1-30-2006 Boxer shorts???

I had something else in mind for today, but since that Times Leader story finally appeared, I figure we might as well go there. Besides, the e-mail inbox demands that I do as much.

First of all, is it a frickin' slow news day, or what? Page 1: NEPA's most notorious 'pajama blogger'??? Things were so much more exciting when the Cruds were shootin' at the Blips. If nothing else, for one day, I was making the most noise. Somethin' like that. I have reached the apex of this life and it's all A.A.R.P. from here on out.

Needless to say, as a result of that newspaper story some new visitors found their way to this site and quite a few commented on what they found here. I'll not post the negative stuff today. For the purposes of this exercise, I'll post the comments that actually have something to add to the mix. Besides, we already knew I was bald, fat, bitter, unemployed and (think of a new one).

Let's do it.

From the e-mail inbox Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing on behalf of the Mulberry Street Elementary School, a small neighborhood school in Berwick, PA. The school serves predominantly economically disadvantaged students and has a high number of special education students, yet was the first of the district, and one of the first in the Northeastern PA region to get on track to meeting their No Child Left Behind and PSSA performance targets. The school achieved 100% proficiency in Math, and 88.9% proficiency in Reading better than any other school in the District and nearly twice the state average. Due to some poor financial decisions the School District made several years ago including a huge capital investment in an athletic facility made in anticipation of skewed tax revenue projections that never bore fruit. The District is now choosing to cut corners but cutting the most vulnerable of our district's population out of the budget.

The most trying and difficult circumstance of this budget cut is that it will leave our districtís taxpayers with no cut in taxes, and will leave us unprepared for the influx of population that inevitably will come. We all understand that in these uncertain financial times our belts need to be tightened, but we must understand that budget cuts that affect education should occur only as a last resort. In essence the Berwick Area School District is choosing to cut off its own legs in order to make its fiscal pants fit again.

Unfortunately, this cut will have little or no impact on the long-term fiscal solvency of the District. The Districtís Administrators estimate the savings to be around $300,000; even if this figure were accurate this budget measure would result be a mere drop in the ocean of the schoolís debt, for instance, if the savings from cutting the school would persist over a ten-year period it would result in the school being 37 million dollars in debt rather than 38 million. Furthermore, the amount of $300,000 is nearly $150,000 less than the school allocates to the athletic budget.

This small school being cut from a district on the outskirts of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton region may seem inconsequential to you, but when new challenges such as assimilating new immigrant populations, and new threats such as the heroin epidemic strike all of us in Northeastern PA, all of us need to stand together. We can no longer look only to our neighborhoods to seek reform, but we must all recognize that in NEPA we are all neighbors. Economic and social decay is contagious, likely more dangerous than any of the much touted flu epidemics, help us quarantine this virus before it spreads. Please stand up for long term planning, for fiscal discipline, and for an education that will help make new comers to our area members of our community.

For more information please visit: Save Mulberry Street

Respectfully Submitted,

David Slavick
Berwick Borough Planning Commission-Member
Berwick, PA

Economic and social decay is contagious,...

Talk about hittin' the nail on the head with a sledgehammer!

None of our communities are isolated from each other in this rapidly shrinking world of our's. All I really know of Berwick amounts to nuclear power and rabid football fans, so I'll keep this specific to my valley.

There is no denying that Wilkes-Barre has had it's share of drug-related crimes during the past, say, 10 years. And it's gotten worse of late as far as high-profile violent crimes are concerned. While all of that was going on, very many of the folks in the neighboring communities were thanking their lucky stars that it was in Wilkes-Barre and not in their far-flung towns and boroughs. But to think that it wouldn't eventually find it's way to their neighborhoods was extremely short-sighted.

Forty Fort came real close to disbanding their police department altogether, which, at least to me, seemed to be inviting the problems that scared the populace the most. Thank goodness they stepped back from that frightening precipice. If Wilkes-Barre has a drug problem so do you. And if Wilkes-Barre's police department keeps on arresting the druggies in record numbers, your's is probably going to get worse yet.

Consider the growing Latino community, which first laid down roots in Hazleton. Latinos are now taking up residence in Wilkes-Barre in increasing numbers and they will find their way to all of our neighboring communities. So, if you're frightened by the prospect of having those people living in your neighborhood, don't think the river will stop them from fanning out all over the valley. I'm not suggesting that hispanics being here is a problem that needs to be corrected. I'm merely pointing out that many of our neighbors currently see the growth of that minority group as being limited to in Wilkes-Barre.

I guess what I'm trying to say is what is going on in Wilkes-Barre pretty much reflects what's going on all over this country. And to point to Wilkes-Barre saying 'Ew! I would never wannna live there,' I would have to say, just wait.

