8-23-2008 Jill Viti

This is gonna be gross. This is going to be mental repugnancy on parade, as if I need more mental repugnancy on parade. This is going to push me to the point of watching the Lifetime Network, where men are depicted as pigs, dogs, rapists, cheaters, murderers and bastards 24 hours a day. This will separate the men from the boys, in that, while some may honestly speak their minds, many, many others will march in choreographed missteps when the political drum gets beaten.

For the next two months, Iím going to be bombarded by political pundits as well as left-leaning bloggers telling me that theyíve been in love with Joe Biden since they were old enough to operate a doorknob without assistance. Yep, that Joe Biden, heís the real deal. Heís the man. He is to leadership, smarts and everything enviable what Marcia Brady was to being cute as a button.

And just in case we never told you this before, weíve been a huge fan of Joe Biden all along. Heís like Tony the Tiger--Heís great! He is the Babe Ruth of the Beltway. He can take my little sister behind the tool shed and do whatever he wants with her. Joe Biden is the only man Iíve ever considered showering with. I wish Joe Biden was my father. I wish Joe Biden was my mother. I wish I was Joe Biden. Iíd trust him with my Matchbox collection. Hell! Iíd loan him my limited edition of Specimenís bat-shaped Batastrophe picture disc. Iíve been his biggest fan since way back when. Heís beyond awesome, and the embodiment of everything I have ever strived to be. His sudden ascension to the very top of the Democratic presidential ticket is long overdue and has brought me to tears.

Thatís the kind of vacuous, insincere pap Iím going to be treated to. More proof that, for increasing numbers of people, the party is more important than the country. More proof that, for increasing numbers of hollow people, being dishonest with others as well as oneself is acceptable when dishonesty is carelessly bandied about in the name of partisan politics.

Joe Biden: The man.

Until further notice, Iím eating nothing but well-lubricated pasta. Pasta, because pasta covered in sauce is probably the easiest of all foodstuffs to regurgitate.

I speak from experience.

I was reading the latest reassessment rumblings in the newspapers yesterday and one phrase jumped right up and bit me: Tough Love.

Although my three children all arrived at the point where they would have preferred playing Frisbee all day long to going to school, I made them go to school anyway. A real prick, I was. There did come that annoying day when they viewed practically everything I said and did with utter contempt, but I continued to do it and say it regardless.

To say Iím an adult is an incredulous stretch of even the most limitless of imaginations, but during my heyday as a parent, I tried to emulate one as often as I could. You know the deal. I didnít really want to paddle them, but I did so because I loved them. I really didnít want to put the girls to bed while denying their request to leave the hall light on so as to protect them from monsters, ghouls, goblins and the left-leaning sycophants, but I did so anyway. I had absolutely no qualms about being seen as the bad guy on occasion, because if delivering lifeís lessons by way of tough love was going to end up damning me in my kidís eyes while making them tougher, more grounded adults one day, then damn the torpedoes--ramming speed.

I could be wrong, but Iím assuming that Greg Skrepenak was treated to many examples of tough love while growing up. And Iím assuming that he may have even been smacked upside the head by his old man before he grew to be seven feet tall by the fourth grade. Iím assuming he heard the dreaded ďNĒ word--NO!--on many occasions, while his parents tried to do the best that they could for their giant without a beanstock.

And now, after 43 years without a property reassessment in this backwards county of ours, now is the time for our county commissioners to do what is right and deliver to county residents what can only be called long overdue tough love by way of property reassessment.

The so-called adults from Harveys Lake, a self-absorbed gated community sans the gate, have come to town snarling and cussing and spitting like spoiled little kids, and two of our commissioners, Maryanne Petrilla and Steve ďDr. NoĒ Urban, have stood tall and behaved as adults are expected to behave while staring down the most petulant of the petulant spoiled brats. Despite the embarrassing outburst, without uttering a single word, they said no. They delivered that long overdue and much needed tough love.

