John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: October, 2016

Pipeline from the Gods

Most people consider the need for underground pipelines to be somewhere between necessary or unnecessary evils. Something we need but: “Not in my backyard.”


They’re dirty, transport oil, gas, chemicals and other icky things and they can and do leak. Their only defense is being damn-well less dangerous than transporting that icky stuff by rail, truck or barge. Still, they arouse the wrath of environmentalists, ranchers, farmers, Native Americans and Uncle. The Obama administration has spent most of its time in office employing procedural mumbo-jumbo to stall the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Standing Rock Sioux, neighboring tribes and activists have practically gone to battle to stop construction of the North Dakota Pipeline.


There is considerable pipeline hostility out there.


But there is an exception, a pipeline from the gods, applauded by all save a silly few, that moves 1,000 gallons of beer an hour two miles from the brewery to the bottling plant cleanly and safely. This magnificent “miracle” of engineering opened last month in the medieval city of Bruges, Belgium.


Bruges is a beautiful city celebrated by its advocates:


Gorgeous Bruges is a tourist’s dream. This is Belgium’s most perfectly preserved medieval town, and its jaw-dropping, beautiful architecture attracts more than two million visitors every year. If you’re short of time on your Belgium travels, Bruges should be your number one stop. With its wealth of interesting old buildings and its canals, Bruges still retains a distinct medieval air.


 Anyone taking a walk through the narrow streets or a boat trip on the canals falls

Immediately under its spell, charmed by the atmosphere of what is for many the most delightful of all the cities of Flanders (the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium). Because the center of Bruges is comparatively small, even those with only a day to spend sightseeing can expect to take away a good idea of all the major attractions. Essential viewing should definitely include at least the main square with the belfry, the Burg with the Basilica of the Holy Blood, and a trip on the canals.


Located within its “warren of narrow streets” sits the 500-year-old De Halve Maan (The Half Moon) brewery. This ancient plant is surrounded by historical buildings making expansion impossible. The brewery was forced to locate its modern bottling plant on the city’s outskirts. Tanker trucks operated a shuttle service clogging the tight city streets. Brewery president, Xavier Vanneste thought up the idea of a pipeline and four years later it is a reality.


Engineering and construction were not easily accomplished. The pipeline material could not contaminate the beer possibly ruining the taste or, worst case, poisoning the customers. It had to snake under ancient streets and buildings dug by a computer-guided drill “to create a 1.3-foot wide hole.”


Some buildings are so fragile that engineers had to drill deep underground so as not to disturb them. To thread the pipe through these depths, the engineers assembled 650-foot sections before inserting them whole under the ground. Since Bruges’ winding lanes and alleys couldn’t accommodate this length of pipe, the engineers assembled these sections by floating them on the city’s canals.


While the bulk of $4.5 million pipeline was paid for by the brewery, Mr. Vanneste successfully raised a total of $325,000 from more than 500 subscribers over the internet by offering beer in return.


Top tier donations of $8,500 brought one 33cl bottle of Brugse Zot Blond every day for the rest of the subscriber’s life.


$1,000 bought one 24 bottle case of beer a year for life.


The cheapest category, $300, comes with one presentation bottle of 75cl of Brugse Zot Blond each year on the subscriber’s birthday.


Truly a pipeline to love and in case you are wondering, the builders swear that it is tamper proof, but only time will tell…

The Delach Pilgrimage to Lambeau

Early in February, 1991, serendipitous circumstances enabled me to make my first road trip and witness the Giants beat the Bills, 20-19 at Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Florida.. Bitten by the call of the road, I have made almost two dozen football trips since then including two additional super bowls; XXXV and XLII. I’ve followed the New York Football Giants to  Chicago, Miami, St. Louis, Phoenix, Kansas City, St. Louis, San Francisco, New Orleans, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Seattle, San Diego, Houston and Dallas; some of these destinations multiple times.


Like the Johnny Cash song…I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere…well, almost everywhere but not Green Bay. It wasn’t for lack of effort or desire. Various factors conspired to prevent me from making it to a Giants away game at the home of the Packers.


When I first viewed the 2016 schedule, my heart sank. As expected, my team had a game in Green Bay and it was in October, prime football weather. But it was on a Sunday night and I despise night games. Another away game in London grabbed my attention but the reality of time needed and the cost eliminated it from consideration. Two others may have worked but a nagging thought whispered: How many more shots at Lambeau will you have?


I decided to pass this idea by my travel partner, my son, Michael, but just as I was about to call him, another light bulb illuminated my mind. I put down the phone to ask Mary Ann her opinion:  “The Giants are playing in Green Bay on October 9 and I’d like to include Drew and Matt. What do you think?”


