3-26-2009 Mitakuye Oyasin

Wifey is in full Spring cleanup mode. That’s the process by which you tear everything apart, put it all back together again, and then pronounce everything to be so much cleaner and fresher smelling. It’s a chick thing.

Yesterday, while she was attaching comforters and whatnot to the clothesline, she took herself a tumble down the back steps. Didn’t faze me none too much at the time. Not too different from what I go through at work, getting myself all scraped up, cut up, dinged up and busted up, and with the occasional fall thrown in just to make sure every possible body part or segment ends up sore to some degree.

But today she’s limping, her wrist is a tad swollen, and the range of motion with that wrist is just a bit limited. So I headed on downtown on the Hummer in search of the most powerful over-the-counter pain killers. And after securing as much at Rite-Aid, I found myself staring over at that joint next door, the new headquarters of the Luzerne County Republican party.

And as promised, I went on in there and switched my party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. The new executive-whatever-she is, Renita Fennick, took my application. Near as I can recall, I haven’t seen her or been in her presence since high school.

Back in those days, once Coughlin let out for the day, once a week, she, I and quite a few others rumbled on over to Chacko’s Bowling on S. Main Street as part of the Coughlin High Bowling League. Innocent fun, it was. And we had ourselves quite a few talented junior bowlers.

And all these years later, the two of us find ourselves somehow reunited by way of local politics, and all for a common purpose: A better community in which to live.

If it were up to me, I’d rather leave this politics stuff to more learned minds than mine, and get back to the frivolity that was bowling during the afternoon. Sadly, that was kid stuff. And myself excluded, kid stuff is mostly long gone for us.

Anyways, Wifey is hurting and I’m soon-to-be a card-carrying Republican.

The other day, I was listening to Steve Rodham-Corbett of WILK jumping through a series of burning hoops thrown in front of him by Luzerne County Solicitor Vito Deluca.

Since the State of Pennsylvania enacted it’s Open Records law, Corbett petitioned Luzerne County demanding access to acting controller A.J. Martinelli’s e-mail transcripts.

And as Deluca hemmed and hawed his way through every possible excuse not to grant Corbett access to those records, I grew increasingly frustrated and angered.

Talk about deliberate subterfuge! Gee, it’s hard to tell. It’s just hard to tell what is “subject to disclosure” and what is “subject to an exclusion.” Gee, try as we may, we just can’t figure it all out. It’s really, really hard.

Really? Just how hard is it? I went to the Web site, I read through the particulars. And the way I read it, the e-mail archives of both elected and appointed officials are, for the most part, fair game. That is, assuming that they are not purposefully deleting certain e-mails, i.e., circumventing the law.

Getting hotter and hotter under the collar as Deluca kept uncomfortably squirming his way through this radio interview, I fired-off the following electronic pulse to Rodham-Corbett:

From the e-mail outbox Tell Vito to stuff it where they have always stuffed it...where the glare of public scrutiny never shines.

This is from the state's Open Records Web site:

EXCEPTIONS: Protects Certain Information From Disclosure

The law contains 30 exceptions, cited in Section 708, that permit an Agency to withhold records. An Agency may deny release of a record if it falls within one of the 30 exceptions designed to protect information that is confidential or may jeopardize safety or investigations. Types of records that can be withheld include records related to personal or public security, DNA/RNA records, autopsy records, social security numbers, personal financial information, personal email addresses, marital status, identity of a covert law enforcement officer, home address of judges or law enforcement, confidential source records, victim information.

Markie in Nord End

So, when confronted with Open Records requests for information, the elected and their loyal underlings feign ignorance?

Cut me a frickin’ break!

I guess I’ll have to go and test how the City of Wilkes-Barre will handle such “open records” requests. I do have me some questions about the Wilkes-Barre Parking Authority whereas the eventual disbursement of parking receipts are concerned.

Although, to be completely, forthrightly fair…never once have I been denied any information--no matter how sensitive--that I sought from the current administration of this city. Not even once.

