Friday, December 19, 2014

On Flying Home for Christmas:
An American Airlines Misadventure

Dear Once-Valued Airline,

I must be getting old.  I can remember the days when American Airlines went the extra mile to make its fliers happy.   I was on one flight where the pilot announced that there would be a short delay:  they were waiting for passengers to arrive from connecting flights.  He told us how many passengers they were expecting, and even where they were coming from.  Neither I or the other passengers already on board minded the delay.  And the late-arriving passengers were thankful for the extra courtesy extended to them.

My have times changed!

My daughter Anita, and her four children (ages nine, eight, five and two),  two dogs and one cat,  recently moved back to Florida from Texas.   Her husband died last July, and she wanted to be closer to family.  But instead of driving cross-country, she thought it would be less stressful if her and the kids and the dogs and the cat all flew, and Grandma and Grandpa met them at the airport.   I couldn't come out to help her move because the West Texas cold and dust nearly did me in two years ago.  On Christmas Day, 2012, her husband Jamie sat on his couch and cried because I was dying. Now I am the one who's crying.

When my daughter booked her flights, she noticed there was only a forty-minute window before the departure of her connecting flight at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.  But American Airlines assured her that she and her four children, two dogs, and one cat would have no trouble getting to her connecting flight on time.

The trouble began when she arrived at the airport in Midland, Texas.  She forgot the car seats for her two younger children in the car (Grandma bought replacements).  Then it took an hour and a half to process the pets.  When she finally boarded the plane,  an American Eagle, she could hear Shae, her border collie/husky breed, barking up a storm in the baggage hold.  She wasn't going to bring Shae to Florida, but her oldest son Dylan didn't want to lose another part of his family.

Shae kept on barking.  The aircrew told my daughter they'd keep Shae on the plane; but, because of her aggressive behavior,  they couldn't guarantee she'd be accepted on the connecting flight at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.  So Shae stayed in Midland, and a friend returned to the airport to pick her up.

My daughter's flight departed Midland sixteen minutes late.  And when she finally arrived at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport,  it seemed to take forever for her and the four kids to get off the plane.  Her connecting flight was at another terminal, and it took six stops on the Skylink, and a mad dash to the gate to get to the plane on time. But they were one minute too late, arriving nine minutes before scheduled takeoff time.   American Airlines, as per normal procedures, closed the gate ten minutes prior to scheduled takeoff time.  But her baggage, one dog, and one cat, made it to the airplane on time, and arrived in Tampa eight hours before she and the kids did.

Instead of departing Dallas/Fort Worth Airport at 12:30 pm on Dec 16th,  my daughter and her four children spent eight hours in the terminal, and finally departed Dallas/Fort Worth at 8:40 pm that night.   They arrived at Tampa Airport dog-tired right around midnight.

It was a long stressful day for both her and the kids, which could explain why one of the kids left her Kindle Fire HD on the airplane, and another left his Nintendo DS on the airplane.  A call to American Airlines Lost and Found proved fruitless.  But someone surely had a nice Christmas.

It will be a merry but melancholy Christmas for all of us, but the kids are happy to be with Grandma and Grandpa.  I'm just sorry my daughter had such a bad experience with American Airlines.

If I could make one Christmas wish for other passengers, I wish American Airlines would return to the days when they really cared, and monitored passengers from connecting flights.    Then and only then could airline employees say:

Merry Christmas to All!
And To All, 
A Good Flight!

Your Once-Valued Flier,
Jerry Morris

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Night I Beat Up Johnny Polovoy

There was a popular song by Jimmy Dean in the early 60s named "Big John." We had a "Big John" in our neighborhood: Johnny Polovoy. He wasn't six foot six. But he surely weighed 245. And it was all muscle.

One night Dennis Werner and I went to the ball field by 159th Street looking for the rest of our friends. We found Tony Induisi laying on the infield between home plate and the pitcher's mound. I should say we "heard" Tony. Johnny Polovoy was sitting on top of him. Tony was screaming bloody murder.

