John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: March, 2017

The Misery of Flight: Spring 2017

I have a stock answer to anyone who asks: “What would you do if you won an obscene amount of cash in the Powerball or Mega Millions lotteries?”


I reply, “Don’t ask me what I would do, ask me what I would never do again.”


My answer: “I would never fly commercial again!”


Our flight on March 11 to Las Vegas on Jet Blue Airlines was scheduled for a 4:55 PM departure from JFK with an arrival at 7:52 PM Pacific Standard Time, (10:52 PM EST.) Before we even left our home for a 2 PM pick-up, Jet Blue informed us that departure had been delayed until 6:23. Naturally, we’d already booked our car service so off to JFK we went. Making the best of it, we sat down for an early dinner during which a new Jet Blue alert pushed departure to 6:48. That subsequently became 6:58 and finally 7:30.


There is much to observe in an airline terminal when you have seemingly endless time on your hands. To begin with, security could have been a nightmare. It was jammed with passengers snaking their way through multiple switchbacks that led to inspection stations. Fortunately, we have TSA pre-check so we breezed through. But 95% of the passengers checking in that day did not. Mary Ann pointed out, “Of course they don’t. Look at them; they’re college kids on spring break.”


Being a punctual person, it amazed me how casual late arriving passengers can be. The attendants managing the gate adjacent to our waiting area almost begged passengers by name that “last call” had been announced and that they had to board now. Still, about five minutes later, all four of these passengers chose to make their seemingly relaxed appearance, presented their boarding passes and boarded as if this was the natural way to act. Had that been me, I’d be in the heart center or the psyche ward!


As the afternoon began to darken into evening, a man quietly joined me and sat down in a remote corner off to the side. I didn’t notice him until he placed paper towels on the rug, removed his shoes and placed his stocking feet on the tissues. He quietly recited his evening prayers without any drama or fuss. I afforded him his privacy and he cleaned up and left when he finished.


A short while later, a woman sat down in the boarding area. She was totally absorbed in a loud conversation via her mobile phone until at one point she noticed her surroundings.  She abruptly ended the call and asked an attendant what time her flight would leave from that gate. Looking perplexed, he answered, “It has already departed from a different gate.”


Faced with the realization that she had talked her way into missing her flight, her only response was: “When is the next flight?”


Our flight, (would you believe #711,) left shortly after 7:30 and finally arrived in Vegas about 10:15 PST, (1:15 EST.) We collected our three bags; rode the bus to McCarran Airport’s consolidated car rental facility, selected an auto and made it to Hilton’s Elara Hotel by 11:30 PST.


Nearly dead on our feet, we arrived at the hotel only to enter a different world filled with a multitude of young, nubile women on their way out to participate in Vegas’ Saturday night scenes. Heavy make-up and eye liner set the tone as did their platforms and stilettos. They wore competing, revealing and incredibly tight miniscule dresses or micro skirts that screamed, “Look at me.” They quickly yet delicately crammed their bodies into waiting stretch- limos and SUVs that whisked them away into the night. Welcome to Vegas; what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.


Our stay was considerably less lively, a stay that included two visits to Lake Mead for a cruise a visit to Hoover Dam and a hike along the old rail trail that included walking through five tunnels..


As an aside, on Thursday, I received a notice from American Airlines that a non-stop flight I had reserved for June 10 from Tucson, AZ to JFK had been cancelled and I was being re-routed via Phoenix. My five-hour flight would now take eight hours!


I thought about my new dilemma with American when we returned to McCarran for our flight home. No need to guess, our New York flight was a repeat of 711. Jet Blue #748’s take-off time of 2:10 PM was delayed in increments until 3:35.


I used part of Jet Blue’s problem to work on my American problem and managed to arrange better flights that hopefully will shorten that trip to six hours. I noted to Mary Ann: “You have to admit that things are really screwed up when you spend one airline’s snafu taking care of another airline’s snafu.”


Our fellow passengers were understandably subdued coming off Vegas stays.


