3-31-2005 Ray

I starved my dog to death.

Years back, when no one was looking, he indicated to me through a series of complex yet intelligible barks that he'd rather be starved to death than taken to the vet over and over again. So I pulled the doggie dish. Heresay passing as an evidenciary absolute, you say? Piss off! It's my dog and I'll do to him whatever the heck I wish. Anyways, don't tell anybody. I don't want any trouble with the SPCA types. They seem to think that the killing of animals is a monopolistic endeavor reserved for them and them alone. The aged pup has had some health issues for a while now and I've grown tired of what has become, for me, excess baggage. So now he's toast and I can find me a younger, sexier, more lively model. Like I said, don't tell anybody.

You don't suppose this elevates me to the status of being a budding liberal icon, do you?

From the e-mail inbox Mark,

Anything new with getting together with Harry? I can make it Monday or Tuesday of next week.


Yo, Harry! Is your telephone number listed in the annoying yellow book, or do I have to roll head over heels all the way down the basement steps to have a conversation with you? Hang in there Tom. We're still colating. Or something like that.

County to Medic 3, "21" Thompson Street.

For what it's worth, the "Limp" dick seems to have spoken.

From that woefully inept forum page of ours:

I am guilty -- Rush Limpbaugh, 16:32:41 03/30/05 Wed [1]

"....aren't the Brians of the world the source of all of our drug problems in the first place?"

Why, yes I am. And I deserve to go to jail for illegally buying huge amounts of meds. My best friend GWB is also guilty of being a source of our drug problems. His was coke and my was pills. Then we have the Clintonista, a doper.

Who else? What about you Zordork? Ever toke a spliff? Roll a Philly? Don't tell me you never went Uncle Rush style on a few 'ludes to bring you down from a Jim Croce album on a lonely Saturday night.

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa there!!! Jim Croce? I've been accused of numerous crimes against unsuspecting humanfolk, but never, ever has anyone suggested that I would do anything near as lame as listening to Jim Croce. I'd rather smoke dried dingleberries before subjecting myself to anything even remotely close to taking in any of that lame-o's work. Jim Croce? Speak for yourself, heyna?

GWB? (The bridge, or the man?) Rush? Clinton? Assuming there actually is one, what is your point? I voted for a guy that used to ingest illegal drugs? RIGHT!, dummmy!!! I voted for him over that other former drug user. I occasionally listen to a guy that went and got himself addicted to pain pills? So? So f**king what? Should I listen to Al Franken instead? Somebody should already. I'm sure he never took a hit on anything passed around the proverbial liberal campfire, right? (Wink, wink.) And Clinton? The man who has never, ever, EVER exhibited any evidence that he could control any of his impulsive and utterly destructive urges? The ultimate bliss for his sorry self would be getting a simultaneous hamburg and handjob in the nearest McDonald's. I talk about the Brian's of the world, and you knock over everything in your path to the 'puter only to type something as stupid as Bush did it too?

Did you go to vo-tech? Were you, or are you now a doper? Were you, or are you now a slacker? What was your major? Pic-tography? John Deere repair? Whore-ticulture? Stacking red bricks and mortar until they actually looked like something only an Afghan warlord could love? Do you still wear that favorite jean jacket you wore back in the day? Do you smile whenever you happen upon that roach clip you took to the Doobie Brothers concert? Have you ever told anyone, "Dwugs dun got no long-lassing effex, mannnnnnnnnn?" with that empty gaze and that ever so slightly twitching left eye? Are you still trying to decipher the true meaning of Dark Side of the Moon? Ever woofed three large bags of Lay's potato chips in one fifteen-minute sitting? Speaking of potatoes, did you ever carve one up, apply a miniscule snipping of tin foil and have at it while the boss was busy doing inventory? How about droppin' acid in shop class?


Were you a doped-up techer? Or does your partisanship approaching that of outright hatred cloud your judgement all on it's own?

Who else? What about you Zordork? Ever toke a spliff? Roll a Philly? Don't tell me you never went Uncle Rush style on a few 'ludes to bring you down from a Jim Croce album on a lonely Saturday night.

I think we covered to Jim Croce (GAG!) thing, but the rest of your completely useless bilge is mostly Greek to this novice.

Ever toke a spliff? Roll a Philly? Don't tell me you never went Uncle Rush style on a few 'ludes to bring you down...

