7-1-2006 Thirty years later...Lightning McQueen

I was 17-years-old when I last took in a recently released movie in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Unbelievably, that was three decades ago. Back in 1976 (when I shaved every other week) my future wifey and I strolled hand-in-hand to the Paramount Theater and watched us a thriller called “The Sentinel.” I can recall enjoying it immensely, but not much else.

In 1976, I had to produce identification before being admitted into any theater showing an R-rated movie. In 1976, KISS ruled the world, a promised ice age loomed and disco was a communist plot meant to undermine western man’s love of rock ‘n’ roll. (Okay, maybe I’ve seen “Detroit Rock City” one too many times. Shoot me.) That KGB-inspired plot failed miserably, so highly covert, heavily-financed Spetznas special forces infiltrated our country, launched MTV on August 1, 1981 and plunged the entire musical world into darkness inside a decade. In fact, according to ZiggyStardustIsDead.com, Paul Stanley was kidnapped, spirited out of the country and has been forced to karaoke rap crap, hip-slop and disco songs at a remote Soviet gulag.

Trust me, I wouldn’t make this kind of stuff up.

So yesterday we packed the grandrodents into the trusty Radio Flyer wagon and headed to downtown Wilkes-Barre’s new pearl. Funny, though. As I made the 12-minute trek to town, I was not filled with accolades that were just dying to spill forth for the folks that made our newest amenity a reality. While they all are richly deserving of enough accolades to fill a double-hulled freighter, my thoughts were of the people who once managed Wilkes-Barre’s affairs as it became painfully obvious that the rot was definitely setting in. Who were they and what were they thinking about, if anything at all?

I’ve covered all of this before, but I worked in the downtown throughout both the ‘70s and the ‘80s. During the tail-end of the ‘70s, businessmen were grumbling about the miniscule, but noticeable decline in foot traffic. And by the mid-80s, the grumbling grew much louder as the downtown incrementally turned into an 8 am to 4 pm operation. And by the mid-90s, the downtown, for all intents and purposes, was no more. And during the latter stages of the ‘90s, we even had us a mayor who said “The downtown doesn’t vote.” In my mind, Wilkes-Barre’s leaders of the recent past weren’t doing very much leading at all. Mostly, they were doing useless photo-ops and doling out jobs to useless friends, relatives and concubines. And what I have in mind for them involves the use of a rubber hose of a yet undetermined length. And while it may be ill-advised to beat our former “leaders” with a rubber hose of any length, I reckon my popularity would soar to dizzying heights if I somehow got around to it.

You can take issue with any part of that if you must, but I figure we’ve had enough of voting for short-sighted dimwits and all of the under-performing flunkies that typically come along with them. I went three decades without seeing a movie in Wilkes-Barre and I blame each and every one of those voters who vote for the party rather than the candidate. You wanted the anointed favorite sons and you got ‘em. Unfortunately, that was about all that you got. As far as I’m concerned, no matter what the future holds for this city, our past leaders couldn’t hold a match to our current leaders. While the current crop may not be perfect, they certainly have us headed in the right direction.

Whatever. Take it for what it’s worth.

By the way, I ran across Vodd Tonderheid at the theater today and gave him a quick thumbs up on the evacuation order and suchlike. We feel free to rip politicians to tiny shreds often enough. Maybe they ought to hear about it more often when we appreciate their efforts. I dunno.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday in the downtown, and I pedaled the grandrodents through it’s center for two hours this afternoon. Foot traffic is definitely up. Where once Gage and I were free to ride through our parking garages with our eyes practically closed, now they are filled to varying degrees with parked cars. And suddenly, riding a bicycle through the folks marching toward the theater complex has gotten me to missing those all but abandoned sidewalks I used to navigate freely, almost carelessly.

I’m looking forward to all of the peripheral businesses opening and watching the impact those will have on the foot traffic in the downtown. After bemoaning the loss of what was once Luzerne County’s retail hub, it’s going to be fun to feel all vibrant once again. It may sound all silly and such to those of you that do not reside here and cannot appreciate what it‘s like to experience a town‘s near slow death, but just heading on downtown to see an animated movie felt like a thrill. Silly, I know, but true.


As soon as we had entered the front door at ground level, the kids got all excited and had to be told to tone it down a tad. In all honesty, as I gazed up the steps, I felt pretty much the same way. Basically, as things go, or had gone, in Wilkes-Barre’s long-suffering downtown, this was going to be quite the treat. Get used to it.

