Early in 1976, WHN Radio negotiated and signed a new contract with Local 1212 of IBEW. Because the WHN Transmitter in East Rutherford, NJ had recently been unmanned, the contract called for a reduction of 2 members of the Engineering Department. The contract detailed a generous separation pay of one year’s salary, along with one year of medical benefits, as well as the ability for those leaving to collect NYS Unemployment Insurance. One of the older guys in the department took the “buy out”, but when no one else was interested in leaving the department, after 4 years at the station, and being on the lowest rung of the seniority ladder, I was tapped to take the “buy out”. The one year of salary for me came to a figure somewhere in the mid $20,000, and what did I do with it? Well, I bought a boat!
For somewhere around $10,000, I traded in my 17 foot bow rider outboard for a brand new 1975 Wellcraft 21 foot Weekender. With a Ford 302 V/8 and an outdrive, a small cabin with two bunks, a place for a “head”, and a cockpit table, the boat was what kept me busy from my separation date in the early spring of 1976, till I started at WABC in August. It was a lot of fun setting up the boat at Coastwise Marine in Westport, Connecticut, and then when the weather turned to “boating weather”, getting a handle on running my new boat up and down the Saugatuck River, and in Long Island Sound! I was 26 years old, had money in the bank, a year of health insurance, and time on my hands. I immersed myself in the nautical way of life! In addition to buying and working on the boat, I took a Coast Guard Reserve Small Boat course, and joined a Nautical Book of the Month Club!
My book choices included things like Chapman Piloting: Seamanship & Small Boat Handling, Bowditch’s American Practical Navigator, as well as other useful books in my endeavor to master the act of running my small boat. There were also books about adventures people were having in small boats, and one of them that I still remember to this day was Lin and Larry Pardey’s Cruising in Seraffyn. The book told the story of Seraffyn, their wooden 24-foot engineless cutter and and how Lin and Larry built her with the hope of setting off for a few months of true freedom in spite of their limited finances. Their few months turned out to be a lifetime of sailing around the world, but that first book also turned out to be a carefully thought-out guide to living aboard a small boat, with fun and good seamanship as guiding principles. It was a true love story of Lin and Larry and a boat named Seraffyn, and the life it gave them!
I was captivated with the story and their adventures of first building, then launching, and ultimately cruising in Seraffyn. I was so captivated that when I was finished with the book, I wrote Lin and Larry a “fan letter” and sent it to them care of their publisher! About 6 months later, one day in the mail, I received a very obviously foreign Air Mail letter that was postmarked from Spain. It turned out that their publisher had forwarded my letter to them, and had it had finally caught up with them in Spain. The letter I got was from Lin, and she told me how happy they were to get my letter and that it had showed up at just the right time. Turns out they were in the midst of re-writing the follow up book called Seraffyn’s European Adventure. They’d had a particularly tough day, trying to work through some re-writes that their editor had asked for, and were at the breaking point. They really wondered if it was worth all the work, and if anyone cared. Then my letter showed up in the mail! Lin thanked me to expressing just what they needed to hear….to know that there was an audience out there in the literary world that cared about their life aboard Seraffyn, and that the work they were struggling with was indeed worth it. I treasured that letter and my connection with these two people, and in the end, I was very happy that I’d taken the time to write them and to encourage their continued effort to share their story with the rest of us.
The reason this memory came back to me, and I’m writing this now is because at the end of August, I was very sad to read in the NY Times that Larry Parday had died at the age of 80. During his lifetime, he had circumnavigated the world twice on wooden boats he had built, and along with his wife Lin, had told the tail of the life they lived. They were an incredible couple, led an extraordinary life, and were an inspiration to many, including a 26 year old between jobs with a new boat, and a love of a good sea tale!
Thank you Lin and Larry for your spirit of adventure. I hope the warm memory of their shared 55 year adventure will sustain Lin as she moves forward in life. Thank you for living the life many only dream about, and for connecting with me all those many years ago via that thin air mail stationary that contained your kind words of thanks. I have never forgotten you, or your letter!
Fair Winds and Following Seas sir, and thank you for sharing a life well lived with us!
