1-20-2005 I always wanted to be in Wilkes-Barre

Brrrr! It sucks out there right now. For myself, an iPod and I are a match made in Heaven. 'Til death do us part, baby. Music has always been my first love. Who knows why? I certainly don't. The childhood psychologist couldn't put her finger on it, but she did recommend a really, really nice asylum in Newtown, Connecticut.

Why would I risk certain death and destruction at the capable hands of the evil step-dad all for the timely acquisition of something as inconsequential as The Chicago Transit Authority? Who would sneak out of the house and trek on down to the corner drug store when being caught would surely provoke a temper tantrum the likes of which haven't been seen since the Earth last belched up a tsunami of Biblical proportions? Why the stupifying disobedience? A brain tumor? A ripple in the time-space continuum? Your typical idiot bastard son of a step-kid? Who knows, who cares? There might be no explaining it.

By the way, if you've got any out-of-print Mothers of Invention albums piled in the wine cellar, I might be willing to trade my kids into slavery for them. Drop me a line. We'll talk.

Many others on my side of the gender fence are just as passionate about what lights their switches, what floats their boats. And thanks to the continuing miracles of technology, they can now tote their must-have first love along with them just as I can do with the iPod thingie. Gentlemen, hang on to your penile hats. Here comes the iPorn!!!

It's awesome...to read about the 109th Field Artillery boys packing up and getting ready to fly home any day now. My nephew will be among that group and it'll surely lift a great weight off of his Dad's shoulders. This guy, one of the many folks scarred by the entire Vietnam experience, was none too happy to learn that his kid had joined the military, even just to earn some money for college. But when it was learned that the nephew would have to march off to war, needless to say, his pop was livid.

Quite often, soldiers who have experienced combat first hand while believing in the mission at the time become very embittered at the experience with the passage of time. It kind of goes with the awful territory for many who have tasted combat. And while our 109th boys have suffered minimal casualties during their long tour of duty, they will no doubt need lots of patience and understanding as they wind down and grapple with where they've been and what they've seen. But at least they'll be home.

But as our guys prepare for the flights home, I think this web page aptly demonstrates what our boys and girls have been facing since rolling into Iraq.

Putting politics aside for a second, we have expended much in that country and after having done so, we owe it to these brave folks to make this thing work. The folks that so capably served over there need to know that their efforts were not in vain. The embitterment process is vastly accelerated by a less than constuctive conclusion to any armed conflict. In the end, they need to know that they made a difference.

They have the guts to see this thing through. But, do we?

While we sit here...pickin' on each other on the internet, the mayor of this city slipped away to the U.S. Conference of Mayors 73rd Winter Meeting. No! Don't go "Walter Griffith" on us. It's not an expensive junket dominated by transexual strippers and free bath house passes. This is a function by which the mayors from all across these fruity plains get together and talk about what works and what doesn't as it pertains to managing a city. If you poke around that web site, you'll quickly learn that the Mayorfest is an informational orgy.

Here's an example:

Massive Omnibus Funding Bill Cuts CDBG, COPS

By Conference Staff
December 13, 2004

Congress has adopted a conference agreement on an omnibus spending package for Fiscal Year 2005 that includes funding for nine unfinished appropriations bills (funding for homeland security had been previously approved by Congress).

The bill includes a number of cuts in key city programs including CDBG and COPS, and an additional across the board cut of 0.83 percent will be applied to all discretionary programs (the numbers below do not reflect this additional cut). Download the complete budget chart here.

Community Development and Housing

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership programs were cut, as were most other housing programs. CDBG formula grants were cut by $200 million from $4.35 billion to $4.15 billion. The HOME program was cut by $100 million to $1.9 billion, which includes $50 million for ADDI and $42 million for housing counseling assistance.

Although Section 8 rental assistance was funded at $20.226 billion, which is an increase over last year's funding of $19.3 billion, the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities has said that Avarious changes in the account will likely result in a reduction in assistance available for the tenant based-voucher program.

