If It’s Tuesday, it Must be Belgium

The 1969 movie of the above name, detailed the adventures of a group of Americans on an 18 day whirlwind bus tour of Europe.  The hectic tour traveled so fast, and to so many places, that it was only by remembering the day of the week, that they knew what country they were in.  Susie and I have just had our own whirlwind tour, and although it wasn’t to Europe, we did travel extensively.  We call it…

Our 2022 Thanksgiving Weekend

About 9 AM on Thanksgiving morning, we loaded bags, food stuff, clothes and ourselves in the CRV and off we headed over the 9th Street bridge and out of Ocean City.  Our destination?  Sara and Gabe Smith’s home in Ellicott City, Maryland.  Sara and Gabe are our son-in-law Mike’s sister and brother-in-law, and for a number of years now, they have been kind enough to include us in their Thanksgiving plans.  Of course, last year there was no traveling to Maryland, and no big family celebration, so we were looking forward to a return to tradition!  

In addition to us, the participants were our daughter Krissi and husband Mike, Mike’s Mom and Dad, Jerry and Paula, Sara and Gabe’s teenage kids, Maddy and Ethan, Gabe’s Mom Linda and her husband Bill, Gabe’s sister Danielle and her husband Erik along with their kids Genivieve and Scarlet, and wrapping up the group, Gabe’s sister Darcy and her guy Ken.  It was a full house, and a wonderful time for all.  Susie had made her traditional Turnips, Mashed Potatoes, and Cheddar Cheese mash-up, but the real star of the meal has, and continues to be, the meat that Gabe smokes.  This year, thanks to a new pellet smoker, the traditional turkey was joined by the most delectable brisket!  

It was really a wonderful day, being a part of this big family celebration, and of course eating way to much, but hey Thanksgiving calories don’t count, right?  So there you have stop #1 on our Thanksgiving weekend!

That night, we were off down the road about 15 or 20 minutes with Krissi and Mike to Columbia, Maryland, and Jerry and Paula’s home.  They’d graciously offered us lodging for the evening and we gladly took them up on it.  Everybody got in their PJs, and we hung around until the food coma became too overwhelming, and we headed off to bed!  The next morning we were up and by 10 AM had the car packed and Susie and I, along with Krissi and Mike Mikowitz were off to our next destination….543 Main Street in New Rochelle, New York!

Over to Interstate 95, up through Maryland and then Delaware to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, to the state of New Jersey (hi home…see you soon), up the Jersey Turnpike, across the George Washington Bridge (the toll plazas still stink at the GWB), across the Hudson River, and up the New England Turnpike to New Rochelle!  Night two (It’s Friday in case you’re keeping score) we were spending in Krissi and Mike’s new condo in New Rochelle.  This was just our second visit to the place and we loved the further things they’ve done since we last saw it in May.  We also loved getting to see our Grand Cat, Marz!

Later that day, we helped Mike out by testing a couple of new vodkas that his company is representing  (Mike works for the liquor distributor, MS Walker).  I mean come on…you’ve got to help your kids, right?  Then it was out of their building, just down the street to a wonderful Mexican Restaurant and some great Margaritas and food!

After a good night’s sleep, our now seemingly domesticated daughter served us a delicious vegetable frittata accompanied by an arugula salad as a very nice Saturday brunch.   A very nice way to end our stay with two of our favorite people, because it was now day 3 of this weekend, and time for us to move on to our next stop!

Back to The New England Thruway, but south this time, across the Throgs Neck Bridge, back to a place we know very well…Long Island!  First stop, Joe’s Sicilian Bakery in Bayside, just down the street from my former family home.  We needed some friselles for our Christmas Eve Spicy Shrimp and Linguini, and Joe’s has the best!  Once the friselle’s were in hand (and a Sfogliatella for me and a little cheesecake for Susie) we traveled back to our neighborhood of 31 years, and the Hilton Homewood Suites that is literally down the road from our old Mineola Home.

