Friday, August 30, 2013

My Watergate Summer Link

Forty years ago this Friday afternoon before Labor Day, I was sitting in the third floor newsroom of The New Haven Register trying to finish up my Sunday feature story. I don't recall what it was about, but I do remember suburban editor Larry French calling me over to tell me I had been chosen for a special assignment that could only be done later that afternoon.

It was the summer of the Watergate hearings. Gilda watched most of the hearings as she crocheted a quilt we still have (but hardly ever use). I would watch highlights on the evening news. Folksy Sam Ervin (D-NC) chaired the Senate committee. Sam Dash, whose daughter, Judy, I would work with four years later on Nation’s Restaurant News, served as lead majority counsel of the committee. Howard Baker was the ranking minority senator on the panel. The most vocal and righteously aggrieved Republican was Lowell Weicker, the junior senator from Connecticut.

With Congress in recess, Weicker was back home in Greenwich. At the last moment he agreed to sit for an interview, a personality profile.

The newsroom was mostly depleted by early weekend evacuees. Looking over their options, the top editors chose me, a 24-year-old reporter with barely a year of small town reporting on my résumé.

It was a hot muggy afternoon. I drove my un-airconditioned Chevy Vega down the Merritt Parkway to the Round Hill Road exit, made a few turns, and came to the Weicker estate. An heir to the Squibb pharmaceutical company, Weicker had a stately colonial home which, like my Vega, I soon discovered, lacked air conditioning. No a/c, not even a fan to agitate the dank hot air.

We sat and talked for about an hour in the study. Or maybe it was the living room. I sweat onto the fabric of the couch I sat on. I took pictures of Weicker and his then wife Bunny and one or more of their children walking on the property. 

I remember little about the interview except Weicker’s stern admonishment that no one should seek political gain from service on the Watergate committee. He forcefully asserted he would not run for president.

That was my lead. The front page Sunday story was picked up by the Associated Press. My first national story. Seven years later, reacting to the increasingly conservative tone of his party, Weicker sought the Republican presidential nomination. He did not get it. Ronald Reagan did.

Weicker served in the Senate until 1989, losing his seat to Joseph Lieberman. His liberal leanings led him to leave the GOP.  He was elected governor of Connecticut as an independent in 1990. It was during his first and only term of office that Connecticut enacted a state income tax.

About two years ago one Sunday afternoon, while Gilda and I were enjoying one of the best pizzas anywhere in Sal’s on Wooster Square in New Haven, I noticed Weicker, most probably with his current wife, sitting at one of the tables near the kitchen. I resolved to say hello to him, but didn't want to disturb his meal. As we were sitting near the front door, I decided to wait till he was on his way out. 

The encounter never happened. I didn't realize there was a side door near the kitchen. Weicker had shifted passed me again. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pensions and Peanuts: Too Much of a Good Thing

Under a Breitbart News headline of “Jesse Jackson Jr. to Grab $8,700 Per Month in Disability, Plus Pension in Prison”, a conservative friend sent me the following note,

“So, Jesse Jackson, Jr. 17 year veteran of the US Congress, suddenly gets a "mood disorder" (about the same time he learned he was to be indicted) and is going to prison for 2.5 years. Because his "mood disorder" was so severe, he has become disabled and will receive $8700 per month as a disability payment as well as $45000 a year from his congressional pension (ed.—when he turns 65), a total of about $150K per year. 

“Is this a great country or what?”

My response was, “How come there wasn't any righteous indignation when other congressmen and senators, many from the Republican side of the aisle, were forced to leave Congress and still got their pensions? I agree, it is pathetic that an elected official who violated the law can be entitled to a government pension, but let's be even-handed in who we single out for public contempt. 

“The timing of the disclosure of his "mood disorder" does make one cynical, but there's also a deeper issue involved here. For too many years our culture has not recognized psychological disorders for the illnesses they truly are. One need only look at PDSDs to see that the military's been a Johnny-come-lately to recognizing injuries that do not manifest themselves through the loss of blood. 

