John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: July, 2016

“The Best Laid Plans…”

Earlier this month, Mary Ann and I hosted a family vacation for all eleven of the members of our three families at Hilton’s resort in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Being a typical beach vacation, activities included sunning, swimming, exercise, eating, drinking, reading and sleeping; repeated daily. Borrowing a term from my friend, Jim Hagelow, “We broke even. By the end of the week everyone was still speaking to each other.”


The five Connecticut Delaches and the four Brooklyn Briggs drove the 550 to 600 miles each way whereas we two seniors flew on American Airlines. Well, not exactly American Airlines as our outbound flights was on a Canadair CL-65 regional jet  belonging to American Eagle and operated by Air Wisconsin still with US Air markings. It left almost on time, it actually arrived early and our checked luggage appeared with a minimal wait.


We checked into all three rooms early, stocked them with supplies and ordered pizza to be on hand when our families arrived.


Myrtle Beach was under a stationary heat dome that brought hot, humid air to most of the East Coast from Florida north to New York. This included daily afternoon and/or evening thunderstorms. By Friday morning I was concerned enough these storms could disrupt our north bound flight scheduled to depart at 3 PM that I mentioned this to Mary Ann during our walk along the beach that morning. “I did some checking when I woke up today and we could change plans and leave around nine or ten tomorrow morning if we were willing to pay the extra charge and make a stop in Cleveland or Philadelphia. Also we’d arrive at about 2:30 instead of 5 PM.


Mary Ann liked the idea and I changed our flights even though it cost an additional $362 for the two of us. We changed the car pickup service meeting us at LaGuardia (LGA) and arranged for a taxi to take us from the hotel to the airport at 7:30 the next morning. We said goodbye to our families after dinner on Friday night and they hit the road between 5AM and 6 AM.


We arrived at the airport at about 7:45 to discover that our 9:34 flight to Philadelphia had been pushed back to 10:10. That was okay though as we still had plenty of time to make the Philadelphia to (LGA) flight scheduled to leave at 1:40 PM. However when departure time was pushed back again to 10:40, I decided I’d better find an American representative to see what options we had. I found a friendly rep named Sally who began to work with us. At first Sally thought it was a minor problem and we’d still have time to make the connection, but just in case, also re-booked us on our original non-stop afternoon flight. When the time slipped for a third time we made the switch as she couldn’t find open seats on another connecting flight to New York.


It was now only about 9 AM giving us five hours to kill and we did beginning with watching our fellow passengers scramble when the delayed flight was cancelled about 10 minutes after we made our switch. We also watched a parade of Spirit and Delta bound LGA flights load and leave while we sat around and waited. After lunch the weather began to change and cloud formations developed and moved in. I watched one outbound jet make a wide sweeping turn just after takeoff to avoid a formation closing in on the airport’s perimeter. Our plane arrived just before the heavens opened to a cacophony of wind, lightning and thunder.


My mood began to darken until I saw identical American Eagle regional jet push back, head to end of the runway and take off in the storm. Better yet, the storm subsided by the time we boarded allowing for an early departure. As we entered the jet way, Sally said, “It’s about time you two left my airport.” I rejoined over my shoulder, “I’ve been thrown out of better airports than this one.”


The flight was uneventful until we reached the New York area but our descent into LGA included both planned and unplanned descents with several disconcerting drops. We didn’t relax until the wheels were on the ground.


Our earth bound road trip families made it home just about an hour after we did and so it goes.

The LIRR Meets the 21st Century

Glory be; I could not believe my eyes as I opened the Wednesday, July 6th edition of Newsday! But there it was in black & white, the LIRR had begun to use electronic tickets that very week on the Port Washington branch (my line) and Governor Andrew Cuomo had guaranteed that it would be available on all branches and on Metro North’s systems by the end of the summer.


I quickly went to the app, MTAetix, downloaded it to my IPhone, registered and purchased a round trip senior off peak ticket for my planned lunch planned for the following Thursday with Mike Scott and my son at Foley’s.


To explain the momentous occasion of this event please indulge me in a brief history of the LIRR’s ticketing policies. When I first began commuting between Port Washington and New York’s Pennsylvania Station in 1977 passengers had to hand their tickets to the crew member assigned to that car who hand punched a hole in the ticket’s appropriate place to signify it had been seen. Monthly tickets, then the same size as a dollar bill actually had 64 spaces, 32 on each side that the conductor punched every trip. These tickets also identified the commuter by sex as the “M’ or “F” box was also punched at the start of each month. (This would frustrate teenage daughters who used their father’s tickets for weekend jaunts to the city.)


