John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: December, 2020

Remembering Our Roots

I got to thinking about this horrible year, 2020. Could I compose a story to describe what we had to endure? Not yet, and maybe never. Our ordeal remains too close to home. The battle is not yet won, we have no choice but to endure, retreat, seek shelter and protect ourselves from this second wave of the virus, a wave that seems relentless in its ferocity.

The promise of a hoped-for vaccine is now a reality. We know there is light at the end of the tunnel, but that light is still in the distance, even for us, the prioritized “so called,” elderly. And so, we wait for our turn, wait and worry. Each of us has our own demons: “Are you safe enough? Are you risking yourself? Is the vaccine safe? When will I qualify for the vaccine?”   

That is why Port Poetry and Prose is so special for us. It is our weekly two-hour window that allows us to escape those bad thoughts and present proof of our creativity, a creativity that confirms our commitment to living and our hope for better times.

This I believe to be true.     

If it had not been for Max Wheat and Taproot, we would never have happened. In thinking about Max, I realize that many of our group never enjoyed the opportunity for Max to be their mentor.

Ria, John B and I are the last writers remaining from the Port Washington Taproot group. John B is the senior member having joined in 1999.

We lost Max as our teacher in 2014 when he took a bad fall. I took it upon myself to keep Max  involved by taking copies of our pieces to his rehab home in Freeport. Sadly, Max couldn’t return as teacher and moved to California to live with his daughter. He communicated with us by mail, critiquing the pieces that I sent to him.

Teacher contracted cancer and left us in the winter of 2015 / 2016.This was my tribute to Maxwell C Wheat, Jr.:               

A Death in the Family

June 2016

Last Saturday afternoon, the Nassau County Poet Laureate Society honored my teacher by presenting members of his family with personal tributes by poets and writers. This is my interpretation of the man who taught me how to write. 

Maxwell C. Wheat Jr., poet, parent, preacher and a man of peace.

Activist, protester, man of passion, letters, understanding, but always a poet.

Teacher, facilitator, critic, editor, advisor, arbiter, encourager, friend.

Witness this excerpt from his eulogy to Pete Seeger’s genius saving the Hudson:

Now Pete Seeger belongs to his Hudson

His outreach of rousing songs

Are the frisky breezes, tall winds coming off the hills,

Touching, stroking the waved back of this 315-mile

Pleistocene invertebrate of a stream

He concluded his poem:

Pete Seeger’s song now parcel of the river’s song:

listen for his voice in the rustling of its autumn leaves,

listen for his voice in the rock slashing of the white capped waves.

Max often referred to his beginnings: reporter, New York Geneva Times Daily.

Assigned obits, his editor explained: “Human interest.”

Max never forgot. This from his poem about 9/11 he called, “Everybody Has a Story,”

Eamon McEneaney 46 in the first attack, 1992,

Led sixty-three people down one hundred flights of stairs.

Senior vice president, brokerage firm, Cantor Fitzgerald.

(On 9/11) Calling his wife at her office, shouting “Is Bonnie there?

I love her and I love the kids…”

Eamon was also a poet. Max ended “Everybody Has a Story” with Eamon’s poem dedicated to his wife, Bonnie: 

“…The end

is a bend in the road

That we’ll never find

A death I will always


You from.”

Maxwell Wheat a man of peace who served his nation in the USMC,

Did his duty and yet espoused Whitman and Melville: Do no harm.

First Poet Laureate of Nassau County, a national treasure:

Adios my teacher, my friend: Via con Dios!

Closing the Deal

Part Three of “A Foot in the Door”

Recapping last week’s piece, The Art of Making the Deal: Steve Beslity, Bill Boyle, Frank Hayes and I found ourselves at our firm’s annual Managing Directors meeting at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WV when Monster Defense Corporation’s (MDC) risk manager, Bucky Bartlett congratulated Frank on successfully completing the insurance program for his firm’s MPS fleet. Typically, for Bucky’s ego, it came with the directive that he wanted to present the Broker of Record at a ceremony in his office in Tysons Corner the next day. He expected all four of us to be there.

After we finished grumbling, Steve remarked: “Hey, he’s now our client. It’s time for us to put our best foot forward.”

“So be it,” I chimed in. “Frank, tell him we will be there, but I also want Martin McCluney to join us. After all, he did one hell of a job getting this done.”  

