John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Forgotten New York: Camp Sanita Hills

Late last year, I published a piece about a 1956 weekend camping trip to Camp Sanita Hills in upstate New York. What made the trip special was having my father join my scout troop as an adult adviser. (My father left my mother before I was one-year’s old.) Having my father there was very important to me as it validated his existence proving that I actually had a father.

Shortly after I published that piece, Ria called to tell me that George, her long-time friend from the East End of Long Island, had told her that he was going to head upstate to find out what had happened to the summer camp where his family vacationed during the early 1950s. He told Ria that those summers were the happiest vacations of his life. The place was owned and operated by the city’s Department of Sanitation for use by the families of their employees.”

“John,” Ria continued, “I am not certain about his details, but it seemed to be the same place you wrote about. He was quite sure his family lived in old railroad cars, but other than that, he can’t discover anything else about that place”

“Ria, that’s Camp Sanita.”

“He can’t find anybody who can confirm any details.”

“Ria, I can. Give him my number,”

George telephoned me a few days later. I told him everything I knew about the camp, but it became obvious that I knew very little. He asked why the NYC Sanitation owned the camp, why they lived in railroad cars instead of cabins and other questions.

I told him what I remembered as best I could. He asked where it was located? I told him that I had learned that it was in Holmes, NY.

 “Sorry, John, that doesn’t mean anything to me. I do remember that we made trips for groceries and treats to Pauling, NY.”

“Let me look that up on my I-Pad.” Sure enough, I discovered that Holmes is part of Pauling.

That mystery solved: George wanted to know when his family actually vacationed there. We are contemporaries, so that helped me to zero in. “That trip with my dad in 1956 was the only time I stayed in Camp Sanita.”

He asked how old I was and I replied, “Twelve.”

George now knew the basic facts about his family vacations to understand the location of the camp and the time frame for those vacations.

“John, What I do recall is that when my family vacationed there, the camp was part of the NYC Department of Sanitation. My father was in the FDNY, but my grandfather had a career with Sanitation. He booked our vacations at Sanita.”

George, shared some of his other experiences with me, but it became obvious that there was much about Sanita that I didn’t know. “George, so far, that’s all I can tell you, except for the fact that ‘Sanita’ is an abbreviation for ‘ Sanitation,’ but, leave this with me. Let me do the research and I’ll get back to you.”

I already knew that George has a place in the Virgin Islands where he escapes winter on the East end of Long Island. I’m sure the storm that struck the East Coast on December 23rd reinforced George’s desire to escape winter’s discomfort. This would give me time to complete my research, but I also needed this delay to recover from my knee surgery that was performed on January 9, 2023.

(To be continued.)    

Escape from the Hospital

The events, characters, people, places and anything else you can think of contained in this story are purely fictional.

Before beginning this story, let me note that as bad as it can be to be discharged from a hospital, it is an infinitely better ending to a hospital stay than the alternative.

I entered the hospital early on a Monday morning for a full-knee replacement and by 8:15 AM the old one was long gone. About 8 PM I was transported to a regular room without a roommate to begin transitioning to my hospital routine of blood pressure tests, blood tests, temperature checks, timely dosages of prescribed pills, chats with doctors, P.A.s, nurses, compilers of facts and information, dieticians, clergy, physical therapists all the while answering repetitive questions.

My roommate arrived almost two hours later allowing me to re-live this routine by witnessing his version.

The rest of the night was ruined by a semi-planned cavalcade of tests, bathroom breaks, etc.

My ultimate goal, getting released to go home, began to come into focus on Tuesday morning. My orthopedist had predicted that I would most probably go home by Tuesday night. This became my Holy Grail and anything I did, ate, drank or participated in was influenced by my desire to make it home that day.

It wasn’t too long before I was informed of two impediments that were coming into focus that would block the fulfillment of my quest; I had yet to demonstrate the ability to urinate on my own without the need to use a caterer and my body had to meet the minimum sodium levels. My minimum level was 128, considered low, and my count seemed to be falling.

That dear reader is the essential issue of this story which we are going to let unfold.

One of the doctors explained that morning, “You can’t get out of here until you achieve both goals, but right now you are receiving medicines to make you pee. Unfortunately, these same medicines have a habit of reducing your sodium level.”

“So, what you are saying is that the same medicines that will get me to pee will fail me on my sodium count?”

He replied: “That’s right.”

“Great, that makes me a Catch 22, I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”

I was failing on both fronts. They had to get the sodium count up and re-cauterize me for 12 hours to empty my bladder. At the end of the 12-hours, I was allowed to let the open channel do just that, then I had a four-hour widow to do it on my own. I failed miserably.

