John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: March, 2022

Dreaming a Dream

My sincerest apologies, dear reader, but I need a week off to recalibrate my mind. It’s not that I am out of ideas, I have three ready to develop, but I seem to be suffering through writer’s migraine instead of a writer’s block.

So, I ask that you accept this vignette for this week’s edition of On the Outside Looking In.

I rarely have vivid dreams, but several nights ago, I had one that seem to last most of the night. Its opening found me entering a conference room with a number of other men and women. After taking my seat around a large glass table, we were advised that the purpose of this meeting was to give us the opportunity to review the company’s proposed annual review and evaluation of our performance.

Part of me immediately objected to openly participating in a personal examination in such a public forum. But I caught my objection by considering that I had not had an evaluation in quite some time and, perhaps, the confidential aspect of this procedure may have changed.

A sub-thought immediately challenged that supposition: “Any evaluation by its very nature must be private.”

Before I could object, some individual dropped a file on the table in front of me. Of course, it was my evaluation. Without instruction or permission, I began to read it. It recommended that my annual bonus should be cut from $10,000 to $5,000.

Damn, I thought, but I ventured on to read the findings. They weren’t encouraging:

“Seems distracted.”

“Doesn’t concentrate.”

“Is he pre-occupied?”

“Is there a problem in his life affecting his ability to work.”

When I finished reading the comments, I had a curious reaction, one I didn’t consider until that very moment:

“Of course, of course, all of those comments make sense. Hell, I’m 78 years old! What do they expect from me?”

Then it occurred to me: “They don’t know that I’m 78!”

Quickly, another thought intruded: “If I’m 78, why in hell am I still working?”

“Ah ha,” I said to myself. “This is a brilliant trap. They’re suspicious of me.”

I decided to keep my cards close to my chest and keep this news to myself until I could return home and ask Mary Ann if there was any reason why I should still be working.

I carried that thought through the night until I actually awakened. Immediately, my conscience thought was drawn to its obvious conclusion that I verbalized to my dream: “It is not necessary for me to speak to Mary Ann about this. In reality, as of April First, I will have been retired for 22 wonderful years.

When I related my dream to Mary Ann later that morning, her reaction was: “Was I retired?”

“Mary Ann, in my dream you were so retired that I couldn’t understand why I was still working.”


I decided to go car hunting in early March of 2020. I had promised my son, my 2016 GMC Arcadia to replace his failing minivan. I delighted in that Arcadia. It was a great road car with ample room for both cargo and second row passengers seemingly designed for long-distance trips.

I was totally prepared to replace it with the 2020 model, but GMC had shrunk both the external and internal dimensions of their replacement model to meet new EPA standards.  My cousin, Bob, who had recently leased the new model, hated it because he couldn’t enter the driver’s seat without banging his head. I am taller than Bob making it a non-starter for me.

An upgrade to GMC’s Yukon that retained its generous dimensions was out of the question. The price for GMC’s king of the road had escalated to more than $70,000, an amount I considered to be grossly excessive.

Kia and its sister company, Hyundai, had recently introduced new cross-over models having similar dimensions to my Arcadia.  I watched several promotional videos about the Kia Telluride and the Hyundai Palisade that explained that both were built by the same parent company with the same engine, transmission and frame. Either vehicle seemed acceptable and so, I began my quest.

I set out on March 9th to investigate their suitability and availability of these vehicles. At a stop at a KIA Dealer in Levittown, I found their inventory for new Tellurides was disappointing. When I asked a representative when he expected to receive the next shipment, he replied, “That’s anyone’s guess. We were scheduled to receive eight Tellurides two weeks ago. So far, none have been delivered.”

They had but one, a stripped-down model, on the lot, but it gave me the opportunity to check out the suitability of its driver’s seat. I was pleased with the results as I found I could easily enter and exit the driver’s seat without contorting my body or banging my head or knees.

