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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Fringeville #172: Quick Hitters…

Fast moving ado about nuttin

Since I’m reliving my childhood, I am going to make Ritty Dum Ditty for dinner one night. There will be pics.

* * *
The only thing keeping me going is church on Sunday. If I get to church, it gives me just enough juice to get me through the week.

* * *
This Roy Moore fiasco: It’s not some political scheme by Democrats/liberals. Harvey Weinstein opened the floodgates. Allegations are flying against everyone from politicians to media bigwigs …even Mr. Sulu. This is just getting started.

* * *
Penn State and offensive line issues: why does this sound so familiar? Patience. This is the piece that takes the longest to upgrade.

* * *

My dog is an idiot. He’s gifted in some regards (he can smell beef jerky from 500 yards) but dumber than a box of rocks. Love him to death.

 * * *
I didn’t think a damned foot could hurt so much for no reason other than aging. I’m sure going up and down the cellar steps a couple of hundred times a few weeks ago had nothing to do with it.

* * *

It may be possible one day to create an artificial universe. An actual baby universe which will inflate and fill a cosmos and may one day even have life like ours. I’m not sure if they’ll have their own Miracle Mets or Boris Yeltsin, but it’s an amazing idea.

But it begs the question: is it possible God was someone in a lab coat in an alternate universe? I think not. Only God could come up with the Aardvark. Or those Mets.

* * *
I have rejected most of what I have done for the last twenty years as a failed experiment. But I do not reject the people I’ve met and been active with. Never the people. They are all that matter.

* * *
Be good to each other.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Fringeville #171: Well there’s a first time…and other random bits.

It’s Veteran’s Day. Please take a moment to say a prayer of thanks to those who serve, now and in the past. If you’re not the praying type simply be thankful and find a way to express it.

* * *
Well, there’s a first time for everything.
I posted what follows on my Facebook pages yesterday because it was an uplifting experience in a time of great angst, both personally and for many of us in the social and political climate that exists today:

...It's one thing, and an important thing, when a candidate comes to your door and asks for support.

It's another when one shows up after the election to thank you for supporting him.

It just doesn't happen. They may call. They may write a note. That's terrific, truly. But they don't knock after winning, in my experience. Until tonight, that is, when PJ Biscontini showed up at my door in the freezing cold to thank me for supporting him in his run for Plains Township Commissioner.

We talked quite a while and with each passing, freezing cold minute, I was more impressed.

Does America still produce great young people? Well, this young man is your proof. There are great things in store for him one day. I never voted for anyone other than a Republican once I was elected to County Committee. I believe, as my good friend Renita Fennick taught me, you either belong to something or you don't. I did, and I did so passionately.

Now, I am unaffiliated. An island of one. I take each person as I find them, and if they measure up I will vote for them not because they do or don't belong to a party... but because they are the best person for the job. PJ is the first Democrat I have voted for in a long, long time.

Keep your eye on PJ. He loves Plains, professes to have no higher ambitions, but fate has a funny way of tapping the talents of the best of us. You've heard this before, and it's a cliché, but it's also true: This guy's going places.

* * *

I am reading A Life In Parts by Bryan Cranston, a birthday present by Popki. It is a surprisingly good read (I am not one for celebrity books) and it has managed to stir a lot of old memories of my childhood. Some good. Some probably forgotten for good reason. He paints his life in a series of small snippets …scenes, if you will …and I am enjoying it immensely.

* * *

The Harvey Weinstein story has opened the floodgates. Every day another powerful person stands accused of anything from sexual harassment to sexual assault. It’s become the shark attack story of 2017, with one critical difference: The sharks aren’t along isolated stretches of beach here and there being sensationalized by the media. No, not one bit.

These damned sharks are everywhere. It’s going to get worse, because America is a gigantic beach for these particular predators.

Our sexuality is complicated because the drive to procreate is deeply instilled within us. Keeping the species going is kind of important. Most of us learn to master or at the very least control our sexuality. But for others, especially when power …political, economic or career …is involved, a beast is unleashed.

