3-16-2009 The Sue Henry Pothole Challenge

Wifey, Zach and myself participated in the St. Pattyís Day Parade yesterday afternoon. It was fun and we all had our responsibilities once things got rolling along. I was the driver, Zach was the official candy tosser and Wifey was on foot for the most part while busily handing out coloring books.

The parade started at 2 PM, we started inching forward at 2:30 and then the entire thing stopped dead in itís tracks and did not move again until 3 PM. We had no idea what the holdup was, it was too loud to monitor the police scanner, so we just sat there. Finally, a neighbor came wandering on back through the heart of the stalled parade-goers and told us that somebody on Public Square had suffered a life-threatening medical emergency necessitating that the paramedics roll while the parade came to a grinding halt.

Oh.

I met one of the people running for a Luzerne County judgeship. He and a law associate were carrying a banner affixed with his law firms name. Young guy. Handsome-looking guy. When he introduced himself and announced that he was a candidate, I said ďYouíre one of those? One of the, what it is now, 270 or so hopefuls?Ē He chuckled and admitted that itís becoming a somewhat crowded race. I invited him to the internet scrum. Hopefully, heís smarter than that.

Anyway, it was the usual fare, but the numbers of participants as well as the onlookers seemed to be up. Way up. I saw plenty of familiar faces, some vaguely familiar, and you can count me in again for next year. 1 truck, 1 official candy tosser and 1 wife. Maybe even a potato gun and some free goodies of some value. You never know.

See you there.

I climbed out of bed this morning, turned on the radio and was treated to on-and-off reports of how uttering amazing Scrantonís parade was on Saturday. Yes, Kevin, Nancy and Steve alike were, as usual, duly impressed with the enormous proceedings.

And I take no issue with any reporting of that Scranton parade. As for myself, I have no interest at all in traveling to other cities to take in any parade of any sort. If I travel to another city, I want to see the New York Football Giants, the Atlanta Braves, or, perhaps, some rock Ďní roll legend bending guitar strings like theyíve never been bent before. Good stuff like that. I got no need to watch public drunkenness, public urinations or vomiting along the curb line. You know, well-attended family events a la the City of Scranton.

Anyway, at 9:10 AM comes the Sue Henry show on that imported radio of mine. And as WILKís lone on-air participant in yesterdayís Wilkes-Barre parade, she also made reference to the lengthy delay in the parade just as it seemed to be getting underway. And she giddily surmised that perhaps a leprechaun became trapped in a deep pothole and had to be rescued by the fire department.

First of all, it comes as no shock to me that--yet again--whenever any of WILKís talk show hosts mention Wilkes-Barre itís only to bash it real good like. We know the deal already, we have no illusions. Scranton good, Wilkes-Barre bad. Got it. And trust me, weíve come to expect nothing less than unfair, unearned bashing from the on-air folks at WILKÖScranton Radio.

But hereís the part that got my dander up. I challenge Sue Henry to walk that parade route with me and point out the deep potholes. As a matter of fact, I challenge her to find any potholes on that parade route at all. Any. I challenge her to come back down here and relocate all of these nonexistent potholes for me. Know why? Because there werenít any at all on the entirety of the parade route. I was there. I drove the entire length of the thing. They were not there yesterday. And there are not any there today.

None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Weíre approaching the forbidden talk radio territory of bald-faced lies here.

And while I cannot speak for the City of Wilkes-Barre, I would suggest to the employees of WILK that if they so completely despise Wilkes-Barre they feel the unrelenting need to paint untruths about this city over the airwaves, maybe they stay the hell out of Wilkes-Barre altogether.

So, again, where were they? Where were these asphalt divides deep enough to swallow leprechauns? Where, Sue?

Where?

Oh, and when you spy the videos from Scrantonís parade, take a close, close look at the condition of Scrantonís downtown streets? Take a peak. Iíve recently been there and driven those streets. And facts being facts, they are in far, far worse shape than any street in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

So, will Sue Henry take the Sue Henry Pothole Challenge?

