John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: December, 2018

White House Christmas Ornament

Erminia, our cleaning woman, looked perplexed when she arrived on Thursday, December 6th. She held out a large white envelope. Immediately, I recognized the handwriting to be that of Rosemary King. “Ah, the annual White House Christmas Ornament,” I thought to myself.  

For the last several years, Rosemary King has generously posted the latest edition of this special ornament to us during the first week in December. Unfortunately, something was very wrong with this one. The envelope was empty. The sealed flap had come undone somewhere in route.

I decided not to tell Rosemary as I knew she sent these treasures to over a hundred people. Instead, I chose to look up the ornament on line and discovered the White House Historical Association had them for sale. I ordered two and accepted a FedEx surcharge, so they would arrive in under three days.     

Like me, I have discovered that most folks are unaware of the existence of these ornaments. Truly, this is truly amazing once you realize their significance, their beauty and how economical they are.

Rosemary included us on her list about seven-years ago. Mary Ann and I were taken aback by its beauty and craftmanship, but at that point in our lives, we no longer erected a Christmas Tree. We decided to give it to our son and his family. They were thrilled to add it to their tree. The following year, the ornament went to our daughter and her family. They too loved it; we established a new tradition.

The history of these ornaments is relatively recent. The White House Historical Association has been selling them to the public since 1981 when First Lady Nancy Reagan suggested this. That first year, the association released 1,500 “Angel in Flight” ornaments that depicted a copper weather vane found on historic buildings like Mount Vernon and Independence Hall.

From the beginning, ChemArt Inc., a privately-owned firm in Lincoln, RI, has produced these ornaments. Their founder, Richard Beaupre, now 81, has worried over the annual production ever since. Today, ChemArt produces almost two-million ornaments each year all in their Rhode Island plant.

Beginning with Angel in Flight, each keepsake has been hung on the White House Christmas Tree located in the Blue Room. The historical association designs each ornament that focuses on every president in chronological order. The exceptions to this chain have been White House historical events like anniversaries.

The ornaments commemorate certain aspects of a president’s time in office, curious at times, but not controversial. The 2007 ornament, honoring Grover Cleveland, depicts his wedding ceremony to Frances Folsom in the Blue Room in 1886. (He was 49, she was 21.)

The 2011 ornament depicts Santa Claus standing on the snow-covered front lawn of the White House. The caption reads: “I hear there are kids living in this house.” The back of the ornament shows Teddy, Mrs. Roosevelt, a maid and the six Roosevelt children looking out a window excitedly observing Santa outside on the lawn.

William Howard Taft’s, 2012 Ornament pictured our most corpulent president embracing new technology by being the first president to ride in a motor car.

Herbert Hoover’s ornament is a fire engine, truly a curious choice to honor his presidency ruined by the great depression that descended upon the nation. His fire engine commemorated a toy fire engine given to children at a 1930 Christmas party to remind them of the White House fire in 1929 that forcing the evacuation of the people’s house during that Christmas party.      

This year’s ornament is drop -dead gorgeous. It honors Harry S. Truman with two themes, the complete re-construction of the White House from 1950 to 1952 and President Truman’s 1948 proclamation to permanently change the Great Seal so that the eagle’s beak would always be faced toward the talon holding the olive branches and not the one holding the arrows.

A small gold-plated seal stands above the ornament with the eagle proudly duplicated on both the front and rear. Two red ribbons extend above the seal to facilitate fastening it to a tree. The ornament is attached to the seal by a short chain. Its front depicts the South Portico, after the reconstruction that includes the “so called,” Truman Balcony that the 33rd President added to the White House facade. This three-dimensional, bowed image includes two outside staircases leading up to the balcony, a wreath and a red ribbon bearing, “The White House – Christmas 2018.

The concaved back of the ornament depicts the re-built Blue Room decorated for Christmas with a tree in the center. A scroll at the bottom reads: “1945-1953: Harry S. Truman.”

The cost is reasonable, less than $21 all in including standard shipping. I kid you not, these decorations are special and several of the more recent ornaments remain available. They are packaged in a handsome box with a booklet explaining the significance of the ornament for that presidency and a short biography and milestones achieved during his administration.

When I next saw Rosemary, I thanked her for the latest edition and said, “This one is the most beautiful of them all.”

She replied, “I think it is spectacular.”

True to my word, I didn’t say anything else.

Next up is Dwight David Eisenhower and I have this funny feeling that one way or another, it may include his famous putting green. Stay tuned.

And It Rained, And It Rained, And It Rained

Weather impacted every home game this season.

Game outcome, not withstanding, rain prevailed.

Shorter days, colder days, rain became miserable.

We endured, but no day at the beach for sure.

And it rained.

December 2 versus Da Bears. All day drizzle.

Mild enough, not cold, no wind, rain gear held up.

Stayed the course, all four quarters plus unwanted OT.

Joy prevails, Giants win, hot chocolate surely helped.

And it rained

December 16, 2018. Prediction: All day-steady rain-non-stop.

Prepared: Socks wrapped in plastic, freshly polished work boots.

