11-26-2005 From the e-mail inbox

I'm beat, I seriously annoyed my left shoulder by trying to trench three-plus inches of frozen soil to the tune of 150 linear feet, so I'm gonna allow those that bother to respond to all my nonsense to take the lead here today.

Today, I'm all about Ben-Gay and yellow sudsies.

From the e-mail inbox Mark,

Here's why I've been opposed to the theatre project. This guy sums it up more eloquently than I ever could. Only trouble is he's speaking about recent events in this article while I've been following the trends for several years now. Since we've spent a gazillion dollars on two theatre projects lets hope that I and this fellow are as wrong as can be.



I am cognizant of the fact that Tinseltown has lost some of it's glimmer of late, but I think the slumping sales at the box office can be largely attributed to one thing--piss-poor freakin' movies. When Harry Potter's continuing adventures hit town, the folks are out in droves. Star Wars? Same crowded deal. Lord of the Rings? Get in line, kiddies. And an indie about Jesus Christ set records all over the world after Mel Gibson refused to take no for an answer from all of Hollywood.

Want me to plop down some buckolas and check out your new film? Well, then make it half-decent. Or is that too much to ask these days? If the Wilkes-Barre Penguins played at a .400 clip for five consecutive seasons, they'd be playing to plenty of empty seats, too. And why would I buy a new refrigerator that was rated as being well below sub-par?

Nicole Kidman in Bewitched? Were they serious? Been there and done that long, long before Nicole Kidman was even thought of. She's cute and all, but that just ain't gonna cut it. Batman? Um, I'd rather go down to the Kirby and watch limber foreigners bang on garbage can lids. Starsky & Hutch? We laughed at that gibberish the first time around and it wasn't supposed to be funny back then. David Soul? Yeah, he's a convincing tough guy iffin' you're 5' 2", 107 pounds, and getting sand kicked in your face is a part-time hobby of sorts. Have we seen Dodgeball? I was totally embarrassed for the actors that appeared in it while I suffered through that truncated bilge.

With all of that needless stuff having been said (sorry), I think a theater can and will prosper in downtown Wilkes-Barre. We've got plenty of people from this valley road-trippin' up Scranton way whenever they get a hankering for some popcorn and Junior Mints, and they all rave about that state-of-the-art cineplex. So why wouldn't a state-of-the-art cineplex in downtown Wilkes-Barre wow 'em?

I honestly think that many of us are not capable of imagining the good times coming to Wilkes-Barre. For every person excited about our new theater, there seems to be an equal number saying, no, grumbling that it will never work. And more often than not, many of those same grumblers say we need to build a downtown mall to revitalize our long-flailing downtown. Yet, the urban planners calling the shots paint a much different picture of what a mall would mean to our downtown.

Harry, I understand your concerns, but I hope you're as wrong as you can be on this one. I really, really do. We've been whining about that downtown of ours for so long, it's getting difficult to remember doing anything other than bitching about it. And if that theater does well enough, I could care less about who gets the lion's share of the credit. Give it to Tom Leighton. Give him a high-five and a kiss on the mouth for me. Give the credit to Ed Rendell, Larry Neuman, or even to Tom McGroarty for that matter. I sincerely do not care.

All I know is we're being given a second chance to support our city. Most towns like ours, once they get to freefalling, just dry up and blow away never to be heard from again. We've spent the better part of two decades bemoaning the fact that there wasn't anything to do in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Six very short months from now, we will have something to do in downtown Wilkes-Barre. The question seems to be, will we do it?

I can't dare to speak for anyone else, but Gage and I will be on the Junior Mint Diet soon enough.

My patent is still pending.

From the e-mail inbox Dear Mark:

It's been a while since I wrote to you, although I do check into W-B Online from time to time. I figure my views in all things W-B would sound a bit hollow as I live in Mountain Top now. I still hope that W-B will turn around and be the city many of us once knew.

Anyway, I built a website for my strange kind of humor. I mention it not as a cheap plug, but for the site's main character, one Pastor Bobby Fay Swagland. He's a W-B native, as is explained on the Ministry page of the site. I intend to pepper the insane preacher's site with NEPA references occasionally.

