John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Don Larsen, Sanita Hills and Me

WCBS News Radio informed me that the former baseball pitcher, Don Larsen, had passed on New Year’s Day at 90. Both this announcement of his passing and his obituary deserved being noticed as Larsen once pitched a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series.

Curiously though, this announcement took me back to the weekend following his perfect game when I was twelve. At the time I was an active First-Class Boy Scout in the Rattlesnake Patrol of Troop 178 then domiciled in PS-81 on Cypress Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens.

Although I was aware of Larsen’s accomplishment, I was more excited about our upcoming weekend camping trip to Camp Sanita, located in Holmes, NY. The camp had been developed years before by the Department of Sanitation as a summer getaway and vacation spot for department employees and their families. It had been recently seeded to the Boy Scouts.

Rustic, even by the standards of the day, it would be considered uninhabitable by today’s campers except for the most adventurous. The camp’s main attraction was fifty former New York City elevated subway cars that Sanitation had salvaged from the hundreds scrapped after the Manhattan els had been torn down. Called, “Pullmanettes”, they populated the camp providing indoor living spaces although I doubt if they had running water, toilets or decent kitchen facilities.

What excited me most about this trip was that my father would be joining us. He was then a Major, stationed at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida, at that time, home to B-47 bombers belonging to the Strategic Air Command.,

John Sr. made periodic trips to Long Island to see his sisters, Ann and Joan, his brother, Marco and me. When he informed me of his upcoming visit, I explained that I was supposed to go on this camping trip that weekend and I asked if he could join me. Surprisingly, he said yes. The sequence of how this all came together is lost to history, but I do know that it worked out and he joined me as one of the adult supervisors.

I was ecstatic that he would be there with me, for me.

Understand, back in 1956, divorce was rare in my blue-collar neighborhood. Husbands went to work, and wives were homemakers. My father was absent, and my mother went to work. I stood out and no twelve-year-old wanted to stand out as being different. I was a kid without a dad.

As much as I tried to explain who John, Sr. was and what he did, I felt diminished each time I did so. Other kids’ fathers were real flesh and blood and they were present be they office workers, beer truck drivers, construction workers or mechanics. My father was nothing but an idea.

Not that weekend. Once John Sr.’s participation was confirmed, our scout master, Bernie C, (a Polish name that included complex consonant combinations like “CJZ”) invited my father and me to ride in his 1953 monster Chevrolet station wagon. This was a high honor and one never offered to me before. I wasn’t one of Mr. C’s favorites and reveled in this honor.

The weekend didn’t disappoint. My old man charmed Mr. C and the other fathers as only he could do. John was a slick fox and a snake in disguise.

As for me, that radio report of Larsen’s death awakened my memory of the moment when I knew that John’s being there finally validated my standing as a member of our troop.

Mr. C was driving on 69th Street in Maspeth, Queens about to turn onto the service road for the Long Island Expressway when my Dad turned toward Mr. C and the three of us in the back seat.

He put his left arm on the seat and said: “I hope you all appreciate what happened in Yankee Stadium last Monday. Don Larsen threw a perfect game. Twenty-seven men up at bat, 27 men out and he did it in the World Series. This was the first World Series perfect game ever and you will probably never see the likes of that performance again in your lifetime.”

Don Larsen’s perfection and the old man’s eloquence allowed me to become a made-kid at Troop 178, at least for that weekend.

RIP Don Larsen.         

And The Beat Goes On

Someone once asked me what it was like to be a Giants season ticket holder for 58 years? “Well,” I replied, “It has given me that opportunity to see a lot of lousy football.”

On Sunday, December 29, the Football Giants lost their 12th game of the 2019 Season, 34-17, at home to the Philadelphia Eagles. Had the Giants won this game, they would have played the role of spoiler denying the Eagles a place in the playoffs.

Most of the faithful, including me, made a poor showing in support of Big Blue. The odds were long, the weather prediction, awful and when coupled with a 4:25 game time start, the idea of attending became even less appealing. Eagles fans gladly invaded the stadium buying unused tickets for the chance to see their team get into the playoffs.

On Monday morning John Mara and Steve Tisch, the team’s owners fired their head coach, Pat Shurmur following two unsuccessful years at the helm of their football team. The General Manager, (GM) Dave Gettleman, managed to survive to fight or to be fired another day.

I once introduced my wife to Ernie Accorsi, then the Giants GM in a hospital elevator. “Mary Ann is an Assistant Principal in a NYC school.”

Mary Ann said, “You have a hard job.”

Accorsi replied: “Yes I do. You are evaluated once a year about how your school is doing. I get evaluated every week during the season.”  

