A random look at the life and times of Jim Rising recovering radio addict and newspaper columnist.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gobble, Gobble.

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and all the through the house….no wait I’m mixing it up with Christmas again. In any case tomorrow starts the free fall headlong rush into the holidays or as I like to put it the “Holidaze”. No work gets done, people get distracted and weight goes back on. It’s a month long combination of a slowdown in some ways but a frantic pace in others. I could take this time to reminisce about the glories of Thanksgivings long ago. Like the one where the turkey landed with a splash in the toilet. I have told that one before though. I could also use this space to talk about my oldest son’s Thanksgiving last year. He has settled in the Deep South and sent me pictures of himself deep frying a turkey. Any enterprise involving cooking, a 55 gallon drum filled with boiling oil and a fire extinguisher just seems like a good time to me. But that’s a story for another time. I could let you in on the Thanksgiving dinner my out of state Daughter cooked. A guest finished her meal and then whipped out the Tupperware and proceeded to pack the leftovers for herself. Not really in the spirit of things but a story best left untold for now. No, today I want to concentrate on letter to the editor I saw a while ago. In Broadheadsville there is a diner called Penelope’s. This year as they have for quite some time they will once again offer a free Thanksgiving Day dinner to the needy. They serve 100 people free of charge. It’s a great thing to do and I applaud it. But the real reason I want to bring some attention to this is the message of the letter. Let me quote you some of the text. “At Thanksgiving, we at Penelope’s pray for the safety of our Men and Women in the military, a cure for Cancer and, especially for God to grant wisdom to our elected officials to guide us to peace and prosperity.”
At the beginning of the letter the writer references a 1,000 meal giveaway done in the spring. And they say “Since that time we’ve not seen an improvement in the financial situation in our community.”
But at Penelope’s they don’t just wring their hands in quiet desperation. They roll up their sleeves and feed the hungry. Sure in the big scheme of things it doesn’t make a difference. But to those hungry and in need tomorrow I can assure you it makes a BIG difference. What we need in this great country of ours right now is lots more Penelope’s diners. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A time for every season

It’s Fall. Any number of tell tale signs confirm this. Just a glance at the calendar should be enough. But many other sights, sounds and smells tell me that it’s time to put the shorts away for another year. Smells? Sure. The tang of burning leaves. Of course someone is always burning something near the Rising Ranch but I don’t mind the smell of a pile of leaves smoldering. Smells like…..Fall. Of course to go along with the burning leaves you hear the incessant dull roar of leaf blowers across the landscape. I can put up with it. I myself hate the end of the rake that you have to hold. You know. The side that gives you blisters? So a leaf blower works fine for me. I do understand it is possible to use them during the day and not at 6am or after 9pm but who am I to quibble? Sights? Well for one thing the deer and other animals have begun the annual migration from the left side to the right side of the road. But then again some of them are contrarians and go from right to left. Of course they do this all year long but for some reason during the fall the animal population of Northeastern Pa seems to live on the asphalt. Or more likely, die on the asphalt. Judging by the amount of corpses on and beside the road we have no fear of extinction of skunks, opossums or deer anytime soon. But some are luckier than others. The other day I saw a huge flock of turkeys and I wasn’t at a political rally. Rim shot, please. There must have been 20 or more, all in a line, taking their sweet time to cross the road. I stopped to watch. The tail end Charlie stopped and turned to look back at something. The rest of the flock was well into the woods. Charlie turned and if he was a human you would have heard him say “Woo woo woo.” Like Curly of the Three Stooges. He jumped a few feet in the air, shook his head and ran after the flock with that peculiar turkey trot in high gear. It was a Disney moment. It’s Fall. It’s the last few days of fifty degree temperatures before the deep freezer door is left open to chill us to the bone until Spring. Its bushel baskets of apples, piles of pumpkins that will not be Jack-o-lanterns but may become pies or soup. It’s the planning and thinking and plotting out the Thanksgiving feast. And it’s the first time you hear Christmas carols and see decorations, too soon, always too soon. But then again, I could be wrong.

The taxman cometh.