For 26 or 27 years, Susie and I were involved in Boy Scouting in Mineola, first Cub Pack 246, and then Boy Scout Troop 45.  Well, tonight (it’s Saturday by the way) a huge 100th Anniversary Gala celebration for Troop 45 was planned, and we wouldn’t have missed it for the world!  Chartered in 1921, Troop 45 was probably even older than that, but 1921 was the only date that could be proved, and over 300 people were scheduled to be at Mineola’s Jericho Terrace to celebrate this event.  We relaxed for a couple of hours and then showered and got into our “adult clothes” and headed over to our dear friends Pat and Steve Grosskopf’s house to pre-game.  Steve has been the Troop 45 Scoutmaster for more than 24 years, and I am proud to say that I am the one who convinced him back in the late 90s to take the position!  Steve was, of course, directing last minute activity at the catering hall, but we had a nice visit with Pat, their son Dan and his wife Michelle, and Steve’s brother Freddy and his wife Linda.  

It was a wonderful night, seeing so many old friends, young men who we knew as kids, and even middle age men we knew as kids!  Folks who were involved when we first started and folks who are still involved.  There was great fun, slide shows with old pictures, and just a feeling of pride that we were involved with a group that has ben around for 100 years and that has probably helped well over 1000 boys transition to young men! 

It was a great but late night, and we were thrilled when after 2AM we slid under the covers of the king-sized bed at the hotel!

Sunday was a relaxing morning at the hotel.  We slept in, were bad and had McDonald’s for breakfast, and vegged till early afternoon.  Then we showered, got once again dressed as adults, and headed out to Susie’s sister Barbara’s house in Huntington.  What with covid, surgeries, and the like, we hadn’t seen the Vincents (Barbara, her husband Rob, and their son and our Godson Ryan) since their Mom’s funeral in February of 2020!  A visit was long overdue, and we were happy that we were able to make it happen!  After a nice visit with them and getting to see some of the new projects they’d recently done in their house, the five of us journeyed back in time, to a place that Susie and I have loved for years, and that we have exposed so many family and friends to over the years.

32 years ago, the night we bought our 1989 Ford Taurus station wagon, Susie and I stopped in at a place we’d passed many times.  It was on Jericho Turnpike in Mineola, and it’s a place we’ve loved since that first visit…Piccolos Italian Restaurant!  The Francescini Family is more like friends to us, as we saw the two boys who run it now (Robbie and James) grow up from little kids.  Their Dad Bert is still involved and we still miss their late Mom Debbie who was a real spitfire! From my Mom’s 80th birthday party, to Susie’s Mom’s 90th, to after funeral meals for Susie’s Dad and my Mom, Graduation celebrations, and everything in-between, it was our go-to place!

The 5 of us had a wonderful meal, got to see Robbie and James, reminisce about the old days, the great meals, and the great times.  It was fun to go back in time and who says you can’t go home again??

As I write this, it’s late Monday afternoon and I’m sitting at the island in our kitchen in Ocean City.  I’m going to be honest with you, as this weekend was approaching, the two of us were a little bummed that we had so much to do and so many different places to be this weekend. Between the time we crossed the 9th Street Bridge on Thursday morning till we crossed it again this afternoon about 2 PM,  we covered 663 miles.  But now, with the weekend in the rear view mirror, we are so glad we didn’t make an excuse or beg out of one of the events we were involved in.  From our Thanksgiving in Maryland, to our evening with  our Daughter and son-in-law, to the pride we felt on Saturday to be back with our Boy Scout friends, to the love of spending some time yesterday with Susie’s sister and family, remembering experiences over the almost 45 years that I’ve been a part of their lives, to capping the weekend with a great dinner with family and our Piccolos restaurant friends, we agreed we wouldn’t change one thing!  We did agree however that life is too short, and we won’t wait as long to enjoy what we did this weekend all over again!

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, filled with family, friends, love and reminders of all the things you have to be thankful for.  I know we did!

Technology

We truly live in an incredible age, where technology is involved in so much of our daily lives.   So many things in your house, from your toaster to your clock radio is, in reality, a little computer.  Alexis plays your music and orders your toilet paper, Siri sets your appointments and plots your travel plans, and in that little phone in your pocket or purse, you have more computing power at your disposal than the Apollo missions that landed on the moon!  For folks our kids, and certainly our grandkids’ age, it is totally normal, but for those of us, who grew up in the 50s and 60s, it is far beyond anything we could have imagined, even with the aide of The Jetsons, Jules Vern or H.G. Wells!  