If you want to take a look, it's at Damnation Ministry. I know that you will not have the same problem with the site as some others do; I have received emails asking Pastor Swagland to pray for people, and others castigating me for the poor advice given on the Letters page. Sigh.

Former Journalist Dude,
John Fitzpatrick

I will check it out. But in the meantime, I do have a question for the good Pastor. Ready?

Assuming I'm not going to be tossed into the burning pits someday soon, will I be allowed to blast some Blue Oyster Cult tunage in Heaven?

Does God rock?

From the e-mail inbox Mr. Cour,

I am a veteran of both the U.S. Army (4 years Field Artillery - honorably discharged) and the PA Army National Guard (4 years Infantry - honorably discharged). Awards presented to me include, but are not limited to the following: National Defense Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Good Conduct Medal.

Everyone should have the same opportunity to be on the ballot in my opinion. If people don't like the candidate, then they don't have to vote for him or her, but there is no reason to keep anyone from having the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice.

That is something I believe in and I am not afraid to stand up and defend my beliefs when our government is wrong and refuses to address the problem. Not much is accomplished solely by sitting behind a computer; occassionally, one must act.

I know when I was younger I acted by joining the military to protect the very rights my government refuses to give some people.

At no point in the article did it say I was a member of the Green Party.

Required Reading



"All political ideas cannot and should not be channeled into the programs of our two major parties. History has amply proved the virtue of political activity by minority dissendent groups, which innumerable times have been in the vanguard of democratic thought and whose programs were ultimately accepted.... The absence of such voices would be a symptom of grave illness in our society." Warren, C.J.

Well, thanks for your time. I look forward to hearing back from you soon, or even meeting you, as we are neighbors. (Unless, of course, you are still having visions of hitting me with an aluminum bat or setting me afire - you mention more than once on your site your lack of mental stability).

Tim Grier

From the e-mail outbox Dude!

You have to allow me to post that e-mail on my site. It's certainly debatable, but the on-going debate is what democracy is supposedly all about. Green Party? Okay, you may not be a Greenie, but you have definately adopted their mostly useless tactics. No?

And don't give me too much bullspit about aluminum bats and Zippo raids. Fact is, I'm sure those sorts of angry thoughts have occured to you while waiting way too long in the deli line hoping only for a pound of American cheese and some chopped ham. Or while on-line at the local Turkey Hill outlet while your soda gets warm only because some senior citizen needs every number ever thunk of boxed and straight for fifty cents. Zippo raid? You've been there and fantasized about doing that yourself. Yet, restraint ruled the day.

Mental instability? I plead the fifth on all of that. Don't tell anyone.

The thing is, if you'd really like to get together and hash all of this political stuff out, I'm all for it. I mean that. As I say quite often on my stupid site, I'm not nearly as caustic in person as I am on the dreaded internet. I know it may seem hard to believe most of the time, but I'm not normally prone to biting the heads off of whatever it may be that gets folks of your ilk (whatever that may be) to going nutball on my skinny ass.

You wanna argue face-to-face? By all means, let's do it. No matter where that encounter might lead us to, a spirited debate of the important issues of the day could never be spun as a bad thing. Or could it?

Whatever. I'm here where I've always been in Nord End. Wanna get together? That's fine by me, but you have to supply your own favorite yellow sudsies of choice.

Lemme know.

Markie in Nord End

From the e-mail inbox Mark,

You are certainly welcome to post that message on your site if you like. I honestly didn't think you would even bother to ask, so kudos to you. Hopefully, you won't take the corporate media approach of editing it so the context is completely opposite of what was intended, but that is up to you...it's your site.

a couple of points if I may:

"you have definately adopted their mostly useless tactics. No?"