As we began to board at 3:25, we received a new electronic notice delaying it until 4:10. This notice was too late to stop the process. Since the staff had commenced boarding, the crew was officially on–the-clock and Jet Blue had no choice but to complete the boarding, clear the gate and park in a penalty box until Air Traffic Control (ATC) released us. The pilot was as frustrated as we passengers and actually announced over the PA: “I’m not kidding, if any of you know someone who is an ATC, call them and see if they can get us out of this mess.”


Flight 748 finally reached JFK at 11:55 PM EDST. As passengers stood and prepared to exit the airplane, the captain had one more surprise: “Ladies and gentlemen, it appears there is a problem with the Jetway. They can’t get it to make contact with the airplane and a repair crew is on its way.”


Twenty-minutes later the hatch finally opened freeing us to go to baggage claim to find our luggage. Thankfully, our driver was waiting but we didn’t reach home until about 1:15.


No mas, por favor, no mas.



The Almost Blizzard of 2017

You may ask: “How was the great blizzard of 2017?”

“How in hell should I know! Mary Ann and I were in Vegas having flown out on Saturday, March 11 for a week-long stay.” (In case you were wondering, Vegas’ week’s weather was sunny in the mid-80s.)

While it’s impossible to completely avoid the hype from a storm of this significance, it is considerably more comfortable to observe it vicariously from a distance. The hype actually began the previous Wednesday when meteorologists first reported conditions for a possible nor’easter were developing in the Southwest. The Jet Stream had setup in a perfect position to accelerate a storm up the East Coast and by Saturday a second storm, this an Alberta Clipper, was racing across the Midwest on a timetable to meet the nor’easter late Monday night or early Tuesday morning. “Gotterdammerung,” headlines proclaimed, “all is lost,” “pray for salvation” and even, “the sky is falling.”

Doom overshadowed New York City; impassable roads, railroads and subways in shambles, airports shut-all flights cancelled. Forecasters were so certain of a direct hit that airlines abandoned even the attempt of flying to cities on the East Coast from DC to Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York and as far north as Providence, Boston and Portland. Airlines abandoned these cities and parked their planes in benign locations to wait out the snow.

“What me worry?” We were in the catbird seat. Our return flight was not until Saturday and by then order was sure to be restored. Curiously, we discovered we were not alone in having left Dodge while the getting out was good.

Our neighbors, Rob and Linda K had also hightailed it on early Sunday morning; destination, St. Thomas, VI. Their absence, especially Rob’s, from snowmageddon could be critical to the well-being of our neighbors on Roger Drive. Linda’s big gift for Rob last Christmas was a powerful two-stroke snow blower, a gift that has remained mostly idle this winter. The exception, a single February double-digit snow fall provided Rob the opportunity to show his stuff and show it he did clearing three different neighbors’ driveways and sidewalks. Rob became the savior of Roger Drive and in a burst of enthusiasm, he vowed to keep these neighbors clear for what remained of this winter season. St. Thomas versus snowmageddon: the winner – St. Thomas. Good luck neighbors, you’ll need it.


We declined Rob’s generous offer. A 2012 hip replacement ended my macho-man plowing days forever and I signed on with an all around handy man and good guy, Roberto, who has saved us every time Mother Nature blasted Port Washington. Thanks to Roberto, we expect go home to a plowed driveway, steps and sidewalk.


The third group of escapees was AWOL, absent without leave. This merry band, Frankie D, Frankie C. and Mikey S. were marooned on Sanibel Island, FL until Friday. They were scheduled to return to New York / New Jersey on Monday evening  from their annual golf trip but received a text message from Jet Blue that afternoon cancelling their flight. AWOL, indeed! Jet Blue’s only alternative; remain in Sanibel until Friday. While not as warm and sunny as Las Vegas or St. Thomas, the Sanibel forecast was high 60s for this week. Not too shabby especially for golf.


I shared the following text message with the gang of three on Tuesday morning: “Boys, looks like you caught the best break of your lives. Enjoy, as, of course, you know this is your last boy’s winter golf-outing, ever. Lynn (Mike’s wife) and Suzanne (Frankie D’s) will be genuinely and perpetually pissed off by the time to get your asses home.”


