John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: November, 2022

A Death in the Family

December 2022: I wrote this piece in June of 2016 in tribute to my teacher.

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 that I presented that day. 

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

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

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

Witness 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 concludes 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.

Calling his wife at her office, shouting “Is Bonnie there?

I love her and I love the kids…”

He was – in the Newsday obit,

The ending of a poem to his wife:

“…The end

is a bend in the road

That we’ll never find

A death I will always


us from.”

Maxwell Wheat a man of peace who served his nation as a Marine toward the end of World War II, did his duty and yet espoused Whitman and Melville; do no harm.

First Poet Laureate of Nassau County, a national treasure; did no harm.

Adios my teacher, my friend: Via con Dios!

Triumph and Tragedy

November, 2022 (Originally written in 2016)

Monday, March 1, 1962 was one of those superb winter days, moderately cold but crisp and clear, the perfect day for a parade. The Daily Mirror’s morning headline commanded:

Go! Go! To See

Glen Today

   Their accompanying story began: “The heavens will turn off that chronic drizzle of the past few days for the man who conquered the sky.”

    The parade actually honored all seven Mercury astronauts and was conceived following America’s first space flight by Alan Shepheard. But that flight and Gus Grissom’s subsequent success were so brief that the parade was postponed until John Glenn made our nation’s first orbital flight. Glenn became an instant hero and his flight was so well-received and applauded by the American public that the parade became known to all as “The Glenn Parade.”

   I was so excited to see the parade in person. March 1 was also important to me for another reason; I had turned eighteen in February. So, before I made the trip to Manhattan, I first travelled to Jamaica, Queens the location of my local draft board where I registered for the draft and received my Selective Service card. While this card demonstrated that I had fulfilled my civic duty, it also provided proof that I was eighteen and could legally drink in New York.

   Armed with my new status I boarded a Manhattan bound Jamaica elevated subway train at the 168 Street Station for the long ride to Lower Broadway.  For the most part this was a monotonous ride as the train meandered through lackluster neighborhoods like Richmond Hill and Woodhaven. It did have one interesting view though. At one point the el lifted up above the surrounding apartment buildings to clear the Long Island RR’s old Rockaway Line providing a stunning view of Jamaica Bay, Idlewild (Now JFK) Airport and the Rockaways. I stood up on that clear, cold day to take in the view only to notice a plume of smoke rising high above the bay making me wonder what had caused that to happen?

   On reaching Broadway I joined the masses that lined sidewalks five and six deep becoming absorbed by a crowd estimated to be as many as four million strong who stood along the route. I didn’t see very much even with my height advantage so I can’t say that I saw John Glenn but I think I did. I didn’t stay very long but I didn’t feel disappointment either. Everyone was so happy and proud to be there that it felt good to be part of it.

   None of us standing there knew that the plume I had seen earlier came from the remains of an American Airlines 707 that had crashed earlier in the morning after taking off from Idlewild. American Flight No. 1, non-stop service from New York to Los Angeles, began its takeoff roll at 10:07 AM, about the same time I arrived at the Selective Service Office.  The airplane carrying a crew of 8 and 87 passengers climbed to 1,600 feet over Jamaica Bay where the flight crew commenced a left turn. At this point something went terribly wrong with the rudder, the moveable part of the tail. The 707 banked beyond 90 degrees, flipped over onto its back and began a fatal dive toward Jamaica Bay. One minute and 49 seconds after beginning takeoff, the 707 smashed into the bay upside down at an angle of 73 degrees exploding in the shallow waters killing all on board.

   The crash of American Flight No. 1 was the largest single-plane domestic air tragedy up to that time and forced next morning’s newspapers to come to terms with all that had happened on March 1…

  The headline on the Daily News read:


95 Die in Jet; Busman Strike;

Millions Share Glenn Triumph

  The Daily Mirror stayed the course with:


  The only notation, a box at the bottom right-hand corner of the first page noted:

95 Die Here In

Worst Air Crash

  The New York Times went with twin banner headlines separated by a single column story about the Fifth Avenue Coach Company strike.  The left side banner headline covered three columns and read:




    The right- side headline covered four columns and read:




   Finally, the New York Herald Tribune separated the stories top to bottom of the front page with:

Triumph – The New York Way


TRAGEDY – End of Flight 1

   They began at the top of the page with this overview:

  “Man reaches for the stars but he stands upon the earth. And his fallibilities and failings go hand in hand with his capability and achievements. Yesterday this city honored a space hero – even while stunned by a great air disaster. Today it still feels the pride in John Glenn – and it mourns the ninety-five who died at Idlewild.

