John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: March, 2016

The Whole World Is Watching

June of 1996 found me in Chicago at my firm’s local office. As a laugh, one of the Chicago lads presented me with a souvenir tee-shirt remarking, “I thought you’d get a kick out of this. They’re being sold as fund raisers by our local PAL.”

 

The shirts were a spoof on the 1996 Democratic National Convention (DNC) scheduled to be held that August in the United Center, Chicago’s indoor sports arena. Written across the front of the shirt:

 

Welcome to Chicago.

We kicked your parents’ asses

in 1968!

And we’ll kick yours too!

 

A story in the Boston Globe on March 19, 2016 by Tracy Jan resurrected this memory. The headline for Ms. Jan’s piece read:

Cleveland prepares for unrest at GOP convention

 

Ah, once again, it’s all about The Donald! Usually gatherings of the Grand Old Party are about as exciting as curling tournaments but not this year. No, no, no; thanks to the level of rhetoric, the police who patrol the “Mistake on the Lake” are nervous. Ms Jan noted with a bit of hyperbole that Cleveland will host the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July: “…during one of the most tumultuous presidential elections in decades…”

 

(Editorial note: Me thinks if other members of the fifth estate start banging out copy with like incendiary language the result will be; if thou write it, it may happen and thou shall be the cause. Be careful what you write.)

 

Ms Jan continued: “… amid concerns from its police union that the city is not moving fast enough to secure riot gear, train personnel, and ensure there will be enough officers on the streets.”

 

There is a valid point to be noted here. While Cleveland has secured a grant of $50 million in federal security funds to outfit the department in 2,000 so called riot-control “turtle suits” featuring upper body, shoulder, elbow and forearm protectors, hard knuckle gloves, shin guards and ”26-inch collapsible batons”, they have only asked for bids on these suits with expected delivery by June 1, “a month and a half before the convention.”

 

Ms Jan interviewed the former police chief of Charlotte, Rodney Monroe, who oversaw security for the DNC in 2012. Discussing the timing in Cleveland, Chief Monroe noted to Ms Jan, “Good luck with that one. In most cases, there was a three-month lag time for ordering. We had to get that one in early. All of our officers were issued their equipment three months prior to the convention.”

 

The Cleveland cops will have 45 days to prepare if all goes as planned with no delays.

Likewise, standard guidelines call for a security force of between 4,000 and 5,000 officers to be available during an event of this magnitude. But Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association told Ms Jan, “…thus far, only 1,800 officers, including Cleveland police and those outside the city, have been committed, a number neither the city nor Secret Service would confirm.”

 

Most of the 2,200 to 3,200 additional officers will come from out-of-state requiring the city of Cleveland and, perhaps, the state of Ohio, to pass temporary laws and/or ordinances giving these “foreign” officers the same jurisdiction as if they were members of the Cleveland police force. While Ms Jan didn’t address indemnification, it is a safe bet to presume that any police departments that offer the services of their staff will demand a blanket hold harmless for themselves and those officers which the city of Cleveland and/ or its insurers will have to assume.

 

Granted, it would be a stretch to re-visit the insanity that surrounded the DNC circa Chicago-1968 when all hell broke loose and Mayor Richard Daley went to war with Jerry Rubin, his Yippies; Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, Bobby Seale, Alan Ginsberg, etc. A sea of chaos ensued, headlines read, “Riots Erupt”, “Violence Takes Hold” and “The Battle of Chicago” while for days and nights the endless chant continued; “The whole world is watching.”

 

It would be a good bet to say that the city fathers never expected the kind of direction the 2016 campaign would take when they proudly made their bid to host the convention! How could they? Nevertheless, they must quickly take stock now that it may no longer be business as usual.

 

Cleveland may not have the luxury that common sense will prevail so those in charge on the federal, state and city level must be prepared to maintain good order let protesters vent and hope they break even on this event.

 

 

The Newspaper Blues

Growing up in 1950s and coming of age in the 1960s, I witnessed the end of the golden age of newspapers. The City of New York supported four general morning newspapers and three afternoon papers. (The Wall Street Journal was not one of them then being considered to be a trade publication catering to financial news in the same way The Journal of Commerce catered to shipping, commodities and trade.)

