It's All In The Game
by A. Charles Corotis


It's All In The Game: A selected Collection of Gay Essays
on Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Mnemosyne,
Assayed from the Provocative Pages of
New Jersey's Literate Review Weekly, The Argus

By A. Charles Corotis



The snow lies thick on Valley Forge.

I murmured those meaningful words from Kipling's "American Rebellion" as we surveyed the majestic sweep of fields hallowed by historic heroism. If tradition ever wore a snowy beard it was now, in this glistening, glittering, alabaster setting at Valley Forge where men once cursed the snow that added to their woe as they fought to found a nation.

Now, 175 years later, there was no seamy side. That "fairest meadow white with snow" was all loveliness and serenity: Heine's whitest blanket indeed; the snow of heaven, heavy, soft, and slow, shiningly cold, brilliantly, sparkingly, appeal-ingly warm.

It was mere coincidence that took us to this revered spot just after the fleeces of descending snow had painted the earth with dazzling patterns.

We had planned the trip for some time. I'd like Bruce to go to military school next term and begin ROTC. We've been up to New York Military Academy, there high above the Hudson opposite West Point. But Valley Forge has a magic all its own in the very name's connotations. And, too, it's closer to home.

The date originally was for the Sunday before, but when I made it I forgot that I had to be at the Traymore in Atlantic City that day. So it was deferred one week. That in turn conflicted with a dinner party in East Orange, but we didn't dare disappoint Colonel Prentiss again.

As it turned out, we couldn't have chosen a better time even if we had consulted that gypsy with the crystal ball Patti Page purrs about. The drive through scenic countryside was one breathless excursion into unparalleled beauty. Truly terra wore a diadem of white that day. No one but the Master Painter can achieve that hue of sublime, unsullied purity: "as chaste as unsunn'd snow," Shakespeare sang in "Cymbeline."

There's something elevating, exalting about so awesome a spectacle. George Noel Gordon felt it when he penned those inspired words: "He who ascends to mountain tops shall find the loftiest peaks most wrapt in clouds and snow."

And here on the historic proving ground of American mettle it seemed to take on added significance, recalling Tennyson's line: "the splendor falls on castle walls and snowy summits old in story."

It was a soul-stirring experience.

Actually it had begun the day before, that first day of March when the world drew over its shoulders a cloak of ermine. What a thrill to wake unexpectedly to such a vision of loveliness!

Have you seen but a bright lily grow Before rude hands have touched it? Have you marked but the fall o' the snow Before the soil hath smutched it?

I knew then how Ben Jonson felt. The evergreens and trees that surround our place were transformed into classic adornments of indescribable beauty as the flakes filtered softly through their outstretched arms, clinging to barren limbs, settling on leafy foliage. Lawns, terraces and driveways were one huge indistinguishable expanse of marble, so far unbroken by milkman's tires or animals' paws.

Complications loomed: Ross the practical wanted to know how June was going to get to Van Pelt Street in Philadelphia to put the finishing touches on Moorestown Friends' yearbook, a must for that day. But time enough for such mundane considerations later; for the moment I chose to put aside all earthly thoughts and concentrate on the sheer joy of this silent delight.

O the snow, the beautiful snow. 
Filling the sky and the earth below. 
Over the house-tops, over the street, 
Over the heads of the people you meet,
       Skimming along, 
Beautiful snow, it can do nothing wrong.

Ah yes, John Whittaker Watson, your beautiful snow could do no wrong in that first breath-taking moment. Later, perhaps, I would complain at its inconvenience, at the nuisance of overshoes, at the task of shoveling paths, possibly at the arduous job of freeing snow-slipping wheels, although the station wagon, at least, has snow tires.

Yes, it might well be that before the day was out I would be quoting William Dean Howells: "Tossing his mane of snows in wildest eddies and tangles, lion-like March cometh in, hoarse, with tempestuous breath."

But time enough for that later. Now I was closing my mind inflexibly to intruding whispers of uneasy concern. Thirstily I drank in the virgin charm of white-clad fairies that only the day before had been gaunt trees barren of leaves, terraced lawns that had not yet achieved their Spring greenness. Toreutic as finely carved sculpture was this guilloche landscape of myriad interwoven ornaments.

It helped, I must confess, to view the peaks of dazzling beauteousness from the comfort of our insulated, storm-sashed, well-heated home. Someone once remarked satirically that storms are enjoyable only to the protected. But shortly I ventured out into it, and enjoyed the contact too.

A lot of snow fell, during that night and day. Enough for snowmen and snowball fights, sledding and toboganning. I won't tax your credulity as Rudolf Erich Raspe did when he had Baron Munchausen say: "What in the dark I had taken to be a stump of a little tree appearing above the snow, to which I had tied my horse, proved to have been the weathercock of the church steeple."

