Since my looming family reunion will be the first one without our beloved Druncle Mac, I thought it would be nice to remember him.
He died two years ago. It turns out that a lifetime of hard drinking, carousing and three packs of Marlboros a day isn’t good for you. Who knew?
He taught me many things, mostly that when there is a problem, alcohol is not always the answer. But it should be your first guess.
Mac was an unfiltered truth-teller. There are only three things that will tell you the truth: small children, tight jeans and drunks.
Everyone but my family wants me to talk about him. But in truth, all families are just a generation or two away from an aunt who smoked cigarettes on the toilet. So here are some of my favorite Mac observations over the years:
“I have two favorite songs. One is Elvis’ rendition of ‘Dixie,’ the other is not.”
Confronted about his “drinking problem,” he said, “When you think about it, my drinking problem is really the police’s problem.”
My Druncle Mac said all the “MeToo” cases suddenly in the news were a rich man’s problem. He was so broke, he had to show an ID to pay cash for something. He said he might sue his employer, a construction company, to get some of that “MeToo” money. I asked him whom he was going to sue, and he said, “Anyone willing to settle.”
He told folks that during the Vietnam War, he was saved by a sweet Vietnamese girl when she hid him in her attic. He was in Birmingham, Alabama at the time.
Druncle Mac did not have the best relationships with women. I once asked him how he and his then-wife were doing. He said, “Ronnie, not so great. We took out large insurance policies on each other; now it’s just a waiting game.”
He drank only Pabst beer. I brought him Coors Light once and he said, “Son, that is not beer. Coors Light is the official beer of child custody hearings.”
During COVID, he got into an argument with a convenience store manager because he would not stand 6 feet from other customers on the “X” painted on the floor. He said he had seen too many “Roadrunner” episodes to fall for that.
In response to a Geico commercial during a ‘Bama game on TV that promised to save 20 percent on car insurance, Mac said that was nothing; he saved 100 percent on car insurance by leaving the scene of every accident he’d ever been in.
He would proudly say, “It only takes one drink to get me drunk. But I could never remember if it was the eleventh or twelfth drink.”
He hated Uber. He felt it allowed a whole generation of kids to let their drunk driving skills atrophy and pointed to the fact that he only had one wreck in his life while drinking. He said he had to swerve to avoid hitting a pine tree. It turned out it was the air freshener hanging from his rear-view mirror.
His politics were what you might imagine. When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appeared on TV spewing her socialist rants, he blamed New Yorkers for electing her and went on to ask, “How big a drunk do you have to be to elect your bartender to Congress?”
Nous sommes des dégourdis,
Nous sommes des lascars
Des types pas ordinaires.
Nous avons souvent notre cafard,
Nous sommes des légionnaires.
From the Yale Alumni Mag 1974 Class Notes:
I have been honored and grateful for a stream of communication from —- ——— – one of our class Vietnam vets – about the passing of Vic Corcoran [SM] in Tahiti on March 23rd. It appears Vic eschewed the “grim professionalism” Kingman Brewster claimed to see in us and led a life that more belongs in a novel than in the class notes.
According to —–’s emails, Vic, who had previously turned down the opportunity to swim in the 1968 Olympics, carried his aquatic skills both to Vietnam and, in 1979, to the French Foreign Legion special forces as a “reconnaissance swimmer” where he specialized “offensive nautical intervention” for the balance of his career, including eight months of the Gulf War, ultimately receiving the Croix de Guerre which I understand is more or less the equivalent of our Silver Star.
Vic retired to Tahiti and ultimately passed from cancer. —– wonders if the cancer was connected to exposure to Agent Orange.
After a life of activity and adventure, Victor (“Wick”) died March 22, 2023 of a brief illness at age 72.
Victor graduated from The Hotchkiss School, CT, where he was an All-American breast stroke swimmer; Yale University (swimming team); and The Ocean Corporation, TX for under water construction.
He served in the French Foreign Legion in parachute and then scuba regiments. Tours of duty included Corsica, Djibouti, the Central African Republic, and the Persian Gulf in Operation Desert Storm, including acting as liaison to the French General and US Gen Schwarzkopf. He retired as Master Sergeant, having received numerous decorations.
Before the Legion, Victor worked as a commercial diver, including on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea.
After the Legion, he served as a security officer on French cruise ships. He retired to Tahiti, where he enjoyed hiking, swimming, and sailing.