Doubtful at best. If thereís one thing that the hosts at WILK hate most, itís their purposeful misperceptions being exposed as the blatant misperceptions that they obviously are.

Iím waitingÖ

Then, not fully annoyed just yet, I found my way through the last of the few remaining local blogs.

And hereís the first problem I encountered:

ďThe city of Wilkes Barre has begun a marketing campaign to sell those downtown lofts.Ē

What? The City of Wilkes-Barre owns lofts? Since when?

And then we segued into this oft-repeated swill about how no one will buy them, no one can afford them, you know, the old the-theater-will-never-work now retooled to apply to the lofts above the theatres. Got it. Nothing will work.

Then the meat: ďStill others question the safety of the downtown. A meeting planner I talked to said the perception is that if you are in Wilkes Barre after 6PM, it might not be the most inviting atmosphere.Ē

See? Progress! First we were told by people that never visited the downtown in the first place that it was never, ever safe, there were no cops to be found, blah, bah, blah. But nowÖnow itís pretty safe, kind of safe up until 6 PM. (???)

Well, gee, what happens at 6 PM? Is that when the prostitutes begin their shifts? Is that when the drug dealers punch in? Is that when the police all go home for the day?

Iím down there all the time and at all hours of the day. And I fail to see whatís not inviting about any of it. The new-and-improved lighting is far superior to what we had before. The foot traffic has increased off the chart. The many new restaurants seem to be doing well enough. The countless people coming and going to and from the theaters is nonstop. The retail concerns are doing better as a result of the upswing in foot traffic. Even more are on the way and soon. And the enhanced police presence is visible and constant.

As our blog author points out: ďBut sadly, sometimes perception becomes reality.Ē

True enough. The problem is, if we keep allowing, let alone, if we keep on repeating misperceptions until they become a dual reality, we are doing ourselves and our community a great disservice.

I say again, there are no potholes on the parade route! Thatís the reality.

After 6PM, it might not be the most inviting atmosphere? And whatís that? Yet another gripe emanating from Provincial Towers? The residents of Provincial Towers have been against every happening in the downtown since as far back as I can remember.

First it was prostitution and drug activity. And then the police department, flush with plenty of new hires, took back the long-ignored downtown from the undesirables. Then it was canopies? Then it was complaints about the ongoing construction? And then more complaints about the construction and how it not-so-greatly affected their parking habits. And then the big one hit. Club Mardi Gras opened. And with that, the focus shifted to griping about having a bar in the center of the downtown. And now the Hardware Bar is the focus of their nonstop ire. You see, every once and a while, it gets loud over there. And sometimes, drunk people even get to cussing at each other on the sidewalks at 2 in the morning. Still others throw punches until theyíre hauled away in handcuffs.

So, thatís the latest clarion call, we canít tolerate having bars in the center city. Why donít they put them up there in the Nord End, South Wilkes-Barre or over by the housing projects. Nobody cares about the people in the housing projects, right?

Bitch, bitch, bitch.

They used to bitch about the empty downtown we used to have. And know theyíre bitching again because itís no longer empty. The City only cares about the downtown. The City does not care about the neighborhoods, excepting for Barney Farms, of course. And now, the City allows bars to operate within the cityís confines.

The reality is, this city is home to too many malcontents. Malcontents who bend and reshape reality as they see fit. And then they repeat it until they and still others actually believe it.

Reality check: If you actually believe that downtown Wilkes-Barre is not safe, it may be time for you to run away to the gated suburbs and join the rest of the frightened white folks. If you feel that completely vulnerable most of the time, it might be time for you to consider escaping reality. Thereís reality, and then thereís your sissified version of it.

And then, predictably, the readerís comments in reaction to the aforementioned blog post quickly descend into the usualÖthe obligatory rants of Spring: Oh, the potholes.

Buck up, people. Get smart. This is not Arizona. This is the Northeast, where the freeze/thaw process makes itís yearly sophistry of paved roads. Iím sure there are gated communities in Arizona brimming with thoroughly frightened white people that would be more than glad to have you. Run away.

