Going Home Is Such a Ride

by John Delach

Perhaps true love does conquer all. Surely, in my case, it conquered geography.


I met Mary Ann Donlon at the New York World’s Fair on June 5, 1964 at The Red Garter, a banjo bar in the Wisconsin Pavilion. (The pavilion prized exhibit was the world’s largest wheel of cheddar cheese.)  Mary Ann gave me her phone number and after a few unlucky false starts, she agreed to a safe date; a Sunday afternoon return to the fair. Once she gave me her address and directions, I began to realize that we may have been geographically incompatible.


Did I mention that I didn’t have access to an automobile nor that it mattered as I didn’t have a driver’s license either?


We were separated by two bus lines. My first ride was on the B-58 bus that once upon a time had a more descriptive name, the Flushing – Ridgewood trolley. I rode the B-58 on a 45-minute journey to reach the junction of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue, Flushing’s business and transportation center. Leaving Ridgewood, the bus meandered through Maspeth, Elmhurst, Corona and the World’s Fair before reaching Flushing and the end of the line.


I transferred to the Q-16, Q-14 or the Q-44 to arrive within proximity of the Donlon residence.


Being a city kid, public transit was in my DNA and I never considered this trek to be other than the way it was, much less a burden. No doubt, the early sparks of romance between us eliminated any possible negative thoughts. The girl was more important than any geographical inconvience.


We soon found ourselves dating regularly on most Saturday nights and many of these dates took us into Manhattan for dinner and/or a movie or a Broadway show. I didn’t consider going to the city on a Saturday night to be unusual even though it required extensive time on public transit to make the journey to a young lady’s house, escort her to Manhattan, enjoy a date, bring her home and return to Ridgewood.


On those early dates, a kiss or two or a short series of kisses was all I expected. Then it was good night, good bye until our next lengthy phone call. During this time the first inklings of love blossomed. As our relationship developed, I lingered longer and longer before beginning my journey home.


As my stays extended, those rides became more of an odyssey as Saturday melded into Sunday morning. At that hour, my only chance for a reasonable wait for a bus back to Flushing was the Q-44 stop. It was the only line that ran with any frequency at that time of night. The stop was outside a bagel store, but at that hour, even the bakers had yet to arrive. On arrival in Flushing I headed for an all-night news stand at the corner of Roosevelt and Main that carried the “bull-dog” (early edition) of Sunday’s The New York Herald Tribune, my favorite newspaper.


Sunday meant the Trib’s new magazine section: New York, with the good chance of featuring pieces by both Jimmy Breslin and Dick Schaap. I’ve written about Breslin many times but Schaap was also a good writer and commentator. He was the person who coined the term, “Fun City” to describe John Lindsay’s New York. He also did a stint on the local NBC nightly news program as a sportscaster only to get into trouble.  When the great Secretariat was retired to stud, reports spread that his sperm showed signs of immaturity. His early breeding attempts in December of 1973 with Appaloosa received inordinate publicity prompting Schaap to comment: “It would not be an exaggeration to note that Secretariat and Appaloosa have become the most famous stable mates since Mary and Joseph.”


After picking up the Trib I made my way to a drug store with an outside vestibule unblocked by a security fence, common in those days. Their vestibule sheltered me against wind, cold and on bad nights, rain. The showcase windows gave off enough light for me to sit and begin reading my paper. Several times I reached my nest after one am. That made for a long wait as the next B-58 had an hour and a half layover and didn’t leave until 2:30. After discharging his Flushing passengers, the driver shut his doors and took a passenger’s seat for a nap. I never asked the driver to let me on. I just asked him to wake me if I fell asleep. Fortunately, I never did as the Trib held my interest.


I disappointed Mary Ann by not asking her to be my wife the Christmas of 1965. In February, 1966, the National Guard shipped me to Fort Dix, NJ for basic training and my advanced training in my specialty, MS-311, a telephone lineman.


When I returned home late that summer, Mary Ann invited me to stay over finally ending my odyssey. I popped the question on Christmas Eve, 1966 and we wed on November 11, 1967.


The best decision I ever made was making that trek.