Snack Bar

Being that we were taking in a movie before 6 pm, the ticket prices were more than reasonable. They increase for shows that start at 6 pm or later. The prices at the Snack Bar were far lower than I had expected to pay. (Remember, it’s been 30 years.) With R/C Theatres promising digital this, digital that and digital who knows what else; I was really expecting to have to sell one of the kids off to a pederast so as to walk away with a single bucket of popcorn. Whew!

Game Room

The game room was…well, loud as all hell. Turns out, Gage is a really, really good shot. Who knew? Maybe he should pursue the military as his eventual career path. Lord only knows, there’s certainly no shortage of lunatics presently roaming the Earth that are in serious need of a high-velocity round through the eye. Maybe Gage could one day save millions of lives by assassinating one tin-horn dictator before he starts a world war or some such thing. But, despite saving said millions, the Democrats would likely demand that he be incarcerated until France loves us all again.

No matter. He’ll probably end up being a Tour De Force champion anyways. It almost runs in the family. Almost.

Lightning McQueen

The movie itself, Cars, was a freakin’ hoot. It really was. Sure, there were plenty of parents dragging their kids on in there to see it, but there were just as many adult couples lining up to see it. Deep down inside, Lightning McQueen is a big-hearted car. It was neat. You could do much, much worse. Take the rodents to see it.

Zach, Gage & Taylor

Oh, and if some gigantic blockbuster has folks lined up around the block at some point, you can purchase your movie tickets online by following this link:

Advance Ticketing

The sound was…in a word, incredible. During the louder moments it was almost deafening, yet crystal clear. During a couple of the quieter interludes, I mistakenly thought a thunderstorm was raising hell on the theater’s roof. It took me a spell before I remembered that we were seated on the second floor of a three-story building. Duh!

S. Main Street

BUT...but...there is one serious problem with Wilkes-Barre Theatres 14 that had better be addressed and soon. As flaws in planning go, this one is huge, if not, potentially fatal. I’m near heartbroken. I’m contemplating taking a flying leap from the middle of the Pierce Street bridge, but I promise I’ll do it when the river is low so as to not endanger the lives of the first responders. Hopefully, I’ll splat head-first off of an exposed boulder and the first responders can just fish me out with a fishing pole while giggling to themselves.

The popcorn was great, as theater popcorn always is. They pop it with flaxseed oil, or coconut oil, or something, Earthworm oil. Who knows. Not me.

The Gummy Bears were good as far as I can tell. The sour worm thingies seemed to go over well as evidenced by the empty box. The chocolate-covered cookie dough nuggets were nifty and all. Mountain Dew seems to work. But, no effing Junior Mints?!? Who’s in charge here?!? I want names! I want numbers! I demand satisfaction!

How can you operate a 14-screen movie complex without offering Junior Mints to the movie-going masses??? How could J. Wayne Anderson do this to me? To us?

Thirty years? I waited thirty years for a first-run movie to be shown in downtown Wilkes-Barre, and no freaking Junior Mints???

From Tootsie.com:

Junior Mints with its chocolate covered, creamy mint, center, are a popular item in theaters and at home.

Tootsie Roll Industries produces over 15 million Junior Mints a day.

Junior Mints

They spent $30 million-plus building a downtown movie complex extraordinaire and no gosh darned Junior Mints?

Now I finally know what it feels like to be one of those left-leaning pansy folk.

I’m apoplectic!

From the e-mail inbox Mark:

You saw what was left of the camper on the island near Forty-Fort two weeks ago, just a frame and not much else.

The timeframe was actually 9/2004 to 9/2005 in the attached photos. It's probably gone now.





But I got the Chief Muckamucka story right, no?

John Facenda covering the Agnes flood of 1972? John Facenda, as in, NFL Films John Facenda? Holy frig!

You really can find anything on the internet. It’s nuts.

From the e-mail inbox Thanks for the pic buddy. I'm going to use it on my next CXXXXX post. You made a great point about paving everything and the never ending development. Bernie is on the same page:

Lehigh Valley Ramblings

Bonus Round: Which former mayor of ours rented a “Budget” straight job and loaded his belongings into it as the Susquehanna was getting it’s phlegm all up?

Mr. Disaster Planning himself was poised and ready to run away to the hills.

Go figure.


PS: Junior Mints