John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: October, 2015

Knew Yourk, Knew Yourk

I’d first like to get something off of my chest: What really upsets me about the flock of GOP wannabees running for President is how timid and flaccid they appear in the face of Trump, the here-to-fore front-runner and his belligerent rhetoric. For God’s sake, stop referring to him as Mr. Trump! Call him Trump or Don. Piss him off for a change. When was the last time he called you Mr. Bush or Ms Fiorina or Dr. Carson? And you don’t have to get down in the mud with him either. Think back to the Reagan – Carter debate when Jimmy rattled on and on milking a point to demonstrate his superior knowledge and intellect. How did Ronnie handle it: “Oh, there you go again.”


Thank you. Now please be patient while I climb down from this soap box. I have to be careful with this fake hip.


Okay, with that out of my system, New York, New York. Thinking about the Big Apple made me think of Trump who is in many ways a consummate fighting New Yorker. He wears the same cloak as Rudy Giuliani or my friend, Peter King. They epitomize the spirit of the following “light bulb joke:”


How many New Yorkers does it take to change a light bulb?

None of your f**king business.


Being a life-long New Yorker, I admit how full of ourselves we can be but like loud-mouth bullies everywhere, the right combination of attitude and vocabulary can quickly deflate us. Our arch-rivals who best us more times than not are London based Brits. They master the understatement with their stiff upper lips as they muddle through while waiting stoically in seemingly endless queues. I once watched as a matronly British Airway’s flight attendant stop my evil, loud-mouthed twin right in his tracks with her censure: “Must you constantly be this bombastic?”


The one card that knowledgeable Brits can play on us any time they wish is to compare London taxis to New York cabs. Usually, they are so subtle that they let us walk right into their trap permitting visiting New Yorkers to gush on and on about how great London taxis are and how terrific the drivers are:


“Your taxis are so clean, so roomy, so great!”


“Your drivers are so knowledgeable, so English, so terrific!”


The Brits actually preen as we walk into the trap and lock the cage behind us. Some of us only dig the hole deeper observing: “You know, once we had decent taxis, the Checker.”


Balderdash, sure the Checker was roomy but it moved like a tank, stiffly jarring passengers’ bones with every pothole the driver hit. This ice box in winter could sit five if two unfortunate souls were willing to sit on minuscule metal jump seats that unfolded from the metal floor. The worst cabs were around in the bad days of the 1970s, the Dodge Coronet. No leg room, no ass room, three in the back made it feel like a clown car. Awful, awful.


While no one in authority can improve our army of immigrant drivers, the city recently introduced a new specialty Nissan mini-van taxi. It is supposed to be the cure-all for all of our taxi woes as it replaces the current assortment of cars, SUVs and regular mini vans now in the fleet. Time, weather and the awful pounding received in New York’s infamous streets will eventually tell the tail of their suitability.


As a mechanic once asked my wife, Mary Ann, who drove a Buick daily to P.S. 121 in South Ozone Park, Queens: “Where do you drive this car, East Beirut?”




Goodbye Columbus

Monday, October 12, 2015 was Columbus Day, an official federal holiday since 1934. Curiously, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the second Monday in October to be Columbus Day in the same year that Benito Mussolini also deemed it to be a national holiday in his Fascist controlled nation. This immediately led to bloody confrontations in New York City pitting Il Duce followers against anti-Fascists.


World War II ended those confrontations and Columbus Day evolved into a source of Italian- American pride. This became especially true in New York City where the annual parade up Fifth Avenue empowers our Italian-American brothers and sisters to gather, march and participate with the same spirit (albeit with less alcohol) as Irish do on St. Patrick’s Day, the Germans on Steuben Day, the Poles on Kosciusko Day, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Jews, etc, etc on their days.


This annual affair attracts every politician wanting to make a statement or show his or her face. The 2015 edition attracted both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Comrade Mayor Bill Deblasio who marched separately, of course, because they hate each other.


Granted though, over the years with cultural changes and flex days at work Columbus’ significance has diminished. Many New Yorkers treat it as another day; you’re either off, or not off. In the Northeast, if you’re off, you may consider it as a long weekend to travel up into New England to see the fall foliage.


But still, it’s a national holiday. Growing up in 1950’s America, I remember, when Columbus was important enough that the Dominican nuns at St. Aloysius elementary school taught us to memorize (in part):


In fourteen hundred in ninety two,

Columbus sailed the ocean blue…


Have you heard though that Columbus has an infamous record? Oh dear, in South Dakota, they have replaced the explorer and have been celebrating “Native American Day” on the second Monday in October since 1990.


