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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fringeville #142 - Avian Horror in Jackson Township, Pennsylvania

Jackson Township, Pennsylvania


There is a 1 mile radius “dead zone” in Jackson Township, Pennsylvania where no birds have been seen in weeks. Birds that do enter the “dead zone” are soon found lifeless on the ground.

“We think it is global warming,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “The end is near, and it is starting in Jackson Township.”

In a rare break with the official line, however, Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack isn’t so sure.

“Something is frightening these birds to death. We’ve had a number of them autopsied and the cause of death was confirmed. A local veterinarian did the autopsies. He’s got really tiny little autopsy tables. It’s a painstaking process.”

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and FBI director James Comey both dismissed terrorism as the cause of the birdless “dead zone.”

“There’s a perfectly good nuclear reactor in Salem Township," said Carter. "Why would terrorists knock off a few birds when they can turn Northeastern Pennsylvania into a glowing, radiating hell for hundreds of years? It just doesn’t make any sense.”

The President, according to Earnest, remains "deeply concerned" and is convinced climate change is responsible. "And he’s really pissed at the other guys for suggesting otherwise," said Earnest. "Tommy, Ashton, Jimmy: No Swiss Colony cheese trays for Christmas, boys.”

Deeply Concerned

Wikileaks obtained a highly-magnified US CIA satellite picture of the center of the dead zone. “It’s poor quality at that magnification, but we think it explains the avian horror going on in Jackson Township,” said an anonymous source in the Obama Administration.

* * *

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fringeville #141 August 31, 2015

Great night for a Barletta BBQ in West Hazleton. Good food, great company. They even had chicken tenders with wing sauce.

I don't get out much but I am glad I got out for this one.

Lou did a great job reminding folks how important the local races are. Also on hand: State Reps. Tarah Toohil & Doyle Heffley, judicial candidate Emil Giordano, and others whose names I missed in the background noise.

A splendid time was had by all. (Sorry no pics yet. Mobile Blogger is failing to post them.)

** UPDATE **  As promised, some photos from the BBQ. I took more, but I suck as a photographer.

Lou Barletta

Dave Baloga chowing Down

Superior Court Candidate Emil Giordano, who has been everywhere this campaign season.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fringeville #140 August 26, 2015

Fall 2010: Campaigning with Abe Belles
I am doing something I don't do often. I am blogging while angry. I read a story in the Times Leader today about a 91 year-old man who may lose the house he's lived in for 67 years in a back-tax auction. As soon as I saw the picture of the man featured in the story, my heart sank. Then it broke. It was Abe Belles.

I met Abram Belles years ago when I was still with the 6th District Republican Committee. I took a liking to him immediately. We would see each other a couple of times a year at various political events, and I always enjoyed spending some time talking with him. You don't spend a few moments talking to Abe, you talk a while. And I did so joyfully whenever I saw him.

When I ran for State Representative in 2010, Abe contacted me with a bit of a wild idea. He'd made a sign and mounted it on a trailer. He wanted to pull it all around Plains. But what really excited him was that he'd rigged a patchwork speaker system and strapped it to the roof of his vehicle. We would ride through town with patriotic music blasting while pulling that sign in all its glory all across my town.

Who could say 'no' to that? I agreed, and we spent a Saturday afternoon entertaining folks. I've said more than once that my failed 2010 campaign was almost a religious experience because of the many wonderful things I experienced. This was one of the most cherished memories of that campaign. It's the first thing I thought of when I saw the article today.

And that's when the anger came. In 2010 I attended a meeting for Republican candidates for the State House. Someone in the group started asking questions about property tax reform. He was shut down with this answer:

"There are a bunch of plans for property tax reform. But they're not going anywhere until we Republicans control the Legislature and have the Governor's chair." And the conversation moved on to other matters.

Well, we did that. And here we are in 2015, and our elderly are still getting tossed out of their houses by crushing property taxes. And, pardon the language, that just plain pisses me off.