  We may be sure that there will also be other tragedies from the mines below the earth to the skies above it. But we know, too, that man will persevere and prevail and progress, for he knows no other way.”

“Every Way You Look at This You Lose

If a nation divided cannot stand, so what in hell is holding our Republic together?

Consider this verse from Simon and Garfunkel’s breakthrough hit: Mrs. Robinson:

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon

Going to the candidates’ debate

Laugh about it, shout about it

When you’ve got to choose

Every way you look at this, you lose

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you

Woo, woo, woo

What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson?

Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away

Hey, hey, hey

Hey, hey, hey.

Election day was held on Tuesday, November 8th. By the time you read this just after the third Tuesday in November, the people should have spoken and ordinarily what’s done should be done. But in this era of our national division, disagreement and litigation, I fear a plethora of court challenges will be the next cycle for our 2022 elections? I hope not, but I fear this may be our new reality.

Here’s what really sucks, both parties have become stupidly predictable. While we were sleeping, they became captive by their own extreme elements. The crazies on the right led by The Donald, have far too much influence on the Republicans while a coalition of left wing, so called, progressives seem to control the Democrats and their policies.

Ordinary men and women, those folks who think of themselves as Citizens, don’t buy into either philosophy. They want a government that will do the right thing. The problem for free-thinking independent voters should be obvious; for them, both parties are rigged by the inordinate influence of their most radical members. Moderate candidates who they may have favored are regularly defeated in primaries. Many reasonable voters are usually ambivalent when it comes to their party’s primaries and don’t participate in primary elections. Unfortunately, radicals on the left and right figured this out and incentivize their followers to vote while we, mainstream voters, abstain.

Add to that our modern age, greatly influenced by social media and other electronic venues, bombard us with seemingly endless attacks against any candidate who runs against their favored son or daughter. And what about those slick carboard flyers that clog our mail boxes? Stop already, do something nice and save a tree.

“He’s against a woman’s right to choose.”

“She’s soft on crime.”

“He supported, Trump.”

“She’s responsible for the uncontrolled inflation.”

“If he wins, it will be the end of our nation as we know it.”

If she wins, it will be the end of our nation as we know it.”

When you’ve got to choose

Every way you look at this, you lose.

If the Democrats retained control of both the Senate and the House, they will still face dissention in their ranks from Joe Manchin and if the Republicans take control of either house, grid-lock will prevail.

I can only imagine what a three-ring circus it will be for the 2024 Presidential election, especially if it includes The Donald which is likely.         

And as I pen this two days before Election Day, even though I put my civic duty above my doubts that this is an exercise in futility, I do so as a citizen of the greatest democracy on earth. I vote to protect and preserve the United States of America now, and for future generations.


Glory be, reasonableness prevailed at the polls! Granted, extreme partisanship did prevail in many individual elections, but overall, the country decided on moderation. Everything considered, the voters produced reasonable results. The predicted Republican wave failed to materialize, except on Long Island. The Democrats retained control of the Senate but lost the House of Representatives so grid-lock will prevail.

The Donald promises to make an announcement next week. We should all mark our calendars to register that November 15th was the day that the circus came to town.        

God bless the United States of America. Come 2024, we will surely need His blessing, if not His Divine intervention.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Our nation turns its troubled eyes to you…

Section 107, Row 3, Seat 15

First published, December, 2002.

            Hard to believe, twenty seasons have come and gone since I authored this piece. The good news is my Giants won two more championships, Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. Between those two championships, Giants Stadium, the home of this piece, was demolished in favor of a new nerd of a stadium, a mistake designed to accommodate its two owners, the Giants and the Jets. Instead, neither fan base is happy with MetLife.

            Bah humbug! This story is about passion, glory and awful disappointment. In other words, the life of a serious fan and his offspring who inhabited Giants Stadium. That was our house.  Now we are reduced to MetLife Stadium, Giants Stadium’s flawed successor. Sadly, to buy into this dubious distinction coat me $10,000 for two Personal Seat License (PSLs) that I was forced to buy so I could renew my two season tickets. You can’t make this up!