Victor had a wonderful sense of fun, made friends easily, and saw the good in people.
Predeceased by his parents, Victor Francis Corcoran and Merrill Holmes Corcoran. Survived by family in Nice, France: Son, Alan Victor Corcoran, Daughter, Alison Kate Corcoran, and Granddaughter, Cailey Kahila Mjot;
Also family in Rochester, NY: Brother, Christopher H. Corcoran (Mary), Sister, Melissa C. Hopkins (Ed), nieces, nephew, and cousins.
Victor was buried in Tahiti after a military funeral. The family plans a memorial service in Penn Yan, NY. Instead of flowers, gifts may be made to the YMCA of Greater Rochester, 444 East Main St., Rochester, NY 14604. Rochesterymca.org/donate.
Apart from the gratuitous (and blindly partisan) dumping on Trump, Andrew was in his best form, doing a fine job of eulogizing Queen Elizabeth that even we rebellious colonials can appreciate.
Elizabeth Windsor was tasked as a twenty-something with a job that required her to say or do nothing that could be misconstrued, controversial, or even interestingly human — for the rest of her life.
The immense difficulty of this is proven by the failure of almost every other member of her family — including her husband — to pull it off. We know her son King Charles III’s views on a host of different subjects, many admirable, some cringe-inducing. We know so much of the psychological struggles of Diana; the reactionary outbursts of Philip; the trauma of Harry; the depravity of Andrew; the agonies of Margaret. We still know nothing like that about the Queen. Because whatever else her life was about, it was not about her.
Part of the hard-to-explain grief I feel today is related to how staggeringly rare that level of self-restraint is today. Narcissism is everywhere. Every feeling we have is bound to be expressed. Self-revelation, transparency, authenticity — these are our values. The idea that we are firstly humans with duties to others that will require and demand the suppression of our own needs and feelings seems archaic. Elizabeth kept it alive simply by example.
With her death, it’s hard not to fear that so much she exemplified — restraint, duty, grace, reticence, persistence — are disappearing from the world. As long as she was there, they were at the center of an idea of Britishness that helped define the culture at its best. Perhaps the most famous woman in the world, she remained a sphinx, hard to decipher, impossible to label. She was not particularly beautiful or dashing or inspiring. She said nothing surprising. She was simply the Queen. She showed up. She got on with it. She was there. She was always there.
Whatever else happened to the other royals, she stayed the same. And whatever else happened in Britain — from the end of Empire to Brexit — she stayed the same. This is an achievement of nearly inhuman proportions, requiring discipline beyond most mortals. Think of a year, 1992, in which one son, Andrew, divorced, a daughter-in-law, Sarah Ferguson was seen cavorting nude in the tabloids, a daughter, Anne, separated, another son’s famously failed marriage, Charles’, dominated the headlines, and your house burns down. Here is how Her Majesty “vented”:
1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an ‘Annus Horribilis.’
Dry, understated, with the only vivid phrase ascribed to a correspondent. Flawless.
She was an icon, but not an idol. An idol requires the vivid expression of virtues, personality, style. Diana was an idol — fusing a compelling and vulnerable temperament with Hollywood glamor. And Diana, of course, was in her time loved far more intensely than her mother-in-law; connected emotionally with ordinary people like a rockstar; only eventually to face the longterm consequences of that exposure and crumble under the murderous spotlight of it all.
Elizabeth never rode those tides of acclaim or celebrity. She never pressed the easy buttons of conventional popularity. She didn’t even become known for her caustic wit like the Queen Mother, or her compulsively social sorties like Margaret. The gays of Britain could turn both of these queens into camp divas. But not her. In private as in public, she had the kind of integrity no one can mock successfully.
You can make all sorts of solid arguments against a constitutional monarchy — but the point of monarchy is precisely that it is not the fruit of an argument. It is emphatically not an Enlightenment institution. It’s a primordial institution smuggled into a democratic system. It has nothing to do with merit and logic and everything to do with authority and mystery — two deeply human needs our modern world has trouble satisfying without danger.
Why go to Yale? It’s true that there are in residence a significant representation of grade-grubbing conformists, but that lumpen student body is also leavened by the presence in some quantity of bright spirits and the unusually gifted.
Reading the alumni mag this month, I found its customary cesspool of odious self-congratulation and left-wing cant redeemed by the kind of obituary for a member of the Class of 1967 that makes one wish one had known the chap.
