John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: January, 2018


Practicality: The sensible use of dealing with or coming to terms with an unexpected, unusual or extraordinary situation or opportunity. Historical example: The Louisiana Purchase. Thomas Jefferson was opposed to westward expansion but when the French offered their legitimate claim to 867,000 square miles west of the Mississippi River for a bargain basement price of $15,000,000, Tom jumped on it. Practicality won out.


Item Number One: The Practical Author


“Fire and Fury” is currently the hottest book in the publishing world. Hyped as a tell-all of   supposedly salacious insider stories, it portrays the Donald Trump White House as more akin to “One Flew Over the Coco’s Nest,” “All the President’s Men,” and “The Pentagon Papers” rolled into one. This tell-all phenomenon from the pen of Michael Wolff is flying off bookshelves at warp speed.


In the interest of clarity, I note the full title of Mr. Wolff’s book is, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” I make this distinction because The New York Times recently reported that the book’s abbreviated title is causing confusion with another Fire and Furious, written a decade ago.


That book was authored by Randall Hansen, a Canadian professor who is currently the interim director of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. The complete name of Professor Hansen’s book is: “Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany, 1942-1945.” The Times noted this about Hansen’s book: “It is highly critical of the British-led nighttime firebombing of German cities, finding it both morally dubious and of little strategic value.”


Apparently, Hansen’s book is enjoying a popular resurrection on Amazon’s best-seller list. Hansen noted to The Times: “I don’t know how much of this is a mistake and how much of this is from new interest created by free advertising., There might be some returns.”


The Times included a mild shot he took at Trump, but the Toronto Guardian provided a juicer quotation: “And we are talking about that at a moment when we have this warmongering, unstable, deranged demagogue in the White House, so that coincidence actually makes me happier than the sales.”


Unfortunately, Hansen’s self-proclaimed moral superiority over The Donald prevents him from enjoying the practicality of a return from oblivion and the profitability of renewed sales. Other authors would crave this unexpected windfall and a new opportunity to get your own message across without lifting a finger. Most would be satisfied to proclaim: “I should be so lucky.”




Item Number Two: A Free Lunch


There is no such thing as a free lunch.


Nothing is certain except death and taxes.


Usually, when we receive invitations to free lunches, they are produced by folks who want us to give them control of our life savings in return for a piece of chicken. Think about it, when was the last time an attorney asked you to lunch, must less, a doctor. Attorneys, especially, elder care shylocks should be an opportunity for free-bees, but who wants to delve into their financial problems and the extent of their dysfunctional family in the company of other seniors?


As for doctors, I’ve never met even one who offered to take me out to lunch. I believe that there are times when that would be a humanistic gesture, especially by your proctologist. (A lousy cocktail wouldn’t hurt either.)


Most of my offers for free lunches come from money managers, estate planners or other financial advisors. That was until received a slick flyer from my friend, Geoff Jones that came to his home on St. Simons Island, Georgia. The top of the flyer proclaimed:






The brochure offered two different venues on the island, Coastal Kitchen and Catch 228. Geoff, noted at the top of the flyer: “I think it’s curious that two pretty good eateries got involved with this.”


The flyer makes sensible points explaining that they’ll discuss the benefits of preplanning, affordable options, veteran benefits and a travel & relocation protection plan. The folks who put this together must have realized that the flyer wasn’t enough to generate the response they desired. The problem: Is offering a free lunch at a nice restaurant enough to entice people to deal with a difficult and put-off subject?


They chose to sweeten the deal by including an incentive on the left-hand corner of the flyer, the place the eye naturally sees first:



a Seminar

For Your Chance to




That is practicality at its best. Embrace the inevitable yet get a free lunch in the process plus the chance for a 7-day cruise.


Journey’s End 1964: Part Two

My First Flight: Bill Christman


It’s truly amazing to me how vividly I can recall my travel experiences from that Labor Day weekend in 1964 and yet have no recollection of the weekend I spent with Helen and Don at Journey’s End itself.


I recall arriving by train at the Brattleboro station, looking at my watch to see that it was about 2:30 am Saturday morning and seeing my brother-in-law looking fresh and bright all set to drive me to their Journey’s End cabin. But from that time to Monday late morning my mind is a blank, and so it goes.

My game plan was to fly home as I had never flown before. Just like my first real train trip on Friday night, I wanted to experience flight for the first time. Come Monday, I remember getting more and more nervous as the time drew closer for us to leave for the airport, but not so nervous that I would back out. Mother Nature helped granting me a clear day of beautiful weather so that would not be a factor. Don drove me to the Keene airport while my sister Helen and my mother stayed back with my infant niece Anne-Marie.

