Off to Antarctica, South Orkneys, South Georgia and The Falklands, So Long Until March 4
There are darn few hotels on this trip once we sail out of Ushuaia, Argentina, pass Cape Horn and set out across the Drake Passage.
I'm particularly looking forward beyond Antarctica to reaching Port Stanley in the Falklands. If I can find an Internet Cafe there, you may hear from me taking issue with a Times editorial, if I've heard of any. In any case, I remember how closely Burt Folkart, the late obituaries writer of the LAT, who sat next to me for many years, and I followed Britain's fortunes in the Falklands war. It hardly seems it could have happened more than 20 years ago.
The day the Royal Navy ship, the Sheffield, was hit, the New York Times assigned both of its British experts to do pieces on what prospects in the war were henceforth.
R.W. Apple, who had served as a correspondent in London, and was a dove on both sides of the Atlantic, wrote that the loss of the Sheffield would mean Britain would lose heart and give up the war. That's what the L.A. Times editorial page, always ready to give up, kind of thought, too.
Drew Middleton, the NYT's longtime London correspondent and later its military writer, wrote that Britain would gain new determination and go ahead and press the war to victory.
Of course, Middleton was right. He knew the British better than Apple.
The LAT has extended obituary coverage these days beyond what Folkart would ever have imagined, with such outstanding writers as Jon Thurber, Myrna Oliver and Elaine Woo. It's one of the newspaper's solid features at present, and it's one of the few that Tribune cutbacks have not yet been able to adversely impact. In the Iraq war, it tries to at least do a paragraph on every lost American soldier, and full articles on all the lost Californians.
But Folkart had his own inimitable style. His obituary of the great American artist, Georgia O'Keefe, stands out, and Burt was hard to fool. He had a real feel for the phonies, and although I used to kid him about his downplaying of the virtues of the Duchess of Windsor, Burt insisted that he was right about her: The Duchess, he felt, was not up to the standards of the Royal Family, and, of course, the Duke of Windsor was too close to the Nazies.
Burt had no taste for the scut work that went with being the obituaries writer. "Now, to the little crap," he would sigh, while I teased him about his disdain for the less glorious of the dead. He always insisted his time and Times space were too valuable to write about prominent people's relatives, and most of the time he would keep those people out.
Yet Burt was also softhearted. He would show up for the funerals of many Times staffers and often gave touching little eulogies. There were rumors too that he was not above seducing a widow on occasion. In the retired employees' association, Burt was a true old Fart. He was gone before Otis Chandler tried to induce the group to change its name for decentcy reasons, but Burt certainly would have been part of the large majority that refused.
I remember him fondly. It was always a privilege to be his pod mate, and I was for nearly two decades. May he rest in peace.