Memories

Two things are happening at the end of this month, that in the last couple of days, have made me think back to happenings of September of 1979. The first thing is that Susie and I are going on a two week cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, where Our Boys, Kenny and Chris are in their last months of a year long contract. The second thing that’s happening towards the end of the month, is that Susie and I will be celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the day we joined our lives together.

What this made me think about, is the first week of our Honeymoon, which started on September 30th, 1979. We got married at the Interfaith Chapel at CW Post College (where we’d both attended) on Saturday, September 29th, 1979. The next day, our Honeymoon started on the Holland American Line’s cruise ship, the SS Volendam. Unusual for those days, this was a Sunday to Sunday cruise to Bermuda, not the usual Saturday to Saturday schedule. Because of the Sunday sail away, a large percentage of the folks on the cruise were newly married couples.

Now, unlike today, when cruise ships are huge floating cities, with thousands and thousands of passengers (The Liberty, while by no means one of the biggest ships in Royal’s fleet, still sails with 4000 passengers), 40 years ago, the Volendam was a much smaller ship, with but 400 passengers on it’s manifest. Because of it’s Sunday sailing, fully half of the passengers were married couples! That means we were one of 100 newly married couples, sailing from New York to Bermuda on Sunday, September 30th, 1979!

Cruising in those days was very different from the luxurious accommodations a new bride and groom might enjoy today. First, there were still more bunk beds in the cabins than there were full size beds…forget King Beds. We were very lucky that we booked our cruise early, through a travel agent that Susie knew, and we had one of the few full sized beds on the ship! In addition, there were also no Specialty Restaurants on the ship, you ate every meal in the dining room, at your assigned table. That’s really where my memory comes into play.

Our Dining Room assignment had us at a table for eight, and we were one of four couples assigned to that table. It was no big surprise to us, that with the large percentage of newly married couples on this sailing, all four couples were newlyweds. But, it doesn’t end there. All 4 couples had been married on Saturday September 29th. Again, no great surprise, since this was about the only cruise ship sailing to Bermuda from New York on a Sunday. What was surprising was not that we all shared the 9/29/79 wedding date, but that for all four of us, our Wedding Song was Billy Joel’s, Just the Way You Are!

As we approach our 40th Anniversary, Susie and I just hope that our tablemates are still together, and still as much in love as the two of us are. Susie, 40 years later, I Still Love You Just the Way You are!!

Travel Plans are afoot in the D’Elia Household

Later this month, Susie and I will be hitting the road again. Well, that’s not totally honest, what we will be doing is hitting the road, the air, and the seas, as we journey from Ocean City to the Philadelphia International Airport (the road portion), and from there fly via American Airlines to Houston, Texas (the air portion), then take an Uber or Lyft from George Bush International Airport to Galveston, Texas (another road portion), where we will meet up with Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas (obviously, the sea portion). Sorry you asked?

As you will recall, youngest son Kenny and his husband Chris are Entertainers on the Liberty of the Seas, and we sign on towards the end of this month for another 2 week back-to-back visit with Our Boys. By the time we leave the ship, they will have less than a month left on their contract, and not knowing if they will do another contract on a ship, this may be our last time to sail with them. We are, of course, looking forward to seeing the boys, watching them perform, and experiencing the various ports they’ve been traveling to since they signed on early this year, but this trip will be different than any other of the many cruises we’ve been on with them. That’s because this time, we won’t be alone!

While we will spend 2 weeks on the ship, for week one we will be joined by my cousin Jeanne Pratt and her husband Walt! Jeanne is the daughter of my Mom’s 2 year younger brother Bill, and grew up in Chicago. We didn’t spend a lot of time together as kids, but she has to be the person in the world that has known me longer than anyone else in my life. There were trips to Chicago for me, and visits from her family to New York, and a couple of memorable Family Vacations in Florida. As often happens, as we all got older, and life picked up pace, we drifted apart. 40 years ago, Jeanne and Walt were at our wedding, but after that, our connections were very sporadic. The sad part was that Walt spent 25 years in the Navy, and they lived for most of that time in Connecticut as Walt was in the Submarine Service. After he retired from the Navy, that’s where their home stayed, so for the better part of our married lives, the 4 of us were less than 100 miles apart!

