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!”
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!!!
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!!
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!
On Thursday November 20th, 1986, at 4:13 PM, Kristen Anne D’Elia was born. Two minutes later, at 4:15 PM, her brother Kenneth Michael D’Elia was born. They were born six weeks premature, and because of this, Krissi spent 18 days and Kenny spent 28 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. They were born, and spent the first weeks of their lives at Winthrop Hospital, next to the Mineola Long Island Rail Road Station, and about 3/4 of a mile from our Mineola home.
As twins growing up, they had the usual “twin” experiences. Yes, they were close, from the earliest times of their lives when they liked being together, and even seemed to be able to communicate with each other, way before the rest of us could understand what they were saying. All through school they were close, sharing friends and interests, and generally being each other’s best friend. Going to different colleges was probably a challenge for them, but they still shared in each others lives, and even today in their 30s, they are still very close and generally know everything about each other, way before their Mom and Dad do!
In January, Krissi and her husband Mike bought and moved into a condo in New Rochelle, New York. In January, Kenny and his husband Chris moved into a new apartment in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The second weekend in April, Krissi and Mike came down from New York and spent the weekend with us in Ocean City. During that visit they told us that they’d been seriously contemplating adopting a cat. About a week later, we got the first pictures of our “Grand Cat” Marzipan….Mars for short.
Last week, we spent four days in St. Petersburg with Kenny and Chris, and heard how they had been cat adoption shopping too. Just the other day, we got a text and pictures of our second “Grand Cat”!! Say hello to Saint James Foxington of Petersburg, also known as Jimmy!
So 34 years and 5 plus months since these two entered this world at Winthrop Hospital, and living some 1170 miles apart, these two are still “connected”! Welcome to the family Mars and Jimmy…may you both have great lives with your new families!
To recap, Miracle of Science Part One was the weekend that having our Moderna Vaccine let us leave the state of New Jersey for the first time since March 14, 2020, and to journey down Interstate-95 to see our son Billy, daughter-in-law Lori, and our three wonderful Grandkids Layla, Henry, and Annabelle, who we had not seen since the end of January, 2020. Miracle of Science Part Two was the weekend that being fully vaccinated allowed our daughter Krissi and son-in-law Mike to not only come and spend the weekend in our house in Ocean City, but to be hugged and kissed by Susie and I for the first time in over a year. That takes us to Miracle of Science Part Thre
After we went down last weekend to Wake Forest, North Carolina for the dual birthday party of our two beautiful Granddaughters Layla and Annabelle, it was time to broaden our horizons, and to encompass the rest of our kids in this miracle, and towards that end, we continued our journey down Interstate 95 south, to the Sunshine State, the home of Our Boys, son Kenny and his husband Chris! We wanted to see them, we wanted to return to our Florida home of Pinellas County, and we wanted to keep our Florida visit record intact! So last Sunday, after the Saturday birthday party for Layla and Annabelle in Wake Forest, we headed south, and on Monday, we reached our goal!
Since I retired the end of January, 2016, a “winter” trip to Florida has been part of our yearly agenda so that we could sample a preview of the next summer. In 2019 and 2020, we rented a condo in Indian Rocks Beach, and immersed ourselves in the “Snow Bird” life style. Unfortunately, we had to cut our 2020 visit short due to the pandemic, and made no plans for a 2021 visit. However, now that we are fully vaccinated, and Kenny and Chris live in St. Petersburg, Florida, we decided that a brief trip was in order. We are not going to be here a month…heck we’re not going to be here a week, but we are in Florida, enjoying this early spring/summer weather, and we are with the boys
The first thing we were interested in seeing was their apartment, that we’ve only heard about and seen in pictures. Bottom line was we loved it! They have definitely put their spin on it, and with so many familiar things from our house, my Mom’s house, and Kenny’s life, we definitely knew we were on familiar ground! It was great and they feel very much at home!
After a brief visit, it was time to drive down the street and check into the hotel. We are staying in a brand new hotel, just 2 blocks away from the boys’ apartment. It’s called Tru by Hilton, and is a hotel of the new “industrial” style, but it’s very close, the room is comfortable, and the cost is zero dollars a night, thanks to Hilton points! We didn’t even get charged the $17 a night to park the car!