“Do it, the boys will love it,” Mary Ann replied.


And so, the four of us arrived at the Radisson in Appleton, Wisconsin just after 11PM on Friday night, October 7. Mike had driven the rental two-hours from Milwaukee following an uneventful Southwest flight from LaGuardia. Matt (14) stayed with me and Drew (16) bunked with his dad. We wolfed down two late night pizzas before hitting the sack.


Appleton is a college town 31 miles southwest of Green Bay. The Radisson has a solid reputation for privacy. Visiting NFL teams stay there which is why, The Giants Road Crew, our travel service, put us up there.


The weekend was all Lambeau oriented most of the time. Buses left at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon for a guided tour of this exquisite football palace.


Lambeau opened as a simple bowl in 1957 seating 38,000. It has retained its charm despite multiple renovations and additions that expanded capacity to 81,000. The original bowl was extended up and out while seating remained unchanged; backless aluminum bleachers. The entire circumference behind these bleaches has been walled off by a series of dark green structures containing club seats, luxury boxes, restaurants, reception areas broadcast and media centers. Bright gold paint highlights the aisles, railings and other fixtures providing a bright contrast to the forest green background. A perfect place to watch a football game.


A reception and buffet dinner inside Lambeau’s atrium followed a visit to the gift shop later that evening. While not exactly a culinary triumph, the choice of food sufficed thanks to an open bar.


Game time activities began the next day with a 2:30PM departure and a three-hour private tent party outside the stadium. The crowd surrounding us grew in a typical tailgate fashion and treated us with friendliness and polite humor. This experience continued as we entered the bowl. I had been warned to rent a padded seat with an attached backrest that hooked under the bleacher which I obtained from a sweet lady for $6.00. She advised, “You don’t have to return it. Just leave it on the bench.”


Like other concessions, these rentals are operated by charities who supply the man-power and keep 10% of the profits in return. The crowd remained friendly throughout and from my perspective, every Giants fan I saw behaved in like manner. Two young women who consented to have a photo taken with me did ask how New Yorkers compared to them. I couldn’t resist using this explanation: “How many New Yorkers does it take to change a light bulb? None of your f***ing business.” Their genuine laughter was my reward.


It was not the Giants night and the Packers cruised to a relatively easy 23-16 win to the delight of the home town crowd who happily chanted “Go Pack, Go” whenever cued to do so. As we worked our way to the exit, two local women offered their condolences to the boys. I reminded one that it was okay and only a football game.


Dawn witnessed the start of our return trip that was seamless and without drama.


On arrival at LaGuardia, it didn’t take long to lose Lambeau’s friendly aura. Michael alerted the off-site parking dispatcher that we were ready for pick-up. She directed us to the upper deck island outside Southwest. As we approached it, our Giants garb caught the attention of the uniformed attendant stationed there keeping traffic moving:


You at that game? Thought so; what is wrong with Eli? Damn, he’s too long in the league to play like that. What is up with those spiked balls, little baby passes? He knows better than that, he does. He’s gotta do better or we gonna have a long season.


Answering his challenges was not an option, but Drew noted: “Ah, New York anger, I missed that; I’m glad to be home.”


Amen, Brother Drew, amen.

Waze: You’re Driving Me Crazy

If you use the traffic / navigational app, Waze, and live anywhere in the New York Metropolitan area, you know that using this app. up or down the I-95 corridor or to travel between New Jersey and Long Island is the equivalent of taking a rubber mallet and striking the side of your head repeatedly.


This Twenty-First Century electronic wonder is without a doubt a superb tool in other parts of the land of US, but in an area as congested as the place I call home, “It’s like the little girl with the strawberry curl; when it’s good it’s good but when it’s bad it’s awful.”


I find Waze guilty, but with an explanation. Simply put, Waze works when confronted with real choices. It’s just not designed to cope with the insane volume of traffic matriculating its way over the bridges, through the tunnels and attempting to transit these obsolete and inadequate highways we confront. Waze can’t deal with our chaos, but it must. So when traffic is FUBAU (F***ed Up Beyond All Understanding) it makes bad choices. Waze doesn’t understand urban areas.


On a recent trip from New Jersey to Long Island, Waze realized the Cross Bronx Expressway (I-95) was at a complete stop…Mayday, mayday, mayday: It has us bail at University Avenue in the eastern Bronx; fight grid-lock to go north to East Tremont Avenue where we entered an urban slog westward bound to Arthur Avenue fighting crossing traffic along the way. At Arthur Avenue, it directed us back to the Cross Bronx.


