12-14-2008 Rose Scanlon Cour

I finally went and bought myself a new digital camera. Back in June my digital camera took a quick dip in the Susquehanna River just as I was struggling to get my land legs under me at the conclusion of the paddling portion of Riverfest 2008.

I was told it would eventually dry out and get back to normal, but that never came about and Iím done waiting on it. Anyway, some have asked why my site--a site always heavy with pictures--has been short on the pictures for a spell now. Well, thatís why. Because the camera has been on the fritz. But no more.

There are some heavy duty constructions projects underway in the city right now, so you can expect plenty of pictorial updates. And thatís the scoop on all of that.

ThereĎs ideas. And then thereís solutions. Thereís constructive input. And then thereís incessant self-aggrandizing noise. Thereís credibility. And then thereís a clear lack of such a thing.

I was reading one of the latest installments of The Lu Lac Political Letter, as I so frequently do, and I came upon the following from author David Yonki:

Last night Taxpayer Advocate Walter Griffith appeared on the WYOU TV Interactive program with Eric Sheiner. (Representatives from Council were invited to attend but declined. MUst be because Sheiner didn't offer mileage money!) Griffith outlined ways to save money and said he presented it to Council and the Mayor. An intriguing part of Griffith's presentation was the elimination of city jobs but yet an increase in salaries to the remaining workers. That isn't budget busting, that, according to Griffith is just moving money around. Griffith made a calm, solid case and Eric Sheiner was way more polite to him that I bet some city leaders were. Griffith also talked about the sad state of some of the neighborhoods which is echoed daily by city residents. The current administration has to realize that people like Griffith offer solutions to problems. Let them in, use one of their ideas.

With all due respect to Dave, ideas are like Pennsylvania Access Cards, in that, everybody has got one. Well, almost everyone. Pretty soon.

On that note, for the purposes of maintaining oneís self-respect, rather than looking at it as accepting welfare, think of it as a personal bailout plan.

Anyway, ďGriffith outlined ways to save money.Ē


Like, how?

Iím talking about day-to-day operations here. Iím not talking about the stuff Walter usually wallows on and on about, health care and retirement benefits for the elected folks. I know about all of that. Itís been well documented and then some.

And itís painfully obvious that neither the previous office holders or past office holders are or were prepared to slash their own bloated perks. Yes, I said bloated with a capital B. But rather than to fruitlessly continue going on and on about it, either do something about it or drop it. Figure out a way to force their hands, or accept it as a way of life. Instead of the constant caterwauling gone banality, do something about it. Referendum, pitchforks and torches, whatever. Either do something or move on already. Itís getting old.

Putting the benefits of the elected tug of war aside, tell me how we can go about realizing significant monetary savings. Tell me how to ďsave money,Ē as our esteemed author put it. Explain to me in great detail how we can trim oodles and oodles of dollars from the day-to-day expenditures, the non-fixed costs. Let me have it, because, Yíger wants to know.

Less police officers? Even less firemen? Less paving? No raises for any city employee, no matter how low on the totem pole and salary scale they may be? Letís have it, man. Iím all ears, as my mean ole step-dad used to point out.

As to the issue of credibility, I say very few of our usual activist suspects have any. And hereís why.

When the cityís administration says spend or invest, the activists cry foul. Yet, when the cityís administration says we cut back or do without, the very same activists cry foul all over again. Itís akin to automatic nay saying. Itís being contrary for a lack of anything better to do or say. Itís negativity as if by rote. I say tomato, and you say corrupt, double-dipper or some other equally detestable accusation.

Saving money, right? Walter knows how to save money? Why, thatís odd. Isnít this the same guy who fought against closing the dilapidated firehouse in the Heights just a couple of years ago? Yeah, wasnít he all for investing a quick quarter of a million dollars in a structure that had clearly outlived itís structural usefulness? Wasnít that his cause du jour?

Yep, and on top of the quarter million dollars, we would have to maintain it, staff it, insure it and so on? Gee, a couple of years ago, saving money was not the issue. Nope, spending money was the top priority back then, and that firehouse would have had a compounding effect on all future city budgets. Namely, this newly proposed budget.

With the economy undergoing a retrenchment of epic proportions, arenít we now glad the activists lost that battle?

If memory serves, when first elected, the Mayor of this city said we could not afford to drop ten grand on that stupid Diamond Drop event, and the activists went off crying foul. Yes we can. We can afford to spend that ten grand, the activists told us. Turns out, they we wrong.

We pave streets, but the stubborn activists say not nearly often enough. The street sweepers roll at 6 AM, but they are mostly invisible to the all-knowing, all-seeing activists. We do what we can afford to do, but the activists demand even more. They tell us we need an enhanced police presence. And they tell us we need to hire more firefighters. But then, at budget time, with talk of modest tax and fee increases in the wind, they tell us that not only do we need to do more with less, they tell us that they alone know how to accomplish as much.