When my sodium count dropped to 126, my dream team decided to go in a different direction; use medicines to increase the sodium level while I took responsibility to make my body achieve free-flowing urine. We tried the cauterization / free flow route one more time with the admonition: “Don’t screw this one up, soldier.”

At first, zero! But that night after several dry holes, mother nature ran her course in her own sweet time that allowed me to produce enough liquid to pass their test. “Thank God Almighty!”

I texted my wife: “Peed! One down, one to go.”

On Wednesday morning a kidney specialist who let’s call Dr. Salt joined my dream team. He was greatly concerned about all my sodium issues and though he liked me, he didn’t trust my sodium production ability. Never-the-less, he prescribed a single dosage pill to fix me. Later that day when my sodium count came in at 128, there was joy throughout the known universe.

I had achieved lift-off. All of the responsible top docs signed off and discharge was only a review away until one last impediment raised its oily head. It turned out I was taking a water pill, a terrible no-no. After a lengthy delay of five hours, compromises and promises were made and I was cleared to go.

My nurse ordered a wheelchair from Transport. We waited and we waited sitting in my room. After about another half-hour had passed, Mary Ann got up and left without saying anything. I figured she needed to make a stop at the lady’s room, but not too much later she re-appeared pushing an empty wheelchair. “Let’s go!” she commanded. As we made it passed all sort of hospital personnel, I asked her, “What if somebody stops you?”

“I’ll tell them I’m certified to move patients.”

Turns out there is truth to that. In any event, no one said anything. With some help, I squiggled into the front seat of her Jeep Renegade and she drove us home without further incident.

The next day after everything had calmed down, I asked her why she did it. “I was about to explode. My hair hurt. I had to get us out of there.”

I for one am only too glad she did.

It is nice to be back, but at this stage in my recovery, I cannot say for certain that I will be publishing “On the Outside Looking In” weekly. Please stay with me and I will do the best I can.

Don Larsen, Sanita Hills and Me

One morning, not too long ago, WCBS News Radio informed me that the former baseball pitcher, Don Larsen, had passed on New Year’s Day at 90. Both this announcement and his obituary deserved proper recognition as Larsen had pitched a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series.

Curiously though, this announcement also took me back to the weekend following his perfect game. I was twelve at the time and an active First-Class Boy Scout in the Rattlesnake Patrol of Troop 178 then domiciled in PS-81 on Cypress Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens.

Although I was aware of Larsen’s accomplishment, I was more excited about our upcoming weekend camping trip to Camp Sanita, located in Holmes, NY. The camp had been developed years before by the Department of Sanitation as a summer getaway and vacation spot for department employees and their families. It had been recently seeded to the Boy Scouts.

The camp’s main attraction was fifty former New York City elevated subway cars that Sanitation had salvaged from the hundreds scrapped after the Manhattan els ceased operations in 1940. Called, “Pullmanettes”, they populated the camp providing indoor living spaces for families that included, “…a central-kitchen-dining area, a master bedroom and a two berth children’s room.”

Running water, an electric refrigerator and a tiled bathroom with shower topped off these rural laps of luxury.  

But, what excited me most about this trip was that my father would be joining us. He was then a Major, stationed at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida, at that time, home to B-47 bombers belonging to the Strategic Air Command.

John Sr. made periodic trips to Long Island to see his sisters, Ann and Joan, his brother, Marco and me. When he informed me of his upcoming visit, I explained that I was supposed to go on this camping trip that weekend and I asked if he could join me. Surprisingly, he said yes. The sequence of how this all came together is lost to history, but I do know that it worked out and he joined me as one of the adult supervisors.

I was ecstatic that he would be there with me, for me.

Understand, back in 1956, divorce was rare in my blue-collar neighborhood. Husbands went to work, and wives were homemakers. My father was absent, and my mother went to work. I stood out as being different when no twelve-year-old wanted to stand out as being different. I was a kid without a dad.

As much as I tried to explain who John, Sr. was and what he did, I felt diminished each time I did so. Other kids’ fathers were real flesh and blood and they were present be they office workers, beer truck drivers, construction workers or mechanics. My father was nothing but an idea.

But, not on that weekend. Once John Sr.’s participation was confirmed, our scout master, Bernie C, (a Polish name that included complex consonant combinations like “CJZ”) invited my father and me to ride in his 1953 monster Chevrolet station wagon. This was a high honor and one never before offered to me. I wasn’t one of Mr. C’s favorites so reveled in this honor.

The weekend didn’t disappoint. My old man charmed Mr. C and the other fathers as only he could do. John was a slick fox and a bit of snake in disguise.