The survival rate of head coaches in the NFL has been reduced from a more comfortable wait and see tenure of three to five years regardless of record to two and out if the coach doesn’t achieve a winning season. Things are so bad in Giants land that Shurmur’s replacement will be our third coach in five seasons. Their cumulative record in that time was 29 and 51.

Shurmur and Gettleman were anointed to return the team to its former glory following the demise of their predecessors, Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese. McAdoo and Reese slid from being our greatest hope to being bums as has Shurmur.

And so, a quest for a new head coach began once again. Mara and Tisch said all the right things accepting their share of the blame. Gettleman supposedly agreed to embrace analytics hiring here-to-for unwelcomed computer geeks and adopting a state-of-the-art analytical system. His announcement looked like a shotgun marriage to me.

Each day, the press, columnists, reporters and radio talking heads speculated on the supposed strengths and weakness of different candidates. Curiously, each candidate was gobbled elsewhere. Rivera by the Skins, McCarthy by the Cowboys and Rhule by the Panthers. On the tenth day Big Blue’s brain trust rested after selecting Joe Judge from the Patriots.

I’ve been down this road too many times before to believe the brain trust really knew who to select. Try as hard as they will, luck will decide the outcome.      

Pete Rozelle demanded that the Giants hire George Young as their first GM following a disastrous 1978 season.

Young cleaned house but, even with a new coach, the team went 10 and 22 over the next two seasons.

Everybody knew Lawrence Taylor (LT) would become a star even though most of us didn’t realize that LT would become the best defensive player in the NFL of all time. The Giants picked second in the 1981; the New Orleans Saints, first. LT would have become a Saint if Bum Phillips, their coach and GM, so desired, but Phillips picked, George Rogers, a star running back from South Carolina.

Young got lucky and LT became the Giant who led the team to a new era of Giants glory. Luck, my friends, pure luck. Here’s hoping the Judge turns out to be lucky as well as good. 

Once Upon a Time in Dedham, Maine

What now seems to have happened a long time ago, our good friends, Geoff and Judy Jones invited us to the wedding of their son, Greg to a sweet young woman named, Amie. Many of the details have faded away, but I do recall that the event took place just after Labor Day and that we drove from our vacation home in Marlow, NH to Dedham, ME, the location of the Lucerne Inn where most wedding guests were staying.

What I don’t recall is why we brought, Maggie, our Looney Tune Golden Retriever with us. Usually we arrange other accommodations for our dogs, but not this time. Again, I’m not sure if we snuck her into our room or kept our actions above board?

The Lucerne Inn wasn’t near the site of the ceremony and reception, but our hosts provided bus service to and from the inn.

We had several rough moments with Maggie, especially on Friday night when she broke out of our room and crashed a wedding reception in our hotel. Fortunately, no damage or injuries happened, and we successfully coaxed her back to our room.    

In one respect, this trip afforded Maggie one of her best experiences ever. Maggie loved to swim, and we discovered that Phillips Lake was not far from the hotel. Saturday produced a glorious early autumn morning, so we decided to walk Maggie down to the lake. Since it was after Labor Day most homes were vacant and the lake was practically uninhabited. When I let Maggie off leash, as expected, she immediately took off water bound. Maggie had a glorious time swimming in the lake then racing back to us only to repeat her circuit. She continued in and out of the lake while we walked along a dirt road that provided access to the lake houses.

Maggie reveled in her freedom while we took in the autumn scenery.  

An abandoned railroad that ran parallel to the road caught my attention.  It seemed to be intact and useable for the most part, but no longer in service. On one of her return trips Maggie flew right by us barking as she made her way to the tracks.

We followed wary of what had disturbed her. On reaching the tracks, we were surprised to see a group of railcars coming toward us. We leashed Maggie and watched them pass. What a hoot.

I had read about this unusual activity in a magazine article explaining how rail fans were buying these old diesel and gasoline powered railcars. Historically, railroads had used these machines to carry inspection and work crews along their systems. They were nothing more than a square box, low to the tracks with a motor that could transport two occupants to their assigned destination.

The major railroads eliminated them years ago in favor of pick-up trucks, but some short lines and tourist railroads still utilized them if they operated on rights-of-way off the beaten track and away from serviceable roads.

Six of those railcars in convoy approached us, moving slowly to avoid obstacles along their path. I was mesmerized by their appearance seemingly coming from nowhere. We stepped aside to let them pass. The occupants were too preoccupied to acknowledge us or Maggie.    