Sorry, girls, but the lot of you are prone to making contradictory statements over and over and over again. Spend today. Cut tomorrow. Spend tomorrow. Cut today. We need more and more services from the city, but we need to remain fiscally solvent. We need to remain fiscally solvent, but we want what we want and we want it now.

I think that neatly sums up the mostly worthless bunkum emanating from the most tireless and most vociferous of our self-appointed activists.

With townships, boroughs, cities and states near and far facing serious budgetary shortfalls and looking to the Fedrule Govmint for financial relief, here in Wilkes-Barre, we have once again managed to balance our books all by our lonesome. And that happening came about in very large part because the administration of this cash-strapped city stuck to itís guns and ignored and the best and brightest of the loathsome activists.

A while back, somebody said they were not afraid to make the tough, to make the wildly unpopular decisions. And those decisions made have retired $10.4 million in unpaid debts, restored our plundered credit rating and kept us out of the red ink currently flooding the entire country. And that somebody was Mayor Tom Leighton, the guy we trusted with the keys.

As for Walter and his supposed magic financial wand, well, somebody has to bite Tom Leightonís ankles.

I guess.

Come Spring and beyond, this city is going to look quite a bit different.

Sordoni Web Cam at Intermodel Transportation Project

North Main Street Gateway Project

Radnor Property Group and Kinship Square are proposing a four-story, 95,000 square foot building on the assembled parcels. This mixed-use project will include 165 beds (69,000 square feet) of student apartments for Kingís students, a 154-child daycare center (13,000 square feet) including community-based retail (3,000 square feet) serving both students and neighborhood residents, and a living/learning classroom space (10,000 square feet) housing the Early Learning Educational Program. Proximity to the daycare will be an advantage to the program which plans to use this facility as a learning tool.


A list? The riverfront remodeling. The river portals. The N. Main Gateway project. The Coal Street Park facelift. The intermodel garage, 750 new parking places. Parking on Public Square.

The landscape is changing, and changing for the better.

When I first signed on to the internet in 1998, I quickly caught on to the undeniable fact that you could find anything out there in cyberspace. Info on Iowa-class battleships. How to build a rudimentary nuclear device out of string and some model glue. Or how hate groups seem to be proliferating. And being the voracious reader that I am, I found it to be beyond fascinating. The perfect marriage: The Internet and I.

Inside of a year or so, I figured I could use this newfound internet thingy to pinpoint the whereabouts of my long lost father. And once located, I would contact him out of sheer curiosity tinged with some resentment.

Try as I may have, I found nothing. Not a single page proving that he ever existed. I was disappointed, almost crushed. Although, I knew going in that he was very eccentric and very secretive. But I always believed we could find him by way of his chosen profession, Aerospace. I mean, how many people were there during the 1960s that specialized in onboard computer systems, built-in redundancies and the like? Still, nothing.

So I tried the genealogy bit. I would systematically construct my heretofore undiscovered family tree. On my fatherís side, I had little or nothing to work with. I knew the names of his parents, his sisterís name, although, I had never met them, laid eyes on them, or knew anything more about them other than their first and last names. Anyway, there was not much to go on. And my efforts amounted to absolutely nothing. Nada. When I was finally flummoxed enough to throw the towel in on the entire undertaking, I learned nothing.

So, I was content to live out my remaining days feeling sort of half-fulfilled. Half a history. Half a person. The person with three questions for every possible half-answer. The person sporting that gaping hole that no one else could see nor appreciate. The person who tried to finally and completely define himself, but who had hence given up on those sorts of pipedreams. And at the time, I told myself itís probably better that I didnít know.

Ten years later, the internet is much more than it was back near itís inception. And these ten years later, my daughter Peace has jumped headfirst into the genealogy routine, the stealthy family tree thing.

If youíre thoroughly bored or really drunk, you can see the sum total of her efforts up to now by following the link:

Cour Web Site

As I said, the internet offers us much more than it did some ten years ago, but especially where genealogy is concerned. Iím not dismissing my daughterís obsessive contribution to the cause, because I know sheís put more into this than I had a ways back. The loss of my mother made me yearn for my AWOL father, but after a few setbacks, I simply gave up. I was in a mood back then. I think they call it grief or something. And I think grieving makes one even more susceptible to even more grieving and without much prompting. It went something like this: Momís gone, Dadís hiding as usual, this sucks, fu>k it, letís drink. Actually, thatís exactly how it went.

And yet, they wonder aloud as to why I did what I did to the rowdy drunks at 3 in the morning during that period.

Since then, I could have really cared less. Dadís a footnote. Whatever. A hazy memory implanted into my brain by the words of others, and an arrest photo replete with eight aliasí. It is what it is, whatever it is. His loss, not mine. Heís got three grandkids heís never met. And now, five great-grandkids heís never come across. His loss, not mine.