As for me, that radio report of Larsen’s death awakened my memory of the moment when I knew that John’s being there finally validated my standing as a member of our troop.

Mr. C was driving on 69th Street in Maspeth, Queens about to turn onto the service road for the Long Island Expressway when my Dad turned toward Mr. C and the three of us in the back seat.

He put his left arm on the seat and said: “I hope you all appreciate what happened in Yankee Stadium last Monday. Don Larsen threw a perfect game. Twenty-seven men up at bat, 27 men out and he did it in the World Series. This was the first World Series perfect game ever and you will probably never see the likes of that performance again in your lifetime.”

Don Larsen’s perfection and the old man’s eloquence allowed me to become a made-kid at Troop 178, at least for that weekend.

RIP Don Larsen.

“On the Outside Looking In,” will not publish in January 2023 while I recuperate from knee surgery.

I look forward to resuming our connection as soon as I am able.

Meanwhile, let me take a moment to thank you for loyal support and for the nice things you say about me and my blogs. I am forever grateful.

May you enjoy Christmas as appropriate or your choice of holiday and a healthy and beneficial 2023.

The Lake Umbagog Blues

I can’t believe I’m here. Didn’t I vow that I’d never do anything again that the Army made me do. That included being awakened at insanely early hours, playing with guns, marching, climbing telephone poles and camping. But, no! Here I am staring out from inside of a tent while rain generously falls into our camp grounds on the New Hampshire side of Lake Umbagog.

Except for carrying a gun, I’m with three other jackasses, my buddy, Mike Cruise, who talked me into this mess and to whom I’m currently not speaking and two guys he knows who organized this outing, Lou, a yenta and a general pain–in-the-ass and Brubaker, our self-appointed leader who thinks he’s a Green Beret or Navy Seal and tries to treat us like plebes. He carries a shot gun that he affectionately calls “my alley cleaner” and insists that we paddle our two canoes this morning in the rain across the lake to our next campsite on the Maine side.

I prefer to wait, but Lou is Brubaker’s toady and Mike put this whole thing in motion so the next thing I know, the vote is three to one in favor of pressing on and I’m alternately paddling a loaded canoe in miserable weather or bailing it out. This is insane. I could easily be home at our camp in Marlow, NH watching television, reading, playing a game or taking a nap. Damn, that’s what my wife and Mike’s wife are doing at this same moment. (Later, Mary Ann tells me, “We thought of you and Mike out there in the rain having to schlep tents and gear and we agreed, ‘rather you than us.”)

One evening, following another of Lou’s horrible meals, Brubaker assigns Mike and me to KP. As we un-ecologically wash our pots, plates and utensils in the here-to-fore pristine waters, we watch in horror, the birth of a nation as hordes of mosquitoes rise-up from the shoreline attacking us with the viciousness of a sworn enemy. We hurry to finish our task, collect our gear and retreat to our tent, spraying the entrance after zipping it closed.

This all happened in the summer of 1999, but, I didn’t think about writing my story until something similar appeared in the August 4, 2016  Escapes section of the New York Times entitled, Paddling Through a North Woods Refuge, by John Motyka.

Take my word for it, Motyka left out a good bit of reality as he waxed poetically about Lake Umbagog (pronounced um-BAY-gog). Oh sure, there are lots of loons and their call is haunting, moose sightings are not uncommon and, with luck, we saw eagles. But nowhere in his writing does Motyka discuss, much less even suggest the existence of this creature that controls the lake before dawn and after dusk, the mosquito.

Motyka also omits any description of the sanitary facilities available at the camp site. So shall I, but let the potential camper beware.

Of course, Motyka didn’t have to contend with Lou and Brubaker. Lou had no problem indulging my cigars or Irish whiskey until I cut him off. In return he treats us to his cooking until we also cut him off from serving his abominations,  especially his breakfast special, and his piece-de-resistance, eggs and Wolf’s Kasha. He brags about it for days and when he ultimately sets the finished product before us, Mike and I look at each other silently asking the question, “Have we been conned or his he nuts?” The look of pleasure on his face is not that of a practical joker but rather, a man pleased with his creation. “Yup, he’s nuts.”

Our last campsite is on an island where we stay for two days. Brubaker explains that a ranger warned that a female bear with a yearling is possibly occupying the island. Great: This is when females are at their most dangerous as they still protect the cub even though the cub is active and could easily be attracted to our camp. “Don’t worry; my alley cleaner is ready and so am I.”

“Swell, Brubaker, the great white hunter.”