In all honesty, I have no idea what it is that you have chosen to babble on about. Toke a spliff? Spliff? Is that in the dictionary? A "Philly?" I always thought a Philly was a really, really, really cheap and sh*tty cigar. Who knew? Well, you did. Ludes? Got me. What exactly is a quaalude anyway? Give me some sort of name I might have heard before. Help me out here. Which one's did you take? And what would you take them to? Edgar Winter? Or The Allman Brothers? I can't believe you actually listen to Jim Croce. Then again, that name did fly right off of the top of your pointy head.

There's one for ya. "The Point." What sort of chemicals did you need to assist you through Harry Nillson's The Point?

Me and my Arrow...

What about you Zordork?

Nope. Never did any drug dealer, local or otherwise, ever earn even a single plug nickel that I happened to earn all by my lonesome. Nope. Never. Didn't happen. Not even once. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but not all of us are total f**k-ups that somehow went and nearly growed up. Nope. Never. You can keep that useless sh*t to yourself and your boyfriends. Sorry, silly me, but I assumed you're a male. It's hard to tell when you constantly hide behind your anonymity.

Did I ever try drugs? Sure I did. I smoked pot a couple of times, but I preferred to not sound like a trucker who chain-smoked Camels 24/7 when I was a teenager. I tried it and it sucked. I was coerced into smoking that stuff, but relentless peer pressure will do that to even the brightest of the young lads. Munchies? Nah, that's something I laughed at while the others around me were doing it.

But there was this one time...when I was trying but failing to be paroled from Coughlin when a fellow student convinced me to pop a pill. She said it was the ultimate trip and all of that other usual drugspeak. And being that she was the cutest thing this side of St. Louis, I was more than willing to groove whatever the hell it was that she was grooving. Yeah, I was hip. I was definately in tune with what she was saying. She told me what it was, a synonym, but I don't remember what it was that she called it. I popped that pill and she popped one of her own. I think we did this during the sixth period, but it might have been the last period. Anywho, by the time the final bell rang and the ensuing stampede damn near ran over me, I was just about wobbled and facing the daunting task of making it home on foot while the world around me was seemingly turning upside down.

I'll spare you the severely demented details, but let's put it this way. If Lennon and McCartney hadn't already penned Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, I would have. And my version would have had a much more sinister slant to it.

So, as you can plainly see, the anonymous "Limp" dicks of the forum world have completely mis-fired once again. Me? An illegal drug user? Whoever wondered aloud about that in a public forum had to be stoned at the time.

Now chop another line and tell us more about exit strategies.

Not all of us read the Citizen's Voice and today's edition included the first ever edition of Diamond City, Luzerne County's version of Lackawanna County's Electric City. So if you don't get the Voice, or if you live too far away to have the Voice thrown somewhere in the general direction of your porch every morning; here's an interview with Tom Leighton from the inaugural version of Diamond City:

Meet Mayor Tom Leighton...

By: Gene Padden 03/31/2005

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton's predecessor was the quintessential purveyor of "all talk, no action." For years, his self-promotional billboards littered the city with promises of renovation and reform, yet the town was left with little to show for it, except perhaps the remnants of decrepit brown rectangles. Mayor Leighton is quite the opposite in his approach. Letting his actions speak for themselves, he's all business. No billboards, no mercy. The life-long Wilkes-Barre resident has his hands full, and then he goes to work in the morning. He's a successful businessman, a happily married father of three, and one of the Wyoming Valley's most respected scholastic basketball referees. Now, meet the man who's quick to blow the whistle on Wilkes-Barre hating, Mayor Tom Leighton ...

What's your background?

I graduated King's in 1982 with a degree in business administration and I've been in real estate insurance ever since. Our business has been family-owned since 1921, and I became president and owner in 1996. We're located in the downtown. I became mayor after three terms on city council, and my term expires in 2007.

Is it tougher taking criticism on the basketball court or from the media?

You focus out the crowd in basketball and you focus on the court. I can take negativity from the media, provided that it's warranted. What upsets me is when you get the public coming in and telling you everything you're doing wrong, when in fact most of the time, they're misinformed. The unfortunate part is that the public is almost never fully informed, because they only want to be negative. And the negative people right now in the city of Wilkes-Barre are a small minority. You'll always have that. But they're the loudest. You get the same five or six people at council meetings that will tell you how bad you're doing.