But, for some, the technology that we encounter in our everyday life, is above and beyond what they can handle.  Let’s take cars for example.  Our 3 year old Honda CR-V is truly a thinking car, braking if we don’t, watching the speed of others on the road when we use the cruise control, and making sure we stay within the lines on the roadway.  Through the use of various computers, cameras, and radar devices, the car warns us if someone is in our blind spot, or if someone is approaching as we back out of a parking space.  It’s just amazing what the car can do by itself, and although not by any means is it a “self driving” car, it certainly goes a long way towards that!  But, you’ve got to wonder how may folks have learned about the car, and what they have to do to take full advantage of all these marvelous tools.

Let’s take a simple example…talking on the cell phone in your car.  I don’t know exactly how long BlueTooth technology has been built into factory car radios, but I do know that the first one in our life that had it was our 2013 Hyundai Sonata.  We got that car in March of 2013, so for our family, being able to talk hands free on your cell phone in our car has been a real thing for over 8 years.  With all the newer cars on the road, one would expect that the instances of seeing someone with their cell phone to their ear while they drive down the road would be very small.  Unfortunately, it is not, as whenever we are out and about in the car, we still see many folks with their phone in their hand.  

So I guess the question to ask is, HOW COME PEOPLE AREN’T USING THEIR CAR’S BLUETOOTH TECHNOLOGY TO MAKE AND RECEIVE PHONE CALLS?  The simple answer is that, in many cases,  it’s too much trouble or too complicated to set up their cell phone with the car’s audio system.  That may seem like a lame excuse, but if you’re of a certain age, you will clearly remember how many folks owned VCRs on which the clock display was flashing, denoting that they’d never set the clock.  While that magic VCR could record shows at preset times on preset channels, many never were able to use that option, because of their perceived lack of technical knowledge.  It really wasn’t that hard to set the clock, but like pairing your cell phone with the car’s radio, it intimidated them!  Many people are intimidated by technology!

As time goes by, younger generations of folks will grow up with more and more technology, and everything will be so second nature to them, that technology will be an old friend.  Our 2 year old Granddaughter has no trouble finding the video she wants to watch on her Mom or Dad’s I-phone…do you think she will have any problem pairing her phone to the car radio when she starts to drive?   But for those of us who grew up when “technology” was a Polaroid photo that developed in a minute, or a new fangled digital calculator, getting used to some of these technological advances can be a challenge.  For Susie and me,  who grew up with typewriters, we often times find that when you use a word processor program like Pages that I am writing this blog with, we can look at the words on the screen multiple times, but never see the misspellings or punctuation errors till we look at a hard copy we’ve printed out!  I’ve got to assign that to a problem with new technology just being different than what we grew up knowing!

If you want to know, here’s the incident that prompted this blog.  Last week, Susie and I went out to dinner and Susie forgot her cell phone at home.  When we got back, she found a message from one of our neighbors around the corner, asking if Susie could help her with something.  She wrote back and apologized for answering so late, but explained she’d left her phone at home.  The next morning I asked if she’d heard back from our neighbor Sue.  She said, “I don’t know…let me check,” only to discover when she opened Messenger that although she’d typed out the reply, she’d never hit send!  Do you think even our 7 year old Granddaughter would do that?  Sorry, but we didn’t grow up with Smart Phones, and as much as we welcome technology into our lives, we can’t always guarantee we’re 100% in sync with it!  So there!

Forty Two Years and Counting

Way back, soon after Susie and I met on July 3rd, 1977, I discovered that while she was attending Pilgrim State Hospital School of Nursing getting her RN, she and her classmates were bused to C.W. Post College for college courses. As I went to Post from 1967 till I graduated in 1971 (yes, 50 years ago), we realized that we both were going to Post at the same time, and although we never met, we had probably passed each other many times! That’s why 42 years ago today, at 4:30 in the afternoon of Saturday September 29th, 1979, Susie and I became one at the Interfaith Chapel of C.W. Post College, in a true interfaith service with a Protestant Minister and a Catholic Priest! It was a wonderful service (Susie did eventually stop shaking) , and after taking pictures around the CW Post Campus, we joined our guests for a wonderful reception at the VFW Post in Sea Cliff.