And whatís with the tired Barney Farms rants already? More unsubstantiated subterfuge from the ranks of the anonymous.

Have any of you actually been there during the past ten years? I challenge anyone,Öanyone to document for me what has been spent on that smallish neighborhood, while the remaining neighborhoods were supposedly being ignored. Anyone?

Iím waitingÖ

To quote Sergeant Barnes, ďReality? What would you all know about reality?Ē

And on a somewhat related note, I found myself here:

Report: W-B cop assaulted

Lt. Steven Olshefski said patrolwoman Erika Oswald was struck in the left side of her face while assisting other officers trying to break up a fight. She fell to the ground, was found to be non-responsive and was transported to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.

More on that from the Citizensí Voice:

Bar patron knocks cop unconscious

Police say Anthony Cavanaugh violently elbowed Officer Erika Oswald in the face when police arrived to break up a large fight between patrons leaving the Hardware Bar around 2:15 a.m.

Fellow officers immediately took Cavanaugh, 23, into custody in the area of the fight, outside 52 S. Main St. He was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer.

Allow me to reiterate here, when physically confronted from behind, you have no better friend than your flailing elbow. Thatís experience talking.

Now on to the latest bit of remaking reality by way of a politically-grinding axe.

From that same Times Leader story:

Wilkes-Barre Crime Watch President Charlotte Raup said South Main Street has become an increasing problem for police during the last several months to a year, having to deal with more fights and incidences of public drunkenness.

ďItís frustrating to me that police have to baby-sit these people coming out of bars drunk when they are needed elsewhere in the city,Ē Raup said.

And there you have it. The latest version of the-neighborhoods-are-being-ignored-for-the-benefit-of-the-downtown. The police are needed elsewhere in the city. Thatís a not-so-clever code for, the neighborhoods are being ignored.

Letís cut to the chase. While Iím no citizen turned crime fighter after dark, I do have extensive hands-on experience with what can and what does happen when the bars begin to clear out over the weekends. Namely, what happens when damn near everybody is drunk off their asses.

While Iíve heard on the scanner that the Hardware Bar has generated itís fair share of police calls at, near or after the 2 AM shutoff of the alcohol-filled spigots, how is this unique to downtown Wilkes-Barre? Thing s, where thereís a popular nightspot serving up alcohol, thereís police calls in waiting.

If a bar generates too many police calls, that suggests that one of two things are afoot. Either the bar is of the Wild, Wild West variety with lax security. Or, itís so wildly popular, odds are, some ugly incidents are bound to happen. And since I happen to know that the Hardware Bar is not lacking whereas the security angle is concerned, the incidents outside the bar can only be chalked up to itís popularity. Think of it this way: When was the last time a drunken brawl broke out from within a near empty bar?

While Iím not condoning that sort of drunken tomfoolery, I am a realist and I fully understand how the world works after last call. And while itís wholly unfortunate that some rowdy drunk took a cheap shot at Officer Oswald, itís also good to hear thatís she going to be okay.

But the cops know the deal. They know that the rowdiness outside of the local bar can come with the territory that is police work. And while some may not like it, while some may see it as tawdry and tireless at best, Iíve known cops that actually looked forward to it just to break up the monotony every once in a while.

And if youíve ever performed in this arena, you already know that most people inebriated beyond all belief are virtually defenseless when confronted with superior force. The point is, where there are popular venues serving alcohol, there are incidents. And for the most part, they are very minor in nature. See rowdy drunk, subdue and arrest rowdy drunk. But every once in a while, things can and do get a bit rowdier than that. But letís not take this one unfortunate incident and blow it out of proportion for political purposes.

The police protection in this city is not lacking, it is not stretched to the limits, because we now have a popular bar in the downtown. For that matter, in my opinion, itís not lacking at all. More often than not, if you canít get a cop when you feel you need one (within seconds), itís because they are relentlessly tied-up responding to what can only be classified as nuisance calls in our various and sundry neighborhoods. In other words, they are busily doing what they are charged to do.