And then thereís Greg Skrepenak, eschewing the parental bit and trying to be the bestest buddy to the worst of the spoiled brats throwing the loudest of tantrums. No, he tells them, you donít have to go to school. No, geography is far less important than tossing that Frisbee. Yes, we can leave the hall light on all night long. Please, donít think bad of me. Donít be mad at me. Be mad at Auntie Maryanne all you like. Throw darts at Uncle Steveís picture until you finally freak out and break all of your toys. But remember, when I should have been parenting, when tough love was clearly called for, I chose to kowtow to your childish whims. I chose to be your bestest of buddies. In lieu of tough love, I caved and took the easy, more destructive way out.

Make checks payable to: The Committee to Reelect your Bestest of BuddiesÖGreg Skrepenak.

Thereís forward-thinking leadership. And then thereís Greg Skrepenak.

Tell me Iím wrong.

From the e-mail inbox Good afternoon,

President Bush says that Russia's action in Georgia is "unacceptable". Saakashvili started the whole thing and Putin reacted exactly as he said he would. Being stinking rich with oil money, Russia, is hardly going to be intimidated by this clown just because he is a friend of the United States. It is hard to understand America's foreign policy in recent years. We go around the world condemning nations we see as evil while bedding down with two of the most undemocratic regimes in existence, Saudi Arabia and China. We spend twice as much on defense as the rest of the world combined; we have more generals than we had at the height of World War II. We still maintain thousands of troops in Europe. Who, exactly are we afraid of? Defense contractors have bought and paid for the U.S. Congress. We are planning a missile defense system supposedly to protect NATO countries from an Iranian attack. Why in hell would Iran want to attack Europe? Why does NATO even exist? Israel is the only country on Iran's hit list and for good reason. For all of the money we spend on defense I think we would be far more secure if we were not dependent on the rest of the world for 75 percent of our oil, most of our manufactured products and half a trillion dollars a year in loans. I hope, under our next president, we begin to act like the great country we are and not like a bunch of meddling, war-hungry, neo-cons.

Good luck ousting Kanjorski! Wish I could help.

Itís like this, Saakashvili goofed by jumping the gun. Georgia was this close to joining NATO. Georgia was this close to joining the west and removing itself from Moscowís ever-menacing shadow. It was this close to casting off itís forced Soviet ties, but Saakashvili got a little too big for his britches and just a little too fast. He huffed and puffed and got bitch-slapped upside the head.

Say what you want about George Bush, American foreign policy, or our military and/or economic partnerships, but admit that Russia does not do diplomacy. Never has. Never will. For the Russians, diplomacy is conducted by way of the barrel of a T-72 tank. Name for me a neighboring country they have not rolled their tanks into, and you will win a sizeable prize. The only difference between 1968 and 2008 is that in 1968 they rolled the T-54s and T-62s in, and now they roll the outdated and seriously deficient Soviet-era T-72s in.

With that said, Georgiaís smallish military is seriously under-equipped, under-trained and not up to staving off the patch worked remnants of Russiaís former, over-rated military might. And to be blunt, Russiaís military tactics are WWII-era at best. Thereís the front line, roll the tanks at it. If they tried that with us, theyíd get their asses handed to them. If they tried that with Britain, theyíd get their asses handed to them. If they tried that with Israel, theyíd get their asses handed to them. But Georgia does not have at itís disposal multi-fuel battle tanks with redundant infrared targeting systems that can target and kill while still on the go. For all itís bluster, Russia is the bigger guy that beats on the little guys, while making sure to steer well clear of the real, real big guys. If it werenít for the grossly inaccurate nuclear weapons they have in their arsenal, theyíd be a military punching bag to be used by all of the much more advanced militaries for practice.

Trust me, being that my long-AWOL Dadís job was to make sure missiles landed within an inch of where they were originally intended to land upon their launch, I have been studying Russiaís vastly inferior conventional military hardware and dated military tactics since junior high. If we put the thousands of missiles on hold, they do not want any part of what we can bring to the theater. In a conventional war, theyíd put up a far better fight than the Iraqi military, but not much and not for too long. They are thugs with nukes, and not up to a fight with any military more technologically advanced than Georgiaís, Romaniaís or Hungaryís.

