Doie Barnes….American Hero!

Pictured above is Doris Barnes, Sargent, United States Marine Corp.

During World War II, joining the Marine Corps was not something you’d expect a young woman to do. In fact, according to an article at Marine Corp University, “American women in military uniform were rare at the beginning of World War II.  On 30 July, 1942, the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was established as part of the Marine Corps Reserve.  The mission of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was to provide qualified women for duty at shore establishments of the Marine Corps, releasing men for combat duty.” Doris (or Doie as most call her) was one of those women.

According to that same article, “Women Marines were assigned to over 200 different jobs, including radio operator, photographer, parachute rigger, driver, aerial gunnery instructor, cook, baker, quartermaster, control tower operator, motion picture operator, auto mechanic, telegraph operator, cryptographer, laundry operator, post exchange (store) manager, stenographer and agriculturist.” Doie a long time ago told Susie that her job during the war was dispatching planes. To our minds, she is truly a hero and a fascinating part of the history of the United States Marine Corp, and our country.

I’m writing this blog today, because our Ocean City neighbor Doie was born on July 30th, 1921. Today is Doie Barnes’ 100th Birthday! Yes, during World War II, Doie was a young lady in her early 20s, and knowing the person she is today, I can only imagine the adventures she had back then…..and the tales she could tell! 16 years ago, when we bought the house next door, she was a young 84 year old, and today she’s a young 100 year old! She’s a regular at the daily Flag Raising Ceremony on the Ocean City Boardwalk, and a cherished member of American Legion Post 524. If the weather is right, you can see her taking her daily stroll around our neighborhood. Although, her hearing isn’t what it once was, and her knees could be better, she is still fast with a quip, and hearing she and her son-in-law Doc Anderson go back and forth is a joy.

At this morning’s Flag Raising Ceremony she was honored for her service during WWII and for her 100th birthday. It was an honor for Susie and I to be part of the group cheering her on as she was recognized by the Marine Corps League, the City of Ocean City, and Cape May County, and her Pennlyn Place friends and family! It’s truly an honor to live next door to this American Hero, and Susie and I are very happy to be able to wish Doie a very Happy Birthday, and hope that she lives many more years in good health

Happy Birthday Doie!!!

Some photos courtesy of Neen Raspa.

Bluetooth Ear Buds and your Cell Phone

Wikipedia defines Bluetooth as “a short-range wireless technology standard that is used for exchanging data between fixed and mobile devices over short distances.” The first consumer Bluetooth device was a hands-free mobile headset that was launched in 1999. Those first Bluetooth headsets were large, but as the technology improved, the size dropped until Bluetooth Ear Buds became the norm. They are a great invention, that allow joggers, walkers, people at the beach, and others seeking privacy the perfect tool. No cords or huge headsets to get in the way of your activity, you don’t bother others near you, and small enough to be carried in your pocket when you are done with them. Back in the olden days, when I was still working at WABC, a set of Bluetooth ear buds made my twice daily Long Island Rail Road trips a bit more palatable. They were easy to use, small, and much better than a wired headset. They are indeed a great way to listen to music, podcasts, or the radio, if anyone still listens to the radio!

Then there is their other use…conducting a phone call while connected to your cell phone! I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of having someone at work, on the street, or in a store, say “Hello,” think they were talking to us and respond, only to then discover that they had a Bluetooth ear bud in one or both ears, and were in the midst of a telephone call! Sorry, but people doing that should be forced to wear a sign or some other outwardly obvious indication to those around them that they’re on the phone and that the rest of us should ignore all talk that comes from their mouth! I know that I have been caught multiple times, and frankly it is embarrassing once you are either waved off by the person, or you yourself realize what’s happening. There are also other issues I’ve discovered over the years. Here’s one, from my personal experience.

When WABC Radio moved to 2 Penn Plaza in early 1989 from 1330 Avenue of the Americas, the neighborhood around our new home was very different from what we’d enjoyed at 54th Street and 6th Avenue. Instead of being a block from ritzy Fifth Avenue with stores like Saks, across from the New York Hilton, and blocks from Rockefeller Center, we were now 17 floors above Penn Station and Madison Square Garden in a much older, undeveloped area. Rather than skyscrapers that housed Corporate America, we were across from the ancient Pennsylvania Hotel, 2 blocks from the Macy’s on 34th Street, and surrounded by small buildings with everything from Pizza places to Taxidermy Supply stores as tenants. New York City was a very different place in 1989, and on the average day, 5 people were murdered, there were 9 rapes, and 194 aggravated assaults. Then there was Penn Station in our basement!

The “New” Pennsylvania Station was basically a basement establishment, under 2 Penn Plaza and Madison Square Garden, having taken the place of the beautiful McKim, Mead, and White designed train station in the late 60s. On any given day, Penn Station looked more like a portal to a third world country than a prime transportation hub in New York City. If you came to work too early in the morning, you literally had to step over people, as hundreds (perhaps thousands) of homeless folks used it as a flop house! Many of them were pushed out into the surrounding streets before the commuting day started, but Penn Station was still the home to many of NYC’s best crazies! We joked about it, but there were literally people walking around in tin foils “hats” so nobody (aliens, the CIA, you name the group) could read their thoughts. On a daily basis, I’d see folks giving others furtive looks, yelling at people who were just passing by, and of course, having long animated conversations and arguments with others that nobody else could see! I always said that you could always tell the crazies from the “normal” folks, as the crazies were the ones talking to themselves. Then came Bluetooth ear buds.

In the later years, before I retired in 2016, whenever I’d venture down the 17 floors and take the escalator underground to Penn Station, there were new rules. Now, it was much harder to tell if somebody was nuts or just on the phone. Some of the crazy people were very normal looking, but now, some of the “normal” people acted as crazy as the best of the crazies! Talking in a loud voice to nobody, having explosive arguments with nobody, and making extravagant hand gestures were no longer a clue. They could be crazies, or they could be folks on their cell phones! You decide….