After years of not being in each other’s lives, about 5 or 6 years ago, we met mid way between Long Island and their Connecticut home for lunch. We had a great lunch but mostly we talked…so much so that the restaurant folks looked like they were going to throw us out so they could begin setting up for dinner! Since that rekindling, we have visited them in their Florida home in Barefoot Bay, they’ve stayed with us in Ocean City, we’ve had dinner with them while in Disney World with the boys, they’ve visited us in Indian Rocks Beach, and every time the result is the same..we talk, and talk, and talk and talk!

Last year, Jeanne wondered if there might be some place we could vacation together. Shortly after we booked our back-to-back cruise for this month (a back-to-back is taking the same room for two different cruise itineraries, making the two one week cruises in essence a two week cruise), she called and wondered if we’d like some company for the first week. Sounded like a great idea to us, so we are now adding cruising as yet another way we are spending time together. We’re not going to be tied at the hip, but we will be eating and drinking together a lot (food and drink packages ordered), seeing the boys in the shows (by the way, they will get to meet each other for the first time), and just hanging out and talking! Imagine that!

Stay tuned as we continue with more pre-travel arrangements!

1976

1976 was a heady year in my young life. On January 2nd, 1976 I turned 26 years old. I was a Full Time Staff Engineer at 1050 AM WHN, which I’d worked at since April of 1972. I guess I should have said 1050 Country, WHN, because WHN was New York’s only Country Station, having switched from an MOR station about 6 months after I started there. During the 4 years I worked at the Nifty 1050, I’d worked with New York Radio Royalty, in the person of the creator of the WMCA Good Guys, WMCA Program Director Ruth Meyer. But wait, there’s more, as they say on television! In addition to having Ruth as the WHN Program Director, I’d also worked with a majority of the WMCA Good Guys! I was Jack Spector’s main engineer and worked with Dan Daniels, Ed Bayer, Joe O’Brien, and Dean Anthony. In addition, NY Sport’s Legend Bill Mazer was our Sports Director, and I worked a lot with Bill! We broadcast the NY Mets, the NY Nets, and the NY Islanders, and on days when we didn’t have a sports game on, we did Bill Mazer’s Sports Roundtable from the Oak Room of the Plaza Hotel.

Yes, it had been a heady four years for a young college graduate. I was making $333 a week, when some of my fellow Post Graduate friends were working in NY City Schools as teachers for less than $200 a week! But then it all came to an end!! It was time for WHN to negotiate a new contract with Local 1212 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and when the contract was signed, they’d agreed to a reduction of 2 Staff Engineer positions. Unfortunately, other people had come and gone in my 4 years, and when push came to shove, I was the lowest person on the totem pole. Only one person voluntarily agreed to give up their job, but when they needed the second person, it was me, the guy at the bottom!

But don’t cry for me, because I wasn’t really going to suffer! I got a whole year’s salary, and a whole year of medical insurance, and I was single and still living at home! I hated to give up the job, and leaving my new found radio family, but if I had to do so, well it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen!

And what did I do with that year’s worth of salary I’d been given??? I bought a boat!!! I’d always wanted a boat, and a couple of years earlier, when I had a steady job, and started making some good money (for the early 70s), I decided to buy a boat. I’d gone to college with someone who’s uncle owned a boat dealership in Westport, Connecticut, and through her, I met him and bought my first boat. It was a used 17 foot bow rider that had been set up by its first owner as a ski boat. It had a 175 horsepower outboard engine, and it was fast when it wanted to be. I had a lot of fun with that boat, and realized I liked boating. So, when in the Spring of 1976, out of work, and with the proceeds of one year’s salary in my bank account, the 1975 leftover 21 foot Wellcraft Weekender that Irwin had in his showroom looked very attractive! It was a nice boat!

I had a lot of fun setting up that boat, buying things for it, and eventually getting it out on Long Island Sound. It was a great life, but eventually I knew I needed to get back to the real world, and that real world return happened when my friend and mentor Bill Mozer called me one day and said, “Hey…we need some VRs at ABC..you interested?” It was late in July, I’d been “unemployed” for 3 or 4 months, so I said, “sure” and I went in and talked to WABC Chief Engineer Win Lloyd and WABC Assistant Chief and WPLJ Chief Bob Deitch.

