We are 5 days post operative as I start to write this. I think it is an appropriate time to start talking about Milestones, as there indeed have been several!
#1 – WALKING – This one didn’t take long at all! Barely 5 hours, after coming out of surgery, the PT folks at Shore Medical Center, had me off my back, and on my feet, with the help of a walker! I know that it sounds crazy and rather incredible, but that’s the way it happens in 2019! Susie has read that there are no restrictions on weight bearing for the new knee. It appears that from the moment they sew your leg up, it is ready to be used! Crazy, huh?
#2 – Pain Meds – I came home from the hospital with two prescriptions for pain meds. One for Percocet and another for Tramadon. I’m still not totally clear what the difference is between them, but for the first couple of days, I used both of them. Now, speaking about pain, while there has indeed been some, I can’t say that it had been outrageous or intolerable. The pain has been from the incision, and some muscular pain, but that’s it! There are things that I’ve had to do, that are a pain and some that cause me pain, but not from walking or sitting or exercise. I’m sure a side effect of both of these “pain meds” are strange, almost hallucination like dreams….now that’s not fun. End result, last time I took either of the prescription pain meds was before bed on Sunday night. Since then, I’m using Ibuprofin or Tylenol.
#3 – Showering – I’m sure you’ve all been sick for a couple of days, and confined to your bed or the living room couch, and about Day 3, you start fantasizing about standing in the shower! Well, imagine you’ve just had you leg cut open, your knee hacked out, and a brand new man-made one inserted! You’ve then overnighted in the hospital, then came home, and since then, done nothing but lay around with your leg elevated. Think I wanted a shower?? You bet I did!! Physical Therapist Grady came and visited Saturday morning, and after checking out the house, we talked about showering! The dressing on my incision is waterproof, so that was not an issue. The new knee would have no problem holding my weight, so that was not an issue. He told me to have at it, as long as I abided by the guidelines for showering that were included in my discharge instructions! Sunday, after Bagel Sunday Breakfast, I showered, and it was glorious! Shower 2 came Tuesday, and it too was glorious!!!
#4 – Leg Elevation and Ice – Everything we’ve read, and everything everyone involved in this procedure has told us is that the incision is the bigger thing to worry about, not the implant. They are worried about infection and after that, swelling. There were very exacting procedures to be used pre-surgery to make sure your body is clean, and there are similar, but not as stringent procedures, post surgery to make sure you stay clean. Following those procedures, and making sure your visitors wash their hands are about all you can do to prevent infection, and we have followed those rules to the letter. The other concern its swelling, and that is remedied by keeping you leg straight and elevated ABOVE YOUR HEART, for 20-22 hours a day! Think that’s fun? Add to that, the regular application of ice to the operative sight….20 minuets on, 40 minutes off, round the clock! WOW! To say that this is the worst part, so far, of the knee replacement surgery for me, would not be an exaggeration!! Well, I’m happy to say that Grady, my Physical Therapist just left, and I am done with the 20-22 hours of that, and that I can SLEEP ON MY SIDE!! Yahoo!!!
#5 – Dressing Off – So there is this one-piece waterproof dressing that they put on you in the Operating Room that keeps the incision clean. It’s about 10-12 inches long, and a bit of a pain. Guess what? Grady took it off! I’m free!!!
#6 – Going from Walker to Cane – Once Grady took off my dressing, and liked the way the leg looked and saw no swelling or drainage, he said, “So..lets see how you walk.” I asked walker or not. He said, which ever way you want. I decided no walker! Forget the cane, I can do what I want! I think I impressed him!
So that’s where we are as of the afternoon of Tuesday, July 16th, 2019 – 5 days post surgery! Grady is very happy with my progress, Susie and I are very happy with my progress, and I think there might be a frosty clear alcohol drink (a MARTINI) in my immediate future! There are more milestones to hit (like getting the staples out next Monday), but for now, we are happy with where I am!!
Notice in the video, it is the yet to be replaced right knee giving me a weird gate!
Okay…let’s start with the headline…Operation was a success, I’ve got a new left knee!
Thursday July 11th started off for Susie and I at 5:30 when the alarm went off. We both showered, dressed, and relaxed a bit till it was time to head over to Shore Memorial Hospital. How fortunate were we, to retire to a seashore community that’s just across the 9th Street Bridge from a large, well equipped hospital? We left at 7:40, and checked into the hospital Pre-Op unit just before our assigned time of 8 AM. A little paper work, I got my hospital bracelet, and I was taken into the back to get prepped.
I was worked up by the Pre-Op Nurse, met the Anesthesiologist, and had my knee shaved and scrubbed. My IV was started, and I was hooked up to oxygen and a B/P monitor. Susie joined me about 9AM, and shortly after that, the Anesthesiologist gave me my Nerve Block and then Dr. Zabinski came in and we talked a bit about the operation. Just after 10:30, the Anesthesiologist Nurse said it was time to go. I kissed Susie goodbye and she headed to the waiting room while I headed to the Operating Room.
The OR was cold, and it seemed like there were about 7 or 8 people working there. They gave me some medication to put me in a Twilight mood, and then went to work on my Spinal Block. “Dangle your legs off the side of the Operating Table like you’re sitting on the side of a pool”, she said. “Now bend forward and extend your spine.” Luckily there was an Anesthesiology Technician in front of me to keep me from falling into the pool! Next it was time for the Lidocaine shot in my spine, “This will just be a little pinch”, she lied to me…it was not! By the time that was in, I had no memory of the last injection…the medication that put my spinal block in place! I was in Twilight..oh yes I was!
For the first couple of minutes, I kind of had a foggy sense of people talking and things happening around me, but more like I was an observer rather than a participant. Then I had the oddest sense that my Dad was in the Operating Room with me! He’s been dead since 1983, and whether this was wishful thinking or a visit from beyond, all I can say is thanks Dad for being with me! The next thing I know, I’m in the Recovery room and as soon as my eyes focus enough to be able to read the clock on the wall, I could see it was a little after 1 PM. There went 2 plus hours I’ll never see again!