After we got all set in our room, the boys came over and it was time to get our evening started. The plan was that they were going to show us the area that they live in, the Central Avenue area of Downtown St. Petersburg. There are lots of new apartment buildings in the area, and an active bar scene, and looks like the perfect area for the boys. There is always something to do, and they are very much enjoying being just a couple of blocks away from it all. The boys walked us all over the area, including past Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays. By the time we got to the venue they’d planned for dinner, we were ready for a seat, and a drink. We got both!
The boys had decided our first stop of the night was going to be the Burnt Ends Tiki Bar, a beautiful roof top venue located above a bar-b-que joint (hence the name). The weather was absolutely wonderful, and it was super to be with Kenny and Chris, to be in Florida, and dining outside!
After a couple of great drinks, and some excellent appetizers, we decided to venture downstairs to Dr. BBQ to sample some of the BBQ the boys had said was so good…and it was!
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped and had another drink at a place on Central Avenue called Ferg’s Sports Bar. This incredible venue encompasses nearly two city blocks, and is ground zero for game day pre-gaming, as Tropicana Park is just a block away. It was much quieter on a non-game day Monday evening, but it was fun to sit along Central Avenue and have a drink with the boys!
After a good night’s sleep, Tuesday’s plan was for the boys to show us around St. Petersburg some more (not on foot), and to ultimately show us where they lived for the first 6 months they were here. When they left Ocean City last July, it was to move to a furnished apartment they’d found online in St. Pete’s Beach. Although they enjoyed their time there, living in a furnished apartment without their “stuff,” they kind of felt that they were just visitors and they did not really get into a resident vibe. The area was also very transient, as most folks there were on vacation. It was a nice place, in a great location (just a little over a block from the beach), but when their 6 month lease was up, they were happy to move to their current apartment. Back in January, they rented a commercial van, drove back to Ocean City and emptied their storage unit. So now they are living with their “stuff” and loving the new location. We agreed that the beach looked interesting, but being on Central Avenue was the right neighborhood for them!
They did show us a bunch of local establishments they frequented during their time in St. Pete’s Beach, and one in particular was singled out as our lunch stop of the day! We’d been hearing about this place called Focheezy almost from the first days they were in St. Pete’s Beach. It turned out that it opened just days before the boys arrived, and from what they told us, and the pictures we’d seen, it looked like the home of the most outrageous Grilled Cheese sandwiches ever devised. Susie and I had to see what it was all about! We saw, and we tasted, and it was incredible! The sandwiches are huge, so the four of us split two sandwiches and some sides. Take a look and tell me if it doesn’t look incredible!
After lunch, we stopped and did a little shopping, and then returned to the boys apartment. A late afternoon and evening of hanging out, having a drink or two, talking and relaxing, and ordering some take-out food was the perfect way to end our second day in St. Petersburg!
Wednesday was a bit of a laid back day, with our plans for the day not starting till around lunch (or brunch) time. Unfortunately, Chris was a bit under the weather, so it was time for Kenny and Mom and Dad to venture out. Our plan was to go toTrip’s Diner, a place we’d enjoyed in 2020 when we were in Indian Rocks Beach. We were going to go to a location nearer the boys, and one that had outside dining, as the weather was superb. Unfortunately we were not the only ones that apparently had that idea, because there was a line out the door, and nary a parking space within a 2 block area! After a couple of passes, it was decided that Susie and I could have Trip’s tomorrow as we headed to Indian Rocks Beach, and we’d go with Plan B! Plan B was the Maple Street Biscuit Company on Central Avenue, and it was fantastic!!
Susie and Kenny had The Five & Dime and I had the Egg-stremely Risky Biscuit. We added Potatoes O’Ryan and something called Maple Sausage Balls, and we had a fabulous brunch! Plan B was good!!! Leftovers went home for Chris, and for safe keeping, Kenny made sure they were strapped in!
After a brief rest period back at the hotel, the four of us did a tour of the boys two favorite St. Petersburg breweries! The day was beautiful, with sunny blue skies and low humidity, and we enjoyed being outside, first at Three Daughters’ Brewery and then at Pinellas Ale Works! An interesting thing about Pinellas Ale Works…Chris is an artist, and later this year (July to September) he is going to have a showing of his work there!!