Disappointed by their lack of inventory, but encouraged by this vehicle’s suitability, I drove to a Hyundai dealership in Hempstead. Millennium Hyundai. The salesman, Omar, volunteered that they had Palisade on the lot that met my needs. I waited a bit while he retrieved it and when he returned, I followed him out onto the lot where I saw this freshly washed shining black beauty preening in the afternoon sun.  It was love at first sight.

After a test ride, followed by necessary posturing, I agreed to buy it pending Mary Ann’s approval. When Omar questioned this, I explained, “Omar, you are single. I have been married 53 years. Including my wife in this decision is part of the reason we have made it 53 years and counting.”

I explained to Mary Ann that my only regret was that I had to accept the second-row seats consisted of two captain’s chairs instead of a bench seat, but that I did avoid having it include a sunroof. After taking a ride and driving the Palisade, Mary Ann signed off on my new wheels then pointed out the controls located on the underside of the roof were for the sun roof I though I didn’t have.

A word about the bucket seats. Ordinarily, I would have welcomed them, but having two old big dogs as part of our family presented a specific problem. Max and Tess, a Golden Retriever and a Yellow Lab ride in the cargo area of our SUVs. The back bench seat acts as a barrier keeping them from attempting to join us up front. Bucket seats provides them with their own alley to stroll directly to our front row seats. Trial, error and a steel barricade solved that issue.     

Two days later the sale was made. Meanwhile, both Michael and I did all we could to expedite the transfer of the Arcadia to him. Thankfully, he completed all of the paperwork on his new vehicle before the COVID 19 quarantine was enacted in Connecticut. I wasn’t as fortunate, but I did get by with a series of 30-day temporary registrations that lasted until June when I received the permanent one good for two-years.

My Palisade is chock-a-block full of sensors that control anything and everything that has to do with the operation of my truck. In no particular order it includes: Lane sensors, brake sensors, passing car sensors, backup sensors and camera. It will automatically stop itself if I don’t brake for a passing vehicle or pedestrian. It has “so called” smart cruise control. Very sophisticated, it includes a primitive version of hands off, foot off cruise control driving. It automatically slows the speed if a slow-moving vehicle enters my lane and returns to my pre-set speed once it departs.

After two weeks of complete confusion trying to figure out these and other bells and whistles, I made an appointment with Omar to return to the dealership with Mary Ann on Friday March 21 to clear up these issues.

Omar was a no show, and when I called his mobile number, I discovered he’d been laid off!

A couple of other salesmen and tech folks tried to help. Meanwhile, we couldn’t help to notice the frenzy of activity going on in and around the dealership. A few salesmen were turning in old cars for new leases in a chaotic fashion. Finally, a salesman explained why: “By the governor’s order, we must close by 8 pm tonight and we have no idea when we will re-open.”

Without access to the dealer, I slowly figured out how things worked, but when Millennium re-opened later in the spring of 2020, it took me several trips back to Hempstead to straighten out my confusion and solve my issues.

Late in 2021, when new cars and even used cars became scarce, I received a text from Omar asking me if I might be interested in turning in my Palisade for a new one to be named later. I replied, “No thank you, but I am glad that you are back to work.”     

An Incident at Stalag IX A

The following is a true story of raw and complete heroic unity by 1,292 malnourished and frostbitten American non-commissioned officers (NCOs) who were prisoners of war (POWs) in the Nazi prison camp, Stalag IX A on the morning of January 27, 1945.*

These men had been captured during the opening days of the last great Nazi offensive in the Ardennes Forest in Mid-December 1944, commonly known as the Battle of the Bulge. These soldiers had been transported to Stalag IX A, a massive prison that housed thousands of British, French, Dutch and Belgian soldiers, many captured in 1940.

Every one of these American soldiers was a NCO separated from their officers to whom they reported and everyday GIs who reported to them. The Nazis deliberately separated POWs to break their morale. Concentrating the NCOs was advantageous for these sergeants and corporals who were used to to taking command when necessary. They were well-disciplined and they knew how to organize. The senior NCO in the group in Stalag IX A, Master Sargent Roddie Edmonds, had joined the Tennessee National Guard in 1941. He had spent most of the war training raw recruits for combat. Well suited for command, Sargent Edmonds rapidly, yet  methodically created a chain of command that began with the senior sergeant from each of the barracks.