Waterproof down coat over sweatshirt, rain pants over jeans.

Rain hats, gloves and ponchos over everything.

And it rained.

Ready or not here we go. Joe swings by at 8 AM.

We joke: “Off to see a losing team in bitter rain.”

We few, the worthy. Summer soldiers long gone.

Yet other faithful re-appear, gather, tailgate, endure.

And it rained.

Game time, head in. The contest yet to begin.

Already losing, our rain defenses are failing.

 Water-proof turns out to be a relative term

 Leaving us exposed in harm’s way.

And it rained.

Soldiers fighting a battle of endurance. Titans versus Giants.

Rain versus protection. Cold and wet versus dry.

Tyrannical forces prolong contest created to break us.

Game officials, TV and even the singer stretches Oh say can you see.

And it rained.

Misery. By the Second Quarter my arms shiver.

“This is insane’” I stand: “Mike, I won’t return

until the second half.” None of us returned to our seats.

Drew and Jeff join Mike and me sheltered at halftime.

And it rained.

My alarm blasts alert: LEAVE NOW!

Drew, Jeff, and Mike SIGN ON next.

Joe and Justin need one more score.

Titans accommodate with a TD on a turnover.

And it rained

One last potty stop and a ten-minute trek to the cars.

A last, but hurried goodbye for the season, then shelter.

Shed as many sodden clothes as I can

Waze works with a tolerable post-game ride home.

And it rained

Once home, realize everything damp or soaked.

No doubt, every woman in our lives intones:

“I told you so.” Of course, they are right.

We long-time fans rolled the weather dice that came up craps

And it rained, and it rained, and it rained.     

Further Confessions of a Season Ticket Holder

These confessions involve snow, always a possible factor in late season games. First up, 1964, the beginning of our discontent. How did our proud team that went to the NFL Championship Games in 1961, 1962 and 1963 shatter and collapse and fall to last place? By early December, all hope was lost so when the Minnesota Vikings came to town. They dealt my team their ninth loss of the season by the score of 30-21 but I decided to take my revenge as they took the field for the second half.


As their star, quarterback, Fran Tarkington jumped out from the third base dugout, I let fly a snowball aimed for his back. My throw was lame, but the snowball landed close enough to get the attention of one of their linemen. Caught in the act, I froze as this big man looked back at me with an expression that said: “Boy, are you nuts!”


One cold December afternoon after an overnight snow fall found Geoff, Bill and me at a meaningless game at the end of another losing season. We came prepared fortifying ourselves with two pints of whiskey to defend against the elements. Recollections are vague, but I do recall fans throwing snowballs toward the field and some serious troublemakers trying to light the wooden bleachers on fire.


After the game ended, we infiltrated the Stadium Club, Yankee Stadium’s private member’s only watering hole to extend our celebration. Still thirsty, we stopped at a bar on 161st Street for a last libation for the road before trekking up to the Grand Concourse for home bound taxis. Geoff caught one for Kingsbridge and Bill and I piled into a second for his place in Parkchester.


I was on the edge, but Bill was a goner. We made it back to his family’s place where my family was also waiting. Bill was out for the count, puked and went to bed. Somehow, I persevered but a double plus unhappy Mary Ann was forced to drive home.


Bill called me at work Monday morning. “What do I owe you for the cab ride home from the stadium?”


“Nothing, Bill, we are squared away.”


“No really, John, what do I owe you?”


“Nothing; Before you passed out in the cab, I told you to give me your wallet. I used your money to pay for the cab, so you owe me nothing. By the way, you tip well.”


(Authors note: I did repay Bill, but that exchange was worth it.)


Both experiences can’t compare to the great Meadowlands snow ball game. The stadium managers had failed to remove the snow that fell before the Giants last home game on December 23, 1995, a game the Giants would lose to San Diego Chargers 27-17.


Dave Anderson recalled what occurred in The New York Times in January of 2014 as a reminder of what could happen during Super Bowl XLVIII scheduled for the new stadium (not yet called Met Life Stadium.)


On Wednesday of that week, about 12 inches of snow fell. By game time Saturday, the bulk of it had been removed from the aisles and the 75,000 seats, but much remained under the seats. Some of that snow had frozen. And with the Giants about to complete a 5-11 season, several of the 50,243 spectators began to throw snowballs, if not iceballs, onto the field. Soon, hundreds were throwing them.


One of the iceballs struck the Chargers’ equipment manager, 60-year old Sid Brooks, near his left eye. Knocked unconscious, he regained consciousness in the locker room.


When the snowball throwing continued, the referee Ron Blum threatened to declare a forfeit. He did not, but Wellington Mara, a Giant owner, said later that Blum “would have been justified” to rule a forfeit. The Giants later took a full-page ad in a San Diego newspaper apologizing for the “snowball game.”


Some 175 spectators were ejected and their season tickets confiscated. 15 were arrested. Jeffrey Lange, 26, of Bridgewater, NJ, identified by a widely published photograph showing him throwing him throwing a snowball, was later arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. He was convicted of improper behavior and fined $650.


