11-11-2005 The day Kirby Park stood still

Tears flow from my eyes about as often as the Boston Red Sox win the World Series--next to never. No, I'm not stuck on being some kind of B movie tough guy. I had no father figure to emulate, so there's no telling why I am the way I am. I should be on display in a glass case with a sign that reads: Break only in the event of a total absence of insanity. Somethin' like that. Many moons ago, some chickie gave me a palm reading which went as follows:

You're highly intelligent. You're very logical. And you're prone to falling asleep during sex.

It was uncannily accurate and I let loose with, "That's me! That's me!"

Suffice it to say that I'm about as emotional as Commander Spock unless someone gets a hankerin' for some ultra-violence at my expense. When aroused, I've got an adrenaline pump that could get the U.S.S. Belknap to topping out around 70 knots. Crew, weapons systems and all! Want proof? Just ask the fireman who took my blood pressure reading after my S-10 done got totally creamed on the boulevard just over a year ago. When I freakin' go, I freakin' go! But other than when they closed the lid on my mom's casket, I just cannot cry and you cannot make me. With the exception of copious amounts of green onions being peeled and blendered here at the adobe, no matter what, it ain't happenin'.

Stick with me here. I do have a point despite all of this needless verbiage I am subjecting you to.

During the past couple of years, there were two events that actually came real close to getting me balling like a housewife with way too much time on her hands watching some inept soap opera on the dreaded video advertising box. The first such incident was at the 2001 Veteran's Day parade right here in the city. The Twin Towers were still smoldering when the soldiers of the 109th came marching past the reviewing stand with their weapons slung behind their backs. And as they filed past, I figured they'd likely be shipped off to some far-flung hotspot somewhere. And as their boots pounded the pavement in unison, I wondered to myself how many of them would end up being statistics, or more accurately, how many of them would end up being listed as KIAs. I came real close to losing the battle with the tear viaducts right then and there. Prognosticating such as that is a bit unsettling.

That other near tissue-wasting event was during the closing ceremonies of Wilkes-Barre's Healing Field on June 1, 2004. Attending that event was the family of a local killed during the 9/11 atrocity in New York City, and the family of a 109th soldier that came to be listed as being killed in action in Iraq. Quite a few months earlier I had used my lunch break during a busy workday to attend his burial in a cemetery in West Wyoming. I didn't know the dude, but I was definately affected by the war having finally made it's way back home. Not home, like, in Alabama, or Texas. Home, like, one of our hometown boys went off to war, but never got to enjoy the return trip. As they so often say, his was the ultimate sacrifice. And when you can attach a face to that sacrifice, it makes you wonder just why in the hell such a sacrifice is even necessary. Here lies Sgt. Baker? Why? I'm not entirely sure why I wanted to be there that day, I just did.

To make a long story short, today is Veteran's Day, and I take no pleasure in recognizing that my freedoms, my growing family, my expensive toys and all that I have endeavored to do were all made possible by the sacrifice of others. And if that won't get you to chokin' up right quick, then nothing else ever should.

The following were my thoughts on June 1, 2004:

They almost got my tear-ducts...

...to activate at the closing ceremonies of the healing field last night. Almost, but not quite.

Sure, it was sad being in close proximity to the Snyder family and the relatives left behind by Sherwood Baker. It was a bit unsettling to have a soldier on hand that was shipping back to the war in a few short hours. The singing of the national anthem by some cute kid from Meyers only made my chest swell a bit. Hearing J.J. Murphy's daughters (aged 2 and 3) recite the pledge of allegiance was the coolest. Cute lil' buggers. Thank goodness they look like their mom. The speeches by all involved were thoughtful and respectful. Some kilted guys belted out a few tunes on bagpipes, but I freaking hate the sounds that bagpipes emit.

Then Murphy announced to those of us that bother to do more than pay lip service to being patriotic, that we should all hold hands and sing God Bless America. As he made this announcement, I was looking back at the healing field and watching all of the people wander to and fro amongst the flags. Once the singing began, the lady from fire headquarters reached for my hand and I joined in though not too loudly so as not to scare anyone away. After a few bars, I looked back at the flags and everyone scattered across the park had stopped dead in their tracks and they were all staring at the pavillion where our voices were emanating from. I looked towards the top of the dike and the scene was the same. The entire park was devoid of any movement. It was the damndest thing I've ever witnessed. We finished the song and tissues were being dabbed over quite a few eyes. I swallowed nothing of note kinda hard. Like I said, almost, but not quite.

