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Over Counting Covid Deaths …. Cost Us Dearly

Over Counting Covid Deaths …. Cost Us Dearly

The medical establishment is finally admitting that the number of Covid deaths has been greatly overcounted.  At the height of the Covid Pandemic, I wrote commentaries detailing the overcounting – but in those days, making such documented claims got you knocked off social media for spreading disinformation.

(The fact that they are now admitting to overcounting should be a warning of the danger of playing censor of information that does not agree with the establishment view of the moment.  It is VERY dangerous to a free society. 

We saw that same reversal in the case of the Hunter Biden laptop and the Trump “Russian conspiracy theory” theory.  That is why I am a First Amendment extremist.  Let all voices be heard, and the FACTS – not the political narratives of the moment –lead us to the truth.   But I digress.)

The potential of an overcount of Covid deaths is not marginal nor insignificant.   In my previous writings, I noted that 60 percent of the deaths in a New York nursing home were determined to be from Covid even though patients were tested for Covid.  In another commentary, I wrote how the official government statistics even had a category for deaths that were “assumed” to be related to Covid.   Those “assumed” victims were included in the official death count, however.

There is a problem between the difference between dying FROM Covid and WITH Covid.  Folks dying from many other things – terminal diseases and accidents – who tested positive for Covid were often listed as Covid deaths.

Dr. Leana Wen — former Baltimore Health Commissioner, Washington Post columnist, and CNN medical analyst – conceded in a recent editorial that the medical community has been overcounting the number of Covid hospitalizations and deaths – and not by just a little.

Wen claimed that MOST patients hospitalized for Covid were actually admitted: “for some other illness.”   In her editorial, she cited reports from Massachusetts that claimed 90 percent of patients hospitalized FOR Covid were actually admitted for other reasons.  That is a remarkable revision of history.  That means the statistics about hospitalizations due to Covid are wrong … wrong … wrong.  

More seriously, the death toll is also exaggerated – and not by a small amount.  Some analysts indicate that more than half the deaths attributed to Covid were folks who died WITH Covid – but of other causes.  Many would have died with or without Covid.

Part of the problem – and perhaps a big part – was government funding being provided to hospitals and communities based on the number of Covid patients and Covid deaths.  You know what that means.  There was a huge financial benefit to maximizing the number of Covid deaths.

The overcounting of hospitalizations and deaths had an enormous negative impact on the country – and the world.  Did we really have to take such extreme measures as shutting down the American economy … putting millions out of work … destroying innumerable small businesses … depriving our children of education.

It may be that the cure was worse than the disease.  Yes, it was a serious health issue. If Wen is correct –and I think she is – the problem was grossly overstated for political and economic reasons.

We have been living with a narrative that centered on Dr. Anthony Fauci as the number one authority and official spokesperson on all things Covid.  Did he lie to the American people about the source of Covid?  Did he push hospitalization and death numbers that were grossly exaggerated?  Were his statements designed to inform the public – or gain more taxpayer funding for his industry?

Not surprisingly, Wen’s editorial got very little attention from the mainstream media.  It should have.  If her contention is even partially accurate, it is a blockbuster story.  It is putting into doubt or dispute virtually everything the American people have been told for the past three and a half years.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Marie

    We were duped by our own government. Biden and Fauci need to be in jail!

  2. Tom

    I said many times since March 2020 that “we must have cured all those diseases because nobody dies of anything but Covid anymore!” But like all of the greats, Wen, Horist, and me, we are not listened too. But I do not blame the hospitals for overcounting. How to count a Covid death was never made crystal clear.

    The inconvenient truth here is that Covid can be a direct cause of death, or, can be an underlying cause of death. Such as in the case of a person that has stage three COPD. They will eventually die of COPD or something related. But when Covid hits this person, the result is they die early because they simply cannot get the oxygen they need even with breathing machines. I had one such patient who died this way. So in this case, Covid was a contributing factor that exacerbated the symptoms of COPD. Without Covid they may have lived another two years or so. So how do you count it? Covid death? COPD death?

