“Sam” is short for Samantha, as in Samantha Wolf, this year’s groundbreaking
President of the Altantic County Bar Association. She’s a great improvement over the days when I first came to the Bar. Meetings then involved an afternoon session followed by dinner at a good restaurant, drinking and cigar smoking by an all male crowd of lawyers and substandard judges telling off-color jokes and stories, and the occasional hushed-up drunk driving charges for those unfortunates caught on their way home afterwards.
We mellow out when the flakes are light and fluffy, coating our trees and
lawns with the glistening white beauty of a Christmas card. Later on, when the
snowplows have growled their way along our streets and the big parking lots
shoving the snow into frozen, dirt-crusted piles half as high as a streetlight post
we grow somewhat less tolerant. I’m talking about those piles that litter the parking lots like rusting hulks in an abandoned shipyard. When at last they begin to shrink, it’s all well and good to welcome the return of dry streets and clear lawns. But that’s not enough to free our travel dreams from winter’s surly grip. For that, we need serious snowmelt.
“We were lucky,” she said. “We were teenagers when fighting the bad
guys was the right thing to do.” Determined to fight the Nazi’s like her nine
older brothers, Aunt Tess had lied about her age to get into the Woman’s Army
Corps when she was 16. She never saw combat, unless you count the time years
later when she was elected Secretary of her Teamsters Local. But she has a warrior’s heart. The fighting blood of the Irish runs strong in her veins.
Ray was another 18 year-old lifeguard with me on the beach in Brigantine
that summer. Came one of those perfect late August days when you could throw
on your coveted Beach Patrol jacket in case the girls hadn’t noticed you were a
lifeguard, or let your tanksuit top down to improve your tan.
The television weather hucksters can talk all they want about the heavy
snow that brings down power lines, and the huge drifts that close highways and
crush the roofs of houses and the black ice that makes our neighborhood driving
so tricky. But the deadliest snow of all is the snow that covers the boats in our side yards and kills the dreams of impatient fishermen from Cape May Point to the Brigantine Inlet and all the way up the Jersey coast. Doesn’t matter if it’s one inch or twelve, the brutal fact is that it’s there at all.
We drove, on a cold Tuesday evening in February, up the Atlantic City
Expressway and across the Delaware, then up Broad to Dickinson, and so to
dinner at one of South Philly’s most venerable landmarks, the famous Victor
Café where young waiters bring the appetizers, then set down their serving trays,
ring a bell for quiet, and stand on a convenient step to sing arias from the famous
operas of the world.
“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers —” . Wordsworth
It was an iffy kind of announcement. The movers and shakers held yet
another meeting about how to save Atlantic City. Somewhere in the proceedings the President of Rowan University opined that his office was thinking about opening a branch of their School of Osteopathic Medicine in Atlantic City — the sort of school that produces primary care physicians. They might have a plan in a year or so. The meeting moved on to other things. The Atlantic City Press, always behind the home team, headlined its story “Rowan Seeks To Bring
Medical School To Atlantic City.”
You have to give Governor Christie credit. He’s figured out a better form
of government than Democracy. He’s personally solving the very problem that
stumped amateurs like Ben Franklin, Tom Jefferson and John Adams.
There’s no question Atlantic City Emergency Manager Kevin whatsisname and his consultant Kevyn himtoo is legal. Under New Jersey’s system, cities and townships and all local government units, including school boards and local dogcatchers, are creatures of the State and can be shoved to the back of the room no matter how many voters elected them. The only powers that outrank the State of New Jersey are the New York/New Jersey Port Authority, God Almighty, and maybe the Hudson County Surrogate.
January plugs along. It’s the quiet part of the calendar. The holiday
visitors have departed. Those who can squeeze in a trip to Florida have packed
and left or they’re counting the days. Dried out Christmas trees waiting to be
picked up punctuate the roads here and there. We are all back at work or in
search of it, and the afternoon meandering of school buses calms the homeward bound traffic as kids with backpacks climb down and straggle along their street. Everybody’s favorite TV series have resumed. The stores are setting up for their Valentine’s Day sales, and we’re all waiting for the Oscars – or arguing about them.
As boys growing up a decade after the War the two of us played at
catching imaginary German spies smuggled ashore from Nazi submarines on the
wintry beaches and dunes of Brigantine. We stayed friends long after I opened
my law office and Chuck McGee rose from paperboy to copyboy to reporter to
an editor of the Atlantic City Press. He was a good friend and a good editor, whose private passion was writing and playing Broadway show music for stars like his friends Carol Channing, Martha Raye and Maurice Chevalier. He was only 37 when a heart attack cut his career, and soon thereafter his life, short. I thought of him this week when news of the Paris terrorism that cut short the lives of another editor and his colleagues broke upon the world.