As far as Saudi Arabia and China are concerned, I donít know what to tell you. If you like oil and all of itís many byproducts too numerous to list here, then Saudi Arabia must remain on the wet side of our bed. What? Weíre wrong to have any working relationships with China? Um, do a real quick inventory of your belongings and tell me almost all of your belongings were made in America. Tell me, while you shop at Wal-Mart, that George Bush and the boys should be held to a much higher standard. When Americans spurn Samsung and Toyota in favor of General Electric and General Motors, then lecture me about who we do business with and why.

Who are we afraid of?

If this was 1945, Iíd say we are afraid of no country. If we were able to fully unleash our military, no country would ever toy with us again. Unfortunately, due to this debilitating political correctness tomfoolery, we have become risk-averse ala collateral damage to the point of practically neutering ourselves. Other countries do whatever they wish whereas invasions, genocides and ethnic-cleansing is concerned, but here in the U.S. of A, the single death of a non-combatant at our hands brings on a cacophony of guilt-ridden, anti-American gibberish from at home, as well as abroad.

While I take pride in the fact that we hold ourselves to a much, much higher standard, I also realize that that higher standard makes us look weak on too many occasions. For instance, if Bill Clinton had not personally rejected the oft-repeated request to insert American battle tanks and armored personnel carriers into Mogadishu, you would have never seen the movie Black Hawk Down. It never would have been filmed in Morocco, because the battle it depicted would have never have happened he way it did.

And what of that epic battle? Heavily outnumbered Americans killed an estimated 1,100 hostiles while losing a grand total of 19 volunteer soldiers. Thatís what counts as a defeat in this sissified country. And Iraq? If you told me going in that we could invade a country of 25 million and occupy it for over five years and lose only 4,000 soldiers, Iíd tell you to get yourself into a rehab clinic right quick. Militarily, logistically, what we have done there is well beyond remarkable. Almost impossible, unthinkable. Yet, to hear the average uninformed American tell the tale, Iraq was a resounding defeat. The illogic is frightening.

Defense contractors have bought and paid for the U.S. Congress? Which contractors might they be? The ones that make it possible to mock the notion of an invasion of America? Seriously, which ones would you punish for doing exactly what unions, gays, lawyers, drug companies, cable television companies, proponents of illegal immigration, abortionists, NAMBLA and foreign entities do? Namely, lobbying Congress? Youíre not buying into that hippie nonsense, are you? The dreaded military/industrial complex? Oh, no! The defense contractors keep us safe and provide the best of the best-paying jobs for millions of Americans throughout the entire country. Oh, no! We canít have that!

Whatís this? Big Defense? Who should we punish? Northrup Grumman? Raytheon? Boeing? General Dynamics? Lockheed Martin? Let me know. And make sure to tell our future servicemen using substandard garbage that you were one of the silly people that were opposed to Big Defense. Tell them you were in favor of scaling back the influence of our second-to-none defense contractors and then let us know how you managed to escape being fragged.

We are planning a missile defense system supposedly to protect NATO countries from an Iranian attack. Why in hell would Iran want to attack Europe? Why does NATO even exist? Israel is the only country on Iran's hit list and for good reason.

Actually, from Iranís religious perspective, the invasion of Europe has already begun. In fact, itís well underway. Why would Iran want to attack Europe while Europe is being resettled by intolerant religious zealots? Good point.

The thing is, why would any neighboring country resist the installation of a missile defense system by one of itĎs neighbors? A missile defense system is defensive by itís very nature and definition. Itís intended as a defense against a superior offensive capability. Itís akin to my buying of another, better bullet-proof vest for every new automatic weapon you buy. So, the question is, does my new vest scare you? Is that a provocation on my part? I hardly think so. What Russia is saying is that Poland does not have the right to defend itself from furtherÖmind you, further unprovoked assaults by the Russian military.