I was prompted to write this blog, when I saw (and heard) a lady walking down our street yesterday as I sat on our front porch in Ocean City. She was all alone, and there was no one around, and yet, she was carrying on an extensive conversation, including using body language for effect! As with my experience long ago at Penn Station…on the phone, or crazy? Remember, when you avail yourself of the latest in technology, the rest of us don’t always know!

Car Shopping

An interesting aspect of life as we move through the pandemic…car shopping.

Three years ago, Susie and I decided to trade in our five year old 2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited. It had been a great car, but because it was the car we’d used for our “Big Trip” in 2016, it had over 80,000 miles on it, and had started to cost us some repair money. Having never done it before, we investigated the world of car leasing. As we get older, we like the idea of having a new car every 3 years, and of not tying up the full purchase price of a new car, but rather only paying for the years we would be using it. We also decided that since we sometimes had been forced to ask friends to pick up things for us that didn’t fit in our sedan, we would look at the world of small SUVs. We were not looking for something the size of a Chevy Suburban and as I did my usual due diligence on what was available, I liked the Honda CR-V. Car-like, good reviews, great gas mileage, and when the seats were folded down, enough room to load our Christmas Tree and all the ornaments to get them from our storage place to our home. We now had our target.

Late spring of 2018, we decided to stop in at our local Honda dealer, Boardwalk Honda in Egg Harbor Township and take a look at a CR-V. We walked into the showroom and met a salesman named Brian Ford. After laughing that a man named Ford was selling Hondas (yea, probably the 10,000th time he’d heard that) he showed us a CR-V that was on the floor. Susie and I sat in it in almost all the seats and liked the way the car felt and thought the size would be perfect for us. We told Brian that we were still going back and forth between buying and leasing, and we promised we’d come back and see him when we made up our mind.

Over the next couple of weeks, we went back and forth. One day we were going to lease, then the next day we were going to buy. We continued the discussions like this till we decided one day it was time to put up or shut up, and the final decision was made to lease. Having never leased a car before, I read up on it on the Internet, and on Monday June 11, 2018 we went back to Boardwalk Honda to talk to Brian about the particulars. Things happened faster than we envisioned, and that afternoon we no longer owned a 2013 Hyundai, but were rather the new leasers of a 2018 Honda CR-V EX-L in Sandstorm Beige. We were scheduled to travel back to Long Island the next day, see some Doctors, and then meet Krissi and our not yet son-in-law Mike for drinks and dinner. We made the trip in a brand new CR-V with less that 20 miles on the odometer!

In the ensuing months and now years, we’ve grown to love our CR-V. It was just the right size, was comfortable to drive, got incredible mileage (30+ driving 70-80 MPH on trips – 25+ around town) and as our daughter said, “Unless you look behind you, you don’t even know your driving an SUV.” We’ve loaded and unload our Christmas things 3 times, shopped at Lowes and Home Depot, made 3 trips to Florida, and countless trips to visit our son’s family in North Carolina, to visit Krissi and Mike in New York, and our Maryland family too. It’s just been the perfect vehicle for us, and we had every intention to turn it in at the end of the lease, and start all over again! Then came the Pandemic.

Today’s cars are lightyears ahead of even those that were produced 10 years ago. Our CR-V has Adaptive Cruise Control that uses radar to judge the speed of the car in front of you and slow you down. It has Lane Keeping Assist that uses the radar and cameras to direct the car back, should you wander out of your lane. It has emergency braking, which causes the car to break itself if you do not heed the warning it gives you. It has Side Warning Sensors that warn you if there is a car in your blind spots on either the right or left side. In short, the car thinks and is there at the ready if you, the driver, don’t respond. How many chips do you think every modern day Super Car uses??? Then came the chip shortage!

A lesson that the world auto makers learned a long time ago from Toyota, was a concept called “Just in Time” parts inventory. The Japanese were famous for having parts delivered to their assembly lines when they needed them, saving the expense of storage. When the world shut down with the pandemic in March, 2020, automakers the world over cut orders on parts including chips. Many of those in the semiconductor business switched their production from the chips used by the auto industry to chips used in consumer electronics, like 5G cell phones. However, the pandemic did not derail the sale of cars as much as was expected and the auto industry faced much more demand then they’d anticipated, but unfortunately the supply of chips they needed just wasn’t available. Ford had thousands of F-150 pickup trucks (the best selling vehicle in America) built but unable to be finished due to the chip shortage. Honda, Subaru, Toyota, and Volkswagen also have individual models that have lost more than 10,000 units to the chip shortage in North America. The obvious solution would have been to just increase the capacity at the car maker’s suppliers, but given how difficult and expensive it is to build semiconductors, the reality is that just wasn’t possible!

So what was the effect of the chip shortage? Car prices went wild! Used cars went through the roof, with year or two old cars selling for even more than they cost new! New cars were selling for above sticker price, if you could get them at all, and all the “normal” rules of the car buying business went out the window. According to our lease contract at the end of our lease, we could buy our CR-V for $18,45, but today a 3 year old Honda CR-V with 40,000 miles on it is worth over $24,000! Crazy! In checking the inventory at our local dealers on line, I found 3 or 4 of our models, rather than the 30-40 there were 3 years ago. Although I really didn’t want to buy the car, I was afraid that as our lease had less than 2 months left, I didn’t know what else we could do.

Just the other day, I decided that I best give our salesman a call, and see exactly what the situation was. I discovered that Brian was no longer a salesman, but rather the Finance Manager at Boardwalk Honda, but as an established customer, he was happy to deal with me. He confirmed that they only had a couple of CR-Vs in stock and since we are kind of particular on our color selection, what they had in stock or what they were getting delivered in their next shipment did not meet our needs. I asked him what to do, and he said that the factory has told them that they are getting more chips and expect assemblies to ramp up in the next 3-4 months, and that if we waited, they would probably have exactly what we wanted. I asked him, “So are you saying I should buy the car?” and he said, “No, just call Honda Financial and extend your lease.” Turns out I can tell them I’d like a 6 month extension of the lease, and since it’s really month to month, just terminate it when we start a new lease with a brand new CR-V. Now our only problem is, do we want an Aegean Blue or Radiant Red CR-V, and will it be a 2021 or 2022 model. Stay tuned…

The Dog Days of Summer

Breaker Boy and Beach Boy show the only way to enjoy the beach during the Dog Days of Summer!
Photo courtesy of Doc Anderson

Wikipedia defines the Dog Days of Summer as, “the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the heliacal rising of the star system Sirius (known colloquially as the “Dog Star”), which Hellenistic astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck. They are now taken to be the hottest, most uncomfortable part of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.” According to the Old Farmers Almanac, “The “Dog Days” of summer last from July 3 to August 11.” Welcome to the Dog Days of Summer, 2021! Yes, as I write this, we are smack dab in the middle of the Dog Days. I know here at the beach, we are well aware that we are in them, as the humidity and the temperatures sore to beyond uncomfortable heights.