(Frankie C is single and has an apartment in Stuyvesant Town so he is golden.)


So what happened? In case you missed it, snowmageddon was a near-miss. The storm took a 50-mile dog leg to the west brushing the metropolitan area as it crossed on a diagonal from the southwest to the northeast instead of hitting head on. Two to six inches of snow dropped on southern New Jersey, New York City, Long Island and coastal Connecticut before turning into a messy mixture of sleet, freezing rain and plain rain.


A blame-game followed as mayors, governors, forecasters and transportation experts harrumphed and pointed fingers while the media ducked and weaved and denied over-hyping the event.


I did find one realistic explanation: Tom King, a meteorologist explained: “The storm is there, the precipitation is there – the amount of precipitation is there. The people in eastern Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey, southern (upstate) New York and (most of) Connecticut – they are getting walloped.”


And so it goes…


The Land of Fruit and Nuts

Day after day, more people come to L.A.

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 the boat in Idaho.


Do you know the swim, you better learn quick Jim.

If you don’t know the swim, better sing the hymn.


By Shango


Have you heard about “Calexit?” I’m not sure when first conceived or its prime mover but this movement to secede from the land of US really gained momentum after Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States. If Mecca exists for the “Trump Is Not My President” crowd, it is without question the Golden State. And well it should be. After all Hillary clobbered The Donald by almost 4,270 million votes in the land of fruit and nuts. Since she also outgained him by almost 1,733 million in New York, this meant that The Donald bested her by 3,138 million votes in the remaining 48 states.


This head shaker of a divide finally gave credence to a point I made many years ago to a visiting Brit. Way back in 1975, I played guide for Roger on his first trip to the states. His next stop after New York was San Francisco and I explained to him over dinner: “You will fly about five hours non-stop and all that time you will be over the rest of our country. It is important that you never confuse New York or California with what you flew over as that is the United States of America.”


Our past election has stunned the Left Coast, shocking folks and raising Calexit’s profile. People are fit to be tied bordering on hysteria. They want out. I kid you not. In fact, California’s Secretary of State, Alex Padillo, cleared the “# Calexit Independence Referendum” crowd to begin collecting signatures on January 26. They have 180 days from that date to collect the required 585,407 valid signatures from registered voters to place a proposition on the 2018 ballot. The clock is ticking and I estimate their cutoff date to be July 21, 2017.


The Los Angeles Times set out what follows:  If the measure… “gains approval by a majority of voters, it would repeal clauses in the California Constitution stating that the state is an ‘inseparable part of the United States’ and that the U.S. Constitution is the ‘supreme law of the land,’ according to the title and summary prepared by the state attorney general’s office.


Approval…”would (also) place another question on the ballet in 2019, asking, whether California should become a separate country. If at least half the registered voters participate in the vote, with at least 55% of those voting to approve, the results would be treated as California’s declaration of independence.” That vote would be scheduled for March 5, 2019.


The #Calexit crowd argues: “As the sixth largest economy in the world, California is more economically powerful than France and has a population larger than Poland. Point by point, California compares and competes with countries, not just the 49 other states.”


“In our view, the United States of America represents so many things that conflict with Californian values…” (Emphasis added.)


They go on to make “Nine Simple Points” to make their case. I invite you to examine this combination of new speak, P.C. and left-wing mumbo-jumbo at “” but here is part of Point 1. Peace and Security: “The only reason terrorists might want to attack us is because we are part of the United States and are guilty by association.”


I pray the Supreme Deity that put all the oil in the Middle East, let the Mets win the 1969 and 1986 World Series, the NY Football Giants win Super Bowls XXV, XLII and XLVI, and the Patriots to win their improbable Super Bowl really exists. I fall down on my knees pleading for one more improbable miracle:


Lord: Let the fruit and nuts go!


Picture the 2020 election: “The Senate would have two fewer Democrats. The House of Representatives would lose 38 Democrats and just 14 Republicans. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, among the most liberal in the nation, would be changed irrevocably.”


May I be so bold to suggest my choice for the first Commissar of the Peoples Collective of California?


May I have the envelope: “Oh my God it’s: Comrade Nancy Pelosi.”