I could see why, the tracks had dangerous areas. One I had previously noticed was a grade crossing that had been paved over. I watched as the first railcar approached it. The middle-aged couple knew what they were doing, they shifted the rail car into low gear, stepped out on either side, and expertly steered the unit across the pavement and re-railed it on the other side. They hopped back in and continued on their way.

I love trains and I love railroad history. What these people were doing seemed to be a natural fit. But I demurred. The operators were too intense, and I learned that these machines required extensive tinkering to keep them running while my mechanical ability is zero, point zero.

I let that gleam of an idea evaporate as we returned to the road, unleashed Maggie and watched her resume her joy.  

Still, I too can dream.

So This is Christmas

When I was a kid, my Christmas centered around Lionel Electric Trains. My starter set consisted of a modest steam engine and its tender, a Baby Ruth candy bar box car, a Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) gondola, a Shell tank car and a Lionel Lines caboose.

Once I discovered Lionel Catalogues, I became aware of what was available. But money was tight, and I had to temper what I wanted. This would become my big gift. One year I asked for a Santa Fe diesel switcher, another, additional rolling stock. Relatives helped me to add automatic switches, an upgraded transformer and operating cars like Lionel’s cattle car and a log car. At the flick of a switch, cattle would leave their pens and enter the car or exit the car for the pens. Logs would be ejected from a flat car and into a saucer like container.

That is, of course, when they worked properly. Sometimes a cow or two would fall over jamming the path of others causing chaos, or logs would be flung in multiple directions knocking down scenery or blocking the tracks.

One year I asked for a PRR electric engine and my mother traveled to the Abraham & Straus (A&S) Department Store in Downtown Brooklyn to buy my desired motor. I was old enough that she allowed me to open the box when she returned home. To my horror, I realized that this unit was missing one of its two panographs.

I panicked and Mom returned it to the box, put on her coat and repeated her round-trip bus ride to exchange this engine. The trip took about two-hours and I waited for her return ashamed that I caused this to happen. Mom retuned with a new motor that passed inspection. To this day, I feel guilty.

By the time I reached 12-years of age, I had expanded my layout to allow two trains to operate at the same time. At 13, I had moved on and my railroad remained boxed and stored in our cellar bin.

When I was 17, I visited my father who was then stationed at March AFB in Riverside, California. Dad convinced me to ship my collection to him for my half-siblings, Nancy, Mark and Steven who were all quite young, He offered in return, a good pair of 7x 50 binoculars. His offer was an easy sell as I was beginning my life as a football fan and my Lionel Trains didn’t matter anymore.

Time marches on. Nancy, Mark and Steven outgrew electric trains, I married, and Mary Ann and I had our own children. I petitioned my Dad who agreed to return everything to me. Their return allowed me to build bigger and more complex layouts that I created in the basement of the house we rented in Middle Village, Queens. I continued to set up Christmas layouts after we moved to Port Washington in1977 until Beth and Michael also outgrew the magic of electric trains.

For twenty-years my trains remained inert and without power.

Drew Delach, my Number One grandson, entered the world in November of 1999. I told him early on that he was our only grandchild born in the Twentieth Century. When he turned four or five, I unboxed my train set and erected a new layout for that Christmas season. The look on Drew’s face when I powered up the system for the first time was magical. The action, the sound and the smell of these electric trains was as unique and powerful to Drew as it was to all who came before him starting with me.

Over the next four years I added additional items, a new steam engine to replace my original, a Long Island Railroad passenger car set and a set of four old IRT subway cars that I operated on a steel elevated line that ran above the train boards.

Four more grandchildren followed. Marlow and Samantha’s interest waned quickly, but the remaining two boys, Matt and Cace lasted the course. Cace is the youngest, and despite the inroads of electronics, my train set enthralled him longer than I could have expected. In February 2012, I underwent hip surgery. That Christmas season, I had to call on my son-in-law, Tom Briggs, to help me set up my railroad. By then Cace was the last kid interested. Together, we successfully set it up.

Sadly, Cace only came to visit my train set one time.

For Christmas 2013, I set up an abbreviated layout. A fool’s errand, the only times I turned it on was for my own enjoyment. Sadly, I would turn on all the illuminating fixtures on the layout, turn off  the basement lights and watch the lights while I listened to the sound, of the running gear and smelled the electric ozone as the trains circled my layout knowing this was my last stand.

Since then, my train set has remained boxed and stored in protective containers as they await either a future family resurrection or an estate sale.

Elisha Nelson Manning IV

December 15, 2019: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ:

An early pre-winter “Hawk” made its presence known today by howling through the MetLife parking lots reducing tailgate tents into scrap heaps. Undaunted, we the tried and true faithful Giants fans gathered one last time in another season of our discontent. It is practically a foregone conclusion that Pat Shurmur, the team’s head coach will be fired at the end of the season, just two more weeks away. The team was 2 and 12 going into today’s contest; a miserable season for sure.