Yes, we all flirt, some just a little bit, and some quite a lot. Most of the time it is harmless, and we pretty much stick to the rules. A man compliments an attractive lady on her dress, and perhaps smiles just a few seconds longer than usual. A woman leans in close and lightly touches a man’s arm during conversation. But the game has rules, and most people instinctively adhere to them. We don’t wag our genitals at the opposite sex as a display of power or force ourselves on others.

Those transgressions are no problem for powerful sharks. What they do is indefensible. The sharks aren’t just the rich, powerful and famous we read about each day. There are probably some in every community. Perhaps this will be a watershed moment when predatory behavior becomes intolerable. One can hope. Our very nature, however, makes this a problem for all generations. I don’t know what the solution is, but perhaps a start is recognizing that we’ve lost our way. We are flirting with total hedonism, where anything goes and personal responsibility no longer exists.  We can hope that we’re turning a corner. Again, one can hope. I’m not ready to give up on us. I hope you’re not, either.

* * *

The NFL kneeling thing.

I fully support the player’s rights to kneel during the anthem. I also fully support the choice of those offended to boycott the NFL if they see fit. It’s America. Have at it.

If I ran the NFL, I’d have seen this coming after last year. I’d have simply reworked the pregame festivities a mite. The players would come out after the anthem.

Simple solutions seem to escape the NFL Commissioner, but it is his League to run as he sees fit. He’s stuck for the rest of this season, but the damage has been done. Everyone is losing here.

I understand what the players involved are trying to do. But you don’t build widespread support for a cause by alienating large chunks of the population. You find a way to get everyone behind you. It’s a hell of a lot harder. It’s not flashy. But it works.

I remember when drunk driving was something that was accepted as part of the way things were. When we were kids, we used to shout “Happy Jack! Happy Jack!” whenever our parents ended up behind a drunk driver.

I also remember driving home one night in the late 70’s/early 80's and coming around a bend in Kingston Township to find a car blocking both lanes of the road. A man was passed out behind the wheel and his car, still running, was resting, unscratched, against the guard rail. I knocked on a nearby door and asked a man who opened his second floor window to call the police. When they arrived, they thought it was funny. (I think they knew the guy.)

As they put him in the cruiser (one officer to drive him home, the other to drive his car) I realized my car battery had died. I’d left the lights on so anyone coming around the curve had some warning that there was an issue. When I asked for a jump, I got some grief from one of the officers who grumbled while he helped me get my car going again. I never forgot that. I was the pain in the ass and the guy bombed behind the wheel of his car was a source of amusement (who got a ride home and a free car drop-off).

Hey, he was just a Happy Jack.

Things started to change when a California mother, Cari Lightner, lost her daughter to a drunk driver who hit her 13-year old and left her dead at the scene. The driver was a repeat DUI hit and run offender.

This devastated mother started Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Over time, society’s views on driving impaired shifted dramatically. The days of the police being the designated driver for a DUI are, I believe, long, long behind us.

That’s how it’s done, folks. When you see something drastically wrong, you work hard to bring everyone on board. Unify, don’t divide. That’s the lesson that isn’t being heeded. That’s what the NFL players need to do.

* * *

I’ve prattled enough.

Be good to each other.

* * *

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Fringeville #170: Another Revolution.

Pipe down. Don’t get all excited. I’m not talking politics and I haven’t joined the anarchists.

I’m talking revolutions around the sun.

There have been untold billions of revolutions around the sun by our little rock. I recently celebrated my 60th. Whoop-de-doo.

* * *

I’m going to work backwards here.

I woke up Sunday to banners and balloons celebrating my official over-da-hillness. The big 6-0. I haven’t been the happiest camper lately, but this stuff made me smile. When I opened the car door on my way to work… well, see the photo at the top of this page. (My daughter loves celebrating birthdays, and she always gets a smile from me despite my crotchety old-man-ness.)

