8-11-2008 Another year, another six kegs

Yesterday I enjoyed a typical morning after the block party. I was out of bed, outside and connecting sections of garden hose by 6:15 am. I was joined by Zachary and Jeremy fifteen minutes later, and the hosing of the entire street began in earnest.

Oh, yeah. And since I had this annoying gnawing pain centered directly behind my four eyes, I did the adult thing and cracked open a bottle of Smirnoff Green Apple Bite. Nothing like a glass of fruit juice in the morning, no?

I don’t know what’s more remarkable. A hundred or so people getting together just for the heck of it. Or the utter devastation that they leave in their wake. Trust me on this, Thompson Street resembles many streets in the third world on the morning after.

Stupidly, I’m one of the few residents of this street that have ever spied the aftermath with their own eyes. And for good reason, too. Stuff like staying up ‘til the sun starts to rise. Drinking excessively. And then there’s the big one, staying up ‘til the sun starts to rise while drinking excessively the entire time. On your typical morning after, you could hear a pin drop out there until the grandrodents finally hit the street looking to pick through the wonderment typically hidden amongst the rubble. Long story short, things look much, much better now. Thanks to me and my vertically-challenged slave labor.

Last Year: The 19th Annual (3:30)

I figure a successful block party amounts to having nothing to report the next day. As in, we didn’t make any police blotter pages in the local newspapers. Not a single punch was thrown. Although, they tell me we did come awfully close this time around. Thankfully, that was nipped in the bud by a still sober female. Far as I know, there was no lewd behavior, or sexual assaults reported. But it wouldn’t surprise me if there were a few Thompson Street Block Party babies growing up out there somewhere. Maybe we should redesign our T-shirts to read: I went to the Thompson Street Block Party and all I got was this freaking kid. We might be able to sell a few. Never know. Anyways, no used syringes. No slightly used prophylactics. Nothing really.

I’m not sure what the estimation was on the crowd size. Got me. I usually don’t worry about that sort of thing. It fluctuates from year to year and always for varying reasons. One year somebody says it was a hundred. And I’ve heard estimates approaching a couple hundred. Some people find it easy to party all by their lonesome. So why should I bitch if only a hundred or so bother to attend our party?

The thing always starts off slowly, but steadily builds some momentum as the people keep on creeping up the street with assorted crock pots and/or chafer pans in hand. I can’t remember how many times newcomers to this event showed up about an hour or so into it and remarked about the size and scope of the party. Just wait, I always tell them. At 6 pm, it’s a “nice” party. By 10 pm, you might have to duck under the flying eggs, water balloons and folding chairs. Drink as much as your belly or your wife will allow for, but remain alert at all times. Or, should I say, conscious. Whatever works.

A sea of green t-shirts

Photo by Gort

And this photographer from the Citizens’ Voice, Bob Adams, man, talk about coverage. Never have we had a member of the media stay here near as long as he did. He was very personable while making his way through the crowd. He took plenty of pictures and did as much glad-handing as the many politicians in attendance. My thinking is that he was here long enough to pen an entire book about the event, forget an article. Somebody mistook him for WILK’s Kevin Lynn, and a mass laugh event broke out. Kevin Lynn?

At my house?

I’d rather drink with Osama bin Laden’s personal bodyguards. I’d rather eat--for an entire year--Steve Corbett’s soy-based chicken feed. I’d prefer to be raped by Rosie O’Donnell, and over and over again. And without protection. Kevin Lynn? What were you thinking? More appropriately, what were you drinking?

Later on, I was practically blinded by the lights attached to a television camera belonging to WBRE. They were all shouting directions to me over the music, something about waving at the camera when beckoned to. I gave him a two-handed “party on” jump. Tell me they’d put that on the nightly news, some loon probably more aptly suited for a raucous Oz-fest freak show.

I’ve invited local bloggers in the past, and a few even threatened to but then failed to show up. Despite what they’ve been told, the right-leaning don’t really bite. Well, not usually. But this time they were out in force. So that must have been the real life version of what they call a blogswarm.

In attendance were the authors of Another Monkey, Gort 42, The Lu Lac Political Letter, Jennifer Wade D. Journal and mhryvnak.net, as well as Gort’s wife, Mrs.G.