According to the web site Mentalfloss, “Dew point readings between the freezing mark and about 55°F are pretty comfortable. A dew point between 55°F and 60°F is noticeably humid. It’s muggy when the dew point is above 60°F, and it’s uncomfortable outside when it ticks above 65°F. Any dew point readings above 70°F are oppressive and even dangerous, the kind of stickiness you experience in the tropics or during a brutal summer heat wave.” For the better part of the past 2 weeks, our daily dew point (which is a combination of the temperature and the humidity levels) has hovered in the mid 70s! As I write this, our mid day temperature is 83 degrees with a real feel of 89 degrees and the dew point is 73 degrees!

Even when you’re actually on our beach, unless there is a nice breeze from the ocean, believe me, you feel that kind of temperature and dew point. If the wind is coming from the land instead of off the ocean, you get a dry warm breeze, which is often accompanied by bugs! Even better!

As Facebook reminds me daily, back before we lived at the beach full-time, this was the exact time we’d set aside at the house for our vacation. It started as two weeks in July, then went to three, and the last year I worked at WABC, we took the entire month of July in Ocean City. Now, we were admittedly younger back then (anywhere between 5 and 16 years younger), and all we had was our vacation time down here, so the heat and/or humidity wasn’t as much of a yard stick that determined our beach time. Today, that situation is different!

Luckily, we are just 500 feet from the boardwalk and just beyond it, the beach, so on the way down, after coming out of the beautiful air conditioning, the trip is easy. We traditionally love to get down there early (between 9 and 10 AM), when it’s both cooler and less congested. We unload our beach cart, set up our chairs, and settle in for 2-4 hours of beach time. Honestly, the length of our stay is determined by the weather conditions, if there are bugs or not, and how many jackasses decide to invade our space with their tents, canopies, etcetera. The issues come about however in the Dog Days when it’s time to leave. If we could only twitch our nose like Jeannie did on I Dream of Jeannie, life would be grand, but by the time we pack up, walk back to the boardwalk through the no longer cool sand, and then make our way back to the house, we are drained! A dew point like today really makes it hard to enjoy any part of the beach frankly, and so on many days like this, we choose not to go. We often say that we live here so our beach time is infinite, and although I know that’s not true, we just don’t feel like killing ourselves just to say, “we’ve been to the beach!”

The draining heat and humidity that the Dog Days bring us, change the experience for us. I still need a new knee, Susie needs a new hip, my asthma doesn’t like humidity, and spending EVERYDAY at the beach just isn’t that important to us. I know this may sound like blasphemy from someone who lives at the beach, but sorry, that’s just how we feel. We continue to love being in Ocean City, seeing the water every time we go on or off the island, and love our time at the beach…under our terms! Feeling like you’re in a blast furnace is just not what we’d call, “under our terms.”

On another note, the Dog Days are also known for lethargy and bad luck, and I’m going to add another symptom…writer’s block! The last time I posted a blog was July 3rd, when I talked about the wonderful Father’s Day Weekend we’d had with all our kids and Grandkids. Since then, although I have sat down in front of my MacBook Air multiple times, and even started a few essays, nothing has jelled for me. Yes indeed, lethargy has been rampant in my brain!! But here I am, breaking the curse of Dog Day Lethargy by writing an essay about the Dog Days of Summer! Kind of poetic justice you might say!

Stay cool my friends, and like I do, thank God every day that we enjoy the legacy of Willis Carrier, the man credited with designing the first modern air conditioning system in 1902…probably during the Dog Days of Summer!!

See you on the beach….maybe.

Lake House Fun!!!

Something happened this Father’s Day weekend that has never happened before! The entire immediate D’Elia Family was together in one place for 2 days! Two parents, three siblings, three spouses, and three grandkids! But first, we had to get there!

After a wonderful week in Ocean City with our two oldest Grandkids (https://rnewadventures.com/2021/06/25/two-kids-at-the-beach/), the four of us were looking forward to the weekend at Lori and Bill’s Lake House, on Roanoke Rapids Lake in North Carolina. Lori and Bill were going to pick up Uncle Kenny and Uncle Chris at the airport, and then drive to the house. Waze said that the trip would take about 6 hours for us, so we figured with bathroom stops and a lunch break, we’d all get there about the same time, if we left about 8:30 in the morning. On Friday, we all got up, Susie got Layla and Henry some cereal and toast for breakfast, and Grandma and I got ourselves, and what we were taking with us ready. Just after 8:30 we pulled out of the driveway, and thought we were in great shape!

Waze took us up the AC Expressway to Philadelphia and then down I-95 towards Delaware. When we stopped at the Delaware Welcome Center to switch drivers, we’d made great time, and were right on schedule, but traffic was getting heavy. Then, as Susie drove through Maryland, we were bitterly attacked by Cicadas! First one bounced off the windshield, leaving a white streak, and then Susie saw a swarm of them flying across I-95! Size-wise, somewhere between an insect and a small bird, three or four more slammed into the front of the car and the windshield with a resounding thud! At one point, our Granddaughter Layla cried out, “Come On Now!” in reaction! When we switched drivers in southern Maryland, the front of the car was plastered with their remains! Yuck!