* * *

Saturday was interesting. I put in my morning shift at work then drove to Tunkhannock to get my driver’s license picture taken. My sister recommended going to Tunkhannock because there is never a line. That wasn’t what sealed the deal for me. I decided I’d do a little foliage tour while I was up there.

From Wilkes-Barre to Tunkhannock, the logical route would be up Route 309 to Route 29 and straight into town. This would be especially sensible as I was leaving from Wilkes-Barre Township after making a bank deposit. A normal person would hop onto I-81, drive north one exit and take the Cross-Valley Expressway, which morphs into Route 309, for the jaunt to Tunkhannock.

I am not normal. I suspect you all know that already.

Instead I took 81 south a few miles and exited onto the southern end of Route 29. I followed it across the river and up into the mountains. I passed through the Pinchot State Forest, whizzed by Pikes Creek Reservoir, then Lake Silkworth, and out into the official boonies.

It was a calming ride.

There was almost zero traffic.

There was a slight children-of-the-corn moment when I had to swerve around a large carcass of something laying in my lane. No fur or appendages …just a giant slab of something festering on the asphalt.

Could have been butchered deer meat that fell off a pickup truck.

Maybe bear.

Possibly Jimmy Hoffa.

Except for the mystery cadaver, it was a hauntingly beautiful ride. The only regret is that I was alone. I spend most of my time with just me. I suppose I’m not bad company, and I’m getting used to it. It’s my lot in life, so I make the best of it.

Once in Tunkhannock, I quickly found the Photo ID center at the far end of a building that also houses a Weis Market. Across the parking lot is Sky Haven Airport, and the runway lies over a rise and runs behind the supermarket. You could probably leave the engine running on your Cessna, dart in for groceries, and take right off again. I suppose one could do even better than that:

“Honey, parachute out to the Weis parking lot and get the groceries. I’ll land and pick you up in twenty minutes. There’s a slab of meat on the road a little south of here with some kids hiding nearby in the corn. I want to buzz’em a few times before I land.”

As my sister promised, there was virtually no wait for my photo. The red “Take a Number” dispenser by the seating area was empty and dust-covered. I suspect that is its usual state. No matter. It was prime time on Saturday and there were a handful of people there for photos. The only other day the Photo ID center is open is Friday, so I missed the end-of-week-harvest-happy-hour rush.

I was in and out in a jiffy. I will never go anyplace else for a license. The two folks on duty were courteous, kind and cheerful. A quarter of the Boy Scout Oath. That's a rarity at such facilities. If Harrisburg finds out, they’ll surely get shit-canned. 

After I got the new license, I paused in the parking lot to take a picture of the mountain across the river, which was wearing fall colors. I also got some type of utility pole, a windsock, and the roofs of some trailers.

I never said I was Steve McCurry.

Oh, and when I was getting my license, this happened:

It wasn’t a rash decision.

People will draw all kinds of conclusions, but in the end I decided I no longer belong in a party. Across the course of my life both national parties have left me, or perhaps I’ve left them. It was no one thing in either case.

Perhaps I’m just getting old and, as I mentioned earlier, crotchety.

Maybe I just want to be left alone.

Maybe I fear I’ve done enough damage.

In any case, this fits a pattern for me. I mull major decisions for a long, long, time. I ponder them quietly. Then, when I make a decision, I move swiftly and irrevocably. More often than not, I make final decisions near familiar calendar landmarks: changes in season, years, or birthdays. If you know me well, you know when I am quiet near a calendar landmark then something is in the wind.

Anyway, it’s done now.

A page is turned and I have moved on. I will still vote, of course. But I am tied to no party.


I am no longer a part of the great, vast circus of American politics. I’ve been a very good soldier for a long time, but the war is over for me, kids.

I suppose I could write about it. Trust me, I have the material.

But that would, again, pull me back in. I don’t want a Michael Corleone moment. I prefer having it all in the rearview.

In closing: be good to each other. We’re all we’ve got.