“I'm not qualified to say if Jackson Jr. really has a mental condition. I hope he doesn't, because even the receipt of $8,700 a month is small compensation to the trauma such a condition can have on his life and that of his loved ones.” 

More on Peanuts: My recent post on Finley’s reaction to a peanut elicited some quick responses from Gilda and his mother, Allison. Gilda wanted me to correct the record to show she did not recommend a visit to the emergency room, that baby Benadryl was her recommendation after hearing his symptoms which, I failed to initially cite, included hives on his body. Gilda also said Dan was four months old, not three months, when he drank milk for the first time and experienced anaphylactic shock.

Allison’s corrections and updates to the record are that Finley definitely is allergic to peanuts. The question is how severely and to how many of the three peanut proteins. Finley also has been tested for tree nuts and sesame. 

Finley has been continuing to eat things that have been processed in factories with peanuts and some traces of them since they have never bothered him before and have yet to. But Allison is reading labels of anything novel more closely. 

She also noted it was their pediatrician's on call nurse who suggested a visit to the ER. Overall, Finley’s wind pipe was never in danger of closing; he vomited and got hives but never had any airway restriction (“thank goodness”). 

Peanut allergies affect 1.1% to 1.3% of the U.S. population, not an insignificant number when you realize that means some three million Americans. One friend commented, “We have two grandchildren allergic to peanuts and selective tree nuts.  It's a real challenge.”

Another grandmother responded, “In the incredible nut world, (new southern Florida resident) Caroline reports from the new Temple pre-school that they serve lunch every day if you want it and they also claim they are nut free but one of the acceptable foods to bring was peanut butter (ed.—italics added). Really?”

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Holiday Inn Is My Idea of Camping Out

The first thing you need to know before reading today's tale of Forseter lore is, I snore. The second thing is, I am nothing if not the antithesis of an outdoorsman. I personify the mostly Jewish joke that camping out to me is a stay at a Holiday Inn.

With that in mind, return with me now to the summer of 1981. Gilda and I were 32, expecting our second child, Ellie, in December. Dan was nearing his third birthday in October. Aside from his allergy to dairy products, he also suffered through occasional bouts of asthma.

Our dear friends Dave and Gemma and their daughter Tash, two months younger than Dan, were avid outdoors people. To this day Gemma rambles across such places as Greenland and Africa. (Dave doesn't ramble anymore, but three decades ago he was a veritable Daniel Boone).

For a reason that still eludes me, Gilda fancied herself a co-religionist of the great outdoors. She conspired with Dave and Gemma to arrange a camping trip to Lake George one weekend. I vehemently resisted, arguing, among other things, that Dan had just recovered from a slight cough. But she threatened to go without me so I caved in.

We traveled north in two cars, arriving at the campsite around 4 pm. We set about pitching our tents. That is, Dave and Gemma did. I mostly watched. We built a fire, prepared dinner and, I must admit, were enjoying ourselves when it started raining around 6:30. We retreated to our respective tents for the rest of the evening.

All night long, Gilda later said, I snored. Indubitably I did. I snore every night. But lost amid my zzzzzs was the wheezing of Dan’s breathing. When we awoke around 6 am, Gilda observed his struggle to take in oxygen. The heavy humid air had triggered an asthma attack. The nearest medical center was 60 miles south in Albany. Leaving Dave and Gemma to pack up our gear, we hurried to our car and raced down the Northway. Not too many people are on the road that early, so speeding was not a problem. I was almost hoping a policeman would stop us so we could go even faster with him as an escort.

At the emergency room the doctor administered an injection. All this time aside, from being lethargic, Dan was quite the happy kid. He didn't complain about getting a shot either. Even when the doctor said he needed a second injection, Dan was cheerful and cooperative. We suspect riding in the air conditioned car ameliorated much of his asthma.