I’d spoken to both of these gentlemen 4 years before when I was first looking for a job in NY Radio, but this was different. Now we were 3 radio veterans shooting the shit about the state of the radio business. After an hour, Win said, “So, when can you start?” I replied, “Whenever you need me?”. So, at 11:45 PM, on the night of Sunday, August 8th, 1976, as Hurricane Belle headed towards New York City, I reported to the 8th Floor of the ABC Building at 1330 Avenue of the Americas in New York City, for my first shift as a member of the WABC/WPLJ Engineering Department, and as they say, the rest is history!

Bees Knees #4 – The Final Chapter

Yesterday was a banner day for my new left knee! First, I was released from PT! Grady, my Physical Therapist, said there was nothing more he could do for me, as he’d given me all the exercises and I was doing them with zero problem! That was nice to hear! An hour later, I had my 5+ week post surgery appointment with Dr Zabinski. I had three X-rays taken, and Dr. Zabinski is thrilled with what he saw, with the way my scar is healing, and with the progress I am making! He even agreed with our time table of having the right knee done when we return from Florida in April! Like I said, a banner day all around!

So, as a way to wrap up this journey, thought I’d write one more blog and look back on our experiences (make no mistake about it, Susie was as much or even more involved in this procedure than I was!). Things that I worried about up front, that retrospectively I wasted time worrying about!

Any time you embark on something you’ve never experienced before, there is always an element of fear involving the unknown. I mean, they are going to cut open my leg, remove the knee I’d had since birth, and replace it with a man-made implant! Now that was certainly something I’d never experienced before!

I guess the number one fear was, “Would I survive?” Even in simple surgeries, things happen and the unthinkable becomes reality. I will freely admit that there were a couple of days pre-surgery when these kinds of fears did enter into my brain. Perhaps it was a stupid path to take, but rather than dwell on it, I used the fear to a good end. I spent a good part of one day collecting all of our bank account information, including banking websites and sign-ons. I did the same thing with Susie and my Life Insurance policies, creating a document called Money and Insurance. The next day I started to write another document called Paying Bills. In this one, I noted all the different ways I paid bills every month, including a step by step checklist, that if followed, should allow the user to do everything I do every month. In creating these two documents I gave myself peace of mind that should something happen, Susie would know what to do. It was a good exercise, a good use of the fear, and in the end, totally unnecessary!

I also had some worries about the anesthesia. When you put someone under General Anesthesia, there is always the possibility that there will be complications. When going to Pre-Op Testing at the hospital, we were told however, that they did the operation under a Spinal Block, and a Nerve Block, and that you were in an induced Twilight state during the surgery. The day I found that out, another of my fears came off the table!

So, they put in a brand new knee…would I be able to walk the stairs? There are 14 steps from the sidewalk to our front porch. Was I going to be able to get up to our front door the day after surgery? Piece of cake! Another stupid thing to unnecessarily worry about!

Was it going to hurt? I am definitely one of those folks that has an issue with Opioid drugs. No, its not that I’m afraid I’ll get addicted to them, it’s that I know they stop-up my plumbing! So let’s make this a double headed fear…Managing Pain and Constipation! I came home with 2 prescriptions, and did take them on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but I also didn’t go to the bathroom. Now, on the pain front, with the exception of the first day or so, I wasn’t really in pain. It was more discomfort, so it was pretty easy for me to transition from the Opioids to Tylenol and Ibuprofen. Susie did have to call out the big guns in the fight for regularity, but after one dose of Dulcolax, I was back in regular action. Scratch a double-headed concern!

In so much of your pre-op orientation, they make a huge thing of Preventing Infection and Swelling, so you can’t help but have that in your mind. The act of inserting the knee prosthetic into your body, has become so matter of fact, that the biggest concern they have post-surgery is preventing infection and swelling. We did everything pre-surgery we were instructed to do, and after the surgery, Susie made sure that I religiously elevated it (your leg above your heart), iced it, and that we kept the environment clean. The end result is that this issue, which we really think was more of the scare tactics they employ pre-surgery, than our own mental state, never came to pass!