The island is in sight of our final destination, the campsite where we parked our cars. On the first morning, after we arrive, Mike and I have had enough of Lou, his cooking and Brubaker. We  announce, “We’re going to paddle to the car and drive to the closest town, Errol, NH (pronounced Erl) for breakfast.”

I don’t remember if they protested but I know I didn’t care. The local café serves an Errol McMuffin. I could have eaten three. When we return, all Lou and Brubaker want to know is what we brought for them. We are savvy enough to bring them some cold beer and two Earl McMuffins. Their need for fast food ends the seemingly endless cycle of their trying to be the tough guys.

Fortunately, real or conjured up, we never see a bear and the next day we say our good-byes to the two of them. “Next year, let’s do this again,” Brubaker remarks. “You guys ain’t half bad and I know a trip we can make on the Delaware River.”

“Fantastic,” I reply.

As we pull away, I ask Mike, “You ever hear that old joke about the woman who learns how to politely respond to her neighbors’ exaggerations about their kids’ achievements?”

“No.” he replies.

“She learns to say ‘fantastic’ instead of ‘bullshit”

My Missing Passport

My here-to-fore hidden problem, a problem I didn’t even know I have, explodes on the morning of my scheduled departure from Bermuda in 1998. I am preparing to leave the Southampton Princess for my ride to the airport when the realization hits me squarely between the eyes: I don’t have a clue where my passport is.

“Oh shit, oh damn, oh Christ Almighty; f***, f***, F*** me!” I was operating in full panic mode. “Damn, damn, damn, I know I had it when I cleared Immigration to enter the island and I haven’t used it since my arrival. Where the f*** can it be? Damn, damn, damn.”

Finally, I calm down enough to retrace my steps; nothing. With everything packed, I call the front desk from my room to explain my dilemma. Of course, I stupidly begin by asking the clerk on duty if someone had turned it in. They are courteous enough to send up a manager who accompanies the housekeeper who serviced my room.

It becomes obvious to me that this is a waste of time, so I say, “Thank you both for coming, but what ever happened to my passport was my doing.”

The manager asks, “What do you plan to do?”

“Go to the airport. I am a long-time frequent traveler and they should have a file on me. I believe I can convince US Customs to let me fly back to New York.”

I thank them for their troubles and apologize for any disruption I may be causing. In the cab, I go over my game-plan to put the US Customs Agent on my side. First off, I decide to aim for a woman. The odds are, she will be more empathetic and caring than a male agent.

Plan A works. The agent enters  all my information into her computer and validates my clearance to leave the island and legally board my flight back to JFK. Since I clear US Customs and Immigration in Bermuda, I don’t have to repeat the process at JFK. I thank her for her assistance and her parting words are: “First thing when you arrive home, cancel your passport so it can’t be used for nefarious purposes.”

(I think to myself as I walk away, “Wow, nefarious is a big word and its meaning is even bigger!”)

The flight is uneventful, but my day isn’t over when I arrive at JFK. I had made a commitment to attend a black-tie dinner honoring my colleague at the New York Hilton that night. My tuxedo is hanging on the back of my office door, so, instead of going home, I grab a taxi to take me to my office.

Once in the office, I hang my sports coat over the tux and close my office door. I call my son to tell him what had happened in Bermuda: “Michael,“ I begin, “You won’t believe what happened to me…” As I say these words into the phone, I find myself staring at my sports coat.

Suddenly, I realize what had happened… “Hang on a second, Michael.

I stand up, and exclaim, “Son of a bitch.”

I already know what I will find and where. Sure enough, there it is in the right inside pocket of my jacket, my passport, exactly where I put it on arrival in Bermuda after the immigration agent returned it to me after adding his official stamp of approval for me to enter his island nation.

I shake my head and tell my son what happened. Now that I was once again a relaxed and a happy man, I could enjoy a good time at dinner where I tell the story of my day’s adventures until exhaustion overtakes me and I retire to my hotel room where I sleep like a baby.                

A Death in the Family

December 2022: I wrote this piece in June of 2016 in tribute to my teacher.

Last Saturday afternoon, the Nassau County Poet Laureate Society honored my teacher by presenting members of his family with personal tributes by poets and writers. This is my interpretation of the man who taught me how to write that I presented that day. 

Maxwell C. Wheat Jr, poet, parent, preacher and a man of peace.

Activist, protester, man of passion, letters, understanding and always; a poet.

Teacher, facilitator, critic, editor, advisor, arbiter, encourager, friend.