I'd like to relate I didn't say to Gilda I told you so, but I don't recall if I was so forgiving and mature. I suspect I most probably was not, while also insisting we never go camping again any further than our back yard. For the record, Gilda and I haven't. Dan, on the other hand, twice has traveled cross-country, often sleeping under the stars. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Peanuts, Get Your Peanuts, He'ya. No Thank You.

We're still waiting definitive word on whether our grandson Finley is allergic to peanuts. Several weeks ago while visiting his maternal grandparents at their Virginia lake house, he reacted negatively to a single peanut. In other words, he threw up, had welts on his body and complained of a scratchy throat. 

Dan called Gilda who immediately recommended children's Benadryl to combat what might have been a slight case of anaphylactic shock. 

Finley’s brush with a closed wind pipe brought back memories of the time we brought the four-month-old Dan to Friday night dinner at my parents’ home in Brooklyn. It was the first time Gilda's mother and stepfather were there as well. When Dan had visited the pediatrician earlier that week the doctor suggested he could try milk for the first time.

We filled a shot glass with milk. With excellent hand to mouth coordination for a four-month-old, Dan quickly downed the milk. He so impressed his grandparents that we set him up again for a second shot. 

Show time ended, Gilda took him into the bedroom for some mother’s milk. She put him down to sleep while the grown ups sat down to dinner.

Uncharacteristically, Dan started crying. When I checked on him I found his stretchy and diaper soaking wet. I asked Gilda if she had changed him. Of course, she responded. When I undressed him I noticed his chest really caved in as he struggled to breathe. I called in Gilda to see. With her first look, the former newborn intensive care nurse spun into action. 

Quickly, she said, we have to go to the hospital. Though the nearest one was Coney Island Hospital, she chose Maimonides in Borough Park. Still seated at the dinette table, our parents were too surprised to move as we whizzed by on our way out the door. To this day I never found out how long Rose and Gus remained for dinner with my parents.

When we arrived at the emergency room the doctor gave Dan a shot of epinephrine to stabilize him. From then on we stayed away from giving Dan any dairy product. Even touching his body with butter or cheese would produce a welt on the spot. We bought him a medic alert bracelet. Eventually he grew out of his allergy, though he still is not a big dairy consumer.

If Finley has a peanut allergy it will be tougher to monitor his food intake. Too many foods are processed at plants that are compromised by the presence of peanuts. But, I may be getting ahead of the facts. For now, with EpiPen on hand, Allison and Dan, and his grandparents, await results of his allergy tests. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Exercise in Bed (It's Not What You Think)

For days, weeks, months, YEARS, Gilda has been hounding me to exercise, to stretch, so my lower back would not hurt. Naturally, I resisted, for what would any marriage be if a husband submitted without a fight to his wife's entreaties. I finally won a round in this continuous battle of what I say is a bulging disc but Gilda says is merely weak muscles, when Gilda agreed to buy a new bed. The Sleep Number mattress, indeed, has been much better for my back pain than the Tempur-Pedic, but I retained some residual pain. So, Friday night, as Gilda slept next to me, I downloaded three videos of recommended stretching exercises.

I'm nothing if not lazy when it comes to exercise, so the WebMD video I chose to start with had the added bonus of permitting me to stretch without leaving the comfort of my bed. As Gilda showered Saturday morning I started the first of the five stretching routines. Whatd’ya know? My back felt better, so much so that even an afternoon four mile walk across the Bridge over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie didn't bother it. 

The real test would be during sleep Saturday night and then pitching a softball game Sunday morning. I woke up 15 minutes early, slid softly into Ellie's old bedroom, lay down on the relocated Tempur-Pedic and ran through the routines. I had a twinge of pain on the ball field, but nothing to complain about. I pitched nine innings; had four solid hits in five at bats. We won.