 

The New York Times and Herald Tribune presented serious news each morning, The Daily News and The New York Mirror’s stock in trade was tabloid gossip, crime, sensationalism and popular sports. Three papers filled the afternoon / evening hours making up for content with yellow journalism, sensationalism and, when all else failed- fiction. The New York Journal-American, New York Post and the World-Telegram and Sun competed for readers’ nickels.

 

The Times, considered the “gray lady,” favored substance and seriousness over personality. The staff included Russell Baker, David Halberstam, James Reston, William Safire, Harrison Salisbury and Gay Talese. Sportswriters included Dave Anderson, Arthur Daley, George Vecsey and William Wallace. Red Smith joined on once the Herald Tribune folded as did theatre critic, Walter Kerr.

 

The Trib re-invented itself as the Fifties drew to a close jazzing its format, creating a Sunday supplement; New York Magazine, and featuring two bright new columnists: Jimmy Breslin on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays paired with Dick Shaap on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Breslin gave us a plethora of characters like Marvin the Torch and Shaap coined the moniker: “Welcome to Fun City.”  They joined the likes of Art Buchwald, “Sally Rand could use an extra hand,” Red Smith, “The best team that money can buy,” Harold Rosenthal and Tom Wolfe.

 

The Daily News and The New York Mirror competed with dueling headlines, sports and gossip. Ed Sullivan, Liz Smith and Bob Sylvester dug celebrity dirt at the Daily News while Norm Miller and Dick Young reported sports assisted by cartoonist, Bill Gallo. The lighter weight, Mirror, countered with Walter Winchell, Bill Travers and crime writer, Victor Riesel blinded in an acid attack by the mob. Some classic Daily News headlines (albeit not all from that era) included: Who’s a Bum (Dodgers 1955 Championship), Ford to City: Drop Dead and Arrest Weirdo in Tate Murder (Charles Manson.)

 

The Mirror countered with gems like: Marilyn Monroe Kills Self – New Year, New Cuban Skyjack and 3,000 Beatniks Riot in Village. When the Mirror folded on October 16, 1963 the Post took up the challenge eventually producing the ultimate gem: Headless Man in Topless Bar!

 

The New York Post wasn’t always a rag and in that era before Rupert Murdock bought the paper the publisher was Dorothy Schiff who controlled the paper for forty years. The Post reflected Ms Schiff’s liberal views making it into a left-wing tabloid featuring Milton Gross, and muckrakers, Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson. Larry Merchant and Paul Zimmerman did sports with Leonard Lyons and Cindy Adams seeking celebrity gossip.

 

Countering the Post was the Hearst Corporation’s The New York Journal-American, anti-Democrat in spades. When President Truman fired General Douglas Mac Arthur for insubordination during the Korean War, the Journal-American treated Doug’s homecoming US tour as if he was the conquering hero and Harry as a putz. Westbrook Pegler led the charge. Pegler was a hater. The J-A had a great dean of sports, Jimmy Cannon, a man about town, Bob Considine, and their own gossip guru, Dorothy Kilgallen.

 

The World-Telegram and Sun brought up the rear although one reporter, Gabe Pressman, went on to have an lengthy television career with WNBC that continues to this day more than 60 years later. The Telegram featured two good sports writers, Joe King and Joe Williams aided by the brilliant sports cartoonist, Willard Mullins. Mullins produced his work in his Long Island studio and delivered it via a cooperative Long Island Railroad conductor at the Plandome Station who commuted his cartoon to the paper’s plant every day.

 

The Telegram’s enduring claim to fame however, was the headline they chose to run for their late edition on November 22, 1963 after receiving word of JFK’s assassination. It covered almost all of the front page announcing: PRESIDENT SHOT DEAD.

 

In a desperate attempt to survive, the Trib, Journal and Telegram merged into the ill-fated, New York World, Journal Tribune that lasted just seven months from September of 1966 until May of 1967. The New York Times, New York Post and Daily News survive, barely. The electronic age has pushed printed newspapers to the brink of extinction as electronic editions fail to generate the kind of ad revenue needed to survive.