The Recovery Room
My grasp of the time space continuum was still a little fuzzy, but within, what seemed like a few minutes, Susie was back at my side. She said that Dr. Zabinski had come out and talked to her about 12:05, and said that my knee was a mess and loaded with arthritis. Wonder what the right one, which I’ve always thought was worse than the left looks like!
Around 2:45, they moved me from Recovery to room 410….a private room! This would be a good time to compare going to a hospital on Long Island and in South Jersey. Simply, there is no comparison!! It’s as different as Night and Day. Black and White or Up and Down! Everything here is fast, simple and uncrowded. People are nice, they are there to help you, and you just feel so much better about the whole undertaking!
Me in and the view out of Room 410
Now here’s the part you always hear about, and even though it’s just happened to me, I still find it unbelievable! Just about 3:30, Maria from the Hospital’s Physical Therapy Department came into the room, and with the help of a walker, had me up on my brand new knee, and walking the halls!
Crazy but true, it worked, but I was also so high on drugs at that point, I probably could have just as easily flown down the hall!!
At dinnertime, not only did I get food, but they ordered Susie a dinner too (like I said, Night and Day). About 10 PM that night, before heading to bed, I took another, even longer walk around the 4th floor, with a little encouragement from my lovely wife!
Susie had decided to stay the night, and Rebecca, the Nurses Aide got her a recliner (See, Black and White). Unfortunately, it wasn’t the kind of recliner we thought it was going to be, and honestly neither of us had a very good night…even with good drugs (me, not Susie)! The next morning, at 5:30 AM, Dr. Zabinski came in to check on his work. He told us that the knee was so bad, that as soon as he opened up the knee and bent it, it dislocated. I asked him what happened to it, and he said, “It went in the garbage.” Rather an ignominious end to a knee that had been with me for 69 years, 6 months, and 9 days! Then he pulled out a drain he’d placed in my knee before closing it up. Looked to me to be about 10-12 inches…now that was fun! Happy with what he saw, he signed off on my going home that morning.
Getting a breathing treatment
After breakfast, I saw my Medical Doctor, Dr. Raab, and he too gave me a clean bill of health and signed off on my release. Then they gave me a breathing treatment in lieu of my regular inhaler treatment, and then some more pain medication, so I’d be ready for my last sign off…from the Physical Therapist!
In answer to a question asked at the Joint Replacement Class we’d attended the week before surgery, if PT signed off on you in the morning, you’d be gone before lunch, if not, they’d keep you till after lunch, and do another session with you! I wanted to go home BEFORE lunch! My “Graduation” PT session included climbing a full flight of stairs (so I could get into our house), and walking all over the floor! Bottom line…I passed and was cleared to go home!
Dressed to go home
Did I push myself? A little bit, because I really wanted out of the hospital, and was going to do whatever I could to make that happen. But, at the same time I was pushing myself, the nerve block that they’d given me was wearing off. The bottom line, I was starting to hurt! I got “chauffeured” down to the lobby, figured out how to get into the car, and we headed home!
In the car
Our one stop was at CVS to pick up antibiotic, and not one, but two pain pill prescriptions. Even though they’d had the prescriptions since 9:30 and it was after 1, they weren’t ready. “Come back in an hour”, the Pharmacist told Susie. That was ok…still had about an hour and a half till I could take the next dose, so off we went to the house!
I had no problem climbing the 14 steps at the front of our house, but I was pooped and in a little more pain, but we were home!! I got myself in the position I’d find myself in for many hours in the upcoming days (22 out of 24 hours for the next 5 days, Dr. Zabinski said), and Susie went back to get my prescription!
It took her 45 minutes to come back because, of course, the prescription wasn’t ready! The worst 45 minutes of the whole undertaking!! I was hurting, but as soon as Susie got home, and I got my drugs, I let out a sigh of relief, and we started planning when I’d be getting the right one replaced!
We’re thinking May!
Before I leave, I have to thank one person above everyone else involved in the last couple of days, and that is the love of my life, my wife Susie! She has been there at every turn of this process, with encouragement, knowing the right questions to ask, and kicking me in the ass when I’ve needed it. Since coming home from the hospital, she has been my constant companion and care giver. Wrapping my knee, applying ice, organizing and handing out my pills, and handling my every need. You know the phrase”Helicopter Parents”? Well, Susie said to me this morning the she’s a “Helicopter Wife”! Thanks Susie for all you always do for us all, and especially me! Love you baby!!
We have owned our house in Ocean City for 14 plus years (it will be 15 on January 28, 2020), and for about 13 of those years, Charlie’s has been a go to place for us! Located just across the bridge in Somers Point, Charlies is one of those local bars that are indeed the real life incarnation of the bar in the TV Show Cheers, “where everybody knows your name”!
In 1944, Helen and Charlie Thomas opened a classic “corner bar” in Somers Point, and Charlies has been an important part of the community ever since. The original bar was located across New Jersey Avenue from its current location, and moved to its current building in 1953. The building, and indeed the business, have undergone many changes during the 75 years that Charlie’s has been around, but the one constant in its history, is that four generations of the Thomas Family have run the place. Today, fourth generation brothers Jim and Jeff Thomas are the link back to their Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather, the founders!
The Thomas Brothers..Jim and Jeff
Today, Charlie’s is still that corner bar (located on the corner of New Jersey Ave. and Shore Road) where everybody (well, maybe not everybody, but a lot of folks) indeed knows your name! The first time we went to Charlies, it was when our Mineola friends Pat and Steve Grosskopf were visiting with us, early in that first year of ownership. We went in for dinner one night, and got a table in the front bar room. We had a waitress who was a real pro, but at the same time a real smart ass. She was wearing a button that said, “I’d Card my Mother”, but she knew the answer to every question we had about menu items or beers that were offered. She joked with us, she kidded other customers, she called them by name, and she was the perfect professional waitress! Little did we know, she was also destined to be our very good friend, but that part comes later!