Moral of the story: Looks like stretching exercise works. It's going to be real hard admitting this to Gilda. Even harder keeping up the regimen every day. Anyway, for those wondering which exercises worked for me, here's a link to the video:

Car Update: Like any new car, the Ford C-Max is prone to recalls. First, the tail lift gate needed refinement. Sometimes, when you waved your foot under the back carriage of the car, the lift gate would unlock but not automatically rise. A simple correction. 

Then, we got two notices on the same day about a week ago. Ford needed to add more interior head protection in case of an accident. I’m cool with that.

The other notice was a real shocker. Right now, for the first 6,000 miles, our hybrid car is getting a little over 43 miles per gallon vs. an EPA/DOT rating of 47. Gilda gets better mileage when she’s driving to and from work. When I drive on weekends, I get lower mileage as I’m usually on the highway exceeding 65 mph and the C-Max switches from battery to gas engine at speeds exceeding 62 mph. But Ford told us in that second notice that, free of charge, it will recalibrate the powertrain control module to operate electrically up to 85 mph! Better gas mileage, here we come.

I Plead Youthful Ignorance: While transferring VHS family videos to DVDs, I came across some film of my parents and their three children at the beach. But what's that on my head? Looks like a blue baseball hat with a capital B. A Brooklyn Dodgers cap! Sacré bleu! All I can say to my NY Yankees friends is that I appear to be about four-years-old at the time and was clearly under the influence of my eight-year-old brother. By the time I was 7 it looks like I was wearing a Yankees cap at a school outing. Phew.

The old family films also showed I disdained water from an early age. Some film of a family vacation at Takanassee, a hotel in Fleishmanns, NY, where we’d spend several weeks each summer before we were sent off to sleepaway camp when I was seven, shows me resisting my mother’s urging to get into the pool. The video shows her dragging me into the water, me holding her tightly once we are in the pool. Other footage at what I believe was Rockaway Beach has me clinging to the neck of a family friend who thought he could persuade me to test the waters on my own. 

My friend Ken still thinks he can teach me to swim. Who am I to disagree with him? But as sportscaster Warner Wolf used to say when he was on television, “Let’s go to the videotape” to see the truth of the matter.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Blackout Memories, Mel Brooks Got It Right, and Judges of the Same Sounding Name

Hey, New Yorkers, how did you get home from work 10 years ago today? 

For those who don’t remember August 14, 2003, the city suffered a massive mid-afternoon blackout that extended well into the night, forcing many to walk home across bridges, camp out in offices, or crash at a relative’s, friend’s or co-worker’s pad. 

For many, it became an invitation for impromptu libations, as revelers “volunteered” to help restaurants and bars dispose of perishable stock before it spoiled. Gilda was one of those. She joined a co-worker and her husband for a delicious seafood meal at a restaurant abutting the Hudson in Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. 

My staff and I were in our sixth fIoor offices on Park Avenue between 55th and 56th streets when the power stopped. Sunlight streamed through the western-facing windows. As shadows started to darken the office, individual plans became more desperate and disparate. Risa decided to walk across the 59th Street Bridge on her way to Long Island. She fortuitously hitched a ride in mid-bridge with someone serendipitously going to her North Shore town. Ken opted to sleep in the office rather than attempt to get home to New Jersey. Marianne chose to gamble on getting a bus out of the Port Authority back to Jersey. She boarded a bus going to a town near her home. Mary Beth decided it would be better to go to her sister in Jersey rather than go home to Dutchess County, NY. She had to walk hours to reach her, a feat the rest of the staff marveled at the next day considering Mary Beth’s troubled feet. Farida was in no mood to walk to Brooklyn by herself. Kyung agreed to house her for the night at her Upper East Side apartment, but Farida was equally reluctant to walk there alone as dusk approached (Kyung had left earlier to be with her infant daughter). So I trudged up Park Avenue with her. Kyung lived near my aunt on East 81st Street. I figured I could stay with her if I didn’t link up with Gilda, whose whereabouts I still had not ascertained since our phones weren’t working. 

