s the last from Lunnon, lads? We’re goin’ there to-day.

Troopin’, troopin’, give another cheer —

‘Ere’s to English women an’ a quart of English beer.

The Colonel an’ the regiment an’ all who’ve got to stay,

Gawd’s mercy strike ’em gentle — Whoop! we’re goin’ ‘ome to-day.

We’re goin’ ‘ome, we’re goin’ ‘ome,

Our ship is at the shore,

An’ you must pack your ‘aversack,

For we won’t come back no more.

Ho, don’t you grieve for me,

My lovely Mary-Ann,

For I’ll marry you yit on a fourp’ny bit

As a time-expired man.

End of Summer


Yeah, another nuclear test from the NORKs, and warning of another atomic conflict, but they shouldn’t do the demonstration over Labor Day. It is wasting time. It is like they don’t get the news cycle and the popular attention span here in America.

Let’s concentrate on things that matter. Yeah, I know summer doesn’t officially end for a while, but come on. School started last week here, and we already went to the Walmart to get ready. It is toe-tagged as a season.

But at the end, it was a Total Pool Day yesterday, last one of the regular season. Everyone was there, all the usual suspects. I was in the water three times, the first time for a full sixty minutes with my audiobook and cardio health, and a bonus of another hour in pieces with the other usual suspects, ending up on the patio, which I found in disarray this morning, almost as if I had not been in complete control last night.

Oh well, summer is over. Marlow commented succinctly on what Hurricane Irma could be bringing us in the next week. Although the Board gave us two more weekends with the pool, I am not confident Mother Gaea wlll let us have them, nor we can find Americans to staff the pool now that the Poles have gone home.

Time to get back to the farm. But that water looks so good this afternoon, I am tempted to break in….and I know how…more on that later…

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Stepping Up


The Cajun Navy stepped up, revealing the real America that the media doesn’t tell us about- wrong ‘meme,’ whatever that word means.

I was never that clear on it. Steely Dan had a distinct voice- meme, message, whatever, but that is gone this morning since half of them- Walter Becker, 67- are now dead.

I was going to write about North Korean nukes this morning, but my comrades Arrias and Marlow seem to have covered the politics of it all pretty well. This is a big deal and a tough problem that we have avoided for the 40 years I have been in the Korean affairs business. I think it might be ironic to get fried by the family franchise in Pyongyang after all these years.


It is also Labor Day, and have already been in tears this morning as Joanna the Polish Lifeguard opened the pool for the last time of the Regular Season. Ironworker Tony was out, too, as one of the Pool Support Group. He wanted to ensure she got coffee. I beat him to it- I got her a travel mug and a chicken wrap for breakfast. I feel for the kids out there over the years who have sat, mostly unbothered, by the residents of Big Pink for ten hours each day.

Life changes after this last pool day. Now there will be time to go to the farm, start to sort out life after a career, contemplate the fact that half of Steely Dan is dead (and at my age!) and how things go forward from here.

Life is sure is strange as heck, isn’t it? I guess we just have to step up and do it like we always did. It ain’t forever, is it, though it certainly beckons. I am going to listen to the album “Aja” and some of the tunes that defined my life this afternoon. Why not? Step up. If there is life, why not live it?

– Vic

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Pool People

I awoke way too early, and on my way to the end of the Internet, was only moderately surprised to see the North Koreans had apparently tested another nuclear device. I don’t think they realize we are not paying much attention to it, since we have plenty of stuff to occupy us right here, what with the Texas Floods, and worse, the lack of knowledge about whether the Big Pink Condo Board approved the discretionary two weekends of swimming this month. I they didn’t, everything in the water is done tomorrow, and I am predictably distraught.

No, I am frigging bereft. I am going to have to figure out another way to exercise. Outrageous.

We have had a chill summer here in DC- I swear I have been cold out on the pool deck since Memorial Day, but regardless of the temperature, it was one of the best pool seasons in the 16 years I have been paddling here. Part of it was the people, largely composed of Polish guest workers on the official side, and the usual suspects from the building on the civilian side. We coffeed them, fed them healthful food, and shamelessly flirted with them- a change from the mostly male life guard corps of yesteryear.