I am not certain how it fell on me, but I was chosen to make the arrangements. First off, I called Martin who agreed to fly down on a shuttle flight the next morning and meet us at MDC’s office.

Next, I called Jack Sinnott, our president, to give him the good news and explain that the four of us would be AWOL the next day. Jack laughed and wished us well. While I had him on the phone I asked: “Jack, do you have any idea how I can arrange our flights?”

“Simple, call the Greenbrier Travel Service and have them do it.”

Smart Man, No wonder why he’s president! I called their travel service to explain our dilemma: “Four of us have to be in Tysons Corner by 10 AM tomorrow.”

Enid, the hotel’s travel specialist asked several pertinent questions and said she’d get back to me shortly. In less than a half-hour, she returned my call.  “Do you have pen and paper handy?” I did and Enid proceeded to give me the time our car would leave the hotel for the White Sulphur Springs airport and all the other details. We’d be flying to Dulles International on a two-engine, four-seater. Another car would take us to MDC’s HQ, wait for us and return us to Dulles for our return flight. Damn! I was impressed!

I gave her my partner’s names and she promised to have a written itinerary delivered to each our rooms and make sure we would all be alerted to arrange a wake-up call for the next morning.

Cups of coffee in hand, we introduced ourselves to Rob Kropeck, our pilot who explained, “The airplane has two bench seats, one facing forward and the other facing backwards.” He also pleased us by saying, “Guys, you picked a great day to fly.”

We agreed to rotate the seats for the flight out and back. Frank and I occupied the forward-facing seats for the flight to Dulles that allowed us to witness an amusing happening. Looking past Bill and Steve, we noticed that Rob had opened a road map on the un-occupied co-pilot’s seat. He kept checking it and finally, Frank couldn’t resist the temptation any longer- Frank: “ Not to worry, Rob, I know exactly where we are. Just take a left at the next mountain.”

Slightly flustered, Rob explained he loved to check the actual geography as opposed to how it was depicted on maps. Unfortunately, Frank’s ribbing backfired for me. I kept it to myself, but concentrating on that empty co-pilots seat reminded me of what our fate would be if anything happened to pilot Rob!

A limo met us on the tarmac for the short ride to Tysons Corner where we met Martin.

“Good flight in your puddle jumper?” Martin asked. We joked, composed ourselves and made our way to Bucky’s office. Give the man credit for consistency, short and somewhat sweet. “So, who will I go to when things go wrong?”

We were well rehearsed. Frank took the lead. “I’m your account executive. You can always come to me. Steve is the marine manager and Martin’s your man on the ground troubleshooter.”

“And you?” he asked as he pointed to me? “Mr. Bartlett, you have my card. This team will be there for you, but if not, as I said, you have my card.”

That was that. Broker of Record in hand, we said goodbye to Martin, piled into the limo and made our way back to Dulles. Rob surprised us with a Playmate cooler containing eight Bud Lites. “I figured you’d want to celebrate.” Needless to say, Rob received a healthy tip.

The last act:    

I didn’t include my favorite part of this story until now so as not to interrupt the narrative and give me my perfect ending.

Just before  Enid, the Greenbrier travel specialist, finished her call she asked me, “Mr. Delach, how do you wish to pay for the flight and the limos?”

“Of course, what are my choices”?

“Well, sir, you can either use a credit card or you can put it on your room bill.”

My reply was instantaneous: ‘Enid, please put it on my room bill.”

Later, when people asked me why I happily put it on my room bill, I’d explain: “Because once you put an airplane on your room, nobody will ever bother to check your mini-bar tab!

The Art of Making the Deal:

Part Two of “A Foot in the Door”

Frank and I continued our conversation on the drive back to National. “Frank, I will never take this business for granted. You never know when an opportunity will come along and you never know if it will be real or a mirage.”

“True enough,” Frank replied. “I was almost ready to give up on Monster Defense Corporation and Bucky Bartlett. Bartlett kept jerking my chain whenever I asked about getting a shot at MDC’s property and casualty programs. If it hadn’t been for MDC’s latest annual report, I would have called it quits.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well John, when I opened it up, I was staring at a page featuring a large photo of a ship. ‘Does MDC have ships?’ I said out loud. So that’s what made me make the call and here we are.      