The reality is, we have bars in the downtown as we do in every one of our neighborhoods. And some are more popular, more heavily frequented than are others. But I have to say this: Iíd rather be in a packed bar where the security personnel will call 911and request police assistance at the mere hint of serious trouble than in the smaller, less frequented bars where the owners are reluctant to request the police for fear of smearing their reputation.

Outside the popular bars with the attentive security personnel, you could find yourself punched all about, while the police rush to the scene. But outside the much smaller neighborhood taverns owned by people fearful of police activity and the resulting negative press, you could get yourself killed all by your lonesome. So, letís keep things in perspective here, kiddies.

We had ourselves an ugly incident outside of a downtown bar. And that in no way should be purposely misconstrued into the latest politically-driven claptrap about how the neighborhoods are being ignored all over again and for the benefit of the downtown.

And if you accept the premise that policing is best left to the police, ask the police, and not some politically-engaged Crime Watch member what plagues our city. And if you think the police department feels overmatched and spread too thin all because of one bar, your singular version of reality is seriously amiss.

Sez me.

This oneÖ this one Iím not sure what to make of.

Is this going to be like the McDonald's styrofoam boxes and they'll wait until it's at crisis proportions and we can't get to work in the morning because we're swimming in rubber bands and plastic bags???

Um, now rubber bands are destroying the Earth?

Is there no limit to this abject imbecility? Does the Church of Climate Change know no bounds?

What about paper clips? Theyíre not biodegradable, are they? Shouldnít we be taxing much heavier the evil industries that produce paper clips? Better yet, shouldnít we be jailing their greedy, bonus-drawing executives?

And whatís next? A three-part expose on how super balls are destroying our ďfragileĒ ecosystem? What about rusted hat pins? And empty containers of Chap Stick? Discarded Pinochle cards?

If stupidity were a tradable commodity, the easily-led progressive know-it-alls among us would be the richest people on Earth. I swear this to be true.

Yet another argument for legalized abortion.

From the e-mail inbox Mark:

Two things: Grassroots activism against drilling is expanding - Splashdown! Defend Our Water Now!

And I'm sure you saw where all the local earmarks are going from the stimulus $. I'm overjoyed to see that, true to his word, Congressman Paul Kanjorski continues to fight to clean up the Susquehanna River and its combined sewage outflows in the Wyoming Valley. This man stopped caring about the Susquehanna the minute his inflatable dam died, which, by the way, was on March 18th, 2008.

http://www.scrantontimes.com/articles/2009/03/12/news/sc_times_trib.2009312.a.pg1.tt12earmarks_s1.2366171_top2.txt

Later.

You know, I hadnít thought to explore that angle. Well, yet, that is.

When he was trying to jam that laughable inflatable dam down our throats, Congressman Paul Kanjorski couldnít repeat enough that the plan was: 1. He would first dam the river, and then, 2., Once he dammed the river, the multitude of folks suddenly drawn to it for a bit of water-skiing would outright demand that the quality of the river water be seriously improved.

And then, riding in on his white horse with gross amounts of Federal pork dollars in hand, heíd eliminate the very worst of the offending combined sewage outflows. And then the adoring populace would reelect him forever more. Thank you, Uncle Paul. Thank you for Lake Kanjorski, thank you for the nude beaches, and thank you for turning the Susquehanna into a source of safe drinking water.

Although, since the proposed inflatable dam of his was officially denied the necessary permits little more than a year ago, he seems to have forgotten all about how important it is for our troubled river to have those combined sewage outflows replaced.

And when you consider that Barack Oblahblah essentially handed all of our nationally elected Democrats blank pork checks to do what they would with, it seems readily apparent that Uncle Paul has moved on to bigger and better pork projects (?) now that we have denied him his inflatable dam project by which to play eminent domain games.

We dam it and then we clean it, that was his plan all along. But since we uneducated, unknowing lowlife serfs managed to deny him his dam, I guess we longer deserve a clean and rebounding Susquehanna River. We defied the Great Kanjorski and we are going to pay for it.