But it was a good, rousing snowfall nonetheless, applying a fetching frosting, an appetizing coat of icing to Nature's vari-colored, multi-layered cake. We romped and played in it, Ross on his 'boggan, but its greatest asset was visionary. From the eye-opening thrill Saturday morning to the drive back from Valley Forge Sunday night, when we saw Whittier's "purple lights on Alpine snow," when we knew what Otis Hite felt when he wrote:

The moon is never half so bright 
As when she pours her silver light 
Down on a world of drifted white 
Through a calm midwinter night.


Eisenhower will be in Washington well in advance of the convention, maybe even before New Jersey's primary election day. He's doing a terrific job with NATO .... Don't know when I've enjoyed anything more than my Newark debate with Assemblyman Joya, leader of the Essex delegation. Subject: Compulsory Automobile Insurance .... Too bad they chose such a hideous color for the year New Jersey inaugurated its semi-permanent license plates .... While Putrid Service extracts exorbitant fares from those forced to rely on it for transportation, independent lines such as No. 16 between Newark and Irvington still charge only seven cents. How long are the people going to hold still for the official discrimination in favor of the rich, greedy but campaign-contributing octopus .... I took a turn through Newark's 1st ward, which the public housers propose to raze to build a $40,000,000 tax-free monument to socialism. No wonder the folks there are up in arms. I didn't see one slum house. The pictures used in the Newark News were houses bought by the state for the extension to Route 10, already vacated and vandalized pending their demolition. What kind of skulduddery is that? .... I must look like a soft touch—the patsy type. It's got so that I can't afford to walk along the street in Newark any more. Cheaper to pay cab fare than be accosted by panhandlers .... Does it occur to you that we're going plumb stark crazy? Exactly ten years ago our federal tax take was 7.2 billions, then the highest in history. In 1945, the peak war-spending year, it was a shocking 44.8 billions. But that alarming figure was only temporary, made necessary by the war, we were assured. This year's budget is 88.5 billions! .... Why can't Route 25 be declared a parkway and closed to trucks? It would have the dual effect of forcing them onto the turnpike, where they belong, and saving motorists from the danger of having these behemoths of the road roar past them at 60 and 70 miles an hour, with their windslipping suction .... The root of a Chinese plant named Ch'ang Shan, used 3000 years to treat malaria, was the starting point of American research that led to the discovery of a substitute for scarce quinine from the roots of the hydrangea plant .... Smirking Bill Hayes, the tenor on "Show of Shows," doesn't have a bad voice, but he's an ungainly oaf. Why they emphasize his awkwardness by having him do a turn with expert dancers is beyond me. Judy Johnson, on the other hand, is a gal of talent and grace who stacks up pretty well alongside the professionals .... Can't understand Sid Caesar's hold, anyway. After the first stint he always becomes weary .... While I'm in this querulous mood I might as well register another gripe. If there's anything that irritates me it's looking up a phone number and being referred to another listing. Like Star-Ledger— see Newark Star-Ledger. Or Delaware Lackawanna — see Lackawanna. Why shouldn't it be just as easy to repeat the number as to say see so and so? Oh well .... I'm not a Billy Eckstine fan but I do appreciate his bringing back "A Room With a View" .... I couldn't get along very well without Evelyn Knight's tender "I Get Along Without You Very Well" .... Alan Dale partially atones for Violent Ray with his recording of "Broken Hearted" .... Johnny Green's "Invitation" accepted .... The latest Guy Mitchell- Mitch Miller melange is a dubious salute to "Pittsburgh, Penn-syl-van-i-a." Tricky, though. . .

The 4 Aces bit off more than they could digest in the old tango "Perfidia." Better stick to 4-beat rhythm .... Georgia Gibbs nostalgically lists some memorable old titles in her clever two-part vocalization of "Bring Out Those Old Records" .... Thrilling to hear the music in the Cole Porter saga. I've always had a soft spot for him. His first hit, the 1916 "Old Fashioned Garden," was one of my early piano efforts. It's a far cry from the sophisticated motif that dominates later numbers by America's answer to Noel Coward .... The musical thrill of the week came when I heard my provocative old teen-age favorite, "You're Cheatin' On Me." First time in over twenty-five years. Kate Brown has recorded it. Next they'll be bringing back "In the Middle of the Night" and "Just a Night for Meditation" .... The Andrews have a mean version of "Mean to Me" .... Dick Haymes' "You're My Everything" has everything .... Kinda go for Gordon Jenkins' arrangement of "Every Hour," too .... And I'll always be in love with Helen Forrest's torrid version of "I'll Always Be in Love With You" .... At his age Clifton Webb should know better than to essay a terpsi-chorean comeback. He collapsed while dancing with Ginger Rogers for a film sequence. But it recalls the smooth job old Puttynose used to do on the revue stage. I'll never forget his numbers with Libby Holman in "The Little Show" and Tamara Geva in "Three's a Crowd," set to such haunting melodies as "Moanin' Low" and "Body and Soul." Real nasty .... "Come What May" sounds good when Bing sings it, too .... "Take Me Home" is a teasy number .... A plug long overdue: for the good listening on KYW mornings driving to Trenton. I followed Godfrey-like Hal Moore over from WCAU. Enjoy equally the program preceding him, featuring Jack Pyle and his gang of clever zanies. Delighted with their banter.


