John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: April, 2021

A Force Majeure

 Dear reader, please disregard my message that “On the Outside Looking In,” would not publish this Wednesday, April 21.

My plan, to be away in New Hampshire, was trumped by a spring snow and ice storm that dumped about twelve inches on our house in Marlow. This storm also caused multiple power outages. We postponed our trip to open Little House for the 2021 season.  

As a result, Part Two of Our Normandy Chronicles will be published this Wednesday.

John Delach     

Trip to Bayeux and to the Sea: Part One of My Normandy Chronicles

Friday, October 20, 2000. Sunrise arrives late in Paris this time of the year and it is still dark at 7:00 AM. The dreary weather enhances the darkness while the lights from cafes illuminate the early commuters on their way to work.

Negotiating our way past these men and women, we walk to the Gare St. Lazare to catch the train to Bayeux. A long stone staircase provides an obstacle for our luggage, especially for Don and Helen’s oversized suitcase that we call Big Bertha. We men manhandle it up to the second floor only to discover the escalator we no longer need. We find our train and the six of us settle into our reserved first-class compartment. Our journey will take about two hours and soon we are entertained by a group of French women in the next compartment. Their animated conversation is punctuated with gales of laughter that grows in volume and hilarity as they continue. We try to peek, but they have drawn the curtains and it is not until they prepare to detrain that we see them. Four plainly dressed middle aged women and we can only imagine what memories, thoughts or circumstances led them to carry on as they did.

The train continues onto Caen and then Bayeux.

 Anticipating difficulty with our luggage, Peggy made reservations at a hotel close to the station when she coordinated our trip. In the parking lot we see the “Hotel de la Gare,” for the first time. Resembling a rooming house more than a hotel, it is a rudimentary building constructed of wood and stone with oddly shaped rooms with and without bathrooms. Mary Ann and I draw a room that has its own bath as do Mike and Peggy. Helen and Don are not so lucky. The room rate is FF298 or $40 that includes a continental breakfast. We take to referring to this hotel as “The Fleabite.”

We eat lunch in town before visiting the museum that is home to the Bayeux Tapestry, the historical work of art that chronicles William the Conqueror’s successful invasion of England. The lengthy tapestry is set in a continuous cabinet that meanders through several rooms Mary Ann and I rush through it but are a bit shocked to discover the fate of King Harold, the English king after he lost the Battle Hastings. It appears the victors played roughly back then as Harold was cut into sixes.

Don, Mike and I visit Bayeux’s World War II museum and note that the British liberated what remained of the city on June 7, 1944, one day after the invasion. Afternoon rain cancels our plan to visit the British cemetery. Oh well, it’s back to the fleabag bar.

That evening, we dine at the Hotel Notre Dame, a small, but charming hotel in the center of Bayeux. Peggy is familiar with this hotel. While planning the trip, she had investigated staying there, but found it difficult to contact them. When we arrive, the hotel manager greets Peggy profusely. Recognizing Peggy’s last name from the dinner reservations, she exclaims” Madam Cruise, I am so sorry that we did not communicate better and that you are not staying with us”.

She asks where we are staying and when Peggy tells her, I swear- I see her eyes cross as she attempts to keep her composure.

The funny thing is that both Mary Ann and I sleep soundly and only awaken when Don knocks at our door the following morning.

 After breakfast in the fleabite, we pack and bring our bags to the lobby. A local taxi service will transport them to the Hotel La Marine in Arromanches, eight miles away. Arromanches was the site of Gold Beach where British and Canadian forces landed on D Day. Unlike our luggage that take the easy way out, we plan to hike to the sea on a marked trail that runs between farmers’ fields. We quickly become adept at identifying trail markers, although we do become lost a few times. Fortunately, between our compass and the map, we regain the trail.

It is rainy season and mud is an issue, but we don’t let it discourage us. Hiking to the Normandy beaches is our goal and our adventure exceeds our expectations. Near noon time, we reach a town with a café serving ham, cheese and butter sandwiches on French bread with wine or Stella Artois on tap. Helen, who disdains butter, when confronted on this being her only choice, replies, “God wants me to have it.”

The afternoon offers us interesting encounters. We meet a group of men and women on horseback who dress in medieval costumes. They have just finished lunch served on folding tables by a man who dresses like a chauffeur or a waiter. Several empty wine bottles are in evidence. We discover their group are part of an equestrian rally set out to collect specific items and score points.

After climbing a rise, we come to a meadow elevated above the surrounding terrain. In the distance, we take in our first glimpse of the English Channel. Before we can react, nature trumps this view in a field adjoining the trail. Two calves have been born shortly before our arrival. The first calf has already risen to its feet and is trying to reach its mother to begin feeding. The second calf remains on the ground having difficulty standing up. First the mother nudges it, and when that doesn’t help, a second cow nudges the calf to provide encouragement. A third cow joins in and, after several more attempts, the calf succeeds in standing up. Quite a sight for us city people.