As we get older, we lose many things that hold importance to us.It may be a favorite restaurant, a store we loved, a house we lived in, or even a car.In the same way, as we get older, we lose people that have places of importance in our lives.I’ve lost my Mom and Dad, my Father-in-Law, Aunts and Uncles, Friends, and people I’ve worked with.Today, another person joins those ranks, as last night in Florida, Dan Ingram died at the age of 83. If that name means nothing to you, then you didn’t grow up in and around NYC, or you’re not one of my radio friends.You see, Dan was the afternoon DJ on America’s Most Listened to Radio Station, Musicradio 77 WABC, and is counted by most as one of a handful of the best DJs in America during the era of Top 40 Radio.
I was fortunate that my first 6 years at WABC were the last 6 years of Musicradio.Most afternoons of those 6 years, I could be found on the board in WABC’s Studio 8A, working on Dan’s Show. Those 6 years were the best of the 40 I spent at WABC, in no small part because of my experiences during those afternoons I spent with Dan. The lessons I learned, the laughs we had, and being accepted as a part of Dan’s life, are memories I will treasure forever!
Four years ago, when I started my Radio Stories blog, one of the first stories I wrote was about Dan.Copied below is that edition of, It’s Better Than Working For A Living:
“Radio Stories….Dan Ingram – August 18, 2014
I have been very fortunate in the 42 years that I have been an Engineer in New York Radio to work with some of the very best people in the business. In fact, if I started a list of the DJs, talk hosts, and programmers I’ve been lucky enough to work with, and for, it would be a “Who’s Who” list of the best in New York Radio over the past 40 years. While I’m telling stories here, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about some of these great pros. So here goes…… Might as well start with someone who most folks would have at the top of their Top 10 lists of all time great DJs, and that would be Dan Ingram.
Like most kids who grew up in the New York area, I had listened to Dan a lot since he started at WABC in July of 1961. The first time I met Dan as a WABC employee, was probably the second week I worked at WABC, in August of 1976. Like most new hires in the Engineering Department back then, I started on the overnight. It was slower and easier to get your feet wet in the middle of the night, and since you were still working on the air at WABC and WPLJ and doing news production, you got exposed to everything that a Group 2 NABET engineer would do on the 8th floor. Working on the overnight was also a way to size up the new hires, and to make sure they were solid enough to work the rest of the day parts. After a couple of days on the overnight, I started slowly moving around the day parts until about 7 or 8 days into my time at WABC, I found myself working with my training engineer on Dan’s show. On the day I started at WABC (Sunday, August 8, 1976), they started destructing Studio 8A, the main air studio to build a new studio, and we were working out of Studio 8B which Dan and others called “the trailer”. That’s because it was the same length as 8A, but was only about one quarter of the width. So anyway, I had just finished up working an hour or so with Ron Lundy with good results, so it’s decided I’m going to stay on the board. In the last record of the hour, Ron packs up his gear and Dan comes in, and just before he sits, he extends his right hand across the over bridge and says, “Hi, I’m Dan Ingram” to which I reply, “I know”. Snappy come back, huh?
One of my Dan Ingram stories happened 4 years before that fateful day, when I first met him in 1976. In the spring of 1972, I got hired in my first NY Radio job as an audio engineer at WHN radio, and after initial training, most days I worked the afternoon shift, which started at 4 PM. As I wasn’t that far out of college yet, a lot of days I would spend the morning and early afternoons out at WCWP, the CW Post radio station. A little before 2, I’d hop into the car and drive into Queens to take the subway to WHN at 400 Park Avenue. Well of course, even though I worked at WHN, my car radio was set to WABC and I’d get to listen to 30 or 40 minutes of Dan’s show before I got to the subway in Forest Hills. As always, Dan had some funny comment about the titles of the songs he played, often times a change of meaning from what the song writer had in mind. So I’d listen to Dan on the way to work, and then later that same day, I’d be on the air with Jack Spector at WHN. During the first 6 months or so I worked at WHN, we played a kind of middle of the road soft WNEW type format, and some of the new records we played were the exact same records that were being played on WABC. Many times Jack Spector would schedule a record that I’d just heard Dan talk up on my way into the city. Unconsciously, I’d hit Jack with the comment that Dan had made in his intro, and on many occasions what I’d just said would come out of Jack’s mouth as he introed the song! I realized that I was the unintentional vehicle through which Jack Spector was stealing from Dan Ingram, which caused me to stop listening to Dan on my way to work! Luckily, less than 6 months after I started at WHN, we flipped to a country format, so that issue no longer existed, and I was back to listening to Dan on my way to work! As far as I know, no one but me ever realized what was happening….