The current Governor, Tom Wolfe, calls education an investment that might cause some folks to lose homes. Clearly, it will be difficult if not impossible to make headway against someone who feels the investment should fall on some of us, whether we can afford it or not, instead of all of us.

I am angry. I am frustrated. But I am fortunate. I can still pay my property taxes. Our seniors, in many cases, can't. They are living on fixed incomes while their tax bills skyrocket. As a commenter noted at the Times Leader site, they are essentially paying rent to their school districts.

It's been said before: No tax should have the power to make you homeless. But it does, in Pennsylvania. And I don't see that ending any time soon.

A gofundme page to help Abe has been set up by John Daily, owner of Northeast Cleaning Service. If you can spare a few bucks, visit the donation page and help Abe.

* * *

Monday, August 24, 2015

Fringeville #139 August 24, 2015

Deju Vu All Over Again?

H. Ross Perot

Donald Trump

I know I am not the only one making comparisons between H. Ross Perot's failed 1992 Presidential Campaign and Donald Trump's current run. There are some surface similarities: both have extensive business experience and both fellows pretty much do and say what they damned well please. They don't mince words. (Perot famously and prophetically said folks should listen for the "giant sucking sound" of jobs heading to Mexico if NAFTA was ratified.) In general, folks like that kind of talk. I think people tune out when candidates for any office are doing 'candidate speak' (the fine art of giving long-winded, politically correct spiels that often make it hard to distinguish one candidate from another).

Both come off as men of action.

Indeed, in the case of Perot, there's historical proof he was willing to act on his own when necessary. When two of his employees were put in prison by the Iranian government in 1979 because of a contract squabble, he put together a team to rescue them and get them to safety. Those were very dangerous days in Iran. Revolution was imminent. But the mission succeeded, despite the risks.

Trump doesn't have an 'action' resume to match that feat, but he does get things done. His campaign website highlight's Trump's rescue of New York City's Veteran's Parade, which had deteriorated into an embarrassing, low turnout event until he supercharged it.

There are differences, as well. Perot ran as an independent. Trump (for now at least) is running as a Republican and still leading the field. He hasn't ruled out a run as in Independent, either. But they are markedly dissimilar on many issues, as detailed by a Talking Point Memo article (this is a left-leaning site, but I found this piece interesting).

The thing to keep in mind is just how early this is in the Election process. Perot was the leader in the Gallup poll in the early summer of 1992. But the election wasn't held in June, it was held in November. Over the summer, his campaign imploded spectacularly. When he dropped out of the campaign he displayed a remarkable case of paranoia, claiming he was quitting because the Bush campaign was going to sabotage his daughter's wedding. Folks, you can't make stuff like this up. He re-entered the race in October, but the fork was deeply embedded in him by then.

The Donald has an awful lot of highway ahead of him, and there are dangerous exits everywhere. I have no idea what his staying power will be. That will be largely up to him. Like Perot, he pulls support from everywhere in the voter landscape. It can vanish quickly, as those who witnessed the Perot debacle can testify.

For the record I am personally undecided right now, precisely because it is so early. I remember the lesson of the Perot campaign, when many people who didn't pay much attention to politics responded well to his message. When Perot quit then came back, many of those folks didn't give him another shot. I think it is because the Election process (gosh yes, I hate that term, but it is accurate) is a long, long marathon designed in part to weed out the squirrels. It is not a sprint, folks. The squirrels are there, an abundance of them on both sides of the aisle. Hopefully we end up with two strong choices for President.

As to Trump, I am a bit torn. He has managed to generate a lot of excitement. It reminds me of the early, heady days of the Perot campaign. I will be thankful for that if all the folks coming out of the woodwork will carry that excitement to the polls for the rest of their lives. But one of my frustrations as a GOP committee member in NEPA is the widespread voter apathy here. We've got 2 in 10 people voting in some places. The other eight, who have the ammunition to make wholesale changes in the regional and local political landscape, believe their votes don't matter.

Newsflash, folks: Eight will kick the snot out of Two, if the eight bother to show up for the fight.