Dude, what were we thinking?

From the e-mail inbox I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who lives near Jim Thorpe. He recently lost his job, and is actively looking. He asked me if I am looking around even though I still technically have a job, and I told him, yes I had put in at one place and I'm looking around a bit more - but unless major medium-tech industries (solar cell production wind generator construction lithium-ion battery manufacture) move into this area, we are basically dead in the water except for call centers and warehouses.

And he told me that he has spoken to some businesspeople who have said that they are unwilling to relocate to NEPA because of the extreme and pervasive level of corruption in this area, from both government and organized crime alike. The whole scandal in the courthouse makes me want to vomit with rage, but the realization that that corruption, and the willingness of political and religious leaders to get in bed with people like D'Elia and Local Legitimate Businessman Who Absolutely Nobody Suspects Has Any Ties To Organized Crime Louis Denaples, is a major factor in keeping the people of Northeastern Pennsylvania impoverished, just makes me even hotter.

F**k, it took D'Elia singing to the Feds to blow the lid off the courthouse and even to stir their interest to investigate something that everyone had long known was going on. What will it take to get the rest of this crap cleaned out?

I canít speak to what the level of corruption may or may not be in this area. Weíll just have to wait and see on all of that. Seems as if we wonít have to wait too, too long.

Iíve heard the stories over the years, the ones about how the Chamber of Commerce was working at keeping the people in this area poor and always begging for more. I never believed any of that.

And Iíve heard the stories of the pervasive, the tentacle-like influence of the mob in this area. You got me on that. All I do know is, if true, none of that directly benefited me or anyone else I know of. Darn it.

I donít believe for a minute that any high-tech or any high-paying jobs are coming to the area, at least, in any appreciable numbers. No, I do not believe that weíre going to tap into the long-flooded mines and then produce untold amounts of heat and air conditioning, and all at a nominal cost to us.

To get by these days, we either need a job that is a specialty that cannot be outsourced no matter what. Or job skills that will always be in demand, in industries that will never, ever go away.

Consider my resume.

I can manage a full-service, sit-down, restaurant operating 24-a-day. With an income range of, probably, $35,000 to $100,000 per year. That depends on the concept and the company delivering it.

The point is, those jobs will always be there.

Try commercial truck driving. The sky is literally the limit whereas income potential is concerned in this industry. But, being on the road more often than not is a dogís life, so itís not recommended for those averse to major lifestyle changes. With that said, these jobs will always be there, short of an economic depression.

Then we have my present employment. I do what very few do. Not only that, but Iím considered an expert in my field. Again, you canít outsource my job. Nor can you trust it in the hands of anything even close to that of a trainee. The legal, safety and environmental dangers are many, so this is not a job you want affected by too much employee turnover.

My point is, in my opinion, itís better to have skills that will always be in demand, than it is to have skills that are subject to the rapidly changing market pressures and the titanic, sometimes fatal shifts in certain industries.

The way I see it, while I may never be rich, Iíll never again be poor. And to be quite honest, I had far more than my fair share of that stifling poverty bit while struggling to grow up. At this point, at least for me, not being poor is enough.

While Iíve been accused of being smart, Iíve never been accused of being overly ambitious. And, trust me, I am far from being ambitious. I could earn more than I currently do, but Iíve learned over the years that my time off from work is much more precious to me than any macho bragging rights that may come from being ambitious and ultimately successful.

No, Iím good where Iím at. Iím right in the middle, right where I always angled to be. Iím too valuable to be done way with, but not so valuable so as to be considered a financial burden when things go south and salary cuts become the order of the day. Iím good, but Iím not that good. And I generally stick to time-worn industries offering more than decent pay and decent benefits that are never going to go away.

The Chamber isnít going to save anyone from any perceived economic morass. And neither will the vacuous politicians. These days, blue collar as they may be, we need the skills that will always be in demand.

Thatís the way I see it. And, frankly, thatís the way Iíve always seen it. I doubt it, but I hope that somehow helps.

Later