Other things lower down the fear/concern ladder, included PT and the horror stories we both had heard! My Physical Therapist Grady was the absolute best, and at no time was there even the slightest issue with either my home, or at the facility PT! Another area was sleep…would I? Honestly, I’m not the best sleeper when I don’t have a new knee, and Grady had told us before the operation that I’d probably be sleeping on and off most of the day, because you just don’t sleep that well at night. And that was it..

I told Susie going into this, and I will say it anytime I’m asked, we are rule followers, and that’s exactly why we did what we did, and why my recovery was so successful! We bought everything we were instructed to do up front. I took the prescribed vitamins pre and post surgery. We had the house set up as per our instructions. When I came home from the hospital, we kept my leg elevated above my heart for the 20-22 hours a day we were instructed to do. Susie made sure to apply ice as instructed. The bottom line is that we did what we were told to do, and that’s why, along with Dr. Zabinski’s excellent work, Grady’s perfect PT for me, and being married to the world’s best caregiver, this knee replacement was as successful as it was!

And what did this all cost, you may wonder. Well, by the time you add up the Hospital Costs, the Doctors’ bills, the cost of Physical Therapy, as well as the cost of everything we had to buy pre-surgery, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s very close to $100,000. I mean the cost for the actual implant that now lives where formerly my left knee was, cost a whopping $22,028 and the Operating Room for the 2 hours or so it was dedicated to my knee was just over $24,000! Thank God we have great insurance, and in the end, if I’m responsible for anything, it will probably be pennies! Wonder what the Six Million Dollar Man would cost in 2019 dollars??

My final take? I sit here 5 weeks and 4 days after having a Left Total Knee Replacement ready, and willing, to have my right knee replaced next Spring! I have no fear that it won’t be as successful as the left one was, and no concern that Susie and I aren’t up to the task! Thank God we live in a time when operations like this, and so many others are common procedures that give us our mobility and our life back! Anyone who’s reading this, please don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from getting the help you need to return to the life you were meant to lead! I’m looking forward to chasing my Grandchildren Layla, Henry, and Anna down the boardwalk! Life is too short!

Bees Knees #3

Milestones

We are 5 days post operative as I start to write this. I think it is an appropriate time to start talking about Milestones, as there indeed have been several!

#1 – WALKING – This one didn’t take long at all! Barely 5 hours, after coming out of surgery, the PT folks at Shore Medical Center, had me off my back, and on my feet, with the help of a walker! I know that it sounds crazy and rather incredible, but that’s the way it happens in 2019! Susie has read that there are no restrictions on weight bearing for the new knee. It appears that from the moment they sew your leg up, it is ready to be used! Crazy, huh?

#2 – Pain Meds – I came home from the hospital with two prescriptions for pain meds. One for Percocet and another for Tramadon. I’m still not totally clear what the difference is between them, but for the first couple of days, I used both of them. Now, speaking about pain, while there has indeed been some, I can’t say that it had been outrageous or intolerable. The pain has been from the incision, and some muscular pain, but that’s it! There are things that I’ve had to do, that are a pain and some that cause me pain, but not from walking or sitting or exercise. I’m sure a side effect of both of these “pain meds” are strange, almost hallucination like dreams….now that’s not fun. End result, last time I took either of the prescription pain meds was before bed on Sunday night. Since then, I’m using Ibuprofin or Tylenol.

#3 – Showering – I’m sure you’ve all been sick for a couple of days, and confined to your bed or the living room couch, and about Day 3, you start fantasizing about standing in the shower! Well, imagine you’ve just had you leg cut open, your knee hacked out, and a brand new man-made one inserted! You’ve then overnighted in the hospital, then came home, and since then, done nothing but lay around with your leg elevated. Think I wanted a shower?? You bet I did!! Physical Therapist Grady came and visited Saturday morning, and after checking out the house, we talked about showering! The dressing on my incision is waterproof, so that was not an issue. The new knee would have no problem holding my weight, so that was not an issue. He told me to have at it, as long as I abided by the guidelines for showering that were included in my discharge instructions! Sunday, after Bagel Sunday Breakfast, I showered, and it was glorious! Shower 2 came Tuesday, and it too was glorious!!!