Anywho, after having that endless sea of red, white and blue for two weeks now, it's just not going to be right after it's gone. It seems as if we're doing something wrong by removing it. I dropped by Franny's tent today to pick up my flag, as had many others, and I felt as if we were dismantling a sacred piece of history. Some said we were desecrating those flags. They couldn't be further from the truth if they left for Nirvana tonight.

It was mentioned last night that the city might erect a permanent marker in the park as a lasting reminder as to what became of our little corner of the world for two weeks in May, 2004. I'm all for that idea, but it's not as if I'd ever forget witnessing what went on here. I think I'll see those flags every single time I pass or enter that park for the remainder of my days. And I'll certainly never forget the day Kirby Park stood still.

God bless America. I hear that.


The following e-mail hit the inbox with "Kayak Dude speaks" in the subject line.

From the e-mail inbox Mark:

In the past week or so, there have been at least two articles in local papers ( both part of the same media conglomerate ) that have tried to portray the Wilkes-Barre river landing and the proposed inflatable dam as being the same project or as being directly dependent upon each other for success. Nothing is further from the truth. Shall we entertain a debate about the meaning of the word "is"?

They are two separate projects. The only direct connection is that they are both in the Wyoming Valley and they both involve the Susquehanna River. The river landing can do quite well without the "stable water level" the dam would create, and the proposed inflatable dam project is currently being reviewed by both the Army Corps of Engineers and the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection as a totally separate project with no consideration being given to the river landing as part of the dam decision-making process. Put another way, if the dam project is denied, the river landing project can still move forward. Period. For any reporter or editor to imply otherwise lurks somewhere between blatant misrepresentation and an outright lie. Actually, it's closer to an outright lie. At least one of the two papers has, in writing, promised me they will print a correction in their next edition. The other has been clueless from day #1 and it isn't worth taking the time to 'splain it to them.

However, I do find it interesting that, after the "final" plans for the riverfront landing were submitted for review, the "T" shaped fishing pier was scrapped and a new fishing area was designed. The height of the new fishing platform? 518 feet above sea level. The height of the "stable water level" the dam would create? 517 feet above sea level. A chance occurrence? Methinks not.

As interesting as this dam debate has been over the past decade or so, it will definitely heat up once a date is set for the public hearing. I'd highly recommend arriving early for that one. As an avid paddler and angler, I fully support the proposed river landing. It will be a tremendous improvement to what currently exists, and will set the stage for many seasonal events that will bring people back to the river. Since the "final" plans have already been tweaked at least once, I'd like to see a camping area set aside for us river rats that are just paddlin' through as well as a descending ramp that can be accessed at all water levels to make our landings easier. In both cases, I'd like them to be upwind and upstream of the multiple sewer outfalls that still exist along the shores of the Susquehanna. Unless, or course, they are cleaned up now. By the way, where is the funding for the promised clean-up these days? Stuck in committee?

To spend $14M+ to "mitigate the intangible negative socio-economic impacts of the levee raising project " with rubber bags in the river is a waste of time and money. Once the permits for the dam are denied, the ~$14M set aside for the deflated project should be used to immediately begin a massive clean-up of the Susquehanna in the Wyoming Valley. We've looked the other way long enough...it's time to do what is right.

Hopefully, it won't be too long thereafter that the "Gage-man" can look out of your new ( bought at an unbelievably low price ) kayak and say, "No more chocolate water."

Once again, dams degrade rivers.

Be well.

Kayak Dude

Here! Here!

Make checks payable to: Kayak Dude for Congress

By the way, you just know I've been comparing oodles and oodles of kayak models since that issue of Canoe & Kayak: 2006 Buyer's Guide somehow found it's way to my mailbox. Yo?

What do you think of that Bic Yakka? It's too small for my purposes, but it sure seems to be a nifty "boat," if you will.

Ramming speed...

I found this accurate tidbit at Boortz.com. Now, I know many of you think it's unfair to beat up on the French only because you've been willingly swallowing too much of what the shrill leftie folks are howling these days, but after watching a handful of disaffected youth running rampant--unchecked--in the streets of France for over two weeks, I'm thinking that weak-kneed pansy tag really does apply itself well to the French.

This from a listener yesterday:

AP and UPI reported today that the French government announced that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender". The raise was precipitated by a recent fire which destroyed France's white flag factory, thereby disabling its military.

