2-5-2007 Blast from the past: Apizza

The Super Bowl was about what I expected: The Colts’ offense wearing down the Bears’ defense. When Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff to a score, I immediately and correctly thought that the touchdown would be their first of only two. Hey, the Bears’ have been scoring touchdowns on both defense and special teams all year long, which helped to make up for a lack of a decent quarterback. It finally caught up with them last night.

Peyton Manning has been the consummate pro quarterback since forever, so it’s only right that he claims the big trophy at least once. I just wish some of his skills would rub off on his little brother Eli. Many Giants fans are starting to think there’s a fat chance of that happening. We’ll see.

What was the name of that outfit that put on the per-game show? Circus duh what? That’s the circus the animal protesters always tell us we should worship simply because they aren’t mean to elephants, or some such silliness. Based on what I saw last night, I‘m thinking we should book that freak show at the arena and allow the elephants to be mean all over them. It was colorful and lame.

I read a glowing review of Prince’s halftime show this morning. Actually, it was more like gushing. I’ll give him credit, though. What we saw last night was Prince Lite, not the usual crotch-grabber and usual emasculated pervert with a guitar. He behaved himself in that venue, and I was happy to see as much. But, still, Prince as wholesome entertainment? Who would have thought it even possible?

Oh, and excessive hammer-downs do not constitute excellent guitar solos.

Whatever.

There is a must-read story in the Northeast PA Business Journal titled Building 'City Power': To strengthen 'weak market' cities, Brookings has five recommendations that every concerned local citizen ought to take more than a precursory glance at. It provides a glimpse into the wonderful world of urban renewal which is well underway here in Wilkes-Barre, and seems to be in it’s infancy down the road a way in Nanticoke.

A while back, our then-mayor decided to fire the city’s urban planner-in-chief and go it alone. “It” being the eventual remodeling of the downtown. Their visions of a future Wilkes-Barre seemed to be at odds, so I guess one of them had to go. At that point, I decided to read whatever I could find about all of this urban planning and urban renewal malarkey. And what I very quickly learned was that the former urban-planner-in-chief knew what he was talking about and the then-mayor clearly did not.

By the way, that former city employee was recently presented with an Outstanding Community Leadership Award by his many local peers.

The "weak cities" report includes an analysis of the economic problems plaguing cities across the United States.

It also includes comprehensive recommendations it likens to pieces of a puzzle:

* Build on economic strengths;

* Fix the basics;

*Transform the physical landscape;

*Grow the middle class; and

*Create neighborhoods of choice.

What have I been preaching at you understandably skeptical people every step of the way? “Build on economic strengths” by rejuvenating that long-dormant downtown and have it generate revenues again. The biggest, almost insurmountable problem all struggling cities face is shrinking tax bases and declining revenues. And without first addressing the flailing revenue situation, troubled cities will remain in a tailspin.

The first piece of Wilkes-Barre’s once vexing urban renewal puzzle had to be providing the economic catalysts by which the downtown would make a noticeable comeback and start producing much-needed revenues. The critics of this plan will tell you the downtown as we remember it is long gone, we should accept that reality and that we would be better served by “fixing the neighborhoods,” whatever that means. And that is as short-sighted as it is ass-backwards as it pertains to significant urban renewal, because a city-wide urban makeover requires reliable revenue streams for the foreseeable future. Grants alone will not fix all that ails many of our cities.

So, we are trying to build on our economic strengths. We are also “fixing the basics,” although, petty politics precludes many of us from admitting as much. And with so many far-flung projects, both public and private, currently in the works, we are also working to “transform the physical landscape.” So far, so good. The latter of the priorities listed above, growing the middle class and creating neighborhoods of choice, would obviously be the direct byproducts of the first three priorities, not vice versa as the loudest of the critics so boisterously claim. And to make such a claim is to promise to correct long-term problems with short-term thinking.

A key segment of the report calls for weak cities to build on their existing economic strengths. Brookings says this can be accomplished by bringing together leaders from the worlds of business, education and government and by designing a unique vision for their city.

Does that sound eerily familiar? To have our business, education and government leaders partnering together to generate economic investment in our city? It should.

Unfortunately, there are those that point to that adroit partnership as proof of corruption and what have you. They are incorrect, but at least they’re consistent. When the city was lying in ruins, some railed against the “corrupt, do-nothing” leaders at both City Hall and at the Chamber of Commerce. And now that significant economic development and progress have come to the city in huge chunks, that is offered as proof of corruption at the hands of our so-called do-nothing leaders.

But when visionary leaders have a sound game plan in place and stick to it, the terminally disaffected will no doubt end up being seen as the biggest no-nothing chumps this side of the river.

Just a few short years ago, the dispirited residents of this city had no hope. And now we do have hope. And that still-nervous hope did not come to Wilkes-Barre completely by accident. Rather, it came here completely by design.

Sez me.

From the e-mail inbox And once a month we’d make the drive into Bridgeport

I did radio there, 1959-61. WICC, 600 on your AM dial. Actually, on everyone's AM dial. Also, WJZZ-FM at 99.9, which is now Star99. We had apizza ("abeetz") or tomato pies, take your pick, and you can still see apizza signs in some of the older beer joints. Now it's just pizza.

Tom Carten

Still doing radio

Apizza? Oh, yeah. I remember my favorite apizza very, very well. Roseland Apizza. If there’s a better pizza joint out there, I haven’t visited it yet.

We loved hitting the Duchess fast food joint down on the main drag near the Derby Drive-in, which, at the time, probably rivaled any local McDonald’s sales. But as far as I was concerned, Roseland was the ultimate in culinary treats. I can remember sitting in there with Roy Orbison’s most recent single, “Pretty Woman,” blaring from the jukebox. A long time ago, for sure.

When we lived at 90 Caroline Street, a cobblestone street right above Main Street, some of us neighborhood kids even made the trek to Roseland by bicycle one time. My mom got mad, though. If we had bothered to ask permission first, she could have told us it wasn’t open at eight in the morning.

On a side note, nothing beat standing at the fence along the perimeter of the Sikorsky plant hoping and waiting to see some new helicopter prototype crash. I never did see a crash, per se. But I did a few exciting hard landings. And I still have my Sikorsky tie clasp I received while on a tour of the sprawling plant with the Boys Scouts.

As far as Bridgeport goes, it’s a bombed-out shell of it’s former self. Gone are the numerous defense contractors only to be replaced by slums and gunfire during the daylight hours. When a cop climbs onto your truck cab, bangs on the window and says you should catch a few winks anywhere but here, that’s sure saying something about one’s city.

We lived there on two separate occasions. These days, I wouldn’t go near either of those properties without a weapon and a built-in redundancy. The Boy Scouts taught me that nifty little lesson.

Be prepared.

CYA






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