Walking to Kyung’s was not easy. It was hot and muggy. But New Yorkers were taking the blackout in stride. Few car horns ahonking. Pedestrians helped direct traffic at intersections. Cars were angled in front of bars and restaurants, their headlights illuminating the interiors. When Farida and I climbed the stairs to Kyung’s apartment, she wasn’t there. We suppressed panic and waited about 15 minutes till she arrived. Kyung offered to put me up overnight as well, but I declined since I wanted to check up on my aunt.

When I arrived at her apartment, her phone was working. I called Gilda’s brother on the Upper West Side. Luckily, Gilda had been able to reach him. Carl graciously picked me up and lent me his car so I could get Gilda and drive home to Westchester. It was among the more eerie rides of our lives in New York. Like a scene from a disaster movie. Hardly any other cars on the road. Skyscrapers dark, except for the occasional emergency light, or even eerier, a whole building lit up by generator. We got home around 11 pm. 

Mel Got It Right: Mel Brooks makes me and millions of others laugh out loud, but he may well be laughing harder than anyone today. 

Did you see Tuesday’s NY Times front-page article, “Much Ado About Who: Is It Really Shakespeare?” ( The thrust of the article is that Shakespeare had lousy handwriting and that some of his words may have been transcribed incorrectly because of poor penmanship.

You may recall in my second to last post on July 30 I sourced a 2,000-year-old-man routine Brooks did with Carl Reiner wherein he disputed that Shakespeare was a good writer. He wasn’t a good writer. He had lousy penmanship, Brooks argued. 

What’s that saying, “Many a truth was said in jest”? According to the Web site, The Phrase Finder, “The first author to express this thought in English was probably Geoffrey Chaucer. He included it in The Cook's Tale, 1390: 
But yet I pray thee be not wroth for game; [don't be angry with my jesting]
A man may say full sooth [the truth] in game and play.’

“Shakespeare later came closer to our contemporary version of the expression, in King Lear, 1605:
‘Jesters do oft prove prophets.’

Judge Not: A quick check of the Internet proved I wasn’t alone in thinking there might be a link between Judge Judy and the federal judge who ruled New York City’s stop-and-frisk police tactic violated the constitutional rights of minorities.

The names are pronounced the same, but that’s where the similarities end. Judge Judy Sheindlin works the TV circuit. Judge Shira Scheindlin serves on the federal bench. Judge Shira’s last name has a “c” in it.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Transitions From Legos to Purses, From Minimum Wages To Yankees and a Remembrance

This time I really do have a pretty legitimate reason for going dark over the last 10 days. For most of that period Finley and Dagny, along with their parents Dan and Allison, came down from Massachusetts to spend a stay-cation week with us. They enjoyed a trip to the Bronx Zoo, Coney Island (the boardwalk, kiddie rides, the beach and lunch at Nathan’s), Muscoot Park and LegoLand. 

But what might be considered the highlight of the visit, at least for Finley and Dan, was the retrieval from the attic of hundreds, if not thousands, of Lego pieces Gilda and I thoughtfully stored for our grandchildren some 25 years ago. I’m not sure who was more enthralled by this reclamation, Dan or Finley. Our grandson was genuinely excited by the battery-operated train, and the helicopter and police wagon with flashing lights and sirens. As much as the resurrected Legos brought back memories of Dan constructing a whole village on most of his bedroom floor during his childhood, Dan was clearly the most captivated. When all the grownups had stopped watching a movie to go to bed Thursday night, Dan stayed up another half hour, rebuilding planes, aided by the schematic instructions we had carefully saved.   

Friday morning Dan and Finley were back into the Legos. In case you’re wondering, we did not ship the Legos home with Dan and Finley. As if they needed a further incentive to visit, Finley and Dan (and when she’s older, Dagny) have another reason to venture south.