Some of these people use their real names on their sites, while some do not. While that’s a personal choice, and since I have been known to heavy up on anonymous assassins and the like, I must make the distinction that these people are not the assassin types. They are what you could call ‘responsible bloggers,’ since they tend to stay away from slanderous attacks on anyone other than George W. Bush.

While the great majority of them can usually be found on the opposite side of the ideological divide from where your thoroughly deranged author typically hangs, I expected a peaceable swarm. One of these folks even responded to my friendly pre-party needling of him by bringing along a can of purple Kool-Aid. Funny as all hell.

Do it. Drink it

Photo by D.B. Echo

Be they week-kneed Democrats or baby-killing Republicans; smart apparatchiks and myrmidons alike immediately dispense with the purple Kool-Aid business just as soon as the tap slides into the top of the first keg. And based on what I spied this past Saturday, we are smart apparatchiks and myrmidons all.

No matter what your political stripe, I think the great preponderance of us want much the same things come Saturday night: Cold beer, half-decent eats, some tunes, decent people to chill with and a safe, clean street on which to enjoy such things. And to that end, Thompson Street works quite well. Yeah, I know what they mistakenly continue to say on WILK and to the point of absurdity. If you enter Wilkes-Barre, you will be robbed, beaten, raped and most likely burned to death. And not necessarily in that order. And I’m here to tell you that is complete sophistry that plays well to the easily frightened and the terminally ill-informed.

I keep telling people that the dogged perception that Wilkes-Barre is inherently unsafe is complete bunkum. And if Thompson Street is the model of Wilkes-Barre by which you must reexamine things, I think I’ve made my point.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t spend too much time hanging with the swarm, but helping to run a block party all too often reminds me of my restaurant management days, in that, my name keeps getting shouted at me from every which direction for hours on end. Mark, complaint…table 10. Mark, announce the children’s egg toss. Mark, the ice machine is down. Mark, why can’t you play Foggy Mountain Breakdown? Yep, the studiously planned itinerary goes down the drain just as soon as the thing gets underway.

“Wars begin where you will, but they do not end where you please.”--Machiavelli

Here’s a nice block party post from Another Monkey. Good pics, too.

As we all know, Governor Ed Rendell declined my invite. Those in the know say he’s a bit of a party animal, but not with us. No biggie. Senator John McCain’s people never even got back to me, which didn’t surprise me in the least. Perhaps if I called it The Thompson Street Fund-raiser in my email invite, he would have been my guest deejay or something. Turning Japanese suddenly comes to mind. Maybe not.

The really big secret, which absolutely no one knew but me, was that Lou Barletta’s communication coordinator, Shawn Kelly, assured me that our future congressman would be making an appearance some where around 6 pm. But as we all know, secrets rarely stay secrets for very long. Honestly, I’m surprised that it took until after the party was underway for the big secret to finally leak out.

Before Lou Barletta and Mr. Kelly came sauntering up the street, that phone call did come in and I was quizzed. Mark, did you know Lou Barletta is coming? Yes sir, I did. I put that in motion and I’ll tell you why. Actually, I’ll tell you what I told Shawn Kelly. Since Lou Barletta is from Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre residents probably know of him only from what they’ve gleaned from the cable news shows, I simply wanted him to come on up here and meet some Wilkes-Barre folk.

He was treated to no fanfare upon his arrival. I didn’t open a microphone and make a big announcement. I simply told him to pour a beer, grab some eats and mingle. I told him I want Congressman Paul Kanjorski replaced, I welcomed him, and told him to go and meet some good people from Wilkes-Barre who just happen to be registered voters. I won’t say he was mobbed, but he was very, very well-received. He’s like Ed Pashinski, in that, he’s a more effective campaigner when he’s out meeting people; exuding his charisma, charm and presence. And afterwards, a goodly amount of party-goers told me they intend to vote for him.

Many of us were surprised that he stayed so long, probably about two hours. Like I said, he was a hit. And I knew he would be. So, as part of my very unscientific poll of registered party-goers, Paul Kanjorski is in trouble in his own back yard. The margin of error? You got me.

Bill Barrett, MC & Lou Barletta
After Lou left for the St. Jude’s picnic, somebody grabbed my hand, squeezed it and said, “You are the man.” No, I’m not the man, I replied. It’s quickly becoming patently obvious that Lou Barletta is the man. The man who’s going to pull off the previously unthinkable, the big upset.