Witness excerpt from his eulogy to Pete Seeger’s genius saving the Hudson:

Now Pete Seeger belongs to his Hudson

His outreach of rousing songs

Are the frisky breezes, tall winds coming off the hills,

Touching, stroking the waved back of this 315-mile

Pleistocene invertebrate of a stream

He concludes his poem:

Pete Seeger’s song now parcel of the river’s song:

listen for his voice in the rustling of its autumn leaves,

listen for his voice in the rock slashing of the white capped waves.

Max often referred to his beginnings: reporter, New York Geneva Times Daily.

Assigned obits, his editor explained: “Human interest.” Max never forgot.

This from his poem about 9/11 he called, “Everybody Has a Story,”

Eamon McEneaney 46 in the first attack, 1992,

Led sixty-three people down one hundred flights of stairs.

Senior vice president, brokerage firm, Cantor Fitzgerald.

Calling his wife at her office, shouting “Is Bonnie there?

I love her and I love the kids…”

He was – in the Newsday obit,

The ending of a poem to his wife:

“…The end

is a bend in the road

That we’ll never find

A death I will always

Defend

us from.”

Maxwell Wheat a man of peace who served his nation as a Marine toward the end of World War II, did his duty and yet espoused Whitman and Melville; do no harm.

First Poet Laureate of Nassau County, a national treasure; did no harm.

Adios my teacher, my friend: Via con Dios!

Triumph and Tragedy

November, 2022 (Originally written in 2016)

Monday, March 1, 1962 was one of those superb winter days, moderately cold but crisp and clear, the perfect day for a parade. The Daily Mirror’s morning headline commanded:


Go! Go! To See

Glen Today

   Their accompanying story began: “The heavens will turn off that chronic drizzle of the past few days for the man who conquered the sky.”


    The parade actually honored all seven Mercury astronauts and was conceived following America’s first space flight by Alan Shepheard. But that flight and Gus Grissom’s subsequent success were so brief that the parade was postponed until John Glenn made our nation’s first orbital flight. Glenn became an instant hero and his flight was so well-received and applauded by the American public that the parade became known to all as “The Glenn Parade.”

   I was so excited to see the parade in person. March 1 was also important to me for another reason; I had turned eighteen in February. So, before I made the trip to Manhattan, I first travelled to Jamaica, Queens the location of my local draft board where I registered for the draft and received my Selective Service card. While this card demonstrated that I had fulfilled my civic duty, it also provided proof that I was eighteen and could legally drink in New York.

   Armed with my new status I boarded a Manhattan bound Jamaica elevated subway train at the 168 Street Station for the long ride to Lower Broadway.  For the most part this was a monotonous ride as the train meandered through lackluster neighborhoods like Richmond Hill and Woodhaven. It did have one interesting view though. At one point the el lifted up above the surrounding apartment buildings to clear the Long Island RR’s old Rockaway Line providing a stunning view of Jamaica Bay, Idlewild (Now JFK) Airport and the Rockaways. I stood up on that clear, cold day to take in the view only to notice a plume of smoke rising high above the bay making me wonder what had caused that to happen?

   On reaching Broadway I joined the masses that lined sidewalks five and six deep becoming absorbed by a crowd estimated to be as many as four million strong who stood along the route. I didn’t see very much even with my height advantage so I can’t say that I saw John Glenn but I think I did. I didn’t stay very long but I didn’t feel disappointment either. Everyone was so happy and proud to be there that it felt good to be part of it.

   None of us standing there knew that the plume I had seen earlier came from the remains of an American Airlines 707 that had crashed earlier in the morning after taking off from Idlewild. American Flight No. 1, non-stop service from New York to Los Angeles, began its takeoff roll at 10:07 AM, about the same time I arrived at the Selective Service Office.  The airplane carrying a crew of 8 and 87 passengers climbed to 1,600 feet over Jamaica Bay where the flight crew commenced a left turn. At this point something went terribly wrong with the rudder, the moveable part of the tail. The 707 banked beyond 90 degrees, flipped over onto its back and began a fatal dive toward Jamaica Bay. One minute and 49 seconds after beginning takeoff, the 707 smashed into the bay upside down at an angle of 73 degrees exploding in the shallow waters killing all on board.