All of the nearly 200 have the same words. Reading them all over and over again is a mind numbing exercise but probably not as mind numbing as seeing your own property in the Luzerne County Sheriff’s sale flyer. I can’t imagine what it must be like to see your home or business to be listed in the stilted legal jargon. “Exposed to public sale by vendue or outcry to the highest and best bidders.” I had to look up “Vendue.” It means “a public sale at auction.” Outcry I had no problem with. It’s interesting though that the word cry slips into what looks to me to be a somewhat heartless process. There are, to be exact, 182 sales in this flyer dated Friday November 21st. Its 28 pages long. I am willing to bet that there are more than 182 stories to go along with those listings. You can read between the lines on some of them by looking at the title section. Lots of titles held by husbands and wives with one or the other deceased. Now with the spouse gone the house is too expensive or too big or too something. The kids don’t want it or live out of state or there are no kids. The payments to the taxman are forgotten and the property will soon be up for grabs to the highest or the best bidder. Best bidder? Who gets to decide what is best for what was a home once and is now just another line in the Luzerne County Sherriff’s sale. Some sales I am sure are the product of divorce. Some are just business as usual. Some may even be up for sale because or criminal activity. The cold hard fact is that we have on our hands the perfect storm of economic strife. High gas prices, tumbling stocks, and rampant unemployment. Here in Luzerne County we also face the reassessment that just took place and will take effect next year unless a dark planet crashes into the sun. Many many more of these sales will be taking place. So much so that I fear that the future Luzerne County Sheriff’s sale flyer may be the size of a set of encyclopedias. You may see that one delivered by tractor trailer trucks. It’s not funny, this grim prognosis. People’s lives will change. Whole neighborhoods may be looking like the streets of Centralia before this is done. I am sure that the Sherriff and his department take no joy from all this. To be part of a process that in the legal words involves “seized and taken” can’t be something to look forward to during your workday. But then again, I could be wrong.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Did you Boscov Today?

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that losing the Boscov store in downtown Wilkes-Barre would be a good thing. But I question some of the statements made recently by the powers that be about the city of Wilkes-Barre loaning 3 million smackers to keep it afloat. Mayor Tom Leighton swears-no wait let me rephrase that because we know Tom Leighton does NOT swear. He wouldn’t say excrement if he had a mouth full of it. It’s not in his vocabulary. Not even if he hits his thumb with a hammer. Hizzoner said “This will have no impact on the taxpayers.” Interesting choice of words. Impact? Does that mean if the loan to a bankrupt store, which after all is what Boscov is right now, is never repaid then that’s ok? Then where did the money come from? “This money does not come out of our general fund” says the Mayor. Then where from does it come? The special fund? The fund to pay for losing lawsuits against private citizens? That fund has been tapped out recently. According to published reports the loans are being financed through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They have an address in Washington D.C. I checked it on the internet which is now, as Homer Simpson says, on computers. So the money is coming from our country tiz of thee’s Government. Where does the Government get that money? From the big printing press in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, I know. It’s just down the street. But where does the money really come from? Here’s a hint. You pay taxes, right? And even though the Mayor says all is well a teeny tiny bit of uncertainty exists. Todd Vonderheid, Chief Executive of the Greater Wilkes-Barre chamber of Business and industry said “There’s clearly some risk.” Hmmm. 3 Million dollars is a lot of risk in a city that from all appearances does not have mountains of cash stored in silos. I hope Boscov’s survives. I really do. Because I have this sinking feeling if they don’t that I know who will be paying the bill no matter what the powers that be say. Oh and could they use some of the 3 million to maybe spruce up the joint a tad? Last time I was there the store was showing its age and not well. A little paint, some new carpets and maybe a swipe with a dust mop would be a help. Near the escalator that was broken that day I counted in my line of sight 15 light fixtures with burned out bulbs.
If the lights are out, there isn’t anybody home. Or then again I could be wrong.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

God and State.

I have always been told that two topics you should never discuss are religion and politics. It’s a sure way to get into an argument. Well with recent events I am going to have to respectfully decline that advice. What in the world is going on in the Catholic Church? Have they lost their minds or have they never heard of the concept of separation of church and state? Thomas Jefferson said “legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. It’s not just an American concept. Back in 1864 Pope Pius IX issued a document that read in part "The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church.". But it seems that concept has gone the way of the Latin mass.
The Most Reverend Joseph F. Martino, D.D., Hist. E.D. ,The Bishop of Scranton recently ordered that a lengthy homily of his be read in church and placed in the printed bulletins. This was done before the election. It said in part “Our Lord, Jesus Christ, does not..….ask us to take up his Cross only to have us leave it at the voting booth door.” Most of the homily condemns “pro-choice candidates” and although he doesn’t spell it right out the meaning is obvious. Vote Democratic-go to hell!
Now, after the election A South Carolina Roman Catholic priest, The Rev. Jay Scott Newman of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville has told his parishioners that they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion if they voted for Barack Hussein Obama because the Democratic president-elect supports abortion, and supporting him "constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil." Nice touch Father Jay, including the middle name “Hussein”. The blogosphere is full of ranting that our next president is a Middle Eastern sleeper cell already and the Hussein reference helps a lot. I am sure that plays well in the Bible belt of which Greenville is the buckle.
And the idea that Obama is the “Anti-Christ” is out there too-but to call the President “Intrinsically evil”? Holy Cow!
Maybe the church should confine itself to it’s plateful of troubles. Shrinking congregations. The lack of funds generated from those shrinking congregations. The lack of new priests. The lack of priests who don’t touch little boys and girls. The millions and millions taken direct from the collection plates to defend those pedophile priests. Here’s one from the blogosphere: The true reason the church is so vehement about pro-choice is because the pedophile priests need a steady supply of new victims. Heresy? Sure. But in its way no worse than calling the leader of the free world whether you like him, love him or hate him, evil. But then again I might be wrong.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