#4 – Leg Elevation and Ice – Everything we’ve read, and everything everyone involved in this procedure has told us is that the incision is the bigger thing to worry about, not the implant. They are worried about infection and after that, swelling. There were very exacting procedures to be used pre-surgery to make sure your body is clean, and there are similar, but not as stringent procedures, post surgery to make sure you stay clean. Following those procedures, and making sure your visitors wash their hands are about all you can do to prevent infection, and we have followed those rules to the letter. The other concern its swelling, and that is remedied by keeping you leg straight and elevated ABOVE YOUR HEART, for 20-22 hours a day! Think that’s fun? Add to that, the regular application of ice to the operative sight….20 minuets on, 40 minutes off, round the clock! WOW! To say that this is the worst part, so far, of the knee replacement surgery for me, would not be an exaggeration!! Well, I’m happy to say that Grady, my Physical Therapist just left, and I am done with the 20-22 hours of that, and that I can SLEEP ON MY SIDE!! Yahoo!!!

#5 – Dressing Off – So there is this one-piece waterproof dressing that they put on you in the Operating Room that keeps the incision clean. It’s about 10-12 inches long, and a bit of a pain. Guess what? Grady took it off! I’m free!!!

#6 – Going from Walker to Cane – Once Grady took off my dressing, and liked the way the leg looked and saw no swelling or drainage, he said, “So..lets see how you walk.” I asked walker or not. He said, which ever way you want. I decided no walker! Forget the cane, I can do what I want! I think I impressed him!

So that’s where we are as of the afternoon of Tuesday, July 16th, 2019 – 5 days post surgery! Grady is very happy with my progress, Susie and I are very happy with my progress, and I think there might be a frosty clear alcohol drink (a MARTINI) in my immediate future! There are more milestones to hit (like getting the staples out next Monday), but for now, we are happy with where I am!!

Notice in the video, it is the yet to be replaced right knee giving me a weird gate!

 

Thanks for being along!!

To be continued!!

Bees Knees #2

Okay…let’s start with the headline…Operation was a success, I’ve got a new left knee!

Thursday July 11th started off for Susie and I at 5:30 when the alarm went off. We both showered, dressed, and relaxed a bit till it was time to head over to Shore Memorial Hospital. How fortunate were we, to retire to a seashore community that’s just across the 9th Street Bridge from a large, well equipped hospital? We left at 7:40, and checked into the hospital Pre-Op unit just before our assigned time of 8 AM. A little paper work, I got my hospital bracelet, and I was taken into the back to get prepped.

img_0871-1I was worked up by the Pre-Op Nurse, met the Anesthesiologist, and had my knee shaved and scrubbed. My IV was started, and I was hooked up to oxygen and a B/P monitor. Susie joined me about 9AM, and shortly after that, the Anesthesiologist gave me my Nerve Block and then Dr. Zabinski came in and we talked a bit about the operation. Just after 10:30, the Anesthesiologist Nurse said it was time to go. I kissed Susie goodbye and she headed to the waiting room while I headed to the Operating Room.

The OR was cold, and it seemed like there were about 7 or 8 people working there. They gave me some medication to put me in a Twilight mood, and then went to work on my Spinal Block. “Dangle your legs off the side of the Operating Table like you’re sitting on the side of a pool”, she said. “Now bend forward and extend your spine.” Luckily there was an Anesthesiology Technician in front of me to keep me from falling into the pool! Next it was time for the Lidocaine shot in my spine, “This will just be a little pinch”, she lied to me…it was not! By the time that was in, I had no memory of the last injection…the medication that put my spinal block in place! I was in Twilight..oh yes I was!

For the first couple of minutes, I kind of had a foggy sense of people talking and things happening around me, but more like I was an observer rather than a participant. Then I had the oddest sense that my Dad was in the Operating Room with me! He’s been dead since 1983, and whether this was wishful thinking or a visit from beyond, all I can say is thanks Dad for being with me! The next thing I know, I’m in the Recovery room and as soon as my eyes focus enough to be able to read the clock on the wall, I could see it was a little after 1 PM. There went 2 plus hours I’ll never see again!

The Recovery Room

My grasp of the time space continuum was still a little fuzzy, but within, what seemed like a few minutes, Susie was back at my side. She said that Dr. Zabinski had come out and talked to her about 12:05, and said that my knee was a mess and loaded with arthritis. Wonder what the right one, which I’ve always thought was worse than the left looks like!