   The crash of American Flight No. 1 was the largest single-plane domestic air tragedy up to that time and forced next morning’s newspapers to come to terms with all that had happened on March 1…

  The headline on the Daily News read:

IN ONE DAY:

95 Die in Jet; Busman Strike;

Millions Share Glenn Triumph

  The Daily Mirror stayed the course with:

‘WONDERFUL’

  The only notation, a box at the bottom right-hand corner of the first page noted:

95 Die Here In

Worst Air Crash

  The New York Times went with twin banner headlines separated by a single column story about the Fifth Avenue Coach Company strike.  The left side banner headline covered three columns and read:

CITY TURNS OUT FOR GLENN

PARADE IN PAPER BLIZZARD

‘OVERWHELMS’ ASTRONAUT

    The right- side headline covered four columns and read:

ALL 95 ON JETLINER KILLED IN CRASH

INTO BAY ON TAKE-OFF AT IDLEWILD

PRESIDENT SPURS FEDERAL INQUIRY

   Finally, the New York Herald Tribune separated the stories top to bottom of the front page with:

Triumph – The New York Way

and

TRAGEDY – End of Flight 1

   They began at the top of the page with this overview:

  “Man reaches for the stars but he stands upon the earth. And his fallibilities and failings go hand in hand with his capability and achievements. Yesterday this city honored a space hero – even while stunned by a great air disaster. Today it still feels the pride in John Glenn – and it mourns the ninety-five who died at Idlewild.

  We may be sure that there will also be other tragedies from the mines below the earth to the skies above it. But we know, too, that man will persevere and prevail and progress, for he knows no other way.”

“Every Way You Look at This You Lose

If a nation divided cannot stand, so what in hell is holding our Republic together?

Consider this verse from Simon and Garfunkel’s breakthrough hit: Mrs. Robinson:

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon

Going to the candidates’ debate

Laugh about it, shout about it

When you’ve got to choose

Every way you look at this, you lose

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you

Woo, woo, woo

What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson?

Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away

Hey, hey, hey

Hey, hey, hey.

Election day was held on Tuesday, November 8th. By the time you read this just after the third Tuesday in November, the people should have spoken and ordinarily what’s done should be done. But in this era of our national division, disagreement and litigation, I fear a plethora of court challenges will be the next cycle for our 2022 elections? I hope not, but I fear this may be our new reality.

Here’s what really sucks, both parties have become stupidly predictable. While we were sleeping, they became captive by their own extreme elements. The crazies on the right led by The Donald, have far too much influence on the Republicans while a coalition of left wing, so called, progressives seem to control the Democrats and their policies.

Ordinary men and women, those folks who think of themselves as Citizens, don’t buy into either philosophy. They want a government that will do the right thing. The problem for free-thinking independent voters should be obvious; for them, both parties are rigged by the inordinate influence of their most radical members. Moderate candidates who they may have favored are regularly defeated in primaries. Many reasonable voters are usually ambivalent when it comes to their party’s primaries and don’t participate in primary elections. Unfortunately, radicals on the left and right figured this out and incentivize their followers to vote while we, mainstream voters, abstain.

Add to that our modern age, greatly influenced by social media and other electronic venues, bombard us with seemingly endless attacks against any candidate who runs against their favored son or daughter. And what about those slick carboard flyers that clog our mail boxes? Stop already, do something nice and save a tree.

“He’s against a woman’s right to choose.”

“She’s soft on crime.”

“He supported, Trump.”

“She’s responsible for the uncontrolled inflation.”

“If he wins, it will be the end of our nation as we know it.”

If she wins, it will be the end of our nation as we know it.”

When you’ve got to choose

Every way you look at this, you lose.

If the Democrats retained control of both the Senate and the House, they will still face dissention in their ranks from Joe Manchin and if the Republicans take control of either house, grid-lock will prevail.

I can only imagine what a three-ring circus it will be for the 2024 Presidential election, especially if it includes The Donald which is likely.         

And as I pen this two days before Election Day, even though I put my civic duty above my doubts that this is an exercise in futility, I do so as a citizen of the greatest democracy on earth. I vote to protect and preserve the United States of America now, and for future generations.

POST ELECTION REVIEW:

Glory be, reasonableness prevailed at the polls! Granted, extreme partisanship did prevail in many individual elections, but overall, the country decided on moderation. Everything considered, the voters produced reasonable results. The predicted Republican wave failed to materialize, except on Long Island. The Democrats retained control of the Senate but lost the House of Representatives so grid-lock will prevail.

The Donald promises to make an announcement next week. We should all mark our calendars to register that November 15th was the day that the circus came to town.        

God bless the United States of America. Come 2024, we will surely need His blessing, if not His Divine intervention.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Our nation turns its troubled eyes to you…

Section 107, Row 3, Seat 15

First published, December, 2002.

            Hard to believe, twenty seasons have come and gone since I authored this piece. The good news is my Giants won two more championships, Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. Between those two championships, Giants Stadium, the home of this piece, was demolished in favor of a new nerd of a stadium, a mistake designed to accommodate its two owners, the Giants and the Jets. Instead, neither fan base is happy with MetLife.