Traffic was heavy, but moving as we crossed into Virginia, and thankfully the Express Lanes around Washington had changed directions, and we were able to use them! Regular 95 South was a parking lot, and we were happy to pay for the convenience of driving at the speed limit! However, as we approached the end of the southern express lanes, our joy was replaced with dread! Of course, traffic was heavy when the Express Lanes merged with regular 95, but unlike what usually happens, we crawled for most of the rest of our trip! A couple of times Waze took us off 95, but honestly the relief was short lived. Suffice it to say that the trip that we’d figure to do in 7 hours with stops, took 10 full hours! The kids were troopers (even when they had lunch at 2:30) and although Henry wanted to know a lot if we were in North Carolina, they did real good! Then, suddenly we saw the North Carolina border, and within miles had exited 95 and were near the Lake House!!

It was the trip from Hell, but once we pulled up outside Lori and Bill’s Lake House, it was so worth every minute of every hour on the road! Bill, Kenny and Chris met us at the car, and after hugs were exchanged, quick work was made of emptying the Honda! Then the fun started. We went down to the house, hugged Lori and 2 year old Annabelle, and quickly started making plans to head out to the lake and their pontoon boat! Some munchies, some drinks, and family time on the lake…what could be better!

We sat around the fire pit on the deck way too late that night, and with 3 little kids, morning was early too! Another beautiful day in North Carolina, as we anticipated the arrival of Aunt Krissi and Uncle Mike, and the completion of our family circle. As we had a couple of hours till Krissi and Mike arrived from New York, a little more boating was on the agenda after those who wanted it had breakfast. Problem was, the boat wouldn’t start! We tried everything from jump starting the battery to pushing every button on the dash, but nothing. Bill tried calling his dealer’s service department, but on a beautiful Saturday in mid-June, he was told that perhaps they could get to him in a week or two. Not what our son wanted to hear! None the less, after Krissi and Mike arrived, the lake was still the spot for everybody, and a great time was had in and around the boat house!

That night, we all feasted on wonderful Cheesesteak Sandwiches that Lori created, along with Grandma D’Elia’s macaroni salad. To top off a wonderful day, there were s,mores on the back deck as the sun set on another wonderful day of Father’s Day weekend!

Sunday morning, actual Father’s Day, dawned with a wonderful gift for our son Bill…He and Lori had found a boat repairman to come look at the dead pontoon boat! The second piece of good news was the problem was just a blown fuse, which he replaced, and showed Bill where it was and how to do it, and even left him a couple of spares! Even better, the guy wouldn’t take any money! He just asked for a good review! Lori and Bill now have a new pontoon boat repair guy!

Layla and Henry gave their Daddy the Father’s Day cards they’d made with Grandma as well as the flag, pole, and bracket they’d wrapped in Ocean City. Grandpa got several wonderful cards, gift cards to Chipotle (from Kenny and Chris), Omaha Steaks (from Bill and Lori), a custom made New Rochelle baseball cap from Krissi and Mike, and a Grandpa cup from the little D’Elias to match the Grandma mug they’d gotten Grandma for Mother’s Day! Great gifts, but the greatest gift of all was the weekend with our family!!!

Gift giving over, it was time to hit the Lake on the pontoon boat and have fun!! Now with a happy oldest son/husband/father because his boat worked!!

Early that afternoon, Lori and Bill’s good friends and neighbors from Wake Forest, Courtney and Adam, showed up to join in our Father’s Day celebrations. Not only are the four parents good friends, but Adam and Courtney’s daughter Violet is a good friend of Layla’s and their son Crosby and our Henry are good friends! We loved Adam and Courtney and what could be better for our two oldest Grandkids than to have people to play with, well, besides Uncle Chris, Uncle Kenny, Uncle Mike and Aunt Krissi!

It was a fun afternoon on the boat, enjoying it as a platform to swim in the lake as well as some adventurous tubing courtesy of Captain Bill!!

Dinner that night was under the direction of Chef Uncle Chris, as he grilled several tri tip steaks that Grandma and Grandpa had brought from Ocean City, along with all kinds of delicious sides. Full and happy, the night concluded with Layla reading her story of she and Henry’s time with Grandma and Grandpa, with an able assist from Aunt Krissi!

It was a wonderful weekend, and a wonderful way to cap off an incredible week in Ocean City with Layla and Henry! Grandma and I were tired, but oh so happy! Thank you to Krissi and Mike and Kenny and Chris for flying to North Carolina, and for making the weekend probably the best Father’s Day ever! A special thanks to Lori and Bill for being the perfect hosts and for coming up with the idea originally. None of it would have happened had you not bought the Lake House and the boat, and once again, we applaud your decision, and the wonderful family memories that will come because of that decision…including this great Father’s Day Family Reunion!

Family is wonderful, especially when 3 generations get to spend time together! We truly love our 3 kids, their spouses, and of course, the 3 most incredible Grandkids in the world! Color us proud and very happy!!!

Two Kids At The Beach

Late on the night of November 3, 1982, our oldest child, William Ryan D’Elia, came into our lives. About 7 months later, he had his first vacation in Ocean City, New Jersey, and his first exposure to the beaches and boardwalk I had known as a kid. 4 years later, he was joined by his sister and brother, and Krissi and Kenny’s Ocean City life started too! For the rest of their childhood years, part of every summer was spent in Ocean City. In a way, Bill, Krissi, and Kenny grew up here, as this was the beach and boardwalk they knew as kids, and still love today.

On Sunday, June 13th, Susie and I drove from Ocean City to the Philadelphia Airport (a trip that would have been immeasurably easier had the Yankees not been playing the Phillies at Citizen Bank Park near the airport) to meet a flight from Raleigh/Durham North Carolina. There were 3 special passengers on that flight…our son Bill and his two oldest kids, 7 year old Layla and 5 year old Henry, who were here to spend a week with Grandma and Grandpa, and get to know the town that their Dad knew as a kid! After getting Daddy to the correct terminal for his return flight to Mommy and youngest sister, 2 year old Annabelle in North Carolina, Layla, Henry, Grandma, and Grandpa headed to their week of fun under the sun!

Our son had brought up the idea of this trip to us several months before, and we had busily been making plans. I think it was a toss up who was more excited: Layla and Henry or Grandpa and Grandma! We’d made plans, and Susie had lists of things we could do, but in the end, the beach, boardwalk, front porch of the house, and just enjoying our time with the kids was the best thing we did!