The thing that hurt Wilkes-Barre the most was the fact that it had the lowest property values in the county during the last decade, or so. I think the slide of the property values and the rise in crime are directly related. We shot ourselves in the foot by paying that "broken window" theory no mind until it was almost too late to do anything about the disturbing reverse-gentrification that went on here.

If there's anything to be learned from this city's painful lesson, it's that you are not living in a cocoon and you had better be paying attention to current events and demographic shifts.

Good to hear from you.

Keep pluggin' away.

Wait! There's more...

From the e-mail inbox Read about your site in the Times Leader today and gave it a try. Great! One question though: Why are you listing LCCC, Wilkes and Kings connections and not Penn State Wilkes-Barre. Penn State University Wilkes-Barre has a lot to offer right here in Wilkes-Barre and "nothing" to let your people know.

C'mon, give the one that carries the name Wilkes-Barre a little space. Their site is www.wb.psu.edu.


Yeah, you're right. I remember thinking to myself when I built that graphic thingie that there had to be some important local link that I was forgetting. But cut me some slack.

When I think of farmland, dairies, cows and road trips to see the fall foliage, Wilkes-Barre rarely comes to mind.

That link will appear right quick.

From the e-mail inbox Mark:

I saw the T/L article online. Boxers? You wore BOXERS??

Everyone knows you wear H*n*s briefs ( preferably baggy & black ) to media-type interviews!!!

Another great post on 1/29. The Henry David Thoreau closing was magnificent. I knew "Civil Disobedience" was on a bookshelf somewhere...

Keep me apprised of the aftermath.


H*n*es??? I had to have wifey take a look at that one. What the heck is he going off about? Ah...Hanes. Okay. Now I get it. Hanes. Like, in Michael Jordon underwear Hanes. Actually, I'm a traditional Fruit of the Looms guy. I have never worn boxers--not even once. It never really made much sense to me to be wearing a pair of short pants under a pair of long pants. Then again, all I ever wear is shorts, so why would I wear a pair of shorts under a pair of shorts? How does an impromptu chat with a Times Leader reporter devolve into a discussion about underwear anyway?

This just in: Bloggers wear boxers. Film at eleven. (???)

Must be me. Maybe not.

Yesterday's post may, or may not have been a great post. But I'll tell you this, a helluva lot of work went into it. Thanks for the help.

I'd say Mr. Kanjo has some questions to answer at this juncture. The question is, will they be asked of him?

From the e-mail inbox Did I warn you? I told you the TL interview would be a hatchet job? Tell me you WERE NOT sitting around in your undies at noon? I don't believe it. I thought the lonesome redneck thing was a put on. How's Opal?

Please advise

From the e-mail inbox I thought the Leader wanted to talk to you about your blog, but it was short on blog details and long on unflattering personal observations. Your reaction?


Unflattering? I don't know about all of that. Except for mistaking a pair of shorts with pockets and a drawstring for boxers, I'd say Jon Fox called it the way he saw it. Remember, he came here totally unannounced 'cept for a knock on the door. And I invited him in before knowing who he was. And as soon as what I thought was a casual conversation shifted to being an interview, I did not object and I'll tell you why.

I know I previously alluded to this, but let's rehash it again. I thought it might be cool for the Times Leader's readers to learn that a resident of Wilkes-Barre was not clinging to the negative and all filled with gloom and doom as far as Wilkes-Barre's chances are concerned. I know that could come as a shock to those that do not live here, but I'm thoroughly tired of the activists/candidates constant painting of Wilkes-Barre as a place where there is little, or no hope. The fact is, some of us do "believe," but I think very little of that came across in the article that was published.

I found it interesting that the interviewer was so curious about how long I've known Tom Leighton and why I support him so much. Yet, this ends up being published: Under Mayor Tom Leighton, Cour sees things looking up a bit.

"A bit?" I'm regularly criticized for being too supportive of Leighton's decisions, now I'm hesitant to give Leighton too much credit? There's some sort of disconnect going on there. Whatever, man.

But let's get back to the "unflattering" reporting, shall we?

Whether that was intended as a quasi hit piece, I truly do not know, nor do I frickin' care. I will say this, the media really needs to get off of this stupid "pajama blogger" stereotype. What do they wear when they're sitting home all alone with their laptops and have a deadline hangin' over their heads? A tuxedo? A shirt and tie? Or do they throw on something comfortable before working their literary magic? You know the answer to that. They put their boxers on one nut at a time just like we do. Some might blog in the nude for all I know. Some newspaper reporters might do as well. I guess we'll just never know, but I fail to see what the "pajama blogger" template has to do with reality. If I actually owned jammies, I imagine I might get to blogging in my jammies. So freaking what? I'm completely nekkid and covered head-to-toe in Miracle Whip and chocolate icing as I'm typing this. Who cares?