Anyone who believes racism, overt or subtle, does not exist, not just in our society but worldwide as well, was treated to another dose of reality this past week when Oprah Winfrey was steered away from looking at a $38,000 purse to a less expensive handbag in a Swiss boutique. Though the store claims it was just a misunderstanding, there’s little doubt the salesperson assumed a person of color could not afford a $38,000 purse, so why bother wasting time. 

Beyond the black humor (pun intended) of perhaps the richest woman in the world (white or black) not being treated royally, here’s my question—who really needs a $38,000 piece of stitched leather? The excesses of the outrageously wealthy over the last two decades have been grotesque, with too many buying automobiles for sums greater than many people pay for homes. Oprah is a symbol to many who struggle every day. Why would she so blatantly flaunt values that do not correlate with her core audience?

When I was young, our relatives and family friends would put a dollar inside any new wallet my brother, sister or I received. Lee double-dipped when she received a new purse. It was always a nice surprise to find the cash inside our new wallets and purses. I wonder, how much does Stedman have to put inside Oprah’s new pocketbooks? Anything less than a cool grand would seem rather cheap, don’t you think?

Speaking of cheap, I’m pretty supportive of fast food workers seeking a more livable wage. One of my first big stories in trade journalism for my former company dealt with efforts to raise the minimum wage back in 1977. The restaurant industry railed against it, claiming any increase would shove operators over the brink, forcing them to close down, resulting in fewer foodservice employers and employees. My publisher wanted me to write a story supporting those assertions, but the facts, as I researched them, showed otherwise. That story wound up winning a corporate prize as the best news article of the year.

You might have heard Fox Business News anchor Neil Cavuto last week rant that too many people disdain working for fast food eateries. “It’s like jobs aren’t enough these days,” he opined. “They damn well better pay well or folks just really aren’t going to apply for them at all. Did I ever tell you that when I was a kid, you’d be grateful for any job you could find. Now a lot of kids are just the opposite, turning up their nose at fast food jobs that go begging at 11 bucks an hour. It’s true!”

The 54-year-old commentator said that when he was 16 he eagerly took a minimum wage job at $2 an hour at Arthur Treacher’s in Danbury, Conn., the first rung on his ladder of success. But as Mother Jones pointed out, Cavuto has a problem with math, which kinda kills his credibility as a financial expert. His $2 an hour in 1974 adjusted for inflation would be about $9.47 today; “Cavuto made the equivalent of $1.22 per hour more than the current minimum wage in Connecticut today and $2.22 per hour more than the current federal minimum wage (of $7.25).”

Mother Jones noted “Cavuto's riff also misses the larger point, which is that the living-wage fight isn't about 16-year-olds with no kids whose parents cover their basic living expenses. The median fast food worker is 28 years old, and the median female fast food worker is 32. Their wages have dropped an average of 36 cents since 2010. And they're making less than Neil Cavuto ever did.”

On another fast food point, I stopped in McDonald’s a few times recently. The Golden Arches might still be considered fast food, but I can vouch that service is definitely NOT fast. With its extensive and growing menu McD’s has a real systems problem from the time an order is placed until food is delivered to the customer. 

It’s hard to watch the NY Yankees these days, even when they win, which they don’t do often enough. Forget about the A-Rod mania. No one will come out ahead in that fiasco. Friday night’s and Sunday’s games versus the Detroit Tigers showed how fragile the Yankee season is. Mariano Rivera blew two saves (three in a row going back to last Wednesday in Chicago against the White Sox, the first time Mo has done that in his illustrious career). In 54 previous innings against the Tigers he had yielded just two home runs. He gave up three in two appearances this weekend. 

If Yankee fans can’t count on Mariano to nail down victories, who can they rely on? For the moment, it seems to be Brett Gardner, both in the field and at bat. He made a game-saving catch Sunday against Torii Hunter and then belted a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth. This after getting the game-winning hit Friday night after Mo blew the save. 