Lift a glass this evening to the memory of Mark Princi, Y ’67.
Mark Princi passed away on Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by loved ones, at his home in Boissise-la-Bertrand, France, after a minor surgical procedure. “He developed pneumonia after the surgery and went straight downhill,” says Steve Small. “He had been slowly losing ground for some months, and a good bit of that was Parkinson’s disease; but ultimately it seemed more like his body was being repeatedly hammered and finally gave up.”
“Every classmate’s death is the occasion for sadness to me, but Mark was ever so much larger than life,” says Charlie Carter. “His sartorial presence was unmistakable, as he always wore a cape that blew in the wind. In recent years our class discussion group was treated to his tireless daily reporting of each successive stage in the Tour de France, which were written as only he could do, with narrative interspersed with suspense and explanations of the sport for those of us who never had heard of a peloton. At Yale he palled around with Rock Brynner along separate paths from the rest of the class. I will miss him in proportion to his superhuman persona.”…
After graduation, Mark worked as a screen/dialog writer, dialog director, ad copywriter, location scout/producer, aide-de-camp to various jazz musicians in New Orleans and, as he put it in his essay for our 50th Reunion yearbook, “speechwriter for inarticulate celebrities.”
“He was also personal assistant to Rock’s dad, Yul Brynner, who was touring with his hit show, The King and I,” says Tom Devine. “Brynner wanted his dressing room painted dark brown because the theater managers wouldn’t pay for two coats, and one coat of brown covers anything. But he was having trouble getting the union workers to paint it. Mark said, ‘I’ll fix that.’ He went out and bought two bottles of good Scotch, Johnnie Walker Black, and went to the office of the union captains. ‘This is a present from Mr. Brynner,’ he said. The next day, the dressing room was painted to perfection. Afterward, the union captains said to Mark, ‘Here’s the key to this office. If that (bleep) gets on your nerves, know that you can always come down here and have a drink.’
Charlie resumes the narrative: “Mark finally settled down in a hippie community in a village called Le Mee on the river. The house they all shared is a highly idiosyncratic ramshackle that he and his wife, Michèle, eventually took over to raise their son, Julien. Michèle is without doubt the greatest, intuitively natural cook I’ve ever met. Anything she touched she transformed into something unique and spectacular, whether it was leg of lamb (perhaps her favorite), fresh fava beans, or fois gras. My family and I were treated several times to stories about his cinnamon farm in Sri Lanka. On another occasion we were invited to Le Mee for luncheon with Mark’s neighbors, who turned out to be from the House of Grimaldi: Princess Caroline of Hanover and her husband, Ernst. As with everything Princi, that turned out to be a unique and very pleasant surprise. Ernst is quite the playboy, and had brought what seemed like an early version of a helicopter drone, which he distributed among the guests, so that after lunch we went outside to try to fly them. And Princess Caroline turned out to be remarkably sharp and easy in conversation, in addition to being very beautiful.”
“Oh, that marvelous house!” says Randy Alfred. “Not ramshackle, but ancient of many eras lovingly stitched together. True, there might have been a loose or missing stitch here and there. And the garden, a wondrous work tended by Michèle, the very incarnation of a proletarian Marianne. And that kitchen with every bit of wall space occupied by the tools of cuisine or the emblems of folk culture, both historic and modern. And Michèle’s splendid cooking. And the conversation. I didn’t want to rise from that table.”
“But he took two things to the grave that I remain curious about,” adds Charlie. One was something he knew about John Kerry’s presidential campaign that could have changed the course of that election. The other was a screenplay commissioned by the Mossad that Mark was very proud of, about the destruction of a missile site deep in Iraq by an Israeli bomber. But it came much too close to the truth, so they paid him for writing the screenplay – and for assuring that it never became an actual TV show.”
Peter Petkas recalls, “Mark used to tell the story of being on a photo shoot with an actress somewhere in the Mediterranean when she lost a piece of jewelry in the water and refused to continue without it. He quickly recited a prayer to Saint Anthony, the patron of lost objects, then dove into the water and pulled up the piece. The shoot went on.”
Bill Howze adds, “Jeannette and I also spent a day or two at his ‘estate’ by the river. He picked us up at the airport and after a nap took us to the mostly Arab local market. The next day, he delegated his niece, who was studying art history, to help us find and settle into our hotel in Paris where Jeannette had meetings with her colleagues at several art museum libraries and with book dealers specializing in fine arts. What a generous, worldly, and down-to-earth friend!”