Until we retired and stopped renting our the house during the peak summer months, our MO was to travel down to Ocean City at the very least a couple of weekends a month, and for the better part of 10 or 11 years, Charlie’s was our Friday night stop. In the beginning, I’d take the Long Island Rail Road train into Queens, meet up with Susie, and off we’d go to the shore. As time went on, Susie got braver, and would drive to pick me up in the city. Some days we made it down early, some days, later, but we always had our Friday night at Charlie’s! Creatures of habit that we are, if it was Friday and we were down at the Shore, we were at Charlies!
Within a short amount of time, we were Charlie’s Friday Night regulars. We’d check in at the hostess desk with Carol or Colleen, and always request a table in the bar area. While we waited for our table, we’d enjoy the bar and a couple of pint sized Screwdrivers (with fresh squeezed OJ) or two from Wes or Kelly, and enjoy checking out and interacting with the many other Friday night regulars. Of course, in the summer months, the crowds were much bigger on a Friday night, but Fridays just equaled Charlies for us!
Once our table was ready, Carol or Colleen would show us the way, and hand us menus, and within moments “our waitress” would say hello. Unless she wasn’t there on a particular night, we sat exclusively with Sue, the lady I referred to on our first visit. Sue always knew we were probably going to have another Screwdriver, and most nights saw an order of Charlies’ Wings in our future. Now, let’s talk about those wings.
While Charlies has a full menu of dinner items, I always think that the best things on Charlies’ menu are what I call “bar food”, and right at the top of that list are their wings and what they call BBTs (boneless breast tenders). A single order of wings contain 13 pieces, usually pretty evenly split between drumettes and wingettes, while a single order of BBTs, contain 5 pieces. The chicken is fried perfectly and sized just right. In fact, some days, as soon as you drive over the 9th Street Bridge, you start to smell Charlie’s fried chicken! Then there are the sauces! Here’s what the menu says about them: “Tail Gun (mild), Top Gun (Hell Fire! No Kidding!) Southwest (our secret BBQ sauce), and their newest, Stinger Sauce (Tangy Honey Garlic).” They are all good, but our favorite, and I’d have to guess most sold, is Tail Gun sauce. Now, you can get your wings and BBTs dry, with sauce on the side, but that’s not our way. Grab lots of napkins and homemade blue cheese dressing! Get your wings sauced and hot! Make a mess of your face and your hands, and enjoy!! It’s the only way to roll!!
In addition to the great wings (which Susie swears are the BEST she has ever had), other great items on the menu include their soups, sandwiches, salads, burgers, cheesesteaks, and specialty sandwiches. Then there is their huge beer selection, appetizers, chili, wraps, and fries, but that’s only some of my “bar food” favorites! They’ve got pastas, and dinner selections from the Land and from the Sea (as their menu denotes). Whatever you are in the mood for, they have it! Take a look for yourself at their extensive menu and make yourself a little hungry! http://charliesbar.com/menu.pdf
Although the food is certainly great, in my opinion, like at any establishment, it’s the people that keep you coming back Over the years, we’ve met some great folks there. Like Carol and Colleen working the hostess desk most Fridays, and Kelly, and the late Wes, at the bar, waitresses Natalie, Jess, Sarah, and of course the lady I spoke of earlier, our good friend, Susan Earsom Waniak! We also got to know Sue’s son Chris and her daughter Carlye, who also are part of the Charlie’s Family!
Sue is a professional waitress, not something that is that common anymore. She grew up working at her Aunt’s Jersey Shore business, and she knows her job inside and out. She knows how to take care of her customers, and she knows how to deal with those, shall we say, high maintenance customers too! After years of having her wait on us every Friday and occasional Sunday breakfasts (Charlie’s is open 7AM to 3 AM Monday through Saturday, but opens at 9AM on Sunday for breakfast), I guess we officially got the Sue Seal of Approval, and we morphed from just customers and server, to friends. That’s something Susie and I are very proud of!
As often happens, life moves on. Eventually Sue stopped waitressing on Friday night, and we were transferred over to Natalie by Sue. Then I retired, so Susie and I no longer drove down to Ocean City on a Friday, and no longer had to fight the Friday night crowds on the Garden State Parkway or at Charlies. The result was that eventually, Friday night no longer was our go-to night at Charlies,. But don’t despair, for all is not lost!
You see, on Tuesday night, Sue holds court at the Back Bar (Captain Jacks Bar – Named for the late Jack Thomas..Jimmy and Jeff’s Dad) at Charlies! It’s a night populated by her regulars. First, some of her older customers, the “Dessert Club” comes at about 5 PM, then at about 6:45, Susie and I show up, along with some of the other second string regulars like Liz and Mike. Then after we’re done, she has others that show up depending on if volley ball is in session or not. The only thing we have to decide on is what we are going to eat that night. As soon as she sees us walk in the door, Sue already has our drinks in progress. Since we’ve been low carbing, and staying away from OJ, our Screwdrivers have morphed into Grey Goose Martinis, and we are hardly settled on our barstools, before the chilled glasses of goodness are in front of us! Now, if it is Tuesday night, and we are in town, we are at Charlies! We are indeed creatures of habit!
Sue knows the name and drink preference of virtually everybody who sits down at the back bar on a Tuesday night! (10 months out of the year that’s true…for July and August, all bets are off and the area’s population, and Charlie’s customer base swells for the summer) It’s just a continuation of that “Corner Bar” atmosphere that the Thomas Family has been known for over the last 75 years! Jeff is usually the brother on the premises on Tuesday night, and he always has a hello for most of the customers at the back bar, (Hell, he grew up with a lot of them) in addition to helping Sue out with ice, more bottles of booze, or even delivering an order. It’s just that kind of place, and Jeff is just that kind of person!
