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

Friday, August 28, 2009

Drugstores?

I have been in a sort of funk lately. It just seems like things are not going so well. Oh not for me personally. Actually things in my life are pretty much ok. Sure I haven’t hit the lottery yet (Lottery: A tax on the stupid) and I still have to work. But without work I wouldn’t know when I was on vacation so it all evens out. Sort of. But what has me worried is that the good old US of A seems to be slipping. At least if you pay any attention to the news. I keep hearing about how we are no longer a world leader. That our health care system is all messed up. That we are so deep in debt as a nation that it will be they year 2525 before we figure out just how much in debt we are. That our bridges and roads are falling apart. That our judges and other leaders are as crooked as…well pretty crooked. That last part seems to be true. But the other day while I was mulling over all this stuff I was on a tour of local drug stores. The long suffering wife was on some sort of a scavenger hunt. I was bored. So I looked around. I guess they aren’t called drug stores anymore. It’s no wonder. Of the ones we visited less than 20% is devoted to pharmacy. The rest is an almost indescribable collection of everything you can imagine. It’s almost quicker to list what you can’t buy at a drug store these days. Beer, at least in PA. Tires. That’s about it. Forget something at the grocery store? It’s there. Neglect to buy what you needed at Radio Shack? Everything from cell phones to multi USB hubs. Motor oil? Check. Lawn Furniture? In assorted colors. Refrigerator? Well, small ones but still…there they are. Need plastic skulls and foam gravestones for Halloween? Stacks of them. So much back to school stuff that you could equip several schools grades 1-6 with plenty left over for Junior High. Tools? Yup. Reading material? So many different magazines that you furnish every doctors waiting room in NEPA and never duplicate a title. By the way did you know that MAD Magazine is still published? Figures. Now that I can buy it without my parents yelling at me I don’t want to. But my point? In just my little town you can’t throw a rock without breaking a window at one of these mutant department stores with a Pharmacy counter. It just seems to me that a lot has to be going right for us to have such freedom of choice. But then again…

Monday, August 24, 2009

Progress?

I haven’t been to the Mall at Steamtown in probably ten years. I think I have been in Scranton about twice in that time frame. Make no mistake; I have nothing against the “Electric City.” I worked there for about seven years and it has some great memories for me. It’s just that I have everything I want or need south of the Lackawanna county line. I guess I am becoming like so many in NEPA-never venturing outside of their community.

In any case I worked in Scranton well before the Mall at Steamtown was constructed. I have been watching with interest recent news reports that things are not going so great there. The recent closing of the Ground Round, the low occupancy level and the fact that the food court could be used for cannon practice without any injury all seem to me to be somewhat telling.

Down the street a joint named Molly Ringwalds or Branigans or something like that also closed up. The new mall and all the “urban renewal” associated with it were heralded as a renaissance for downtown Scranton. Looks like it’s not quite worked out that way. Before they imploded the area to make room for the mall there was a bar about where the Ground Round now stands shuttered. I don’t think it had a sign out front. It was known to everyone as “Bordi’s” because the owner was a gentleman named Pete Bordi. Bordi’s was not a fancy place. It did have some things that made it an “experience”, chief among them the restroom which was well…horrifying. But, in spite of the fact that it was a pretty big place (the circular bar could hold 75 seated) it was packed every day and every hour it was open, and it opened at 7am. It was a safe place for two reasons. One because every other bar stool might have an off duty police officer or fireman enjoying a beverage. But the real reason was if you caused any trouble you were banned and for life if you really got out of hand. And that was the worst imaginable fate because at Pete’s the beer was 15 cents a glass. Of course the catch was you had to buy two at a time. The glasses were six ounces so for 12 ounces of golden bubbly refreshment you paid 30 cents. A five dollar bill would leave you in need of a designated driver, Pete Bordi made a nice living, had a nice house and vacationed in Florida. Grown men wept when his doors closed forever. My suspicions are that if Bordi’s was still there, it would still be thriving. But then again…

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bap bap bap bap bap bap bapuh. Beep beep beep beeeeeep