On July 3rd, 1981 Dan Ingram celebrated his 20th Anniversary on WABC, and I, along with George Musgrave, were the two guys scheduled to engineer the show, and I even got a shout out when he was on the air with Cuzin Brucie! WABC News Man Rick James had done a lot of prep on things that had happened in the world during the 20 years, plus we had audio clips of highlights of his past 20 years at WABC, lots of phone guests scheduled, and a big selection of the music that Dan had played during the 20 years. We had a great time that afternoon, enhanced I’m sure because that July 3rd was a Friday, and a company holiday because July 4th fell on a Saturday that year, and WABC was empty! (Yes….remember back to the days that even big stars like Dan Ingram worked 6 day weeks and holidays?). The show was a wonderful look back at Dan’s career at WABC and how he got there, but it was also a great look back at the history of one of the world’s greatest radio stations, Musicradio 77 WABC! There was the British Invasion, the W A Beatle C period, the great DJs like Cuzin Brucie and Scott Muni, transit strikes, snow storms, black outs, old jingles and the music. We had a great afternoon, and really, a party on the air. and in 8A, as the only people on the floor, were the operations folks that day. Little did we know that by the next July, WABC Musicradio would be replaced by WABC Talkradio, and our time working with the likes of Dan Ingram would be over!
20 years later, on July 3rd, 2001, on the 40th Anniversary of his debut on WABC, Dan was a guest on WABC’s John Gambling Show, which I was also the engineer for. I talked to Dan on the phone that day just before he went on the air, and it was fun to let him know about that little bit of trivia that I’d engineered both his 20th anniversary AND his 40th anniversary on WABC!
Of course, what everybody remembers about Dan was the Ingram wit. Even if you didn’t get to listen to his whole show, catching the show open and the show close became the first instance of appointment radio for many in the New York Metropolitan area! He was a fast thinker and a funny thinker, and much of what came out of his mouth was not planned, and certainly not scripted. Take his closes for instance. During the 6 years I worked with him, often times I’d be on the board as his close approached. A lot of days he’d be looking for a topic to have fun with over this closing music, and I was lucky enough to have a suggestion that he liked, and was the beneficiary of several Ingram closes. Like in 1977, when I was still a VR and got a letter in mid December that I was to be laid off on Christmas Eve…that became an Ingram close. Or the day after Thanksgiving one year, when driving into the ABC Building, I hit a pot hole on the LIE and lost a wheel cover…that became an Ingram close. Or on September 29th, 1980, when I told him that a year ago we’d both been at my wedding….Susie and my first anniversary became an Ingram close that day!
Funny things just came out of Dan’s mouth and they did it with very little effort, and once they were out, they were forgotten…like his intro from Neil Diamond’s Holly Holy, which I remember him subtitling on the radio, as “The story of a religious carburetor”. Anytime I hear that record I remember that phrase, and so in 1980 I’m sitting on the board in 8A, and Dan puts Holly Holy on the overbridge as the next record to play, and I say, “Oh, the story of a religious carburetor”. Dan says to me, “Hey, I like that. Can I use it on the air?” To which I replied, “Why not…I stole it from you a long time ago!” Dan didn’t have a set of cue cards, or a reference library that he’d go back to, or a Rolodex loaded with his best lines. He was funny, and once he said something that many of us will always remember, it was out of his head! I will remember this line for the rest of my life, but on that day in 1980 when I said it back to him, he had no clue that it had originated with him!
The last time I saw Dan was on a dinner cruise WABC sponsored to mark the 25th Anniversary of switching from music to talk in 2007. It had been a long time since we sat across the board from each other in Studio 8A at the ABC Building and I went up to him and said, “Mr. Ingram, I don’t know if you remember me. I’m Frank D’Elia and I used to be your Engineer at WABC.” Not only did he remember, me but said something that I will always treasure. “Frank”, he said, “you were one of the smartest engineers I ever worked with. I had no idea why you were doing the job, but I know that every time you walked through the door into 8A, I was happy you were.” Yea, nice to know that the best DJ most of us will ever get to hear, thought I was one of the best engineers he’d ever worked with. I’ll take that!