            Bah humbug! This story is about passion, glory and awful disappointment. In other words, the life of a serious fan and his offspring who inhabited Giants Stadium. That was our house.  Now we are reduced to MetLife Stadium, Giants Stadium’s flawed successor. Sadly, to buy into this dubious distinction coat me $10,000 for two Personal Seat License (PSLs) that I was forced to buy so I could renew my two season tickets. You can’t make this up!

But I digress…When asked, “Why do you bother going to these late season football games when you can see so much more on TV at home? Conveniences like replays, slow motion and video analysis that provide insights you don’t get to see being in the stadium. Add to that all of the personal advantages of watching the games from home, it just does not make sense to fight the traffic coming and going, the cold, wind and, at times, rain or snow. You have to be nuts!

I merely reply, “I have had my season ticket since 1962 and the Giants are a way of life for me.”

My seat is three rows from the playing field on the side of the western end zone at Giants Stadium, Section 107, Row 3, Seat 15.

A seat close to the field may be the premier place to watch baseball, basketball, tennis or hockey, but not football. Football is a sport that lends itself to distance. That is why it works so well on TV. From a distance, the dance unfolds, the players flow moving along intricate patterns choreographed by the coaches, rehearsed in practice and set into motion by the snap of the ball.

That is not what I experience from my seat. Frankly, if truth be told, for a good part of the game, the action is too far away from my seat for me to witness anything except what my 7×35 binoculars allow me to bring into focus.

A distant event, but once the teams reach the 35 yard-line at my end of the field, I put the binoculars away and concentrate on the battle at hand. Gone are the fluid movements of pass receivers and defensive backs as they race for the football, or running backs cutting and weaving. Instead, I see eleven angry men on each team intent on forcing their will on the other eleven. This is football. The game ceases to be solely visual. The air pops with sound as the quarterback barks his signals, the linebackers shout out defensive codes. The players’ grunts, groans and curses as the ball is hiked and contact is made. The shocking sound of plastic helmets and shoulder pads colliding. all about, bodies are moving furiously engaging each other while the quarterback struggles to release the ball or the running back struggles to break out, break free as the opposition’s defensive players furiously attack intent on wrecking any semblance of success.

Fans are vocal and astute. Being close to the field, our voices carry to the players as they await the next play. To the enemy, shouts of,  “Not Today, not in our house!” or if the Giants have the ball, encouragement like, “Have an idea,” “Go Blue go,” or “Get six, O, get six!”  The officials, too, hear our admonitions if they render a poor or questionable decision. The closest is only 30 feet away well within our range.  “Excuse me Number 77, Mister Back Judge, you will burn in hell for that call!”

There is nothing like a close game late in the 4th Quarter. The Giants are either driving desperately attempting to score or playing defense determined to stop the bad guys. The rush of adrenalin is real. 77,000 faithful fans are charged, hard wired, ready to live or die on every play. They fill the stadium with chants like, “DEE-fense, DEE-fense, DEE-fense.”

Exciting? Oh, yes. One or two plays to go, everyone is standing. A time out is called and everything stops. Not long, only thirty seconds, but enough time to catch our breath. The crowd is oblivious to the rain, the snow, the cold.  I look around at these fans, mostly grown men, most dressed in Giants’ colors, “these idiots” cold, wet and far from home. I see their faces, the excitement in their eyes. I smile and I ask myself, “Well, JD what do you think?”

“What do I think? Here is what I think: “Damn, I cannot think of anyplace I would rather be than right here, right now, Go Giants.”        

My Alaska Anxiety Undoing

Our travel documents for Alaska arrived less than a week before we leave. To my horror, I discover that they call for three flights on Northwest Airlines: JFK to Detroit, Detroit to Minneapolis and Minneapolis to Fairbanks. Having to make two connections is bad enough, but the one in Detroit stuns me. The flight from JFK is scheduled to land at 2:40 p.m. and the flight to Minneapolis departs at 3:10 p.m. 30 minutes later!

“This is nuts,” I say to Mary Ann. Frantic calls to Northwest, and the travel agent fail to solve this potential mess. There are no discounted seats left on direct flights to Minneapolis.

When I share my dilemma with a friend, Frank D’Ambrosio, Frank replies, “I agree, you’re in a fix. So how can you be proactive?”

I look at him strangely, but he continues, “Why don’t you FedEx your bags directly to the hotel in Fairbanks. I’ve done that with my golf clubs on a trip to Hawaii and Suzanne and I send things to our realtor in Sanibel, Florida to be delivered to our house there.”

I check with the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel who sees no problem with this plan. FedEx estimates the cost per bag at $100 for two-day delivery if they each weigh-in at 40 pounds or less. Monday, May 30 is Memorial Day but the agent that I speak to at FedEx confirms that they deliver on that day.