But I digress…When asked, “Why do you bother going to these late season football games when you can see so much more on TV at home? Conveniences like replays, slow motion and video analysis that provide insights you don’t get to see being in the stadium. Add to that all of the personal advantages of watching the games from home, it just does not make sense to fight the traffic coming and going, the cold, wind and, at times, rain or snow. You have to be nuts!

I merely reply, “I have had my season ticket since 1962 and the Giants are a way of life for me.”

My seat is three rows from the playing field on the side of the western end zone at Giants Stadium, Section 107, Row 3, Seat 15.

A seat close to the field may be the premier place to watch baseball, basketball, tennis or hockey, but not football. Football is a sport that lends itself to distance. That is why it works so well on TV. From a distance, the dance unfolds, the players flow moving along intricate patterns choreographed by the coaches, rehearsed in practice and set into motion by the snap of the ball.

That is not what I experience from my seat. Frankly, if truth be told, for a good part of the game, the action is too far away from my seat for me to witness anything except what my 7×35 binoculars allow me to bring into focus.

A distant event, but once the teams reach the 35 yard-line at my end of the field, I put the binoculars away and concentrate on the battle at hand. Gone are the fluid movements of pass receivers and defensive backs as they race for the football, or running backs cutting and weaving. Instead, I see eleven angry men on each team intent on forcing their will on the other eleven. This is football. The game ceases to be solely visual. The air pops with sound as the quarterback barks his signals, the linebackers shout out defensive codes. The players’ grunts, groans and curses as the ball is hiked and contact is made. The shocking sound of plastic helmets and shoulder pads colliding. all about, bodies are moving furiously engaging each other while the quarterback struggles to release the ball or the running back struggles to break out, break free as the opposition’s defensive players furiously attack intent on wrecking any semblance of success.

Fans are vocal and astute. Being close to the field, our voices carry to the players as they await the next play. To the enemy, shouts of,  “Not Today, not in our house!” or if the Giants have the ball, encouragement like, “Have an idea,” “Go Blue go,” or “Get six, O, get six!”  The officials, too, hear our admonitions if they render a poor or questionable decision. The closest is only 30 feet away well within our range.  “Excuse me Number 77, Mister Back Judge, you will burn in hell for that call!”

There is nothing like a close game late in the 4th Quarter. The Giants are either driving desperately attempting to score or playing defense determined to stop the bad guys. The rush of adrenalin is real. 77,000 faithful fans are charged, hard wired, ready to live or die on every play. They fill the stadium with chants like, “DEE-fense, DEE-fense, DEE-fense.”

Exciting? Oh, yes. One or two plays to go, everyone is standing. A time out is called and everything stops. Not long, only thirty seconds, but enough time to catch our breath. The crowd is oblivious to the rain, the snow, the cold.  I look around at these fans, mostly grown men, most dressed in Giants’ colors, “these idiots” cold, wet and far from home. I see their faces, the excitement in their eyes. I smile and I ask myself, “Well, JD what do you think?”

“What do I think? Here is what I think: “Damn, I cannot think of anyplace I would rather be than right here, right now, Go Giants.”        

My Alaska Anxiety Undoing

Our travel documents for Alaska arrived less than a week before we leave. To my horror, I discover that they call for three flights on Northwest Airlines: JFK to Detroit, Detroit to Minneapolis and Minneapolis to Fairbanks. Having to make two connections is bad enough, but the one in Detroit stuns me. The flight from JFK is scheduled to land at 2:40 p.m. and the flight to Minneapolis departs at 3:10 p.m. 30 minutes later!

“This is nuts,” I say to Mary Ann. Frantic calls to Northwest, and the travel agent fail to solve this potential mess. There are no discounted seats left on direct flights to Minneapolis.

When I share my dilemma with a friend, Frank D’Ambrosio, Frank replies, “I agree, you’re in a fix. So how can you be proactive?”

I look at him strangely, but he continues, “Why don’t you FedEx your bags directly to the hotel in Fairbanks. I’ve done that with my golf clubs on a trip to Hawaii and Suzanne and I send things to our realtor in Sanibel, Florida to be delivered to our house there.”

I check with the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel who sees no problem with this plan. FedEx estimates the cost per bag at $100 for two-day delivery if they each weigh-in at 40 pounds or less. Monday, May 30 is Memorial Day but the agent that I speak to at FedEx confirms that they deliver on that day.