Stay tuned.

From the e-mail inbox ...Seems the mis conception is that the Republican Party is not endorsing candidates. This is not true..they are asking all County Committee persons to vote on the candidate they endorse and then the executive committee will tally the votes ...

The item of importance here is that the candidates like Nanda and Carolee and Walter Mitchell and Lynette Villano all wield incredible power in the Republican Party and can call each committee person and have them vote for their candidates under the power of their very positions.

The Executive Committee under the direction of Terry Casey are just covering up the fact that they are not the ones that are doing the endorsing in the open, but behind the scenes the people in power are still dividing the party by their deceitful and hidden agenda'

I feel endorsements are ok in the Primary, if they are done fair and honest, and I saw first hand the power of the former Republican Party Chairperson as she did some "Arm Twisting" and "Hand Wringing" to be sure the candidate of her choice received the endorsement in the 3rd District. This is the type of items that are happening in the Party and divides the fabric of the Party and the Candidates.

Lets move on in the Republican Party and say if we cant get a system or process that is fair and honest, to endorse candidates in the Primary, then they should not endorse anyone at all in the Primary and let the Republican Voter decide on May 19th.

Okay, so the executive committee will not endorse any candidates. Rather, they will “tally” the votes of the committee folks, and then announce the party endorsements. Will there be politicking behind the scenes? I’d be shocked if there wasn’t.

I realize what’s been afoot of late, with the nonstop scandalizing, the parade of people being arrested and the growing sense that no one currently employed by the county should be appraised with less than a suspicious eye.

But with the voting trends and registry demographics being what they are and always have been, I am still not convinced that the growing scandals and the growing voter unrest will amount to a tectonic political shift come the general election in November. I’m not.

What I fear the most is that those card-carrying Democrats will chose to replace the scandalized Democrats with yet more Democrats. In other words, they will still gravitate to that straight party ticket, only a slightly reworked straight party ticket. Hopefully, this is egregiously incorrect prognosticating on my part. Hopefully.

With history being what it is, that is, with the Republicans in this county amounting to little more than gangly little boys playing amongst well-muscled grown men, who’s to say the official endorsements of the new-and-improved Luzerne County Republican Party will amount to more than a heap of rubber dog sh*t?

We, the perennial losers, endorse the following…(???)

If it were my campaign to run, I’d worry less about the endorsements and more about my message. And I’d run less against my current opponents and more against what has gone on in the past, and what’s been breaking news of late. Thing is, if you can’t knock off the folks proven to be corrupt on election day, perhaps nobody can in a traditionally one-party county.

I dunno. I just not convinced that a revolution is simmering and about to explode at the polls. And with that said, I wonder just how much weight the endorsements of the long-downtrodden other party might or might not carry.

And if I were one of those party honchos, I’d dispense with the endorsements and set about convincing the voting public that I’ve got me a full slate of attractive, qualified candidates. Because, in my mind, that’s what an energetic and suddenly newly aroused party does…it attracts and then promotes plenty of good candidates.

Whatever. Perhaps I should stick to bowling.

From the e-mail inbox Mark,

Pogrom Processes again? In the sake of full disclosure, why don’t you use your name?

Care to enlighten us

I have absolutely no problem with doing so.

As I have mentioned before, I have never and will never donate any monies to any candidate at any level of politics. I will do my utmost to support those candidates I believe in. And when doing so, I am always more than willing to drink their supply of free beer.

But, as I have done thrice before, I have donated my time by building, or helping to build a candidates Web site. And before you go claiming that my time should be listed as a contribution on some campaign finance report, let it be known that I can get a brand new site up and running inside of an hour. Yep, that’s inside of a single hour. Be it HTML-based or otherwise, send me your text, your pictures, your flash and/or sound files, and I’ll make you a site faster than the County salary board can divvy out raises behind closed doors.

Yes, I donated my time. But not very much.

So, before you go accusing me of doing anything underhanded, or accuse me of pretending to be anything I am not, yes, I did what little I could to help a particular candidate. And last I knew, that was not yet illegal.