Edmonds’ command arrived at Stalag IX A on January 25th, and it didn’t take long for the Nazis to demonstrate their cruelty and ethnic hatred. Late in the afternoon of the next ay the following order was broadcast from the camp’s public address system:

Achtung! Tomorrow morning at roll call, all Jewish –  Americans must assemble in the Appelplatz,  (the place where roll call is performed) – only the Jews – no one else. All who disobey this order will be shot. 

“Roddie (Edmonds)  listened closely along with Frankie, Lester and the others in the barracks.

“Without hesitation Roddie turned to his men and said, ‘We’re not doing that. Tomorrow, we fall out just as we do every morning.”

Sergeant Edmonds called for an urgent meeting of his senior barracks commanders  to gather by his bunk. Edmonds made it clear from the outset, “We’re not doing it.”

“Every infantryman,’ he told them, ‘would assemble in strict military formation at the Appleplatz at the next morning’s roll call. Every soldier…would tell the Germans that they were Jewish.’ Roddie made it clear that everyone must follow his order. He stressed that even the men too sick and weak to walk could not be left behind in the barracks. He ordered all the barracks leaders to make sure that every man in the camp understood his plan.”

At precisely 0600 the following morning, the PA system came alive with shouts of “Raus! Raus!”

“The men assembled as planned. Even those too sick to walk were doing their best to

stand up straight in formation. A few were having trouble, leaning heavily on other POWs’ shoulders – but they were forming up in ranks.

“Nazi Major Siegmann approached the Appleplatz. On seeing the formation, he shouted: ‘Vas es los? Ist das ein Witz?’

“ Siegmann stormed directly toward Roddie and shouted in English, ‘What is this?’

“Roddie held his strict posture, jaw fixed, looking straight ahead. ‘Under Article Seventeen of the Geneva Convention,’ he told Siegmann, ‘Prisoners of war are only required to provide name, rank and serial number.’

“Only the Jews!’ Siegmann shouted. ‘They cannot all be Jews.’

“Roddie turned to stare the major directly in the eyes, ‘We are all Jews here.’

“Not a single soldier broke ranks, faltered or flinched.”’

“ Siegmann drew his Luger from his holster and pressed the barrel hard against Roddie’s forehead, ‘One last chance!’

“Roddie replied calmly, ‘Major, you can shoot me, but you’ll have to kill all of us – because we know who you are  – and you will be tried for war crimes when we win this war. And you will pay.’

“The major’s face blanched, his arm trembled.

“The Luger was still pressed against Roddie’s head – his finger still on the trigger.

“Then quickly – enraged – Siegmann snapped the pistol back to his side, holstered it, turned on his boot heel, and fled the compound.” 

A day or two after I first read these passages, a thought hit me like a slap to my face, “Why on earth hasn’t Roddie Edmonds ben awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor?”

I sincerely hope that this slight will be corrected one day.

*The complete story of these POWs is the central theme of “No Surrender,” by Chris Edmonds that tells the story of his father, Roddie, and his fellow captives from capture to liberation and repatriation back home in America.

Yet, We’re Still Here

Wednesday, March 25, 2020, I was reading the morning paper when the telephone rang. My old buddy, Ted Laborde, was on the line, calling me from his home in New Orleans, asking how bad the COVID virus was in New York City?

Governor Andrew Cuomo  had essentially put the state into lockdown beginning on March 22th.

“Let’s take a look,” I told Ted as I switched on TV and found a local news station that had a camera  aimed up Sixth Avenue to Central Park from their perch on the corner of Forty-Eighth St. I took in the view in disbelief. Finally, I spoke, “Ted, I am looking at a scene I thought I’d never see. On this ordinary Wednesday, the sidewalks and the streets are empty. There are no people, there are no cars. New York is deserted from Rock Center to Central Park!”

