John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: December, 2014

Christmas in New Hampshire

Christmas, 2010; Mother Nature was not a in a nurturing way for those of us living in the Northeast. Small as our family is, we seldom spend it together but 2010 was the exception. Besides Mary Ann and me, both the Briggs and Delach tribes trekked to Marlow, New Hampshire.


Tom, Beth, Marlowe & Cace Briggs, Michael, Jodie, Drew, Matthew & Samantha Delach, plus the granddame, Bare Delach, the elder Golden Retriever and Max & Ruby Delach, two, eleven-week old Golden puppies, the male belonging to us and the female, a birthday gift to Jodie.


Six adults, five kids and three dogs, all made it in three separate vehicles having to brave through various intensities of a major snow storm old Ma Nature threw at travelers like us navigating the I-91 Corridor. Mike and his family caught the worst of it but, fortunately, the peak of the storm didn’t hit until after we’d all made it safely to that place we call Little House.


Loss of power is issue number one in rural NH. Issue number two is freezing pipes that closely follows issue number one. We do have two wood burning stoves for our primary heat and our wood supply was superb. But, if we lost power, we’d lose water and life gets difficult quickly when that happens.


Cut to the good news: the power didn’t fail: “Thank God Almighty; say halleluiah, say Amen!”


With power, everything is good even though we were snowed in.  We shoveled where we had to with joy. The two pups realized they were in Golden Retriever heaven being able to play with each other in the snow without adult supervision anytime they wanted. Mike and Tom laid out a challenging sledding run on the hill above us that became the major outdoor attraction until the town sanded the hill.


What could have been an ordeal, turned out to be a winter wonderland. The pups left their need for action outside in the cold, kids also exhausted themselves in the snow and the adults had a marvelous time. Each time kids came in they were relived of soaking wet snow clothes; hats and boots that were hung from every available hook, railing or most any other surface that could hold a hanger. The stoves were well-tendered and the clothing dried quickly enough to be available for the next onslaught.


Inside was non-stop action. Food was always being prepared whether it was bagels and eggs, hot chocolate, soup, or great dinners. Good cheer and entertainment of every kind abounded from simple board games to playing electronic games or watching TV or DVDs.


Of course, things still go wrong. At the time, I was driving a Chrysler Aspen that I parked at the bottom of our circular driveway. My plan was to use this SUV as the lead vehicle to open the way out of the 16 inches of snow the storm had gifted to us. Unfortunately, when I made my attempt to open the driveway, I judged the turn too sharply and put the left hand side of my rig into a depression. Mike’s van was behind me. Mike and Tom did most of the clearing around the wheels and dug it out enough to enable me to pull the Aspen out using low gear with the transmission in four-wheel-low. After I cleared out I walked my original route and told Mike, “If you put your left tire in the depression I made with my right tire and you will be okay.” He did so and got out easily.


Another time after the driveway had been plowed by a local fellow from a garage in Gilsum, one town away, I came into the top of the driveway too fast. We were returning from a small local ski slope where my passengers had gone tubing – Beth and Tom, their two and Matt Delach. As I went into the first turn by the house, I realized too late that I was on ice under the snow and I wasn’t going to stop. The house was on the right so that direction was not an alternative. Ahead of me where the driveway curves to the left was Beth and Tom’s Grand Cherokee so that wasn’t a good alternative either.  My only choice was to keep going straight between a bush and a tree; deliberately leave the driveway and drop down into a level snow-covered grass area below it. Not sure how much space this gap afforded, I aimed more toward the bush figuring that would be the path of least resistance. Hot damn, it worked. It all happened so quickly that nobody said anything. Good fortune, part two, I was able to drive through the snow and regain the driveway. Only then did we three adults begin to realize what just happened. It did occur to me what an old friend used to say, “Delach, you just cleaned out your locker!”


This will be my last posting for 2014, I thank all those who enjoy my pieces and the kind remarks you make to me. Happy holidays, Merry Christmas and see you all in January.    





The Flag in the Bay


Port Washington, the town in which I live is located on the North Shore of Long Island, a peninsular formed by the last ice age, that juts northward into Long Island Sound. To the east of this land mass is Manhasset Bay and the Great Neck peninsular. To the west, Hempstead Harbor, and a large peninsular occupied by several towns including Glen Cove, Sea Cliff and Oyster Bay.


Manhasset Isle, once an island, is partially separated from the rest of Port Washington by an inlet from Manhasset Bay known as Sheets Creek.  At its mouth is a tiny, odd, man-made island of rocks held together by rotting logs and faith. Its reason for its being cannot be discerned. A rectangle, the dimensions are approximately twenty-five feet long by five feet wide by ten feet high. The tidal range in Manhasset Bay averages about eight feet leaving just the top visible at most high tides. On top of the rectangle a conical tower about four feet tall stands above all high tides. Perhaps its purpose is alert boaters to this obstruction?


At low tide, this island can be reached on foot across a mud flat.