Listen to a couple of classic Dan Ingram show closes that I was involved in:
After this was posted 4 years ago, my friend Dan Taylor from WCBS-FM made sure that Dan saw the blog.I got a lovely email back from Dan, telling me he loved the post, and still had fond memories of our time together at WABC.Thanks Dan, for facilitating one more Dan Ingram thrill!
If you’ll indulge me a little more, I’d like to share a couple of other stories.
One afternoon, working the 4-Midnight shift, I was assigned to 8A from 4:15 to the end of Dan’s Show.Being blessed with the ability to sense the vibes of a room when I walked in, I knew something was not right.After I relieved the other Engineer, I asked Dan what was up.“The damn transmitter keeps dumping”, he replied.I knew that having the WABC Transmitter repeatedly dump during the Dan Ingram Show was definitely not something that ABC wanted, and I understood Dan’s pissed off attitude.We played a couple of songs, and the transmitter continued to dump and come back.As we approached a spot break I asked him, “do you want to not play the commercials?”Figuring that if the transmitter dumped during a spot, we’d owe that client a make good.Dan’s reply…”Fuck Em…Play the spots.Nobody gives a damn, till you start costing them money”.I can not tell you how many times in my 40 years at WABC I repeated that sage advice to younger members of the staff, courtesy of Dan Ingram!
During the time I worked with Dan, I was pleased to have him share several personal moments with us. Dan was at our wedding when Susie and I got married, and at several parties we had at our home. At one of our parties, he came with his then current wife, who was somewhat younger than Dan.Another guest at that party, was my friend Louie Perianno, who I worked with at WHN, who was a HUGE Dan Ingram fan!He made me promise to introduce him to Dan, and I assured him I would.One problem when you are a radio person and go to a party with other radio folks, is your significant other ends up having nobody to talk to.Lou’s wife Susie was in that situation, and hooked up with another woman about her age, who said that her husband worked with me at WABC, and found herself in a similar situation. After talking for sometime, the woman’s husband returned and his wife introduced him to Susie, and the three of them continued their conversation.When Louie returned, it was Susie Perianno and not me, who introduced Louie to his idol, Dan Ingram!Dan was a regular guy, who liked to have a good time!
Like the Christmas Eve a couple of years ago, when George Michael died, I am torn today between being sad, and being happy for the memories I have of working with someone who wasacknowledged as one of the best DJs of all time, and who thought I was pretty special too!I’ve often said that everybody in radio has an ego, and to be Dan Ingram, you had to have a huge one. But his was not a destructive ego, it was an ego that embraced those of us who worked with him, and who were accepted into his group of favorite folks to work with.The six years I was lucky enough to work at Musicradio 77 WABC were the best of my 40 at WABC, and I will never forget them.
As I said on Facebook someplace today, the great thing about memories is that nobody in them gets old.For me, I will always remember my friend Dan Ingram, during the late 70s and early 80s at WABC…The Most Listened to Station in the Nation!!Thank you Dan for all you did for radio, for all the folks you influenced to have a career in the business, and for being my friend!I will always love you!God Speed my friend!Heaven’s radio station, just got a whole lot better today!!
Welcome to Darien, Georgia! We traveled through North Carolina, South Carolina, into Georgia today. The day started cloudy and then the rains came, and that was with us for the first half of our journey. By the time we finished today’s 425 miles, and pulled into tonight’s Quality Inn, we’d made a stop at Georgia Peach World to buy some Peach products, the sun was shining and the temperature was in the high 70s! As I said yesterday, we’ll follow the sun. While Darien is like so many other towns along I-95, this is not our first visit here. Let me tell you about the first time we stopped in Darien.
Shortly after I retired from WABC at the end of January, 2016, we came up with the idea to head down and see a couple of the Met’s SpringTraining games in Florida. We figured it would be a good way to get away from the cold for a couple of weeks, and along the way, I could use my Disney Retiree Benefits (there will definitely be more about those in future posts). So without any particular plan, we left Long Island, and ended up stopping after dark, somewhere in Virginia. When we woke with snow blowing under the door, into the room the next morning, we decided that we’d stop earlier the next day.