After Frank dropped me off, I called Martin McCluney from the shuttle terminal to brief him on our meeting and ask him to call Frank Hayes: “Martin, prepare a full list of all the insurance particulars, including claims that we will need to obtain market quotations for the MDC’s fleet. Also, Steve Beslity is in London. He should be at Bowring’s office as we speak. Let him alert Bill Boyle and our other British friends to start gathering whatever information they can on a hush-hush basis. I’ll check in with you as soon as I reach home.”

As my flight ascended over the Potomac River, I thought about all the things that can go right and go wrong when going after new business. Estimating the realistic cost of insurance is anything but a sure thing. The extent of what a broker can achieve for the client is based on a combination of that brokers knowledge, experience, guts and fears. It is also based on his / her  instinct and intuition of how far that broker can push, cajole, convince or otherwise exploit underwriters to accept the risk we are offering at the price we promised to our client.

Sometimes it can border on the bizarre. I once found myself in a dicey situation where my team had to convince an underwriter to accept certain coverage wording that he found less than satisfactory. This happened in a country where alcohol is heavily taxed. I insisted that each team member buy two liters of Johnny Walker Black, the duty-free limit, on their way into the country. I reserved a suite in one of the best hotels to have a sitting room for us to use as our conference room. I ordered a continental breakfast and lined up those eight liters of Johnny Walker Black on the mantlepiece.

When the underwriter arrived, I explained: “Viktor, each time we reach an agreement for one of the disputed clauses, you can help yourself to one bottle.”

Viktor, didn’t object and the meeting went remarkably well. We reached complete agreement. In return, we were out eight liters of Johnny Walker Black.

There is rarely a slam dunk placement especially if you are the new broker in town. I have led and participated in insurance proposals where we blew the perspective client away only to have them turn our presentation over to the existing broker without apology. Other times, we connect with our prospect who likes us enough that they provide us with short-cuts to reach our goal.

One time, after winning a hard-fought battle to secure a new account, the buyer, who was a tough veteran of many a fight with regulators and unions, (I was told he was once on the receiving end of a bullet that missed), confessed to me: “Want to know why I gave you our business?”

“Absolutely, Jack”

“I decided that I trusted you enough that I’d buy a used car from you. I didn’t trust the other guy to do the same.”

A backhanded compliment for sure, but I gladly took it. You never knew how it would go.

But I digress. We all knew securing the MDC would be difficult. We had to work up solid cost estimates and be ready to get into the market as soon as Bucky Bartlett gave us permission to do so. My intuition was correct, Bartlett alerted his current broker, Jackson & Poor, (J&P) to what was going on turning the MDC competition into a dog fight. Fortunately, we opened the contest in the lead and our team worked diligently to keep us there. We made several improvements to our proposal to meet challenges that J&P made to Bucky Bartlett. For a while, it seemed that they would arm Bucky with another hand grenade to roll down the table just as we disarmed the last one.

Nearing the end of the contest, Bucky had one more card to play. He told Frank: “Your numbers are good, but frankly, my confidence level is low that you can actually do this. Therefore, I am giving you provisional approval to find the lead insurers who will agree to your proposal and you must complete at least 75% of the placement in ten working days.”

Bless, Frank’s heart, he jumped at it, accepting the challenge. What Bucky didn’t realize is that his mandate forced J&P to cease their obstructionist activity for those ten days. Using our broking techniques; arm twisting, playing one market against the other, the strength of the MDC fleet, our knowledge of those similar fleets and our clout in the insurance market,  we met Bucky’s deadline forcing him to allow us to complete our placing which we did several days later. 

Interestingly, Frank’s confirmation to Bartlett that the placement was complete coincided with the start of our firm’s annual Managing Directors Conference scheduled for the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Four of us, Steve Beslity, Bill Boyle, Frank Hayes and I were all scheduled to be there. Fortunately, we were able to maintain a war room in a vacant conference room to communicate with our colleagues in London and New York.

The next day, Bucky called Frank to inform him that we had won the contest. Frank gathered us in the war room to celebrate. He ordered two bottles of champaign and we toasted each other. “Okay, guys, and now the bad news. Ole Bucky is insisting that he wants to hand us his Broker of Record appointment in person tomorrow morning in a little ceremony at his office in Tysons Corner. He doesn’t want to have lunch he doesn’t drink so all he wants is for us to be there.”