And since I create said Web sites, and unless the candidate objects, I’ll attach whatever personal watermark I see fit or feel like. My version of, “Gilroy was here.”

Got it?

From the e-mail inbox Mark

So sorry to hear about your daughters car being targeted again. Sucks, huh? And, I suppose, there is nothing that can be done unless someone saw who did it. As they say, "no GOOD deed goes unpunished". (No, I don't know who "they" are).

But, on the other hand, I'm happy to see that you're seeking the pros help. They probably have so much more access to things that you don't. Records and such. Hope it was my suggestion of "finders of the lost" that helped you go this way. Did others suggest the same thing? Would love to be kept updated on what's happening in this part of your life.

Good luck.


Ah, the car. She never listens to me. In the beginning, I was the one begging her to take the Coughlin job over the G.A.R. job. Secondly, on the night the car was plundered the first time, I begged her to get the police involved and, at least, put the fear of god in these godless girls. Damn near everybody is a tough guy and a big mouth until a police officer comes a calling them on their actions.

Doesn’t even matter though. She’s this close to buying some imported speedster, some kind of sexy high-performance looking thing. Although, with the economy what it is, I asked her to consider buying American. Not!

As far as the genealogy thing goes, as in most everything else I’ve ever gotten interested in, when I go, I go all the way. I still have a hard-cover book in which I researched and then scribbled the names of, and the final disposition or resting places of every aircraft carrier this country had ever produced. The great majority of which was compiled pre-internet.

And this idiosyncrasy of mine does much to explain my erratic report cards over the years. Interested in a given subject? The result would be an A. Not interested in a given subject, and the grade would be lower, or significantly lower. What can I say other than don’t bore me and then expect great grades from me.

Growing up knowing next to nothing about my father or his side of the family, the want for a lot of knowing was always there. But I had no resources at my disposal by which I could learn anything of note. The information I got from my mom and my grandmother was extremely guarded at best. When I was a teen, I went to the local library and spent hours scrolling through micro-films of old newspapers. And when I first signed on to the internet, I explored it from top to bottom and from side to side, but to no avail. And that’s when I pretty much gave up.

But when my daughter happened upon these living relatives of mine, and when they started relaying to me in very small increments the kinds of things I always yearned to know, my hunger to know more was only enhanced. And I arrived at this point where I thought, to hell with it. I want to know where my dad is. I want to know why he never looked me up. I want to know what drove him and my mother apart, what caused this hole in me where a completed person ought to be. Basically, I’m tired of wondering what was, what might have been and why I’m still wondering about any of it at all. I want to know. And at this late date, I’m thinking there’s only one person who could capably fill in all of the many blanks. And so far, he remains to be unfound.

Interestingly enough, I did get quite a bit of feedback when first I asked for ideas on how to find him. One friend even has some experience with this sort of adventure and said for a hefty fee, he can hook me up with someone in Washington D.C. who would likely produce results and in very short order. And, yes, I did explore your suggestion.

And then, one night, there was the ad for this new show, “The Locator.” The guy who claims he has twenty years worth of experience reuniting long since divided peoples. So I sent him the details along with my plea for his help. So far, nothing. Time will tell. Although, with my dad being 77 now, I wonder how much time I have.

When my daughter first reunited me with my long lost cousins who were generally thrilled to have finally heard what had become of me, this was the very first communiqué I sent their way. What it provides you is how very little I knew of my father’s side of the family. And while I will never be accused of being an emotional guy, writing the following tested that meddle of mine.

Typos, warts and privacy concerns aside, this is exactly as it appeared:

The return of the son of…

First of all, I have nothing to add to the Cour family history. I don’t even know when my parents, Gene and Dorothy, met, were married, separated or divorced. She once told me she met him at a then-popular tourist destination Sandy Beach, Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania, but provided no details.