And there's another important thing that you should know about the "unflattering" reporting. Even if I had advance warning that I was going to be interviewed by a local newspaper, I wouldn't have changed a freakin' thing about the setting, or what I was wearing, or what I was doing when it actually came down. When I'm laid-off from work I sit around in nondescript tank tops and shorts reading on the internet, drinking trendy agricultural amusement aids and quite often--get to blasting loud rock 'n' roll music. As a regular visitor to this site, does any of that come as a surprise to you? That's what I've told you all along. Do I belong in a trailer park? Maybe. But if I do, I wouldn't be surprised if I had a newspaper reporter for a neighbor.

The thing is, I've never once pretended to be anything I'm not. I read a helluva lot, a type a helluva lot, I love the Jints, I love my Braves, I follow Kevin Harvick's exploits, I like to consume mass quantities, I have the toughest ear drums this side of the Fillmore West and I want to see Wilkes-Barre rise again. If that's somehow "unflattering" then there it is. Exactly what it's always been.

I cracked up when I read the "slightly outdated suit" blurb. When I was doing the management thing a while back, I had me what you'd call a wardrobe. But...kitchen grease and 'spensive clothes do not mix very well. Thing is, despite having spent years wearing jackets and ties, I never felt comfortable in any of that and I vowed that I'd never wear such things again after I made my overdue escape from the hospitality industry. But I ran into this political snag by which a certain mayor-elect's wife demanded that I "clean myself up" for the big inaugural bash. No jeans. No T-shirts. No ball caps. And they wonder why I don't wanna run for public office? Thanks, Patty. You almost succeeded in ruining my cleverly crafted image. Well, that is, until The Times Leader set things straight.

One correction needs to be made here. I did not say that Sue Henry invited me to do an audition tape at WILK after Fred Williams and his not-long for this radio market replacement were both let go. What I said was that Nancy Kman invited me to do so. I'll admit being flattered by that one, but listening to talk radio and doing talk radio are two distinctly different things and I'll not pretend that I'm even capable of it pulling off. Although, I think it'd be really interesting for a couple of days until I went and got myself fired.

Unflattering? Ya sure got me by the invisible drawstrings. All I know is, I'm sittin' here smokin' and drinkin' and typin,' but...I did empty my ashtray.

Knight Ridder employees will come and go as they so frequently do, but I'll always be right here doing what I always do: Pushing people to explore the local issues and begging people to do more than bitch. And if I had to run through the middle of the fountain on Public Square wearing nothing more than boxers to do so, I'd be game.


Am I well within my rights as a member of the lowly "pajama blogger" community to demand an immediate retraction? Wouldn't that be a freakin' hoot?

Appearing at the very bottom of Page 2 in tiny, tiny, tiny, little print: "Mark Cour was not sitting in his underwear and scratching his big, fat belly when we interviewed him." (But he did kiss his step-sister Opal with an open mouth.)

Hot lil' bitch.

From the e-mail inbox Hi,

I discovered your website after hearing a reference on wilk, Sue Henry's show. I enjoy your writing and viewpoint and will check back peridocally. I was told by a friend that there are several gangs now prevalant in Wilkes-Barre. The bloods, Cryps, and another gang called Lion Kings? Know anything about the gang situation in our area?

I live in a nice neighborhood in Kingston, which is slowly secumbing to drug activity in neighboring neighborhoods. My friend was given this information by a wb police officer and I am not sure locals are aware of this gang threat, and its relation to our current drug problem.

I do notice a lot of arrests are with people from Phila or NYC. Have any information on that? Have you considered writing something about that? Thanks for supplying your forum. We need more information other than the slanted local talk shows.


Welcome aboard. Strap yourself in.

I'm sure the major big city gangs are well-represented in this area. They can't all be freelance pushers, can they? And while I'm sure they are here, I think their approach to selling in this smallish market is significantly different from selling in some inner-city housing project where the cops dare not roam on most days. In these parts, they do not have a captive audience locked away in high-rise ghettos. In these parts, they have a captive audience--mostly white--but that audience is not limited to one particular area built so many years ago to warehouse poor black folk.

In this area, they've got community after community yet be infiltrated in any meaningful sense and that should scare the hell out of people no matter where they happen to reside. While the local press reporting suggests that drugs are a problem that only Wilkes-Barre has to contend with for the most part, nothing could be further from the truth. If it's not already becoming a problem in some communities, it soon will be unless the Luzerne County Drug Task Force and all of the local law enforcement agencies that comprise it keep on doing what they're doing.