You seem to be more low-key than the former mayor.

Well, in my first year, we really focused on the financial side, and the planning side. I always make myself available to the media. But I couldn't justify publicly, spending money on billboards to announce projects. The people know the projects that are happening. They don't need billboards that cost $2-3,000 to remind them. I don't consider myself low-key, I just do things in more of a professional manner. The biggest thing I have to do with the public is to preach patience. And I also have to remind myself of that. Nobody is as anxious as I am to get these projects underway. When you see the steel that's going up on the Labor & Industry building ... that steel started Monday and it's almost fully up. That building ... we started planning that in the summer of '03, prior to me becoming mayor. And I knew I was faced with a serious problem with this hole in the ground and we knew the theater would not fit in it. It would have been a smaller scale. It didn't fit. We had federal and state funds invested in that hole. We knew we needed a reputable developer to take that project on. We succeeded. What the public doesn't understand is that it took a good 15-18 months preparing for today. People think, "Boy, that went up quickly." It took a long, long time.

The upcoming theater gets a lot of press, but you also have other projects.

The riverfront, the Hotel Sterling ... the street lights. That's a $6 million project. It's getting done. People don't realize how much work it is to put in new streetlights. It's engineering, architectural, landscaping, streetscaping. You don't just go to Home Depot, buy a light, and stick it into the ground. It has to match the streetscape. You may see four different designs. Franklin Street is a historical district. Downtown is contemporary. By the theater you'll have a theater-style light. It's not easy. I'm sick of those meetings (laughs). But we are close. And it's funded. These projects are funded.

Why'd you sell the Planter's Peanuts building?

I've been criticized for the sale of Planter's Peanuts because of historical integrity. I appreciate historical integrity. I appreciate the concern. But we have a building that's sat vacant for two years now. It was a corporate office with a mural on it. It maybe has historical significance. It's not like Mr. Peanut was in there doing his job. In my eyes, Planter's Peanuts was on Public Square. That's where it was. If you find an old flood book, from 1972, you'll see pictures of Planter's Peanuts.

Talk about the flag you brought.

I brought this flag for you. It's a Healing Field Flag. It has the names of the victims of the World Trade Center. Tony Thomas brought it to our attention back in '04. It was a big decision on my part to make. On Memorial Day, Governor Rendell came up and gave a closing speech. We had 4,000 flags flying in our Kirby Park. It was like Arlington National Cemetery. Perfectly aligned. It took 10 days to put together. We had a parade on May 15 where we started at Fire Headquarters and walked over to Kirby Park. Four thousand people. We had kids, residents, people in wheelchairs. They flew for 14 days, totally illuminated and we had 24-hour protection. It brought people from all over. We had national news coverage for it. We had yellow ribbons on them for soldiers who had died in the war, and people walked around to each one, reading them. It was very emotional. It brought the community together, and it raised funds that went back into the community. We gave $10,000 to the 109th support group. That was a challenge this administration took on that through the help of the community was a huge success.

Would you say it's indicative of the attitude of Valley?

Absolutely. When I first took office, I announced a spring cleanup. Not a clutter cleanup, a spring cleanup. Let's go out and clean our streets. It was a huge success. Volunteers that didn't live in the city came in and helped us clean the downtown, Kirby Park, the river paths. Huge success.

What do you do when you're not being mayor?

I'll let you know when I'm no longer the mayor (laughs). Unfortunately, the mayor's job never ends.

What do you do for fun?

I attend as many of my children's events as possible. My daughter swims at Susquehanna University. My son plays basketball and soccer. I've probably made every game this year. Almost. My youngest daughter is a cheerleader and an Irish step dancer. Their activities are very important to us. Our rule of thumb is that one of us must be at their events. Usually we're both there. If there's a conflict, we go in separate directions. There have been some very hectic days. Back in December, my daughter swam at 2 p.m. So I was at Susquehanna at 2 then went to my son's game by 6, and then I had a Christmas party that I had to make an appearance at. It gets like that. I don't know if I can keep the pace up next year. And for example, this past Saturday was the first Saturday I was home in 2005. We both had nothing to do. We sat home and had a nice dinner. People expect the mayor to be everywhere, but unfortunately, it's only one person.

What are the plans for the big 2-0-0?