Finally, we reach the bluffs above Gold Beach and make our way down to the hotel. Our luggage has arrived in good order, and even though this is off-season, the hotel offers us a satisfactory dinner.

I decide that Calvados will be my after-dinner brandy of record for the remainder of this trip. Between the fatigue from today’s journey and the thoughts about walking the bluffs behind the beaches to Colleville, 12 miles  to the south, we call it a night.

“On the Outside Looking In,” will not publish on April  21st  and Part 2 of “My Normandy Chronicles,” will appear on April 28th.            

Once Upon a Time in the State of New York

How good is your memory? How good are you at political trivia? Before I begin, a word of caution: If you are unfamiliar with mid-Twentieth Century New York State politics and politicians: Fuhgeddabouit!

We begin with the election of Kenneth Keating to the United States Senate in 1958. Born in Lima, NY in 1900, Keating, a moderate Republican, was elected to the House of Representatives five times beginning in 1946. He defeated New York City’s well-known DA, Frank Hogan, in that 1958 election.

Keating and Governor Nelson Rockefeller both joined Jacob Javits, elected to the US Senate in 1956, to form a powerful triangle of moderate / liberal Republicans with national aspirations.

By 1962, I was coming of age politically. I had grown up instinctively a Republican, so I thought that these were my guys although, in my heart, I knew we weren’t on the same page, but Keating gave me hope. Through sources that I have never identified, he was the first politician who broke the story that led to the Cuban missile crisis.

Two years later my hope vanished when Keating led the revolt by part of the New York State delegation to the 1964 GOP convention by walking out after the delegates nominated my personal hero, Barry Goldwater, for president.

A point of trivia. Goldwater’s running mate was another upstate congressman, Bill Miller. Years later, Miller appeared in a TV ad for American Express that went something like this: “Hello, do you know who I am? I once ran for vice president of the United States.”

“ No, you don’t know who I am, that’s why I carry the American Express Card “

The commercial then displayed a blank Amex card on which the name Bill Miller was printed before our eyes.”

In a bit of irony, Keating also lost his seat in 1964 to Robert F. Kennedy. Four years later, RFK was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles just after winning the California primary.

Enter Charles Goodell. Who was Charles Goodell? The easy answer is: The father of Roger Goodell, the reigning Commissioner of the National Football League.

In 1968, Charles Goodell was yet another obscure upstate congressman who Governor Rockefeller appointed to fill the remaining two years of the late senator’s term of office.

That same year, the author, publisher and commentator, William F. Buckley, ran for mayor of New York City, in part, to raise the visibility of the nascent Conservative Party. When asked what he would do if declared the winner, Mr. Buckley replied: “Demand a recount.”

But Buckley’s serendipitous campaign accomplished his goal, it put the Conservative Party on the map. When I turned 21 in 1965, I registered as a Conservative.

As the bi-election of 1970 drew closer, WFB, called his older sibling, James (Jim) to suggest he run on the Conservative Party line for Goodell’s seat. According to a piece in a recent issue of National Review (NR), Jim’s reaction was, “That’s ridiculous.”

Ordinarily, Jim Buckley’s reaction would have been bang-on. Running on the Conservative line might draw less than 15% of the vote. The hope was the Democratic candidate would mirror Goodell’s liberalism creating a possible path for a conservative.

True to form, the Democrats nominated Richard Ottinger, a down-state Congressman to face off against Goodell. When James Buckley accepted the Conservative Party’s nomination for the Senate, we, the citizens of the Empire State had a bona fide, three-way race; two liberals against a conservative.

The stars must have been aligned: Like the 1969 Mets, the 1969 Jets and the 1970 Knicks; when the final tally of 5,893,894  votes were countered, Jim Buckley had done the impossible in the State of New York: He had been elected to the United Sates Senate by the following vote count:

Buckley: 2,288,190 or 38%

Ottinger: 2,171,232 or 36%

Goodell: 1,434,472 or 24%

Oh, happy days! I was ecstatic. It was the happiest vote I’d ever cast for a US Senate candidate.

The reality of being a conservative in New York returned with a thud in 1976. Daniel Patrick Moynihan cruised to victory in the general election with 54.1% of the vote while Jim Buckley, now running on both the Republican and Conservative lines, fell short with 44.9%.

And so it goes, although I will always wonder what would have happened if the second-place finisher in the Democratic primary, Bella Abzug, had managed to overcome her 10,000 shortfall to Moynihan? Abzug’s controversial ceaseless attack mode did her in in several runs for office and pitted against the genteel Buckley; well, if I had been a betting man, I’d have put my money on Jim Buckley.

But to be fair let me quote the words of one of my favorite call girls, Mandy Rice Davies, to put my opinion in perspective: “He would say that, wouldn’t he!”