    And this is why I say that no clear guidance was ever given. So the hospital gold rush began and all causes became Covid. Fauci was part of the problem but some of what he did was good as well. It was new ground, and he broke it as best he could at the time, but, I do think there was a political shovel digging that new ground, not always a science shovel. And we did fund the Wuhan lab for gain of function research on SARS viruses – I read Dr. Shi Zhengli’s paper on it, and used it in a previous blog of yours to explain gain of function and how it was done. And Fauci is mentioned as the funder through HHS under Fauci to Peter DanzakEcho of Health Alliance, USA but headquartered in Australia. I still think we and the Chinese are jointly responsible for the virus development, and the Chinese are responsible for the lab leak – which I believe was accidental in that they were not taking the proper P4 safety precautions. But I digress 🙂

    A quick reminder below of the research to build these viruses and study “infectivity” that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Shi Zhengli were involve in around 2018-2019. This paragraph below is from her paper which is located at: “”

    Rescue of bat SARSr-CoVs and virus infectivity experiments

    In the current study, we successfully cultured an additional novel SARSr-CoV Rs4874 from a single fecal sample using an optimized protocol and Vero E6 cells [17]. Its S protein shared 99.9% aa sequence identity with that of previously isolated WIV16 and it was identical to WIV16 in RBD. Using the reverse genetics technique we previously developed for WIV1 [23], we constructed a group of infectious bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones with the backbone of WIV1 and variants of S genes from 8 different bat SARSr-CoVs. Only the infectious clones for Rs4231 and Rs7327 led to cytopathic effects in Vero E6 cells after transfection (S7 Fig). The other six strains with deletions in the RBD region, Rf4075, Rs4081, Rs4085, Rs4235, As6526 and Rp3 (S1 Fig) failed to be rescued, as no cytopathic effects was observed and viral replication cannot be detected by immunofluorescence assay in Vero E6 cells (S7 Fig). In contrast, when Vero E6 cells were respectively infected with the two successfully rescued chimeric SARSr-CoVs, WIV1-Rs4231S and WIV1-Rs7327S, and the newly isolated Rs4874, efficient virus replication was detected in all infections (Fig 7). To assess whether the three novel SARSr-CoVs can use human ACE2 as a cellular entry receptor, we conducted virus infectivity studies using HeLa cells with or without the expression of human ACE2. All viruses replicated efficiently in the human ACE2-expressing cells. The results were further confirmed by quantification of viral RNA using real-time RT-PCR

    • larry Horist

      Tom .. the problem with Franks is that he is obsessed with attacking me personally and professionally. He is a rabid ankle bitter. He only seeks out information that can support his dubious claims and suggests that I have not basis for mine. That is just a lie. In this case, I read several articles and watched Wen’s interview. Everything I wrote is 100 percent accurate — and Wen is my source, plus articles written about her statement. In the world of media, you can find almost any interpretation (spin) on an event — and even inconsistent statistics. Frank’s problem is both his obsession to degrade me and his looking for support to counter me rather than facts and truth. His obsession blinds him from objectivity and civility. He needs to end his mental head game and get a grip.

      Regarding his current screed, Frank claims to correct my interpretation with his example … BUT his example was not what I and she were referring to. He uses a different source on a different subject. It is not responsive to the point. But it is consistent with his attack and distract — and Trump whataboutisms — that characterizes his posts.

      • Frankvstetson

        Tom, tell Larry that he stated Wen said 90% in Mass hospital.

        In Wen’s article, she said the 90% was attributed to another Dr in a GA hospital covering recent trends in the virus hospitalization.

        He is wrong to make readers believe it was Mass and that it’s throughout the pandemic.

        He then complains he read it somewhere else in all his research. Too bad he does not source or give credit to those who did the work.