I convince Mary Ann to a three-part baggage strategy to help me cope with my anxiety over these connections. We will send two bags via FedEx containing clothes and items we will need on arrival, pack a large bag with the things we won’t need until we board the RYNDAM and take a small carry-on that contains items we will need should we miss our connections. Mary Ann drops off the two bags a day early on Wednesday, May 25 at Kinko’s in Glen Cove. Of course, it’s not as easy as I hoped. She tells me, “It took me 45 minutes. They did not want to ship the bags because of the straps and they didn’t have a box big enough for them. They had to construct a large box out of two. Another thing, since I dropped them off today, they will arrive Friday afternoon.”

At least the cost was in the ballpark. Shipping the two bags cost $201.64.

Ah, but so much for being proactive. On Friday night I track the bags on FedEx’s web site that confirms the bags have been delivered. I call the hotel to double check delivery but I am told that only one bag arrived. Curious, I call FedEx’s 800 number. When I give the agent my tracking numbers, she tells me there is a problem. It turns out that one of the boxes has been sent to Anchorage. The agent says it won’t be delivered until Tuesday as they are off on Monday. “No, no!” I say, “Your agent told me that you are delivering in Fairbanks on Monday.”

“Well I’m in Pittsburgh and we are closed on Monday. Hold on, I’ll call Anchorage.”

The agent in Anchorage admits that they received the box, but they have already forwarded it to Fairbanks. “We’re closed on Monday and so is Fairbanks. You can’t get it until Tuesday.”

This really pisses me off and I tell him: “This is unacceptable, first, it should be in Fairbanks, today, and, second, I was told it could be delivered on Monday.”

He replies, “I can hang up on you.”

“No you won’t,” I reply, my voice fixed and stern. “I have not used foul language or threatened you in any way. I am justified to be upset and I am not being unreasonable. Your job is to solve this problem. Like it or not, you are FedEx’s representative. Now what are you going to help me?”

His lame reply is, “You’ll have to call Fairbanks.”

“Fine, that’s great, what’s their number?”

He hesitates, has a side conversation, then returns to the line, “I can’t give you that number, you have to call the 800 number.”

“Great, what’s your name?”


“Ron what?”

“Ron Fales,” (pronounced Fails.)          

I call FedEx and am transferred to Deanna, the tracker assigned to my claim. She conferences in their Fairbanks office and things just get worse. The Fairbanks agent, Brittany, advises that the box will not arrive at their facility until after we leave for our next stop, Denali National Park. Brittany’s bad news continues, “FedEx does not ship to Denali. We use a local courier service and I don’t know how long it will take them to get it there.”

As I’m absorbing these blows, I notice that the Holland American Lines’ (HAL) itinerary only shows a post office box for McKinley Chalets, not a street address. As FedEx does not deliver to a P.O. Box, I ask Mary Ann to call the hotel on our other line to obtain a street address. She obtains one that reads, “Mile Post 239.8, Denali Park 99755.

Since Brittany can offer no joy, I say to Deanna, “I must really speak to a supervisor.”

 Finally, she puts me through to a supervisor in Memphis, Doris Copper. Ms Copper cuts through some of the complications and determines that she will guide the process to have the bag delivered to McKinley Chalets in Denali National Park on Tuesday afternoon.

She promises to personally supervise this on Tuesday and we exchange phone numbers. By this time, I have no options left so I agree that this is an acceptable solution. I don’t tell her about Ron Fales, I’ll leave that for later. God only knows if this will work.

Of course, the big outstanding question is, whose bag is at the hotel in Fairbanks?

 We sent two almost identical bags one filled with Mary Ann’s gear and one with mine. The only difference is mine is blue and hers is red. Normally, the hotel puts the FedEx box in their luggage room unopened. Mary Ann calls and explains our dilemma, “The only way we can know what we have to bring is if you open the box and tell me what the color of the bag is.”

At first the agent says that she cannot do this, but Mary Ann tells her, “Have another employee talk to me and I will confirm my instructions to him or her.”

The agent agrees. We wait a couple of minutes before she returns to the telephone. “It’s red.” Thank God, I lose! Mary Ann’s bag made it and I ducked that bullet.

 My only recourse is to pack the essentials I will need into the carry-on including toiletries extra socks and underwear. This will get me through until Wednesday. After that, sans the FedEx bag, I will need a credit card to continue.

We reach McKinley Chalets on Tuesday, June 1st and, as if by wizardry, so does my blue bag. FedEx also refunds the $201.64.

Life is good.