(To be continued)

A Foot in the Door

At about 5:30 in the evening on an ordinary workday in 1989, I was sitting  in my office tying up some loose ends before leaving for home when the phone rang. “John Delach speaking.”

“Hey, Delach, it’s Hayes. What the earliest time you can get here tomorrow morning?”

“Good evening to you too, Frank. Let me check the OAG book, (Official Airline Guide,) to see which shuttle gets into National first, Pan Am or Trump.” The guide revealed that the Trump Shuttle had the earliest departure from LaGuardia at 6 am with an ETA into National of 7:25.

“Great, I’ll pick you up at the airport. We’re going to Tysons Corner for an 8:45 meeting with the risk manager from Monster Defense Corporation, (MDC). He’s given me 15 minutes to pitch him for a shot at their marine operation.”

“Frank, hold on one second, I’m aware that MDC operates five pre-positioned transports, (MPS) for the navy. Do you think this is what he’s talking about?”

“Right you are, big guy. Do you need anything else? Oh yeah, before I forget, his name is Bucky Bartlett. He’s a Red Sox fan and he has the shortest attention span of any person I’ve ever met.”

I gathered up pertinent material, but before I left, I walked over to Martin McCluney’s office. Fortunately, Martin was still there. “I am going down to DC early tomorrow morning and we may have a shot at MDC’s MPS fleet. I think they are similar to the MPS fleet you place for Sea Force. Can you check for any significant differences and be here tomorrow morning by 8:30 to give me a bold cost estimate?”

“Of course, I can, John, if you can give me their values and tonnages. That’s all I need to give you a ballpark number of how much their insurance should cost.”

“Understood, thanks and, God willing, we’ll talk tomorrow.”

I left my house ahead of the morning rush hour, made my way to LaGuardia, parked and entered the terminal by 5:15. The vending machine charged my AMEX card $150 for a round trip ticket. I grabbed a bagel and coffee, cleared security and walked to the Trump Shuttle Lounge where I helped myself to complimentary copies of The Wall Street Journal and the National Review.

Frank was waiting at the curb when I exited the terminal: “Good morning, John. Good flight?”

“Indeed, a good day for flying. Hopefully, the rest of the day will be as good.” Frank gave me the skinny on Bartlett: “I have been pursuing him for months now. It was only yesterday when I pestered him one more time. Surprisingly, he gave me this narrow window if only to get me out of his hair. I meant what I said about his attention span. I’m convinced he’s playing me and this will be a waste of time if we can’t blow his socks off in those first fifteen minutes.”

“Frank, I feel good about getting our feet in the door. There are three separate MPS fleets each operated by a different contractor and we already place the insurances for two of them. McCluney handles one and Steve Beslity is the broker for the other. Steve is out of town, but Martin is only a phone call away to give us an aggressive cost estimate for Bartlett..

Frank drove to the Tysons Corner complex that included a Marriott Hotel. “We have 45 minutes to kill, John. Let me buy you breakfast at the Marriott’s buffet.”

This provided us with an excellent rehearsal and by 8:40, we were seated in Bartlett’s reception area. His assistant led us to his office.

Frank introduced me to Bucky Bartlett explaining who I was and why I was there. “ Mr. Bartlett,” I began, “ Our marine department is familiar with the MPS fleets and I can give you a realistic estimate of accurate insurance costs if you can tell me each ship’s value and gross tonnage.”

He looked in his file before replying then said: “Okay they all have the same value which is ‘X’ and gross tonnage which is ‘Y.”

I asked him if I could call our New York office. Martin answered on the first ring and I waited for his calculations. A few minutes later he produced his estimates. “ John, I am confident we can place their fleet at this price. Their values and tonnages are almost identical to the Sea Force fleet.”

I wrote down the cost estimate, thanked Martin and hung up. I passed the estimate to Bartlett and enjoyed the surprised look on his face. He pondered the estimate for a moment then looked up at Frank: “Interesting, very interesting. Please put this in writing and I will take it up with our treasurer.”

He shook our hands gesturing that the meeting was over.

“Talk about ‘slam, bam and thank you ma’am!” Frank exclaimed after we exited their building. “The S.O.B. didn’t even ask us any questions! John, he’s going to turn our estimate over to his existing broker, Jackson & Poor as soon as I give it to him in writing.”