        My goodness that was a rant. And he called me a liar, again. Not often on the facts. Not this time, so far.

        He is a free speech extremist who whines.

        • larry Horist

          Frank Stetson … in the spirit that even a broken clock has the correct time twice a day, you are correct on one point. I mixed up Massachusetts with Georgia. I was also dealing with data from Mass.

          • Frank stetson

            Well as long as you have an excuse and can jab me again, I guess it’s all good.

            Broken Clock rings true twice a day, every day.

  3. frank stetson

    Maybe Larry should read WAPO since his article seems to be blogsphere based.

    Jfgi: for the truth.

    For example, Larry said: “In her editorial, she cited reports from Massachusetts that claimed 90 percent of patients hospitalized FOR Covid were actually admitted for other reasons.” What she really said was: “Two infectious-disease experts I spoke with believe that the number of deaths attributed to covid is far greater than the actual number of people dying from covid. Robin Dretler, an attending physician at Emory Decatur Hospital and the former president of Georgia’s chapter of Infectious Diseases Society of America, estimates that at his hospital, 90 percent of patients diagnosed with covid are actually in the hospital for some other illness.” Wrong person, wrong Hospital, wrong time period, Larry makes a compelling conspiracy based on fear and loathing by shifting facts and spinning content.

    The doctors making the claims Larry has hyperinflated to cover the entire pandemic and that is incensed about also said: “Earlier in the pandemic, a large proportion of covid-positive hospitalizations were due to covid. (I think that’s when Larry is slapping himself on the back for saying it’s not the cause, ooops) But as more people developed some immunity through vaccination or infection, fewer patients were hospitalized because of it. During some days, she said, the proportion of those hospitalized because of covid were as low as 10 percent of the total number reported.” That would be after the time of Trump I believe although Joe can not take the credit.

    Larry completely leaves out the concept of time and things shifting over time as the virus mutated and people found immunity and safety from Hospitalization and death. He zero’s in on the sound bite and misses the context. It’s war Larry, as the enemy shifts, so should your tactics to confront the current attacks. It’s not all black and white, yes or no. There’s the possibility of both over and undercounting during this war and that’s what happened. No one knows the bottom line yet unless you do, Captain Oblivious.

    We need answers here, not just political pandering, bluster, and blame. Why? Because it will happen again and our results, whether under Biden or Trump, the US generally sucks except for vaccine development. And that is due to 80% scientists, 20% government, IMO. We did worse, statistically, that almost any other developed nation and a lot of the third world. Our lockdowns, which really weren’t lockdowns, did not make things worse. Masks did not make things worse and clothe needed to be replaced with KN94/K95’s over time because the virus got more infectious — it changed so we needed to change in real time; vaccines did not make things worse, they were a miracle life saver. Maybe they all could have been done better, but they didn’t make it worse.

    I will explain more of how Larry once again has gone off the factual rails but it is tiring when he has the basic facts wrong, over and over. Please read the actual article and then try the blogosphere.