What a wonderful town St. Petersburg is, and amazingly, Susie and I both agreed that in our minds, it was a place we associated with old people, but today it is a wonderful vibrant community for young folks. We’ve loved every place we went with the boys, and see why they love where they live!! St. Petersburg is a wonderful community with lots of culture (museums everywhere), with art all over the place, with a vibrant bar and food scene, with a love of dogs, and seems like a wonderful place for Our Boys to live! We will be back, and we think they will be here for the long haul!!
On Thursday, for our last night in Florida, we were off to Indian Rocks Beach, and the place where our love of the area started back in 2018..the Holiday Inn and Jimmy Guana’s! This will be the 4th year in a row that we’ve visited IRB, unfortunately not for an extended period, like we’ve done the past two years. In fact, in this semi-post-pandemic year, this one night stay will be our shortest stay ever in IRB. Unsure about what 2022 will bring in terms of a new hip for Susie and my second new knee, our fingers are crossed that we’ll be back next year, but we were so glad that the boys joined us at the Holiday Inn, and a good time was had by all as we celebrated our last night in Florida!!
Friday morning, we were up and out of Indian Rocks Beach, and that afternoon bid a fond farewell to the Sunshine State! It had been a busy 4 nights in Florida, and we loved being with Kenny and Chris, seeing their apartment and city, and reconnecting with Our Boys! Farewell Florida…see you soon!
PS – Our stop Friday night was Darien, Georgia, and yes, we did get our shrimp at B&J’s Steak and Seafood, that we’d missed in 2020 when we “ran” home from Florida! It was wonderful as always!!! Thanks Abe!
Good morning from Wake Forest, North Carolina. In case you are interested, our trip down south from Ocean City worked perfectly! We pulled out of our garage a little after 8 AM to a cool, but sunny morning, and traffic was wonderful. Ms. GPS (I’m not being sexist…she does speak to us in a female voice) took us once again all the way to Philly where we joined up to our “Mother Road”, Interstate-95 south. Susie and I timed our drivers’ exchanges to work perfectly, so that neither of us drove extensive stretches, and the Express lanes in Virginia worked perfectly. You pay extra to ride these, and it’s charged to your EzPass. They only run one direction, so you have to catch the correct schedule to be able to use them. When we got there yesterday morning, they were running south, and boy were we glad to pay extra, as the regular lanes were backed up for miles. Probably saved us close to an hour in travel time!
Billy and Lori’s house is a little crazy due to the duel girl birthday party, and in an effort to make it a little easier on us, he got us a room using points at Wake Forest’s Marriott Fairfield Inn, a couple of minutes away. We arrived at about 4:25, and we were supposed to use the digital key on the app to get in our room, but it wasn’t working on my app. He called the desk and got us a hard key, but when we went to the room, it didn’t work. I left Susie outside the door and returned to the front desk. The young man there was very apologetic and made me another which worked. Susie hit the bathroom, and I was about to do the same, when I heard another key open the door, and a couple start to enter the room! I stopped them, we compared notes and discovered that WE were in the wrong room!!! We’d turned to 134 rather than 133 across the hall, and somehow our key had worked. We quickly grabbed our stuff, apologized and went to the door across the hall. We didn’t expect the key to work, but it did, prompting me to wonder if the young man at the desk made us a MASTER KEY??? I wanted to try it on other doors, but thankfully, as she does most days in life with most of my questionable ideas, my wonderful wife of 41+ years deterred me from this questionable endeavor!
Birthday party number one for the girls was strictly a family affair at a great local Italian Restaurant that we’ve eaten at before with the kids, and because we are in the South, the temperature was perfect to eat outside on their covered patio. Lori’s Mom Kathy was there, as well as her sister Keri and husband Bill, and more kids that seemed right for the two couples! Turns out there was their 5 and a couple of friends without parents! Too much food was ordered, great fun was had with the family, and I made Annabelle laugh when the sun got low and I was using my hand to block it. Of course, since it was her second birthday, Grandpa had to keep doing that, even though the sun was no longer an issue. Nothing better than a 2 year old’s laugh; even better when she’s laughing at you!!
To be a part of this special day, and join his sisters, our wonderful 5 year old Grandson Henry lost his first tooth yesterday! When I saw Lori’s post about it on Facebook at a rest stop, I mused to Susie that the tooth that grows into this young guy’s mouth to replace the tooth he lost, will be with him till he’s an old man. I find that incredible when I look at this adorable 5 year old today! The miracles of life are all around us!