A non-descript oddity until, in the weeks following the attack on the World Trade Center on that horrific Tuesday in 2001, a standard three by five American Flag was planted into the conical cone. The first attempts to create a make-shift memorial were met with degrees of failure. Wind, tide and weather played havoc with these early tries tearing flags apart, shifting the poles forcing the flags into a pronounced list that eventually carrying them away at high tides. But the unknown memorial custodian returned to his altar over and over again to replace his lost or damaged charges. During the course of this period of education he learned the art of his craft and developed methods to securely mount his flags enabling them to better weather the rigors of the bay. Perhaps he also purchased flags of stouter material that stood nature’s test longer?


The stars and stripes flew true and unbending but even the best material can last only so long in that environment and whenever a flag suffered noticeable damage, it was replaced in short order.


One day, while I was driving north along Shore Road, a street adjacent to the creek, I saw a man walking across the mud flats toward the little island to retrieve a beaten up flag. The next day when I again passed this monument, a brand new version of Old Glory flew gracefully with the wind. I don’t remember if I smiled or suppressed a tear, but I do recall being proud and grateful.


For thirteen years the caretaker continued his self-imposed duty of tending to this sacred symbol. Was he a simple patriot, a friend or family of someone lost in the Towers, or just someone who wanted to show that he cares? I would be a fool to coop the reasons for his action. I just knew that what he was doing was the right thing and God bless him whatever his reasons were.


About two months ago I noticed that the latest version of the Stars and Stripes had developed a tear running across from the staff to the opposite border. Several days later, the wounded flag had been removed but not replaced.


I didn’t think how sad. I thought instead the unknown man who carried his burden for so long had completed his journey. I hope the end of his service came under the best of circumstances but no matter the reason, I know that he remained true to his task, he ran the good race and he kept the faith.


Well done stranger, well done!

Irrelevant Presidents

A recent article in the “paper of record” noted that a research study recently published in the Journal of Science concluded that most United States Presidents have a relevant shelf-life of 40 years from the time they leave office. On paper, this means that President Lyndon Johnson’s relevance could expire before Robert Caro gets around to concluding his endless biography of LBJ (now up to three volumes and counting.) Can you imagine Caro reaching around Page 335 of Volume 4 writing about that fateful Sunday night in 1968 when Lyndon took to the airwaves to inform the country that he would not seek re-election. The light bulb will go off in Caro’s head, he will stop writing, shake his head, realize nobody cares and simply write, “Never mind.”


Benedict Carey, the author of this piece noted that the professors who conducted these tests from 1974 to 2014 saw that students remembered the men who served during times of crises. So Caro’s efforts may yet be saved as LBJ could remain relevant by being attached to JFK’s coattails and that damn Vietnam War. (Good bet; the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Act alone would not sustain him.) Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43 will be less than blips on a radar screen to future test-takers. Perhaps 43 will deserve an asterisk as being on the scene on September 11, 2001? President Obama, for the obvious reasons, should have a long shelf-life.


If you find this disturbing, try to name two or three of the presidents between Andy Jackson and old Abe? (1) Or between Abe and FDR save Teddy and Thomas W. Wilson better known as Woodrow? (2)


Sure, I admit feeling a deep sense of my own mortality when I realize that the majority of current college-age students don’t have a clue who Harry or Ike were.


And so it goes. I’ve developed my own test to see if we have enough memory left to recall political events that once were important if not vital to our beliefs.  I believe that the ages people are most passionate about politics are from 18 to 24 roughly college-age. They can be passionate as they want to be without having to worry about a job, paying off college, buying a house, supporting a family, a mortgage, car loans; etc…that thing we call life,


So I ask you to remember the election closest to your 21st birthday. Name the man who won, his running mate; the loser and his running mate? (3)


I was twenty in 1964. Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater. Johnson ran with Hubert Humphrey and Goldwater, with William E. Miller. I was a one of the Goldwater supporters who had to endure the rout our man suffered that election night. But the defeat seared the event into my memory giving me an advantage in this challenge. The main reason that I have this advantage is that Bill Miller’s fame came not from his run with Barry or his term in Congress as a representative from upstate New York. Nope, it was from the commercial he did for the American Express Card produced in 1975.


It began with Miller facing the camera and stating: “Do you know who I am? I ran for the office of vice president of the United States. That’s why I carry the American Express Card.” (The commercial then shifted to a scene of an AMEX Card, name blank where an unseen printer produces: “William E. Miller” and his year of membership.)


Cut back to Miller, “Don’t leave home without it.”


  1. Presidents between Jackson and Lincoln: Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan.


  1. Presidents between Lincoln and FDR: Andrew Johnson, Ulysses Simpson Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland (two interrupted times), Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, (Theodore Roosevelt), William Howard Taft, (Woodrow Wilson), Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.