Eli Manning has been our quarterback of record for 16 seasons, a team captain and the winner of the Walter Payton award as the NFL’s Man of the Year. This award recognized Eli’s dedication to curing juvenile cancer.

He was benched after the second week of the 2019 season in favor of Big Blue’s Number One draft choice, Daniel Jones, out of Duke University.

And so it goes…the inevitable passing of the torch to the new kid on the scene from the old king whose diminished skills left management, the coaches, his teammates and the fans wanting.   

Elisha Manning’s talents may still have been enough to produce a winning season if he had been surrounded by talented players. Unfortunately, the 2019 Giants are a bad football team that loses consistently. They manage to snatch defeat from victory every chance they get while repeating the same mistakes game after game.

Young Mr. Jones began fresh and new winning his first two games only to have reality return with a thud that led to a nine-game losing streak. During that ninth loss, Jones suffered a high-ankle sprain that relegated the young man to ranks of those unable to play.

Eli was temporarily reinstated as the starter for the Monday night contest against the Philadelphia Eagles in the City of Brotherly Love on December 9. Eli started smartly throwing two touchdown passes that generated a halftime lead of 14 to 0.

Unfortunately, every football game has two halves and the Giants did nothing in the second half while the Eagles scored 14 points of their own tying the game at the end of regulation time. The Eagles then proceeded to win the game in overtime: 20-14.

Coach Shurmur knows the season is effectively over and I believe he decided to give Eli one more chance at glory in today’s contest against the Miami Dolphins. After a shaky start that included throwing three interceptions and a Miami lead of 10 to 7 at halftime, Eli shook off the cobwebs and went to work.  He led his glorious eleven offensive teammates to four touchdowns in the second half and a final score of 36 to 20.

One play into the Giants last possession with 1:50 left on the clock, Coach Shurmur pulled Manning from the game showcasing Eli to the media, his teammates and the faithful who gave him a standing ovation while chanting Eli Manning, Eli Manning, Eli Manning…

This Most Valuable Player Super Bowl XLII and XLVI took it all in as he hugged his teammates and coaches. We continued to stand and chant his name after the game ended for as long as he remained on the field. In a way, we were celebrating his last hurrah.

Even though two games remain, one next week in Washington DC and the last game at home in MetLife Stadium once again against the Eagles, I expect that Jones will resume his career while Eli returns to the sideline. I hope so as Eli achieved all that was left to achieve against the Dolphins.  

Eli summed up his feelings:

“I don’t know what the future is. I don’t know what lies next week let alone down the road. The support of the fans and their ovation, chanting my name, from the first snap to the end I appreciate that. I appreciate them always. Special day, special win and one I’ll remember.”

Eli will soon leave the pro football stage, but we will see him in the future, first when his brother, Peyton enters the NFL Hall of Fame and again, when he follows in Peyton’s footsteps.

Thank you, Eli Manning.     

Once Upon a Time in Penn Station

Recently, I rode the train into the Pennsylvania Station on my way to lunch with my son. The ancient dungeon we call the Long Island Railroad level was undergoing major renovations. The plan is to open the roof of the main corridor so that natural light will shine down from Thirty-Third Street. The construction also includes a new entrance / exit from the corner of Seventh Avenue and Thirty-Third from the LIRR level directly to the street.

Temporary scaffolding has been erected to facilitate this work lowering the ceiling to a claustrophobic height. Any person over six feet tall had best approach the construction area carefully.

Newsday reported that construction would necessitate closing the retail shops that lined the north side of the main corridor. Many of the traditional vendors had been forced out several years ago by a concerted effort to attract upscale businesses.

The bookstore that specialized in military histories and other hard-to-find non-fiction subjects had closed together with one of best newsstands in Manhattan. They were both great places to browse. The newsstand carried both an abundance of newspapers, and a magazine inventory that stretched from A for aviation to Z for zombies and included practically every possible publication in between.  

Gone too were several passable pizza joints and the bar we had frequented for a late-night slice or a drink or a beer for the ride home. Terminated, gone, kaput, they were replaced by Starbucks, Shake Shack, an upscale Shushi eatery and Rite-Aid. Now they were all gone.

Only one fixture remained for me to mourn, Sole Man, a shoe-shine emporium and repair shop. Sole Man has occupied their spot since the early 1980’s. Over time they corrupted their theme but in their early years they presented a Blues Brothers motif. The shoeshine staff, both male and female, mimicked Jake and Elwood by wearing black trousers, white shirts, narrow black ties and faux black fedoras.