Admittedly, the road was clear at this point. It is interesting to note though, as we crossed the Throgs Neck Bridge, my cousin, Bob, passed us. Later, I asked Bob, “How did you get to the bridge?”


He said, “Stayed on the Cross-Bronx!”


Case closed.


Like Sergeant Joe Friday said: “The facts and only the facts.”


The last new tunnel to cross the Hudson River to Manhattan was the third tube of the Lincoln Tunnel that opened in 1957. The last bridge between NJ and NYC was the lower deck of the George Washington Bridge that opened in 1962. The Throgs Neck Bridge (1961) from the Bronx to Queens and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (1965) from Staten Island to Brooklyn were the last two bridges built to connect Long Island to the mainland.


These last two bridges were Robert Moses’ triumphs, the Verrazano his last hurrah. The master builder grew old, politics, environmental concerns and popular attitudes passed him by. His last stand, a cross-Long Island Sound bridge from Bayville, Long Island to Rye in Westchester County died on the drawing board.


And so it goes. We live on an island with a 1960s infrastructure. We modernize highways, add HOV lanes, better traffic patterns, introduced EZpass and other computerized improvements, but the fact remains; today’s bridge and tunnel traffic must use the exact number of lanes used in 1965.


So how is that working out? In 1965, 880,575 vehicles crossed all of our toll bridges on a daily basis. In 2015, the figure was 1,453,585.


I admit, Waze, recently did well by my family to avoid congestion allowing us to reach a funeral in Ramsey NJ in time. We left Port Washington at 8 AM for a 10 AM service only to discover all regular crossings through the Bronx or Manhattan were overwhelmed. Waze bypassed congestion by weaving us through the Bronx, Westchester County and over the Tappan Zee, (Malcolm Wilson,) Bridge, onto the NY Throughway to Suffern and back south on Route 17 to Ramsey where we arrived at 9:41.


However, two days later, it took me through every part of Fort Lee I never wanted to see on a slow, painful ride home from an awful loss by my beloved Giants to the hated Redskins at Met Life Stadium. I quit: I do no Waze no more:


Stupid Waze / Stupid Giants!





One Hundred Fifty Edition

October 13, 2016 marks the third anniversary since I began this blog and this is my 150th edition. I first penned, “Through the Heartland,” in 2001 and I included it in my 2011 anthology, “The Big Orange Dog and Other Stories.” I love it and have edited it since then tweaking this and that. Perhaps this is the final edition? In any event, I present it to celebrate these two mile-stones:


Through the Heartland


Ten hours out of Chicago, the sun outraces the train as it sets across the flat, western horizon. Nighttime has come to the Great Plains and Kansas speeds by under the brilliance of countless stars shining across a clear, prairie July sky. Blackened fields, silhouetted by a three-quarter moon, stretch out to meet the stars at the horizon.


He sits alone in the dome car of a westbound Santa Fe Chief, staggered by the scenery, unable to sleep. At 17 it is all too much, too grand to miss. Reaching into his shirt pocket for his cigarettes, he launches one out of the pack and into his mouth with a practiced skill. Clicking open his Zippo, he strikes the wheel and lights another Marlboro. In a few minutes, his eyes adjust to the darkness of the dome car lighted only by muted bulbs outlining the aisle and the glow of his cigarette.


Both the fields and the sky draw his attention and his thoughts wander with them. This is the furthest he has ever been from home and each mile he travels opens the distance. Ahead lays Oklahoma, the deserts of New Mexico, the mountains of Arizona and the Continental Divide. He remembers the exhilaration earlier that day when the train crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri and the West. What about his destination, Riverside, California? What will he discover there, what will he discover about himself? The process began earlier that day when he fell into the company of a group of sailors straight out of the Great Lakes Training Center on their way to join the Seventh Fleet. They treated him as an equal, playing cards and drinking beer. He’s already changing although he cannot explain it.


He becomes part of the rhythm and motion of the train united with the darkness, the Luna landscape and the stars.


Suddenly, he’s startled by a visual jolt. In the distance there is a light. “No, it is not, but wait, it is a light, a street light. I’ll be damned.”


It passes. “Hold on” he thinks, “here comes another one.” It is about a mile down the track. Then another and another, the intervals between light poles drawing closer and closer together until a small town appears, a few buildings, a gas station, some others, maybe stores or a post office, all illuminated as if to hold back the sea of night.


It passes in a blur. Blackness returns as the gaps between streetlights lengthens and lengthens until they are no more.


Only Kansas at night returns once again.


“Wow.” Lighting up another Marlboro, he returns to his fascination with the magic of it all…Sleep will have to wait. “What will come next?”