John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: June, 2016

Minnie, Me and the DMV

Our daughter, Beth, takes pleasure in assigning nick-names and years ago deemed me to be Juanito and Mary Ann; Minnie. In 2004, when we took delivery of a Jeep Liberty, I asked my wife if she’d like a vanity plate. “Of course I would and I know what I want it to say: MADMINNIE.” (MAD for her initials and MINNIE for her nick-name.) However New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) limits vanity plates to eight characters with no spaces so Mary Ann instead accepted the tag, MADMINNI.


In 2013, we transferred MADMINNI to a new Liberty on a 39 month lease and when the spring of 2016 rolled around, we invited our family to join a rather intricate dance where we would buy the leased 2013 Liberty so we could give it to the Brooklyn family who, in turn, would give their 2004 Liberty to Drew, our oldest grandson, who at 16, would gain a junior driver’s license. Mary Ann would lease a new Jeep Renegade that she christened, “Stubby.”



First we had to buy our current Liberty from the leasing company and obtain a title from NYS clear of liens.  Once the new title arrived by mail, I made my visit to the DMV armed with enough reading matter to make it through the 50 minutes I had to wait before I was able to leave after successfully registering the Jeep and paying the sales tax for the purchase.


Meanwhile, I discovered when we leased the new Renegade in Mary Ann’s name that she could not use MADMINNI for its plates because, as the money guy at the dealer explained: “Those plates are in your name and the DMV doesn’t recognize marriages.”


He instructed me to return to DMV, surrender the plates for storage then contact their office in Albany to ask what material I had to submit to transfer the plates to Mary Ann; I kid you not, back to DMV and, after another 45 minutes wait, they took the plates and issued us a receipt. A curious event transpired while Mary Ann and I waited our turn. A woman sitting next to us on the bench who, overhearing our conversation, said “Do you know that you can now make a reservation on line for a specific appointment?”


We looked at her in surprise. She had a reservation and was soon called but before she left, she gave Mary Ann the DMV’s internet address.


Calling Albany wasn’t too awful, a couple of holds then a woman who instructed me how to transfer the plates; send them a letter, copies of the current registration, my driver’s license, the surrender receipt and a check for $30 to cover the transfer.


Next Tom and Beth brought their 2004 Liberty to Port Washington. I gave Tom the title and registration for 2013 Liberty. He put his existing plates on it while I put a spare rogue NYS plate on the 2004 Jeep for Michael to use when he drove it home to Connecticut.

Early the following week, Michael brought the 2004 Liberty to his ecstatic 16-year-old son.


When the new registration for the Renegade arrived, Mary Ann made a reservation at DMV for 1 PM for the following Wednesday. She downloaded the barcode on her IPhone and we printed it as a backup. We arrived at the DMV at 12:35 PM and, of course, couldn’t find the code on the phone so we used the printed version. A clerk, whose job was to check us in, saw the code, asked for the piece of paper and scanned it. Mary Ann asked as he did this, “How long do you think the wait will be?”


“About ten or fifteen minutes.”


He handed us a ticket with our number. We drew W027. As we started to step into the usually crowded waiting room, a mechanical voice announced: “W027; Window Number 15.”


We didn’t even sit down! Let me state that again, “We didn’t even sit down.”


Game, set and match!



John “Curley” Johnson

Curley Johnson passed away on June 12, 2016 at his home in Granbury, Texas. He was 80. This Lone Star state native is best known as being the punter on the world champion Jets who upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III despite being 18-point underdogs.


Curley was born in Anna, TX, attended Woodrow Wilson high school and the University of Houston before being taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers as the 77th selection in the 1957 NFL draft. In addition to punting, he was also an offensive end and a kick returner but he never caught on with the Steelers or any other NFL team.


Curley’s delayed pro football career began three years later when he signed on with the 1960 Dallas Texans of the newly formed American Football League. He was traded to New York the following year playing for Harry Wismer’s rag-tag Titans. Poorly financed, ridiculously mismanaged, Wismer didn’t have much to compete with the rival New York Football Giants who played before sell-out crowds across the river in Yankee Stadium. The Titans enjoyed far less fan participation at their dilapidated quarters in the Polo Grounds. Wismer fantasized the Titans attendance once noting a game day crowd that numbered 10,000 fans. This prompted New York Daily News scribe, Dick Young to note: “Ten Thousand, huh? If there were 10,000 fans at the game yesterday, 5,000 were disguised as empty seats.”