These pictures were captured by Doc, the PhD who lives down the hall and is my only competitor for Most In The Pool Award most years. She is great and featured at the lower left. It worked out well. Here are most of the people who made it special:


It was a Great Season- maybe epic. There is a distinct sense of Fall in the air this morning, though. I wonder how this will end? I wonder about how all these other things are going to end, too. I could have gone off on all that this morning, but I am studiously avoiding reality. It is too real.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

American Dunkirk


I really can’t get the cognitive dissonance out of my mind this afternoon between the concept of natural disaster and inimical evil. The North Koreans are launching missiles in a manner that suggests they would like the option of turning someplace like Los Angeles into a molten slag.

I am aware there could be a debate about that, given the level of public discourse in the chattering class, but I am general favor of keeping LA it as is. I am just not going there again unless marched there.

Back here on the other long decline side of the Continental Divide, we are a little distracted over social issues in my adopted state of Virginia, as you might imagine.

People mostly from other states felt the need to come here and attack one another, and then kill one of us.

Huge emotion unexpected over things long- or at least thought- to be settled.

Meanwhile, there is that huge storm in the Gulf, and hundreds of thousands of Americans displaced or still directly threatened with years of recovery to come. But that is next. What happened as a consequence of two days warning, which should have been in the plan before they built the fourth largest city in America on an extant flood plane?

Wait, sorry, I write from the Distract of Columbia. Sorry.

Who responded? The usual people we count on: Cops, Firefighters, EMT personnel and neighbors. And more, since my pal the Coast Guard Master Chief Petty Officer would remind me of the motto: “You have to go out. You don’t have to come back.”

There is something else, and something sublimely assertive about our future. There is the emergence of the Cajun Navy, of course.

Contrary to the popular public narrative of division and strife (I don’t need to state it again- turn on the TV and you will hear it ), a bunch of bass fishermen and other public-minded boat owners ran to help. They hitched up their trailers to their trucks and they went, just as everyday boating Britons crossed the English Channel to save an Army from surrender to the Fascists.

I have never been so inspired by a class of Americans who just did the right thing. Their class has been vilified for years for clinging to all manner of things. Apparently they did not care and went on doing the right thing as they understood it. And they have just done it again.

I am always reminded of the call of duty and fate when I drive south down to the farm. In Culpeper, we have a lake named for, and a sign on RT 29, recounting the Fall of Pelham, a young Texas officer who left an administrative hearing in Culpeper and upon emerging from the Courthouse, heard the sound of guns. He jumped on his horse to get there. He did not have to go. He went anyway. He died.

Those bass fishermen executed Dunkirk, Dixie Style. Bless them. They pulled a bunch of people to safety. No one asked them to do it. They ran to the storm to help.

America never was not great.

Copyright 19017 Vic Socotra


Editor’s Note: It is car show season, though it has been a cool summer here in DC, and I regret not getting out there to see the magnificent vehicles that have survived, based on the passion their owners and aficionados have for them. Me? I am a Rambler kid. This is from peripatetic contributor Jim, who lives on 17 Mile Drive in Monterey, CA, and can do both the Concours D’Elegance at Pebble Beach and the Concours D’Lemon nearby. My memorable cars would be at the latter category

– Vic


This “Clark Gable” 1932 ‘twin-six’ Packard was the highlight of Amelia Island car (FL) show auction in March of ’16 …… picked up here in nearby Greenfield (Salinas Valley) for $75.00 …. and later sold for $1.2 mil …. this was a true ‘barn find’ as they say….. great story below…. a triple-crown winner….

I made the show but not that auction … styled on the Pebble Beach show along two fairways of their Ritz-Carlton golf course…..


Amelia Island show is very nice, and cheap …. at $50 admission and in it’s 20th year or so of longevity….but it’s not the 18th of Pebble…….. and Jay Leno was there…

The ‘twin-six’ is of course a V-12 newly re-introduced … to top Cadillac’s new V-8 …and the L-head or side valve is an engine block with the valve gear and cam in the top side of the inverted “L” rather than having an overhead cam and a taller engine profile ….

L-head – Side-valve engine

The ‘free-wheeling’ feature allowed you to shift, without using the clutch …. when you took your foot off the gas … stopped accelerating….But a single carb for 12 cylinders!
While there appears to be a tad of uncertainty on the chain of custody for the car…. given the owners, and selling price, I would take this as the real deal……

One of the Usual Suspects chimed in to Jim’s post- we have a former Director of Naval Intelligence who has indoctrinated many of us into the Pacakard Cargo Cult:

“I had a Packard-only owning uncle…… many stories….. the small hatch just behind the right front door is the golf club compartment…” Jim went on to give us the brochure information for a vehicle that is probably more expensive than the house in which you live:

12 March 2016Lot 118
1932 Packard Twin Six Coupe Roadster

Chassis no. 900471
Engine no. 900481
Vehicle no. 579-64

Sold for $1,210,000.00
Series 905. 160 bhp, 445.5 cu. in. modified L-head V-12 engine with a single Stromberg downdraft carburetor, three-speed manual transmission with finger control Free-Wheeling, live front and rear axles with semi-elliptic front and rear leaf-spring suspension, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 142.5 in.