Im supposed to be doing another police ride along sometime soon and if and when that actually happens, I'll make it a point to quiz the folks in-the-know about the influx of big city gangs.

Until then, support your local police department.


Bring it on.

From the NEPA Business Journal:

Northeast PA Business Journal

Spring should see start of Wilkes-Barre riverfront project

By: Ralph Nardone 01/26/2006

The second phase will start the Ďgrand public gardení near the Luzerne County Courthouse

The City of Wilkes-Barre is on the brink of a renovation that will improve the quality of life and spawn economic growth for the entire region of northeast Pennsylvania, according to Luzerne County Commissioner Todd Vonderheid.

He touts the start of the construction on the $30 million riverfront development project this spring with a targeted completion date of the fall of 2007. The bidding process will start this month, he said. The project emulates similar projects done in cities across the U.S. that capitalize on their proximity to water, Vonderheid said. Cities like Minneapolis, Providence, and Harrisburg have all captured the true benefits of the natural amenity. Wilkes-Barre can turn the corner and also become one of the nation's great cities by highlighting the river as a recreational and aesthetic asset, he said.

"Absolutely no one is opposing this project," Vonderheid declared. Approximately 60 percent of the funding for the project comes from the federal government. Other portions are going to be the paid for by the state and county as well as private investors, he added. The project involves four planned phases, Vonderheid said. The first phase will take place on the "grassy commons" on the east side of the river between Pierce Street and Wilkes University's Dorothy Dickson Darte Center.

It involves building two 60-foot "portals" near Union and Northampton streets to go through the wall of the levee. The portals will be open unless water levels begin to rise, at which time they can be closed, he said.

Near the portals, public art will be showcased, along with walking paths along the river up to the county courthouse, Vonderheid said. There will also be a large amphitheater that can seat thousands and river access for fishing and boating.

In the "green spaces" new and existing trees will line pathways with displays exhibiting the history of northeast Pennsylvania. Trail walkers can learn about our area as they enjoy the landscaping, he said.

The second phase will start the "grand public garden," Vonderheid said. The garden includes a greenhouse and high-quality landscaping to embellish monuments and the courthouse grounds.

The third phase begins on the west side of the river in Kirby Park, he said. Recreational trails and more gardens will convert the area to the way it was at the turn of the century. He called it rebuilding the original "northern Wyoming Valley Central Park." The fourth phase involves "calming River Street," Vonderheid said. At this time, River Street is either a parking lot during rush hour or a highway during the off-peak travel times. Traffic will be slowed as the street is converted to a two-lane road with landscaping located between opposing lanes.

Vonderheid does not see any issues with respect to traffic snarling. There are two main arteries into the city now, Wilkes-Barre Boulevard and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Drivers can reach all of the same destinations using those routes so River Street can become more a part of the riverfront motif. Vonderheid hopes the inflatable dam project will constitute the fifth and final phase. He admits there exists vociferous opposition to the dam but he feels it is misguided.

"The inflatable dam is only a balloon that will maintain a steady water level, not a real dam," Vonderheid said.

The advantage of a maintaining a stable water level is it makes it easier to promote recreational activities.

Opponents say the dam will raise the river's water temperature, harm cool-water fish and erode the shoreline, among other environmental complaints.

Current river levels can vary from seven to two feet in depth, barring any abnormal flooding. That variation makes it difficult for businesses on the riverfront to plan events.

For example, in August when the river levels are low, boating will be at a standstill.

Vonderheid hopes the permit for the inflatable dam will be issued in June.

He admits the original proposal will require revising because the costs have most likely changed significantly since the mid-1990s. With the revitalization in downtown including the rebirth of the Sterling Hotel buildings, and other revitalization projects in the city, Vonderheid is confident the riverfront project will result in significant positive change in northeast Pennsylvania.

"Absolutely no one is opposing this project," Vonderheid declared.

As far as I know, no one is opposing the riverfront project.

He admits there exists vociferous opposition to the dam but he feels it is misguided.

Misguided? What? I think he'd had better educate himself in a big hurry by contacting the numerous federal agencies that are recommending that the deflatable dam permit be denied due to the mounting environmental concerns.

Jeez! It's kind of sad to be less informed that the lowly "pajama bloggers."

A tank top...and boxer shorts???

Any-fu>king-who, I demand satisfaction. I demand a retraction. If not, there's a local newspaper reporter who might get his skinny white ass whipped by a middle-aged housewife. She's not nearly as forgiving as I am. You have been warned.