No. It was not at all useless. People react to action. This action has received attention in Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Binghampton, New York City, Washington, D.C., Portland, Vancouver,B.C., London, and yes, Wilkes-Barre. Those are just the ones I am familiar with. And, I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from folks I know and from folks I don't. Most oft-repeated comment... "inspiring" (and from the younger crowd... "bad-ass!"). The Voters Choice Act has received very little press in this area (one article in the Leader). I am keeping that story in the news, even if it costs me (funny, I already served 8 years for this country and here I go again, only this time it's my own government puttin' the screws to me). You don't hear about it, not because the Access the Ballot Coalition or the Libertarians or the Greens are a bunch of crazies...the republicans and democrats often take ideas from the third parties... but because those that have power over others want to keep it.

I'm sure those sorts of angry thoughts have occured to you while waiting way too long in the deli line hoping only for a pound of American cheese and some chopped ham. Or while on-line at the local Turkey Hill outlet while your soda gets warm only because some senior citizen needs every number ever thunk of boxed and straight for fifty cents. Zippo raid? You've been there and fantasized about doing that yourself.

I have no desire to go after anyone with a bat or a zippo or anything else for that matter. Neither violence nor oppression is the answer. Those little things really bug you?!? I read on your site that people should lighten up and have a good time once in a while. A wise man heeds his own advice first.

folks of your ilk (whatever that may be)

I am an American citizen, taxpayer, registered voter, and veteran. To this point, I have no criminal record... not even a misdemeanor. I believe all voices should be heard, even the crazy ones like yours (think how you would like it if the greens ran the country and wouldn't let your candidate on the ballot - how would you like it?). It should be for the voters to decide who gets into office, not the officeholders to decide who gets on the ballot. The government should work for all of us.

PA Ballet Access

We'll have to hold off on the face-to-face discussion for now (argue? no. discuss, far more productive) as this is an extremely busy time of year for me... as I'm sure it is for you as well. It is, however, gracious for you to extend such an offer... Thanks.


Tim Grier

Trust me, there ain't no "corporate media approach" to anything going on here. Quite the contrary.

I could do a tit-for-tat rebuttal thing here, but I'm too tired to do so. The thing is, my employer put me in a bad position this morning, meaning that what should have been an easy job turned into a tiring sweatfest. Whatever. Sh*t happens. But you did send along one particular comment that suggests that you don't know me at all, and that we may have more in common than you were led to believe.

Not much is accomplished solely by sitting behind a computer; occassionally, one must act.

If you are suggesting that I have never taken action in a political sense, you are sadly, grossly mistaken. Actually, your quip reminds me of something Tom McGroarty once said about his, um, only internet critic:

Anyone can sit in the basement in their pajamas and type whatever they want.

10-4! Anyone can, but only one person dared to do as much. And that one person would be the one you are apparently lecturing about taking action. Trust me, I've been face-to-face with the worst of his former cronies many, many times over, so don't be talking all tough about scaring the wits out of some senior citizens at the local polling place. And guess what, I didn't torch a single one of them. And don't be whining about any potential legal problems you might be facing because of your own actions. You were the one who decided to jerk-off in a voting booth, while the rest of us could at least recognize and adhere to the rules of protocol and decorum.

You may not be a member of the local green protesters in waiting, but there's no denying that you took a page right out of their idiotic playbook. You systematically choose which laws, and which expected norms of protocol you will abide by on any given day. Normal people don't jerk-off in voting booths, but you did. According to you, I lack "mental stability," but I never once jerked-off in a voting booth. I have never caused any county sheriffs to mobilize. And I have never once been shadowed by a constable over something as completely stupid as jerking-off all alone in a voting booth.

Your youngish friends were impressed? Well, isn't that just special. I remember Jon Grula keeping a flowing tap connected to a keg in his mouth for damn near three minutes. And everyone in attendance that day was mucho, mucho impressed. Ever punch out a car's windshield with one punch? No? Oops, that's right. I forgot. Despite all of your military derring-do and whatnot, your's is an expansive mind totally devoid of any violent thoughts. It's all peace, love and jerking-off in voting booths for those of you who "take action." And no Zippos.

And don't insult my intelligence by even suggesting that the ballot access thingie is news to me. I will not deny that the well-entrenched members of our two-party system do not want anymore competition than they currently have, but when I see mis-guided shenanigans such as yours coming from the only possible alternatives, I'm seeing wanton jerking-off as the only alternative to the jerk-offs. If your actions are an example of what equal ballot access will provide me with, I'm thinking that Howard Dean is starting to sound somewhat sane. Somewhat.