Of course, there had to be trips to the beach, with romps in the ocean, building sandcastles, burying each other, digging holes, finding shells, and kite flying. Turns out that Grandma and Layla did a better job getting the kite in the air than Grandpa and Henry, but in the end, the wind pulled the kite handle out of Layla’s hand, and even though the kids (and Grandma) chased it, the wind dumped it in the ocean. A nice man retrieved it, but it was a total loss. Wind: one – Layla: zero!

There was a trip to Hoys on Asbury Avenue where the kids got the required Ocean City sweatshirts, hats to keep the sun off their heads, and water shoes. For Susie and I, suddenly we were back in the 1980s and trying to keep our kids focussed on what they were looking for, and not the toys that were in the next aisle!

Ice Cream was always a part of our beach vacations back in the day, and the same can be said for Layla and Henry’s time with us. Not one, but two ,times did we head over to Custard Hut, where the hardest part was deciding what they were going to get, and keeping as much ice cream as possible off Henry! I know Grandma and Grandpa loved it, and I’m pretty sure the two little D’Elias did too!

Of course, there are things that are almost mandated by law that have to be included in an Ocean City vacation, and we followed all those rules too! From playing Mini-Golf (Henry has a decidedly “Happy Gillmore” like swing), to visiting the Discovery Seashell Museum (it was much better when our kids were young and run by people who loved the ocean as more of a passion than business), to doing as their Dad and Aunt and Uncle did as kids, and enjoying the big playground on 34th Street, to watching them make Salt Water Taffy at Shriver’s on the boardwalk, and then filling a bag with your choices!

A family rule is that no D’Elia can visit Ocean City, New Jersey without having at least one meal of “Hose Pizza”, and as good Grandparents, we followed that rule! The pizza place (it’s real name is Manco and Manco) has been part of the Ocean City Boardwalk since the 50s, and was one of the pizza places my Dad liked when we first came to Ocean City way back when I was five years old. The name “Hose Pizza” was given to it by our son Bill when he was 2 or 3, because unlike most pizza places, here they apply the tomato sauce via a hose, and once he saw that, when asked what he wanted to eat on the boardwalk, young Billy always said he wanted to go to “Hose Pizza”. The one we went to is the newest on 9th Street that used to be the old Strand Movie theater. Great to see that old building still being a part of Ocean City’s Boardwalk life, and great that Henry and Layla love “Hose Pizza” too, keeping a 4 generation relationship alive!

Ocean City’s Boardwalk features two big Amusement Piers, and what kind of Grandparents would we be if we didn’t spend at least one evening at the rides!! Layla and Henry enjoyed lots of rides at Gillian’s Wonderland, but agreed that they are pretty much done with the “baby rides”, and that next time they come, they’ll concentrate on only Big Kid Rides! They really liked the Bounce ride, the Superman ride, the Fun House, and the Glass Maze, where Henry refused to walk with his hands in front of him, and kept bumping his head on the mirrors! When I got them on the Merry-Go-Round, I told them to find Grandma and I, and wave at us every time they went around. About the 4th or 5th time around, Layla gave me a look, and I said to Susie, “Layla just gave me a Krissi look!”, you know, the one that says, “Shut up Dad and stop calling out my name!!!” Message received! Who says history doesn’t repeat!

A tradition we honored each trip to Ocean City when our kids were young, was getting an Ocean City T-shirt. It was a very involved process, that could take days to complete. First, they had to agree on which T-shirt shop we should go to. Then there was the process of picking out the design they wanted on the shirt. Last, they’d decide on the color T-shirt they wanted. These decisions often lasted the length of the trip, with the purchase finally happening on our last night on the boardwalk. We were able to speed the process up with Layla and Henry, and do it all in one day…our last day, on the boardwalk. We ended up at the same shop we usually shopped at with our kids, Layla and Henry knew that the design had to say Ocean City, NJ someplace (rule worked out when their Dad was 2 or 3), and they made sure it did. Design picked out, the two of them then had to decide what color T-shirt they wanted. With that taken care of, then it was time for the lady to put the design and the T-shirt into the heat machine, and make their shirts. I think Layla and Henry enjoyed following in their Dad’s footsteps, and Grandma and I did too!

That was some of the big stuff we did, but as I said up front, just enjoying our time with the kids doing simple stuff was just as wonderful! The first night they were here, I read them a story before going to bed. It was a story I’d written when their Dad and Aunt and Uncle were kids, and our three kids were the prime characters in the stories. They were called “Three Kids” stories, and I wrote a total of three of them. The morning after reading it, Layla came to me and asked if we could write a story about their time in Ocean City. She decided that we should call it “Two Kids at the Beach or Layla and Henry Visit Their Grandparents”. After we’d come home from somewhere, Layla would dictate what we should write while I typed on the computer. Multiple times during the day, Layla would come to me and say, “Let’s work on our story Grandpa,” and off we’d go for 10 or 15 minutes, and do just that. By the time Thursday was done, we had 7 pages, including some pictures. Grandma, the best editor around, corrected what we’d written, I printed it, and then Grandma laminated it so Layla can have it for a long time. I’m gonna miss those, “Let’s work on our story Grandpa” words from my smart, precocious Granddaughter!

We’re gonna miss those times we sat on the front porch and watched the world of Pennlyn Place go by. Like the morning Layla and I watched our 99 year old neighbor Doie ride her scooter down our driveway and up to the boardwalk for the daily Ocean City Flag Raising. That led to a discussion of Doie being a Marine in World War II and what being 99 means. Or watching Christina our mail lady arrive and have Layla say, “I’ll go down and get the mail Grandma and Grandpa.” Or Henry running down the stairs to put the garbage cans away after the Garbage Men emptied them and saying, “I got them Grandpa.” Or Layla waving to Emma across the street and watching her new Jeep come and go, and then talking to Emma’s Mom and Dad (sorry Bittenbenders if it seemed like Layla was stalking Emma a bit…). Or watching our neighbor’s dogs Beach Boy and Breaker Boy getting walked, and wondering when Doc was coming home. I had fun on Flag Day telling them what we were celebrating, and watching the kids decide they wanted to get a flag and flag pole for their Daddy for a Father’s Day present. They both became very comfortable in our house and we loved that.