By the 1962 season the Titans were on verge of collapse unable to make payrolls, pay travel expenses or even laundry bills. The AFL stepped in to save the team and their league and the following year, entertainment impresario, David “Sonny” Werblin led a well financed syndicate who purchased the wreck re-naming them the New York Jets.


Only four Titans survived long enough to be part of that 1968 team; end, Don Maynard, line backer, Larry Graham, running back, Bill Mathis and Curley Johnson. Along the way, Curley established himself as a big-time punter still considered today the best the Jets ever had.


Still, time marches on and the summer after the championship run, the Jets cut Curley Johnson in favor of a new punter, Steve O’Neal.


Meanwhile, the now down-on-their-luck Giants had fired their long-time coach Allie Sherman prior to the start of the 1969 season. Their new coach, Alex Webster, some how managed a 3 and 3 record despite persistent problems with the kicking game. The owner and defacto general manager, Wellington Mara, offered the Giants job to Curley.


Curley début came on Sunday, November 2 against the Eagles at Yankee Stadium. Here is how I described what next happened in my 2009 book, 17 Lost Seasons:


“Mara signed Johnson. This may have seemed to Curley like a good way to have a few more paydays, but the old punter didn’t appreciate that he wasn’t playing for the Jets any longer and those ragged lineman ‘protecting’ him were not his old front line. On his very first punt attempt, he received the snap a bit off line, so patiently he corrected his line and proceeded to move his leg to kick the ball. Meanwhile a sea of green came roaring over, around and through his blockers allowing the Eagles Ike Kelly to block the punt.


“Curley either didn’t learn or couldn’t learn because the next time he tried to punt, the Eagles buried him into the grass before he could even get his foot on the ball.”


Final score, Eagles 23 – Giants 20.


RIP John Curley Johnson



The TSA Solution

In November of 2014, I published a piece; TSA Giveth and TSA Taketh Away, about my introduction to TSA PreCheck.  Frequent travelers encouraged me to sign on. Inertia, laziness, etc. prevailed so instead I chose to rely on the TSA’s serendipitious  issuance of pre check approved boarding passes that seemingly Mary Ann and I almost always received whenever we flew.


In April, when I printed my pass for the flight to Greensboro, NC for my vintge steam engine train trip, like magic my luck worked again, this time like a charm. Armed with my pre check designated boarding pass, I joined that exclusive line at LaGuardia only to realize that the screening device was a standard X-ray machine and not one of the image body scanners. All I carried was a gym bag, enough for this short trip. I explained to a young TSA Agent that my artificial hip would light up the X-ray machine like a slot machine in Vegas.


He snapped to attention, ordered me to put my bag through the X-ray, called for his replacement and proceeded to navigate me across the screening area to the only image scanner. We cut a line of two dozen people waiting for their turn and he personally escorted me up to the machine and waited while another agent manning the machine checked my suspenders. That accomplished, he returned me to the conveyor belt containing my gym bag. To say the least, I was impressed as to how powerful pre check boarding passes can be.


Following that experience, I was disappointed on I printing out my return boarding pass at the hotel in Greensboro that the TSA had failed to assign me the same designation for my return flight to LaGuardia. Fortunately, I had a morning flight out of that sleepy, semi-bypassed airport making me TSA’s only customer when I reached security so all went as well as I could hope.


My experience at LaGuardia and of not being selected in Greensboro gave me pause for thought about the value of TSA PreCheck. My conversion was heightened by recent TV reports hyping stories of horror at security check-ins due to new rules and shortages of TSA agents. The message was clear especially as I had booked three additional trips for 2016, Myrtle Beach in July, Green Bay in October and Fort Myers in December.


TSA’s on line site gave Long Islanders four choices where we could apply for pre check; Terminal C at LaGuardia, Terminal 4 at JFK, 781 Broadway in Brooklyn or Quality Plaza, 958, S Broadway, Hicksville, NY.


I chose Hicksville and entered the address into my GPS for a dry run. I saw the sign for “Quality Plaza” as the GPS announced that I reached my destination. A lousy strip mall, I thought to myself as I parked and doubtfully surveyed the scene: A workout center, a store for beading artists, a billiard supply store, a liquor store and a lingerie retailer. I searched for TSA but all I found at No. 958 was a place that specialized in verifying identification. To this day, I am not sure who they are but my credit card identifies them as: IdentoGo.