* * *

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Fringeville #169: Fixing Stuff

...winter is coming...

We get hopelessly lost in the politics of blame.

A young lady, crazy enough to work for me and one of the smartest people I will ever know, wasn’t much on blame. Her attitude was: “I don’t care whose fault it is, let’s just fix it.”

And she did. Every time.

Regarding the latest terror attack in New York City, I boil things down to the simplest element: If Sayfullo Saipov wasn’t in America eight people would still be alive.
I don’t care whose fault it is. Just fix this.

* * *

I have no fear of immigration. None, zip zero. I believe the long-term success of America is tied to the success of those who emigrate here. We build a young, competitive workforce through responsible and intelligent immigration.

The answer is not xenophobia.

Just fix this.

* * *
For reasons I won’t delve into, I feel like a giant, gaping hole has been torn into my heart. This needs to be fixed, and I can’t fix it.

* * *
I want to write fiction right now. The only decent things I have written were done when I was struggling with some demon or another. I’m afraid to start writing, because if I do I may never stop and I don’t know what will flow from my brain to the page. It may be easier to remain a coward.

* * *
Part of me really just wants to get in a rental car and go north alone for the weekend. South would work, too. Perhaps stick my toes in the Chesapeake. Neither will happen, but truth be told I’d rather be in New England.

Until last week, I managed the full run-up to my imminent 60th birthday without any personal angst. I have made up for it in the past week. Again, something is broken that I can’t fix.

Fix it is the theme today, in case that somehow got by you.

* * *
It is dark when I wake; it is dark when I get home. I cannot overstate how much I hate living in darkness. On its heels comes winter, just a smidge over the horizon.

Unlike past journeys into Pennsylvania’s grayworld, this one is harder. My legs don’t work the way they used to. My balance in the dark is way off, and if I’m outdoors after sunset I find the footing is treacherous and navigation difficult. It’s a little better indoors, but when my balance is off at least I can see where a friendly wall or piece of furniture is.

At some point this winter, I’m hitting the ground. My advice in advance to the orthopedist: “Just fix this.”

C’mon, you had to see that coming.

* * *
I saw the PA at my doctor’s office. She is a remarkable, compassionate young woman. It was a routine visit just to check and see if my blood pressure medication is doing its job. (It is.)

At some point in our conversation, I shared with her that I’ve come to realize I am perhaps one of the last generalists. It would have been more accurate to precede that with the words “self-taught.”

I’ve managed to become competent in a wide variety of roles. I am expert in none; I can’t stress that enough. But I know a lot about an awful lot, learned most of it myself, and managed to make my living at it. Someday I’ll jot down all the things I’ve done. The list will probably be incomplete.

At some point I’ll have to fix it.

* * *
Tuesday’s Election will be the first one in many, many years where I haven’t been working a poll and caught up in “Election Fever.” (I don’t count the Primary Election in 2014 where I was knocked out of action involuntarily by surgery, a failed attempt to murder my prostate cancer.)

I plan to under-vote heavily on Tuesday. I will leave vast, gaping holes on my ballot.

I will share the Plains candidates I plan to vote for:

Lynn Evans, Tax Collector. She is, quite simply, awesome and perfect for the office.

Barry Kresge, Commissioner: I’ve watched Barry grow over the last several Elections as a candidate. He deserves a shot.

Peter Biscontini, Commissioner. I’ve found him to be remarkably well-suited for the role. I wish him success.

I am also encouraging my friends in the Pittston Area School District to vote for John Lombardo, a young man going places who will do all the right things on the way.

I am also casting my vote for my great friend Harry Haas for County Council. I haven’t decided who else will get my vote, but there will be others.

In Lackawanna County, I hope Charles Kokinda wins his race for Recorder of Deeds. Another excellent young person going places and doing it the right way.

That’s it for politics, in a great many ways.

Yes, I rambled. I can’t fix that. Nor would I want to.

Be good to each other.

* * *