  4. Ac

    Left out of the count are deaths from COVID not reported at all. Victims who chose to died at home. Those who were otherwise healthy and not in the most vulnerable classes, those termed elderly and those too young for vaccination. Exact statistics will not ever be recorded and known for inclusion.
    What is the percentage of the adult population who were anti- vaccine, COVID deniers, who would not admit the symptoms they were experiencing was not just the flu or a bad case of the common cold? How many of the ultra- right conservative compatriots of yours were and are stubborn in their disbelief of public health experts to the point of stupidity regarding their own health and wellbeing? .
    Too many of those folks spoke damning criticism against all of us who believed in masking and vaccination as real mitigation in the fight to prevent personally getting infected as well as unknowingly spreading the vicious to others .
    People died out of stubborn ignorance. Turning a deaf ear to guidance from true facts, the now dead chose belief and faith in disinformation from the conspiracy theories coming from the mouths of fools. And, as for the number of unreported deaths singularly attributable to COVID due to pride and fear of embarrassment over wrong belief. Simple, math is the answer. Take the total number of registered Republicans on the rolls in America and divide that sum by the percent of Republicans that make up Trump”s. loyal base . Take that number and subtract it from the total of those voting for Trump in 2020.. That will give an estimation of how many souls’ became separated from their body
    90% or more previously healthy unvaccinated adults succumbed with COVID even when hospitalized. Those who denied the disease wanting their sickness to be the flu , ever before called the doc for flu symptoms died and were buried with their secret.
    Many have and will into the future, like you, are born skeptics not accepting facts and figures you did not come up with by means of some other accounting methodology. Especially passionate will be your inspection and the report of findings. For with great pride your findings affirm the prophetic writings previously penned. Not without coincidence these conclusions you draw directly contradict conclusions approved by the majority’s contention.
    What will the argument you assert benefit science, culture, humanity and possibly History’s record corrected. Weeeeell, what can be said for your theory but, OK, good to know.
    It does not alter the reality of personal sadness in that people loved by family and friends died before their time, if not for COVID. Death statistics like all statistics will be manipulated to suit whatever the one doing the manipulation wants to prove.for personal gratification.
    Is this artful shredding the completion topping off your running critique on the COVID handling matter?
    At your age, as heard in the interview you gave at the Conservatives’ annual powwow last year, assumed advanced by the sound of it, you’re no thinking retirement.
    After all, CEPAC is your baby since its inception, The movement requires your guidance.
    Good Luck with that.

    • larry Horist

      Ac … Virtually everyone who dies at home … or any where … have death certificates indicating the cause of death. They are in the Covid count. IN fact, that may add to the overcount if folks die from the flu and and certified to be Covid victims.

  5. jack smith

    we the people want justice of all the lies and treason the left has done and ptison for all

    • Frank stetson

      Just the left?

  6. frank stetson

    Sorry Larry, it’s not just you, it’s everything covid that has me really hacked off. From Trump’s lies to Biden’s putting it on the back burner, I have difficulty in giving up in this war. And it is war. Bigger than WWII in death. I don’t care how you count it, that will be true. And the enemy has not given up. It ain’t over and, more important, it will happen again.

    Yes, it’s mostly the old, it is no longer a disease of death for the young but I like the old and I am one of them. My top priority is that this never happens THIS WAY again and I see nothing to make that so. Larry’s opinions will only slow that process and even hampers that possibility. He wants to downplay covid and rails against the lock-downs when covid killed more than WWII, no matter how you count. More than the battlefield deaths of all our wars combined. We took domestic actions for many of those and many were freaking happening across the ocean. Covid was in our homes.

    The facts is this article are skewed: “I noted that 60 percent of the deaths in a New York nursing home were determined to be from Covid even though patients were tested for Covid.” Sometimes he does not even sound lucid. Of course they were tested for Covid. So what?

    We need answers, we need the truth, and in this case, the truth is still a moving target because the virus has been ever-changing. Larry’s thoughts are static. We all agree it was probably man-made, we probably provided some of the funding, it accidently got out and no one told us soon enough or comprehensively. Sure, we overcounted, we undercounted, and we need to fix that if we can. But the US also turned in terrible results compared to ROW so we need to determine Best-of-Class responses and change how we fight the next war. Our response blows. At this point, the next one will not be met with any sort of resistance different from the terrible job we have done thus far.

    Larry distorts the truth, spins it, and lies playing down the severity of covid. This neither gets us to the truth nor a viable solution for the next war. I looked at the original Wen story, plus her clarification, plus my independent, but biased left (it’s who I am), research and here’s what I found:

    A simple truth — 10-50k people, mostly old, die of seasonal flu in a year. Right now, we are still seeing 300-400 covid deaths a day, 100K-150K a year making it up to 15 times worse than seasonal flu. My take is 4 times worse is a strong conservative baseline probability. And that’s our current steady state for the past six months. Can’t see where we can say the emergency is over. Matter of fact, I wonder why we blithely accept current seasonal flu deaths as just one-of-those-things. Why aren’t we changing nursing home protocols to combat seasonal flu even?