It was also the start of our Biggest Adventure! One that has taken us all over the world, given us three great kids, the pleasure of seeing them all married, 3 adorable Grandkids, and a wonderful life filled with family, friends, and continuing adventures!!

Thank you Susie for always being there for me, and although there has been much more good times in our lives than bad, you have been there for the ups and the downs, and I know I couldn’t have made it through ANY of them without YOU!!! Thank you God for bringing this remarkable woman to me, for letting her say “I Will” 42 years ago today, and for giving us a wonderful life, and for many many many more years of happiness in our future!!

Let the Adventure Continue……

Pushing the Calendar

Jimmy Buffett has a song on his Christmas album ’Tis The Season called, Santa Stole Thanksgiving. His lyrics clearly depict the feeling that many have that the retail world keeps pushing the seasons on us earlier and earlier.

Ooh, ooh
Santa stole Thanksgiving for Christmas
Dragged Plymouth Rock to the North Pole with his sled
Pilgrims never saw him coming
The Wampanoags they kept drumming
That Thursday in November
Gob-gobble about December

The next verse is even more telling…

Santa stole Thanksgiving for Christmas
It was such a happy holiday
No more laid-back relaxation
It’s Black Friday degradation
Seems Santa sold Thanksgiving to the mall

Back in the dark ages, when we were kids, the Christmas season didn’t start till Santa showed up at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Although many give lip service to that premise, the truth is that many in the retail world go from Labor Day right to Christmas! See for yourself! On Wednesday September 8th, at the Costco in Stafford Township, New Jersey, the Christmas Department was already set up!

For another example of how far we have come, let’s turn to the classic song We Need a Little Christmas, from the 1966 Broadway Musical Mame, with words and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Mame and her household staff sing this song at a particularly down time, starting off with this uplifting verse:

Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before
My spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking
I may be rushing things
But deck the halls again now

For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry

So there are a couple of clues there that they are, in their minds, early for Christmas! Like when Mame sings, “I may be rushing things,” or that last line, “It hasn’t snowed a single flurry, But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry.” Even more indication that they are early, when later in the song, young Patrick Denison has this line:

But Auntie Mame!
It’s one week from Thanksgiving Day now

Remember, a pivotal part of the Mame story, was the stock market crash of 1929, so even in 1966, this was by no means a current story, but I don’t believe in 1966, when I was 16 years old, we had pushed holidays around the calendar for the benefit of the retail world, as much as we find today!

Look, you want a bathing suit for a vacation in August, if you go to the store in August, you are more likely to find sweaters and other fall clothes on the shelves. Want new cushions for your back yard furniture, don’t show up at Lowes or Home Depot in June, because they’ll all be gone! After all, they’ve been in the store since just after they took down their Christmas displays. Speaking of Christmas, need a new set of lights for the tree, head to the stores in October, because that’s when they stock their shelves and you’ll be lucky to find anything in December.

I know, I know…stop being an old fart and lamenting about how the world has changed, right? I’m sorry, but we love Christmas and honestly, we start listening to Christmas music in November (in the car and in our house…but only when we are alone!), but we don’t decorate the outside of the house, or put up the tree until after Thanksgiving! We are traditionalists (that’s a classier way to say old farts) and sorry, but I don’t need to have Pumpkins pushed on us on September 10th, a full 7 Weeks and two days before Halloween, as Shoprite in Somers Point is already doing!

Okay…Enjoy the Holiday…whatever the calendar says it is, because I’ve lost track!
Rant over!

Jimmy Buffett from his album ’Tis the Season with Santa Stole Thanksgiving

Angela Lansbury and the Broadway cast from Mame with We Need a Little Christmas

September 11th – Where Were You?

Anyone who was just about anywhere in the New York Metropolitan area on the morning of September 11, 2001 will always remember that day, and where they were. I know in our family that’s the case. My wife Sue was at work at Hampton Street School in Mineola. Our oldest son Billy was in his second year at Ithaca College, and his brother and sister, Krissi and Kenny, were sophomores at Mineola High School. I was at work at WABC Radio, 17 floors above Penn Station.