If Trump self-destructs I am not optimistic that those with newly-awakened political spirit will stay in the game. I hope I am wrong.

* * * 

I continue to try to find a way to exist in a meaningful way while working two full time jobs. It ain't easy. It's still beating the crap out of me physically, but I am a testament to modern medical science: I am still on the curable list for prostate cancer and I rebounded from surgery last year so well that by the beginning of December I was able to start burning myself out with vigor on a second job. (Yes, this is being written somewhat, but not completely, tongue-in-cheek.)

What I really need is one job with great benefits that pays about 70k. I'd love to see my grandkids once in a while. Or even just get a good night's sleep. We on 3rd shift jobs crave a good night's sleep. So if you've got that kind of job available, I'll be sitting by the phone. (P.S. Perdue: I am worth ten times that 70k as a chicken-wing taster)

* * *

Continuing in this vein, for the most part I am in great shape. My weight is staying down. My cholesterol is improving, and my PSA remains undetectable through 12 months post-surgery. (I've just had quarterly blood drawn again, but I am optimistic it will show the same undetectable PSA level when the results come back.)

The only really disturbing episode I've had recently was a fall on East Main Street in Wilkes-Barre. I tripped least I THINK I tripped ...on the sidewalk. I ended up halfway in the street. Some scrapes and bruises, but nothing broken (a minor miracle in itself, as I have OI). I was mostly embarrassed after I fell, because folks saw me hit the ground and I am not very graceful when falling face-first to the firmament. In the days since, it has been playing on my mind a bit. You see, I don't fall down. I am careful not to fall down. But when I tripped (or whatever it was I did) I was completely unable to recover my balance. It's almost as if I was already leaning forward when it happened, with no change to avoid the grip of gravity. Gravity may the weakest force in the Universe, but it kicked my ass last week.

I think that I subconsciously knew that I've become slightly less firm-on-my-feet. I'd mentioned to the wife on a couple of occasions that I was "due for a fall." Why the hell would I say that? What does my subconscious know that my conscious brain doesn't see? If my subconscious is that good, can it point me to the best chicken wings in NEPA?

But I digress.

And lastly, and totally unrelated to anything I've written here today, if I see one more Viagra commercial with scantily clad and gorgeous women talking about ED, I'm tossing a plate of wings at the TV. It aggravates the hell out of me. I have my reasons, but it's not what you think. And who the hell is ED anyway?

Alright, enough coffee. I'm rambling. Off to work. Damn the torpedoes. Fry the wings. Full sail ahead.

* * *

Monday, August 17, 2015

Fringeville #138 August 16 2015

...I am experimenting with templates, so you might see the look of the blog changing one or more times until I am happy with it. A wise fellow blogger suggested that the template I'd been using was hard to read. Because I used white text on black background, this heavily influenced the way I used text elements. Changing to another template is harder than I expected because some of the text which was easier to read against a black background became very difficult to read with some of the alternate templates. Hopefully I'll come up with something that works. What I don't have is much time to mess with it these days. But if folks have trouble reading it, well then what's the point?

* * *

Great GOP picnic in Pittston Township yesterday. Most of the judicial candidates were there. Travis Kellar from the Times Leader did a nice recap on the event: TL Covers the GOP Picnic...

I was on grill duty:  Grill it, Jimbo!

I am a sucker for grilling, so when GOP Chairman Bill Urbanski asked me to man the grill I was all over it. It was brutally hot, and I never even noticed. I just kept on flipping burgers and washing down root beer.

(For complete transparency, I am an active Republican Committee member and will remain so until the 2016 Primary, when I will put myself out to pasture.)

Stefanie Salavantis, one of my favorite folks on the planet, gave a great talk on what has been accomplished in her first term. I remember meeting her way back when she announced her write-in campaign, which led to an improbable victory (to the skeptics) but a very likely one from where I sat. She had fire, and she took the county by storm. She's worked hard, with a 100% conviction rate on homicides and she's been fiscally responsible. Read more on her accomplishments here: Results matter!

Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis
* * *
I had to leave the picnic as soon as the grill duties were over. I spent the balance of the afternoon helping my son do concrete work at his place. What is it with Irish guys doing things like this in the hottest possible weather? I actually spent a lot of time with my son this weekend. I've missed that; we both used to have a lot of time to spend together. Now I just grab whatever time I can with him. Fricking time is going by too fricking fast.

The day ended with more grilling: Grill it AGAIN, Jimbo!

I love summer. Just saying.

* * *


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fringeville #137 August 09 2015

The ladies in my life
My daughter is 25 today. Quickest quarter century I've ever watched go by. (I remember when waiting for the dismissal bell in junior high took a good decade or so.)

She and my wife are best buddies. Joined at the hip. Which means they occasionally drive each other crazy. It provides me with a lot of theater, but I wouldn't have it any other way. We're going to go out to eat and celebrate another year in the rear-view. I am thankful to the good Lord and great doctors that I am here in pretty damned good shape to celebrate with them.

So happy 25th, CoCo.

* * *

I took a run up to South Abington Township for the GOP picnic in the park today. The weather was great, the company was excellent, and a splendid time was had by all. 

It struck me how many friends I've made in Lackawanna County over the past few years. I didn't know anyone up there at all at one time, but getting involved in politics has as a reward the chance to meet some really wonderful folks, and there's a mess of them up in Lackawanna County.

I spent some time talking with Laureen Cummings and Bill Jones, the next Lackawanna County Commissioners. I had some excellent burgers (2 in fact) grilled up by Lackawanna GOP chair Lance Stange. I chewed the fat with Melanie and David Madeira, and also spoke with my good friend Mary Barket from Northampton County (one of the sharpest and hardest working ladies I've ever met in politics).

I saw some of my Luzerne County friends as well. Ron Ferrance and his son Brandon (a young, rising star in the GOP) were there, as well as Donna Baloga. I'm sure there were many more folks I should name, but I am an old fart and have to check most mornings that my underwear is on right-side out and facing front, so just remembering all the above folks is a minor miracle for me.

* * *

My cousin Connie and her husband Jim celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at a surprise party last weekend in Maryland. At first I wasn't sure I could make the trip. I had to work 3rd shift on Friday night, and the party started at 1PM. That meant working all night then driving to Baltimore. I finally decided I had to be there. I felt compelled, actually. There would be cousins I hadn't seen in a decade or more. And I was in their wedding:

...I am the little fart in the middle...

When I finally had the chance to talk to Connie, the first thing she said was: "When are you going to finish writing No Cognitive Defect? I've been waiting two years for the next installment!"

I promised her more was coming. It will be a challenge. Nothing saps creativity more than working two full-time jobs. I get some great ideas at 3AM while I'm cleaning a room in the O.R. I hear dialogue in my head, clear as a bell. I see where to take the plot.

By the time I get to the day job at the shoe store, the dialogue has become a faint whisper and the plot points have become a smear of muddy, meandering possibilities.

And by the time I get home, I don't hear a damned thing and the only thing I'm plotting is what to eat before going to sleep to start it all over again.

Somehow, Connie (and Bridget, who I know will see this at some point) I will find a way to finish the novel. Time is slipping by at a faster and faster rate. I need to make things happen for my characters before fate makes something happen to me.

* * *

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fringeville #135 July 24 2015
7AM. No coffee. Waiting for routine bloodwork. Really want that coffee. But the news is waking me up.
Hillary has more e-mail trouble. No surprise and only elicited the slightest of eyelid quivers.
But Wilkes-Barre came through for me. An amended campaign finance report for the Democrat candidate for mayor, Tony George, appear to be a disaster.

I have filed countless reports for candidates and committees.They ain't that hard.

They are just a tad tedious. Some attention to detail is required. But it's not rocket science, kids. If he wins, the budgets should be fascinating.

Last thoughts on this: I can't imagine any circumstance where I would forget or confuse the origin of a $2500 contribution. Of course, I work with Republican candidates and committees in NEPA so a $2500 contribution is like finding a pearl in a wing platter.