Beginning a day with a professional shine falls just behind starting the day with a professional shave. I rarely had the luxury or opportunity to experience the latter, so a shine remained on the top of my list.

I have availed myself of this simple luxury many, many times over the years and I have surprised friends, colleagues and customers by treating them to a shine whenever circumstances brought us close to Penn Station.

Curiously, a shoe-shine is more personal than one might expect. Our feet are sensitive, hence foot-fetishes. If you haven’t had a professional person polish your shoes, you have not encounteed that moment when they tackle your instep and you experience a sensation beyond what you expected. The sensation quickly disappears as the artist moves on making your shoes come alive using all the tricks of their trade.

I never walked away from a shoe-shine stand unhappy, the shine alone makes me feel better. Sole Man was the best. It seemed to me that their gang made the extra effort.

I decided to indulge myself one last time. The gal who claimed me went the extra mile returning my shoes to glory. Finished, I stepped down and chattered with the cashier, a young woman with a good sense of humor. The cost was three dollars, the same price as when Bill Clinton was in office.

As I turned to walk out of the shop, I stopped to thank the gal who serviced me, wished her good luck and handed her a $5 tip.

On the Outside Looking in will not be published the next two Wednesdays and will resume on December 18. Happy Thanksgiving.

Acceptable Collateral Damage

 October 29th marked the seventh anniversary of the day when Superstorm Sandy flooded the New York metropolitan area. The storm’s high tide surge drove a wall of water through the Narrows flooding coastal Staten Island and Brooklyn, burying the Battery, lower Manhattan, Jersey City and Hoboken. Sandy flooded the Hudson Valley almost as far north as Albany.

The same surge flooded most of southern Long Island’s coastal communities like Breezy Point, Broad Channel, Long Beach, Freeport, Seaford, Amityville, the Hamptons and Montauk.

A second surge followed the next high tide that raced west through Long Island Sound inundating the north shore of the island, coastal Connecticut, LaGuardia Airport, the Eastern Bronx, upper Queens and upper Manhattan.

Our tri-state congressional delegations joined in a bi-partisan effort that squeezed more than $60 billion from Uncle to address our joint recovery needs. In the last seven years most of the affected areas have recovered and rebuilt to prepare for a future event, albeit unevenly.

The top priority of restoring vital infrastructure was brilliantly achieved in short order. Rail, subway and highway tunnels were pumped out, cleaned-up and returned to service in a matter of days. Power was restored south of Thirty-Fourth St. in Manhattan and to the towns and villages Sandy had pounded in a few days to a week.

More complex remediations such as renewing rail and subway tubes inundated by saltwater remains a work in progress with several vital links put on back burners. Overall surge protection to combat future storms remains in the planning stages since they are complicated by the need to protect the environment from rising sea levels.

The original idea called for the Army Corp of Engineers to build two barriers to protect Manhattan. One would stretch from Coney Island to Sandy Hook, NJ closing the Narrows to another Sandy. The other would stretch from the Bronx to Queens across the narrowest part of Long Island Sound providing protection from the east.   

In a storm emergency, gates protecting the channels would be shut thereby protecting the City of New York from a tidal surge.

But the blocked water must to go somewhere else and the backflow, especially at high tide, would have a material effect of inundating several other communities along Long Island Sound. This would put my Port Washington home in harm’s way, a victim of acceptable collateral damage.

However, the barriers are but one of several alternatives the Army Corp. of Engineers is considering although the Corp has yet to publicly explain its design or how they will operate.

A notation in the report grabbed my attention. It stated that the proposed barriers wouldn’t provide protection from future increases in the sea level. That struck me as odd especially as I have yet to notice any responsible official or politician advancing a plan how to deal with rising sea levels? The only reference I have discovered was one from the EPA noting that rising sea levels may become an issue in the next 35 to 50 years.

I am not aware of any national initiative to cope with rising sea levels much less create an action plan to combat it. Instead it would appear that each segment of our government is content to pursue the status quo. There isn’t even consensus to address the problem much less a dialogue to develop a national solution.

All I see is the right resisting the idea of climate change while the left demands radical solutions as they proclaim that the sky is falling. Noise, nothing but noise, that is what, we the people hear. Our government has become unhinged. Both political parties are using power to incapacitate each other.

The coastline of the continental United States is 12,383 miles. This number balloons to 95,471 miles when all the bays, sounds, estuaries and islands are included. 