There was meal time fun with Grandpa making eggs or Grandma fixing their waffles or cereal for breakfast, making sandwiches for lunch, cooking mac and cheese and hot dogs, or heating up pizza. There was the night we ordered Chinese Food and Layla and Henry eating everything, and then having Layla tell us, “It’s almost as good as North Carolina Chinese!” Or the day we discovered, as we sat down to eat, that yes, Henry does like McDonald’s cheese burgers, but NOT with ketchup and pickles! Or Henry and Grandma putting a puzzle together and Grandma working with both of them to make Father’s Day cards for their Daddy.

There was the day we switched cars around, and rather than go out in the Honda CR-V, we all piled into Grandpa’s old 2000 red Mustang convertible with the top down to go to the Acme Grocery and drive around Ocean City. The kids loved watching the top go up and down, which they did multiple times, but to quote what Layla wrote in her story, “Too hot, too much sun, too much wind and no room for feet in the back seat!”

So those are just some of the highlights of a wonderful week with Layla and Henry! I’ve heard it said that Grandchildren are the reward for not killing your own kids before they became adults. If that’s the case, we were richly rewarded last week. To spend the better part of 5 days with our two oldest, to learn from them, to see how they’ve grown, to get hugs and kisses, and called Grandma and Grandpa was a delicious treat for the two of us. To be able to watch them experiencing Ocean City, and to remember back to yesteryear when their Dad was their age, and doing the same things for the first time, was just a wonderful time capsule for us. It was a great week, and I just hope that it was as wonderful a week for Layla and Henry as it was for Susie and me! Thanks Lori and Billy for lending us your two oldest for a week!

A great week, only needs a great weekend to cap it off, and that’s exactly what we had next! Look for our next blog, Lake House Fun, coming soon to an internet near you!!

Living in a Beach Town in the Summer

In January of 2005, Susie and I lived our dream, and bought our beach house in Ocean City, NJ. Located in the north end of town, about 500 feet down the street from the beach, it was truly our home…except during the busy summer months, when we shared our home with some renters, to help pay the mortgage! In November of 2017, we sold our home of 31 years in Mineola, New York, traded our New York license plates and driver’s licenses for the Jersey variety, and the home we bought at the beach in 2005 became our one and only home, and we became full time residents of Ocean City, New Jersey.

Ocean City is the northern most city in Cape May County. Estimates put its 2020 full-time population at around 10,800, but in the busy summer months of July and August, the population of our little beach town is closer to 150,000 men, women, and children. Befitting its start as a Christian Summer Retreat, Ocean City is a dry community. No liquor sales in town, no BYOB at local restaurants, no kegs on the beach. There are, however, two huge liquor stores just outside the city limit, over the bridges on the mainland, in Marmora and Somers Point. We are about 12 miles south of Atlantic City, and we get off the Garden State Parkway at Exit 30, so we are 30 miles from Cape May and the end of the Jersey Shore.

What we love about the place is that for better than 8 months of the year, it’s a sleepy little town. The kind of place where people in the local coffee shop and hardware store remember you, and where neighbors look out for neighbors. In July and August, it’s a hopping resort town, full of families looking to spend their week or two at the shore in our town. Are they all wonderful folks? Not always, but the vast majority of them are long time repeat visitors, who consider Ocean City their home at the shore. For years before we bought in 2005, that’s how we felt. Back when we rented out our house, we had lots of folks that came back year after year, and noted in our guest book that they felt they were home when they moved into our place.

So, how do we adjust during those months when our little sleepy down gains over 140,000 residents? Obviously, with more walkers, bikers, and cars driving around, you must be more vigilant than in say, January. It really seems that for some on vacation, turning their brain to “OFF” is a part of the decompression process. People walking and on bikes may pop out in front of you as you drive down the street. When you’re walking, you run the risk of our visitors not stopping at crosswalks when you’re trying to cross the street. Occasionally you’ll find yourself stuck behind a whole family riding 5 or 6 bikes all the way across the street you’re trying to drive down. Some consider stop signs and parking rules just suggestions, while others will drive down the street at 5 miles an hour sightseeing all the way! So # 1 on our list of Summer Rules is Be Vigilant!

Rule # 2 we try to abide by is only going across town on streets with traffic lights. There are a lot of stop signs in Ocean City, and in the winter months, it’s very easy to go across town on any street you desire. There are also streets all across town that have traffic lights in every block. From about mid-May through September, these are the only streets we use!

The third rule is all about traffic control. There are two exits for Ocean City on the Garden State Parkway. Exit 30 is the main exit and Exit 25 is for the southern end of town. In 2012, a new 9th Street Bridge opened up, replacing the 1932 bridge. Exit 30 leads to this new bridge which in turn leads right on to 9th Street in Downtown Ocean City. As such, it’s the main gateway to our town, and because of that, is avoided at all costs on Saturdays in season! House rentals in Ocean City typically run from Saturday to Saturday, starting between 2 and 3 PM the first week, and ending at about 10AM the second Saturday. Both the bridge at 34th Street (Exit 25) and the 9th Street Bridge need to be avoided Saturday morning as folks leave, and Saturday afternoon as people arrive. If you don’t have to leave Ocean City on a Saturday, DON’T, but if you do, take one of the two secret resident bridges into town! (They’re not really secret, but rather not bridges that most visitors know about or use…all the better for us!) So rule #3 would be to think twice before leaving town on a Saturday!

Ocean City has a great 2.5 mile boardwalk, filled with family friendly stores, places to eat, amusements, and mini golf! On a typical summer evening, it is THE thing to do in town if you are a visitor. However, there are lines to get food, back-ups at the mini golf courses, and lots of people trying to get on and off rides at the two amusement parks. If you’re a visitor to our fair city, it’s a wonderful way to spend the night, but for residents, not so much. The summer of 1983, oldest son Billy’s first summer on earth, we stayed in Ocean City for a week and did the boardwalk. For the next 30 plus years, we came with all three kids, and others, stayed in Ocean City and did the boardwalk. Even the years both before and after we bought the house, when Susie and I came alone to Ocean City, we did the boardwalk! Now, unless we have visitors that need to be on the boardwalk, we just don’t go! I guess rule #4 would be avoid the boardwalk unless necessary!