    Setting the stage with the opening: “The medical establishment is finally admitting that the number of Covid deaths has been greatly overcounted,” he should realize he’s talking three experts, hardly the establishment. That’s just spin. It goes further downhill when he adds: “At the height of the Covid Pandemic, I wrote commentaries detailing the overcounting – but in those days, making such documented claims got you knocked off social media for spreading disinformation.” Nothing in the articles confirm that. Matter of fact, Wen clearly states: “Earlier on, covid pneumonia often killed otherwise healthy people. Today, most patients in their hospitals carrying the coronavirus are there for another reason.” IOW, things change over time. In her follow up, Wen adds that, in the beginning and through the big surge, we were probably UNDERCOUNTING — that’s when Larry made his contra-criticism that we were OVERCOUNTING. It’s after Delta that Wen contends the overcounting begins to occur – due to the fact that people are immunized, one way or the other, have no or mild symptoms and come to the hospital with another problem, which may or may not have been exacerbated by covid or just because they delayed treatment because of covid. Hello, McFly, here’s a buck, is there anybody in there?

    Larry blames the MSM for this yet his proof, Wen, is MSM. Larry build a nefarious conspiracy, fueled by fear and loathing of our institutions, media, and Democratic government (he’s OK with Trump policies) instead of a calm, dispassionate search for the truth. Larry needs fear and loathing to feed his beast. He dismisses Wen’s admonition: “We must have honest accounting and transparent reporting. That requires acknowledging that data changed over time and that deaths due to the pandemic are not necessarily the same as deaths due to covid.” Hello, McFly…..

    He leaves out two very important things Wen says in her response to the piece Larry used where she adds timing and undercounting as factors as well. Because of timing there was overcounting and there was undercounting —much due just to timing: no one lying on purpose, no attempt to pad the bill, no conspiracy. Probably there was more overcounting — would you like to autopsy someone who has covid at the pandemic’s height to be sure of the primary cause? When we had no preventatives, no sure cures? Not without a hazmat suit and a facility that makes a Wuhan lab look like a dermatologist’s office.

    Why didn’t Larry look at the response piece delivered within days of the first Wen piece? Has he looked at it yet?

    Trump’s response after failing to defend the nation in this viral war was based on State’s rights, his first mistake was to have 50 solutions to one enemy in a global war. That’s just stupid. No general would lead a war that way. The death counts are also based on state’s rights and they too changed with time: Florida changed its cause of death “rules” and suddenly hardly anyone dies from covid in Florida — undercounting for sure, a miracle cure there through a political response is doubtful. Think that was medical or political? Likewise, in the beginning, with the huge surges, Wen says in her response to Larry and other critics: “At the beginning of the pandemic, many people — including a lot of young and otherwise healthy individuals — became very ill from covid pneumonia. Testing was limited, and it’s likely many deaths weren’t attributed to covid that should have been.” Undercounting.

    Wen notes, as Omicron hit and there were less hospitalizations, multiple factors hit the death notice with patients tested coincidently with covid. However, be clear — the choice for covid death is not yes or no, it’s yes, or a contributing factor, or it just happens to be there. Larry seems to miss contributing factors as a possibility.

    Also, think of all the suicides, opioid deaths, alcoholism deaths, and increasing depression and mental health tragedies, including youth issues that surged during covid. I know Larry wants to attribute all to our lockdown that wasn’t a lockdown, but how can you not say covid isn’t involved.

    But Wen makes the point, from a reader, in her closing: “There are excess deaths occurring since covid started, but if we assign all of them to covid, then we are missing other ways that our health-care system is failing.”