Inaction prevails as our leaders choose to kick this can down the road. I doubt they have that luxury this time. No one knows for sure if or when the full moon tides will begin to play havoc with our ability to continue our normal activities uninterrupted.

Here in the Metropolitan Area shouldn’t we the people demand that our leaders address this possibility now? What will be the usefulness of the new airports, train tunnels and so many infrastructure projects now being built if they are under water?

Hand wringing is not the answer.

What happened to the political will of the people? What happened to strong leaders willing to form a consensus where all sectors join in a common effort to solve this problem?

We are consumed by a crisis of government that is tearing us apart. And for what? A gotcha moment that will never happen.

Stop the madness. Focus our collective effort on solving our national crisis. To hell with trying to ameliorate world-wide climate change! Protect our homeland. That should be our top priority.

Where is Robert Moses when we need him …

Beating a Dead Horse for Fun

I have acquired an enormous knowledge about certain subjects, most of them useless for all practical purposes. My cousin, Helen, once experienced a large enough dose of my trivial inventory leading her to exclaim: “John, you might have been a smart person if you didn’t have so much junk clogging your brain.”

I didn’t disagree, instead I embraced it. When I read a book, watch a movie or listen to a radio program I take pride in knowing that the author, commentator, director or researcher got it wrong. My pulse quickens, heart beats faster and a private, “Gotcha” races through my spirit.

Most of the time, I keep these triumphs to myself, but if I find one especially egregious, I am happy to contact the offender. Usually the written word provides the easiest opportunity to reach the author. For books, it is by way of the publisher. For instance, Geoffrey Perret in “Winged Victory” wrote that Doolittle’s raiders took off from the USS Enterprise rather than the USS Hornet. I let Perret have it. As usual, no reply.

Another time I discovered an unforgivable error in a biography of General Curtiss LeMay. One chapter in a book covered the ill-fated air attack on the Ploesti oil fields in Romania by Army Air Force heavy bombers. The author maintained several times that these bombers were B-17s. In my letter that went un-answered, I sarcastically pointed out to him that if he had only bothered to look at the photos of the airplanes in his own book, he would have noticed that all those B-17s were cleverly disguised as B-24s.

My personal best involved a sports blog about the Chicago Bears written by a life-long fan of “Da Bears.” In it, he told the story of how the Bears had defeated the Football Giants in New York’s Polo Grounds in the 1963 for the NFL Championship game. The piece included his e-mail address, so I critiqued him somewhat as follows:

“Interesting piece but for the record, the Giants left the Polo Grounds in 1955 and were playing in Yankee Stadium in 1963. However, that was the least of your sloppy reporting. The sad reality is the 1963 Championship game was not played in New York. It was played in Wrigley Field in your home city!”

I included my phone number in my critique and he soon called me to object to my criticism. When I countered that he had made a huge error he tried to duck responsibility. “I had somebody else do the research.”  

“Not an excuse.” I replied. “You are trying to throw somebody else under the bus! No, you don’t, this went out under your name and nobody else’s.”

Movies are my favorite hunting grounds. Authors and their staffs usually do enough research to get it right. My experience is movie researchers are sloppy about history. They don’t care if they get it right, they want just enough accuracy so that perhaps it makes some sense.

Even I’ll admit that continuity can be trumped by the story line. Take the car chase under the elevated subway line in the “French Connection.”. The film makers used poetic license by using several different elevated lines to heighten the excitement of the chase. Still, privately I do note the filmmaker’s errors. My curse.  

Which brings me to the new feature film, “Motherless Brooklyn,” a period piece detective story set in 1957. How do I know this: The hero drives a 1957 Chevy and the Dodgers are still in Brooklyn but on the cusp of leaving. That could only be 1957.

That being established what errors did I find. Before I reveal them, I admit this is a good movie and they do get many things right. Also, it is based on a novel so poetic license is rampant. The villain is a thinly disguised Robert Moses character named Moses Randolph played by Alex Baldwin. If Caro didn’t make you hate R.M. Baldwin will.

My criticisms are historical and boring. During a car chase shortly after the start of the film, a scene includes a City bus that didn’t exist in 1957.

Later in the film, the heroine boards a subway train to take her home to Harlem. The vintage train the director uses was in service in 1957. But it only operated on the BMT lines which didn’t go to Harlem. The closest that train would have taken her to was 57th Street a long walk from her home on 148th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.

The last mistake shows an elevated train that would have been a futuristic vision in 1957. I am almost certain that this was a simple case of laziness. The director used it as a quick background shot and didn’t care that the train, we see didn’t exist then.

Boring, indeed, but not to me.