But I think Randy summed him up best: “From Day One at Yale right up to his last days, that man had style.”
The great P.J. O’Rourke died yesterday of lung cancer. He was 74. I’m 73. Imagine how I feel.
You can read his biography in any of the MSM obituaries. Here is the NYT’s.
I suggest reading a few selections from his inimitable prose.
For example, from the introduction to Give War a Chance:
The principal feature of contemporary American liberalism is sanctimoniousness. By loudly denouncing all bad things — war and hunger and date rape — liberals testify to their own terrific goodness. More important, they promote themselves to membership in a self-selecting elite of those who care deeply about such things. People who care a lot are naturally superior to we who don’t care any more than we have to. By virtue of this superiority, the caring have a moral right to lead the nation. It’s a kind of natural aristocracy, and the wonderful thing about this aristocracy is that you don’t have to be brave, smart, strong or even lucky to join it, you just have to be liberal.
Liberals actually hate wealth because they hate all success. They hate success especially, of course, when it’s achieved by other people, but sometimes they hate the success they achieve themselves. What’s the use of belonging to a self-selecting elite if there’s a real elite around? Liberals don’t like any form of individual achievement. . . . Also wealth is, for most people, the only honest and likely path to liberty. With money comes power over the world. Men are freed from drudgery, women from exploitation. Businesses can be started, homes built, communities formed, religious practiced, educations pursued. But liberals aren’t very interested in such real and material freedoms. Liberals want the freedom to put anything into their mouths, to say bad words, and to expose their private parts in art museums.
And his famous how-to piece from Republican Party Reptile:
A FB Friend’s analysis of career politician HARRY REID’s wealth:
“He went to into politics at a young age, did not come from wealth, worked for the government his entire working life and amassed a 10-20 million net worth on government salary. To put this in perspective Reid’s salary as a Senator ranged from 40-160k per year. Which means he netted about 30-110k before he spent a dollar on food, shelter, and transportation. To amass 10 million in wealth on that salary is impossible without corruption!”
“Show me a man that gets rich by being a politician, and I’ll show you a crook.”
One of the great fighting men of American politics has died, Angelo Codevilla. He was born in 1943 in Italy, came to America as a teenager, then became a citizen in spirit, not just in paperwork: He rejoiced & suffered in America’s virtues & vices, greatness & misery; he knew right & wrong, he knew the difference between courage & cowardice, & he acted unhesitatingly on his unusual knowledge of foreign affairs; more, he served America in the military, then as staff in the Senate, finally, as college professor & writer on political matters. He had a private life, but that belongs to his family; his public life concerns everyone who loves America, because it reveals better than almost anything now available to us the powers democracy summons & liberalism educates. More than most men, he lived up to his name. …
Mr. Codevilla chronicled liberalism’s delusions on foreign affairs since the 1970s & his seriousness about political science comes across even more than his expertise in his various tracts & policy papers. Read his investigation of the French Fifth Republic or of the politics of Switzerland in WWII & you will learn from him how to be serious about serious things. His writing on America is much harder to learn from, since he was unpopular & perpetually contemptuous of the silly people that find favor with our cowardly elites, always teaching his audience to show no respect to the intellectually corrupt. If there is beauty in justice, in the requirement of the punishment of the offensive, there was beauty in his anger.
It was the misery worse than tragedy of his life to live long enough to see a necessity to speak about American domestic affairs. Only something as ugly as the potential for civil war could make him speak about the problems of our own affairs. He understood too well that we do not even call America a regime before we are ready to tear it apart. He never ceased blaming elites & never ceased encouraging citizens to share in his great spirit, that they may be free & at the same time respect themselves.
Okefenokee Joe, an 11-and-a-half-foot alligator who is believed to have lived in a Georgia swamp since World War II, has died, officials said.
The alligator passed away from old age, the Georgia’s Coastal Ecology Lab said, and had been part of a satellite tag program. The lab had been observing his movements in the Okefenokee Swamp since June 2020, according to a statement on Facebook.
The celebrated alligator’s exact age was unknown, but he “was a very old alligator as he had scar tissue over both eyes and his scutes were worn almost smooth,” the lab said. “Alligators can live to be approximately 80 years old though so it is possible he was close to that!”
Joe was last tracked via GPS on July 20, and the lab said, “We first thought the tag had simply fallen off as it had been several weeks since we had received any GPS points from him.”
