8-14-2005 The 16th annual

Are we stupid? Are we?

For something approaching, like, 730 consecutive days, those failing dinosaurs we used to get our news from have been doing their level best to include the word "quagmire" every time the subject of Iraq came up. And then, after those 730 quagmire-filled days, they go and conduct a poll asking the perpetually dumbed-down among us how they think the effort in Iraq is going? And if that's not a bit of a set up to begin with, then they come to us with breaking news that the favorable polling numbers on Iraq are slipping, Well, DUH!!!

This just in: The latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup/MTV/MoveOn.org Poll shows that 56 percent say the war is going badly, while 57 percent say the war has made America more vulnerable to terrorism. And 90 percent of those polled now believe that Iraq is a quagmire, even if they can't spell that really, really big word and suchlike. See Spot run. See sheep think.

Why is it again that I should give a flying farg about the carefully manufactured results of a poll?

Why not poll people about how many of the folks participating in the poll they think would be able to even find Iraq on a map. Or Vietnam for that matter.

On a brief, but somewhat related aside, one of my son's high school sidekicks once scoffed at the notion of the need to teach geography in our schools once again. He babbled something about not needing to study maps for months on end just to be able to read or remember one to some degree. Never one to shy away from the chance to embarrass anyone sporting green hair and baggy-ass pants, I asked him to rattle off the names of the four countries that border South Korea. He could name none, not even the obvious one. North???...South!!! Give that Run DMC devotee a token prize! Now run along and jam another spike through your teat.

Now that he's all grown up and graduated to purple hair, I wonder if those news sculpters running the polls bother to call him.

Well...um, like, if Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, and Tom Brokaw thinks it's another Vayetnam, like, man, it must be the sh*t, man. Why didn't they stomp on, like, South Columbia or some sh*t? Now there's a country dickin' us around, yo? You seen the price of dope lately, man? I gotta split. My stupid bitch wants to go spend her WIC checks. Peace out!, man.

Oh, by the way, for those of you that voted for Tom McGroarty, the four countries that actually border South Korea are as follows: North Korea, (formerly East La-La Land pre-WWII) Tierra Del Fuego, The Peoples Republic of Zardoz, Neverland, and Usuckistan.

Not my cup of tea

Block Party

I made it. I survived the 16th annual party, and with flying colors. I mean, I did drink enough beer to inebriate all of Wisconsin, but I'm still here to tell about it. And while that fact may annoy some of you, I could really care less.

I was up at the crack of dawn this morning because I knew that a party of that magnitude would necessitate the hosing down of the street in question. There was no way a couple of mugs of tea and a few Motrin would cure that which ailed me. Instead, I cracked a beer and spread out the Sunday Voice before me. I was curious about what the Voice folks would report from the well-attended block party being that they bothered to visit it. Basically, they published a rather large pic of Gage Andrew and little else. They got his name wrong, but why should I be shocked by a lack of accuracy from the media? All told, damn near everything they reported in their 70-word non-novella was grossly inaccurate, but why gripe? Why? Well, if I had contacted the Citizen's Voice and told them I was genuinely pissed up to here with the mayor, or the city in general, that would have been a front page story including, I imagine, all of 4,000 words. But when a group of neighbors that stick together and maintain, defend and truely love their smallish neighborhood in North Wilkes-Barre, well...that's just barely newsworthy. Gene Pagodin? Whatever.

What I also found annoying was their having devoted three entire pages to the burgeoning Hispanic community, a third of a page to the Nuangola Lake Association centennial party, while the born-and-raised folks that still believe in their city that regularly gets beat up in the press deserve barely a mention. If only, if only we had told them this block party was meant as a drunken protest against this city's administration. If only. In that event, we would have been deluged with insta-cams last night.

All of which leads me to the Times Leader story about our 16th annual block party, which, coincidentally, also included a pic of Gage Andrew and also got his name wrong. Read it for yourself. Despite being a feel-good story, there still had to be that suggestion that Wilkes-Barre is an inherently dangerous place. Negativity sells. Right?

Fun, food and friends on the block

Annual Thompson Street party is a hit with people who enjoy friendly games like pie-eating, egg tosses

By Isabelle Hooley

WILKES-BARRE--Thompson Street had its 16th annual block party Saturday, complete with deviled eggs, a DJ and a roasted pig.

In the words of George George, one of the party's organizers, the party's lasted, "longer than most marriages."

But unlike most marriages, it doesn't appear to have lost its luster.

Way back in 1989, just 30 people showed up to eat, imbibe and chat under a sigle tent on the blacktop, George said. The whole event was started by a resident of the street, Helen Granick, who's deceased, he added.

Granick might have been gratified to know that the short block in Wilkes-Barre's North End was expected to have 200 revelers by Saturday night's end.

And, unlike block parties of past years, a police officer was expected to attend the party from 6 p.m. to midnight.

George and other organizers sported black T-shirts with chubby pink pigs etched on the back, with the words, "Pig Out at the Thompson Street Block Party."

Some of the children who used to frolic on the asphalt at past block parties now act as cooks, serving up charbroiled hamburgers and hot dogs, George said, pointing out some sweaty-looking twenty-something's under the cooking tent.

Some of these former children have less strenuous tasks.

"The kids booze it up now, whereas they used to play in the street," said George jokingly.

Games planned for the night included horseshoes, musical chairs and the ever-popular pie-eating contest.

But Brian Hoffman, 7, of Ashley, was looking forward to one thing in particular.

The balloon toss.

"I come here every year."

On the other side of the tent, Ed Wanyo, 52, cold brew in hand, was doing just what he's done for the last dozen years or so that he's come to the block party.

The Forty Fort native's favorite part of the party is "just relaxin,' sitting,' and doing' nothing."

So he doesn't play any games? What about the balloon toss or the egg toss?