I no longer care. Iíve got no time for this anymore. It is what heís made of it. And while I do not like what heís made of it, I am powerless to change any of it. Some kids have one parent. Thatís the way it is. Some kids know there is something lacking inside, and the sooner they accept it, the better off theyíll be. No sense going to prison simply because you feel incomplete. No sense acting out on others what youíd like to do to your self-centered ďparent,Ē supposing you could actually meet them one day. No sense worrying about it when youíre supposed to be an adult and all.

Thing is, I thought I no longer cared. I thought I was over it, whatever it was. I thought I had moved on. But I was wrong.

A few days ago, Peace emailed to me a single picture. A picture of someone, I believe, I have never, ever met. A picture of someone I have pictured in my mind many times over, but had never seen. Peace sent along a dated picture of my fatherís motherÖmy grandmother, Rose Scanlon Cour.

Funny thing is, until very recently, I had no idea what her maiden name was.

And there she is.

As you can see, the picture was taken in Chicago during the summer of 1914. Unbeknownst to me, both her and her husband, my other grandfather, lived to be over 100-years-old and passed on during the 1990s. Imagine that, if I had known, I could have sought them out. I could have met them. I could have gleaned much from them. I could have stuffed a bit of gauze into that gaping hole of mine. Still, having missed that opportunity, the finality of it all does provide for some weird sort of solace.

I stared at that picture. And then I clicked it away and read some news sites. And then I called that picture back up and stared at it some more. And then I dispensed with it and read some economic news. And right before I went to bed, when I was about set to turn off this imported whiz bang, high-tech internet thingy, I summoned that picture for another brief look.

Iím 50-years-old and here I sat spellbound by a single image of someone long lost to me. Someone whoís image I thought Iíd never see. Someone who probably should have sought me out. Someone, who like me, was probably nervous about such a chance encounter. Or, perhaps, someone who thought little or nothing of creating children and then casting them off, forgetting them as if they never existed in the first place.

The more I see of the suddenly growing family tree, the more delighted I am. Conversely, the more I see of that tree, the more the overriding sense of abandonment makes me wonder about the people I have long longed to meet.

If they cared at all, Peace wouldnít be reduced to chasing down their past images on the internet. If they cared at all, I would have met them somewhere along the way. If they cared at all, Peace would not likely be the genealogy junkie that she currently is. If they cared at all, Iíd have the answers and not the longish list of questions.

The beat goes on.

All of which leads me to the following question. Once, just once, could I have a conversation with my father? Is that too much to ask? One phone call?

Seriously, he has to know where I live. I mean, the fatherless apples rarely fall very far from the welfare tree, do they? Iíve always believed that the curiosity has to be mutual, but perhaps Iím wrong on that account. Perhaps he has never been curious. Perhaps he not only divorced my Mom, perhaps he divorced me as well. Perhaps heís done with me, much as he has been since April 1962. Perhaps heís kept up with my exploits all along and he deems me to be unworthy, obviously beneath a man of his stature.

Either way, thatíd be okay with me. But itíd be really, really, really cool to know what the hell the story is. Because, at the end of the day, itís the not knowing that causes all of the angst. Itís the not knowing that keeps that aged gaping hole in me feeling like a fresh wound. Itís the not knowing that drives some people to plunk down cash money at genealogy sites, while in hot pursuit of the long-illusive knowing. And itís the not knowing, the shortage of self-worth, the serious dent in the self-esteem, the feeling that we werenít worth someoneís time and attention that keeps our county, state and federal prisons stocked to the max.

Itís a matter of needing more than a mommy or two mommies, whichever which way they spin it these days. Itís simply a matter of a boy needing his dad. And while I no longer classify as being a boy, there are those times when I still feel like one.

Who knows? Maybe Peace is practically zeroing in on him, Dad, as I type this excrement. Then again, maybe sheíll end up frustrated and quitting much like I did some ten years before her. If I was a betting man, which Iím not, Iíd say the odds are steeped against her. And with that, Iíd predict that long after I stop breathing, sheíll still be wondering whatever became of Eugene Joseph Cour, the rocket scientist.

All I do know is, while Iím no rocket scientist, I am what my father was not. I am a devoted husband and a devoted father. During his prolonged, lifetime absence, he taught me little or nothing. But after studying his example, what I did figure out on my own, with no help from him, was that itís only right to stand by the people who had no choice but to trust in you.

While I may not be rich, and while I may not have patents or white papers with my name attached, when I die, I will be surrounded by countless loved ones.

And thatís my lone claim to parental fame. Thatís the one thing I can point to and demonstratively say I did better than my father did. While theyíll be there for me at the end, I was there for them throughout the entirety of their lives. When I go by the wayside, there will be no need for any internet searches, or any need for any genealogy expenditures. In the end, all that needs to be known was already known: That I was a better husband and a better father than my father ever was.

Ah, Eugene Joseph Cour.

While Iíd still love to meet him, unlike the days of yore, I would not be in awe of him if I did. The way I see it, he shirked his responsibilities, while I did not. Iím the rock-steady father. And heís the subject of countless, fruitless internet searches.

ĎNuf said.

Anywho, my other grandmother now has a face.

Thanks, Peace.