 

The over/under on the Daily News’ demise is any body’s guess as they’ve fired anyone worth a paycheck to save a paycheck except Mike Lupica. The Post continues to exist so long as Murdock chooses to use his cable news surpluses to offset its hemorrhaging red ink. As for the Gray Lady, the publishers cut and cut and cut. Today, The Times is a shadow of what it once was. “The Paper of Record?” I think no longer. The Times pretends this remains so since it is unchallenged as there is no other print source left to call them out. Time/Life, Newsweek, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, etc, etc, they are all crippled and/or dying.

 

A damn shame! Looking forward, I wonder where folks will go to read good journalists reporting in depth about significant events or to simply do a crossword puzzle?

 

“Eve of Destruction”

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.

 Here I am stuck in the middle with you.

 

I tell you brothers and sisters, nothing makes sense any more. Cheap oil is good; yes? The USA being self-sufficient in the production of oil and gas is good; yes? Apparently not, cheap oil and gas is rocking the financial markets, stocks tumble, the word is the dollar is worthless. Shills shout from the radio: “Buy, yes you, buy gold now; buy silver now. Liquidate everything else, sell brother, sell.”

 

Even though such insidious sirens have shouted their false and corrupt warnings time and time again, a demon within, the illusion of shiny minerals, taunts us to follow; beware my friend beware:

 

Once I built a railroad, made it run, made it race against time. Once I built a railroad, now it’s done; brother can you spare a dime?

 

I allowed a special on HBO about the worst possible super-mega-ultimate volcanic eruption coming soon to ruin my night. Ground zero is Yellowstone Park. Nightmares filled my head as my mind envisioned the horrors predicted when it erupts. The special proclaimed that, when it happens, not if it happens; 90% of what is left of the continental USA will be covered in ash and millions will perish. A nightmarish scenario indeed!

 

I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know where I’m gonna go when the volcano blows.

 

I then made the mistake seeking relief by watching the Weather Channel. Oy vey, instead of benign forecasts, a documentary awaited me about an ultimate earthquake just waiting to strike the West Coast. Forecasters give it a one in three chance to happen sometime in the next 20 years and those are lousy odds, if you ask me!

 

They predict this monster will swallow everything up to Vancouver and what remains will be drowned and washed away by an ultimate Tsunami. (It was interesting to note that a chap from FEMA answer that he thinks we’re prepared! Could it have been, Brownie?)

 

Day after day, more people come to L.A. Ssh, don’t you tell anybody, the whole place slipping away.

Where can you go when there’s no San Francisco? Better get ready to tie up de boat in Idaho.

 

Bad as it may be, I’m sorry, I just can’t get my hands around climate change. How is that possible when I can’t decide who to be frightened of the most:  Kim Jong-un constantly reminds me to be afraid, Mullar Omah, of the Afghanistan Taliban, an oldie but still a badie remains on the loose if he’s not yet dead? Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his Islamic Caliphate c/o Isis/ Isisl are not to be trifled with; they are bad to the bone and want us wiped out. Then there’s that crazy man in Nigeria, Abubakar Shekav, leader of Boko-haram, or another old favorite, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his nukes. Even the Fredo of bad guys, Bashar al-Assard, would have no problem killing each and every one of us if only he could. Next to this gang, Putin is a pussycat:

 

Hope you got your things together. Hope you are quite prepared to die. Looks like we’re in for nasty weather…There’s a bad moon on the rise.

 

Meanwhile, back in the USA, it appears that all of the rules have been thrown out the window and chaos reigns supreme. Through the dubious magic of twenty-four hour media, countless news, information and talk TV, radio and internet shows, Twitter, Face book, In touch and LinkedIn, the national election process has been reduced to a bad act at a comedy club or a really awful reality show.

 

No wonder I’m so nervous and still, have I mentioned Donald Trump? It appears the choice may come down to The Donald, or Ted Cruz vs. Hillary or Bernie:

 

Going to the candidates’ debate, laugh about it, shout about it,

When you got to choose, every way you look at this you lose.