* * *

I am mobile-blogging today. It is also the first day of my parish festival at St. Maria Goretti in Laflin. This might get interesting. Expect food pix. (Probably was a good idea to get the cholesterol checked BEFORE 3 days of feasting.)

* * *

(A quick follow-up on this Fringe post) First day of the parish festival is in the books. I ate like a pig. I'd like to give a shout out to Dan Yeager & Century Security for their help with my end of the festival. Dan's a great guy, and has an impressive resume. We had a chance to talk a bit and I really enjoyed the conversation. If you have security needs (and they do more than just security) give them a holler. Hats off to Laflin's Dorothy Yazurlo as well for pointing me toward Dan. It made one of my headaches go away. For the next two nights I can concentrate solely on trying to triple my cholesterol levels in 72 hours. I am well on my way.

What to have tonight...hmmm... no one's surprise...I'm downing wing bites on Saturday at the St. Maria Goretti Festival in Laflin. Or maybe the clams. Or clam chowder. See, here's my problem: I WANT IT ALL!!!

* * * 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Fringeville #134 July 20 2015

...this is half our problem these days...

I am at times nearly thunderstruck by the sheer number of people I meet who have seem to have given up. All they have left is their whining. Social media really highlights it. It is a maelstrom of whining. At times it is almost painful to hop onto Facebook or Twitter and read the intense degree to which people whine. This is unfair. That is unfair. This is discriminatory. That is inflammatory.

Dear Lord, it just goes on forever. And if you center your life around social media, it infects you. You begin to feel that everything is stacked against you. You can never win. You become a minion of the whining gods.

Just knock it off already, look in the mirror, and accept the fact the person you're looking at is the one most responsible for overcoming life's basic unfairness.

Yes, life is unfair. It's been unfair since the caves, when the strongest and biggest one in the cave got first pick of the spoils of the hunt.

So what. We live in a nation where overcoming life's obstacles is possible. We live in America, where if you fail you're not painted with a permanent stigma and shunned. Instead you can pick up all the pieces and try again. And again. And again.

When the Detroit Automobile company failed in November of 1900, the man who started it didn't pick up his marbles and go home. He built a car by hand that won a race and got some investors interested in his ideas. He started a second company, but got into a tussle with stockholders. He left the company. And once again he did not quit. He built another car, won another race, and that success helped him promote Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford failed more than once, but he kept at it.

Bitching about unfairness isn't going to change things. Waiting for government to save you from life's unfairness isn't going to change things. Only the person in the mirror has the power to do that. You may not succeed. But you will learn a lot about yourself and you will be a stronger person in the end than if you bitched, whined, and waited for crumbs of good fortune to fall on you from the heavens.

And what of those who truly face obstacles that cannot be overcome? As I see it, the measure of a society is how treats its neediest, those who are truly unable by reasons beyond their control to care for themselves. They are our responsibility. 

In closing, I simply feel compelled to remind Americans just how fortunate we are. We are not a perfect society by any means. But I believe we are the best the human race has come up with so far. I am a believer in American exceptionalism. To me, that doesn't mean we are superior to the rest of the world. We have made our share of mistakes. But there is something about this nation that sets it apart ...not above ...other nations. For all our problems we are the only nation that has put men on the moon. We built the Panama canal. We fought wars on two fronts in WWII and then, after defeating our enemies, we rebuilt them so they could stand on their own.

I live in America. I am proud of it. And I'm not going to whine about things. If I see an obstacle I will go through it or around it. I won't stand there and say: "...gee, this is in my way. Guess I'm screwed."

Sorry if I'm a little abrasive today, but I think it's time we begin to believe in ourselves again. We are Americans, and it used to be unbecoming of Americans to whine. I'd like it to be that way again.

Maybe...just is good.

* * *

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Fringeville #133 July 12 2015

...Mr. NoAss is dreaming chicken-wing-dreams. I just want my fricking belly rubbed.