Long regarded as the Clark Gable Twin Six
Formerly owned by Jack Passey, C.A. Leslie, and Tom Moretti
Best in Class at Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, and Meadow Brook (old Dodge estate in Mich)
An outstanding 12-cylinder Packard of quality and rich provenance
Indisputably pure, authentic, and correct

More than just “The King of Hollywood,” Clark Gable was a passionate motorhead who in the 1930s occupied the same position in California socialite automotive circles that Steve McQueen would hold three decades later. Like McQueen, Gable owned the best that money could buy and also enjoyed working on the cars himself. His preference before the war was clearly for the top-of-the-line offerings by Packard, with the occasional distractions by Duesenberg.

Vehicle number 579-64 was the 54th Twin Six coupe roadster built during 1932’s Ninth Series, the first year of the second-generation Packard V-12, and may well have been the last example of this body style made. Originally dispatched to Los Angeles, it was sold new on November 14, 1932, by the famous distributor there, Earle C. Anthony, Inc., long the largest-volume dealer of new Packards in the world, with Mr. Gable believed to be the original owner.

Gable was photographed in the early 1930s with his Twin Six Coupe Roadster, which had been accessorized with wheel discs, Pilot-Ray driving lights (made in Los Angeles), and a rear-mounted trunk, all of which are present in the famous publicity photograph. It is believed that Gable sold the car in 1934 to make way for a new 1106 Twelve Runabout Speedster, which would receive similar Bohman & Schwartz touches.

This car’s known ownership history picks up with another Los Angeles owner, C. Jewell. By 1949, it was owned by D.H. Korntved of Cambria, California, later making its way to the town of Greenfield, where, in the late 1950s, it was discovered in a local backyard by renowned enthusiast Jack Passey. After tracking down the owner, Mr. Passey paid $75 for the Packard and towed it home, becoming its first enthusiast owner, at a time when the Passey stable was one of the largest and finest on the West Coast, known for its vast collection of superb unrestored original cars.

In the early 1960s, the Twin Six was bought from Mr. Passey by early West Coast Packard V-12 enthusiast George Petrusich, who owned it several years before selling it to C.A. Leslie Jr. of Oklahoma City. The foremost expert of his time on this model, Mr. Leslie kept extensive records, as well as his own collection of Twin Sixes and their associated parts, with which he aided numerous fellow owners over the years through articles in magazines and books. The coupe roadster was the pride of his collection for most of the rest of his life.

In 1989, the car was acquired from Mrs. Leslie by Don Wohlwend of Camano Island, Washington, a longtime CCCA member and active restorer and enthusiast. Mr. Wohlwend kept the car for eight years before passing it to its next notable owner, the late Tom Moretti. One of the most respected of modern Packard connoisseurs, Mr. Moretti was noteworthy in many ways. He collected only the best of the best, selecting solid original cars with good, well-known histories, and proceeded to restore them himself in a fully equipped home shop, with painstaking attention to accuracy and detail. A Moretti Packard was, in its finished form, authentic, well researched, and second to none. In his lifetime, Mr. Moretti restored seven Packard Twelves. All of them won Best in Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance—an unprecedented and virtually unmatched achievement by a private owner-restorer.

Most special of all, this Twin Six not only won its class at Pebble Beach in 2009 but also matched the honor the following year at Amelia Island and Meadow Brook, making it a rare winner of the “triple crown” of great American concours d’elegance. It was also awarded its First Primary award, with a perfect score of 100 points its first time out, in CCCA judging, and it was Best of Show at the 2010 CCCA Museum Experience at Hickory Corners. The judges had spoken, and clearly: this was one of the best Packards in the world.


That this Twin Six coupe roadster was Clark Gable’s is strongly backed both by the opinions of Packard historians and by first-hand recollections.