When the call came in that broke the news of my big secret, we were told that Lou Barletta was coming to the party from the Mohegan Sun, and with an armada of press in tow. And I thought, no, that’s not what I wanted, turning the block party into a three-ring circus. I invited him, not a convoy of satellite trucks.

But, just as was discussed, he showed up with one aide at his side, and did exactly as I hoped he would. He met some Wilkes-Barre folk, and very informally. In all honesty, if I had to share my front porch with a CNN camera crew, I would have been disappointed to the point of feeling a bit betrayed.

So far, I’ve given the man exactly one chance to earn my trust and respect, and much unlike my current congressman…he delivered. So, I’m assuming that soon-to-be Congressman Barletta will be a regular at the block party. We’ll see.

The irrepressible Kayak Dude was on hand as well. I was hoping he’d arrive before Lou Barletta left, because I really wanted Don to bring him up to speed on the inflatable dam fight he spearheaded. I think the Barletta campaign should be making more of an issue of Paul Kanjorski’s laughable attempt to dam a severely challenged river. Sorry, but local politics never strays very far from my mind. And it’s simple. And as we all know by now, I like simplicity. Elect only good people at the local level, and only good people can gravitate to dizzying political heights. Good people like Lou Barletta.

Don was joined by two of his high school buddies, so I hope they had fun reminiscing. You know, stuff like how they beat on that 9th-grader for no good reason other than having the unmitigated audacity to wear a soccer shirt to school circa 1975. How they used to drink piss-warm Gibbons in the crawl space under the auditorium when they were supposed to be in art class. Or the time they yanked the hell out of a girl’s long hair causing to her to scream out right in the middle of a school assembly. And how that girl had spun around and started slapping faces right in the middle of that school assembly. Or the time they…

Oh, wait. Those were my past “exploits.”

Never mind.

Balloon Bust

For the very first time, my mayor, Mayor Tom Leighton, was forced to share the block party experience with another mayor. We talked about all of that, the surprisingly frank details of which will not be published here. We was cool. So he said.

City Council? Kathy Kane was here, as was Bill Barrett. Magistrate Marty Kane was here. You know, I’ve seen these people savaged on the internet on occasion, but I have to tell you, none of that anonymously posted savaging was earned or deserved. No matter their perceived limitations, or their positions on the most pressing of issues, they clearly fall into that “good people” category. Sez me.

Our local Guardian Angels guru, Scott Koppenhoffer, was on hand. Although, I’m not quite sure how many people might or might not have known who he was. I mean, as part of this media-fueled standoff with the city’s administration, his mug has been in the newspapers and on television on a very regular basis, so he might have been spotted. The thing is, he wasn’t invited because he’s a newfound celebrity of sorts. He was invited because I like him. Pull up a stool, throw some back and let’s rap. Simple as that. And I like simplicity.

I’d be totally remiss if I failed to mention the people of Thompson Street who not only make the party what it is, they make urban living doable. Yesterday we had our residents-only after party get-together. We watched three separate videos culled from years worth of block parties. And then we got to discussing what went right, as well as what we can do better come next year’s soiree. And my biggest complaint was that, still, not all of the residents of this smallish street choose to participate. They don’t object to the parties. They just choose not to get involved. And in my now sober mind, if that’s your biggest gripe with your neighbors--that they won’t party once a year--then you’re probably blessed living where you live.

We get logistical help from the city, which is only right when neighbors need some assistance with demonstrating that not all is lost in their town. But the vast majority of what happens and what appears on the street whence it goes bonkers once a year is driven by the very people who reside here and their direct relatives. They call it the Thompson Street Block Party for a good reason. And that’s because it’s the good people of Thompson Street that make it all happen.

So, when the exorbitant cost of commuting finally breaks your financial back and you start talking to area realtors about the urban living availabilities, ask them if there are any listings for Thompson Street, Wilkes-Barre. Because if urban living gets any better than this, I have yet to partake of it.

Thanks to everyone involved. I hope to see you all again next year, on the second Saturday in August. That’s enough self-medicating for one weekend.

And until then…PARTY ON!!!

Another year, another mess for Zach

The Thompson Street Block Party: 20 Years & Still Going Strong (14:51)