I convince Mary Ann to a three-part baggage strategy to help me cope with my anxiety over these connections. We will send two bags via FedEx containing clothes and items we will need on arrival, pack a large bag with the things we won’t need until we board the RYNDAM and take a small carry-on that contains items we will need should we miss our connections. Mary Ann drops off the two bags a day early on Wednesday, May 25 at Kinko’s in Glen Cove. Of course, it’s not as easy as I hoped. She tells me, “It took me 45 minutes. They did not want to ship the bags because of the straps and they didn’t have a box big enough for them. They had to construct a large box out of two. Another thing, since I dropped them off today, they will arrive Friday afternoon.”

At least the cost was in the ballpark. Shipping the two bags cost $201.64.

Ah, but so much for being proactive. On Friday night I track the bags on FedEx’s web site that confirms the bags have been delivered. I call the hotel to double check delivery but I am told that only one bag arrived. Curious, I call FedEx’s 800 number. When I give the agent my tracking numbers, she tells me there is a problem. It turns out that one of the boxes has been sent to Anchorage. The agent says it won’t be delivered until Tuesday as they are off on Monday. “No, no!” I say, “Your agent told me that you are delivering in Fairbanks on Monday.”

“Well I’m in Pittsburgh and we are closed on Monday. Hold on, I’ll call Anchorage.”

The agent in Anchorage admits that they received the box, but they have already forwarded it to Fairbanks. “We’re closed on Monday and so is Fairbanks. You can’t get it until Tuesday.”

This really pisses me off and I tell him: “This is unacceptable, first, it should be in Fairbanks, today, and, second, I was told it could be delivered on Monday.”

He replies, “I can hang up on you.”

“No you won’t,” I reply, my voice fixed and stern. “I have not used foul language or threatened you in any way. I am justified to be upset and I am not being unreasonable. Your job is to solve this problem. Like it or not, you are FedEx’s representative. Now what are you going to help me?”

His lame reply is, “You’ll have to call Fairbanks.”

“Fine, that’s great, what’s their number?”

He hesitates, has a side conversation, then returns to the line, “I can’t give you that number, you have to call the 800 number.”

“Great, what’s your name?”

“Ron.”

“Ron what?”

“Ron Fales,” (pronounced Fails.)          

I call FedEx and am transferred to Deanna, the tracker assigned to my claim. She conferences in their Fairbanks office and things just get worse. The Fairbanks agent, Brittany, advises that the box will not arrive at their facility until after we leave for our next stop, Denali National Park. Brittany’s bad news continues, “FedEx does not ship to Denali. We use a local courier service and I don’t know how long it will take them to get it there.”

As I’m absorbing these blows, I notice that the Holland American Lines’ (HAL) itinerary only shows a post office box for McKinley Chalets, not a street address. As FedEx does not deliver to a P.O. Box, I ask Mary Ann to call the hotel on our other line to obtain a street address. She obtains one that reads, “Mile Post 239.8, Denali Park 99755.

Since Brittany can offer no joy, I say to Deanna, “I must really speak to a supervisor.”

 Finally, she puts me through to a supervisor in Memphis, Doris Copper. Ms Copper cuts through some of the complications and determines that she will guide the process to have the bag delivered to McKinley Chalets in Denali National Park on Tuesday afternoon.

She promises to personally supervise this on Tuesday and we exchange phone numbers. By this time, I have no options left so I agree that this is an acceptable solution. I don’t tell her about Ron Fales, I’ll leave that for later. God only knows if this will work.

Of course, the big outstanding question is, whose bag is at the hotel in Fairbanks?

 We sent two almost identical bags one filled with Mary Ann’s gear and one with mine. The only difference is mine is blue and hers is red. Normally, the hotel puts the FedEx box in their luggage room unopened. Mary Ann calls and explains our dilemma, “The only way we can know what we have to bring is if you open the box and tell me what the color of the bag is.”

At first the agent says that she cannot do this, but Mary Ann tells her, “Have another employee talk to me and I will confirm my instructions to him or her.”

The agent agrees. We wait a couple of minutes before she returns to the telephone. “It’s red.” Thank God, I lose! Mary Ann’s bag made it and I ducked that bullet.

 My only recourse is to pack the essentials I will need into the carry-on including toiletries extra socks and underwear. This will get me through until Wednesday. After that, sans the FedEx bag, I will need a credit card to continue.

We reach McKinley Chalets on Tuesday, June 1st and, as if by wizardry, so does my blue bag. FedEx also refunds the $201.64.

Life is good.