Like many of the other restaurants that we love, Charlies is a Family! It’s a family made up of the Thomas Family, the long term servers, and bartenders (on any given night you’ll find many of the same folks working that were there the first night we ever went to Charlies), and the repeat customers. It’s a place to enjoy a good drink, some excellent food, in a familiar surrounding. It’s a place where they know your name, and you know theirs, and where you feel at home! Is there anything better you can say about a restaurant? It’s home!
If you remember I said above that Sue had morphed from customers and server to friends? Well, I’m happy to say that Tuesday night isn’t the only night of the week, because on Friday, we exchange positions, and Sue gets to be the guest at our house! Her favorite spot is on our front porch, but all through the year, you can depend that if all 3 of us our around town, Sue will be dropping in on us about 5:30, and I get to make HER a drink! You’d have to know me to really understand what a kick that is for me! She’s a good friend, and important part of our Ocean City life, and one of the reasons we are so glad that a place we’ve loved forever, has become our forever home!
Lets be honest, I’m being lazy today and letting others write my blog! Thanks Facebook Friends!
So, this morning I posted this picture of an old Howard Johnson’s magazine ad on Facebook, and commented,
“Who’s old enough to remember when these were everywhere across America? A HoJo was the turnaround point for many of our Sunday drives as a kid in NYC. We’d drive out of the city to the “country,” and stop at HoJos. The funny thing was that the city was our apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens, and the country was the more suburban Queens. The Howard Johnson that we often stopped at was on Northern Blvd. in Little Neck, which was really just down the road when my folks moved to Bayside! Oh what flavor ice cream do I want today???”
From the likes (and loves) and the comments, I was not the only one of my Facebook friends who had fond memories of HoJos in their childhood!
Our non-Baby Boomer Ocean City neighbor Laura Dawson said, “Surprisingly I am, as a grew up in North/Central Jersey where there were lots of them!”
My friend Bob Acampora from way back in high school at Garden School said, “I used to love to go to Howard Johnson’s! Fried Clams were a favorite, and of course the ice cream.”
My WPLJ Alumni friend Naomi DiClimente Salvatore said, “Was a favorite of the fam as a kid – I remember their chocolate chip ice cream with the nice flecks of chocolate instead of big wax chunks like you get now, and my Mom liked the fried clam strips”
Bob Acampora replied to Naomi, “Yes, the chocolate chip was one of
my favorite flavors! Nice flecks of chocolate!”
Naomi continued their exchange with, “Funny right! Can’t find that
in anyone’s chocolate chip ice cream today!”
Johnny Donovan, of WABC fame said, “Jericho Turnpike in New Hyde Park”, specifying the exact one he remembered!
Childhood Garden School friend Joyce Cohen Leibert said, “Petty Fours!”
Jim Nedelka, who I worked with a lifetime ago at WHN said, “Any flavor ice cream ensconced by that iconic conic scoop works for me!”
WPLJ Alumni Jimmy Fink said, “Those special New England Hot Dog Rolls were made by Fink…we just called them HoJo rolls.” (Jimmy’s family were the ones behind the famous New York area Fink Bakery) after I asked Jimmy if they made them for the whole country, he replied, “We made them and delivered to all the local locations in the tri-state area, then shipped a bulk order to their warehouse where they distributed to their other locations.”
I replied to Jimmy, “Well, then I often enjoyed your family’s rolls on those Sunday drives!”, while WABC Alumni Howard Hoffman commented, “HoJo took an already awesome bun, then grilled it in BUTTER which sent it into the stratosphere. Stuffed with Tendersweet Clams? MWAH!!”
My friend Frank Dunne remembered. “I was embarrassed on a date in the Westbury one on Jericho Turnpike when I didn’t have a jacket and had to wear one of the waiters!”
Alan Seltzer from WCWP and I had a back and forth about the huge HoJos we both remembered from our childhood. Alan said, “My family used to go to the one on Queens Blvd. in Rego Park, which I believe was the largest in the country”
My fiend Linda Walters commented, “Our Wedding Cake was a coconut loaf cake sold by HoJos. We eloped and wanted a white cake!”
My friend from WCWP, WHN and the Mineola Long Island Rail Road platform, Joe Honnercamp commented, “And the HoJo chocolate fudge cake was the best!” He should know because as he commented, “I ended up in the HoJos in Little Neck frequently because it was just across the street from my grade school”. Like my Sunday rides to the same location, “What a treat it was. I only went there with my folks.”
Jeff Kroll, WCWP and WHN friend said, “Miss the burgers & ice cream. When I first moved to Roslyn while in High School, we were right up Willis Avenue from the HoJos”.
The owner of a wealth of HoJo information, which he blamed on “The things I learned while living in New England”, Howard Hoffman, also contributed, “Anyone remember their “upscale” attempt at finer dining – The Ground Round? Lots of sawdust died for the floors!” Many of us had no idea of that connection!
Old WABC friend Steve Goldstein said, “My favorite was the “Ham Quickie”, while WPLJ friend Jim Brownold only had 2 words, “Clam Strips!!!”
For those of us of a certain age, we remember when HoJos were everywhere as you traveled. They were on the highways and the new Interstates, they were in neighborhoods, and even in cities, such as the one that was located in Times Square.