In order to give the parents a bit of time to prepare for a party that sounds like it will have about 50 kids, a Dunk Tank (for Daddy), and a Bounce House for entertainment, Grandma and Grandpa entertained Layla and Henry at the hotel, and Lori’s Mom Kathy was going to try and coral little Annabelle. Billy dropped our two charges off about 10, and a wonderful time was had by all! Grandma had the presence of mind to prepare before we left Ocean City, and had brought bags of chips and the cookie’s they most associate with us…Black and Whites. Grandma showed them how she likes to break the cookies at the point where the two icings go together, and before long, that was the only way Layla and Henry would eat theirs! I said to Susie, that they’d be showing their kids someday, and maybe their Grandkids, how their Grandma liked to eat these special cookies! Susie added yogurts and fruit from the hotel’s pantry, and experimented with making chocolate milk from regular milk and hot chocolate mix. It worked!! We played Mario Monopoly, colored on their tablets, watched Cartoons and Power Rangers on the TV, and at one point I was watching something on the TV with Henry and on her tablet with Layla! Good thing Susie says I can listen to two conversations at once, because I was able to comment to the two of them on what was happening on their respective shows! The two of them also made Grandpa download Fart Games and Whoopie cushion apps to his phone…Grandma was not pleased! All in all, a great time was had!
The party was as advertised! Young kids, young parents, a full size bounce house and an Annabelle sized one, the dunk tank, and a sand box for the real little ones. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, french fries and chips…what else could a party need? How bout an Ice Cream Truck? Yep, about halfway through the party, a bright yellow Ice Cream Truck parked at the end of their driveway, and it was cones, or cups, or ices for all! There was nothing that Lori and Billy didn’t think of! They did a wonderful job!!
The party was a wonderful success and our weekend with our beloved North Carolina Family was incredible. It was great seeing Lori’s Mom and much more of her family, meeting a lot of Billy and Lori’s friends, and watching all the kids have the time of their lives! Susie and I are truly blessed to have Lori and Billy in our life, and as far as Grandma and Grandpa are concerned, there is nothing better than spending time with our 3 favorite little people in the world…Layla, Henry, and Annabelle!
Back in the end of August, we saw our daughter Krissi and her husband Mike, when Mike’s sister Sara, her husband Gabe, and teenagers Maddy and Ethan rented a house in Ocean City for a week from our neighbor Neen. It was the first time we’d seen them since they surprised me and helped me celebrate my 70th birthday back in January. As we were in the height of the pandemic, Krissi and Mike didn’t stay with us, Mike’s parents Paula and Jerry stayed at a local Bed and Breakfast, we observed social distancing by visiting together in our garage and at the beach, and we exchanged the briefest of hugs. It was something, but it wasn’t what we really wanted.
Turn the clock ahead 7+ months, and now Krissi, who is an administrator at Weill Cornell Medical Center in NYC, and Mike, who sells wine and spirits with MS Walker are both fully vaccinated. Add in the fact that Susie and I are fully vaccinated too, and it’s time for a real, old fashioned weekend with our favorite daughter and our son-in-law! Last Friday, Mike dropped Krissi off with us, while he worked some clients with one of his local salesmen Bryce, which was the beginning of a weekend they spent staying in our house! Old times were back again!
Our time together started with hugs and kisses all around, and then a good old fashioned weekend of visiting. Rather than heading here, there, and everywhere, Krissi decided on a laid back weekend, with home-cooked meals, and lots of time for visiting! She had a hankering for some grilled food, as living in their new condo in New Rochelle doesn’t give them a grilling outlet. Luckily, Susie and I had visited Costco just the day before, so Pork Chops and Pork Tenderloin Medallions were on our Mixed Grill menu. Krissi, Susie and I hit the local Acme to get the fixings for a big salad, while Mike headed off to work with Bryce, and because they looked wonderful, some grilled asparagus were added to the menu! The weather wasn’t wonderful, so I headed down to the grill, while Susie, Krissi and Mike stayed upstairs. After all was done and said, it was a great meal, accompanied by some great wine that Mike had brought for us! Earlier in the day, Krissi also joined Susie and I in our daily exercise routine, and a new chandelier was also put up over our dining room table, by Susie, Krissi, and me, but we don’t need to talk any more about that.
