Get Thee Behind Me

It’s All In The Game, by A. Charles Corotis

They swooped down on me with the horn of Ray Prideaux’s new Cadillac calling enticingly, alluringly, like the siren-song of Homer’s sea-nymphs. “Come and join us this sunny weekend in Atlantic City,” the fluted notes seemed to say.

Realtor leaders from upstate, they were on their way to the Traymore to make convention arrangements. At least, that was their excuse. “Come with us,” was the theme of their bewitching siren choir… “celestial music warbles from their tongue, and thus the sweet deluders tune the song.”

I couldn’t go; too much unfinished work lay piled up on my desk, including a column to be written. But, unlike Ulysses, I had no wax-stuffed seamen to hold me in spite of myself… “now round the masts my mates the fetters rolled, and bound me limb by limb with fold on fold.”

Contrariwise, I had only my unselfish wife joining her entreaties to theirs: a weekend of relaxation in such pleasant company would do me good.

So I stood wavering, alone, I and my sense of duty, until a brilliant thought assailed me — a fragment of a conversation with Leon Todd at dinner in Newark some nights before.

“I didn’t pay too much attention to it at the time,” a tanned, clearer-eyed Leon was saying, “because I never had a roomette before. But now that I just came up from Florida in one, I’d like to reread what you wrote about ’em a couple of years ago.”

Well, why not? And, while I’m about it, why not the whole column? Reprinting requires less energy and imagination and, most important, less time than does creating. So it is — forgive me, please, and thanks for a nice weekend.

From a personal standpoint, the week’s visit to Chicago — my first, incidentally — was highly successful.

Both at the national realtor convention at the Stevens and the savings and loan affair at the Palmer House, New Jersey’s defeat of public housing at the November 8th election was a favorite topic of conversation. A display of the material used in the campaign put our state in the limelight, and folks like Armel Nutter, Harrison Todd, Henry Stam, Emil Gallman, Jack Kempson, George Seiler, Jim Holton, Garry Winter and other realtors and newspapermen saw to it that everyone knew I had directed the campaign.

Then, too, New Jersey won first prize in the Constitution Day publicity contest, and I took bows on that achievement. We beat every other state in the country in this competition.

I spoke on the program of the National Association of Real Estate Editors; everything went well, and at the cocktail party and dinner which followed, I was honored by being made a member of this select group.

My big day, though, was Saturday, at least gastronomically. After breakfast, I dropped in to see Leon Todd, confined to his bed with pleurisy following a heart attack, in time to have some more breakfast with him. The Greyhound taking the newspapermen on a tour of Chicago left the hotel at eleven. At noon we lunched at Illinois Tech. Alas, I couldn’t do justice to the smorgasbord that I love so well.

Our tour ended at the State-Madison building and a cocktail party featuring delicious canapes. Back at the hotel for a 5:30 reception to Harold Stassen and General Motor’s Alfred Sloan in the Stevens’ Royal Skyway suite, no less. From there to a rip-roaring Ohio reception, then a Virginia ham sandwich in the Virginia suite, orange juice, in the Florida suite, and finally to a full-course meal at the banquet of the Society of Industrial Realtors. Eventually to the Hotel Sherman where Carl Byoir had rented the famed House on the Roof for a press party.

I couldn’t eat another thing.


My roomette on the Broadway Limited provided a nice view of incandescent-pricked blackness when finally I retired. The gang from New York and North Jersey was on, and we and the Philly crowd joined them, so it was a short night at best.

The secret of getting along in a roomette is to refrain from drinking before you go to bed, or alternatively to stay up so late that you won’t have to get up during the night. The wall bed in a roomette, you know, occupies the entire space. To pull it down, you park your rear out the curtain, fasten it down (the bed, I mean), clamor in, then draw shut the mirrored door to your compartment. The bed covers everything, including the toilet.

Should you awaken during the night — and stay awake — you’ve got a problem on your hands. First, you kick off the covers, slide down to the foot of the bed, get on your knees, slide back the door, slide out of bed, your derriere pushing the curtain into the aisle, release the catch on the bed, let it go up to the wall; then some time later reverse the entire procedure.

Roomettes are not for folks with weak kidneys.