Among these was Major Conrad Clough, a Leslie contemporary and fellow Packard collector in Oklahoma City, who had earlier resided in Santa Monica in the 1930s. Major Clough recalled to Mr. Leslie that he had known Clark Gable, that he recalled seeing this car at Earle C. Anthony’s when it was in for service, and that it was painted a very dark Packard Blue, the same color found on the car when it was stripped by Mr. Wohlwend at the beginning of restoration. The Major was convinced that the car he eventually came to know in the Leslie stable had been Gable’s. Similarly, Ted Davis, a roster keeper for Ninth Series Twin Sixes, regards this as being the Gable car, as did the late collector Jim Weston and, most certainly, Tom Moretti, a man who did his research and knew his facts when it came to Packards.

Its history aside, the car is almost unrivaled in its purity and accuracy. It retains the original body, engine number 900481, frame number 900471, front axle number 900473, and steering box number 900479, all of which, being numbered within 10 digits of one another, confirms their originality to this car; the firewall data tag is also original. Exhaustive research by Mr. Moretti at the Detroit Public Library allowed the recreation of the original finish, down to the proper width and pattern of pinstriping! With its whitewall tires, Goddess of Speed radiator mascot, and beautifully tailored interior, the result is still fresh, stunning, and show ready in all regards, a credit to the long-lived integrity of a Moretti restoration.


It is often said that the best car is one restored by a knowledgeable owner for him to keep, and indeed, that was true of this Twin Six, which, after completing, Mr. Moretti owned until his untimely passing. For the past several years, it has been part of a renowned collection, continuing to enjoy the best of possible care and maintenance, which has left it very much the same today, with 604 miles traveled, as when Mr. Moretti completed it. The current owner notes the Finger Control Free-Wheeling feature is fully functional.

Indisputably rich in history, exquisitely and authentically restored, and recognized as one of the best by historians and judges alike, this is a Packard that rings all the bells and remains firmly in the ranks of the greatest extant. It is as much a legend as Clark Gable himself.


Copyright 2017 Jim

Postcard From The Swamp #12

Events near and far shaped a week that contained despair and inspiration- and contained news that increasingly seems to come from the satiric site The Onion rather than real news organizations. The breathless account of the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS- says so on her ball-cap) and her choice of footwear seemed to overshadow the North Korean launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (and three failed shorter range rockets) was in turn drowned in the news of Hurricane Harvey, which dumped an astonishing 50-inches of rain on parts of Gulf Coast Texas.

He is moving again, east and north, and the thoughts and prayers of all of us at The Daily go out to the people of Texas and Louisiana. I was pinned down with our own showers here in DC, and the resulting cancellation of one of the remaining precious pool days, and got sucked into watching the reporting from Houston. It made me proud to be an American and awed at the force of nature. Then I had to do the Swamp Slide. Every time I think it can’t get any more nuts in my adopted home town, events prove me wrong.

– Vic


Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Stormy Weather

Life is still good in Northern Virginia. I am going swimming this afternoon, rain will not be here for another several hours, I have no statues in my neighborhood, and no one is marching around. Certainly not the way tropical storm Harvey is stomping on and punishing Texas, which has changed and my whole idea about moving south. Blizzards are bad, but they don’t drown you.

Harvey may be veering out to the Gulf again, ravaging places that have been already ravaged quite enough, thank you. My thoughts are for those on the Louisiana coast who may be under the storm next, and those under the deluge now.

Before I started anything this afternoon, I amended my plans.

I could have launched off on an extraordinary tale of the history of movie start Clark Gabel’s Packard, reliably reported by peripatetic contributor Jim. But what got to me watching the disaster was the scandalous systemic inability of my Navy to make airworthy the millions of dollars we taxpayers have invested in training aircraft that were about to be inundated at NAS Corpus Christy due to lack of maintenance funding.

There was not enough “Operations and Maintenance” funding to keep them ready to fly- which tells you a lot about the training pipeline these days. The cost of the damage to those jets far outstrips the money it would have cost them to be in flyable condition. The effects of the Sequester are just coming to light on the impact to training and readiness. With the recent warship collisions being bald enough a statement, now this. The lack of flexibility, not to mention the number of rated pilots, the whole thing is starting to make make me a little nuts.

I remember Dad- a reserve Skyraider pilot and still subject to recall at the time- being up-tight at a family dinner when it looked like Naval Air Station Grosse Ile had to move all their airplanes out of the path of a 1950’s storm. He would have to get ready to go while he left his family to stay with the elements. Let me just say this:

I sent a c-note to the Red Cross this morning to cover something that might be useful for the folks underwater. We can cover the rest of this crap later. Help those who are hurting to the extent that you can.

It is the least we can do. Well, not the least. We already did that.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra