6-12-2005 Harry, you’re a beast

There are those days when I want nothing more than to totally ignore the internet. Sure enough. There are those days when I awaken only to learn that Godzilla wasn’t really chasing me along the muddy banks of the Susquehanna, and I find myself relishing yet another day of doing whatever sounds like good fun.

Lately, debating Wilkes-Barre’s present condition and it’s immediate future has become a mostly tedious exercise for me where once it was a labor of love. Call me pizzled upon by a giant radioactive tomcat, but I am really comfortable with our current leadership. But, apparently, not all of us are sharing the same comfort zone. So be it. I’m good with that until I find myself sporting shackles for riding my menacing bike in the forbidden zones.

Presently, I’m surrounded by construction, legions of eager volunteer groups, the well-connected movers and shakers suddenly worried less about who gets the credit as long as things move forward as rapidly as possible, and I eagerly await the high-return, high-profile projects soon to get underway.

I remember the days immediately following May 20, 2003, when many folks were asking me what would become of this web locale without a certain mayor to bash anymore. I knew not, nor did I care way back when. I figured we’d be hacking each others nuts over sports, or trading pictures from the latest rock ‘n’ roll shows we attended. Never in my most scattershot of thoughts did I believe that we’d be chomping at the bit to chew the new mayor to pieces. While I watch the newest pieces of what should be universally hailed as a brighter future for our city falling into place, I am still being prodded to explain why I support, arguably, the most forward-thinking and the most all-inclusive leader this city has seen since the Breaker Boys were quitting school even before they knew how to spell their surnames.

As for myself, raging against a corrupt, or an inept local machine seemed to have some real sense of purpose. But raging against those who can see nothing through the trees of negativity is getting a bit tiresome and then some.

And yet…here I am posting some more gibberish on the internet.

Believe it or not, despite what has gone on in the past with all of my insta-pundritry, I do not automatically loathe every single person who has ever shaken a few grubby hands, kissed a few homely babies, or cut a few hastily-erected Grand Re-Opening ribbons.

Harry, you’re a beast.

(No need to freak out, people. Consult with your local Zappa historian before going totally ballistic.)

Let’s rock!

From the e-mail inbox Mark,

say it ain't so! Even you fell for this load of crap? You're smarter than that. This 'event' was copied right from page two of "Political Strategies for Dummy's". Wherein it is written that if you must give some bad news (ie: firehouse) try to obscure it with something else. But WOW! This was the best Tom and his staff could come up with? Talk about a backfire! I'm dumbfounded! After speaking with a number of attendees the general consensus is that he did himself more harm than good with this, well, whatever that was.

I gotta tell you that I'm slowly losing faith in this administration. It seems to me (maybe I'm wrong) that the mayor's team is mirroring all the bad strategies and behaviors of the last administration. So what is the common denominator? J.J. Murphy? Christine Jensen? And who wrote that speech he gave? I mean really, that was the most/worst inarticulate babble I have ever seen! Maybe Tom needs to attend a public speaking class. Possibly some speech therapy. Better yet let someone else do the speaking next time. His use of the "dis, dat, dem and dohs" certainly didn't instill faith in the crowd. And "I believe"? That's nearly as cheesey as the "Proud to be" slogan from the last gumbah. Does he really think the public will swallow this one?

I'm still in shock over this. All I can say is: "Oy"...

Harry

Dude, with all due respect, I didn’t fall for anything. The mayor thinks we’ve got plenty of reasons to be optimistic rather then pessimistic about our city’s future, and quite frankly, I wholeheartedly agree with him.

And as far as operating from the political playbook is concerned, if he truly sought nothing more than to bury the news of East Station’s permanent closing he would have held that particular press conference at 6:30 on a Friday night. As a matter of fact, if he was operating from the tried-and-true Luzerne County political playbook, we’d be dumping a quarter of a million bucks into a firehouse barely large enough to house a couple of oversized go-carts. Wouldn’t want to annoy the voters demanding financial responsibility and reckless spending with the same baited breath, would we?

But WOW! This was the best Tom and his staff could come up with? Talk about a backfire! I'm dumbfounded! After speaking with a number of attendees the general consensus is that he did himself more harm than good with this, well, whatever that was.

You are certainly not the first person to voice that sort of opinion of the hyped to the hilt goings-on at Genetti’s, but if you think the mayor needs to hire himself a professional public relations consultant at, say, $50,000 a year, by all means, tell him so. If memory serves me correctly, the last mayor had exactly that--a public relations guru-- at his personal disposal, yet, his meanderings offered up for public consumption at breakneck speeds were often indecipherable from the rants of the dreggy drags that live in the best garbage hoppers that Wilkes-Barre has to offer.

I gotta tell you that I'm slowly losing faith in this administration. It seems to me (maybe I'm wrong) that the mayor's team is mirroring all the bad strategies and behaviors of the last administration. So what is the common denominator? J.J. Murphy? Christine Jensen?

Frankly put, I would love to hear you expound upon the “bad strategies” angle. Bad strategies? In what respect? Is it bad to get long stalled projects not only off the ground so to speak, but under construction? Is it bad to rally the long-suffering troops? Is it bad to put out the call for volunteers to spruce up the entrance to the city? Is it bad to actually encourage the grass roots groups such as the Downtown Residents Association to work their volunteer magic? Is it bad to protect that bottom line as if it was one’s daughters virginity while the AMBAC folks are literally watching our every move from afar? Is it bad to have the nuts necessary to make the tough decisions that won’t go over well with some segment of the constituency?

Name me a mayor that wants to close firehouses? Name me one. In terms of votes, that’s a lose/lose situation whereas the dimmest of the dimwitted voters are concerned. What would we prefer, here? To have a mayor confident enough in his financial decisions to redo the fire department while committing huge financial outlays to that leaner, meaner department? Or to have a mayor that constantly harasses and demeans that fire department because he thinks it’s a bloated and overly expensive outfit? A game of nine-ball anyone?

Rack ‘em!

To anyone professing to be losing faith in this administration, I would have to advise them to do what they have to do when we next vote. Howbeit, I would also add the proviso that they need to be very, very careful as to what they might be wishing for. The recently bounced mayor ran the city into the ground and we rightfully castigated and banned him for doing so. Now, we have ourselves a mayor who is drawing upon every possible source of help in an impressive effort at lifting this city from the stifling muck. And what does he get in return? Criticism up the friggin‘ whazoo. Oodles and oodles of negativity passed on by the multitude of folks who fancy themselves to be urban planners extraordinaire.

And myself? I’m not so much losing confidence in this administration as I am losing faith in the hoi polloi that begged on bent knees for a savior. Any savior.

Christine Jensen? Is she a problem? You sure got me by the short ones. I don’t know her, nor do I need to. She’s been described to me as being very, very abrasive at times. But I seriously doubt that some human resources holdover from a prior administration can lead the city down the road to ruin.

And then there’s J.J. Murphy. He’s the city administrator. In other words, he’s the first assistant. He’s the #2 honcho. He’s the hatchet man when the need arises. He’s the guy that does the dirty work. He’s the enforcer. He’s the guy that needs not to win friends, but to win the battles that the financially troubled city needs to win. Behind the scenes, I imagine he’s probably the guy you ought not fu>k with.

During a previous life, I too was the first assistant to a general manager known for producing consistently impressive numbers. Everybody loved him. But I was the guy he dispatched to reprimand, coach, negotiate with, or terminate employees. I was called “the big prick” only because I was charged to be the big prick in that organization. And I was perfectly fine with being despised on occasion and known as someone you ought not fu>k with. The fact is, somebody has to wield the iron fist of management, or otherwise, the entire operation will begin to fail quite noticeably.

Has our city administrator ruffled a few feathers along the way? Tell me, because I truly do not know. But if he has, do not be so naďve as to think that he’s not doing a good job simply because somebody doesn’t care for him, his tactics, or his workplace demeanor. When the iron fist of management comes down with a mighty thud, oftentimes, the guy swinging it is only doing what needs to be done for the long-term financial health of the organization.

And do not make the oft-common mistake of thinking that it’s somehow fun to fire an employee, deliver news they won‘t want to hear, or to have to sit face-to-face with them and tell them that they need to dramatically improve their personal hygiene regimen. Not everyone wearing a tie is a Vindictive Little Prick (VLP).

And who wrote that speech he gave? I mean really, that was the most/worst inarticulate babble I have ever seen! Maybe Tom needs to attend a public speaking class. Possibly some speech therapy. Better yet let someone else do the speaking next time. His use of the "dis, dat, dem and dohs" certainly didn't instill faith in the crowd. And "I believe"? That's nearly as cheesey as the "Proud to be" slogan from the last gumbah. Does he really think the public will swallow this one?

I'm still in shock over this. All I can say is: "Oy"...

Correct me if I’m wrong, but Tom Leighton never once promised to be the best damn speech writer, or the most amazing public speaker in the history of this long since fading city. In actuality, I really find it kind of perplexing that you would be criticizing his public speaking abilities while the memory of Tom McGroarty’s embarrassing attempts at public relations linger on.

Sure, I’ve noticed Leighton’s propensity for launching a few dis, dat, dem and dohs our way. So? So what? Did you ever address a crowd of 800 people? Did you ever have to speak directly into the microphones and television cameras just waiting on your every stammered syllable? Think it’s easy? Think we’re all up to it?

Years ago, I attended a seminar titled “People Centered Management.” The purpose of this event was to teach us that raising our voices, being personally judgmental, or being heavy-handed in any way was not a necessary part of correcting troublesome employees. Needless to say, I was highly skeptical of the entire feel-good foray.

On the very first morning, we were told that we were going to have to role play one-at-a-time in front of the 200 or so people assembled before us. And if that’s not completely unnerving enough, our performances would be videotaped and used as examples of what not to do if we weren’t 100% people centered. And then, we were told that right outside the door to the ballroom we were in were actors who were primed and ready to be highly irrational, emotional and crazed if need be, while we were plying the very best of our supposedly polished management skills that we had to offer.

And who was called upon to be the very first person to sit upon that highly-scrutinized hot seat? Yepper, yours truly.

Did you ever hear the phrase, “sweating bullets?” Trust me, I was sweating mortar shells as I was taking the stage. And how’d I do? Well, despite knowing that we were supposed to be the absolute pillars of professionalism, I failed miserably because I uttered one word that was thought to be reprehensible under the circumstances. Yep, I cracked under the pressure. I couldn’t hack it.

Up until the very end of my role playing session, I hit it by the numbers. I stated the problem. I told the lovely, but highly combative actor why it was important. I asked her to work on improving this seriously flawed aspect of her performance. I restated the problem and, again, reiterated why it needed improving upon. And then I asked her to talk commitment with me. Unfortunately, lost upon me was my use of one single word while working my management magic on her. That word?

DUH!

The thing is, public speaking is not as easy as it seems when everyone listening to you is ready, willing and eager to glom onto and then obsess over that lone flub you might make.

I could care less whether Tom Leighton does, or does not possess the oratorical skills of a JFK, a Ronald Reagan, or one Francis Vincent Zappa. All that matters to this numbskull is that he continues to protect the bottom line, he continues to promote this city, and he sees to it that he’s doing every thing humanly possible to change our city’s once flagging fortunes indefinitely.

And as far as our new motto, “I believe” is concerned, I fully realize that professing to believe in one’s community is certainly not chic in this long-depressed area known more for it’s shortcomings than it’s successes. Think about it. This is an area littered with nay saying hammerheads who are still bemoaning the loss of their crowning achievement. The loss of the mines was one thing. The loss of the textile industry was a whole other thing. But losing SAYSO? How much more can these purveyors of abject negativity take?

Nah. Dude, I have to respectfully disagree with you and all of your e-mail points. Yes, Tom Leighton’s announcement was no doubt anticlimactic after a week of wild-eyed speculating and whatnot. And, yes, he sure sprinkles quite a few “ dis, dat, dem and dohs" throughout his various and now “sundry” speeches.

But in all honesty, I’d rather hear him promise to fix what ails dis city and then slowly watch him make it happen, rather than tripping over dem “Progress as Promised” signs that were so prominently poised every ten feet or so. Rather than hanging on his sometimes garbled words, start paying attention to the construction going on in every far-flung corner of this city.

Dat dere is the difference between sounding like a make-believe hero, and sounding like one who actually has a plan in place. I ask not of Tom Leighton that he deliver to us the most eloquent speeches in the history of local politics. I ask not that he come off sounding like a Yale-educated lawyer. Actually, I kind of like the fact that, on occasion, he sounds like so many of us. Know why? Because that’s exactly what he is--one of us. He’s of the born-and-raised variety and he sought out his current position only because he, like so many of us, was horrified by what had become of this city.

Now, you can call me silly, or believe that I somehow got duped by this mayor. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not such a bad thing to buck the current trends and dare to state very publicly that you believe in the future of this city. Unlike so many of those around me…I believe.

And you wanna know what? Being positive always feels better than being drowned by the abject negativity that seems to have been passed down from generation to generation in this perpetual rust-belt of an area.

As I said, I disagree with your take on our most recent happenings. But, that doesn’t mean we have to fight to the death or anything. A difference of opinion taken to it’s extremes can result in some destructive undertakings. Conversely, an on-going difference of opinion can also lead to some rather constructive debate. And debating the increasingly promising future (Sez me) of one’s once ill-fated community can only add to it’s overall health as a community.

I have to go. Gage, Taylor and I are about to hit the streets on my elongated bicycle.

Do me a favor, though. Tell your old man to cool it with the bike ban for one more weekend. I don’t want to have to bail all three of us out of jail.

Hey. Check out the Talkback 16 web page for the latest, up-to-the-minute beatings laid on our mayor. Some folks ought to get quite the kick out of dem.

Suddenly…I feel some Men Without Hats coming on:

It makes you wonder ’bout the things they say
We are never gonna leave, we are never gonna stay
They talk for nothing, they talk for free
They talk behind your back and to your face they’re really sweet
Check out the language, check out the clothes
Their mother buys them shoes ’n where she gets them no-one knows
They go to parties to steal the show
By talking really loud ’n try to tell you what they know

But:

I…like, when they talk really loud trying to tell you what they know
I…like, when it blows real hard and it doesn’t even show

From the e-mail inbox Hi Mark -

Take a look at WNEP's website. Their Talkback 16 message board has a lot of comments on the Mayor's announcement the other day. It is much like SAYSO used to be. Can't believe the negativity of some in your hometown. Even though I am not a resident of WB, I must say the mayor did a fine job of giving WB HOPE!

LM

From the e-mail inbox My post on Talkback 16:

Tho I am not a resident of your city, I found myself reading some of the comments posted conncerning this matter. Some of you posters should be ashamed of the negative attitude you have towards your mayor. Yes, he did announce things that should be his job anyway. However, your previous mayor left your city in financial ruins. Your current mayor has little money to do things right away. His announcement was meant to bring the residents of your city HOPE!! You must creep before you walk. At least things are heading in the right direction. Just being able to afford the things that you all should have never lost, is a positive start! Your city chose Leighton for the job. Now let him do it. But he clearly tried to offer all of you hope....

Should be interesting to see the feedback!

Why…how dare you offer words of encouragement to our evil-doer of a mayor! Don’t you know he’s a politician, therefore, no matter what he says or what he does he cannot be trusted? Look here, Babs. If we need a dose of positive thinking, we’ll just put some professional wrestling on the advertising box and throw back a few Stegs.

My buddy SNAKE sent some instant messaging my way earlier today. He told me that he had spotted me riding my bike on the Square yesterday. So, in his mind, there’s one felony. Plus, both of my grandsons kicked off their teeny tiny imported sneakers and went nuts while running through the fountain again and again and again. I think we’re talking federal charges now. And if that’s not enough to get a battering ram smashing through my front door…I was spotted smoking a Newport in the center of the Square. Say it ain’t so, Mark!. Say it ain’t so!

Waco II, anyone?

And so it is written, (on whatever it is that city council decided to write it on) that fun and frolicking on Public Square shall get one hanged by the eyelids until they wise the fu>k up. Well, that is, if they happened to be born after the advent of the nifty hula hoop.

But check out what I snagged from Downtown Wilkes-Barre.org .

Public Square in Downtown Wilkes-Barre

At the center of Downtown Wilkes-Barre, the Public Square is home to a weekly seasonal Farmer's Market, parades and gatherings for almost every holiday, and a gathering place for every member of the community. Artistic sculptures and historic plaques surround the square with a flowing fountain bursting from the center. A treat for the eyes and a centerpiece of the city, Public Square is open at all times for all people.

Hmmm…not good.

Have our city council members seen this utter blasphemy?

A “ gathering place for every member of the community?”

Public Square is open at all times for all people?”

Let’s correct these glaring oversights, shall we?

A gathering place for every member of the non-cycling community.

Public Square is open at all times for all people not riding bicycles.

There we go. All better now. I’m glad I could lend a hand. Er, a couple of fingers. You just gotta love living in a college town. No?

Yeah, yeah, yeah… you’ve heard it a thousands time over: You can find anything on the internet. Trust me, it’s true.

I decided to pay a quick visit to Kayak Dude’s web site and catch up on the latest from The Susquehanna River According to Uncle Kanjo. Anywho, there I was navigating (insider river talk, man) his site when, lo and behold, a very familiar and “thoroughly soaked, stupid looking white sort of male person's conservative kind of middle-of-the-road cotton undergarment” (Zappa) jumps right out at me.

Take a peek.

Heyna? See that? Every serious river rat understands that no workout is complete without a Thompson Street Block Party T-shirt.

Dude…cut the sleeves off. Show us those massive guns of yours.

Gage Andrew and I wandered into Schiel’s yesterday so as to gather some edible stuffs that do not require the generation of even more heat to prepare them for consuming. We made our way through the store and the last stop on our list was the dairy aisle. And as I was reaching for a container of eggs, (YUK!) the kid rotating the eggs turned and sprinted away from us after someone had let out a scream somewhere back there behind us.

I whirled around only to see a rather tall woman bulky enough to require a few placards fighting with a couple of teen-aged employees of the store. Needless to say, I was amazed. And then the kid in charge of rotating the eggs and a manager of the store joined the fracas. There was a lot of pushing, shoving and cursing going on, and the female version of Andre the (flabby) Giant was making her way towards the exit, and cursing all the way.

While I rubbernecked, I also made my way to the rear of the first available check-out aisle. And within a few seconds, WrestleMania was but a few feet away from Gage Andrew who was standing by my side. I moved him to my other side and no sooner had I done so, the developing fracas moved past me and, again, came within very close proximity to Gage once again. Now, I was approaching a place well past being annoyed. And ready.

Being a many times over decorated veteran of the Midnight Shift Wars, I was feeling a bit embarrassed for all four of these guys who seemed to be able-bodied, but couldn‘t handle a grossly overweight middle-aged chick. I turned my back to the lot of them, but my fat head only ever so slightly. And if I felt as much as a rush of air waft past my backside, somebody was going to eat an elbow coming their way with as much velocity as I could muster. This is not a long-lost art. Stun the offending asshole senseless and then pin their fu>king head to the tarmac. It works every time it’s tried.

But…luckily, the conflagration of pansy slapping and cursing folks slid their way towards the front door and toppled the gumball machine. And once the seemingly unstoppable behemoth was finally corralled short of the exit door she so desperately sought, she agreed to wait in the “back room” until the copper dudes arrived on scene.

To be completely honest, I have not felt that massive adrenaline bolt that immediately proceeds ultra-violent acts in quite a while. I almost miss that frightening surge. I’ll admit it. Twenty years ago, I was an asshole with much more than a chip on my shoulder. But I never hurt anyone that wasn’t already begging to be hurt. Back then, sending someone “lights out,“ and then rolling my eyes skyward and letting out a primal scream was better then sex. It was like dope, only better. Beware of the welfare kids all grown up like. Our Midnight Shift Wars motto at that time was, “It doesn’t matter if people get hurt so long as the right people get hurt.” And they did.

These days, I’m but a grumpy old, worthless Pop Pop breaking major laws with my subversive and dangerous bicycle. But if an immediate threat to my grandson’s well-being suddenly presents itself, the long-suppressed Mark of old quickly reemerges. That’s what the fat chick made me painfully aware of yesterday. For just a few seconds, while standing on line at the supermarket, I was ripped back to a time and a state of mind that now seems to me to be a few centuries in the past. And I liked it.

But enough with the dark side of the force.

Once things calmed down and our foodstuffs were being scanned, Gage tugged on my tank top in an attempt to capture my undying attention. And after tossing a watermelon into our shopping cart, I turned towards him and waited for him to speak. And speak he did.

He paused for a moment, as if he was collecting his not yet four-year old thoughts and then asked of me, “Pop Pop, is that lady a retard?”

And my reply?

“Yes, Gage. I think that lady is a retard.”

Where do these kids get this stuff from?

Any-friggin’-way…with the temperatures being what they‘ve been of late, we didn’t feel like cooking anything yesterday.

Freeze! You are all under arrest for violating the McCarthy Act

Later

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