The public housing capital fund was decreased from $2.695 billion to $2.6 billion, and HOPE VI received only $144 million (as opposed to the nearly $600 million sought by mayors). Public Housing Operating funds were reduced by $994 million as a result of the synchronization of the funding cycles of all public housing authorities to a calendar year. This is a one-time savings in the public housing operating account.

Native American Housing Block Grants, Section 202 elderly housing, Section 811 disabled housing, homeless assistance grants, Housing for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA), Brownfields Redevelopment, and Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction programs were all cut.

Local Law Enforcement

In a drastic move, the bill virtually eliminates funding for COPS hiring programs, providing only $5 million for general hiring and $5 million for school resource officers. The Senate had approved $180 million for this program, and the House $113 million, but the Administration had requested that it be eliminated, which is what the final bill all but does.

Additional funding is provided for other COPS programs including $100 million for interoperability grants, and funding for technology and meth earmarks, and several other programs.

The bill also eliminates the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG), and creates a new Justice Assistance Grant program sought by the Administration by combining the LLEBG and the state-based Byrne grant. Funding for the combined program is cut nearly 54 percent to $634 million. Local funding under the new program for LLEBG related activities (40 percent of total) should be approximately $214 million after earmarks.


So? So, what does that gibberish mean to us? It means federal funding in nearly every category will be even harder to come by, so the local folks that can actually attract significant federal funding need to be given a few high fives.

From the e-mail inbox:

*******Hi again Mark. Sorry if I ran off a bit the other day, but I get a bit fiesty when someone challenges my efforts to keep our City safe and secure. I used the word "baloney" in that I was "included out" of the inspection of #4 firehouse, and that my offer to have two "experts" go through it, with the others- at the same time- was rejected, or accidentally overlooked. Like you, I am a born and raised Wilkes-Barrean (East End), went to Holy Saviour, Sacred Heart and Coughlin, before joining the Marines. And I married a local girl, also born in East End but raised in the Heights. My son's have all graduated from Wilkes-Barre High Schools, and my five grandchildren go to school here. And that is just one reason I am so passionate about making this City one of the best, if not THE best, in the state. Whether it's Miners Mills, or Nord'end, or East End, or any other area of the City, if I see something happening (or not happening) that will affect the City and it's residents, you can be sure you will hear from me, as will the Mayor, Council, and whomever else. I've worked with every Mayor, Councilman, Governor, Congressman and Commissioner since I returned home, and will work with Tom Leighton. But, as God has given me a brain and some small amount of experience in the world, I will continue doing my best...as I see it...and speaking out when I don't like what I see. As for the Heights fire station, and the North End station, years of neglect and unkept promises by previous administrations have brought us to where we are...but that doesn't mean we can't do better today- and in the future. And I'll be there making sure we do. Thanks for listening...
Jim McCarthy*******

Council Dude!...I seriously doubt that you need to say you're sorry about anything to me. According to some dated media reports, I'm supposed to be the caustic champion of acerbic diatribes everywhere. Well, at least here in "Da Valley."

Like you, I am a born and raised Wilkes-Barrean (East End), went to Holy Saviour, Sacred Heart and Coughlin, before joining the Marines. And I married a local girl, also born in East End but raised in the Heights. My son's have all graduated from Wilkes-Barre High Schools, and my five grandchildren go to school here. And that is just one reason I am so passionate about making this City one of the best, if not THE best, in the state.

I wasn't born here and I was kinda, sorta raised here off-and-on until finally settling here in '71, just in time for that nifty hurricane. I went to St. John's against my will and suffered through what seemed like an eternity at Coughlin. I married a local girl born in the Heights. Nobody's perfect. (kidding) My daughters graduated from Coughlin and my son did also, although, I'm still shaking my head at that last one. And despite being raised much like a military brat due to endless marital combat, for whatever reason, I always wanted to be in Wilkes-Barre.