My hunt continues. Next up, a new movie called, “The Battle of Midway,” The film chronicles the naval battle in the Pacific in early June 1942 that changed the course of the war,

Already, from what I’ve read, heard and saw, it is chock-a-block full of flaws and mistakes.

Don’t worry, dear reader, I will save what mistakes I find for another time and I promise to snot to report them to you any time soon.

An Eagle in Distress

The following tale is excerpted from a 2005 travel diary that I kept during a trip to Alaska. We sailed from Seward to Vancouver on board Holland-Americas’ MV RYNDAM.

We observe the scenery as the ship approaches the port of Ketchikan. It is more industrialized than Juneau or Skagway, the other two ports we visited on the Alaska panhandle. We pass a cannery, a container terminal where two tugs maneuver a barge around our ship, a small shipyard with a floating dry dock, and many marinas. Floatplanes circle the ship and land in its wake. Eventually, we pass the floating platform that acts as their terminal and where they are moored. Then we have the dubious opportunity to watch them take-off and climb as they head right for us. They do cross at an angle to pass down the ship’s left side, but one of them passes at the same height where we are sitting, Deck 8 of 13, providing a little too much excitement.

Using thrusters, our ship is docked quickly and safely without the assistance of tugboats.

 We leave the ship with Helen and Don as a tour guide directs us to a van. There are eleven of us taking this tour and we are forced to wait for a last woman to arrive. Shoshanna is our driver. She just graduated from high school and has lived here for most of her life. By this time, we have met enough residents to realize many begin to get nervous if it doesn’t rain for two or three days. Shoshanna doesn’t tell us how lucky we are that it’s not raining. Instead, she complains that it has not rained much in several days. She boasts about how much more rain they get in Ketchikan than Seattle. She is really upset making me I think to myself, “For Shoshanna, a day without cloudy skies and pouring rain is a day without sunshine.”

Shoshanna drives us to a marina where we are introduced to Christine, the young woman who will pilot us out to Orca Island. We are outfitted in life jackets in a little shelter she uses and parade across the marina to the dock where her Zodiac is moored. Shoshanna is thrilled when she calls the tour company and receives permission to join us. The trade-off for her is she will pilot our return trip back to the dock. Climbing on board requires dexterity, but we all successfully board albeit with a couple of close calls. Mary Ann remarks about how beautiful Christine is. “Tall, thin and blond,” Mary Ann says, “She’s model quality.”

You wouldn’t know it to listen to her. She is a licensed captain who has sailed boats solo from Maui to San Francisco and has assumed the rough and tumble mannerisms of a sailor or a construction worker.” Once you get your rear ends into the boat, I can blow this place.”

 Disembarking is also a study in balance. Christine drives the boat onto a pebbly beach. There, two college age young men who will be our guides hook a ladder over one side of the boat. It is at a crazy angle and when I try to descend, I almost fall off. Watching me, Mary Ann decides to descend facing out so she can see what she is doing. The guides provide a good commentary about the forest and we do learn more useless information like the difference between “witch’s hair” and “an old man’s beard.” At the end of the walk, they supply a fire for roasting marshmallows. They also serve us hot chocolate, smoked salmon cheese and crackers. (They too are looking for a tip.)

Christine returns to collect us. The four of us choose to sit near the bow and have the hell beaten out of our coccyges as Christine speeds into the wind. The worst jolts occur when the Zodiac slams down on three waves in succession. Fortunately, we soon return to sheltered water and the beatings cease. As we near the marina, she stops the boat and directs our attention to an eagle struggling in the water. “Oh, my God,” she exclaims. “Do you see that? What’s happening is the eagle has grabbed a fish that’s too heavy in its talon and it can’t liftoff. Neither can it let go of the fish because once it grabs something, its talons lock. The only way the eagle can open the talon to release the fish is by putting it down on to something solid. If the fish is too big the eagle will tire and drown.”

We watch as the bird gently flaps its wings in a swimming fashion to reach shore. Happily, it has only about twenty feet to go from the spot where Christine spotted it and it makes it to the rocks. A throaty cheer follows from our boat when the bird reaches dry land. Shoshanna (who is waiting at the dock) is thrilled. “In the eighteen-years that I have lived here, I’ve seen eagles drown, but I never saw an eagle do that.”

The eagle preens itself on the shore drying its wings so that it may fly again. While it does this, sea gulls try to relieve it of its catch, but the eagle fights them off. In an instant the eagle is gone but none of us sees if it left with the fish.

On the return ride Shoshanna entertains us with stories and tall tales. When we pass a totem pole, she says that hand carved poles cost $1,000 a foot. “I heard of a story where a man gave his wife a 25- or 30-foot totem pole for their 75th wedding anniversary. He must have really loved her.”