Why does NATO even exist? I dunno. Have you got a better idea? How about if we send Barack Obama over there so he can wave his magic wand and all of the countries of the world will immediately convert their military hardware into Chia Pets, tofu and pot? What? NATO is bad, too? Iran and Russia are well-intentioned, but America, itís allies and NATO are doing the work of the devil? If only America could be overrun, then the world would know peace and tranquility. Dude, unchecked emotion and undeserved, self-imposed guilt are not going to get it done.

Israel is on the hit list and for good reason?

Again, you seem to have a problem with countries that make it a point to defend themselves from aggression. I know, Israel has a decidedly heavy-handed approach to perceived wrongs. But, that said, what other country can you name for us that was invaded right from the U.N.-mandated get-go just for daring to exist in the first place? You seem to damn the counter punchers for being so daring as to counterpunch?

When was the last time a wildly inaccurate rocket came crashing down in your quiet neighborhood? When was it that you turned on CNN only to see someone promising your untimely destruction? A genocide. A pogrom. A good reason? The Israelis are being targeted nonstop for a good reason? Explain that to me, because I donít get it.

I hope, under our next president, we begin to act like the great country we are and not like a bunch of meddling, war-hungry, neo-cons.

Hope, yeah, thereís that. Well, hope is wonderful and all, but ask the Georgians recently removed from the graveyards about their hopes and dreams. Ask the Russians why we wonít stop meddling. Ask the family of Saddam Hussein if maybe he should have cooled it with the perpetual bluster, the over-the-top rhetoric, the saber-rattling, the threats and the promises of further blood-soaked turmoil. Ask the president of Iran why the Israelis have to be killed, or, at best, pushed into the sea.

War-hungry? Thatís absurd. I fear youíre spending too much time reading the inane scribbling coming from the fatally apoplectic--the left. No one in the United States is war-hungry. Not George Bush, not Dick Cheney, not the mythical neocons and not the military/industrial complex you seem to loathe.

No, America is not the problem. Despite the fact that it upsets so many of us wasting our days away while defiling our own countryís image, America is the answer. When the sh*t hits the fan and the bullets get to flying, America is the answer to the question that most other countries beg.

And, I reject the tired, well-worn, threadbare premise that America is the worldís policeman. The way I see it, America is the worldís trusty Boy Scout troop flush with merit badges. And as all former Boy Scouts know, it pays to be prepared.

Oh, and Kanjorski is toast.

Stay in touch.

ItĎs been a weird week. To put things in a nutshell, I have never been so completely affected by the death of anyone not related to me as I have been this past week. Iím trying not to be, but Iím bummed.

This goes all the way back to when my then girlfriend, now wife told me she was pregnant. I donít know why, but I reacted very nonchalantly. I was, like, okay, I guess Iíll look to work some more overtime and Iíll talk to Paul about getting enrolled in the health insurance plan. And then I did work a helluva lot more overtime, and in various, far-flung company-owned restaurants scattered throughout NEPA. And I did sign on for health insurance. Although, they told me that while the baby was covered, the expectant mother was not covered. Such is the state of health insurance, always telling me what isnít covered. Itís like legal organized crime, sans the guns.

Anywho, just as soon as my iron-fisted Grandmother got wind of this baby talk, she grabbed the two of us by the ear and took us for a blood test so as to get the two of us married all proper like. Say what you will about that, but if my Grandmother demanded it, you then went and did it. Trust me, she was a tyrant. But a god-fearing, well-meaning one.

Just as soon as the ink dried on the document Magistrate Collins provided us with after marrying us, my Grandmother was pleased and then some. As an old-timer, she wanted nothing to do with any great-grandchild of hers being born out of wedlock. I resisted for months, but here I was married and all. Not that I didnít want to be married, I just didnít see the point being that Wifey and I seemed to be together forever the way it was.