The trip to the airport was memorable in one aspect. Most of the ride was on a simple two-lane winding country thoroughfare that had the necessary traffic lines dividing the road. A broken line on your side of the rode meant passing was permitted; a solid line meant don’t even think about passing. Somewhere along the way two young punks drove immediately in front of us and would crawl at say 20 mph when no passing was allowed and then speed up to the point where you could not attempt to pass when it was permitted. They seem to be in front of us most of the 20 or so miles to the airport but eventually went their own way.

At that time, Dillant-Hopkins Airport, (The airport’s official name) offered non-stop service to JFK on Mohawk Airlines. I bought my ticket at the counter, spending about $20 for a coach seat. My thinking was that I would figure out how to get home from there with the limited resources that I still had, meaning I was damn close to broke.

The flight was about half-full and uneventful although for a while I believed that my fellow passengers owed me a debt of gratitude for my keeping that plane in the air through sheer willpower. I remember being disappointed that the plane flew as high as it did since this minimized my view of the ground, but this was a minor annoyance and we arrived on time and in good order.

Relieved and safely on the ground, I exited the terminal and walked toward an area where several green municipal buses were waiting to begin their next runs. One of the first I saw had “World’s Fair” as its destination and I knew the Fair was relatively close to home if only I could find a local bus there. On arrival at the World Fair’s bus parking area, I found a sign showing where different buses stopped. One of them was the B-58, the Flushing-Ridgewood bus, that ran down Grand Street in Maspeth, within walking distance to my house. Almost safe at home, I boarded the next bus to arrive and handed my transfer to the driver.


Unexpected Encounter: John Delach


Mary Ann and I were seeing each other on a regular basis by Labor Day of 1964. We spent at least part of that holiday weekend together. Like, Bill, I too cannot remember the details of our experiences that weekend. However, I do recall that I left her family’s home that Monday afternoon to begin my long bus trip home. First, I grabbed any one of three buses of opportunity to Flushing followed by the long trek via the B-58 that would meander to the World’s Fair, then on through Corona, Elmhurst and Maspeth before finally reaching Ridgewood. Once on board, I opened my paperback book to pass the time, likely a James Bond novel or a book about World War II.

The Fair always drew my attention so when the bus stopped at the Rodman Street’s Worlds Fair Terminal, I put down my book to pay attention to what was going on. Lo and behold, entering the bus, shoving a paper transfer to the driver was my cousin and just-graduated, former college buddy, Bill Christman.

I saw him before he saw me. I know I fired the first salvo but I’m certain I wasn’t so quick to think of a line so clever that it blew his socks off.

Bill recalls, “I heard from the back a familiar voice shouting, ‘So you’re going away for the weekend, huh?’ It was my cousin and good friend John. Eagerly and anxiously I could not wait to talk about the topic then upper most in my mind; my first plane ride. Visiting Journey’s End, my sister Helen and her husband or my mom, forget about it. I flew in a plane. Wowzah!”




Journey’s End 1964 (Part One)

A guest blog by Bill Christman

Summer trips to Journey’s End stopped once our Dad took ill. He passed on Christmas Eve, 1957. RIP, Dad.


Life continued and we carried on. My sister, Helen, married Don Markey and once their first baby, Anne Marie, came into the world, Helen revived the Journey’s End experience. In 1964. Helen and Don thrilled Mom by inviting her to join them there.


I was working for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in Manhattan, having started there in early July following my graduation from St. Francis College. Helen surprised me with a call from New Hampshire inviting me to join them for the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

That call became my proverbial “one small step” that began my not-so-giant leap.

Mom had driven the 200 or so miles in our 1959 Ford and I had no car of my own. I had gone with my parents to Journey’s End as a kid several times. I loved the place and I wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity some ten years later. Besides I was 21 and full of myself even though I was hardly worldly or sophisticated. How to get there and return home? I decided to take the train from NYC and fly home.

This was my first opportunity to ride on a real train, not the NYC subway.

I bought a ticket for the train leaving on Friday after work meaning a late arrival in Brattleboro, VT. I vaguely remember asking a ticket agent at Grand Central Terminal for a ticket to Brattleboro being told I would have to change trains. That was upsetting, I was a rookie, what if I missed my connection or fell asleep and didn’t get off? This is not the subway where you just double back or wait it out. I had no choice but to stay awake.

How did I let my sister know what train I would be on? None of the cabins had phones and forget about cell phones-this was 1964. I must have called the Rilling’s main house and left a message for Helen.

I asked the conductor to let me know when we reached my transfer station. (Let’s say it was New Haven although I’m not sure of that.) As we rode onward through Connecticut I became more concerned. In the oncoming darkness many stations either had no identification or I could not identify them before the train moved on. The loudspeaker, what there was of it, sounded garbled or only on in the other cars.