Well, we're looking at having a major event this summer to celebrate our 200th anniversary to show that the city of Wilkes-Barre is back. And it's strong. We may be 200 years old, but we're not old.

I happened to catch "Kurt from Scranton" railing away on Sue Henry's show this morning. While meandering all over the board as he so often does, (Drugs?) he got into his usual " social justice" bit about the poor not having access to health care. Thankfully, long before he got into his other usual bit where he equates Naziism with anything any republican has done since he was born, Sue pulled the plug on him. If she keeps that up, I'm a gonna start worshipping her. While demanding that callers to local radio shows should be rational to some degree has to be a tough job, someone has to do it.

Lemme tell ya what's going on with my brother. My bro' is one big boy. He's a load and despite his enormity, he has always been very, very, very athletic. Just picture a 6-foot, 370-pound guy dunking a basketball. And to call him a state champion street brawler would be doing him a great disservice. Basically, if he up and decided to go totally postal on you, your only thoughts from then on would have to be about whether there really is a Heaven waiting for you. The mostly unthinkable things I have seen him do when provoked way too far would make for some great screenplays. Literally speaking, he has done what Sly Stallone and Governor Arnold have only pretended to do. Like I already said, he's a freakin' load. And despite his temperament when seriously annoyed, he's a happy-go-lucky guy with a big heart.

When my mom passed away, he was toiling away at GAR. I think the hardest thing I ever had to do was to look him squarely in the eye and tell him that she was dead. "She's dead?," was all that escaped his lips at that fateful moment and he was speechless for hours upon hours afterwards. Since my sister and I were so much other than him, and he had spent nearly the entirety of his teen years living alone with her; I knew he was going to take her death really, really hard.

After we did the well-rehearsed and fully expected death march to the eternal campgrounds, he moved in with all of us for a couple of years and mostly got on wifey's nerves. And as time passed, it seemed to me that he couldn't get over what had transpired on that 4th of July only a few years removed. By the time he turned 18, he moved into his own apartment. And once he had escaped the clutches of wifey and her rules, I began to notice the self-destructive tendencies that would stay with him to this very day. I don't think he ever fully got over her death. And he's never bothered to take care of himself, if even for a fleeting moment. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say that he was hellbent on joining her at whatever place she's been all these years.

And now we're hearing from a heart specialist at General Hospital that he may have finally succeeded in running himself, literally, into the ground. We're also being told that his life expentency may be shorter than that of a totally screwed-up mayor. I'm numb. I'm not sure whether I should yell at him, or coddle him as my mom had done for way too long. This is the little guy that used to tag along with me and my friends when we played baseball at Guthrie Field. He used to be that little guy that bragged about his older brother to anyone that would listen. This is that very same little guy that used to sleep over the house and go fishing as soon as the Sun rose. This was the rugrat that I taught to put extra copper wirings around the armatures of HO slot cars. This is the little guy that always identified me to those who needed to know as his father/brother. This is the little guy that eventually became my bodyguard as he grew older and much, much larger. Muck with Mark and Ray was sure to come a callin' on ya. You could count on it sure as clouds make rain. I'd try to talk him out of it, but if you gave me a hard time, Ray was gonna pay you a visit.

And now he's in trouble. To call his entire life somewhat troubled would be an understatement, but in his defense, I think he put too much stock in being rejected by his own dad and then growing up on welfare. He always had a chip on his shoulder the size of an Iowa class battleship. I used to be like that about 30 years ago or so, but somehow, luckily, I came to the point where what was behind me was behind me. And I never looked back. I don't think Ray ever got to that very same point.

But I did have a point. Oh, yeah. That total asshole Kurt. Well, as it turns out, Kurt loves to remind us every chance he gets that the poor have no access to health care in America. But I'm here to tell you that my brother is at General Hospital tonight facing some rather invasive heart surgery or whatnot. And believe it or not, he has no health insurance. The poor are not shunned at every turn as Kurt would tell us ad nauseum. And as of this night, I'm more than pleased to announce that Kurt was wrong once again.

I've got my fingers crossed. That's about all I can do at this point other than rely on the expertise of the doctors working to further my brother's stay here.

Scared? You betcha.

He may be twice as big as me, but he's still my little brother.

Having him tag along again sounds like a plan to me.

We shall see.


Ray & Sue