 This prompts Helen to observe, “Ah, now we know, silver for 25, gold for 50 and a totem pole for 75.”

Fine Dining in the Desert

The following piece is partly an excerpt from a travel document I wrote about a trip we made in September of 2004 with two other couples, Don and Helen and Mike and Peggy to several Southwestern National Parks located in Arizona and Utah. They have been edited for content and subject manner.

On Tuesday, Sept. 21st, we departed Zion for Bryce Canyon where we hiked and explored in the late morning before having lunch in the park. After lunch we drove north another 100 miles to the Wonderland Motel in Torrey, Utah.

The afternoon scenery rivaled the morning. Don and Mike shared the drive north on Highway 12 through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park and Garfield National Forest. We reached 9,293 feet, as we ascend and descend on grades of 8% and 10%. The temperature dropped from 66 degrees to 38 as we encountered snow flurries and foliage comparable to New England at October’s peak. The most dramatic stretch of highway began north of the run-down downtown of Escalante where the road corkscrewed down the cliffs, crossed a small river then zig-zagged though a red rock canyon. Route 12 is cut into the right side of the canyon wall where we climbed at a steady pace. The left rim disappeared leaving the road to rise along the side of a mesa. On the opposite side, once we ascended to the top, a canyon provided a dramatic drop-off of several hundred feet. The top of the mesa was only wide enough to accommodate the road and narrow shoulders. This all happened in the space of five or six miles.

We reached Torrey after 5 pm and checked into the Wonderland Motel. Despite its whimsical name, the motel was strictly run with many rules. The woman behind the desk was polite, but firm. We could have only one key per room and could not check-out until the key is returned. The dinner menu at their restaurant was uninspiring and Don and Helen found an alternative in their AAA Guidebook called Café Diablo. It didn’t take much to convince the rest of us to take a chance over the Wonderland.

A 15-minute car ride into the desert brought us to what we were about discover was a four-star gourmet restaurant that was only open from April until October. When we arrived at six, it was already busy, and it just kept getting busier. As we enjoyed our meal, people crowded the lobby waiting for a table. Having to wait 20 minutes for a table on a Tuesday night in Torrey, Utah speaks volumes for the menu and quality of Café Diablo.

Our meal began with a complimentary Southwest Tapas. For appetizers we shared free-range rattlesnake, (it tasted like chicken) coconut calamari, and a house specialty called, Firecrackers with subcategories, Lady Fingers, Cherry Bombs and M-80 which were nowhere as hot and spicy as we expected. I ordered ribs that are served vertically in a circle. I could peel the meat off with a spoon. Don and Mary Ann had salmon, Helen, roasted pork tenderloin, Peggy, pecan chicken and Mike, Utah Lamb. Our margaritas received Don’s seal of approval. Our waitress was delightful, the wine, good and reasonable. She pointed out the fellow who is the owner and chef. He was busing a table when we spoke to him. He’s a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. “Why do you close for six months?” We asked. “Because I like to ski and travel, too.”

All desserts arrived with a separate serving of home-made ice cream. Mike devoured a large piece of chocolate cake, Helen, shared a piece of fruit-nut tart and Don, a plum tart, both topped with chunky ice cream and bourbon.

Mary Ann remarked, “Sure beats what we would have eaten at the Wonderland,” to which she received a collective, “Amen!”

A story about Utah triggered me to recall Café Diablo. I am happy to report that it is alive and well. Their 2019 menu includes Rattlesnake Cakes, Asparagus Firecrackers and Hellfire Shrimp as appetizers, Honeybee Salmon, Pomegranate & Chipotle Ribs and two steaks, the Rocky Mountain Elk Sirloin and the Boulder Mountain Ribeye.

As far as dessert, the menu notes: “It would be a sin if we told you before you got here.”

Café Diablo describes itself as: “A gourmet restaurant nestled below the Boulder and Thousand Lakes Mountains on the doorstep of Capital Reef National Park in Southern Utah. Café Diablo offers a fresh and fun dining experience that celebrates the geological majesty we find outside our own backdoor. Dine outdoors on our patio or indoors surrounded by paintings inspired by our landscape and the seed catalogs of the Early 1900’s. “

“It is our undying aspiration to make sure that you say ‘WOW’, when the food gets to the table. That you say ‘WHOA,’ when you take your first bites., and that you find yourself saying ‘WITHOUT A DOUBT ‘we will come back tomorrow.”  

I am pleased to discover that Utah’s own gourmet restaurant lives on and remains true to its culinary mission.

Café Diablo, live long and prosper.