The conductor, true to his word, told me this was my station when we reached New Haven and I’m sure I pushed everyone out of the way, so I could detrain before they closed the doors and pulled out. It didn’t seem long before my next train arrived; I remember asking the conductor if this train stopped at Brattleboro and he assured me it did. Ahh, things were moving in the right direction. But not for long.

The train was scheduled to in Brattleboro around 11:30 pm. That was not going to happen. I joke that we spent too much time standing at various stations, probably waiting for mail to arrive or delivering milk. It became obvious that sticking to a timetable was not a priority.

Little did I understand when making my reservations that the North-Eastern railroads were going to hell in a hand basket and the last thing on their agenda was passenger service. They were bleeding money because of antiquated union contracts and ICC restrictions on pricing and loss of passengers. By 1964, hardly anybody took long distance trains in the North East. The interstates opened up New England for easy access by cars and buses and people flew for longer distances. Had I taken a bus, I would have easily made it to Brattleboro by 11:30.

Springfield, Mass was the worst; a long delay with no explanation. Vendors came through the cars with the most unappetizing sandwiches, which most passengers passed up, me included. When a newspaper vendor came through with the next day’s edition, I began to get concerned about whether I would ever get there.

I probably dozed off several times as we made our way north along the Connecticut River valley stopping at towns like Amherst, Northampton, Deerfield and Greenfield before finally entering Vermont.

We finally pulled into the Brattleboro station at 2:30 am. In my mind’s eye I still see a chipper looking Don Markey greeting me, appearing as though sleep was no problem for him. The five miles or so trip from the station to Journey’s End is only a blur but I do hope I had the good sense to apologize to everyone the next morning for my tardiness and interrupting their sleep.




Second Pick in the NFL Draft

The worst team in the National Football League, the Cleveland Browns, exceeded last year’s horror show of finishing 1-15 by losing all sixteen games this season. Once again, their awful record entitles the Browns to pick first in the 2018 NFL Draft. That draft, a semi-socialist, semi-indentured servitude process that makes superbly athletic young males instant millionaires will begin on April 26th at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, AT&T Stadium, in Arlington, Texas.


The second pick will go to my beloved, New York Football Giants who earned this dubious distinction by self-destruction, winning only three games while losing thirteen. Along the way they embarrassed their franchise quarterback by benching him. This led to the firing of both their general manager and head coach who both pleaded: “I was only following orders.”


The owner-in-charge who initiated that benching ducked any responsibility. It’s good to be the owner.


Much will be speculated in the coming months about who my beloved Giants will select in the draft and how this will affect Eli Manning, the man whose benching caused the shit storm. (Full discloser; Mr. Manning is my quarterback of record so what’s good for Eli, is good for me.)


This will play out between now and April and I will report as needed. But, let me take you back to 1981, the last time my beloved Giants had the second pick in the NFL draft.


The Giants imploded in 1980; general manager, George Young, head coach, Ray Perkins and quarterback, Phil Simms, all in their second year together, finished 4-12 earning the second pick behind the New Orleans Saints.


There was absolutely no talk of replacing Young, Perkins or Simms despite the awful record. Wellington Mara, Young and Perkins all had a laser focus of who they wanted to pick in the draft: North Carolina’s unanimous All-American linebacker, Lawrence Taylor. The only force  that stood between them and Taylor was Bum Phillips, general manager and head coach of the Saints. The smart money predicted Phillips would select George Rogers, the South Carolina running back and winner of the Heisman Trophy. But Phillips remained coy and the Giants brain trust feared the Saints would trade down.


Taylor’s ability and ferocity were not exactly trade secrets across other teams’ personnel scouts and selectors. Gil Brandt of Dallas noted that Taylor, “… was the best player available on our list.” Mike Hickey, the Jets personnel director called Taylor, “A linebacker freak. He’s too big to be that fast, too fast to be that big and too tough to be stopped easily, if at all.”


Dave Anderson of The New York Times covered the first day of the draft on Tuesday, April 28 held in the New York Sheraton. He reported that NFL Commissioner, Pete Rozelle, began: “New Orleans first up,” the commissioner said. When the commissioner announced that the Saints had chosen George Rogers…at the Giants table, Ed Croke (public relations director) tore up a card with Rogers name on it and handed another card to Jim Heffeman of the NFL office who hurried up to Pete Rozelle with it.


“The Giants,” the commissioner was saying now, “select North Carolina linebacker”…That’s all the draftniks had to hear. They knew that the only North Carolina linebacker who counted was Lawrence Taylor, 6 feet 3 inches, 242 pounds – “a one-man demolition crew,” according to the NFL profile sheets. The draftniks whooped in agreement. “That’s the first time in six years” a Giants historian grunted, “that they cheered.” 


The man who quickly become known as LT was a New York Football Giant and would lead the team to its first playoff appearance in 17 years that season. The long nightmare was over.