Bap bap bap bap bap bap bapuh. Beep beep beep beeeeeep. For the last two months the reasonably quiet Rising ranch has been a cacophony of construction sounds. Normally it’s pretty quiet here. Oh sure the goof that lives on the hill next to my property runs his chain saw while riding his ATV around with a loud portable radio strapped on his back. All at the same time. But not all the time. And usually not all day long. Its quiet enough on a good day that I can hear the hummingbirds arrive at the feeder, sounding like a very large bumblebee.
But not lately. Bap bap bap bap bap bap bapuh. Beep beep beep beeeeeep. For the last month they have been installing big yellow pipes on the side of the road. Gas will run through them I am told. This process apparently involves a machine that sounds like a jack hammer (Bap bap bap bap bap bap bapuh) and a construction vehicle backing up for hours at a time (Beep beep beep beeeeeep.) It also involves traffic on the roadway to be stopped for long periods of time on the street in front of my house so I get to enjoy the motorists tastes in listening pleasure. I have also noticed a large increase in the quantity and variety of trash being ejected from said vehicles. So it’s all good. Like living in a cement mixer filled with marbles. Very relaxing. Not at all designed to make me crazy as a rat in a coffee can.
Soon they will be directly across from my house. Since I work mostly from home there really is no escape. Bap bap bap bap bap bap bapuh. Beep beep beep beeeeeep. I notice all the construction workers are wearing ear protection. I am not so lucky.
But I said in the first part of this that it’s been going on for two months. But the gas pipeline guys have been at it only a month. So what about the month before? Well the road crew from the township was busy patching the many potholes and fixing up the road. They did a great job too. The pothole right by my driveway that I watched an SUV drive into and I am not sure ever came out is now smooth as a baby’s posterior. They did this all up and down the same road that the gas pipeline guys are now digging up. Somehow, somewhere this makes sense. I am guessing when the gas guys go the pavers will be back. Bap bap bap bap bap bap bapuh. Beep beep beep beeeeeep. Or then again I could be wrong.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Clunkers


It just seems wrong to me. I know all the environmentalists will probably come after me with a thousand green reasons why I am way off base. I know that economically it probably makes sense. But it doesn’t help me understand. Or like it. There is song by John Hiatt called “Perfectly Good Guitar” which talks about how heartbreaking it is to see rock stars smash their instruments. I feel the same way when I see the destruction of engines in the so called “cash for clunkers’ deal. As a person who has owned some clunkers in my time I can remember vividly what it takes to keep one running and on the road. Blood, sweat and tears along with Valvoline. Sometimes by the case. It seems to me as an American male (hell as an American, let me not be accused of being sexist) that to own and keep running a POS car is a rite of passage. How else do you learn to take care of a good car except by the experience gleaned from breakdowns of your crappy old car at the most inopportune times? I drove an old ex-military jeep while I was in high school. It ran fine, if slow but about every tenth time you tried to start it all you would get was a click. The solution? You had to roll it down hill to jump start it by putting it in gear and letting the clutch out when it was going good. Try that with your Prius! My point is not so much that you could do it, it’s the fact that there was a solution that didn’t involve calling Triple A. Environmentally sound because no gas guzzling tow truck had to be dispatched. Economically sound because I didn’t have to shell bucks out for previously mentioned tow. Personally sound because I was no doubt off-campus and needed to get back pronto! Win, win, win as far as I can see. There were hundreds of lessons taught by owning a clunker, both of a mechanical nature and of the life-lesson variety. Even when gas was far less than a buck a gallon you had to be smart about your travel in a gas guzzling clunker. You learned the value of a buck and how to ask the question “Is this trip necessary?” Now the clunkers that could have been someone’s first car or a car for someone who really couldn’t afford a better one are all destined for the scrap yard. I guess in some universe it makes perfect sense; crush perfectly good drivable cars in order to stimulate the economy to sell new ones. But then again I could be wrong.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Everyone needs to recharge their batteries now and then. Last week was my time. While it may not sound like a vacation to some, the long suffering wife and I journeyed over 1,200 miles in less than a week, mostly poking around the New England states. A few days of it spent visiting family were fun but the real fun was a lack of agenda later on in the week on the seashore. Something there is about being next to a large body of salty water that makes me, anyway, dissolve into relaxation mode better than any other place on earth. It became a routine of eat, drive around, eat, drink, sleep, lather, rinse, repeat. I could get used to it. But you need pain to know pleasure, or so I am told, so we headed back from bliss. You see a lot of drivers in 1,200 miles. Amazingly enough in nearly 1,100 of those miles I didn’t run across any highway rage, stupidity, or just plain rude driving. We drove alongside visitors from up Canada way, eh? Notorious bad drivers, Canadians. The rumor is that in Qu├ębec the driver exam consists of learning how to fill out the accident report. But we had no problem. In fact until we re-entered the Commonwealth of PA upon our return our journey on the highways was unremarkable.

But, as soon as we crossed the border…well our first clue should have been the rain. Not just rain. This was like driving through Niagara Falls sideways. It was unrelenting. And no one even slowed down. I was cowering on the extreme right hand side of the road trying not to hydroplane, going well under the speed limit while trucks the size of houses hurtled past me, throwing geysers of water up. Wipers were useless. It was like Stevie Wonder driving Ray Charles. The only time we slowed was for the accident. We knew that’s what it was because there was a man with a large, worn, wooden sign that in hand painted letters said “ACCEDENT” standing by the side of the road. Sure enough a few miles up the road there was an “accedent.” Some poor unfortunate with the right side of their car mangled beyond recognition on the left side of the highway. The final miles were on the Cross Valley Expressway. People take that “expressway” thing serious. Especially the guy who waited until I tried to pass him before he pulled over in my lane with no turn signal. I just about rolled my car over to avoid him and what was his plan? He went almost ½ mile before once more changing lanes without signaling to immediately exit. There is no place like Home!