It was, as my wife posted on her Facebook page, just another Saturday night at our place. Saturdays are a challenge for me. I work all night at the hospital, then shoot down the hill to the shoe store to do the bookkeeping. On a weekday, I'd try to get to bed around 2PM and sleep till dinner time, eat, and schlepp off to work again at the hospital.

But not on Saturdays, gang. I stay up and try to get something done. I go till I just can't go any more. Usually that's sometime around 8 or 9 in the evening.

Yesterday, I mowed most of the jungle I call a lawn after I got home from the shoe store. I showered, took a one-hour power nap, and then went to Chili's for dinner with my wife and daughter. I came home with a full belly and sat down on the couch. That's the last thing I remember until after midnight, when I left the couch and crawled into bed. My family took the shot above. Notice the useless mass of dog flesh using me as a pillow. Of course, by that point I was pretty useless myself.

* * *

Yes, I hammered Jeb Bush for saying folks should work more hours. Yes, I knew instinctively what he was actually talking about: a pathetic work force participation rate. It just frustrates me that we might be looking at a Bush-Clinton race where one candidate needs someone to filter or explain everything he says and the other can't seem to recall she was subpoenaed. Really, America. Can't we do better?

* * *

While I'm on the subject of politics, I've decided this is my last term as a Republican committee member. I've been doing it a long time. It has been, by and large, a tremendous experience. But is time to move on. When the Primary election comes next year, I won't be on the ballot for Committee. If written in, I will not accept. I'm turning a page. Was it worthwhile? Yes, absolutely.  To me it validates the belief that you can do, or at least attempt to do, anything you wish in America. I had no political chops when I started. At the very first event I attended locally, I ended up at a table sitting six feet from Bob Freaking Dole. And for once in my life I was speechless. He probably thought I was choking on a chicken wing because I sat there wide-eyed, mouth open, and unable to speak.

Bob Dole

The only other times I was truly tongue-tied occurred at the same event, a county Lincoln Day fundraiser. First, I ran into state Senator Lisa Baker in the lobby. She is a remarkable woman, and has more smarts than Buffalo has chicken wings. I stuck out my hand, and my brain intended to say: "Senator Baker, I am so happy to meet you."

What emerged from my mouth was: "Lisa!" And I stood there with that same face I showed Bob Dole. Over the years, I've had the chance to talk with her on a number of occasions. She is always gracious, and we've had conversations about politics and tapping trees for syrup.

State Senator Lisa Baker speaking at a GOP picnic on Urbanski Farms

At the same Lincoln Day event, Renita Fennick introduced me to former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. I have always liked Ridge. And I was totally tongue tied at first. He had ample opportunity to walk away, but he stuck with me until I regained my footing. Truly a classy guy. And we had something in common. We are both hearing impaired. I remember we talked about my cochlear implant (I think I had just one at the time). We probably talked for five minutes. I wish I could get a mulligan on that conversation, because I really enjoyed meeting him.

Former Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge

All the above came because I wrote myself in as a Committee Member. One vote. Cast by me. And so many wonderful things came out of that single vote written in my horrible penmanship on the old style 'pull the lever and FEEL your votes happening' voting machines.

Over the years, I also had the chance to meet a lot of other local and national candidates, as well as elected leaders. I remember fondly the very first event I put together as Treasurer of the 6th District Republican Committee. Lou Barletta was contemplating a run for Congress, and I invited him to speak at our Christmas Party. I've done many other events, but that first one was special to me. I've seen Lou many, many times over the years and that Christmas party always comes to mind.

My brother Bill, a New Hampshire radical, often asks me how "my buddy Lou Barletta" is doing. Here's the funny thing: As I've said, I've seen Lou many times over the years. Now here's a blow by blow of virtually every conversation we've ever had:

"...hi, Lou, thanks for coming."
"Thanks for inviting me."


"Nice talk, James" (Once at an event the year I ran for State Representative)
"Great speech, Lou." (Every time I hear him)

These conversations happen over a very quick handshake. We never have the time to shoot the breeze because I'm usually doing fifty things at once to move an event along, and Lou is working the room.