Around 2:45, they moved me from Recovery to room 410….a private room! This would be a good time to compare going to a hospital on Long Island and in South Jersey. Simply, there is no comparison!! It’s as different as Night and Day. Black and White or Up and Down! Everything here is fast, simple and uncrowded. People are nice, they are there to help you, and you just feel so much better about the whole undertaking!

Me in and the view out of Room 410

Now here’s the part you always hear about, and even though it’s just happened to me, I still find it unbelievable! Just about 3:30, Maria from the Hospital’s Physical Therapy Department came into the room, and with the help of a walker, had me up on my brand new knee, and walking the halls!

Crazy but true, it worked, but I was also so high on drugs at that point, I probably could have just as easily flown down the hall!!

At dinnertime, not only did I get food, but they ordered Susie a dinner too (like I said, Night and Day). About 10 PM that night, before heading to bed, I took another, even longer walk around the 4th floor, with a little encouragement from my lovely wife!

Susie had decided to stay the night, and Rebecca, the Nurses Aide got her a recliner (See, Black and White). Unfortunately, it wasn’t the kind of recliner we thought it was going to be, and honestly neither of us had a very good night…even with good drugs (me, not Susie)! The next morning, at 5:30 AM, Dr. Zabinski came in to check on his work. He told us that the knee was so bad, that as soon as he opened up the knee and bent it, it dislocated. I asked him what happened to it, and he said, “It went in the garbage.” Rather an ignominious end to a knee that had been with me for 69 years, 6 months, and 9 days! Then he pulled out a drain he’d placed in my knee before closing it up. Looked to me to be about 10-12 inches…now that was fun! Happy with what he saw, he signed off on my going home that morning.

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Getting a breathing treatment

After breakfast, I saw my Medical Doctor, Dr. Raab, and he too gave me a clean bill of health and signed off on my release. Then they gave me a breathing treatment in lieu of my regular inhaler treatment, and then some more pain medication, so I’d be ready for my last sign off…from the Physical Therapist!

In answer to a question asked at the Joint Replacement Class we’d attended the week before surgery, if PT signed off on you in the morning, you’d be gone before lunch, if not, they’d keep you till after lunch, and do another session with you! I wanted to go home BEFORE lunch! My “Graduation” PT session included climbing a full flight of stairs (so I could get into our house), and walking all over the floor! Bottom line…I passed and was cleared to go home!

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Dressed to go home

Did I push myself? A little bit, because I really wanted out of the hospital, and was going to do whatever I could to make that happen. But, at the same time I was pushing myself, the nerve block that they’d given me was wearing off. The bottom line, I was starting to hurt! I got “chauffeured” down to the lobby, figured out how to get into the car, and we headed home!

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In the car

Our one stop was at CVS to pick up antibiotic, and not one, but two pain pill prescriptions. Even though they’d had the prescriptions since 9:30 and it was after 1, they weren’t ready. “Come back in an hour”, the Pharmacist told Susie. That was ok…still had about an hour and a half till I could take the next dose, so off we went to the house!

I had no problem climbing the 14 steps at the front of our house, but I was pooped and in a little more pain, but we were home!! I got myself in the position I’d find myself in for many hours in the upcoming days (22 out of 24 hours for the next 5 days, Dr. Zabinski said), and Susie went back to get my prescription!

It took her 45 minutes to come back because, of course, the prescription wasn’t ready! The worst 45 minutes of the whole undertaking!! I was hurting, but as soon as Susie got home, and I got my drugs, I let out a sigh of relief, and we started planning when I’d be getting the right one replaced!

We’re thinking May!

img_1616Before I leave, I have to thank one person above everyone else involved in the last couple of days, and that is the love of my life, my wife Susie! She has been there at every turn of this process, with encouragement, knowing the right questions to ask, and kicking me in the ass when I’ve needed it. Since coming home from the hospital, she has been my constant companion and care giver. Wrapping my knee, applying ice, organizing and handing out my pills, and handling my every need. You know the phrase”Helicopter Parents”? Well, Susie said to me this morning the she’s a “Helicopter Wife”! Thanks Susie for all you always do for us all, and especially me! Love you baby!!