 

I pride myself on being an optimist believing that even in the worst of times when a most imperfect candidate takes the reigns of our Republic; our Republic will endure and prosper. This time though, your guess is as good as mine:

 

And you tell me,

over and over and over again my friend.

Ah, you don’t believe,

We’re on the eve of destruction.

Of Fish and Foul

This piece was written by a friend of mine, Brian Davidson. I edited it and thought up the title.

 

George, the owner of the sporting goods store handed me my new annual Alaskan fishing license. “Where are you from?”

 

“Houston,” I replied. “I got a job with a contractor to settle insurance claims so I’ll be up here for thirty-days at a time for six to nine months. I don’t read much, hate television and I don’t want to spend my free time in bars so I figured I’d try fishing”

 

“Well you picked a good time to start fishing for pink salmon. They start to run in May and you can fish as late as you like because it doesn’t get dark until about 2 a.m. I’ll help you pick out the kind of equipment and clothing you’re going to need.”

 

George selected a rod and reel, a net, tackle box, wading boots, thermal socks, and long johns. “Why do I need thermal socks and long underwear in June?”

 

“The water temperature in Prince William Sound does not get out of the thirties. You’ll be happy to be wearing them when you wade out into the sound. If you don’t have a sweater or light gloves, you should buy them too.”

 

I figured he knew what he was talking about so I kept quiet as my pile kept rising on his counter. When he finished counting and totaling my purchases, he reached behind the counter and opened a wooden box and placed an odd looking fishing lure in the palm of his hand. A big silver spoon with a big red plastic diamond shaped thingy glued to it, it looked like something that your grandmother used to wear on her chest to church on Sunday.

 

“This is the best lure for catching pink salmon. It’s called it a pixie. If I were you, I’d guard it with my life. I’m running out of them and I don’t know when I’ll get new ones in stock.”

 

I asked him how many I could have and he agreed to sell me six for six dollars each. I started asking him about places to fish, but he stopped me and called over an Eskimo guy hanging around the store. “Hey, Billy, come tell this guy where to fish.”

 

Billy and I got to talking and he agreed to meet me at a camp-ground located on the shoreline the next night. We seemed to hit it off and became regular fishing buddies. Also, it didn’t take long for me to realize just how valuable Billy was to me. The first thing I noticed that night was that when I cast my pixie out into the water, it kept going down and down and down. I asked Billy what was going on.

 

“After about ten feet, the bottom drops 500 to 600 feet. If you wander out too far and take the plunge, you’ll have about five minutes left to live.”

 

I became a good angler catching five to ten fish each night which I cut loose or gave to people staying in the camp-ground who gathered to watch the master fisherman. I usually traded the fish for a cold beer and a relaxing chat with these tourists and retirees in their trailers, campers or RVs. The fishing alleviated my boredom from the seemingly endless task of settling claims. I only regretted losing my pixies which made me feel badly as my supply dwindled.

 

One night while fishing with Billy, I cast out my next to last pixie. It didn’t hit the water and my rod started to jerk away from me pulling skyward. “What the hell…,” I shouted as I looked up. To my astonishment, I realized that I had hooked a sea gull on its butt. People on the bank shouted at me to cut the line, but all I could think of was my six dollar pixie attached to a bird that was maneuvering like an out of control kite. Up and down it flew screeching like all hell as we continued our struggle. I had to let out line fearing that the tension would break it and the gull would make off with my pixie. Finally, it went straight up then came crashing down onto the bank to the oohs and ahs of the crowd who were watching the show.

 

I ran out of the water, grabbed onto this pecking and clawing creature who continued to screech for its mother. In desperation, the gull threw up a regurgitated fish onto my boot, but I managed to get a firm grip on its mangy butt to retrieve my pixie. As I stood up, I heard loud and clear, “They’re not very good to eat.”

 

Rather embarrassed, I yanked my pixie out of its butt, released the gull who flew away and gave each and every one of my admirers a very low bow.