I thought to myself: “And now, let us pray.”

Each of us can think back and recall the moment when we realized that all the panic and all the shouts of, “the sky is falling,” were real and this cockamamie “China virus,” as President Trump, called it, was real with a good chance that it could kill us!

As we approach the second anniversary of COVID 19’s arrival in force and its devastating assault on our Homeland, an assault that changed our lives forever, I am taking stock of what it has done to me and my family and I invite you to do the same.

Early in February of 2020. Before I understood the enormity of what was in the wind, I found myself  leaving our local post office. A chap coming towards me stopped me on the steps. He was wearing what we came to know as an N-95 face mask. He looked at me with intensity as he stepped closer to me and said, “If you don’t mask up immediately, old man, you are going to die.”

March First witnessed the first reported case of COVID 19 in New York. The first two deaths came on March 14.

Our last meals in restaurants with family and friends all had a sense of impending doom. Dread joined us at our tables. In each instance, the number of patrons was sparse, the tables were quiet, and the atmosphere was grim. My cousin, Bob joined Mary Ann and me for lunch with his sister, Helen, on March 4 at Savini, an Italian trattoria in Allendale, NJ. Helen, who lives in a nursing home was oblivious, but the three of us correctly realized that this could be the last lunch we would have with her for a long time.

Mike Scott and I had lunch at Foley’s NY the following day, our favorite Manhattan watering hole “where everybody knew our names”. Again, the atmosphere reeked of dread. The owner, Shaun Clancy, was absent. Steffi, our waitress and friend, revealed that Shaun had whisked  away his ailing father, affectionately known as “Papa John” home to Ireland. She explained that Papa John was suffering from a bad case of the flu. Mike and I looked at each other and pondered if it was something worse. We feared that this would be our last lunch at Foley’s until the pandemic passed. Sadly, it turned out to be our last meal at Foley’s ever. Foley’s NY ceased to exist three months later, another victim of the virus.

St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Monday in 2020 and the parade and other festivities were cancelled during the week leading up to March 17. Five days later, life, as we knew it, ceased.

The shutdown was complete and unavoidable. Exceptions were few and far between. Supermarkets and other stores that sold food or alcohol could remain open. Many eateries from the famous to the obscure called it quits. Malls were victims, but the biggest losers were travel, leisure, hospitality and entertainment entities.

We settled into our new locked-down reality. Thank God for our two very best friends, Max and Tessie who were always up for a walk. For a time, we seemed to meet up with a young dog named Bean who loved to torture our two old timers. As the weather warmed, new COVID dogs, mostly Labradoodles, made their appearance in our neighborhood and on our walks.

Dog walks also gave us relief from the TV pontifications by our fearless leaders, Andy Cuomo, then a superstar in mid-morning, Comrade Mayor DeBlasio in the late afternoon and The Donald XLV at supper time. Our life centered around the proclamations of the diminutive Dr. Anthony Fauci and later, Dr. Deborah Brix, she of her daily scarf.

Our driving was limited to running errands, grocery and alcohol shopping and picking up take-out meals. The good news was these restaurants still in business could sell take-out drinks that for me would include a split of chianti with my meal from DiMaggio’s Trattoria and a bloody Mary from Sullivan’s Quay.  I always included a tip of 20% with my order to help the staff.

Since then, we have witnessed improvement, setbacks, and finally, successful vaccines. Mary Ann and I received our two doses of the Pfizer vaccine in Westchester County in February of 2021and March and our booster shots at St. Francis Hospital that September.

Our joy and hopes for immunity were cut short by the Delta and Omicron strains. Several  confusing and conflicting health warnings, prevention measures and restrictions followed in the wake of each variant making sure we remained on edge.

This month, we reached the two-year anniversary of the start of the COVID 19 pandemic. As if by magic, The CDC and our fearless leaders are releasing us from restrictions. Is it real? Is it over? Is it really, really over? Hard to accept and even harder to believe.