Dennis yelled, "leave him alone!"

Johnny just laughed and seemed to be contemplating which hand to hit Tony with first. He never got the chance. I pushed him off of Tony.

Johnny rolled over on his back and promptly passed out. He was so drunk I could have pushed him off Tony with one finger.

After I got home that night, my brother Joe gave me a look I had never seen before and said, "I heard you beat up Johnny Polovoy."

I didn't know what to say. I briefly basked in the glory of the new-found respect my older brother had for me. But then I got to thinking: Johnny is gonna want a rematch!

I stayed home for three days feigning the stomach ache I knew I would have after Johnny got through with me. Finally, I ventured outside. And who was the first person I ran into? Johnny Polovoy!

"Oh shit!"

"Hail Mary, full of grace..." –– that's Catholic lingo for "Help me, Mary!"

My mind says "run!" But my feet won't move. Johnny draws closer to me.

"Our Father who art in heaven..." –– that's Catholic lingo for "Extreme Unction!"

I don't remember much after that. I may have pleaded for mercy, cried, begged, crawled –– I don't know.

But I know Johnny never laid a hand on me. He just smiled and walked right past me. I could have hugged him. But then he surely would have hit me! Big Bad John!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Loves Me, Loves Me Not

When I was a little boy, my mother used to take me to the barber shop next to Paley's Drug Store on Rockaway Blvd.  "Hold his head still," the barber would complain to my mother as she stood next to the barber chair.  I didn't like that barber.  And he certainly didn't like to give haircuts to little boys. When I was old enough to cross the street on my own, I went to Joe's Barber Shop next to the A&P on the other side of Rockaway Blvd.

There were really two Joes at Joe's Barber Shop, and neither one had any problems cutting my hair.  The older Joe had gray hair and a gray mustache.  He looked old, especially to a young kid like me. It was in the late 1950s, so I guess I was around eight or nine years old, and he was probably near sixty.  The younger Joe had shiny black hair and was probably in his late twenties.  The older Joe smoked a lot.  The younger Joe talked a lot.  The older Joe just grunted.

Mr. O'Malley was one of the younger Joe's steady customers.  He was older than the older Joe.  Looking back, I'd say he was already retired.  Every time I went to Joe's Barber Shop, Mr. O'Malley was already there sitting in a chair next to his wife, waiting his turn.  I didn't mind waiting because it gave me more time to read the current issues of Look Magazine and Life Magazine.

Mr. O'Malley and the younger Joe always had lively conversations about politics and the world  –– conversations which probably began as soon as Mr. O'Malley walked through the door, and continued until the younger Joe said, "Okay, Mr. O'Malley, it's your turn." And the younger Joe continued talking while he cut Mr. O'Malley's hair.

Mrs. O'Malley sat waiting in her chair, in her winter coat, with a kerchief tied under her chin.  She never said a word.  She just smiled.  The older Joe just grunted.  Me?  I had my head buried in the magazines.

"Okay, Mr. O'Malley.  You have a nice day," the younger Joe always said as he finished cutting Mr. O'Malley's hair.  Mrs. O'Malley would then reach into her pocket book, pull out her small purse, walk up to the younger Joe, and put just the right amount of coins in his waiting hand one at a time.  Mrs. O'Malley would then pull out an extra coin, and with an even bigger smile, place it in the younger Joe's hand.

"Why thank you Mrs. O'Malley," the younger Joe would say. And both O'Malleys would beam, and walk out the door.

One day Mrs. O'Malley  reached in her pocketbook and her small purse wasn't there.  She searched inside the pockets of her winter coat.  Her smile disappeared.  And she spoke the first words I ever heard her say, "Oh dear!"

"Pay me the next time you come in," the younger Joe said.  But Mr. O'Malley would have none of that.  He insisted on staying until Mrs. O'Malley walked all the way home and returned with the money to pay for his haircut.