About half of the two dozen chairs were occupied as I entered. I took my turn to explain to the young woman behind the counter that I wanted to make an appointment. She gave me a number to call. I thanked her, walked out and made the call.


The following Monday, Mary Ann and I arrived at our appointed time to find a crowded office waiting for their turn. We both chose not to comment and wait and see. Despite the semi-mob scene, we were called by a young man in relatively short order. I asked him why he took us so soon and he replied, “You had a reservation.”


We used our passports as ID, answered all questions, submitted to electronic finger printing and paid $85 each for the search and a five year license, then left to wait for our approval.


Two days later the TSA confirmed to us by e mail that they…”reviewed your TSA PreCheck® application and determined you are eligible for TSA PreCheck® expedited screening.” The notice identified the site to use to retrieve the Known Traveler Number (KTN) and is short order I had both my and Mary Ann’s KTN.


What could have been a bureaucratic nightmare ended remarkably well! Now it was time to visit the DMV and please stay tuned.




Once Upon a Time in NYC

A recent profile of Joe Allen in The New York Times gave me pause for thought about the many West Side Manhattan eateries most now gone that once upon a time were part of my business life and essential to client entertainment. Several were Italian, some American, a few mixed Continental and, the most memorable, the French bistros.


Mr. Allen proprietor of the American restaurant featuring his name has been in business since 1965. Now 83, he also owns Orso and Bar Centrale located in attached brownstones. He owns the buildings and, in the old tradition, resides above his joints. Long live Joe Allen one of the few left standing.


Barbetta, also located along New York’s Restaurant Row on Forty-Sixth Street, has carried on since 1906 under the same family ownership. Laura Maioglio, the present grand dame continues the traditions that define Barbetta as one of New York City’s treasures. I have a soft spot for this overly formal establishment because it was there that my wife and I were first invited by my then boss, Charlie Robbins, and his wife, Paula, to join them for dinner and the theatre with visiting Lloyds brokers in the spring of 1974. In so doing, Charlie promoted us from the kid’s table.


Other famous Restaurant Row eateries still in existence include Broadway Joe’s, Becco, Café Athenee, Don’t Tell Mama, FireBird, Lattanzi, Le Rivage, and Ocha. Another old-school standard bearer, Maria’s Mont Blanc, continued to reside on West Forty-Eighth Street despite demolition of her original location and awful disputes with the current landlord. The indefatigable, Ms. Maria fought on, providing excellent yet eclectic Swiss-German-French cuisine before finally succumbing on May 31, 2016.


Regrettably, this closing wasn’t a one-off fate. Many of the traditional French bistros that blanketed the West Side of the Theatre District have succumbed to changing tastes, old age, loss of will by the founder’s off spring, mega-inflation in amount of their leases or the sale of the building for demolition and development.


These lost treasures include Chez Cardinale, Les Pyrenees, Du Midi, Rene Pujol and Pierre au Tunnel. Most opened in the late 40s or early 50s when French chefs and their families chose to leave their native country following the end of World War II. Having suffered through invasion and occupation; the end of the war offered continued post-war shortages, rationing and lack of opportunity. America beckoned.


New York’s Hells Kitchen became enriched as these war-torn immigrants made their way to this urban wasteland. When I wanted to have fun with an unsuspecting Brit or an out-of-town customer, I’d ask them: “Have you noticed how many really good French restaurants we have here in the Forties and just west of Eighth Avenue?”


When they replied, “Yes,” I’d say, “Well, if you walk west on Forty-Seventh Street or Forty-Eighth Street and go as far as you can without getting wet you will look up to behold you are in front of the French Line Pier.”


I’d give them a moment to think about before continuing, “Forsaking the old country and with family help, those frustrated chefs sailed to America on the SS Liberte and the Ile De France. After clearing immigration and customs, they’d walk east. By the time they crossed Ninth Avenue; enough was enough, so they’d say to the family members traveling with them; ‘This is where we open the restaurant.”


My colleague, Steve, introduced me to Chez Cardinale, my first bistro lunch home. The proprietors and staff were swell, the food good and the price reasonable so that I wasn’t abusing my expense account. My lasting memory of this restaurant came the day I turned over my fork for no particular reason only to see the following engraved on its stem, “Horn and Hardart.” I liberated the fork and have it to this day.


Pierre au Tunnel meant “fine dining” to me and several of my colleagues. Opened in 1950, Jacqueline and Jean-Claude Lincy ran a great restaurant. Women I worked with also loved the ambience and service. Michelle recalls with fondness: “Their onion soup introduced me to Gruyere cheeses that remains a favorite.” Louise adored their omelets and Lisa often said, “When I go there I feel like I’m on a date.”