I remember it was a great looking, if uneventful, September morning. There was just a touch of fall in the air – it was one of those special kinds of days we get after the humidity of summer leaves. I was, as usual, on the 7:24 LIRR train from Mineola to Penn Station. As I said, a totally uneventful September morning in all respects….but that was soon to change.

Shortly after the first plane hit at 8:46 AM, word started to come into the newsroom that a plane had hit the World Trade Center’s North Tower. It was primary day in New York, and there were reporters around the city for the various TV morning shows. Almost immediately, Dick Oliver of channel 5 went on the air from Park Row, just outside of City Hall. They weren’t the best shots, but you definitely could see the fire and damage to the tower. Everyone assumed that it was a small plane that had hit and no one could understand how someone could have missed seeing a structure as big as the World Trade Center on a beautiful, clear morning. There was speculation of a student pilot, or someone who had a heart attack – just about anything, but what had really happened, which up until that point was unthinkable to most of us.

By 9 o’clock, better pictures of the damage were available on TV, including long shots of the buildings from further uptown. Just before 9:03 AM, I was standing in studio 17E next to Chief Engineer Kevin Plumb, when we noticed a plane flying into the frame of the shot. Assuming we were looking at a small plane trying to get a better view of what was happening, one of us commented, “what the heck is that plane trying to do?” At 9:03 we were shocked when we saw that plane (which we later found out was a Boeing 767) crash into the South Tower and explode in a ball of flames. In that moment, everyone who saw that happen live, knew that life as we had known it up until that moment was over, and that there was a brand new reality.

I remember all hell breaking loose at the station as we all went into high gear. There was an incredible amount of misinformation flying around, and frankly, open fear from some. Everyone tried to act professionally, but since no one knew exactly what was going on, and since we were all working 17 floors above Penn Station and a couple of blocks west of the Empire State Building, many wondered if we might be in the target zone too. The next hour was a blur of news reports, discussion and speculation. Shortly after the first plane hit, our morning anchor George Weber took off downtown armed with a cell phone and a recorder. He phoned in a couple of reports about what he was seeing, but as the cell phone system overloaded, we stopped hearing from him. Then at 9:59 AM, the South Tower collapsed. Faces stared at the TV pictures, and as a group, were almost unable to fathom what we’d seen. Less than 30 minutes later the North Tower collapsed, and these twin buildings, which were so identified with the skyline of New York City, were incredibly gone, along with close to 3,000 of our fellow New Yorkers.

So many questions hit us all at once…who would do this, how did it happen, how could these two huge buildings collapse, and one that was on all our minds at WABC, where was George Weber? The news reports continued, but with all the confusion it was hard to tell what was true and what wasn’t. Were there more hijacked planes out there, and had other attacks taken place in Washington and elsewhere around the country? Getting a landline phone call was very hard; cell service was pretty non-existent, communications among families and friends was almost impossible. It was over an hour later when we heard from George. He’d walked for blocks from the WTC site and had waited on a line at a pay phone before he was finally able to check in with the station. Okay, we knew one of our friends and coworkers was alive…but what about everyone else.

WABC’s 2001 9/11 Montage

The day dragged on, and we watched TV as they tried to figure out what had happened, and what was happening. One of the hardest tasks of the day was getting in touch with friends and family, finding out if they were okay, and assuring them that I was fine. The first response of the city was to shut down, and a lot of us wondered how we’d get home. Being above Penn Station, we kept looking down at the crowds milling around a closed Penn Station. We also kept looking a couple of blocks to the east at the Empire State Building and realizing it was once again the tallest building in New York!

Later that day, the Long Island Rail Road started running and those of us from Long Island headed downstairs, and like every other commuter that day, got on any train as long are it was leaving New York City! As we came out of the tunnel into Queens, everyone looked to the south where the twin towers of the World Trade Center had been on the way in that morning, but now were replaced by smoke. It was very quiet in the train as everyone realized that those two buildings we’d seen every day on our commute into Manhattan were gone, along with all the folks who were working in them.