"not dead. e's just resting!"

No one really likes their neighbors. I don’t. On both sides of the Rising Ranch I am surrounded by annoying people. Actually annoying is far too mild a word. These people would try the patience of Gandhi. On one side I have a skinflint who is too cheap to pay for garbage pick-up so he burns his trash. All his trash. At times it smells like I have moved next door to a crematorium. On another side I have a maniac who runs power equipment 24/7/365. Nothing like the sound of a chainsaw in the morning. EVERY MORNING. But my problems pale compared to this poor woman in Dallas. It sounds like something out of a Monty Python sketch. Or maybe the punch line to a bad joke. I refer to the news item the other day about the woman and the parrot. It seems that there is a parrot living on Country Club Road in Dallas. I have been on Country Club Road in Dallas. It sounds far nicer than it really is. It’s named, I would presume, after the Irem Temple Country Club which is indeed on the road in question. You have a love to road that has a 15 foot high fez as a sign on it. The tassel alone will take your breath away! The image of a County Club with tuxedoed men and gowned ladies shipping sherry on the verandah? Not so much at the Irem Country Club. But that has nothing to do with our story. It seems that this parrot that lives on Country Club Road is noisy. Noisy enough that it’s “repetitious screeching and screaming” is keeping the neighbors from taking an afternoon nap. The vocal bird lives about 30 feet away from the bedroom of the anonymous would be napper. It probably sounds like the parrot is on her nightstand trying out for American Idol. The unfortunate woman tried to do the right thing. After speaking to the parrot owners, she appealed to the board of supervisors for help. And got nada. Zip. Bupkis. She was told to get a lawyer. It’s considered a private matter. In case you think the woman is overly sensitive it’s been verified that a parrot screech can exceed 150 decibels. Just for context standing 100 feet from a departing jet airplane rates 130 decibels. A rock concert averages 120 DB. So I think the woman has cause for complaint. In the famous Monty Python Sketch the Norwegian Blue Parrot ends up as an Ex-parrot. I predict a similar ending for the Parrot of Country Club Road if it doesn’t learn to speak softly. But then again I could be wrong.

Vote for me, I'll give you a tree!

Deadline forced this to be written days before the election was over. Assumptions were made, among them that the election is indeed over and that we have a winner. Some assembly required.

Hear that? Or rather, DON’T hear that? The sound of silence after the deafening roar of two years of campaigns that all spun down last night.
I have never seen or heard such a revolting display of mud slinging, self aggrandizing, unprecedented, bull crap emanating from TV, Radio and the Newspapers and don’t forget I was alive while Nixon was in office. But it’s over and the people have spoken.
Fill in the blank here: ____________has won the highest office in the land.
It was a historic campaign. Many elements were played out for the first time in our nation’s history. First black candidate, oldest candidate, most spending (reportedly $293 Million for McCain, $573 Million for Obama) and so on.
There are a lot of questions facing blank. He has to know that on Tuesday January 20th at noon when he says ''I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.'' the enormous responsibility that passes to him. The economy, the war, and the energy crises- he’s going to have his hands full.
Blank may or may not have been my first choice. It doesn’t matter now. What matters is that the promises of change start happening. If you think back about the past campaign many dire predictions were made if blank won. Questions about his competency, his ability to meet the challenge, his record have all been raised. Will blank die or be assassinated in office is a concern. Is Vice-President blank up to the challenge of stepping in the biggest shoes in the land? Do we want to find out?
President blank has incredible power right now. He would do well to remember the words of a British Lord from 1887:
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
But I have faith in the system. Not necessarily in the people who populate the system, but the system itself with its checks and balances has worked for the past 220 years. But even the framers of the constitution had doubts. That’s why Article II -Section 4. reads:
“The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
It’s a safety blanket that I hope we don’t need-But I for one can sleep a little easier knowing it exists.