Due to the custody dispute over myself, Gene was vilified to no end by my domineering my-way-or-the-highway grandmother, Rebecca Kirwan. The same fate awaited my mom’s second husband, Leo R. Dumond. And due to the aforementioned “kidnapping,” both my mom and her mom were very tight-lipped whenever I asked anything about Gene. All I was told was that he was a genius, he worked in aerospace and that he and his girlfriend, Martha Maser, kidnapped me and fled to Clearwater, Florida.

As I got older, I grew more curious, since, I hated my abusive step-father as much as anyone could hate another person. So, when I was a sprat of 10 or so I was provided with corroborating evidence that Gene was both a genius and an interstate kidnapper. I was given eight photos of Gene as a boy playing various musical instruments, as well as his arrest photo. I was provided with an IBM newsletter in which he garnered a mention. And I was given many newspaper articles from the kidnapping period. But that was it. At some point, I stopped asking.

When my mom passed away in 1988, I found an undated letter Gene had sent to my mom. I found a letter Jacqueline had sent to Gene, with a copy going to my mom. I also came across an aged-looking green address book I recalled seeing over the years. More on that in a bit. Both of the letters were about what would or should become of me. In his letter, Gene said he would have absolutely nothing to do with raising a child in my grandmother’s “destructive” environment. Interestingly, Jackie had told Gene that if neither he nor my mom wanted to be saddled with me, she would raise me. Imagine that, perhaps I came this close to growing up as a Denver Broncos fan.

Now, my step-dad was a verbal and physical abuser extraordinaire, but he grew meaner and pettier after I rejected his bid at age 10 to legally adopt me. My mom said the decision should be mine, and I immediately gave all of that a quick thumbs down. And I also stopped signing my name as Mark Dumond in favor of Mark Cour. And I remember him telling me that if I wanted to be a Cour so f&*$ing bad, I could find my dad in Dearborn Michigan. Given his mean-spirited history, I didn’t believe him.

But after I buried my mom, I took a spin through that old green address book only to find a familiar name, Martha Maser, with a Dearborn address and telephone number. Obviously, that entry was some thirty-years-old, but I picked up the phone and dialed the number anyway. Astonishingly, a voice on the other end said hello and I asked for Martha. The guy on the line told me she had stepped out and asked who was calling. When I identified myself, there was a long pause followed by “No sh*t!” It turned out, the guy on the line was Gene and Martha’s son Gerald.

He told me that Gene and Martha divorced in 1982, and that Gene had moved to Seattle, presumably to work for Boeing. We had a friendly chat, he made mention of the fact that we were half-brothers and seemed genuinely happy to have heard from me. Needless to say, I was shocked. And, sadly, I never called back. I never talked to Martha. And when it came to filling in the many, many blanks, that was obviously a serious mistake on my part. At the time, I was grieving the loss of my one and only parent, so a lot of what I did for a year or two afterwards was kind of scattershot. It took me a while to get my head back on straight.

For you hardcore genealogists, Gerald still lives in Au Gries, Michigan and he is listed in the white pages.

When I spoke with him, I simply assumed he was born after Gene and my mom had split. Turns out, I have come to learn that he is some five or six years older than I, so figure that one out.

Even though I was born in 1958, due to the secrecy surrounding all things Gene Cour, it often felt as if my life began in 1962, after my mom took possession of me in a Pinellas County courtroom and whisked me back to Wilkes-Barre.

I once asked her about some of my earliest memories, recounted them for her, and she began to sob. I was stunned. I remembered being with a man and a woman, being on the beach, riding tricycles in a circular pattern with other children, sleeping on a fold-out cot, playing with Flintstone blocks with other kids and a mid-fifties black Chevy. She said the people I recalled were Gene and Martha. She said the car was Martha’s, which has been confirmed by a document I found after her death. As for the rest, she said that must have been where I was living at the time. Perhaps this was where and when Anne and I met as children.

Also, I have a picture taken in the courtroom when Gene’s lawyer turned me over to the authorities. And in that picture I am holding a toy truck, a truck I remember playing with as a boy here in Wilkes-Barre. But as far as the early, early years go, that’s about it.