To be continued …..

At the Shore Since ’44

Charlies!

We have owned our house in Ocean City for 14 plus years (it will be 15 on January 28, 2020), and for about 13 of those years, Charlie’s has been a go to place for us! Located just across the bridge in Somers Point, Charlies is one of those local bars that are indeed the real life incarnation of the bar in the TV Show Cheers, “where everybody knows your name”!

In 1944, Helen and Charlie Thomas opened a classic “corner bar” in Somers Point, and Charlies has been an important part of the community ever since. The original bar was located across New Jersey Avenue from its current location, and moved to its current building in 1953. The building, and indeed the business, have undergone many changes during the 75 years that Charlie’s has been around, but the one constant in its history, is that four generations of the Thomas Family have run the place. Today, fourth generation brothers Jim and Jeff Thomas are the link back to their Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather, the founders!

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The Thomas Brothers..Jim and Jeff

Today, Charlie’s is still that corner bar (located on the corner of New Jersey Ave. and Shore Road) where everybody (well, maybe not everybody, but a lot of folks) indeed knows your name! The first time we went to Charlies, it was when our Mineola friends Pat and Steve Grosskopf were visiting with us, early in that first year of ownership. We went in for dinner one night, and got a table in the front bar room. We had a waitress who was a real pro, but at the same time a real smart ass. She was wearing a button that said, “I’d Card my Mother”, but she knew the answer to every question we had about menu items or beers that were offered. She joked with us, she kidded other customers, she called them by name, and she was the perfect professional waitress! Little did we know, she was also destined to be our very good friend, but that part comes later!

Until we retired and stopped renting our the house during the peak summer months, our MO was to travel down to Ocean City at the very least a couple of weekends a month, and for the better part of 10 or 11 years, Charlie’s was our Friday night stop. In the beginning, I’d take the Long Island Rail Road train into Queens, meet up with Susie, and off we’d go to the shore. As time went on, Susie got braver, and would drive to pick me up in the city. Some days we made it down early, some days, later, but we always had our Friday night at Charlie’s! Creatures of habit that we are, if it was Friday and we were down at the Shore, we were at Charlies!

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Within a short amount of time, we were Charlie’s Friday Night regulars. We’d check in at the hostess desk with Carol or Colleen, and always request a table in the bar area. While we waited for our table, we’d enjoy the bar and a couple of pint sized Screwdrivers (with fresh squeezed OJ) or two from Wes or Kelly, and enjoy checking out and interacting with the many other Friday night regulars. Of course, in the summer months, the crowds were much bigger on a Friday night, but Fridays just equaled Charlies for us!

Once our table was ready, Carol or Colleen would show us the way, and hand us menus, and within moments “our waitress” would say hello. Unless she wasn’t there on a particular night, we sat exclusively with Sue, the lady I referred to on our first visit. Sue always knew we were probably going to have another Screwdriver, and most nights saw an order of Charlies’ Wings in our future. Now, let’s talk about those wings.

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While Charlies has a full menu of dinner items, I always think that the best things on Charlies’ menu are what I call “bar food”, and right at the top of that list are their wings and what they call BBTs (boneless breast tenders). A single order of wings contain 13 pieces, usually pretty evenly split between drumettes and wingettes, while a single order of BBTs, contain 5 pieces. The chicken is fried perfectly and sized just right. In fact, some days, as soon as you drive over the 9th Street Bridge, you start to smell Charlie’s fried chicken! Then there are the sauces! Here’s what the menu says about them: “Tail Gun (mild), Top Gun (Hell Fire! No Kidding!) Southwest (our secret BBQ sauce), and their newest, Stinger Sauce (Tangy Honey Garlic).” They are all good, but our favorite, and I’d have to guess most sold, is Tail Gun sauce. Now, you can get your wings and BBTs dry, with sauce on the side, but that’s not our way. Grab lots of napkins and homemade blue cheese dressing! Get your wings sauced and hot! Make a mess of your face and your hands, and enjoy!! It’s the only way to roll!!