    This was war. Covid is war. Truth gets shaded in the fog of war and we need to get to the truth. There was overcounting, there was undercounting, it varies with time. The was covid death, there was covid as a contributing cause of death, we need to establish the truth. Not to cast blame as Larry desires, but to forge a better future so that THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN AGAIN.

    There is no way for anyone to conclude our response was over-the-top or not enough. I contend our response was not enough and present Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia as my proof. They did better than us, some did quite well.
    Remember, timing plays a role. But let’s use South Korea; in the beginning, Chinese-style draconian lockdowns results in very low numbers. However, because its population agreed, they locked down smaller regions, kept the economy going, invested in tests and other early warning gear. One funny one was the phone ap that let you know you were close to the infected. One guy, doing his job, was tabbed by the ap when he was visiting a place of ill repute – part of his job — and suddenly it goes viral, literally. They fixed that. Then SK got the vaccine, the people loved getting vaccinated, and they opened the doors via ending the lock downs to the biggest omicron surge on the planet in which, due to vaccines, they had few hospitalizations and death.

    Maybe as we fine tune our death count we should take a look at best of class responses. Unlike Larry who just looks for blame, usually amongst Democrats, I look to the future. This is going to happen again and I don’t want to do the same thing, or worse, again. I want to learn from our mistakes which were many, not just the counting. Larry conveniently leaves out this fact: our response sucked and we have a much higher case and death count than we needed. It continues today as our numbers are over four times that of a seasonal flu for death and we pretend it’s just a cold that kills the old. I like the old, even Larry :>)

    Before Wen, everyone knew there was overcounting and undercounting, most think it skews to the overcounting, but no one knows — not Wen, and certainly not Larry. No matter how hard he slaps his back in self-congratulation-gratification. The only difference is a MSM story that Larry can weaponize to help drive out his demons of the establishment. I would rather find out the truth to solve tomorrow’s version of this because I say, we should say: never again. And then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. And blaming is not the cure.

    • larry Horist

      Frank Stetson … you go me again, but apparently do not know it. I must have written that commentary late a night. Correction: The 60 percent of those declared dead FROM Corvid were NOT tested. It was assumed … just like the national figures.

      • Frank stetson

        I dunno; I said is was crazy talk but guessed wrong what you really meant. Would you really ask someone to autopsy those people at that time so you could perfectly nail down the cause?

        Crazier yet is that’s your only response to my covid war and peace.

        You remind me of “paralysis by analysis” where you throw out the baby with the bathwater stating the numbers are off and therefore your opinions on lockdowns, economic effects, masks, etc. are right.

        The doctors were after doing better in the future; yout intent is to prove liberals bad.

        Again, no matter how you count, our response sucked and too many died needlessly. Still are. Every day.

        I listed a number of best-in-class countries that responded better with lockdowns that did not crush their economies.

        Yes, counting better provides better response in ways the doctors, not you, noted. But if we had locked down, masked, and had broad vaccine mandates, far fewer would be dead.

        Other countries proved my point. As noted above.

  7. frank stetson

    Larry’s Hot Dog story cancels free speech.

    No one can reply (or is it just I)?

    Ironic, ain’t it.

    • Ac

      Not just you, mine, too.

      I’ll piggyback back on your comment with this for Larry.

      Debate on the long and short dogs come over done, as buns count per bag mismatch vs dogs in a pack seems pointlessly moot.
      Weiner or hot dog , Detroit style, New York white hot (illegal in MI) and red, I’ll take them grilled, not blackened, in a bun doused with condiments or bun-less dabbed in catchup, a treat.
      No need for dogs and buns making a match, no bun no problem. Dogs go down just as well eating them bare.
      Florida dogs can be grilled year round, while here in MI winter grilling is rare. Parka, snow suit, boots, thick gloves, and patience aplenty are pulled on when you just can’t go without until spring thaw brings us out.
      I’ll have two in buns and another browned and plain, hold the onion, please.