I dearly loved my battle-axe of a grandmother and the peaceful tranquility that her N. Washington Street home provided to this often shell-shocked kid. I loved traversing our busy downtown by her side. I looked forward to wasting money by feeding the Planter's Peanuts to the stupid pigeons on the Square. I was thrilled when we shopped together for used trinkets at the "Dog Store" (her words) on N. Main Street. I enjoyed being awakened in the morning by the couple hundred cleats on the sidewalk out front as those gigantic-looking Coughlin football players marched from Guthrie School to Guthrie Field for two-a-day practices. An afternoon visit to the timeless malt shop near General Hospital always made me feel as if I had just entered an Archie's comic book. For this kid, a visit to Mickey-Ds could never come close to matching a Saturday night visit to Fifi's pizza. And for whatever reason, I always looked forward to the daily trips to the Target Market to cart home the groceries Gram had called and charged to her tab. The exploration of a few storm sewers didn't dampen my enthusiasm for Culm County. The nightly basketball games at Dan Flood school. Nord End Little League. Model rockets landing anywhere from Butler Street to George Avenue. Jeff Fox and his saintly parents. Tom Matiska. After a decade of keeping my head down in Connecticut, Wilkes-Barre was the perfect RX for this struggling young knucklehead.

And then I went and almost, that's almost, growed up. And I did what damn near everyone else did. I worked, drank beer, watched Knot's Landing, made fun of the Eagles and didn't pay attention to anything or anyone that would shape Wilkes-Barre's future. And after the passage of quite a few years, I again did what everyone else did. I reminisced about the bygone good ole days in Wilkes-Barre. I yearned for a single bag of fresh roasted peanuts. I wondered aloud about what it'd be like to taste Kresge's pizza again. And I even missed buying five-cent Matchbox knock-offs at Huntzingers. Basically, just like practically everyone else that hadn't made a hasty retreat from this city; I wondered what the heck had happened to this city without ever having asked that question of the folks in charge.

Enter McGroarty

There's no point in re-hashing the eight painful years of his less than professional reign. But that man got me to stop wondering about what the movers-and-shakers were doing, (or not doing) and to start paying close attention to what they were doing. And once set on that ill-advised course, I was not happy in the least by what I had discovered. Except for some legislative reactions to some new and growing problems, I still maintain that this city was put on auto-pilot to a great degree many, many years ago. Which is not to say that any one of our long time politicos could not have accomplished anything of note during the "Slide" years. But since the flood, it is undeniable that none of our previous administrations thought long-term, or had the unmitigated audacity to suggest that the status quo was not in the best interests of the city's long-term prospects. And here we are in '05 trying to put the pieces of a broken city back together.

Unlike many of my unwashed peers, I knew we needed to lose the man-that-would-be-king, but I was more than willing to give the council folks that suffered under his iron-fisted rule the chance to do the right thing provided that they were aided by a well-meaning, responsible mayor. The "Kill 'em all" mentality that caught fire during the last election cycle never entered my mind. I always thought that we had knowledgable people in place on council, but they needed a fearless leader worried more about the future of the city than that of his own political future. A forward-thinking mayor protecting the bottom line capably aided by a forward-thinking council? I think that's about where we've arrived at.

But, as God has given me a brain and some small amount of experience in the world, I will continue doing my best...as I see it...and speaking out when I don't like what I see.

I may not have stated it so eloquently, but that's exactly how I feel. If I don't like what I see, I'm gonna turn on this internet portal and have at it. And I guess that kinda sucks for our city politicos. I imagine y'all have got enough to deal with without having some internet dork second-guessing your every word.

But at the same time, I don't think an alternative source of info or debate is necessarily a bad thing in a city trying desperately to put it's wheels back on. And if we agree to disagree 90% of the time while launching semi-acerbic internet pulses at each other; that's probably not a bad thing either. When it's all said and done, I think we both want the same thing: A Wilkes-Barre that we can all be proud of again. How we arrive there is subject to debate, and sometimes the debates can get rather heated. But that doesn't necessarily mean we have to conspire to launch lawn darts at each other, either. We can fuss, and curse, and roll around in the mud, but in the end, all that matters is that Wilkes-Barre finds a way to prosper. And if I may, I presume to know we're in agreement on at least that much.