Probably the two most memorable experiences of my years in politics were, first, my campaign for State Representative in 2010. I had zero money. But my hearing had just been restored, and I did my campaign on the soles of my feet. I knocked on thousands of doors on the weekends and after work during the week. I can count on one hand the number of times I had a door slammed in my face. The whole campaign was almost a religious experience. I mean here I was, a schmuck from Plains, walking into the heart of a very heavily Democratic district and talking to total strangers. Some called my campaign a suicide mission, because Eddie Day Pashinski was seen as unbeatable. But I just concentrated on the next door. I got pounded at the polls, but received nearly 29% of the vote. Not bad for an unknown schmuck.

The other remarkable journey was working with Laureen Cummings when she ran for the 17th Congressional District. We criss-crossed all the counties of the district on a shoe-string budget. More often than not, we were in Bess, my campaign office on wheels. We had, and still have, great political chemistry. It was an uphill battle every step of the way. We were outnumbered and out-funded. But every place she went, she earned votes. On Election day in 2012, we stopped at a poll in Northampton county where hundreds were lined up to vote. She worked the entire line. She won that polling place easily. It was something remarkable to watch.

I guess what I'm trying to do, very poorly because I'm probably just rambling, is highlight the fact that all of these things happened in my life because I made a single decision. I wanted to make some small difference. I hope I did. I think I did. But I'm older now. I've had so many other things thrown at me the past several years. It's been tough at times. But I persevere because that's who I am. I've also seen my family grow as grandchildren have been born, and my nieces and nephews have formed families of their own. There's less road ahead than the road behind. It's time to invent myself again.

Have a great week.

P.S. I might run for Congress just to annoy people. Which photo should be the face of my campaign if I do?

...the only genuinely enthused candidate?


...the door-to-door candidate (seen with the one and only Bess)?

...the post-election counting candidate?
Yeah, maybe I should run just to tick everyone off. And, of course, to eat all the wings at any campaign events. A bucket of wings on every table. There's a motto for you.
* * *

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fringeville #132, July 06 2015

...Successful holiday weekend. Chock full of a whole lotta nuttin.

The holiday weekend went pretty much as planned. In contrast to what my life has been like the past 7 months, I filled it chock full of as much nothing as I could.

The wife and I largely did nothing and did as much of it as we could. We went to Dan's Keystone Grille for wings on Friday (long live gift certificates). It was just us and the Linda, the only staff on duty. She was cook, waitress and bartender extraordinaire. It was the perfect tonic after a week of work.

Saturday we watched movies and went to the B3Q Smokehouse in West Pittston for the day's only meal (there was no room for anything else in our bellies until Sunday). If you haven't eaten there, you simply don't know what you're missing. You simply cannot get food like this anywhere in the area. Forget the chain restaurants serving up corporate BBQ. Let Barry Hosier feed you the real stuff.

Sunday had some obligatory early-hours home bookkeeping/invoicing (hey, we gotta eat). I resuscitated this blog after that and then put in a few hours at the day job on Sunday following Church. In the afternoon the wife and I we set up Pop-Pop's Playland in the backyard. (The pool isn't set up yet. That's on the slate for next week, weather permitting. And this is Pennsylvania, so who knows? I may be shoveling snow.) After all of this, of course, came a whole bunch more of nothing.

I am rested. I feel whole. And I have absolutely no guilt whatsoever about a couple of days of nothing. The treadmill, though slower, starts again today. But I have been completely rejuvenated and fortified nothing.

Have a great week. And if you are a workaholic (hello, Michelle) do as much nothing as you can. It's good for the soul.

* * *

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fringeville #131, July 05 2015: Out of the Wilderness

...Trekking out of the wilderness...

My good friend David Yonki, author of the LuLac Political Letter, has said more than once that the secret to blogging is "being there." People won't follow your blog if you don't show up. He is out there blogging, often daily, and has been at it since 2006. He is closing in on 3000 posts. He's a legend.