Being all pleased and whatnot, my Grandmother announced that we needed a proper homestead, not an attic apartment laden with stereo equipment and piles of vinyl records, and marched us up to Sherman Hills, literally, marched us up there and we applied for an apartment. And we got that apartment--813--being that she plunked down the security deposit and the first three months rent. As for me, I was good with the attic gig, but you just didnít say no to this woman. You didnít. You could try, but it always went for not.

So, all of a sudden, I had an apartment key, a wife and a baby due real, real soon. And I remember the rest of that day and night very clearly. I read the new book I had purchased, Alien, and listened to the new Devo Album at the same time. They seemed to be a perfect fit coming out of those new Kenwood speakers I had recently snagged and had gotten thoroughly tongue-lashed for.

What? New speakers? You know, you have a baby on the way. Grow up.

Blah, blah, effing blah. What do you people want from me? Iím working lots of overtime. I got health insurance. I bought the brand new dressing table and the used crib. Thereís a box of Pampers around here somewhere. Get the eff off of my back already. Jesus, I swear, theyíre gonna have a collective freak out when I bring home the bitchiní new 16-band graphic equalizer from Hart Electronics.

So, anyway, I sat in my attic stronghold and read my new book, listened to my new Devo disc and finally wandered along into dreamland. And then, as if still dreaming or something, Wifey startled me out of sleep at 5 in the morning while announcing that she was in labor. My reaction? Are you sure? No, I mean, are you really sure? How would she know? She had never done this baby birthing thing before. Turns out, she was sure. Very sure. Luckily, the attic stronghold was practically across the street from Mercy Hospital, so we walked on over to the emergency room.

Fifteen hours laterÖfifteen tortuous hours later, Peace Rebecca made her first ever appearance. Now, while all of this was going on, I had a U-Haul trailer and my 8-year-old brother waiting on me. Yep, unbelievably, this was the day we had penciled in to move into our apartment at Sherman Hills. So, just as soon as the nurses said Peace could breathe, had ten toes and ten fingers, I gave Wifey a well-deserved kiss and told her I had to go. She knew why.

So my brother and I moved all of my worldly possessions into the new haunt, we set up everything real cool like and then we set off on foot for Sunshineís Market. We needed groceries and groceries we got. And when Wifey and Peace came home three days later, everything was real proper. Look, food, crib, the stereo, the 13-inch black-and-white television and a bathroom with a tub and a shower. What could be better? We settled in and enjoyed all that life had to offer: Subsidized housing, W.I.C. and the second Cars LP.

And before very long, I started referring to Sherman Hills as Pregnant Hills. Because, as it seemed to me, practically everyone that lived there were exactly what we were: Kids with kids. Mind you, I was 20 and Wifey was 19, but we were still kids in most senses of the word. And most of our neighbors made us look like middle-aged folks when compared to their particular points of interest on a calendar. Take our first ever next-door neighbors, Ricky and Jill. Ricky was 18 and Jill was 16. And they had themselves this cute little baby, Christine. Just like us, only younger.

And after the passage of not too much time, we became fast friends. At times, inseparable. They were fun, Ricky and Jill. They were what youíd expect of kids being let loose from their parents, party animals. And so were we to a large degree. How much alcohol can two couples consume while on the way to the Ugly Mug in White Haven? Trust me, you donít really want to know. And thatís not including the illegal substances. Although, I was working by day and sometimes night, while Ricky was not. And this would prove to be Ricky and Jillís eventual undoing as a married couple.

I used to sit on the hallway floor with Jill, just outside our side-by-side front doors, and converse with her for hours on end. She was bubbly warm, overtly friendly and had this effervescent smile that would just never disappear no matter what. This, despite being a 16-year-old mother living in a housing project with an inattentive husband with no job and a propensity for some hard, hard partying, legal or otherwise. She often asked to borrow money from us for basic necessities, which we always loaned to her and she always paid back in a timely manner. She was a really good kid in a tough spot, a kid with a kid who, in my mind, deserved much better.