The days after September 11th were very strange to say the least. The fact that there were absolutely no planes in the sky made for a very eerie quiet that was very unlike the norm. I know that for weeks after the planes started flying again, every time one flew over I would find myself stopping and looking at it. Taking the LIRR into the city in the days after September 11th was also different. There was an uneasy quiet on the trains, that I guess came from a lot of folks who would rather be somewhere else, but who had responsibilities and had to do what they were doing. I remember not seeing people that had been regulars on our trains, and wondering if they were in the towers when they came down, or were they perhaps too scared to venture into Manhattan again. Questions I’d never have the answers to….

One thing that made the post 9/11 strangeness livable was the feeling that we were all in it together. There were American flags on houses, cars, businesses…virtually everywhere! Groups were banding together collecting items for families that were affected, or to help rescue workers at Ground Zero. People were friendlier to each other and more respectful…even politicians! From New York City to Washington, the political discourse had a united front. We weren’t Republicans or Democrats, Liberals or Conservatives, we were Americans. There was no finger pointing, just everyone shouldering the load and helping to move forward. If every cloud has to have a silver lining, that was September 11th’s.

Too bad that these many years later, so many seem to have forgotten. There’s no way that anyone who lived through that day will not be thinking today about their experiences, about all the New Yorkers who are no longer with us and about how the rest of us pulled together as a team. I’ll also be thinking about my friends who were involved after the towers came down. People like NYPD ESU Officer Scott Strauss who pulled the last survivor out of the rubble, or PAPD Detective Don McMahon who spent the next 6 months at the on site morgue, or the many Fire Men I know, both NYFD and others who spent so many hours on the pile digging. Thank God there are so many people among us who run towards trouble as the rest of us run away!  Thank you for your service and for your friendship and for setting an example for the rest of us.

Even in our new world, I know we live in a better world because people like Scott and Donnie are a part of it.  As we remember those who died that day, I hope we will all also remember the heroes of September 11th.  Friends, neighbors, family members, and people whose names we will never know, who stepped up on that horrible day.  Ordinary folks who did extrodinary things, and renewed our faith in our fellow human beings.  That’s the lesson I try to take from that horrible day.

WABC’s 2002 9/11 Montage put together for the first anniversary

Frustration

Frustration can take many forms. You can be frustrated with inanimate objects!, like when your computer won’t allow you to do what you’ve done hundreds of times, or you can’t get reception on your cell phone, or when a light bulb burns out just as you sit down besides your favorite reading lamp to finish a great book. You can be frustrated with people in your life, like folks that stop in the middle of the aisle in the supermarket, or the guy driving in front of you who stops for no reason, or when somebody doesn’t understand what you are trying to explain to them. We all must contend with a certain amount of frustration in our lives, but it just seems to me that my frustration level is on the rise as of late! It’s probably just me, but it also may be the world we live in. Here’s my beef.

I guess my number one frustration today is the way our world seems to be sliding back into that horrible year 2020! We all lived through a year with little or no social contact, brought upon us by Covid-19. For sure there were folks acting like nothing was different, but for most of us who didn’t want to get sick and perhaps die alone in the hospital, we did what we had to do to stay distant and safe. Then, when the first and then the second Covid Vaccines were approved for emergency use at the end of 2020, Susie and I did everything we could to secure the vaccine. We made phone calls, stayed on line for hours and days at a time, and eventually we did it! By the middle of March, 2021 both Susie and I were fully vaccinated, having had our two shots and waited the required 2 weeks for full protection! We were ready to live our lives again!!

For the first time since we left for Florida in January 2020, by the middle of March, 2021, Susie and I were back in our two weekly haunts, Charlie’s and Angelos! Yes, masks were still the order of the day, and there was no bar service and folks were still social distancing, but we felt for the first time in a year that we were getting our lives back! We were enjoying old routines and seeing friends again! Thank God For Science!!!! We were so optimistic that the worst was over, and that Covid was retreating from our shores! America had won!

That was then, but then politics reared it’s ugly head! Suddenly the Covid Vaccines were not the savior of our country, but the scourge of mankind! Suddenly stemming the continuing speed of this insidious disease was not smart science, but rather the limitation of personal freedoms and an affront to all that was sacred to so called patriots! Suddenly wearing a mask to protect yourself and others was akin to the Nazis killing millions of Jews and others during World War Two! Suddenly the salvation of our lives that Susie and I had seen when we were fully vaccinated was slipping away. Numbers were growing, hospitalizations were growing, and people were dying. Yes, I am surely frustrated that so many Americans have answered the call to turn this crisis into a political side show. I am frustrated that they have done everything they can to drag us back to 2020! Sorry, but that is one huge frustration for me right now!