You can imagine how ragged these tickets became near the end of the month. Over time, the process was simplified to eight boxes. Even though you still had to show it twice a day every day, the conductor only punched it once a week on days that were changed randomly. Identification by sex also disappeared after years of protests.


July 7th was to be the dawn of a new era for me. I practiced at home how to use the app and press the right buttons to display my new ticket but I didn’t activate it as I correctly sensed it had a time element. Being anal, I also carried my old paper ten-trip ticket with one ride remaining just in case. When the conductor entered the car soon after we pulled out of Port Washington, I opened the app, activated the ticket and found the bar code for scanning. As she approached me, punch in hand, I said, “Today I am attempting to enter the electronic age” as I showed my phone to her.


“Oh,” she said, “I can’t scan that. Can you show me the ticket and not the bar code?”


I did and she said thanks. As she went to leave, I asked, “Why can’t you scan it.”


“No scanner.” She replied. “They haven’t given most of us those yet. But I know what to look for and the ticket will expire in a couple of hours.”


The same thing happened on my return ride later that afternoon. So much for technology but I did have fun showing my electronic ticket to three cute Manhasset bound college coeds. They were impressed and one actually said to me, “Wow, you are really tech savvy.”


Needless to say I was relieved that she didn’t complete that sentence with…”for an old fart.” or if she was a bit kinder…”for someone your age.”


“Dedicated to the One I Love”

Being a long time Linda Ronstadt fan, I added her Dedicated to the One I Love CD to my collection soon after it was released in 1996. Also known by her fans as, “The Lullaby Album,” the eleven songs on the CD were all reinterpreted by Ms Ronstadt into children’s lullabies.


I readily admit that I was moved as I listened to her sing songs like “Be My Baby,” “Devoted to You,” “Angel Baby,” and even Brian May’s classic punk rock kick-ass hit, “We Will Rock You.”  She transformed this attack rant into a quiet soothing melody going so far to replace the drum movements with the sound of a beating human heart. The thought occurred to me; what a delightful gift to give to a woman expecting her first baby?


I’m not certain who the first woman was to whom I presented this gift but it was so well received that over the years I must have performed this right of passage about two dozen times for family members, women in business, friends, neighbors and, in a few instances, as the result of a serendipitous encounter. My plan was to present my gift as soon as I could after a woman publicly revealed she was pregnant for the first time. I never tired of presenting Linda Ronstadt’s CD because of the positive and thankful feedback I received from these women who shared their joy of playing Ms Ronstadt’s songs both before and after the birth of their first child. It lit me up like a Christmas tree.


The only semi-off-response I ever received came from a neighbor. I had left the CD on their doorstep in an envelope with an appropriate note. When next the young woman saw me, she took me aside, thanked me; then added: “You know my husband and I don’t like her politics but I’ll keep it anyway as you did a nice thing.”


My source of supply for several years was the mega-Virgin record store in Times Square my source for restocking Ms Ronstadt’s CD from their inventory. One time, I found they were out of stock so I ordered three copies which arrived in short order. When the Virgin store closed, I ordered new batches on line through Amazon. These CDs came from Rhino Flashback Records who began releasing this CD as a vintage recording in 2009. (You know you are old when they consider your favorite artist to be “vintage”.)


Alas, the electronic music revolution overtook my gift-giving concept leaving me with three un-opened copies with no place to go. Expecting mothers didn’t know from CDs any longer.


Oh well, it was a joy while it lasted especially due to one particular memory thanks to my old friend, Geoff Jones. While residing in Pleasantville, NY in the late 1990s, Geoff found himself shopping at Home Depot one Saturday afternoon.


“I was wearing a Marsh & McLennan baseball cap that you had given to me. A fellow shopper, a bit older than me, stopped to ask if I worked at Marsh?


‘No, no, I don’t, this hat was given to me by a friend of mine who works there.’


‘Well,’ he replied, ‘My daughter, Jana, worked there for many years before she had her daughter. When Jana announced it to her friends, her boss found out and you know what he did? He left the office and went to a record store to buy her some album of lullabies, came back and gave it to her. I have never heard of a boss doing something like that.’


‘Was his name John Delach?’


‘Yes, but how do you know that?’


He’s the guy who gave me the hat.”



(I will be traveling next week and I will resume my blog on Wednesday July 20.)