Once the 1981 season ended Ray Perkins, who was stingy when it came to compliments, noted: “He’s a prototype outside linebacker in the National Football League. He’s an excellent blitzer, he’s an excellent tackler, he’s smart and he had a great impact on our football team. And I’ve already made this statement and I’ll make it again, that he’s the best young player I’ve seen at any position as a rookie.”


George Young best explained the force that LT brought to the game: “If you went to a ball game and had no idea who the best players were, and you just sat and watched the game, suddenly about five-minutes into the game you’ll be watching Lawrence Taylor.”


Big Blue should be so fortunate this year both in selecting their new head coach and what they do with their selection.




On The Job at Railway Express

Guest Blog by Peter King

Railway Express Agency (REA) was the UPS or FedEx of its time. Established by the federal government in 1917 when Uncle Sam controlled the nation’s railroads for the duration of World War I, REA was given exclusive rights to carry small packages and parcels by rail. In the 1920s, ownership was divided among 86 railroads in proportion to the express traffic on each line. It prospered through the 1950s until the new interstate highway system became a reality allowing UPS to make serious inroads into their business using long distance trucks. REA ceased operations in 1975.

Peter King worked at the large a rail yard serviced by REA from 1962 until 1965. Today that yard is a storage facility for the Long Island Railroad. This is his guest blog:

Last week’s brutally cold Arctic-like temperatures reminded me of the winter days and nights I spent working at the Railway Express Terminal on Manhattan’s West Side while I was a student at St. Francis College in Downtown Brooklyn. It might not sound like it, but this was a terrific life experience.

I was a full-time student majoring in history living with my parents in Queens. I arranged my school schedule so that each day my last class would be over by 3:00 PM and I’d be able to grab the A Train at Borough Hall and take it to the 34th Street Penn Station stop where I’d get off and walk west on 33rd Street to the REA West Side Terminal on 10th Avenue in time for the 4:00-Midnight shift.

The Terminal, a brick structure at the southern tip of Hell’s Kitchen, serviced freight yards that extended south from 33rd Street to 31st Street and westerly to 12th Avenue toward the Hudson River. Floating bridges provided access to barges that carried freight cars to and from railroad yards in New Jersey.

The northern third of the Terminal was for the unloading of REA trucks which entered from 10th Avenue. The freight from those trucks was then transferred to box cars which dominated the tracks covering the southern 2/3rds of the Terminal.

My job would alternate from night to night between unloading trucks to loading the freight cars. Most of the guys I worked with were solid citizens — but we also had a fair share of numbers runners, bookies and horse players who were constantly checking the scratch sheets protruding from their back pockets.

I worked part time the summer after my freshman year and went full time from the end of my sophomore year until three days before I left for Notre Dame Law School. That first summer I had been looked on as one of the “college kids.” After going full time, I became one of the workers, no longer one of the kids — even though I was still 19, working with guys, in some cases, in their 40’s and 50’s. It made for a schizophrenic-like existence, a college student by day; a worker by night, spending more time on the Railway loading dock than in the classroom. I was also a proud union member of the Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express and Station Employees. (These are relationships I have continued, working closely with the Transportation Union led by Anthony Simon and the Teamsters Union.)

I still remember how cold it could be on those winter nights when the freezing weather was at its depths and the bone chilling winds came roaring in through the truck entrances and exit ways on 10th Avenue and along 33rd Street. We called those winds, “the hawk.”

The hawk blew through the track exits of the Terminal facing the Hudson River — swirled around the Terminal for the entire eight-hour shift, getting colder and more brutal by the hour. Some of the old-timers would combat the cold by swigging shots from bottles concealed in their jackets or work pants; others would duck out to one of the local gin mills for a few boilermakers.

Those really weren’t viable options for me, not because I had anything against having a few drinks (the legal drinking age then was 18), but I knew I had to return home to Queens that night to get up the next morning for the long haul to Brooklyn. Friday nights were the exception. With luck, I’d reach Bud’s in Jackson Heights by 1 AM to knock back a few beers with my friends.

Fortunately, I haven’t had to work in Tundra-like conditions since those days, but I greatly admire those who willingly do so.

Working at the Railway Express gave me the money I needed for my college tuition, school and personal expenses, board at home with enough left in the bank to pay a good chunk of my law school tuition. (Of course, I couldn’t have done it without good bosses like Pat Kitson and Roger Maloney who let me move my hours around when I had major exams coming up or papers were due.)

Most importantly, it provided me a great education about life and the reality of getting the job done in the adult world in ways that I would never have learned from books or in the college classroom; an education that has served me well over the years. Bottom line: life owes us nothing; to survive and get something out of life, we have to work hard and fight hard and not expect anything to be handed to us.