"Yeah, but my wife drops it every year, he said grimly. His wife was not in the immediate vicinity and so, could not defend herself.

Egg or balloon?


And, unlike block parties of past years, a police officer was expected to attend the party from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Cut me a frickin' break! What a bunch of sensationalist, 'negativity sells' flapdoodle!

The newspaper could have reported, And, unlike block parties of past years, a roasted pig was expected to attend the party from 4 p.m. to midnight, but instead choose to make the suggestion that cops are now neccessary to stage a successful block party. And nothing...nothing could be further from the truth.

Truth be told, we included an off-duty cop in this years' mix for a variety of reasons, none of which being our personal safety. If nothing else, it was a great selling point: Come to our famous block party and be content in the knowledge that an off-duty police officer is lurking around here somewhere. It was a great idea, it was our idea, and we raised the money necessary to make it happen. And it will remain a mainstay from here on out. Truth be told, there was more than one cop here last night, but only one of them got paid to be here. The others paid to be here.

Look, I speak for no one on this street other than myself. Unlike Thompson Street block parties of past years, this years monsterous event featured quite a few new attractions. And not one of them made it to print other than the addition of a cop. To say the least, I was a bit miffed this morning.

Fun, food, friends and a cop on the block?

Cut me a frickin' break!

And get this...he lost!

It's really messed up being the new guy on this smallish block. Last year, the new neighbors sat seemingly shell-shocked on their front steps while the '04 block party raged on before them. And this year, the very newest of the new neighbors did much the same thing. Having once walked a half block in their shoes, I completely understand their confused wonderment with the totality of what they were seeing being played out right in front of their recently-acquired homes. Last year, those new neighbors sat on their steps probably thinking that normal people don't do this.

This year, they became a part of this most abnormal undertaking. And next year, I strongly suspect that the newest of the new neighbors will likely follow suit. Why? Because normal people don't do this. Normal people bitch, whine, move away, or float extremely short-sighted petitions. All the while, the abnormal people take pride in their community and demand that those that surround them do likewise. This isn't your normal street. This is not your average street. This is Thompson Street.

I remember what it was like to move here and have a block party break out. Fact is, we moved here a scant eight hours before a block party was set to begin. I made three trips with a full Ford cube van packed to the top foot, and had only wifey and three medium-sized rodents to help me unload it. I humped and humped and humped and humped still some more. And somewhere around four o'clock, Jill came a bangin' on the front door for Ebon. Whoopee! It's time for the block party! Much like my newest neighbors, after a well-deserved shower, I too sat on my front steps with that deer-in-the-headlights gaze while taking in whatever installment of the block party that that one happened to be. Normal people don't do this. Do they? At that time, I didn't believe so. As it turns out, taking pride in one's community, no matter how large or small in may be, tends to rub off on people within very close proximity. You're either a good neighbor, or you're not. And when surrounded by nothing but good neighbors, you're forced to go with the flow.

That first year, I sat on the steps and suffered through the non-stop Fleetwood Mac. The second year, I sat on the steps and cursed those obvious Fleetwood Mac freaks up the street a ways. The third year, those front porch steps of mine were becoming a regular stop come early August. And that fourth year was when the good folks that had me surrounded went and hired a couple of pimple-faced DJs hopelessly addicted to KRZ. Enough was enough. I friggin' hate sh*tty tunes! I just do. Somehow, I was suddenly drawn into this community spirit thingamabob. And I think it's readily apparent that I've never looked back.

So, the following year, I approached my neighbors at one of their block party meetings hoping that they'd approve of me providing the tunes and suchlike at the next block party event. Despite some initial misgivings concerning heavy metal and all things nasty loud, they nervously agreed that I would do the tunes when the next block party went down. And I gotta tell ya, it's been a freakin' blast ever since. Everyone on this street has some skills to be exploited when the next block party is being planned. One guy gets great prices on the beer. Another has a knack for getting local businesses to donate premium items to be used as prizes. Yet another is just a great guy who has the inate ability to cause those he meets to like him. And me? I just spin the discs and make a few announcements. The point being, this good neighbor stuff is infectious if the neighbors on each of your flanks are really good neighbors. You either get with the program, or you sit on the front steps while yet another hot August night passes you by.

Jill doesn't live here anymore, and neither do two of my three kids. Helen passed away, as did Miss Chris and the Thomas'. Tommy's gone, George's girls are elsewhere, and the Baker clan moved away. Yet, the Thompson Street Block Party remains a fixture in this troubled city. Why? Because the basic tenets of civility, courtesy and being a responsible neighbor have been passed on from the longest-running of the residents to the newest of the residents.

Next year, the newest of the new residents will be out front dragging borrowed tables and chairs around rather than sitting on their front steps with that stupified look on their faces. Being surrounded by good neighbors, what choice do they have other than to become good neighbors themselves?

We demand nothing less of them. Much like what was demanded of me quite a few years ago. You see, you're either a good, committed neighbor, or you're not. And when it comes to good neighbors, this tiny street is batting near one-thousand. And we aim to keep it that way.

Helen Granick done good.

Real good.

A HUGE shout out has to go to one Copper Dude for bothering to show up here despite the fact that yesterday was his son's fourth birthday. I just knew the kids in attendance at our block party would love his Darth Vader costume, and so did he. And that's why he bothered to show up in the first place. Simply because he's a great guy and from what I've seen...he loves kids. Simply stated, he's a good neighbor.

His was an entirely selfless act and it was greatly appreciated by adults and kids alike.

Thanks Dude.

Er...Mr. Darth.

I find your lack of faith disturbing

Imagine that: Dissing Darth Vader. How many beers did that kid manage to sneak past us?

He breathes funny

Gotta go. It's been fun. In fact, too much so.

'Til next year.