The biggest, most glaring mistake you self-styled revolutionaries of the day make is in assuming that those of us who don't jerk-off in voting booths do not care, or lack enough gonads to make a statement, or a difference. In this respect, your youth is showing.

Dude, those seniors you upset at the local polling place were the very last people you should have gleefully set about annoying. If they didn't care, they wouldn't have been there in the first place. Not everyone with gray hair, or bluish hair is a political enemy in need of being subjugated. I know, I know, everyone over the age of thirty needs to be put out to pasture. Sadly, the 60s rage on.

And if your ill-conceived circus stunt is an example of what we can expect when any nincompoop of note can access the ballot, then I'm here to tell you it's never going to happen. You see, civil discourse needs to be the rule of the day and not civil disobedience.

The absence of such voices would be a symptom of grave illness in our society.


Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.--Sir Winston Churchill

The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.--Hannah Arendt

Dude, I think you need to take a chill pill and consider where all of this jerking-off might lead you to. Truth be told, I have no friggin' clue as to where my trusty Zippo has gotten to these days. And if I were you, I'd consider a much more mainstream approach to all things political before diving into the lunatic fringe pool. Otherwise, I fear you are just jerking-off over and over again.

Sorry, but I speak my deranged mind no matter who says what in direct response to it. Welcome to the mix. If you still want to, we'll hook-up after the holidays for a coffee and some civil discourse.

Enjoy your family.

From the e-mail inbox Hi Mark -

Your “Thanks, but no thanks” post really stirred up a lot of bitter emotions in me as I read it. Like you, I too had lean days in my childhood. Some background…. My mom was a stay at home mom during most of my childhood. Her job was me. 24/7/365. My father happily supported his family. That is how he wanted life to be for us.

He had chronic high blood pressure due to heredity. One day in the blink of an eye he had a stroke and was permanently gone from our lives at the young age of 38. Literally here today, gone tomorrow. My mom was 34 and I was 13.

At 38, my father never expected to die. Therefore, there was no life insurance or any type of long term savings. We were flat broke and my mother had no skills in the working world. Even though it felt like our world was ending, we had to pick up the pieces and continue to move forward with the rest of the world. Bills needed to be paid and food was needed on the table. My mother dragged me that summer to the welfare office in WB. At 13, I was way too proud for anything of the such and I whined all the way there. What if someone saw us that we knew? I would have been mortified. My mother kept going on about pride and saying things like “Pride cometh before the fall” which meant nothing to me. I hated every minute of it. But we had no choice.

Time went on and we had to move into low income housing. My mom was able to land work watching other people’s children since this was all she was really skilled to do in those days. Needless to say, it was not a well paying career - but it put food on the table. We embraced the low income housing only because they go according to your income. Gone were the welfare days! But the new challenge after that was when I got a bit older and decided to work too, so I get the things my mother couldn’t afford. We were then “punished” for working. The more we made, the more the housing authority took. Not all, just 30%. Kind of makes it hard to get ahead and get out of place like that when you are struggling already. But guess what - we did it. The more they took, the more we worked.

I am not mentioning any of this for pity or a pat on the back. But I do know what you mean about those who have a sense of entitlement. Sure, my mother and I could have just taken the easy way out and just kept taking rather than getting off our buns and helping ourselves. That is not what we chose to do. We relied on ourselves. Life taught us that in a great big hurry. We are both better people because of what we had been through financially - because we helped ourselves. And I will be forever thankful for it - as sick as that may sound to some anymore. If lightening strikes in my life again - I know I could depend on myself to get through.

As you stated “For me, being dirt poor was frustrating beyond all comprehensible belief. But admitting as much was a far worse fate bordering upon the ultimate in indignities.” That was exactly the way I felt the entire time. These days it seems this is the way to go. Why, you might have to get a job (GASP) otherwise! Getting a job is just work! (Sarcasm) LOL. So now many “play the role” and off they march to get what they can.