Saturday was a hanging out day around the house, watching some TV and being lazy! Poor Mike was subjected to our Wedding Album when the topic of weddings came up. Then Krissi and Mike proceeded to cook us a wonderful dinner. It was a Turkey Taco Salad, with lots of wonderful vegetables. There was lots of chopping to be done, and the two of them were a perfect team! It was a great meal, and during it we watched one of their favorites on TV – The Masked Singer.
We carefully checked the weather, and although not perfect, Saturday night looked like the best chance of the weekend for some time Fire Pit time, so that’s what we did!
Sunday morning was, of course, Bagel Sunday, so orders in hand, I headed off to see my friends at Hot Bagels and More in Somers Point! As usual they were yummy!!
Again, Sunday was not a great weather day, but we were able to get out a bit with the kids and hit BF Mazzeos and Tilton Market, to both get some things for us, and for Krissi and Mike to bring home. Then it was time for Sunday Stir Stir Vodka (for Susie and I) and Gin (for Krissi and Mike). We decided that Sunday night dinner would be a hors d’oeuvres buffet of sorts, so I was called upon to make my Dad’s Stuffed Mushrooms. It was accompanied by Shrimp Cocktail from Costco, Eggplant Meatballs from BF Mazzeos, Buffalo Chicken Sausage from Bagliani’s (along with Blue Cheese Dressing from Charlies), and a charcuterie platter with delicacies from Bagliani’s and Passion Vines!
Susie and I relaxed while the kids took a walk around the neighborhood. That night we played a rousing game of “That’s What She Said,” and laughed a lot! After a good night’s sleep, about 10:30 on Monday morning Krissi and Mike headed back to their new condo in New Rochelle, where we will turn the tables and be their guests in two weeks!
It was a great weekend with our middle child (by 2 minutes) and her husband, and just another clue that our lives are returning! Stay tuned…we’ve just begun to live again – we may even have a road trip in our future!! Thanks again Moderna!
Last Saturday, April 3rd at about 8:15 AM, Susie and I pulled the Honda CRV out of our garage and headed towards the Ninth Street bridge. Just about an hour later, at 9:12 we crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge, entered the city of Philadelphia and our neighbor state of Pennsylvania. For the FIRST time since we returned from Florida on March 14, 2020, we had left the state of New Jersey! 4 states, and about 7 hours later, we pulled up in front of our son and daughter-in-law’s house in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Grandma and Grandpa were ready to spend Easter weekend with our three precious Grandkids and their Mom and Dad!
Last year, on January 30th, 2020, on our way to Florida, for what we thought was going to be a two month stay, we stopped overnight to see Billy and his family. The next morning, when we left, headed south on I-95, we expected that we’d see them again in a couple of months later on our way home from Florida. Little did we know that on January 31st, 2020, we would see Lori, Bill and Layla, Henry and Annabelle for the last time till last Saturday afternoon. At that point we knew nothing about something called Covid-19, or what America and our family would look like during a pandemic, or that we’d lose an entire year out of our Grandchildren’s lives!
Our son’s family had been at Busch Gardens for several days, and they arrived home about an half hour after we got there. It took zero time after hugs and hello kisses for the kids to put us in Grandparent mode…and we loved it after a year away! It took Annabelle a bit to warm up, but before too long she was calling us Grandma and Grandpa, and we were so happy to once again be back in our three Grandchildren’s lives! Billy and Lori went out to shop for Easter brunch, and Grandma and Grandpa had Chinese food with the kids and then settled in for a night of playing games!. From Henry and Grandpa playing with his Nintendo Switch, and Grandma and Annabelle playing with Stickers, and Grandma and Grandpa as a willing audience for Layla’s performing, up to and including watching some show called the Haunted Hendersons, we had a great night!! When Lori and Billy came home, they thanked us for watching the kids. We thanked them for giving us several uninterrupted hours with our 3 favorite people 7 and under!
Easter morning was wonderful as we watched them hunt for Easter Eggs and try and find where the Easter Bunny had hidden their Easter baskets. Then we were almost as excited as they were as they discovered what surprises were in the eggs they found, and dove into their Easter baskets!