A Comfort Inn in Darien, Georgia, stopping long before dark, was our destination for day two of our journey. As we usually did, we made a couple of drinks, and sat down to try and figure out where to have dinner. We’d passed a Ruby Tuesday as we got off I-95, plus there were a lot of fast food choices between the highway and our hotel, so it looked like we had lots to pick from.
We were in the middle of our research, when I got a Facebook message with a recommendation for us. I’d worked with WABC Account Executive Abe Goren for years, till he retired a couple of years before I did. We’d had hours of conversations over the years, and how could I not love a friend who in my 60s, still called me “kid”. Abe said he’d seen on Facebook that we were in Darien, and if we wanted a great fried shrimp dinner, we needed to go to B & J’s Steaks and Seafood. We found it on the map, and took Abe’s advice.
We followed the directions and found ourselves in an industrial area, where everything was closed for the day. Then, up ahead, we saw a low building surrounded by cars. Yep, this was the place. It was small, the parking lot was crowded, and we had a substantial wait for a table. Turned out, it was well worth it. We had the most incredible fried shrimp dinner we have ever had. Fresh, perfectly cooked, incredible portions, at a great price! It was a real down home place, and one we promised ourselves we’d be back at again!
So, last year, when we again headed to Florida, guess where we spent night two? Yep, in Darien, Georgia, so we could once again eat at B&J’s Steak and Seafood, and have the most memorable plate full of shrimp!! I thanked Abe once again for the recommendation, and he told me that their fried chicken was as good as their shrimp. So guess what…day two of this year’s trip to Florida, and we’re once again staying in Darien! We decided to go early tonight as it’s a Saturday. There were people all over the place, we put our name in at 4:45 and they called us at 6:26. They were busy!
The parking lot was full, as were the benches!
Was it worth it? Oh yea! Take a look, and see what you think!
Oh, and by the way…guess where we’re stopping in early March on the way back north. Perhaps we’ll be able to order the fried chicken this time!
Susie and I woke in Nancy and Mike’s bedroom a little after 7, and decided to catch a shower before starting our day. We exited the bedroom a little after 8, and went outside to sit in the beautiful Texas morning with Mike. The weather was perfect, and we talked about the kind of weather, and seasons they experienced in El Paso. Mike told us about the 9 inch snow fall they’d had last year, and about the cold mornings and warm afternoons, that were the norm for winter in El Paso. Pretty soon Nancy joined us, and when it was established that nobody really wanted breakfast, we sat around for a couple of hours, talking.
I’m not quite sure what Nancy and Susie were talking about, but Mike and I talked a lot about the old days at WABC, and about things we both remembered happening when we worked there, and how retirement was going. We also had lots of discussions that the 4 of us participated in, talking about kids, life expectations, travel, and just about everything that came into anyone’s mind. Then Nancy suggested that we take a ride and let them show us around El Paso. Sounded like a good idea, so we all grabbed what we needed, and headed out to the car.
By this time (around noon) the temperature had risen, and I’m not going to say it wasn’t hot, but the lack of humidity does make it a lot easier to take than a hot day in New York! We drove through their part of town (they live on the West Side of El Paso), and they showed us some incredible houses, and great views. Then we went past the University, and saw some of downtown El Paso. The Rocky Mountains, that we drove over three weeks ago, and that have been so much a part of our travels since then, end in El Paso, and as we drove up Rim Road, around the very end of the chain, we had some great views of the city below, and views across the Rio Grand into Mexico.
The Southern End of the Rockies
It’s amazing to be so close to Mexico, and to stop at a scenic overlook, and clearly see the tall fence that separates our country from their’s. We also saw the Border Patrol Agent that sits there all day (and probably night) in his car, watching for folks that might be trying to get over the approx. 10 foot tall fence! The difference between what you see on the US side of the border, and what of Mexico you can see are quite a contrast. Big buildings, highways, and lots of cars on the US side, and small buildings and what looked liked dirt roads on the Mexican side.
After our tour, the decision was made to go out for lunch, and then to just have some sandwiches at their house for dinner. We decided to go the PF Changs , and the four of us had a very nice meal, and of course, lots more conversation. Then it was time to get back to the house, so that Nancy could drop of Mike and me, so she could take off with Susie. You see, Nancy had been able to score a 4 PM appointment with her hairdresser, to get Susie a trim, and thereby solving a dilemma Susie had, about what to do about her hair on the trip. After the girls left, Mike and I sat down in the living room, and guess what…we talked some more! Like I said yesterday, it’s like the past 30+ years that we haven’t been in contact, hadn’t happened, and it was just two old friends talking about anything and everything!