As of March 6, over 950,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID 19. That’s a fact and the death toll is projected to reach one million later this year.

Yet, we’re still here.    

Passport Adventures

In my time as an active business traveler, I have suffered through self-inflicted difficulties due to my inability to concentrate on properly preparing for my trips. I flew hundreds of times from 1974 to 2000 and it was always a crap shoot that everything was in order. Most of the time it was, but when things went wrong, I developed a knack for overcoming my mistakes and never missing a flight. Here are two examples that involved my passports:

Mary Ann’s Passport

It is 1980, I am waiting in line to check in at British Airways JFK terminal on a Saturday morning. My flight, BA 178 to London doesn’t leave until 10 AM, but I am here two hours early to calm my flying anxieties.

I am as relaxed as possible as I wait on a short check-in line. I extract my travel documents for the agent to examine when I notice I am about to hand her a blue Bicentennial passport. My panic alarm ignites. I don’t have a blue Bicentennial passport! I have a plain old green passport. Mary Ann has a blue Bicentennial passport! “Oh shit, here I am at JFK with my wife’s passport.”

Upon reaching the counter, I tell the agent, “I have my wife’s passport. May I use your telephone?

Fortunately, Mary Ann is at home and answers my call. I don’t remember what expletive I used. Mary Ann agrees to drive to JFK and deliver my passport. The BA Agent lets me check-in, but sets my luggage aside until I had the right passport. She warns me: “I want you to know that I cannot hold the flight.”

“Understood, but I believe my wife will make it in time.”

Somehow, I pass the time. After 9:30, I begin to worry, but there on the approach road to the terminal at 9:45, I spot our baby blue Ford Escort. Mary Ann has made it! We trade passports, I kiss her, say, “thank you, I love you.”  As I turn away, I hear her parting remark, “You owe me,”  I sprint back to the BA counter, passport in hand.

Bermuda Debacle

In the old days, lack of proper ID was not always a deal breaker. Witness my adventure on a business trip on Eastern Airlines in 1982. Granted, I had two measures of VIP status with Eastern. First off, I was a member of their Ionosphere Club their private lounge where I checked in whenever possible. More importantly, I was a member of Eastern’s Executive Traveler group, one of the first frequent flyer clubs when they really mattered.

I knew Miss Jacobs, the receptionist at the Ionosphere Club at Eastern’s JFK Terminal since I regularly fly to Bermuda on Flight 807, Eastern’s morning flight.

She asks, “What form of ID are you using today?

Once again, that sinking feeling. I reply, “I have forgotten my passport.”

She tries to give me a break by asking if I have my voter registration card?

“All I have is my driver’s license and my Marsh & McLennan ID.”

“Do you think they will be enough to get you into Bermuda?

“I think so, My company has an office in Hamilton, and I believe the authorities will recognize that.”

“Okay,” she replied.

So far so good. Still, I have to get my story straight so I can make the case that my excuse is legitimate, and the immigration agent will buy it. I use the flight to perfect my story and calm my nerves.

Luggage and Bermuda forms in hand, I bravely approach the agent. I pass them to him together with my Marsh photo ID. He looks at my submission, picks up the ID and shows it to me without comment putting the ball in my court.

“I’m terribly sorry, but I left home this morning without my passport or any other form of identification. If you need proof of who I am, my firm has an office in Hamilton. Please feel free to call them and ask for Fiona  Luck, our head of office. She will confirm who I am.”

The agent gives me a curious look that says that he knows who Fiona is and clears me to go.

My return is even easier as nobody could ever think I’m not an American. The US Customs Agent stationed in Bermuda basically let me slide through, but with this admonition: “You know, Mr. Delach, that sooner or later, if you continue to subvert the rules, some SOB will really break your balls and give you a shit load of misery! Repent, my brother, repent.”

I simply nodded to him as I walked away knowing his advice was bang on.

Still, that didn’t prevent me from ordering a bloody Mary at the departure lounge bar in celebration of my successful coup.