If my mom had married a man that treated me well and treated me like a father would treat his own son, I probably wouldn’t have thought very often of Gene. But as it was, there were those times when I yearned to know what became of him, and maybe even meeting him someday. As we all know, that day never came. The thing is, the older I became the more curious I became. It’s as if half of me is missing, or half of my history was erased before I could learn it. Something like that.

Conversely, after my mom and Leo divorced and I spent my formative years wallowing away on public assistance in a housing project, there were those times when the mere mention or fleeting remembrance of Gene would make me seethe with rage. I would think to myself, if he was so smart, if he was so successful, if he was such a genius, why was I stuck here? It turned out, the welfare department provided me with two years, absolutely free at the local community college, so I wasn’t stuck anywhere. I am a trained chef, and a former general manager of a legendary local restaurant.

While I may not be a rocket scientist, I am what Gene was not, in that, from the very moment my then-girlfriend told me she was pregnant in very early 1979, I was always there for and with my kids. And my step-brother Ray, 12 years my junior, used to introduce me as his brother/father, a reference to the fact that I was his father figure, his mentor and his protector. A more loyal person there never was. Sadly, he passed away almost two years ago at age 36.

My wife Theresa and I will be celebrating our 30th anniversary later this year. And in retrospect, the longevity of my marriage and my track record as an outgoing, energetic and engaged father are my proudest accomplishments. Unlike my father and my mother before me, I finished what I started. I finished what I started because I couldn’t imagine leaving children feeling half empty. I did as much because there was no way they were ever going to be subjected to the physical abuse and the abject poverty I was exposed to. I saw my duty and I did it. And I wouldn’t change much of anything if I could.

I did give genealogy a try when I first signed on to the internet in 1996. Needless to say, the internet then was not what the internet is now, so I didn’t fare too well while trying to find Gene or Rose or Jacqueline, or anybody for that matter. I found some stories about a famous photographer named Eugene Cour, but had no idea if we were related. I learned that Granny Rose once lived on 8 Grant Street in Denver, but her telephone number did not appear in any phone listings. What I did not know was that she had already passed on.

As for Gene and Jacqueline, while searching the internet, it was as if they had never existed in the first place. Long story short, it wasn’t that the trail had gone dead, it was a matter of having no trail to follow at all. I very quickly resigned myself to the fact that I would never find anyone, and I also believed that no one from the Cour side of the family cared at all about what had became of me anyway. The logic was, since I was here in Wilkes-Barre all along, it shouldn’t have been very hard to track me down.

I always believed that Gene would contact me, just out of sheer curiously. You know, as the years passed and he became more reflective, he’d get to wondering whatever became of his son. For whatever reason, he hasn’t been in contact with me. And as stupid as it may sound at this late date, that still bothers me when I allow it to. If he could read these words, I’ll tell him I’m not angry with him, I’m not counting the days until I meet him, but it’d sure be awesome if he could help me fill in the many blanks.

You see, no matter your age or level of sophistication, going through your entire life with more questions than answers is far, far less than fulfilling. When I was much younger, it was very troublesome for me. But now that I’m older, now that the humungous chip on my shoulder has been removed and now that I no longer need to know, much contentment would accompany that long sought after knowing.

Sorry about the preceding circumlocution, but as I said, I can add nothing to the Cour family history before 1962. Less than twenty years ago, I made a phone call and learned I had a half-brother I never knew existed. And now, thanks to my daughter Peace’s tireless genealogic endeavors, I have come to learn that I have first cousins I never even knew about. And I have to admit, I am very, very, very excited about these sudden developments and I look forward to sharing much with and learning much from those who were lost to me so long, long ago.

Please stay in touch, folks. Kinfolk, that is.

Them’s my thoughts.


And for the first time ever on these ersatz pages of mine, I feel compelled to share with you the contents of a recent snail mail:

Mitakuye Oyasin.