I guess Philly always will remain a small town. Driving along Ridge Avenue recently even on a Sunday was made tortuous by its antiquated traffic light system. Impossible to make more than one. Hope the new administration brings some long-delayed, big-time touches to the burg .... Jack Fitzgerald's passing means the end of the journalistic tradition at the Courier. He and Charlie Humes were the last of the newspapermen in the colorful old tradition. What a book could be written about Fitz .... If you've become timid about air travel and dissatisfied with the Pennsy and B&O trains to Chicago, take Carl Withers' advice. The Newark banker, former state banking commissioner, recommends the Lackawanna's Phoebe Snow for a beautiful trip...... Test borings for Newark's new YMCA building will be made this month. A $3,000,000 program. . . . "New Jersey Turnpike—Engineering Miracle" is the title of an article in the New Jersey Engineer. They should know .... In Jersey City the other day, met John Grossi, the power behind Kenny. If he withdraws his support, Mayor Johnny is a dead duck .... How ridiculous can you get? Well, however, Berle will make it. Did you hear his ecstatic introduction o£ "one of the greatest entertainers of all times— Georgie Taps!" Walking east on 51st Street from Toots Shor's to Ray Balasny's car the other night, I was fascinated by the lovely lighting effect of the dome atop the GE building. Just a hick at heart.... The fabulous dancing Costellos at the Latin Quarter are an act that's truly different. Real big timey .... Ed Sullivan never will learn to act as long as he has a hole in his head, but you'd think someone could teach him to count. Introducing Toni Arden for a number from the 1926 "Scandals," he said: "And now, sixteen years later . . . ." Oh, well. He has done a good job of reviving old memories, and giving some of the old-timers a new lease on life. In one recent show he had George White, Harry Richman, Frances Williams and Smith & Dale, the duo that was wowing audiences in the '90s. But no Ann Pennington, the original "Black Bottom" gal from Camden. Last reports I heard about her weren't good .... I want to get in a plug for Roger Price, a crack comedian whose droll humor tickles my fancy .... Dinah Shore does beautifully by the oldie "Anytime," but she taxes one's credulity with the lyrics to "Warm Hearted Women." I don't believe it .... Vivian Blaine is louzay in "Tell Me Why" — or anything else, for that matter. Overdoes the dramatics .... Even when Montevani plays "I'm Dancing With Tears in My Eyes" it sounds like "Charmaine." Nice, though .... Expert wordage in "They're Playing Our Song," and expertly recorded by Toni Arden. What voice control that gal has .... Pleasant to have Wayne King back on the airways. Always liked his hesitation waltz rhythm. He recalled another old timer recently when he featured Isham Jones' lovely "If You Were Only Mine". . . . The 41-year-old Jolson record played by Eddie Cantor, the first Al ever made, shows he already had established his inimitable style back in 1911. Norah Bayes' platter of "Over There" shows why she was such a sensation, considering the inferior quality of recording techniques in 1918 compared with today .... Perry Como has recorded "That Old Gang of Mine," and very nicely, too .... Saw Pat Wymore in New York. Woo, woo. What a doll .... Today's record I'm gaga about is Doris Day's provocative "A Guy Is a Guy" .... Don Cornell is reviving Dinah Shore's "I'll Walk Alone" .... James Melton did a nice TV job with "On Miami Shore." Enjoy those Ford commercials, too. Dr. Roy Marshall is instructive in a pleasing, personable, unaffected way, and the theme song with its flashing signs is tricky. Other sponsors, please copy .... Red Book's award to MGM's Dore Senary of Newark gave Lanza an excuse to bring the all-time great music from "The Great Caruso" to his radio program, and what a half hour it was! He shouldn't even deign to bother with pop stuff that doesn't offer full range for his brilliant voice .... Did you hear Jerry Lewis telling about the movie he saw featuring Victor Russell and Jane Mature? When Dean Martin scolded him for transposing the names, he cracked: "Well, maybe Victor ain't Russell but don't tell me Jane ain't mature!"