And then there’s the beach! We are very fortunate that we like going to the beach early in the morning (9-10 AM), while most visitors seem to do things in the morning, and come to the beach later in the day. Some wait till they’ve had lunch, some bring it with them and dine with the sand and the seagulls! By about the time the beach starts getting crowded, we’ve been there 3 or 4 hours, and are ready to head home for a cool drink and some lunch of our own. So, I guess part one of Rule #5 would be to go to the beach either early or very late (like 3 or 4 o’clock) in the day. We also use the behavior of renters as a rule of thumb. For most folks who arrive on Saturday afternoon, Sunday will be their first beach day, and at the other end of the week, Friday will be their last beach day. We find that Sunday and Friday are the most crowded beach days, so part two of Rule #5 is no beach for us on Friday or Sunday!

Rule #6 is simple…take your business elsewhere! While we love supporting our local businesses during the off season, during the summer months there are limited places to go to eat or shop, and lots more folks eager to experience the local businesses. We just find it easier in the summer to head off island for everything from hardware to bagels! Since we bought our house in 2005, we have discovered more things off the island that we never knew existed in all the years we’d been coming to Ocean City since my first year in 1955. We now consider our neighbor across the bridge, Somers Point, to be part of our community, and find it’s easier in all ways to shop there. While we may still run to the local Acme on 8th street from time to time, it’s far easier to shop at the Shoprite in Somers Point, a store that most visitors have no idea exists!

The pandemic that hit in March of 2020 did change things up. Starting almost immediately after we came home from Florida mid-March, we saw more folks moving into their second homes. Many stayed through the summer, and many more than usual were with us all through this last winter. The real estate market in Ocean City is nuts, with very few properties for sale, and the ones that do come on the market, stay available a very short time and sell for sometimes more than asking. Rentals are also very tight, as we hear that more and more new buyers are planning on using their houses, rather than renting. What this will do for the economy and for our Summer Rules is yet to be seen, but whatever it takes, we will adapt and find a way to make it through the summer, counting the days till our beach town turns back into our sleepy little hometown!

Happy Birthday to the Love of My Life!!

Susan Lynn Johnson was born on May 28th, in a place called Amityville, New York. She came into my life on July 3rd, 1977, so today will mark the 43rd birthday I have been fortunate to spend with her!

She is the most giving, loving person I have ever met, and she is simply the best thing that has EVER happened to me!! She is frankly so much better a person than I am, and I know for a fact, that were it not for her, I wouldn’t have the life I have today!

Susie, like most folks in our life, I love you and am in awe of your ability to touch folks and to be loved by them. Thank you for loving me, and for giving me a better life than I could have dreamed of!

I am so blessed that she said “yes” when I asked her to marry me on December 25th, 1978, and love that she is the Mom of our 3 kids and the Grandma of our three little darlings, and has kept me in line every day of the last 43+ years!

You are my life Baby, and I will love you FOREVER!! Happy Birthday!

In Defense of Spam

Lately it seems to me that more and more, I see people taking pot shots at Spam.  Be it on Facebook, or on the Internet, I see people call it names, and folks saying that they’ve never eaten it, and never would!  The real slap in the face, is when these same people pick Scrapple over a true American Hero, Spam!

Spam was introduced by the Hormel Corporation in 1937.  Spam’s basic ingredients are pork with ham added, salt, water, modified potato starch (as a binder) sugar, and sodium nitrate (as a preservative).  By the last turn of the century, Spam was sold worldwide  in 41 countries, on six continents, and trademarked in over 100 countries.  It is a traditional food in places as far flung as the United Kingdom and Mainland China.  In our 50th State, Hawaii, residents have the highest per capita consumption of Spam in the United States, it is sold at both McDonalds and Burger King, and is so popular that it is sometimes referred to as “The Hawaiian Steak”!

Of course, Spam’s big heroic moment was World War II, when it became the answer to getting fresh meat to soldiers on the front lines.   Before the war ended, over 150 million pounds of Spam had been bought by the United States government.  As American solders moved across the world, Spam followed, and its popularity spread, which is the prime reason it is used in so many different food cultures around the world.  Local people took this canned “ham” and made it their own!   That’s why in Hawaii there is a dish called Spam Musubi, in Puerto Rico a local dish called Sandwich de Mezcla containing Spam, in Japan it’s a staple ingredient in the traditional Okinawan dish chanpurū, and in South Korea there’s Spam kimbap (rice and vegetable filled seaweed roll) .  If you’d like to read more about Spam’s history and worldwide appeal, here’s a link to the Wikipedia article about it….. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spam_(food) .

Susie’s and my Dad were both in the United States Army in World War II, and I guess in a way, they brought Spam home from the war.  We were exposed to it early in life,  as it was a staple in both our houses when we were growing up.  I will always associate it with Susie’s Mom, when she made her great dinner combo of Potato Pancakes and Fried Spam.  I remember my Dad telling WWII stories of him convincing the cook of their unit to try making it the Italian way (Spam Parmigiana?), and always remember it being in our house.  

As to how we use it in our house…for years we’ve made a great Spam and Pineapple Fried Rice, and we’ve used it as the protein in Pasta Dishes.  Of course, it has a real place in our breakfast portfolio as an ingredient in an egg scramble or as an accompaniment to fried or scrambled eggs.  We’ve also discovered that the Spam that is packaged in the “SPAM Single” size, is cut a bit bigger, but thinner than the canned version, and is the perfect thing to brown and slide into a grilled cheese sandwich!  

When we went to Hawaii in 2013, we were so amazed at the many varieties of Spam we found in the grocery store that we’d never seen before.  As one of its biggest markets, Hormel makes several flavors exclusively for the Hawaiian Islands.  We were so impressed, we bought a number of cans of Spam unknown to us, packed it in a Post Office Flat Rate box, and sent them home.