When the girls returned (lovely hair Susie…nice job Nancy), Mike again started up the blender, and there were more margaritas on the horizon. This time, the four of us sat in their back yard, and although it was warmer than it had been that morning, it was still a really nice late afternoon. We sat there talking (gee…big surprise, huh?) till Mother Nature treated us to a beautiful sunset, and then Nancy decided it was time to eat.
What a great idea, to have a nice lunch and then eat a sandwich later. Really something we should do more often. Thanks Nancy for coming up with the idea, and supplying great sandwich fixings to boot! After dinner clean up, the four of us adjourned to their lovely living room, and the conversation continued till about 11, when we all went off to bed!
When we got up and out this morning, Mike was alone, as Nancy and Sammy had journeyed to the Dog Park, and some fun for the four legged kids, and conversation for their Moms. No strangers to conversation, we joined Mike in the back yard, and converse we did! When Nancy got home, she proceeded to assemble a great ham and egg breakfast for us all, and over good food, with good friends, we had more great conversation. As our time with our friends came close to ending, we realized that it really didn’t matter if we did big things, went for a ride, or just sat around their pool. The conversation flowed, and it was obvious the four of us were very comfortable, and frankly, that’s something that doesn’t always happen. Susie and I are so glad that we reconnected with Nancy and Mike, so glad that they asked us to stay with them, and so happy to find that a great relationship still exists!
It was with much sadness that we left their house, and it was with lots of hugs, promises to stay in better touch with each other, and the hope of Susie and I, that our two good friends can journey to Ocean City, and be our guests at the beach next summer. I’m sure that if this two days proved anything, next time we all get together, there will be lots of great conversation!
So off we went to Interstate 10, and the 4 hour or so trip to where we find ourselves tonight, Fort Stockton, Texas. Our whole trip was on Interstate 10, and at first we thought we were looking at a 5 hour trip, but then realized that before we got to Fort Stockton, we passed another time zone, Right now we are back on the Central Time, so suddenly we lost an hour of our day. The advantage we had of gaining that hour, when we crossed into a new time zone from east to west, is evaporating as we go back east, and very quickly it was 6:30 PM! Susie had planned to do some laundry tonight, and we were fortunate again that the facility was on our floor. The only problem was that as the washing and drying went on, the time got later. Our solution tonight? Well, as the drying cycle was in progress, we ran out to a McDonalds that was down the road, and picked up Two All Beef Patties, Special Sauce, Lettuce, Cheese, Pickles, Onions, on a Sesame Seed Bun. Yes, two Big Macs! We wondered if anyone not our age can recite that jingle? Not a gourmet meal, but something we haven’t had in months, that was quick, and satisfying. Had we waited till after the clothes were dry, we probably wouldn’t have gotten to a restaurant till after 8, so this worked tonight for us!
As I write this, it’s after 10 PM, but since we just changed from Mountain to Central time, its not that late for us. The good news is that I’m all caught up, and back on track with the blog. That’s good, but as we ship out on the Liberty of the Seas a week from tomorrow for 2 weeks, I realize it won’t be the last interruption of this blog before we drive back to New York. Still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do, but fear there will be an interruption again, but as that’s still 7 days away, let’s just have fun in the present, and not worry about it.
Tomorrow we start 3 nights in San Antonio. The River Walk, the Alamo, and a fun time for all…I hope! See you tomorrow!
If you have been following along faithfully, back on Wednesday, when I posted Day Thirty Two, I mentioned at the end of the blog, that we were staying with our friends Nancy and Mike in El Paso, Texas for the next two nights, and there might be limited internet access. Well, there was, but not like we had limited internet in Yellowstone…this time we were just having too much fun to worry about a blog. More on that later!