A year later, we moved to Harveys Lake, and Ricky and Jill with Christine in tow used to spend some weekends at our house. This proved to be very lucrative for the beer distributor in Dallas, and we had us plenty of fun. But the marital discord brought on by a clear lack of income was becoming more and more of an issue for Jill. While she obviously loved Ricky, providing a stable, predictable future for Christine was her clear priority.

Being a kid with a kid, she really wasnít asking for too much. She just wanted a miniscule bit of financial security and a hint that her husband was one day going to provide as much. Turns out, he never did. And their marriage, their time together, did come to an abrupt halt.

I liked Ricky. I really did. Deep down, he was good people. He just wasnít ready for this responsibility thing. He was fun to be around and could party with the best of them. And while that may have seemed glamorous and manly to a nubile girl of 15 going in, it wore thin on one of the girls of 16 who got pregnant, had her baby, loved her baby, and wondered how best to make her babyís future a bright one.

Ricky passed away some seven years ago or so. Iím not sure what led to his passing, but I do have an idea about all of that. I think what did Ricky in was just Ricky being Ricky. A good kid. Lost in a Pink Floyd haze, but a good kid nonetheless.

Luckily, Jill met-up with a local guy named Al and got all that she ever wanted and all that she richly deserved: A soul mate, a husband, and a responsible father. And the part of this that is troubling me to no end is that she only got to spend twenty years or so with that soul mate, that husband, that responsible father that she yearned for, deserved and eventually found.

If ever there was anyone that ultimately deserved to grow old with their soul mate, Jill Viti was that person. If there is a god and he has a higher purpose for the girl who was always bubbly warm, overtly friendly and who had this unremitting, effervescent smile that would just never disappear no matter what, Iíd really like to know what it is. Because, without a higher purpose, without some design from on high, Iím thinking that one of those good kids with kids from Pregnant Hills a long time ago was grossly shortchanged by life. And so were all that knew her.

From the Citizensí Voice:

Jill Viti On Sunday, Jill Viti, mother, daughter, sister and grandmother, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 45 years.

Jill will be forever remembered by her husband and best friend, Alan. In addition, Jill was the greatest mother and grandmother anyone could ever ask for. She was the "rock" of the family who held everyone together in troubled times.

She was the second mother to the other kids in the neighborhood. She worked for Churnetski Transportation for 15 years and drove mainly Head Start children. She made sure every child she came in contact with had clothes to wear, tissues to wipe their noses and dry their eyes, and most important, a hug.

Her children, Chrissy, Jilly, Kelly, Timmy and Corey, were the pride and joy and love of her life. When she first held them in her arms, she fell madly in love with them. She was the one who changed their diapers, gave them their bottle, bathed and dressed them. She tended to her children when they were sick; always wishing she could have bore the pain. Her motherly instincts were her greatest gift from God. As her children got older, they soon realized what a strong and caring person she was.

God was an important part of her life. Her favorite Bible saying was Proverbs 22:6, which says, "Train up a child in the ways he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

The most important thing in Jill's life now was her three grandchildren, Aiden, Pasquale and Alano. She always said it was much easier to overlook the faults of your grandkids and focus on giving them as much love as you can. Her day was not complete until they were fed and hugged. I am convinced God needed help with children in Heaven, and called upon her to help. GOODBYE, MY LOVE Ö Alan.

Jill will also be missed by her loving parents, Carl and Catherine Zukowski Wasickanin, Hanover Township; brother, Mark Wasickanin, Hanover Township; and nieces and nephews.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldnít bring myself to go to her viewing. I wanted to, lord only knows, I wanted to. I wanted to pay my last respects to her and to say something comforting to Al and her five kids. And I wanted to see both Christine and Jill, her kids with Ricky, all grown up. But, in the end, I hesitantly decided to remember her where she started out at, rather than where she ended up at. I decided to remember her just as I first found her, as the girl who was always bubbly warm, overtly friendly and who had this unremitting, effervescent smile that would just never disappear no matter what.


Ricky & Jill circa 1981