They are nice, compact, modern examples of utility, though, all glass and steel and aluminum with every possible convenience, even luxury.

I made sure I stayed awake for the crossing of the Alleghenies, especially the horseshoe curves, including the famous one at Altoona, where you could see the brightly lighted front section of the Broadway wending its serpentine way laboriously up the mountain. The darker outlines of distant mountain ranges added a pleasantly eerie touch. Lights of an occasional town punctured the darkness spasmodically.

After Pittsburgh I let myself be carried into slumber by the gentle motion of the train and slept all the way across Ohio and into Fort Wayne, Indiana. The homestretch was enlivened by a race between the Broadway and the New York Central’s crack 20th Century Limited. We won. In fact, we got in to Union Station fifteen minutes ahead of schedule.


Returning was even a better deal. I swapped with Leon Todd, whose doctors didn’t want him to fly home. It was my first flight in an airliner, although I had been up many times.

From now on I’m a fly-boy.

Tuesday at noon was Chicago’s first sunny day in a week although no less windy than the others. A half hour’s ride by limousine to the Chicago municipal airport — “aviation center of the world” — took us past the stockyards and trucks of hogs that made me think of my epicurean indulgence the Saturday before.

After watching Northwest’s huge stratocruiser take off, I settled down in TWA’s 460 for another first in my life. The Pullman had been one, Chicago another.

We soared above toy houses set in aimless patterns on a vari-hued and vari-shaped patchwork quilt, crisscrossed with tiny silver threads and calcimine seams, some winding, some die-straight, with pokey bugs crawling along them at intervals. Here was a golf course whose scraped roughs looked like foot-stomps of a berserk giant. As we climbed higher, the miniature buildings became shapeless tombstones, nondescript and indefinable, with here and there a larger-than-usual cemetery.

Lake Michigan — the Atlantic without whitecaps — lay serenely to the north. The whole countryside was covered with a mantle of marble, the handiwork of the Snow King. Soon, as the snow belt slipped behind, the obliterated checker board reasserted itself.

What a grand feeling, this overseeing of earth from on high, this choice seat at a panoramic showing of the world at its kaleidoscopic best!


Thousand Island dressing floating by leisurely as we rise above the clouds — and overhead the unbroken blueness of the sky, the unfiltered glare of the sun reflecting on our silver wings… the horizon a level mountain of alabaster, and above it long, slender wolfhounds darting out from time to time… Finally, after the first thrilling hour, surfeited with the soul-cleansing prophylaxis of noble white and azure, comes relaxation and realization of the gracious charm of the air hostess. But even her radiant personality can’t compete long with Nature’s… The clouds scooting below become increasingly prolific and it is apparent we are approaching Pittsburgh, a supposition confirmed as an off-white haze settles over everything… Finally, solid banks of smoke close in and blot out the earth completely… Perceptibly cooler in the plane as we climb to keep above the sea of solid cloudbergs, their tops more varied in shape than mountains … Marveling that the pilots, with all their training and instruments, can find their way down through that cottonfield, layer after layer, to hit the thin splinter of a runway… Settling down over Pittsburgh Airport, the world we know takes shape again. Houses look like houses, hills like hills, the quilt becomes farms, the Allegheny and Monongahela become rivers, clouds float overhead where they belong.


Crossing the Alleghenies as the sun is setting is a memorable experience… A mammoth amphitheatre, its rim encircled by pink and blue puff balls, mountain ranges the various levels of seats, the green-gray-brown patchwork a tarraza laced by seams of concrete and water… Here and there a red-thatched spectator sits or a group cluster together in attentive immobility, enjoying the regal, panoramic splendor… Harrisburg at dusk, its airport a citadel protected by a turret of hills cuddled alongside the graceful Susquehanna… After Harrisburg, night closes in and the sky becomes inverted, with myriads of stars twinkling below in building and on street corner… Venus hangs a slender silver sliver in the western sky and her planetary namesake emerges in all her robust beauty to form the celestial version of the Turkish crescent… Below, jeweled necklaces strung across the earth’s throat and bosom, and the liquid gold of moving motor lights… The great locket of diamonds and rubies and emeralds that is Philadelphia beckons us enticingly to journey’s end, in time for dinner after lunch in Chicago… It’s the air for me henceforth.


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