Our oldest son is frustrated that so many people are still not vaccinated! He’s frustrated that numbers of Covid cases are rising, and that masks are being worn again. Mostly he’s frustrated that his three kids…our three Grandkids…who at 7, 5, and 2 and are too young to be vaccinated, are still living under a cloud!

If you disagree with what I’ve written above, please don’t send me your arguments, documentation, or any other propaganda about people having a personal right to do as they choose, because frankly, I DON’T CARE!! Don’t bother sending me any form of communication that will attempt to change my mind, because I won’t read it! Unfriend me on Facebook, take my number out of your phone contacts, do whatever you want, but DO NOT THINK YOU CAN CHANGE MY MIND!!!

When I was a kid, we were all scared about getting Polio and either dying or spending the rest of our lives living like a science experiment in an Iron Lung! Thanks to science (and our folks making sure we had a Polio Booster every year), that’s not something my kids have ever had to worry about. Enough of these bullshit theories that this vaccine will change your DNA, or that Bill Gates will be able to track your every move once you are vaccinated. The reality is that these vaccines will save your life. They will keep you out of the hospital, off a respirator, and out of the morgue. You will not die alone. If you think anything else, then I’m truly sorry for you and I wish you well, but frankly, you are screwing with my family’s well being, and that pisses me off!

The Automat

Have you ever been in an Automat? Do you even know what an Automat is? Well, let’s turn to Wikipedia and see what they say…..

“The first automat in the U.S. was opened June 12, 1902, at 818 Chestnut St. in Philadelphia by Horn & Hardart. Horn & Hardart became the most prominent American automat chain. Inspired by Max Sielaff’s AUTOMAT Restaurants in Berlin, they became among the first 47 restaurants, and the first non-Europeans, to receive patented vending machines from Sielaff’s Berlin factory. The automat was brought to New York City in 1912, and gradually became part of popular culture in northern industrial cities.”

The listing further goes on to state that in New York City there were eventually 40 Horn and Hardart Automats, with the last one closing in 1991. Automats were prominent in New York City when I was a kid in the 50s and 60s. In fact, when the Metropolitan Opera was located at 40th Street, there was a basement level Automat on 7th Avenue, between 40th and 41st Street, and we went there a lot. It was a place to get a quick cup of coffee, or for a little kid to get a bologna sandwich!

If you’ve never been a little kid, with a handful of nickels, looking over what you could get in an Automat, then you probably weren’t a kid in NYC at the same time I was. It truly was the quintessential New York experience from back in the day. So much so, that in the 1962 movie ,That Touch of Mink starring Cary Grant and Doris Day, Doris Day’s best friend (played by Audrey Meadows of The Honeymooners fame) worked behind the scenes in a local Automat that was prominently featured in the film. Here’s a clip from that movie that gives you an idea of what an Automat looked like.

The two things in the Wikipedia quote above that surprised me were, (1) that the first Automat opened in Philadelphia and (2) that it was basically a copy of Berlin Automats using the machines that dispensed the food as produced in Germany. Who knew. As I said, the Automat seemed like the quintessential New York Experience! My personal relationship to this blog, and why the Automat will always hold a special place in my memory, centers around a story that my cousin Jeanne Pratt and I have laughed at many times over the 60 plus years since it happened to us.

My Mom’s parents were visiting New York from Chicago. This time, they also had my Chicago cousin Jeanne with them (the daughter of my Mom’s younger brother). One day, my Grandparents, Jeanne, and I were in Manhattan. We could have well been at Radio City Music Hall seeing the movie and show – something my Grandma liked to do. At some point in the day, we stopped in at an Automat. My Grandma always seemed to be picking up strays, and this day in this particular Automat, she picked up, what we used to call back in the day, a bum. He was dirty and smelly, and my Grandmother fell for his story that he’d been a famous brain surgeon, but when his wife died, his life fell apart, leaving him to beg on the streets. I think my Grandma was the only one to buy his rap.