Gardner’s heroics would have been appreciated, and Rivera’s travails lovingly tolerated, by Herb Bilus who passed away August 1, a week after his 92nd birthday. Herb loved the Yankees, the NY Football Giants, politics, current events, poker and other card games, his community of Bloomfield, NJ, and, most of all, his family.   

Even to funerals I rarely wear ties these days. Yet it would have seemed disrespectful not to wear one to pay my last respects to Herb. So there I was in tie and suit, at the service and then internment in a cemetery with a picturesque view of the New York skyline. Herb was one of the Tom Brokaw-coined “greatest generation,” a Coast Guard veteran of the D-Day landings. As the last of the vanguard who made our world safe for democracy die off, taps reverberates through the grassy knolls of their final resting places. Often it can be a recording. For Herb, a solitary live trumpeter played the soulful notes as an honor guard saluted and then rolled up an American flag that draped his coffin.

I knew Herb for just 25 or so years. He was the father, father-in-law and grandfather of some of our family’s closest friends. Here’s a reprise of what I wrote about Herb on the 66th anniversary of D-Day:

Surrounded by two of his three daughters and their husbands, three of his six grandchildren, two great grandchildren, a grandson-in-law and a couple of friends of the family, Herb Bilus had steak for dinner Sunday evening. Sixty-six years ago to the day, June 6, 1944, Herb enjoyed another steak off the shores of Normandy after his Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) #96 delivered its first load of soldiers to Utah Beach as part of the greatest invasion in history.

Hard to believe Ensign Bilus and his cohorts would stop for a hearty meal while the fighting raged, but his commander had promised steak for all officers if they came through their first mission successfully, and so the officers, perhaps even the total crew of 22 Coast Guard sailors, celebrated their good fortune before going back to secure another load of 120 4th Army infantrymen bound for the beaches of France. Herb’s LCI was part of Flotilla 4, a group of 24 LCI ships. They made their initial drop during the sixth wave, roughly six hours after D-Day landings began. By the end of the day, four of their ships were lost off Omaha Beach.

It was off Omaha Beach Herb witnessed true courage, and fear, under fire. It was the task of each LCI to deliver its precious cargo of fighting men as close to the beach as possible, close enough so they could wade ashore without being sucked under by the weight of their packs. Anyone who has seen the first 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan may remember scenes of GI’s dropped off too soon. As they hit the too-deep water, they sunk to the bottom, drowned before firing a shot. Saving Private Ryan was closer to D-Day reality than any other movie, says Herb.

On one of their runs at Omaha Beach, under heavy incoming fire, a high ranking Navy officer ordered Herb’s ship commander, a Coast Guard lieutenant, to lower his ramps to drop off troops. The lieutenant disobeyed the direct order, arguing the water was too deep. While the Navy man dropped off his load to a watery death, Herb’s skipper steered his ship closer to the beach, giving his soldiers a chance to get to shore “safely,” if such a term can be used to describe any landing that day.

The lieutenant, Marshall was his first name (Herb recalls his last name but I’m going to leave it out for what will be evident shortly), was unusual for a couple of reasons. Jewish by birth, Marshall refused to use his last name. It was too ethnic. Even when a telegram came for him under his full name, he would not acknowledge it.

Herb also suspects Marshall was gay. He was a real dandy, going off by himself during shore leave, wearing felt gloves and carrying a swagger stick. An artist, Marshall painted a mural about Flotilla 4 in the English estate house provided to them in Dartmouth by the author Agatha Christie.

They lived in close quarters aboard LCI #96. Herb has trouble reconciling current opposition to lifting the ban on allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the armed forces.

In a few weeks, Herb will be 89. He’s considered a youngster at his independent living residence in downtown White Plains. They don’t start counting your years until you’ve completed nine decades. Herb’s full of life and stories. Those interested in reading more about Herb’s exploits can do so by linking to an oral history he provided Rutgers University:

For those who don’t know, Herb’s daughters are Jane Gould, Pat Lager and Fran Bilus Feldman.