I think my cousin Walt Pratt summed it up very well, for most of us in the Baby Boomer generation, “For many families Howard Johnson’s was the place to get a good meal without having to spend an extravagant amount of money. Often, it was the choice for a dinner after a Sunday afternoon drive. When my mother closed her diner in the late 50s, she went to work for Howard Johnson’s and recruited a lot of the neighborhood teen-agers to work there part-time. My youngest brother Eugene who is a culinary school graduate also worked for Howard Johnson’s. Little known is that renowned chef Jacques Pepin turned down an offer to be President Kennedy’s White House Chef to go to work at Howard Johnson’s. He wanted to learn about American food.”
I think one of the best Howard Johnson memories I’ve gotten today is from my new son-in-law, Mike’s dad Jerry Mikowicz. I know he’s on a cruise with his wife Paula and his grandkids Maddy and Ethan, so obviously he had a real soft spot for HoJos to take the time to share this story, “One time my brother visited me in Laurel, MD, for Thanksgiving Day. We planned a late afternoon dinner, but drove into Washington, DC, for the morning to sightsee. On the way back to Laurel it was early afternoon, lunchtime, and we stopped at a HoJo for a hamburger to tide us over. After we ordered, the waitress went over to talk to the manager, and after a few minutes he stopped by to offer us a free, complete turkey dinner. He may have assumed we couldn’t afford the full dinner. We declined and explained, but I will never forget that kind offer.”
So for better or worse, it appears that many of us have a shared history with the Howard Johnson chain. We remember Sunday drives, or family members that worked there, or hot dog buns, fried clams, and 28 delicious Ice Cream flavors. We’re also the people that every time you see a building on the side of the road, with a particular shaped roof, whatever color it now is, you know that at one time it was bright orange and topped with a cupola and a weather vane. It’s amazing to me, when a simple picture of a magazine ad from years ago, can generate so many comments, and it obviously jump started many memories for my Facebook friends, as it did for me! So, as I originally asked…what flavor ice cream do I want today???
On Saturday June 15th, Krissi and Michael became Mr. and Mrs. Mikowicz, and the young man we fell in love with the night we met him, has become our 4th son (#1 & #2, Billy and Kenny by birth, #3 & #4, Chris and Mike by marriage)! And you want to talk about a smart young man? Michael Joshua Mikowicz met our daughter on June 15th, asked our daughter to marry him on June 15th, and married our daughter on June 15th! One date to remember! Romantic or highly practical? If you ask him, he’d say highly practical, but I think romantic!
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Wedding Weekend really started a week before, on Sunday night (June 9th) when we picked up Krissi’s two minute younger brother at the Philadelphia airport. Kenny and his husband Chris, are in the middle of a 12 month contract on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, sailing out of Galveston, and Kenny had signed off for a week to attend his sister’s wedding. Unfortunately, Chris couldn’t get the week off too, and we have dearly missed our 3rd son this whole week! Kenny had 3 days with us in Ocean City before we headed to New York, so his pre-wedding festivities included dinner at Angelo’s in AC, a drink at Crabby Jacks, dinner at the back bar at Charlies with our good friend Sue, and a visit to our favorite bartender, Ralph, at Harrahs!
Kenny at Angelos
A drink at Crabby Jacks
The back bar with Sue
A drink with Ralph!
Then it was off to New York for the real Wedding Weekend, and for the D’Elia Family, this started where our relationship started with Michael, in Mineola. For a number of years, it had been a twice a month tradition for Krissi and Susie to have their nails done late on Wednesday afternoon, while Dad held down a spot next door at the bar of the St. James restaurant. When they were done, my girls would cross the driveway between the two buildings and join me for a drink, and then we’d all have dinner. “Nail Night”, as we called it, was a long established tradition, and the place Susie and I first met Mike, and a few weeks later, Kenny met Mike, and then Chris met Mike.
Kenny meets Mike
Chris meets Mike
Krissi thought it was only right, that this trip down memory lane include a traditional Nail Night for the family, so that’s exactly what we did. Kenny and I dropped Susie off a little after 3 at Kim’s Best Nails (Kim happens to be the Mom of a very good high school friend of Krissi’s), while the two of us checked in and dropped off our stuff at the Homewood Suites just down the street from our old Mineola house. Then it was time to head to the St. James and meet Mike, who was getting off the train a little after 4 at the Mineola Station. Hugs were exchanged and drinks were poured, and it was our usual part one of Nail Night. Then when the girls were finished with their pedicures and manicures, they joined us, and the picture was complete!
We were sorry that our regular bartender Dennis no longer works there, but hugs were exchanged with Mo and Cathy (a couple of favorite waitresses over the years), and the new bartender Barry did a great job making us feel we were home! After drinks, it was time to take the party to a different venue for dinner, Piccolo’s!
Susie and I first went to Piccolo’s the night we purchased our 1989 Ford Taurus wagon, so it has been 30 years we’ve been customers. Over those 30 years, we’ve become friends with the owners and watched their kids grow and they have watched ours do the same. Piccolo’s has become the D’Elia family’s special celebration place for birthday dinners, anniversary dinners, the place to take special friends, even my Mom’s surprise 80th birthday, and a place our kids have enjoyed since they were little! What better place to have a wonderful celebratory dinner, and it did not disappoint! Our old friend Bert was in the kitchen and his son Robbie was working the floor, and the D’Elias once again felt right at home!
Then it was time for the kids to return to Astoria, while Mom and Dad relaxed at the hotel, in preparation for the real Wedding Weekend!
After checking into the Paper Factory Hotel Friday afternoon (it had been a paper factory in a former life), getting to see Mike’s folks Paula and Jerry, and our North Carolina Family (our son Billy, our daughter-in-law Lori and grandkids Layla, Henry, and Anna), it was time to head down 2 blocks to Tacuba Mexican Cantina for the big family dinner. From Michael’s side of the family there was his Mom and Dad, and his sister Sara, her husband Gabe, and their kids Maddy and Ethan! From Krissi’s ,there was Susie and I, twin brother Kenny, older brother Billy, his wife Lori and our three grandkids, 5 year old Layla, 3 1/2 year old Henry, and the baby, two month old Anna! It was great, and so familiar to spend time with the Mikowicz Family, or as we like to refer to them, Our Maryland Family! They are great people, and Susie and I are so thrilled to officially make our families one!