Mrs. O'Malley had a long walk ahead of her.  She had to cross Rockaway Blvd., walk down half of 157th Street and then down 156th Street to her house, and then back again.  It seemed to take forever.

Mr. O'Malley was clearly uncomfortable.  The younger Joe tried to engage him in more conversation, but all Mr. O'Malley would do was grunt and look sad.

"Are you okay Mr. O'Malley?" the younger Joe asked.  In the mirror, he could see tears running down Mr. O'Malley's face.

"She's not coming back.  She doesn't love me anymore," Mr. O'Malley muttered.  The younger Joe looked bewildered.  For the first time ever, he didn't know what to say.

"Look!  There she is!" the younger Joe said.  He pointed out the window!  Mrs. O'Malley was walking up 157th Street!

Not believing the younger Joe, Mr. O'Malley got up from his chair, looked out the window, and saw his wife struggling valiantly up the street.  With tears still running down his cheeks, he smiled and said, "she still loves me!"

Thursday, November 26, 2009

On Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day is a day for giving thanks for all the blessings we have received. It is a day for family and friends. It is a day for feasting on turkey, dressing, and everything else that is placed on the table in front of us.

Instead of dishes, my wife would give my brother Joe and I platters so we could fit a little of everything we wanted on one plate. Sometimes, we would still come back for more. We would then sit in the recliners, watch about five minutes of football, and then promptly fall asleep.

My brother died of a heart attack in 2000.

Thanksgiving Day is also a day for remembering our departed loved ones.

Jerry Morris

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Tommy Conlon Remembers An Old Friend

On September 8th, 2009 Joe Scherer passed away at the age of 61. I had lost contact with Joe for about 20 or so years because he moved to Iowa and I had moved and left no forwarding address. Then Bruce Katt called me and said Joe was visiting his sister on Long Island and found his phone number in the book and paid a visit on him and his wife Andrea. I phoned him on February 10th, 1998, his 50th birthday and we talked for 2 hours and caught up on the past 20 years very quickly. Two week's later, he called me on my 50th birthday and we talked for another 2 hours. We got together for dinner every 2 years or so with Joe and his wife Linda (who was his soul mate). Bruce and his wife and my wife, Laura. In late August, Joe, his wife and 3 family members came to my home and we went out to dinner, (Bruce was away). We did nothing but talk about old times and some of the crazy hings we all did, like hanging out at the bench (road block 145th Ave. & 156th Street) in the freezing cold or driving to Bear Mountain for a cup of coffee, and the time we picked up a hitchhiker who was going to Chicago - we took him to New Jersey (its a good thing we had to go to work the next day or God only knows where we would have driven him!).
We talked about someday getting together with all our old friends. We shook hands and said goodbye. About a week and a half later, Linda called and told me Joe had died that morning. I will miss him dearly, as I know all of you will as well.


Just a few words from me as well:
I didn't know Joe and Linda very long, but felt a connection, perhaps because of how Tom felt about him. I wish you guys could have seen Tom and Joe together - both of their faces lit up like a Christmas Tree especially when talking of the old days when they were young. It was a joy to see. Joe will be sorely missed by all. May God rest his soul.
Laura Conlon

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Old Stoneface: Memories of New York

On this anniversary of 9/11, I want to repost my thoughts, written ten days after 9/11.

Old Stoneface: Memories of New York

In times of grief, I can usually call on Old Stoneface to help get me by. Old Stoneface first appeared in 1968 outside of a church in Pennsylvania. The military pallbearers carried the casket into the church. The rest of the honor guard, myself included, stood at parade rest, outside in our blues, in the freezing cold, staring at the church doors. I thought of the soldier we were honoring: killed in Vietnam. He deserved respect for paying the ultimate sacrifice. I stood taller, staring straight ahead, unblinking and solemn: Old Stoneface.