She invited him to sit at our table, to the dismay of myself and Jeanne (she was probably 10 at the time and I was 8), who were not buying his tale of woe! Immediately, she dispatched my Grandfather, “ Go get him a cup of coffee Bill,” and off he went to one of the famous Automat coffee dispensers. Jeanne and I looked at each other, as the story unfolded as he drank coffee and regaled my Grandmother. I have no recollection of how we finally got to get away from him, but I’m pretty sure my Grandfather left with a few less bills in his pocket, at the insistence of my Grandmother!

While we don’t see Jeanne and her husband Walt that often as they live in Connecticut and Florida, and we’re in Jersey, the once or twice a year we’re together, invariably one of us will bring up the “Automat Incident.” Some 60 years later, we still both laugh, and shake our heads, and just acknowledge that, “That was Grandma!”

The List

Are you a list person? I really wasn’t/aren’t, but after almost 42 years of marriage, it’s a skill I am starting to understand, thanks to the love of my life, my Susie!

Susan Lynn Johnson D’Elia is most definitely a list person, and has been from the first day I met her way back in 1977. I don’t know if this is something that comes from her former life as a Registered Nurse, or something borne out of her slight OCD tendencies, but my wife has been a huge proponent of making lists for as long as I can remember. She loves making lists of things that need to be done, and then gets great enjoyment when she can cross completed items off that list. There are two steadfast rules, however for Susie’s lists. #1 is that nobody but she can place items on her lists (and most surely not me with my chicken scratch penmanship), and almost as important, NOBODY but Susie crosses things off one of her lists!

Over the years, there have been many, many lists. I don’t recall if I knew it at the time, but I’m pretty sure there was a list pertaining to our wedding. I’m sure she had a packing list for our honeymoon, and I know for a fact, we have long had a list for the things we were going to do when we win the lottery! Now that list has changed over the years (like we no longer have to have “Buy a House in Ocean City” on our wish list), but you best believe that there still is a list! Once the kids were able to write, she started them on Christmas Lists, which she still asks them for today!

Of course, there are the day to day lists, like our weekly meal planning, our grocery shopping lists (which Susie has organized by the aisle in our local Shoprite, so we zip through the store), jobs around the house, and that sort. There still are the long range lists too, like projects we want to do around the house, but not things we can accomplish right now. As always, she feels very accomplished when she crosses things off the “To Do” lists, and even more so when she gets to rip a completed page off her clip board, and throw it away!

Oh yes, Susie has a dedicated LIST clipboard. It’s a small 5 by 7 clipboard that is loaded with the mini size legal pads, and thanks for our Cousin Walt’s gift, always has a pen at the ready. As I write this, the lists on the clipboard include our meals list, a shopping list (two really…one for Shoprite and one for Costco), her long term to do list, and a list of various things we want to do this week, broken down by days. My wife is nothing if not organized!

But I have to agree, she is 100% right about lists. They help you stay organized, make sure you get done the things you want to get done, help you stay focused during a project, and at our age, help you remember that thing you just had on your mind, but forgot by the time you go to do it! She has even got me making lists, and I have to agree that there is a great sense of accomplishment when you can cross an item off! Sometimes, I even tell her to write a task we’ve completed on a list, that wasn’t on the list, so we can have the pleasure of crossing it off the list!!

This whole discussion of lists was started because on September 14th I am having my second knee replaced. Two years ago, my left knee was replaced, and in September it will be my right knee’s turn. I mentioned to Susie the other day, that I felt much more organized two years ago, and that I didn’t feel that I had as good a handle on the tasks I must accomplish before the surgery this time around. Her answer, “Make a list of the tasks, put them in order, and cross them off when you’ve taken care of them.” She was right! Sitting down, going through the paperwork from Dr Zabinski, writing tasks down, and putting them in order was the perfect way to wrap my head around the tasks. Lists are a great way to get organized and to really feel like you are prepared, and now on the fridge is a nicely printed out list with 13 things that MUST be done before September 14th! I feel organized now, have a handle on what I have to do when, and even have 4 items checked off already!

Thanks Susie for your lists! They do work…

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!