We woke on day 33 in Roswell, New Mexico, having not been abducted or in any way harmed by aliens. I guess it must be a lot of BS, because the only aliens we saw were pictured on the advertising signs of various businesses on the main street! We were staying in a brand new, and beautiful Comfort Suites, and although the room was lovely, the breakfast room left a lot to be desired. The chairs looked like they had been through years of service, and were covered with butter, cream cheese, and other stains we didn’t want to think about. We couldn’t help but wonder why such a beautiful, new, and generally well appointed hotel, had chairs that looked like they’d been through the mill! Oh well, perhaps they ran out of money!
The day started after leaving the hotel with a stop for at a self-service car wash, for a quick cleaning of the outside of the car (you’ll see how useless that was), and then to fill the Sonata up with gas. After those two brief stops, we were out of town, and on our way to White Sands National Monument.
The drive was more up and down, and at one point Susie was driving and exclaimed, “Are we ever going to stop climbing?” The next thing we passed was a sign stating Elevation 8300 feet! We continued on our way, on a rather unremarkable road towards White Sands. One interesting thing was a sign we passed on Route 70. White Sands National Monument is a small part of the White Sands Missile Range, and when they do tests at the range, they close the road so no one is close to where perhaps there could be debris, should something go wrong. It is a test, after all!
We drove a little more on 70, and came to the White Sands National Monument. We went into the Visitor’s Center, looked at the exhibits, and watched a movie. I have to say, that it was’t the best Visitor Center we’ve seen, and the bathrooms were way below the usual, US Park Services usual condition and cleanliness standards, but they did serve their purpose. Then we headed towards the 17 mile Loop Drive.
My first disappointment, when we pulled up to the entrance station was that IT WASN’T MANNED! Damn..no one to show my Senior Pass to! The second disappointment, was the first 2 or 3 miles of the Loop. We were driving at 45 MPH through low vegetation, and although you could see that the “ground” under the vegetation was white, I thought, “Is this all there is?” Well, it turned out that it wasn’t! Very soon, we came to a sign that said Pavement Ends..drive with caution! The text thing we knew, were were driving on the sand, and it was truly a magical world we had entered!
For folks like us from the North East, for all practical purposes, it looked like snow! So white and pristine, it looked like that first drive you take after the snow stops, and before the the beautiful white snow turns dirty and gray! Not only did it look like snow, but it was very obvious that they plow the “road” to keep it open! The thing that really didn’t track with what you were seeing, was the folks out and about were in shorts and t-shirts! Well, it may have looked like snow, but it was 94 degrees at the time, so even dressed as they were, I’m sure they were hot! Of course, you’re driving on sand, so that car wash I did in Roswell was $2.75 ill spent! Of well, who knew exactly what we were going to see?
After that it was time to head south, out of New Mexico and into the great state of Texas. We drove into it late in the afternoon of Thursday, September 22nd, and the Sonata will live in Texas till at least October 17th (I say the Sonata, because for two weeks from October 2nd till the 16th, Susie and I will be in the Caribbean on the Liberty of the Seas, but the Sonata will still be in Texas waiting for us). We exited New Mexico, after 5 nights, at Las Cruces on Interstate 25, heading to El Paso, and our friend’s Nancy and Mike’s house!
The Mike I’m talking about is Mike McKay, who was one of the last DJs on Musicradio 77, WABC in the early 80s. Mike and I worked together a lot, both doing music shows, doing field interviews (our notorious Kenny Rogers interview at the Meadowlands), and baby sitting the NY Yankees games on WABC. When the station went talk, Mike stayed on to do Staff Announcer work (commercials, promos, etc), but he had gotten in radio to be the guy on the air, and he left to pursue that. In the years since WABC, Mike, his wife Nancy, and their daughter Erin have lived the “itinerant DJ life” (Mike’s words), Working in places like Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, Detroit, as Mike plied his craft as a DJ, and 19 years ago, they landed in El Paso. He first worked at KSET-FM, and later KOFX-FM, and in 2004, Mike became a part owner and Morning Show Host on 101 Gold, just up the road in Las Cruces. That’s what he did, till he retired earlier this year.
We followed the GPS as it took us off the interstate, through commercial areas of El Paso, into their neighborhood, and I will admit that Susie and I had a little trepidation. We hadn’t seen Mike and Nancy for over 30 years, and although they had graciously insisted that we cancel our hotel reservation, and stay with them for 2 nights, we wondered how comfortable the 4 of us would be together (they probably wondered the same thing). We pulled into they driveway, got out of the car, and as we headed towards their front door, the first member of the family we met was Sammy, their adorable little dog, who had hopped out of his doggy door, and came to greet us!