But after several weeks, the satellite tag was found and the lab confirmed his death.
“We are so grateful to have known him, for his contribution to science and the further understanding and preservation of his species,” they said.
Joe weighed in at more than 400 pounds and would have been considered a “dominant male in his day,” the lab shared in a Facebook post last year.
The Stones’s final public appearance with Watts was a filmed segment for the first we’re-all-in-this-together COVID broadcast in April 2020. Charlie played along on a spirited version of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, drumsticks in hand, using a trio of musical storage cases and a nearby couch for percussion. It was an effortless, funny and musically deft performance, and absolutely right for the occasion. Only the drummer in the world’s greatest rock band, it seemed, might not wish to keep a set of drums at home. Somehow that summed up the man.
Tyler McCarthy, at Fox News:
The quiet, elegantly dressed Watts was often ranked with Keith Moon, Ginger Baker and a handful of others as a premier rock drummer, respected worldwide for his muscular, swinging style as the band rose from its scruffy beginnings to international superstardom. He joined the Stones early in 1963 and remained over the next 60 years, ranked just behind Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as the group’s longest lasting and most essential member.
Watts stayed on, and largely held himself apart, through the drug abuse, creative clashes and ego wars that helped kill founding member Brian Jones, drove bassist Bill Wyman and Jones’ replacement Mick Taylor to quit, and otherwise made being in the Stones the most exhausting of jobs. …
He had his eccentricities – Watts liked to collect cars even though he didn’t drive and would simply sit in them in his garage. But he was a steadying influence on stage and off as the Stones defied all expectations by rocking well into their 70s, decades longer than their old rivals the Beatles.
Watts didn’t care for flashy solos or attention of any kind, but with Wyman and Richards forged some of rock’s deepest grooves on “Honky Tonk Women,” “Brown Sugar” and other songs. The drummer adapted well to everything from the disco of “Miss You” to the jazzy “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and the dreamy ballad “Moonlight Mile.”
Jagger and Richards at times seemed to agree on little else besides their admiration of Watts, both as a man and a musician. Richards called Watts “the key” and often joked that their affinity was so strong that on stage he’d sometimes try to rattle Watts by suddenly changing the beat – only to have Watts change it right back.
Jagger and Richards could only envy his indifference to stardom and relative contentment in his private life, when he was as happy tending to the horses on his estate in rural Devon, England, as he ever was on stage at a sold-out stadium. …
Charles Robert Watts, son of a lorry driver and a housewife, was born in Neasden, London, on June 2, 1941. From childhood, he was passionate about music – jazz in particular. He fell in love with the drums after hearing Chico Hamilton and taught himself to play by listening to records by Johnny Dodds, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and other jazz giants.
He worked for a London advertising firm after he attended Harrow Art College and played drums in his spare time. London was home to a blues and jazz revival in the early 1960s, with Jagger, Richards and Eric Clapton among the future superstars getting their start. Watts’ career took off after he played with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, for whom Jagger also performed, and was encouraged by Korner to join the Stones.
Watts wasn’t a rock music fan at first and remembered being guided by Richards and Brian Jones as he absorbed blues and rock records, notably the music of bluesman Jimmy Reed. He said the band could trace its roots to a brief period when he had lost his job and shared an apartment with Jagger and Richards because he could live there rent-free.
“Keith Richards taught me rock and roll,” Watts said. “We’d have nothing to do all day and we’d play these records over and over again. I learned to love Muddy Waters. Keith turned me on to how good Elvis Presley was, and I’d always hated Elvis up ’til then.”
Watts was the final man to join the Stones; the band had searched for months to find a permanent drummer and feared Watts was too accomplished for them. Richards would recall the band wanting him so badly to join that members cut down on expenses so they could afford to pay Watts a proper salary. Watts said he believed at first the band would be lucky to last a year.
“Every band I’d ever been in had lasted a week,” he said. “I always thought the Stones would last a week, then a fortnight, and then suddenly, it’s 30 years.”
Ari T. Hart fly reel, 1990, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
I have yet to find a published obituary but it was reported that Ari T. Hart, the renowned Dutch designer of modernist fly reels and fly tying vises, passed away July 16th.
I’ve owned several of his reels and, despite my normally reactionary tastes, admired his work. His reels were strikingly modern and original in form, beautiful, and effective in operation. There is no one like him. He will be missed.