Krissi, Henry, Layla, Paula, Jerry, Mike, Ethan, Maddy
Gabe, Sara, Kenny, Lori, Anna, Sue, Bill
The wedding day started rather leisurely for us with a couple of Queens Bodega egg platters (Damn Kenny…I really wanted the egg Sandwich, but thanks for trying to keep Mom and I low carb) and showers and dressing. Just before noon, Susie went up to help our little girl get dressed, and she loved it…Susie that is!
Then she and I Ubered over to the kids apartment, where the rest of the family was waiting! Kenny and his sister were the last to arrive, and when they got there, Dad went down in the lobby to stay with his daughter, while Kenny got everybody up to the roof. When it was time, Kenny texted me, and rather than walk my daughter down a long aisle, I rode up to the roof with her in the elevator. Now, just a word about Krissi and Mike’s ceremony desires. They both wanted a small ceremony, with just parents, siblings, and their kids, and that’s what they got! Susie and I, Paula and Jerry, his sister Sara (Maid of honor) and her husband Gabe with their kids Maddy and Ethan, Krissi’s twin Kenny (Best Man), and her older brother Billy, his wife Lori, and our Grandchildren Layla, Henry and Anna. Small, intimate, on the roof of their apartment building in Astoria, NY, with the Manhattan skyline as a back drop. Nobody would have any problem if she wanted 12 Bridesmaids and 12 Groomsmen, but she and Mike wanted to be married this way, and it was wonderful! A perfect setting on a perfect day for a perfect couple!
Wedding Video Courtesy of Ms. Madeline Smith
After the wedding, we adjourned to their apartment for some champagne to toast Krissi and Michael Mikowicz!!
Then it was off to the Boulevard Wine Bar for the party!
The staff in this place couldn’t have been better, and the food and drinks kept coming. Being a wine bar, most seemed to be sticking with that (they had Rose, Cabernet, and Pino Grigio on tap), but there were drinks available too! I did ‘Rose-All-Day’ (a shout-out to son #3 on that phrase), and enjoyed seeing, and in some cases meeting, so many old friends of Krissi’s, other members of Mike’s Family, Susie’s sister Barbara and her husband Robbie (Krissi’s Godparents) and their son Ryan, our great friends Pat and Steve from Mineola, and people Krissi and Mike work with. Look, I’m gonna be honest here. When we came in the place, I sat down on a bar stool with my back to the bar, and I stayed there for the entire party! Everybody had to pass by me going in and going out, and I had no trouble getting Gabby the bartender to refill my wine glass! Worked for me!
My Brother-in-law Robbie, my great friend Steve, my Beautiful Granddaughter Anna – Three (old) Men and a Baby!
Unfortunately, youngest son Kenny had a 7:55 flight to make out of LaGuardia to get back to Texas so he could re-board the Liberty of the Seas on Sunday morning. Just before 6, he changed out of his wedding suit, grabbed his bag, and amidst a lot of hugs and tears, Susie and I walked him out to the street to wait for his Uber. It was great that we had him this week, wonderful that he was able to be there with and for his twin sister, but sad that he couldn’t stay for the rest of the evening, and that his husband Chris couldn’t get off the ship too!
Uncle Kenny says goodbye to Anna
After the last of the guests left the wine bar, we Ubered over the the Brewery that was to be the first after party, with Mike’s folks Paula and Jerry. We took a look, and the four of us decided that maybe this was time for the “older folks” (or as Jerry called us The Mommas and the Papas) to head back to the hotel and leave the carousing to the younger crowd! So I got us a chicken burrito bowl packed to travel from the food truck outside the brewery… and back to the hotel we went!
As our oldest son Bill and his family were leaving early Sunday morning to head back to North Carolina and celebrate Father’s Day, we said goodbye to our son and granddaughter Layla. (Mom, Henry and Anna had hit the hay by the time we got back to the hotel.) Susie and I then had a quiet, much needed, relaxing night in the hotel!
On Sunday morning, we found out that at the second stop on the after party circuit, Krissi and Mike realized they were done, and walked down the street to a diner, and ended their night sharing mozzarella sticks and potato skins. Just the two of them! Wish there were pictures of that!
To wrap up this weekend, we helped Krissi get her stuff from the hotel back to their apartment, and then the those of us left, joined in the apartment for a bagel before the families headed back to New Jersey and Maryland!
It was a wonderful week for Susie and I. First with our youngest child, then with Krissi and Mike, then adding son Billy, Lori (daughter #2) and the Grandkids, the rest of Mike’s family, and finally putting them all together with even more of our family, friends, co-workers, and people who were special to our kids, Krissi and Mike. Krissi, has always said she doesn’t like being the center of attention, and she had exactly the kind of wedding she wanted. I asked her Sunday morning if she’d gotten tired of smiling. She said no, she’d been fine. I asked her if she was okay being the center of attention. She said she kind of liked it. She summed it up by saying, “It was the best weekend of my life!”, as well it should have been! It was the wedding of her dreams!
Susie and I couldn’t be happier that Krissi and Mike are together, and we couldn’t have had a better weekend either! Surrounded by your family (by birth, by marriage, even by friendship), having something wonderful to celebrate, and feeling the love! What could be better!!!
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present Krissi and Michael Mikowicz, our daughter and son!
Susie and I are not the kind of people that eat out a lot, and when we do eat out, we tend to go to familiar places. I know that lots of our friends are all for experimentation, but for us, familiar settings, with folks that we know, and guaranteed food we like is more the way we eat out. (Not saying we don’t go to new places…just not that frequently!) In the 31 years we lived in Mineola, we developed this pattern, and on any given night of eating out, you’d probably find us at one of 4 or 5 places. Some people might call us boring, but we really liked the familiar surroundings of a known quantity.