We rang the doorbell and Nancy and Mike came and greeted us. Handshakes and hugs were exchanged (Mike and I hugged, while Nancy and Susie shook hands), and they invited us inside. The first thing that happened was we got a tour of their lovely house, found out that they were giving us their bedroom for the two nights, and then Mike started the blender and whipped up frozen margaritas. This relationship showed great promise. Drinks in hand, we adjourned to their lovely backyard, which has a pool and ultimate privacy. In minutes, it was like the last 30+ plus years had not happened, and we were all much younger, having fun in their old house in Malvern, Long Island! At one point, Nancy and Mike went in separate directions to make dinner preparations, and Susie looked at me and said, “this is good…very good.”, and it was.
We had our first home cooked meal in close to 5 weeks (Filet Mignon, Twice Baked Potatoes, Broccoli, and Bernaise sauce for the steaks), and it was a wonderful night of food, conversation, and great friendship (and semi frozen Margaritas). We sat around the dining room table talking till almost midnight, when the 4 of us realized we’d better get to bed. As our heads hit the pillows, and we drifted off to sleep, we had visions of a wonderful day with Nancy and Mike. Stay tuned for Day Thirty Four, and more of our adventure in El Paso!
So, as we say good-bye to our second full day at Walt Disney World, I have to admit that I am conflicted. On one hand, I have a strong hatred towards Disney/ABC, because 8 years ago, CEO Bob Iger (himself a product of the American Broadcasting Company), decided that ABC Radio was not a core business of the Disney Company. That started a chain of events that saw WABC and all the ABC O&O radio stations, as well as the ABC Radio Network, being sold to Citadel Broadcasting. After spending 2.7 Billion Dollars for us, Citadel ultimately went bankrupt, which then saw Cumulus Media “merging” with the bankrupt Citadel. That meant we now worked for Cumulus, a company run by two brothers who ultimately burdened Cumulus with so much debt, that the stock dropped to pennies, and is now in jeopardy of being delisted by the stock exchange. Can you say history being repeated? So, the last 8 years have not been kind to WABC, many of the people who were a part of our work family, and my personal sanity.
Now on the other hand, 8 years ago, when Disney decided to send the ABC Radio stations into oblivion, I had worked for the company long enough that I was able to “retire”. That meant that although I would continue to work for WABC for 8 more years, I was able to start collecting my ABC/NABET pension, and was considered on the books as an official Disney Retiree.
And what does that mean, you may ask. Well, it means that as a Disney Retiree, Susie and I have a lifetime Main Gate Pass.. That means that we can get 4 people into any of the parks around the world for free! Yes, I said for free! It also means that we can reserve a room at a Disney property for half off the going rate. Right now, we are staying the Port Orleans French Quarter for a rate that is comparable to staying at a Best Western on the side of an interstate anywhere else in Florida. But wait, I’m not done yet…as they like to say on infomercials. Then there are the discounts. At present, we get 35% off merchandise, which makes ridiculously priced Disney items reasonable (like a $49.99 sweat shirt really being $35) and 20% off food items at many restaurants. Sweet deal, huh?
So, as we go through the parks, see things at our resort, and once again realize how well Disney does most things relating to their customers, I am conflicted. Do I hate them for the last 8 years? For the jackasses that they saddled us with, for the rotten things that happened to so many friends, and for the joke they made my radio station into? That’s surely one way to go. Or, on the other hand, do I revel in the fact that I am a Disney Retiree, and have a lifetime of great memories to be made, thanks to the retiree benefits the Disney Company has bestowed on me by virtue of the fact that they bought the American Broadcasting Company?
Well, like the year that Bobbie died on Dallas, the TV show, only to comeback the next year (after working out a contract) and tell the viewers that the preceding season of the show was a looooong dream, my plan is to forget the last 8 years, and to play the part of a Disney/ABC retiree. If anyone asks me, I have just retired after working for 40 years for ABC. Citadel, Cumulus…what are they? Way back in 1976, I started working for the American Broadcasting Company, and as an official Disney/ABC retiree, I’m just going to figure that’s the company I retired from in 2016. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it! The last 8 years were just a bad dream sequence!