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In addition to the great wings (which Susie swears are the BEST she has ever had), other great items on the menu include their soups, sandwiches, salads, burgers, cheesesteaks, and specialty sandwiches. Then there is their huge beer selection, appetizers, chili, wraps, and fries, but that’s only some of my “bar food” favorites! They’ve got pastas, and dinner selections from the Land and from the Sea (as their menu denotes). Whatever you are in the mood for, they have it! Take a look for yourself at their extensive menu and make yourself a little hungry! http://charliesbar.com/menu.pdf

Although the food is certainly great, in my opinion, like at any establishment, it’s the people that keep you coming back Over the years, we’ve met some great folks there. Like Carol and Colleen working the hostess desk most Fridays, and Kelly, and the late Wes, at the bar, waitresses Natalie, Jess, Sarah, and of course the lady I spoke of earlier, our good friend, Susan Earsom Waniak! We also got to know Sue’s son Chris and her daughter Carlye, who also are part of the Charlie’s Family!

Sue is a professional waitress, not something that is that common anymore. She grew up working at her Aunt’s Jersey Shore business, and she knows her job inside and out. She knows how to take care of her customers, and she knows how to deal with those, shall we say, high maintenance customers too! After years of having her wait on us every Friday and occasional Sunday breakfasts (Charlie’s is open 7AM to 3 AM Monday through Saturday, but opens at 9AM on Sunday for breakfast), I guess we officially got the Sue Seal of Approval, and we morphed from just customers and server, to friends. That’s something Susie and I are very proud of!

As often happens, life moves on. Eventually Sue stopped waitressing on Friday night, and we were transferred over to Natalie by Sue. Then I retired, so Susie and I no longer drove down to Ocean City on a Friday, and no longer had to fight the Friday night crowds on the Garden State Parkway or at Charlies. The result was that eventually, Friday night no longer was our go-to night at Charlies,. But don’t despair, for all is not lost!

img_1021-1You see, on Tuesday night, Sue holds court at the Back Bar (Captain Jacks Bar – Named for the late Jack Thomas..Jimmy and Jeff’s Dad) at Charlies! It’s a night populated by her regulars. First, some of her older customers, the “Dessert Club” comes at about 5 PM, then at about 6:45, Susie and I show up, along with some of the other second string regulars like Liz and Mike. Then after we’re done, she has others that show up depending on if volley ball is in session or not. The only thing we have to decide on is what we are going to eat that night. As soon as she sees us walk in the door, Sue already has our drinks in progress. Since we’ve been low carbing, and staying away from OJ, our Screwdrivers have morphed into Grey Goose Martinis, and we are hardly settled on our barstools, before the chilled glasses of goodness are in front of us! Now, if it is Tuesday night, and we are in town, we are at Charlies! We are indeed creatures of habit!

Sue knows the name and drink preference of virtually everybody who sits down at the back bar on a Tuesday night! (10 months out of the year that’s true…for July and August, all bets are off and the area’s population, and Charlie’s customer base swells for the summer) It’s just a continuation of that “Corner Bar” atmosphere that the Thomas Family has been known for over the last 75 years! Jeff is usually the brother on the premises on Tuesday night, and he always has a hello for most of the customers at the back bar, (Hell, he grew up with a lot of them) in addition to helping Sue out with ice, more bottles of booze, or even delivering an order. It’s just that kind of place, and Jeff is just that kind of person!

Like many of the other restaurants that we love, Charlies is a Family! It’s a family made up of the Thomas Family, the long term servers, and bartenders (on any given night you’ll find many of the same folks working that were there the first night we ever went to Charlies), and the repeat customers. It’s a place to enjoy a good drink, some excellent food, in a familiar surrounding. It’s a place where they know your name, and you know theirs, and where you feel at home! Is there anything better you can say about a restaurant? It’s home!

If you remember I said above that Sue had morphed from customers and server to friends? Well, I’m happy to say that Tuesday night isn’t the only night of the week, because on Friday, we exchange positions, and Sue gets to be the guest at our house! Her favorite spot is on our front porch, but all through the year, you can depend that if all 3 of us our around town, Sue will be dropping in on us about 5:30, and I get to make HER a drink! You’d have to know me to really understand what a kick that is for me! She’s a good friend, and important part of our Ocean City life, and one of the reasons we are so glad that a place we’ve loved forever, has become our forever home!

See you are Charlies!