That’s kind of the way our life has shaken out in Ocean City too. After years of vacationing here, before it became our permanent home in November of 2017, we’d eaten at many places, and several of them are still on our list of places we enjoy going to occasionally, but are not part of our weekly routine. Most weeks, our dining out is limited to three nights. On Saturday night we’re usually someplace with our regular OC Family group. Of the 3, this is the night that we are at different places and as close as we get to experimenting. On Tuesday night, most weeks, you can find us at the back bar at Charlies in Somers Point, eating and drinking with our good friend Sue, who bartends there on Tuesday night. Originally that was about it, but this past year, we’ve added another regular night to our week. On most Thursday nights, you can find us at Angelos Fairmount Tavern in Atlantic City, first having a martini with Michael at the bar, and then enjoying some good old fashioned, red sauce, neighborhood Italian food in one of this historic AC restaurant’s several dining rooms!
Located on the corner of Fairmount Avenue and North Mississippi Avenue in the Ducktown section of Atlantic City, Angelos has been a fixture on that corner since Angelo Sr. and Isabella Mancuso bought a small bar with an even smaller dining room in 1935. Since then, for 4 generations of the Mancuso Family, Angelos has been a way of life!
The story goes that in the beginning, they sold two items…Fried Shrimp and Spaghetti with Meatballs. Over the years, the restaurant and the menu grew, and now you can find many of your favorite Italian American dishes, and your order will probably be cooked and served by someone in the Mancuso Family! Yes, this indeed is a Family Restaurant, for those dining there, and for the staff serving you. Since 1935, due to the ability to purchase adjacent buildings when they became available, the original small footprint of the restaurant has grown like topsy. There are now six dining rooms, but because of the nature of the expansion, they are all small and intimate and each has its own personality. They also have several large banquet rooms, and now the bar is larger than it was in the early days!
Speaking of the bar, as you sit at the L Shaped Bar, you will enjoy going back in time to old Atlantic City. There are pictures of pop celebrities of old, like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, Sports figures like Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, a whole wall of “Who’s Who” from the Godfather movies, and Mancuso Family memories. There are also “wine” taps and beer taps, directly from the cold room! The bar is a cozy place to wait for the rest of your party, or to have a drink before dinner. Oh and as you sit at the bar, if you look down you’ll notice the tiled trough at your feet. Rumor has it that in the early days, when women wouldn’t be caught dead sitting at the bar, and it was strictly a male domain, there was no need to head to the men’s room if you needed to relieve yourself. I’d like to believe that’s true, but true or not, it makes a great story! Speaking of the Men’s room, the bar also holds probably one of Atlantic City’s smallest Men’s Rooms, but trust me, it’s better than using the trough!
The bar is also the gateway to Angelos. As you walk in the front door on the corner of Fairmount and North Mississippi, the bartender, who may also be making a martini, pouring wine for a waitress, and serving food to a bar patron, will call out to you, “Hey Folks…how many for dinner?” You see, Angelos only takes reservations for parties of 8 or more, so be you a corporate mogul or a vacationer from Brooklyn, you will give your name, the number in your party, and he’ll write it down on the clipboard and give you an idea of about how long you’ll be waiting! Find a seat at the bar, order one of their very reasonably priced drinks, and feast on the old AC atmosphere! Bars like this aren’t designed, they grow!
When your table is ready, the bartender will direct you to head through the door into the restaurant proper. Here you will be met by the hostess, and shown to your table, which may be in any one of their six dining rooms. From small rooms with about 6 tables, to larger rooms with family sized tables, from the Baseball Room, to the Fireplace Room (without a fireplace), each room is a little different, and has a unique atmosphere.
What isn’t different is the menu you’ll be ordering from. It is extensive, and exactly the Italian-American experience you desire.Take a look at their menu, and tell me if I’m wrong!
So let me tell you about one of our typical Thursday nights at Angelos. If Michael is bartending, he knows exactly what we want, but if it’s Dom or Gina or somebody else, we tell them we’re going to have a drink before dinner, and order our Grey Goose Martinis! We enjoy them, and love to soak in the atmosphere and people watch! The bar at Angelos is the perfect place to people watch!
When it’s our turn, we go up the steps and through the door and are surprised on what room we’ll be eating in! Last week, Megan stopped by and asked how our diet was going (yes…they tolerate us being no-carb in this decidedly carb intensive environment), Theresa, her Aunt, was our waitress and wanted to hear about my knee replacement. Victor started to bring us a basket of bread, till he realized it was us, and Patty, Megan’s Mom, stopped by to say hello. Do I love that…you know I do, but what I really love about Angelos, is be they Mancusos or not, this is a family, with the same staff year in and year out! That to me makes the experience just that more special!
Oh..so what do we, two no-carb folks eat in this wonderful restaurant? Well, without a doubt, we always start with the Angelo’s Cold Antipasto Salad for One (years ago, when we first tried to order this for two, our waitress..I think it might have been Rhonda, told us one was enough for two. Boy was she right!). Take a look at the attached pictures and tell me that doesn’t look wonderful! That really is enough for the two of us to eat for dinner, but we usually will splurge and have one or two (and that’s pushing it) appetizers for our dinner! Love their Eggplant Parmesan appetizer and the Shrimp Jammers are to die for!!
Another fascinating thing to look at when you’re at Angelos, is the numerous stain glass windows all over.
So that’s how we spend our Thursday nights. We head to AC and we dine with the Mancusos! Thanks for allowing us to be a member of the family, even if it’s just for a couple of hours once a week. We’re customers for life!!
Enjoy some old Mancuso Family pictures from their menu.