I've got a measly 131 posts, counting this one. Clearly I haven't "been there"on a regular basis since I started back in 2011.

Last year, though, the blog improved. It became more personal. Some of the posts were difficult to write, as much of last year I was fighting prostate cancer. My last post for the year was on November 23, 2014.

And then I fell off the map until April 03, 2015 where I posted that I was going to post on the upcoming weekend.

And then I promptly fell off the map again.

Why? In short, nothing kills creativity more than working 2 full time jobs and doing some side work as well. I really didn't have a choice. After successfully (so far) winning the war on prostate cancer I faced the reality of recovering financially from both the disease and the plunge in my income since 2011. I'd planned to look for a second job at the start of last year. I finally had a day job that had great (but expensive) health care. The plan was to find a 2nd job by the spring. But first I decided to get an overdue checkup now that I had health care again.

And it's a damn good thing I did, because the blood work rang alarm bells for my doctor. In a very short period of time, my PSA level had jumped significantly. Instead of hunting down a 2nd job, I found myself recovering from a robotic prostatectomy.

It's a testament to modern medical science that I have not only remained disease-free to this point, but that I recovered sufficiently to take a full-time 3rd shift job at a local hospital starting December 1, 2014 (which was about a week after I vanished from the blogosphere).

Financially, it was a very smart move. I was able to go on the hospital's benefit program, which was vastly less expensive. The money is lousy, but the strategy of shifting the benefits far more than made up for the low hourly wages. Plus, I once again had life insurance, dental, disability, a 401k and more. The wife wouldn't have to bury me in the backyard next to her cat if I keeled over.

The only thing I didn't have was time.

I went to work for 3rd shift, then immediately to my day job (where I was also hourly). I had to get 40 hours at each job, each week, to start getting ahead of things. But I was only sleeping about 3-5 hours most nights, and had to pull off the occasional 28-hour stretch to meet my few remaining outside commitments.

The job at the hospital was very physical. I was posted in the ER (which I loved) in the housekeeping department. The pace could be incredible at times. I literally never stopped moving from the moment I punched in until I left (with the exception of breaks).

What I didn't take into account was how long it takes a 57-year old man to recover completely from major surgery. Frankly, I struggled. I fought a losing battle with weight, consistently dropping pounds despite eating anything in sight. I perspired so heavily you could wring out my uniform and fill a bucket or three. I repeatedly got sick, usually some type of bronchitis

I felt trapped. I had no choices. I absolutely had to have the second job with its benefits. The first job was essential because the hourly wages were significantly higher. I found myself making occasional Facebook and Twitter posts about looking for balance in my life.

It was eluding me.

But as I often have in my life, I began to look for my own personal Kobayashi Maru (a nod to Star Trek, for those of you who are not science fiction fans). I had to find a solution for a seemingly unsolvable problem. It didn't seem to make much sense to overcome cancer and literally work myself to death.

...I didn't cheat, but I DON'T like to lose.

Two things happened to make my Kobayashi Maru a reality: First, came an opportunity to transition into a different role on the night job, doing housekeeping in another department. Still hard work, but at a sane pace. And better yet, it's a Monday-Friday job. Weekends and holidays off. (If you have ever worked in a hospital, this is the crown jewel of schedules.)

The second critical piece was shifting from hourly to salary on the day job. I have been functioning as office manager for a long time. I'm responsible for A/R, A/P, Payroll, Taxes, tech stuff and more. A salaried "manager hat" isn't a stretch here.

The net result (and this ties directly back to where I started ...with "being there") is that I'm sleeping more, and have a block of time each weekend to both blog and resume writing fiction. So, David, I'll there at least once a week. I can't match your production and would never try.

But I'll be there each weekend. Starting today.

* * *

Friday, April 3, 2015

Fringeville #130, April 03 2015: Early Warning System Activated... warned. I'm posting something this weekend. God only knows what, but I have to post something.

Oh... and Happy Easter weekend, folks. Try not to put yourselves in a chocolate coma.