This year, in Alaska, Gov. Bill Walker’s executive proclamation re-named Chris’ day as “Indigenous Peoples Day.”  In so doing, Alaska joined at least nine US cities celebrating this new man-made holiday. These cities include Albuquerque, NM, Anadarko, OK, Portland, OR, St. Paul MN and two cities in Washington; Olympia and Seattle.


Oklahoma City is next up ready to make the same decision. Sarah Adams-Cornell, a local OK City activist made this plea to rid her city of Columbus: “This is something that I’ve struggled with for a long time. The fact that our country, our state and our city celebrate this holiday around this man who murdered and enslaved and raped indigenous people and decimated an entire population.”


Now that’s one hell of an indictment to throw against this mythic explorer. I wonder how much bail would have been set if he was still around?


And yet, the renowned historian, Samuel Eliot Morison, thought otherwise and described Columbus in his epic biography published in 1955, Admiral of the Ocean Sea:


“He had his faults and his defects, but they were largely the defects of the qualities that made him great–indomitable will, his superb faith in God and his own mission as the Christ-bearer to lands beyond the seas, his stubborn persistence despite neglect, poverty and discouragement. But there was no flaw, no dark side to the most outstanding…of all his qualities—his seamanship.”


It would appear, this perception no longer persists. Few rise to praise Columbus much less defend him. It seems he has been marginalized and made responsible for every bad thing done to Native-Americans from the Pilgrims landing through Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee. In my opinion, wrongly so, since the record demonstrates, he never landed in mainland America.


Still, if Columbus must get the old heave-ho, should those of Italian descent be deprived of their day of rightful acclaim? I think not, but then who?


How about Gugielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless telegraph, or Giovanni da Verazzano, the explorer whose name graces the grand suspension bridge that spans the entrance to New York Harbor, or Americus Vespucius, another renown explorer whose name the entire western World has adopted to describe themselves: North and South America.


While you think about that in your spare time, ponder this; if the person or persons who decided to name two continents after this explorer had done it correctly, the land we live in would not be America, we would live in the United States of Vespucia…frightening, but have a nice day.

Tunnel Vision

Woe to the railroads operating in and out of New York’s Pennsylvania Station. The six 105-year-old tunnels, four under the East River connecting to Long Island and the two Hudson River tubes connecting to New Jersey, are in sorry shape. Two of the four East River tubes flooded during Superstorm Sandy as did both of their Hudson River cousins. Almost three years later, the track beds, wiring, signals and the concrete itself continue to deteriorate thanks to the millions of gallons of salt water that filled them for several days.


What exacerbates the problem is all of these tunnels are part of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and Amtrak is perpetually broke. This ugly step-child of Uncle Sam must grovel before congress for every cent of its inadequate annual budget. Unlike Amtrak, Uncle and his politicians love their two healthy offspring, those pretty twins, the airlines and the automobile / trucking industry showering them with generous gifts like highways, airports and an elaborate air traffic control system. Passenger trains remain unwanted and unloved whose early death would be a Godsend to Congress.


Like it or not, 340,000 riders move through Penn Station each and every weekday on 1,200 trains. The Long Island Railroad (LIRR) carries more than 230,000, New Jersey Transit (NJT), 80,000 and 30,000 travel on Amtrak. Eventually, a fair chunk of those LIRR riders will shift to the new East Side Access Terminal now being constructed deep under Grand Central Terminal but that traffic could be offset by proposals to bring commuters from Connecticut, Westchester and The Bronx into Penn Station on Metro North via the Hell Gate Bridge.


NJT is also clamoring for additional tracks in Penn Station as currently only 332 of their 697 daily trains can fit into their primary morning destination. Those two Hudson River tubes are barely adequate to carry their existing load and the failure of one train already leads to extensive delays. Unfortunately, an expansion of NJT service into Penn Station cannot be addressed until well past the mid-point of the Twenty-First Century.


Before it can even be considered, two new tubes must be dug under the Hudson and up until recently neither money nor sufficient political will existed to undertake this massive project. It will take at least ten years from first shovel and will cost a minimum of $14 billion. (Twenty billion dollars if an addition to Penn Station is included.) But service disruptions in these tunnels this summer have convinced Governorers Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie to cooperate with each other and the Feds to get the ball rolling. Even when finished, congestion will not be quickly ended as the existing tunnels must then be closed for two years for a thorough refurbishment.