From the e-mail inbox November 11, 2005

Fighting to Honor Pennsylvania's Veterans

We honor our veterans today who have served and sacrificed for this country. Their service and commitment deserve our respect.

At the same time, this is an opportunity to renew our focus on our National Guard members and what we need to do to support them and their families.

I signed a bill into law on Thursday to create the Military Family Relief Assistance Fund, which will offer eligible service members or their eligible family members financial assistance. One of the great things about this new program is that Pennsylvanians will be able to contribute to it just by checking a box on their tax returns.

But there's more we should do.

As part of my fall agenda, I have proposed providing emergency assistance and support for families whose loved ones have died in the war, providing tax benefits for disabled veterans and deployed soldiers, passing legislation extending free tuition at State System universities to surviving spouses and offering incentives to employers whose workers are called to military action.

We need to act on these measures now, along with other issues such as increasing the minimum wage and passing property tax reform. Pennsylvanians, and Pennsylvania's veterans, deserve this.

This has been an emotional year for Pennsylvania's fighting men and women.

I traveled to Camp Shelby in Mississippi this summer for the send-off of 2,000 Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers to Iraq, the largest deployment of state soldiers since World War II. I met with members of the Guard's 107th Field Artillery upon their happy return from Iraq. I also attended National Guard Day ceremonies in Harrisburg, where we saluted members of the Guard and commemorated the 250th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Militia Law, which led to the creation of the volunteer militia.

But a few months later, I had to announce the death of a member of the 28th Infantry's 2nd Brigade combat team, one of the soldiers I called a "liberator" when I spoke in Mississippi. In fact, I announced the deaths of too many members of the Pennsylvania National Guard: 20, to be exact. That's in addition to the 107 active-duty servicemen and women from Pennsylvania who have previously fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As soldiers, past and present, they have played critical roles in our security and our fight for freedom. As veterans, we owe it to them to provide a safe and secure future, for their piece-of-mind, and their families'.


Governor Rendell

The latest from The Club for Growth:

From the e-mail inbox RINOs Wreaking Ruin in Congress

The Republican Party had a great opportunity to begin to reclaim its pro-growth, limited government credentials by advancing two important bills in both the Senate and House this week. Sadly, the GOP has disappointed fiscal conservatives yet again.

Today's editorial in The Wall Street Journal explains it all:

In the Senate, Maine's Olympia Snowe helped to scuttle even a single-year extension of the current 15% tax rate on dividends and capital gains that is due to expire in 2008. Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley was thus forced to postpone a committee vote on extending a tax cut that has been crucial to an economic rebound that since mid-2003 has been marked by 10-straight quarters of nearly 4% average growth. Tell us again why Republicans need 55 Senators?

The chaos was even worse in the once-disciplined GOP House, where leaders had to pull their budget from the floor for lack of a majority. The immediate cause was the revolt of the 25 House Members?who signed a letter demanding that a provision to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge be stripped from the bill.

House GOP leaders caved into their demands and stripped ANWR from the bill. But guess what? It still wasn't good enough for the RINOs! The House still didn't have enough votes to pass the bill.

In effect, RINOs shut down Congress this week because they didn't want to cut even the rate of growth in spending or support the very same tax cut that was instrumental in jumpstarting our economy.

All Soul's Day

Today, under the bleached light of the sun, the Nightstalkers gathered to pay our final respects to our fallen brothers. Our soldiers filed in for the better part of an hour, some so fresh off of a mission that their faces were still powdered with dust. They stood there in rows as straight and silent as a well tended field, lending solemn dignity to this inelegant patch of concrete. At our sides stood soldiers from every battalion in the 3rd Infantry Division proof that the sense of loss that had rippled through our battalion echoed in every unit in the Division.

The first speaker, CSM Socrates remembered our Battalion Commander with the following words:

It is yet another afternoon in Southern Baghdad and we gather once again, to pay tribute all to our fallen leaders, brothers in arms and friends. This afternoon it is my heart breaking yet ultimate honor to attempt to describe for you my short yet, everlasting relationship with Colonel William Wesley Wood.

I first met this fine officer over lunch, just a few months ago. His first words, like the man himself, were...

(Markie Note: Read on at 365 and a Wakeup. This is one kick-ass blog coming to you direct from Iraq.)

Somehow, a cry of HOO-AH!!! seems grossly inappropriate on this day.