My point here? It sickens me to see so many feel they are ENTITLED to handouts too . And better yet it sickens me when I see people lying to get these free handouts because they shouldn’t get them in the first place. Or crying they are handicapped when they are not. It amazes me how many kids these days would rather let good old mom and dad pay their way rather than getting jobs. Pride? Has it become a thing of the past? Sure looks that way.

Have a good holiday season and thanks for bringing to my attention what I am thankful for.

I gotta tell ya, when I first laid eyes on your e-mail--it saddened me to a great extent. It sounded so damn familiar, I was instantly transported back to a time when I couldn't begin to appreciate what my overwhelmed mother was going through, but I hated with every fiber of my being what I was subjecting myself to. For this struggling young hooligan, a total lack of income very easily translated into a total lack of self-esteem. And while being so young and so completely stupid, there were those times when I absolutely hated my Mom for what had become of the four of us. After the passage of many years, I came to realize that our low-income, hand-me-down existance was not her fault entirely. Sadly, she passed into the next place before I could explain to her that the hurtful things I said to her so long ago were the product of abject frustration, rather than a thoughtless condemnation of her tireless efforts at delivering a somewhat normal life to her three welfare kids. The guilt thing lasts a really long time. Be careful what you say to your loved-ones.

She really was a saint. She really was. It's been 17 years, but it feels like only yesterday when I was squeezing her hand for the very last time. My eldest two kids recoiled in horror to my far less than composed reaction when the doctor told me that we were very quickly approaching the end of my Mom's brief journey through this life.

And I'll never forget when she mustered up just enough strength to whisper to me but a few minutes before she went away. She said, "Look after your sister and take care of your brother." And after she passed, I remember thinking, "What about me?" What about me, Mom? Later that night, I sat on the back porch sobbing away while wifey had her arms wrapped around me, and I just couldn't understand why dear ole' Mom's final breath made no mention of me.

But after reflecting on all of those trying moments for many, many years now, I have come to realize that my Mom--Dorothy Kirwan--knew that I'd be okay in the long run. She knew. She knew I absolutely hated living in the "projects." She knew that I had never once wandered into any store and used a food stamp. I absolutely, steadfastly refused to be seen sporting such a thing with that stigma readily-attached to it. She knew I hated those free medical screenings for welfare kids at General Hospital. And she knew full-well how completely close I came to bleeding to death after ripping a bicep right out of my left arm, and having to wait while the "insured" kids with the broken thumbs and such were quickly tended to in the General's emergency room. She knew I had some seriously scary chips on my both of my shoulders, and she knew I had a fire in my belly. Basically, I think she knew I'd rise above our obvious limitations.

But trust me when I tell you, it is much better to have a loving Dad for 13 short, short years than it is to never know one at all. Your Dad obviously loved you dearly and provided for you while he was still mucking about. Conversely, my long-AWOL Dad is off somewhere doing only God-knows-what at some rocket lab, but he's never bothered to see how I was getting on with things since 1962. In my mind, he really doesn't care what ultimately became of his first-born child. And I find that hard to fathom. I do. And I always did. Being a father myself, I can't even imagine such a lame attempt at fatherhood. There was a time when I desperately, desperately hoped to meet him, but these days, I'd pretty much prefer to do without a detached f>ck of a sperm donor from here on out.

You had thirteen years.

I envy you. I really do.

And as for your Mom, treat her, spoil her, and tell her what you really think about things long before she ends up in the ICU.

For me, being dirt poor was frustrating beyond all comprehensible belief. But admitting as much was a far worse fate bordering upon the ultimate in indignities.”

And it wasn't her fault. I know that now.

I miss her. And I will continue to miss her until that day arrives when Blue Oyster Cult becomes the 'norm wherever it is that we all hope to one day ascend to. And if only for a fleeting nanosecond or two, I'm thinking that we'll be able to visit those that were taken away from us way too early.

Your Dad is waiting out there somewhere. And so is my Mom. And no matter how far we endeavor to travel from our roots, we're all hoping to end up at the same place--right back where we started.