Then it was time to check out Easter presents from Mommy and Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa, before it was time to shower and get dressed before the rest of the family arrived!
The rest of the family included Lori’s Mom Kathy, her sister Keri and husband Bill, along with their two kids Molly and Max, and Lori’s brother Sean and his girlfriend Lauren. Lots of hugs and kisses were exchanged, and we were all thankful that everybody in the house (but the kids) had had both vaccine shots! It was wonderful to once again be with family. To eat (oh what a spread Lori and Bill put out), drink, and as they say, be merry! The kids played, the adults played, and a good time was had by all!
We slept very well that night after a day spent with young kids. They were all wonderful and we were so glad to be back on track after a year of FaceTime calls! The next morning, after breakfast and getting dressed, we were off to see Bill and Lori’s new Lake House! The cars were packed, Layla and Henry rode with Grandma and Grandpa, and we departed Wake Forest for the hour and a half trip to Roanoke Rapids lake!
To say we were thrilled by where Lori and Billy’s life has taken them would be an understatement! What a wonderful life they have created for themselves, and their 3 incredible kids, and what remarkable memories they are going to create with this great Lake House! They’ve done, and had done, a lot of work already, but the vision is very clear and we loved it! It’s a 2 bedroom/ 2 bath house, but Lori came upon with this great idea to convert the upstairs bedroom to a bunk room, which is able to sleep 10 people in comfort! A great idea and we loved the execution of Lori’s idea by their handyman Oscar!
We totally enjoyed the rest of Monday, on the large deck overlooking the lake, on the pontoon boat on the lake, and around the fire pit that night! It was a magical time, in a magical place, with 5 people that we love so much!
Tuesday morning, after some more Grandparent/Grandkid time, it was time for Susie and I to head back to Ocean City. The traffic wasn’t the greatest around Washington, DC, but what’s new about that? We safely got home, with nothing but wonderful memories of Easter, 2021! Thanks to the Miracle of Science, and the Modern vaccine that Susie and I got back in February, we were once again able to enjoy hugs and kisses from our family, and to put memories of 2020 in the background, as we move ahead to make many more new memories in 2021 of Family Time!! Stay tuned…we’ve just begun to live again!! Thanks Moderna!
Here’s the final part of our look back at the year that was the most different of our lifetimes!
Early in August, the hurricane with the almost unpronounceable name came to Ocean City to visit! There was rain and wind…a lot of wind…and a tornado was sighted just west of Ocean City and cut a path of destruction up through Marmora, our neighbor town to the west of 34th Street. It did damage in OC too, taking the steeple off a small church on 32nd Street and Central Avenue, blowing small structures over, knocking over porch furniture and destroying awnings all over town.
At our house, it tossed about the furniture on the porch pretty good, even upending the couch. Then there was a knock on the front door…it was our neighbor Meade telling us that our Gazebo was now next to his house! Although it was staked down in the back yard, and had seemed fine every time Susie or I had checked on it that morning, at some point a gust of wind was more than it could take! Not only did the wind take it down, but it carried it over the cottage next door, and slammed it into the side of Patty and Meade’s house! With the help from some renters, we carried it away from their house and into our garage, where Susie and I proceeded to take it apart, as the canvas was ripped, and many of the uprights were bent. In short, the Gazebo was no more!
After the very casual way Isaias had torn apart our backyard Oasis, we were determined that we needed to make a statement that it might be different, but was still there! We bought a couple of tables from Amazon, strung some new lights, and we were back in business! It wasn’t the same, but we were confident that our new Oasis would withstand whatever Mother Nature threw at her! Early in the fall, we even added a fire pit to the mix!
At the end of August, needing a release from being cooped up in their house with their two teenage children, our son-in-law Mike’s sister Sara and her husband Gabe rented our neighbor Neen’s rental property around the corner on Third Street. Once the rest of the family found out about it, our daughter Krissi thought it might be a great way to have a “Socially Distanced” visit to the old folks. Krissi and Mike got a room with points at a nearby Hampton Inn (Mike would make it a “work trip” by visiting some local liquor stores….Mike works for a wine distributor), and Mike’s folks, Jerry and Paula, got a place at a local Ocean City Bed and Breakfast!
We socially distanced in our garage, in the backyard and our new Oasis, and on the Pennlyn Place Beach! It was different, but it was great to see some family again!!