“Frank, my guess is that our estimate is so much les than he’s paying now that his head is on fire. Jackson & Poor will have a hard time explaining away the differences and when they react, we can go lower. When we do and ole Bucky goes nuts, blame it on me. I’ll put a team together to work with you. Beslity will lead it, McCluney will be our marine expert and you will be our account executive. As for me, I’ll fade into the background. Frank, Bucky walked into a trap of his own making and we can do this”

Frank looked at me, smiled and replied: “Let the games begin.” (To be continued.)

If the NFL 2020 Season Ended Today…

As of today, Wednesday, December 2, 2020, the National Football League, our Nation’s preeminent sports monopoly has been able to complete eleven weeks of their 2020 season  despite the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Incredible! Last September, when the season started, I was convinced that because football is the ultimate team close contact sport, the players interaction in practice and during games would spread infection at such an alarming rate that the season would be ruined by Week Six at the latest of the NFL’s 17-week season.

Instead, the NFL’s big brains managed to keep the schedule alive. Frankly, I am amazed that so few players and staff have tested positive resulting in the small number of games that have had to be postponed or shifted around. I expected that these disruptions would cascade into a free for all as more and more teams would be affected. Instead the disruptions have been minimal.

Unfortunately, currently there is an exception that could throw a monkey wrench into the works. This crisis involves a contest between the Pittsburg Steelers, the leaders of their division with a record of 11 wins and no losses and their rivals, the Baltimore Ravens with a record of six wins and four losses. (Note, to date, the Ravens have only played ten games meaning they are already one game in arears.)

Because of multiple infections on both teams, but mostly on the Ravens, this game was originally postponed from Thanksgiving, November 26 to Sunday, November 29, then to Tuesday night, December 1 and now to this afternoon, Wednesday, December 2nd. If this game is ultimately cancelled, it may become the trigger that causes the season to unravel. If that happened, it would force the league to determine how the playoffs will be structured.

Trust me, regardless of what happens to the regular season, including shutting it down, the NFL powers will do anything that they must do to protect and even expand a complete playoff schedule. Their goal will be to maximize playoff revenue from network television and from  satellite and streaming services too. 

This brings me to my NFL cliché: “If the season ended today…”

“If the season ended today my Football Giants would be the Eastern Conference Champions who would host a wild-card team in our home stadium.”

To explain the insanity of this statement, you must understand that as of today, the Giants’ record is four wins and seven losses. Obviously, that is not a good record. But the Giants play in the NFC East with three other teams, the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Football Team formerly known as the Redskins. The division is so weak that the press often refers to it as, “the NFC Least.”

As of today, this is the standings and the team records in the NFL East are as follows:

Football Giants: 4-7

The Washington Football Club (formerly known as the Redskins):4-7: (Giants win tie breaker)

Eagles:               3-7-1 (Tie)

Cowboys:           3-8

The entire division is pathetic, a fraud, a grifter, a Fuquay, the fat shuffle, chicanery, a con, a hustle, a sting, a hoax a scam or, my favorite, bamboozlement.

Use whatever football cliché you like to explain this distortion in the NFL’s universe like: “That’s why they play the game,” or “On any given Sunday, any given team can beat any other given team,” to establish the justification you need to explain this extraordinary phenomenon.

Even if the Ravens vs Steelers game is finally played as now scheduled the odds against completing the season will grow greater and greater as winter looms ahead. Of course, this precludes the thought that the big bad NFL will obtain enough of the vaccinations to immunize every team.  Now, I’m not naïve enough not to believe the NFL could pull this off. They could, but the hue and cry from the masses would be so loud and intense, that even Commissioner Roger Goodell, would wilt under that assault.

But regardless of how much of the season is completed, “the least from the East” will produce a division winner that will not have a winning record.

Three of the four teams have lost their starting quarterback and the remaining team, the Eagles, are so unhappy with their starter that they plan to bench him. Nobody, I say nobody can predict who will be the last team standing as king of the NFC East!

With six games remaining in the regular season, I predict the best record that one of the un-fabulous four can produce will be 7 wins and 9 losses and it may only be 6 and 10.

Two words: Pathetic and ludicrous.