Meanwhile, the two damaged East River tubes will likewise be rebuilt one at a time. Strangely enough, Amtrak actually carries real commercial insurance covering loss or damage to these tunnels. But like standard property insurance it has a sub-limit for damage caused by floods. Amtrak sued for $1.1 billion on the grounds that the damage was due to a wind-driven storm surge but U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff ruled a flood is a flood and limited liability to $125 million. Senator Chuck Schumer has proposed that the Feds allocate a grant using the Sandy storm recovery funds which Amtrak could offset by any additional money they may be awarded when they appeal Judge Rakoff’s ruling.


At last plans and concepts seem to be coalescing. Now all we need is money so if you have some spare change…brother can you spare a dime?


Foley’s NY &the Pope’s Autograph

Foley’s NY, a Midtown pub located on the south side of East Thirty-Third Street opposite the Empire State Building courageously identifies itself as: “An Irish Pub with a Baseball Attitude.” This sports stronghold forcefully projects this message without apology or hesitation shouting it out from the saloon’s fire engine red façade, the curious bicycle mounted above it, the flags of US and the Republic of Ireland, baseball bats  substituting for door handles and a sign proclaiming: “The Bar that Banned DANNY BOY.”


All of these features reflect the attitude of its proprietor, Shaun Clancy, to set Foley’s apart from the other eateries occupying the same territory. Shaun, a bear of a man and a born saloon keeper; quick with the wit, quick with the challenge, quick with the charm and the humor. He embodies all that make the Irish special.


When Shaun set out to establish his own saloon, his goal was to combine his two greatest loves, the hospitality industry and baseball. “I wanted an Irish name that had a baseball connection. I thought about different names before I finally realized that Red Foley, (the sports writer for the New York Daily News for 34 years,) was right under my nose. I had known Red for a few years and when I proposed naming it in his honor, he replied, ‘Why me, I don’t even drink?”


Shaun replied, “All the better, now I can feed you whenever you like but I don’t have to worry about your bar bill.” Red agreed and Foley’s NY was born in 2004.


I discovered Foley’s as I was working my way toward Penn Station one afternoon returning from a Mid-town lunch. The red façade stopped me cold, the bats beckoned, I stepped inside, ordered a Guinness and the rest was history.


In the years since that day, my friend, Mike Scott and I have made it our exclusive Manhattan watering hole establishing a rapport with Shaun, his dad: Papa John, his son, Ryan, and daughter, Emma, and the bevy of mostly Irish waitresses who charm the patrons with their wit, personality and smiles.


Foley’s is a museum of sports memorabilia, both ordinary and rare ranging from bobble head figurines to uniforms with everything in between. The signature items though are Shaun’s collection of autographed baseballs numbering in the thousands. Most of the signatures concern baseball, being players, managers and coaches, scouts, front office people, writers and broadcasters. Shaun’s collection also includes famous people from other sports, actors, politicians, business and clerical VIPs. Included in the latter are baseballs tagged by Cardinals Edward Egan and Timothy Dolan.


So it wasn’t surprising that Shaun issued a challenge to all who knew him that if some one could score Pope Francis’ signature on a baseball during his visit to New York in September, Shaun would donate 1,000 meals to St. Francis Church’s out reach program. (St. Francis is a local Manhattan church two blocks from Foley’s.)


I chose to take a low path and a high path. My low path became a prank. I bought a new baseball on which I wrote:  “To Mister Clancyman: Vaya con Dios.” I signed it, “Pappa Frankie 1.”


I presented this to Shaun who accepted it without becoming overly upset.


My high road was to take a shot at seeing if the real thing could be obtained despite insane odds against it. My secret weapon was a VIP from the World Trade Center whom I know from a football tailgate group. I knew absolutely that he would see the pope when Francis traveled to the WTC Museum for an inter-faith gathering and there was a chance that this chap might meet Francis and perhaps have a private chat with him during the visit. He readily accepted this challenge calculating how to create a scenario to pull this off.


Alas, this was not to be. Every photo taken of Francis at that visit shows him being closely escorted by former mayor, Mike Bloomberg, Cardinal Dolan and his own omni-present security detail.


As my buddy reported back after the visit, “It was literally impossible to get his autograph.”


And so it went. Shaun had four or five other sources who also tried unsuccessfully to obtain Pope Francis’ moniker. Security was just too tight, extreme and with no sense of humor or of the absurd. At least we tried. Shaun, however, chose to fulfill his promise to St. Francis despite this collective inability to succeed.


God bless you, Shaun Clancy, in addition to being a great saloon proprietor, you are, my friend, a stand-up citizen.