As a parent, it seems that the years just pass too fast.You turn around, and that little girl who was just learning to walk, is driving.Then she’s going to college, and then to graduate school.Then she’s moving out of her teenage bedroom and into her own apartment.Then she meets a guy she likes, and the next thing you know, she’s getting married!Yep, life just flies by!
In just a week, our little Krissi, all grown up and now an administrator at Weill-Cornell Medical Center, will officially change her last name from D’Elia to Mikowicz, as she and Mike tie the knot!Susie and I are so very proud of what our little girl has made of her life, and thrilled by her choice of Michael Joshua Mikowicz as her life partner!These are two great kids (excuse me…adults), and we are so happy to have Mike, and the Maryland Mikowicz Family join together with our family!
Twins Krissi and Kenny and older brother Bill
Krissi is our “middle child”, the two minute older sibling of her twin brother Kenny, and the 4 year younger sister of big brother Bill.Right from the start, these twins couldn’t have been any more different.Well, the obvious is, of course, him being a boy and she being a girl, but they were 6 weeks premature, and basically that’s because Krissi wanted to get out and see the world, while Kenny would have been happy to bake a little bit more in Susie.Because of that, she was out of the NICU in only 18 days, while Kenny needed 28 days to get to 5 pounds.As they grew up, Kenny was the one more likely to take a risk, while Krissi liked the safer side of the street.Kenny was also one to cut people off quicker, while Krissi was in for the long hall!
As Krissi grew, it became obvious that she cared greatly for people and their welfare.She was the girl to sign up for a cause!When her brother Kenny came out to all of us, she was his staunchest defender when kids at high school would give him a hard time.When you have Krissi on your side, you’ve really got all you need!!
When she went off to college, we were a bit worried about how she’d take being away from her twin brother.The day we dropped her off at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., I’m not sure who was crying more…our daughter or her Mom!But quickly we realized we had nothing to worry about.She made friends (most of which she still has to this day), attacked her studies with passion, and got involved in extracurricular events.She graduated with dual majors, a ton of friends, and a nice resume of achievements, many having to do with the welfare of Clark students and the residents of Worcester!Then she came home.
A couple of pictures of the “Original Five” first at Brother Bill’s Wedding and then in Atlantic City!!
As hard as that was for any college kid, this girl had direction.She wanted to help people, so she got herself an intern position with the NYC Human Rights Council.She loved the work, the causes, and the people she worked with, and wondered if this could be a career.She decided that perhaps getting a Masters of Public Administration degree might be a good first step, so she applied to several graduate schools. She also decided that she needed some money of her own, so she set out to get a job.
Getting accepted to several graduate programs, she decided to go to my Alma Mater, LIU Post, and for money, she got a part-time job at a local cardiologist’s office.Once school started, she was working several days in NYC, several more at LI Heart near the Mineola Train Station, and traveling nightly from Mineola to Greenvale. She was one busy young lady!She originally was hired at LI Heart to digitize medical records, but pretty soon her work ethic brought her to the attention of the folks who ran the place and forced her to make a decision.They wanted her to work there full-time, but that would mean giving up her internship.She loved her intern work, but realized that taking the full-time job was the smarter move on her part!She was great at getting the job done and at customer service, which I always credited on her three summers working at Bed Bath and Beyond.
Working at LI Heart, she realized that there were many people she could help working in the medical profession, so she tailored her MPA degree more towards Medical than Non-Profit.The girl had found what she wanted to do, and knew how to get there!She continued to work at LI Heart, continued to excel in her graduate studies, and continued living at home.
Mom, twin brother Kenny, and Dad celebrate with the new MPA
Her Weill-Cornell Office
Once she got her MPA Degree, she moved to Astoria, but continued working at Long Island Heart and commuted every day from Astoria to Mineola.They were hot to keep her at LI Heart, but she knew that to really grow, she had to find a position in a bigger organization, and sent out resumes and went to many job interviews, till she was finally offered an entry level position at Weill-Cornell.Foot in the door, our girl excelled, as usual, and as they say, the rest is history!
At brother Kenny’s Wedding last October
Nail Night w/ Dennis
She met Mike through on-line dating, and being the cautious person she is, didn’t saying anything to Mom and Dad for several months.When she finally spilled the beans, they were well on their way to having a meaningful relationship. Mike joined us one Wednesday for “Nail Night” at the St. James, and after the first night, we were sold on him.There were more nail nights with Mike, and pretty soon we felt like he was part of the family!He went to the bathroom one night and I told Krissi, “If you break up with him, we’re keeping him!”They didn’t and we’re thrilled!
Their Astoria Roof
So on Saturday, June 15th, Kristen Anne D’Elia and Michael Joshua Mikowicz, on the rooftop of their Astoria Apartment Building, will become one.It will be a small private ceremony with just parents and siblings, because that’s what they want.Later in the day, there will be a party for their New York Family and friends at an Astoria Wine Bar.In July, there will be a gathering at his sister Sara’s house in Maryland for Mike’s Maryland family and friends, and in the fall, there will be another gathering down here at the shore for family and friends.
Susie and I couldn’t be any prouder of these two.They care about people, they are smart, they are fun, they are financially responsible (Krissi has already paid off her graduate school loans), and they are perfect together!Mike makes Krissi laugh at herself, take chances, and to be an all around happy person!I wish she didn’t work as hard and long as she does, but perhaps we can blame that on Bed Bath and Beyond too!Just like with Susie and me, we think this match was made in heaven, and we could not be happier!!
To Mike’s Mom Paula and Dad Jerry, his sister Sara and her husband Gabe, and their kids Maddy and Ethan, welcome to the Family…but then I think you know you were part of our family already!Saturday just makes it legal!
Cheers to the new Krissi and Michael Mikowicz!!Mom and I love you both so much and couldn’t be happier!!!