  1. 3. The Answers to the Quiz


.                        Winner          VP                       Loser                        Losing VP


1932                  F.D.R.      John Garner                Hoover                  Charles Curtis

1936                  F.D.R.          Garner                 Alf Landon                Frank Knox

1940                  F.D.R.     Henry Wallace         Wendell Wilkie          Charles Mc Nary

1944                  F.D.R.      Harry Truman         Tom Dewey               John Bricker

1948              Harry Truman    Barkley                Dewey                       Earl Warren

1952                   Ike          Dick Nixon             Adlai Stevenson            John Sparkman

1956                   Ike              Nixon                     Stevenson                   Estes Kefauver

1960                  J.F.K           LBJ                        Nixon                Henry Cabot Lodge

1964                  L.B.J       Humphrey             Barry Goldwater                Bill Miller

1968                Nixon     Spiro Agnew                 Humphrey               Edmund Muskie

1972                Nixon           Agnew               George Mc Govern        Sergent Shriver*

1976             Jimmy Carter    Mondale             Jerry Ford                      Bob Dole

1980             Ronald Reagan   Bush                      Carter                    Walter Mondale

1984                Reagan             Bush                 Mondale                    Geraldine Ferraro

1988          George H. W. Bush   Quayle           Michael Dukakis           Lloyd Bentsen

1990               Bill Clinton     Al Gore                 Bush (41)                        Dan Quayle

1996                 Clinton             Gore                  Bob Dole                           Jack Kemp

2000            George W. Bush   Chaney             Al Gore                          Joe Lieberman

2004                 Bush (43)        Chaney             John Kerry                       John Edwards

2008            Barack Obama     Biden              John Mc Cain                    Sarah Palin

2012                 Obama            Biden                Mitt Romney                      Paul Ryan

* Thomas Eagleton would also be a correct answer

Rock & Rye

Rock & Rye was unknown to me until I came across a piece in the Dining & Wine section of The New York Times titled: Rock and Rye Returns to the Mix. As the Times is want to do, the piece was unique, quite informative, but it brought my blood to a boil as only the NY Times can do. (But more about that later.)


That same day, I shared this discovery with my son at lunch in a typical NYC Irish Pub, The Perfect Pint. Mike’s reaction surprised me as he noted, “Yeah, Dad, I have heard that before. It came from a show or movie where one of the actors asks a bartender, “Give me a double rock & rye.”


Mike was bang on. A simple search revealed it’s a line from the movie, Animal House. The boys from Delta Tau Chi fraternity were on the loose with girls from Dickinson. They’d taken these girls to see Otis Day and the Knights perform at Dexter Lake Club and sing, Shout. When they arrive at the club, Donald “Boone” Schoenstein asked the barkeeper for: “A double Rock & Rye and seven Carlings.”


What is Rock & Rye and what is the fuss all about? I found several explanations. For example, “Not a straight rye, but a bar room relic. Historically, rock candy (and occasionally fruit) was added to take away some of the dryness associated with rye whiskey.” Seems polite, no?


Here’s another explanation more to the point, “Rock & Rye emerged when saloons added rock candy to young rye to make it more approachable.” Translation…how do you make cheap whiskey drinkable!


Rock & Rye became popular in the mid-19th Century which grew as a wonderful myth developed that it was a medicinal cure for whatever ailed you. Men who wanted to make a stop at the bar for a relaxing libation on the way home from work, on the way to work to ease their pain, to avoid the Mrs. and the kids or going to church on Sunday, etc; embraced this concoction and defiantly proclaimed: “Doctors orders!”


They may have convinced themselves that their logic was unimpeachable, but their behavior may have been a noticeable factor in drys forcing the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act that brought prohibition across the land of US.


But, once the land of the free and the home of the brave retuned again to being wet, Rock & Rye disappeared from of the mainstream although a few brands re-surfaced. Odd brands became available like Mr. Boston’s Rock & Rye, Hochstadters, Slow and Low Rock & Rye, Jacquins Rock & Rye with choice fruits liqueur and Leroux Kosher Rock & Rye. Their proof ranged from the low 80s to the mid-90s and they were priced from the mid-teens to the $60 range.


Robert Simonson’s piece in the Times noted Allen Katz of the New York Distilling Company is leading a new renaissance in Brooklyn. Mr. Katz has just released his, “long-in-development Mister Katz Rock & Rye.”


The formula includes citrus and cinnamon. “Mr. Katz uses a youthful rye, no older than one year, as his base and sets his alcohol level at a relatively low 32.5 percent in hopes that it will be considered as a cocktail mixer.”


My anger with Mr. Simonson was not with the content of his piece, it was the ingredients listed for a cocktail called, Cave Creek, that he adopted from a recipe from a Brooklyn bar called, The Shanty, (Mr. Katz’s home base):


1¼ oz. Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye

1 ounce Glenlivet 12-Year Scotch whiskey

¾ oz fresh lime juice

½ oz high quality grenadine

¼ oz Compari

Orange twist, for garnish


Have you spotted what pissed me off? Ah, the pretentiousness of the paper of record. What you see above is a glass of crap save one ingredient; the Glenlivet. Now I ask, “Who in their right mind would pour a ‘top-shelf’ single malt, aged, fine Scotch into the above concoction?”


Whoever did should be drawn and quartered. Only the elitist, self-important Times would even consider such a sacrilege. It would appear that Clan MacGregor does not exist in their rarified universe: “A pox on them.”