My favorite dish was Chicken Cordon Bleu except in the early spring when Chad spawned in the Hudson and au Tunnel featured Chad and Chad row.


Somewhere in time and emotion the Pujol family split apart and Rene opened what became my all time favorite New York City bistro: Rene Pujol. Great food, great service, a wonderful setting, Rene was also a New York Giants football fan and if that wasn’t enough, he offered without surcharge, a private dining room and lounge above the restaurant where I hosted clients, celebrations and retirement dinners.


What a wonderful era. We all benefitted with these restaurateurs’ success: Only in America.









Six, Two and Even

Are you familiar with the expression, “six, two and even” or as it is also stated, “6 – 2, & even?” It’s cloaked in mystery and the key to solving it is missing.


Many people who know it trace first hearing it back to “Walpole” Joe Morgan, the life-long Red Sox organization manager, scout and coach. From 1988 to 1991, Morgan managed the Boston Red Sox and brought with him a down-to-earth; tell it like it is personality. When fired by Haywood Sullivan and other Sox executives, he left them with these parting words: “Your team is not as good as you think it is.”


How unique was Morgan? For about ten-years while he was in the Red Sox organization, he worked for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority driving a plow each winter earning him a second moniker: “Turnpike Joe.”


Shaun Clancy, the Manhattan saloon keeper and primo baseball aficionado shared this about Morgan: “Joe used it as code for any questions he didn’t want to answer or felt the asker didn’t need to know. It started at his first news conference when some of the writers were asking questions to try to make Joe look stupid so he used the phrase. No one called him out so he continued to use it.”


Rory Costello wrote about Morgan for the Society for Baseball Research:


Almost 20 years after he left the Red Sox, people still remember a Morgan catchphrase, “Six, two and even.” Many fans were baffled by what this meant – even Joe himself didn’t really know. Humphrey Bogart said it in The Maltese Falcon, but Morgan picked it up from his old minor-league manager, Joe Schultz (who was also full of little sayings).


Morgan told Costello: “(Schultz) used to say, ‘six, two and even’ all the time and when I asked him what it meant, he’d just shake his head. It wasn’t until I was out of baseball about 15 years that I met this old guy, he was 94, who was a bookmaker in the 1920s.” It refers to betting odds on horse races.


A number of horse racing folks will agree that it refers to the odds on a pony in a given race: Six to one to win, two to one to place (finish second) and even money to show (finish third.)


But others believe it has a more sinister nature describing when the odds on a horse to win a race drop from six to one down to two to one and finally to even just before post time signifying that the so called “smart money” has jumped on that nag and the fix is in.


That would explain why Humphrey Bogart’s used the term in the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon? I read that Bogart changed what was written in the script and I was able to locate a Warner Brothers’ document with the notation:  “FINAL VERSION (2nd re-make)” of that script. The term, 2nd re-make, referred to the fact that the Bogart film was the third version of the film. The first version opened in 1931, a the second in 1936.


In the 1941 film, Bogart played detective, Sam Spade. In a confrontational scene with Joel Cairo, (Peter Lorre) and Kasper Gutman, (Sydney Greenstreet), Spade turned to an un-named character simply referred to as “the boy” and, according to the script I perused, he was supposed to say: “Two to one they’re selling you out, son.”


Instead, Bogart changed the line and said: “Six, two and even, they’re selling you out, kid.” Perhaps Bogart believed this more forceful term revealed that the kid was being set up and trumped the more mundane of two to one odds?


There is also a Dick Tracy connection to this expression. For two years in 1961 and 1962, the same Chester Gould, who created the comic strip in 1937, produced an animated show for television. On the show whenever Tracy or one of his assistants finished their wristwatch telephone conversation, they signed off with: “Six, two and even, over and out.”


Perhaps, like Joe Morgan, Gould liked the rhythm of the expression? Curiously, Gould used it to describe a more level playing field where circumstances are as they should be, the planets and stars are in alignment and Mother Nature is at peace. “Six, two and even, over and out” in Gould’s use translates to “all is well.”


The mystery of its origin remains unsolved. If you have a theory, I can direct you where to express it.


Shaun Clancy adopted this expression to invite people to come and enjoy life at his saloon; Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant where he states that, Foley’s is: An Irish Bar with a Baseball Attitude Where Everything is 6 – 2 & Even.