Michael and I attended that game. Through the years whenever questions about that game come my way, my standard reply has been: “On the advice of counsel, neither of us can confirm or deny participation in such shenanigans.”


It is time to expunge the record and come clean.


Our caper occurred towards the end of the first half. NBC, who broadcasted the game, used an obtrusive camera to rove the sideline in front of where we sat blocking our view when the action was in front of us. This gave us, in effect, obstructed seats when it mattered most.


By the end of the first half, I’d become fed up with this obstruction. So, when the cameraman riding on his ten-foot high boom once again obstructed our view, I turned to my son and requested: “Do you think you can put a snowball inches from his wheelhouse and yet not hit him? I don’t want to see him get hurt, just give him religion.”


Michael, who had been an effective little league pitcher, put a snowball so close to the cameraman’s right ear that he ordered his crew to lower his rig shutting it down for the rest of the game.


Buster’s Trip to Florida





“Call me Buster.” I am a seven-year-old mixed breed part Chow / part Border Collie with brown and black hair. I have pointy ears that I can turn 180 degrees that would make a lousy poker player as how I set my ears gives away my mood. Let me tell you about my first trip to Florida.


Before we left, I had my hair cut. This was not my idea as it was January during a cold, wet winter. When they did this to me. I thought that Mary Ann and John, the people I live with, were trying to kill me, but the next day we set out in their truck on a road trip that would take us to special place, called Florida, where the weather is nice and warm in January.


I didn’t always live with them. A girl named Jodie, who I adore adopted me from the North Shore Animal’s Leagues shelter. She took me home to Connecticut. Later, she married their son, Michael. It was not a bad life until they had this kid. Didn’t like him, but food became more plentiful once he arrived. Then he became mobile and interested in me. A couple of bites later, it was goodbye Fairfield, and hello Port Washington, Long Island.


My life in this new home would have been much better if they didn’t already have Maggie living with them too. She arrived a year before I did, in 1999, another reject.


She was thrown out of her home because she was a crazy ten-month-old Golden Retriever. Now five, she’s still nuts, and she’s a pain in my ass. Stupid Golden Retrievers think they are so special and this one thinks she is “The Supreme Being.” The fools I live with, especially, John, treat her that way.


You don’t believe me? She uses toys as props, rubber footballs, a rubber ring, a rope and especially tennis balls. She obsesses over her toys and God forbid, I borrow one, the bitch takes it away. Now toys are not a big deal for me, but fair is fair.


She also hogs the window in the back seat. She stands there waiting for them to open it, so she can put her stupid head out. And they do! God forbid, I go over to it. She growls and snarls. It got so bad on this trip that I said the hell with it and found a spot in the back of the truck. Mary Ann was nice enough to find a mat for me to lie on while “her majesty” had the entire soft seat to herself.


Spending eight hours in a truck every day for three days is not as bad as you think. It isn’t as though I had other things to do and we stopped often enough to stretch and relieve ourselves. Sleeping in those little boxy rooms was another matter altogether. There are too many strangers, each one a potential assassin. I was ready to stay up all night and let them know I was on alert, but John stupidly closed the curtains.


When we arrived at the house in Florida, I had to learn a few things the hard way. Glass sliding doors are not always open, what happens when I walk across the plastic cover on top of the swimming pool. My only pleasure was watching her majesty do the same thing.


Each morning we hopped in the truck for a short ride to the beach. As soon as we began to move, Maggie began to act up. Her ears flailed back making her look like a bolting horse. Her eyes blinked rapidly as her tongue moved in and out of her mouth at the same speed. She whimpered and cried. When she saw the water, the Loony Tune’s barking and crying became so high-pitched that it went right through me. It was all I could do not to bite her, so she’d shut up. This cacophony ended only after John let her out of the truck. And this happened every morning!


The beach was great. Not many people, a few new dogs to meet and greet. Most of the time we ran free and I had a grand time cataloging new and different smells, rolling on dead creatures and playing in the surf. On the other hand, “nutsy Fagin” had to have something to chase and carry in her big mouth. Each morning, John found a different coconut that he would throw into the water. Maggie mindlessly chased it.


Her nuttiness gave me the idea that if I chased it too, it might drive her off the deep end. After I grabbed the coconut first a couple of times, she freaked out and started ripping it out of my mouth. After that I decided to back off and let her have it.


John threw the coconut like a football, but its weight and the wind made some throws fall short. It was my fondest hope that sooner or later one would hit her on the head and kill her. (Imagine John having to call his kids to tell them what happened.)


Don’t get in an uproar, it didn’t happen. Actually, it was an excellent vacation with no mishaps after the first day. Neither of us went swimming in the bayou behind the house because the bottom was too muddy and our instincts sensed danger. Good thing too because we found out alligators liked to swim there.


We also avoided fleas and I had to smile because last year Maggie acquired fleas on the trip I missed.


So, you can put me down to recommending Florida as a good place to go to leave winter behind, but it would be much better to go there as an Only Dog.