Our collection of Hawaiian Spam and a typical Hawaiian “Plate Lunch” featuring deep fried Spam

Did you know that there’s also a Spam Museum?  We do, because we’ve been there!  Austin, Minnesota was where Hormel was founded, and it is also the home of the Spam Museum.  The museum was one of our first sightseeing stops on our Bucket List Trip in 2016 after I joined Susie in retirement.  The museum has displays showing Spam’s place in history, the many places around the world where Spam is sold, and some of the many varieties that Hormel produces.  It also sells “Spam Gifts” of which we bought a few!

So there you have it, our interaction with an American Classic, and my defense of this heroic American canned meat product.  The versatile product, that’s good hot or cold, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!  And  to all the Spam haters out there who love their Scrapple, I leave you with this quote from Wikipedia,  “Scrapple is typically made of hog offal, such as the head, heart, liver, and other trimmings, which are boiled with any bones attached (often the entire head), to make a broth.”  Just Saying!  Good Eating!

Vaccine

Back in the beginning of the year, when Covid 19 Vaccines became available in New Jersey for folks over 65, Susie and I actively started searching for appointments. At that point, one of the few places you could get the vaccine in New Jersey was at the Pharmacy Department at Shoprite Supermarkets. We loaded the Shoprite Pharmacy app on our phones, Ipads, and computer, and started every day by logging into the app on multiple devices, looking for appointments. At first we were stymied by the announcement that seemed to come up by about 9AM every morning that said, “All Covid 19 Vaccine appointments are filled. Try back again tomorrow.” That was the case till about the third week of January, when our neighbor Doc Anderson told us that he’d gotten an appointment on the app the afternoon before. We’d never tried beyond the morning when that announcement came up, so now we knew to try back later in the day.

The next day, signing onto the app in the afternoon, it appeared I’d secured an appointment for the following day at 2 PM, but there was a catch. The app said that I’d get a confirmation email later in the day, and that email never came. Again I can thank our neighbor Doc, because when I told him about not getting the confirmation email and said I was probably not going to go, he said to me, “I thought you were a New Yorker? Just go there tomorrow and act confident!” (Doc grew up near Mexico, New York, north of Syracuse) So, confidently, that’s exactly what I did, and got my first Moderna Covid Vaccine shot on the afternoon of Thursday, January 21, 2021! One down, one to go.

It took Susie a couple of more days of both of us signing into the app multiple times a day, but within a few days, we got her an appointment, and on Thursday, January 28th, Susie got her first Moderna shot too! Unfortunately, we didn’t get our appointments at close Shoprites, like the one we usually frequent in Somers Point, or the one just south of Ocean City in Marmora, but we got our appointments. I went to the southern part of Cape May County to the Shoprite in Rio Grande. For Susie’s, we had to travel a bit further to the Shoprite in Glassboro, NJ. They were a little bit removed from Ocean City, but we got the shots, and when we went to my shots, we got to have lunch from Arby’s in Cape May Courthouse. Coming home from Susie’s we got to stop at our favorite Italian Market, Bagliani’s in Hammonton. While we had to travel under an hour to our appointments, the appointment that our neighbor Doc secured was at a real far flung Shoprite. It was a Shoprite that necessitated him driving about 2 and a half hours to each appointment, but remember back to early January, and how scarce Covid Vaccine appointments were, and you’ll understand why Doc had no issue with the drive.

On Friday, February 19th (delayed one day because of an ice storm), I got my second Moderna vaccine shot at the Shoprite in Rio Grande, and on Thursday, February 25th, Susie got her second Moderna shot at the Shoprite in Glassboro. At that time, the CDC was saying, “Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final required shot,” which made Thursday, March 11th, two weeks after Susie got her second shot, our “Coming Out Day!”

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that since that Thursday we have been eating inside at two of our favorite restaurants (Charlie’s and Angelo’s) almost weekly, have hit the road again, leaving New Jersey for the first time in a year, have visited with all three of our children and their spouses, up and down the east coast, have seen our three wonderful Grandchildren in North Carolina multiple times, and have put over 3000 miles on our too long dormant leased Honda CR-V! We’ve also gotten to hug people, and be with friends and neighbors without fear. In short, we’ve gotten our lives back!! Twenty-first century science has created new ways to bring vaccines to the general public, in times that would have been unheard of 20 years ago…just another thing to be thankful for!

There are now multiple vaccines approved for use, and lots more places around Ocean City where you can get them. I just went onto the Shoprite app, and discovered that I can get a Moderna Covid 1 shot appointment at multiple times within the hour at our local Shoprite in Somers Point. The Mega Vaccine Center that they set up at the Atlantic City Convention Center is now available for walk-in shots, and I just read this morning that many states are asking for less than their allotments of vaccine, because those seeking shots has virtually dried up! I also read that in Ocean City, 58% of the population is vaccinated, while across the bridge in our mainland neighbor Somers Point, only 40% of the population is vaccinated.

We’re very fortunate that our entire family (but the Grandkids) are completely vaccinated, and the “worst” reaction seems to have been from our son Kenny who was laid low for about 36 hours. In the rest of our family, reactions have been very mild if anything happened at all, but really, I would rather have a reaction to the shot for a day or two, rather than continue to live in fear of maybe ending up in a hospital on a ventilator!

According to the CDC, those of us who are fully vaccinated can do virtually anything without fear, If we were to get Covid 19, it would be more like a bad cold than the life threatening illness it was a year ago. In their latest update, they’ve also said that those of us who are fully vaccinated can go without a mask in many circumstances! As a member of the generation that was the first to receive mass vaccinations for Polio way back in the 50s, perhaps I have more faith in science than some, but I will continue to listen to those who have dedicated their lives to the well being of the rest of us.

It’s been a tough year for everybody, and thank God we were not one of the millions of American families who lost a loved one, but life seems to get better every day. Seeing friends, eating in restaurants, and returning to normal. For example, Susie and I are looking forward to a week long visit with our two oldest Grandkids, Layla and Henry, in June. Grandma has been making lists of things to do with them since our son wondered if we’d be interested in an alone week with them. Just another reason to be thankful for the vaccine! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Thank You Science for giving us our lives back!