by Bert Carson
As I listened to the announcement, I thought about the last time an unstable war situation had interfered with my travel plans. I'd cut a compassionate leave short in order to return to my unit in Vietnam to do my part in the celebration of Tet 1968. Then I thought, this is karma. I made it back to Vietnam for Tet, and I'm going to be rewarded with extended time in Tahiti.
In spite of not being forced to extend my vacation in Tahiti, that cruise, my first, became the benchmark for a many more cruises. I can honestly say, I've never been on a "bad" cruise, but I can also honestly say, none has come close to the benchmark set in Tahiti in 1986.
My experience with John D. MacDonald has been like that cruise. When I read my first Dick and Jane books, I knew there would be better books for me to read. A few years later, I devoured the Hardy Boys, but I knew there would be better books for me. Then, in 1982, I found Nevil Shute, and I thought, this just might be the last benchmark. Nevil's books were the benchmark for thirty years, until Caleb Pirtle said, "Have you ever read John D. MacDonald?" And now I have a new benchmark in books and authors.
I'm open to taking a cruise that sets the benchmark higher than my 1986 Tahitian cruse, and I'm open to finding an author that I judge to better than John D. MacDonald, but frankly, I think the odds of either of those things happening are pretty slim. And, that's alright. My benchmarks are serving me well.