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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.

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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.)

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(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!!!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.
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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.

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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.

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