No, wait, there’s been a mistake:


Our first commissar is really Comrade Maxine Waters.


Author’s note: “On The Out Side Looking In,” will not appear on March 15 and will resume on March 22. 







Rube Goldberg

Brain freeze, a senior moment, memory lock; call it what we will. They are annoying and frustrating to say the least. Recently, I awoke thinking about goofy inventions or ideas and for the life of me I couldn’t recall the tag commonly used to refer to them. I knew it was a person’s name but other than that…a complete blank. Shout out to the internet. A quick trip to Google, type in, “Name for goofy inventions,” and as if by magic: “Rube Goldberg.”


Here is my dictionary’s definition: “Adjective: accomplishing by complex means what seemingly could be done simply – example: A kind of Rube Goldberg contraption.”


Not clear enough? Here is an expanded explanation: “A Rube Goldberg machine is a contraption, invention, device or apparatus that is deliberately over-engineered to perform a simple task in a complicated fashion. Over the years it has expanded to mean any confusing or complicated system. For example, news headlines include: Is Rep. Bill Thomas the Rube Goldberg of Legislative Reform? and Retirement Insurance is a Rube Goldberg machine.”


Mr. Goldberg (1883-1970) was a prolific cartoonist who drew over 50,000 cartoons and comic strips. While he is most remembered for his wacky ideas, he did have a serious side.  He earned a Pulitzer Prize for the cartoon: “COLD WAR: 1948, Peace Today.” It pictures a post-World War II American suburban home perched on top of an enormous atomic bomb. A couple sits outside in their yard under an umbrella oblivious to living on a bomb or that the bomb is teetering over an abyss labeled “World Destruction.”


However, it is the concept expressed in his serendipitous cartoons and explanations that define him in the American experience. Copyright restrictions prevent me from reproducing one of his classic cartoons, the “Self-Operating Napkin.” Please allow me to attempt to explain the image:


Professor Butts sits at a table before a bowl of soup, spoon in hand. He is wearing a collar around his head that supports a number of platforms. These platforms hold various objects including a parrot, a pail, a cigarette lighter, a sky rocket and a pendulum holding a napkin. The pendulum is attached to the bottom of a clock and held in place by a string.


A different string is attached to the professor’s soup spoon.


As he raises the spoon of soup to his mouth, the motion jerks the string launching a cracker in the direction of the parrot. Parrot jumps after cracker spilling seeds from its perch into the pail. The extra weight pulls another string opening and igniting the lighter setting the rocket’s fuse on fire. As the rocket takes off, a sickle attached to it cuts the string holding the pendulum in check. The pendulum, now free, swings back and forth with the movement of the clock’s second hand thereby wiping off the professor’s chin. Mr. Goldberg noted in his caption: “After the meal, substitute a harmonica for the napkin and you’ll be able to entertain the guests with a little music.”


Confused? Look up: “Rube Goldberg’s Self-Operated Napkin.”


While the expression: Rube Goldberg is unique to North America, Wikipedia notes that the concept is fairly widespread. In Australia, wacky machines are called Bruce Petty. In Austria, they are known as Franz Gsellmann, in Great Britain, Heath Robinson contraption, and in Denmark, Storm P maskiner, after Robert Storm Petersen. All were cartoonists. Similar expressions exist in India, Japan, Spain and Turkey, named after characters created by local cartoonists.


Goldberg lives on in annual contests held in various locations across the United States. Foremost are MIT’s “Friday After Thanksgiving” (FAT) competition and Purdue University’s National Rube Goldberg Machine contest. The FAT event brings together amateur teams who erect elaborate chain reaction machines that are linked together in a string.


Other contests like Purdue’s create annual themes where school teams compete to create the best device to accomplish the task in a minimum of at least 20 steps. Past challenges have included: devices that sharpen a pencil, adhere a stamp to a letter, assemble a hamburger or screw a light bulb into a socket.


Rube Goldberg machines can be found in movies, puzzles video games and board games such as Mouse Trap. No doubt fascination with wacky devices is permanent and future “what ifs”  are  only limited by our imagination.