      • larry Horist

        Ac … some glitch prevents comments on the Hot Dog commentary to upload. That is that last commentary I expected to become victim of cancel culture. It must be the Vegans. Like you, I occasionally enjoy a raw hot dog as a snack. I think I will get one now.
        Unlike you, I get extra onions.

        • frank stetson

          Likes the raw dog and being groped. I’d say whatever floats your boat, but in your adopted state of FL you would have to be punished.

          TMI Larry, TMI :>)

      • frank stetson

        The dog/roll debate is due to the fact that most dogs come a pound to the pack. (or is that a pack from the pound?) Then the individual dog type determines the number. Oscar Meyer may even have a 3-pack, that’s the Great Dane of dogs. And today, dog makers are messing with the pound rule, so there’s 12-oz-ers etc. out there now. I guess since the roll debate is so firmly part of our culture now, total weight vs. number of dogs is a thing of the past, but matching the rolls part of our heritage also.

        I grew up in Buffalo where today there are over a dozen local makers, some with a century and a half of going to the dogs. That’s my dog pedigree LOCAL: My version had the same song, but full name, not just Shelly.

        And don’t get me started on the Beef on Weck with German Potato Salad.

        In NJ it’s not the dog, but the kennel: for us, Rut’s Hut is the must. It’s the home of the Ripper, nothing like it: # That’s right, we deep fry our dogs till they crack.

        And who can forget the Howard Johnson’s dog we grew up with? The rolls had no crust, like a piece of white bread, lightly toasted, shaped like a roll, but neatly squared off so it could stand proud. Since we never went out, it was like heaven on Earth.

        Now myself, I need ambiance, so it’s Hot Dog Johnny’s or HDJ as the cool people say. Located on Route 46 in NW NJ, on the Pequest River, near the Delaware, just past Buttzville (save it, we’ve heard all the jokes), Johnny came home from WWII looking for something to do. His first stand is there, looks like an out house. Now the “new” stand harkens back to to 50’s, has pic-a-nic tables, swings, the river, old style fun. BUT know how to order — two types: regular and Route 80 dog. Regular is deep-fried in peanut oil with onion, mustard, and a pickle slab down the middle. Route 80 dog is same but ketchup/relish added. Route 80 is the Federal Highway that ruined Johnny’s business until it was “re-discovered” for it’s atmosphere (perhaps more than the dogs). Out of the way, secluded except for the road, very cool river breezes in the summer, it’s a goldmine. Patti runs it, she’s family, and trust me, don’t mess with her, she’s a tough one. Nice when she let’s you in, but a tough egg to crack. Also, only the brave order custom, there’s a glare involved for custom, questions, whatever. Same with asking “what’s on the dog,” where they will glare and point to a sign, hidden, with small print. If feeling cool, order the Route 80 dog since most don’t know it so you hear a “oooooh” from the line. And there’s something about those bitter onions. If you eat in your car, it will be days to get rid off. Once my Mom and I stopped and then drove to an antique store 30 minutes away. Not two feet in the door, the owner says: “how was Johnny’s?” Yeah, that powerful.

        This may be exurban legend, but it is said Johnny started the place, worked it for decades, but one day met his fate exiting the parking lot into a tractor; he died with his boots on at his drive-in by a drive-by. I am too scared of Patty to ask her the truth. Neat place. # And yes, I have the t-shirt.

        Best fries in NJ; no spray starch, big, and have been known to cause 2-alarm fire upon hitting the stomach. Extra crisp and really hot. Better than soup on a cold day. I have found equal but never better.

        Getting hungry now but betting Johnny’s is on vacation until March. But will hit 50 next weekend and grill is on the porch, ready to go. Have some Omaha Steak Dogs waiting to meet their unmaker. Now there’s a big dog. Free too, gotta love those credit card perks.