Who knows? Maybe all of this sometimes heated internet give-and-take will end up being nothing more than a bunch of baloney when we one day find ourselves sitting in the middle of Public Square tossing fresh roasted peanuts at our grandkid's feet.

We shall see.

The pursuit of ...termites in their subterreanean lairs has gone way, way high-tech. That is, for the employees of an industry leader. Yeah, I know it looks like a Radio Shack metal detector, but trust me, I won't be digging up any indian head pennies anytime soon. Then again, maybe I can wrap some extra copper windings around some sort of electro-dismuckaconductor and get me rich right quick. Find any termites? Nah. But I did find this nifty zircon-encrusted St. Alfonzo necklace.

Here's what I was thinking. If I grab ahold of this electro-pest sonar thingie...


And then don all of this enviro zoot suit gear...


And then walk up on your front porch and bang the door bell...well, chances are you'd think there was a major ebola outbreak, the feds were quarantining your spread, and you'd probably faint dead away. Maybe? Or, maybe your kid would answer the front door and respond to your hollaring about who it was at the door by saying " I think it's Darth Vader, mom."

Anyway, if you happen to run across me out there in the culmlands, remain calm. It's just your friendly termite technician. There' no need to freak.

From the e-mail inbox once again:

Because I'm a man, when I lock my keys in the car I will fiddle with a wire long after hypothermia, or heat stroke, has set in. AAA is not an option. I will win.

Because I'm a man, when the car isn't running very well, I will pop the hood and stare at the engine as if I know what I'm looking at. If another man shows up, one of us will say to the other, "I used to be able to fix these things, but now with all these computers and everything, I wouldn't, know where to start." We will then drink beer and break wind as a form of holy communion.

Because I'm a man, when I catch a cold, I need someone to bring me soup and take care of me while I lie in bed and moan. You're a woman. You never get as sick as I do, so for you this isn't a problem.

Because I'm a man, I can be relied upon to purchase basic groceries atthe store, like milk or bread. I cannot be expected to find exotic items like "cumin" or "tofu." For all I know, these are the same thing. And never, under any circumstances, expect me to pick up anything for which "feminine hygiene product" is a euphemism. (F.Y.I. guys cumin is a spice and not a bodily function)

Because I'm a man, when one of our appliances stops working, I will insist on taking it apart, despite evidence that this will just cost me twice as much, once the repair person gets here and has to put it back together.

Because I'm a man, I must hold the television remote control in my hand while I watch TV. If the thing has been misplaced, I may miss a whole show looking for it (though one time I was able to survive by holding a calculator).....applies to engineers mainly.

Because I'm a man, there is no need to ask me what I'm thinking about. The answer is always either sex, cars or football I have to make up something else when you ask, so don't ask.

Because I'm a man, I do not want to visit your mother, or have your mother come visit us, or talk to her when she calls, or think about her any more than I have to. Whatever you got her for Mother's Day is okay; I don't need to see it. And don't forget to pick up something for my mother too.

Because I'm a man, you don't have to ask me if I liked the movie. Chances are, if you're crying at the end of it, I didn't....and if you are feeling amorous afterwards...then I will certainly at least remember the name and recommend it to others.

Because I'm a man, I think what you're wearing is fine. I thought what you were wearing five minutes ago was fine, too. Either pair of shoes is fine. With the belt or without it, looks fine. Your hair is fine. You look fine. Can we just go now?

Because I'm a man, and this is, after all, the year 2005, I will share equally in the housework. You just do the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, the vacuuming, and the dishes, and I'll do the rest..... like looking for my socks, or like wandering around in the garden with a beer wondering what to do.

This has been a public service message for Women to better understand the Male.


Chicks!?! What the heck are you suggesting here, sugar buns?

Opal!!! You hot lil' bitch!!! Where's in God's name is my goll-derned iPorn thingamabob???