I was part of the Honor Guard from Stewart Air Force Base, New York, my first base of assignment from technical school, and close to home. New York City was home, Jamaica, New York, to be exact. I grew up close to JFK Airport, back when we used to call it Idlewild Airport. My father was a New York City cop. My Uncle Frank was a New York City cop. My Uncle Mike was a New York City fireman.

My first date was in New York City. I took a girl named Stephanie to Radio City, which I knew was right down the block from the Automat. What I did not know was that there was more than one Automat in New York City. Stephanie wore high heels that day. She got blisters.

I have faint memories of attending a game at Ebbets Field. My brother Joe used to recite the entire Brooklyn Dodgers lineup frontwards and backwards. I remember most of them by position: Roy Campanella, catcher. Gil Hodges, first baseman. Junior Gilliam, second basemen. Pee Wee Reese, shortstop. Don Hoak and Don Zimmer, third basemen. Sandy Amaros, left fielder. Gino Cimolli, right fielder. Duke Snider, centerfielder?

The Duke of Flatbush was somewhere on the playing field, but to a young boy, Mickey Mantle was the center fielder in New York City. Add Willie Mays, another center fielder, and the Duke was a distant third, except in the eyes of my brother Joe.

I have other fond memories of baseball in New York City. I was at Yankee Stadium with my friend Timmy and his sister Kathy when Roger Maris hit his 61st home run. Ten years later I watched the film clip for the first time. I smiled as Maris circled the bases, stepped out of the dugout and then waved to the crowd. The camera circled the stadium, showing the New Yorkers cheering, and zoomed in on two teenagers jumping up and down on their seats as Kathy sat quietly in her seat between us.

I was in New York City when the New York Mets won the World Series in 1969. I was on leave from the Philippines, saw my son for the first time, and took my wife to opening night on Broadway. Three Men On a Horse, the name of the play was. We got off the train from Peekskill at Grand Central when the last out was made, and New York City went wild. I mean wild.

Yes, I have seen New York at its finest. My father worked for New York's Finest. I, Old Stoneface, did not cry at my father's funeral in 1975. I, Old Stoneface, did not cry at my brother's funeral in 2000. Yes, I have seen New York at its most horrible time of late. I picture myself standing at parade rest, outside of the Great Doors of Time, and I, Old Stoneface, can't help but cry.

Jerry Morris,
New Yorker

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Peeping Toms

Sooner or later, every neighborhood has its Peeping Tom. Idlewild had its Peeping Tom in the late 1950s. Sometimes, Peeping Toms never get caught: this one did.

Whenever one of the neighbors on 157th Street spotted the Peeping Tom, it seemed to take forever for the police to show up. When they did, the perp would be long gone. Finally, all the neighbors on the street got together and came up with a plan: Since my father was a cop, they would call him first the next time the Peeping Tom was spotted.

A few nights later, the phone rang. It was one of the neighbors: the Peeping Tom was hiding in the bushes, looking in the window of the house right across the street from us! It was the perfect opportunity for my father to nail the creep; however, my father wasn't home. He was at his favorite hangout, the local beer garden on the corner of Rockaway Blvd. and 158th Street. My mother called him up at the bar, passed on the message, and told my brother and I to stay away from the window. Fat chance!

We saw the Peeping Tom crouching in the bushes. A few minutes later, we saw our father staggering around the corner on his way to apprehend the Peeping Tom. My father was lucky: the Peeping Tom surrendered without a fight.

Thirty years later, when my wife, kids and I were renting a house in the Tampa Bay area, I found myself in a worse predicament than my father was!

At one o-clock in the morning, my teenage daughter woke us up, screaming, "There's a man outside my window!"

I jumped up out of bed, ran out the door, and tried to catch the Peeping Tom. I ran around the entire house, but didn't see him. It was then that I noticed my own predicament: all I had on was an undershirt!

The heck with the Peeping Tom! I was lucky to get back into my house, red-faced, bare-assed and all, without getting arrested for indecent exposure!