Filed Under: default || By jt3y
Category: default || By jt3y
Let's go back 30 years, to Anytown, U.S.A. --- as long as "Anytown" is east of the Mississippi River. In fact, let's say we're in a small town in western Maryland on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Last week, the public works crew was busy stringing garland and plastic holly across Main and Market streets, which brought a little bit of cheer and color to the drab downtown (and some color was sorely needed after all of the leaves fell off the trees). A couple of the old-timers were grumbling that it "wasn't even Thanksgiving yet," but on Thursday, there was a chill in the air, and someone swears they saw some snow flurries Wednesday night. Now, the holly seems appropriate.
The kids don't have school today, and they were driving Mom nuts, so she gave them each a few dollars and told them they could walk downtown --- as long as they were home by lunchtime.
"Don't get into any strangers' cars!" she cautioned. "If you get in trouble, you look for a policeman, OK? And look out for one another, you hear me? Don't roll your eyes at me, young lady!"
Off they went to the two-block business district on Main Street, which is lined on both sides with two- and three-story brick buildings, and cars are angled in at each curb (it costs 10 cents an hour to park downtown, or 25 cents for three hours). The most imposing structures are the courthouse --- which is set back on a little plot of ground by itself --- and the big stone bank on the corner.
Downtown has ladies' dress shops, a hat store, a few mens' wear stores (one of them has rental tuxedos in the windows), a couple of insurance agencies, several lunch counters, John's Rexall Drugs, and a hardware store that also sells TVs and appliances. But none of them holds the kids' interest like the store with the green and red striped awnings --- G.C. Murphy Co.
(No one in town calls it that, by the way. They just say "Murphy's." Grandma sometimes calls it the "five-and-ten," because, she says, the store once sold only things that cost five or 10 cents.)
On Wednesday night, the windows under those awnings held boring necessities --- winter coats and scarves, shampoo and soap. But this morning --- as if by magic --- they're full of train sets and dolls, Christmas trees and lights, ornaments and holiday cards, all laid out in white cotton "snow" flecked with silver glitter.
Of course, it wasn't magic. The assistant managers were up most of Wednesday night stripping the windows and bringing out the Christmas merchandise. (One is still picking pieces of white glue and glitter off of his fingertips.)
Inside, the transformation of the store is even more exciting. The "floor girls" (all of the customer service people are women) have changed several counters inside to display "seasonal" merchandise, and one assistant manager who felt ambitious assembled several different bicycles and decorated them with bows and ribbons; they're hanging from the ceiling over the toy department.
The floor girls also brought out gift sets --- matched handkerchiefs, striped "rep" ties, boxes of perfume and cologne --- priced just within reach of a pre-teen's allowance, making them ideal Christmas presents for mom and dad. And the counters that support the old Sweda cash registers near the front door have been wrapped with red and green paper to resemble giant gift boxes.
Even the luncheonette (which takes up most of one wall of Murphy's) looks festive. The waitresses decorated a small artificial tree that sits on top of the Coke fountain dispenser, and twinkle lights are strung in and among the boxes of cereal and cans of soup on the shelf that lines the back wall.
As impressive as this is, it's only a fraction of what the kids are going to see tomorrow afternoon, when they pile into the Pontiac station wagon and head out to the new Murphy's Mart on the highway. The entire Garden Shop has been transformed into a display of Christmas trees and lights (the snow shovels and bags of salt are temporarily confined to one small corner).
And according to the big ad that will be running in tonight's newspaper, Santa is parachuting into the Murphy's Mart parking lot tomorrow afternoon at 1 o'clock!
If any of this sounds familiar to you, you're going to enjoy the new G.C. Murphy Memories Web site, available at murphymemories.com or gcmurphy.org. It's an outgrowth of my ongoing project, with aid, supervision and assistance from several Murphy Company retirees, to write a history of the McKeesport-based retailer, which thrived from 1906 until its takeover in 1985 by Ames.
We're still in the early stages, and much work remains to be done, but some of the stories and memories that have been contributed so far have been wonderful. You can find out how to contribute your own memories of working or shopping at Murphy's by visiting "Murphy Memories." And yes, this is a shameless plug.
(For the record, the "Murphy Memories" Web site is hosted by SkyMagik Internet Services, and is being funded by the non-profit G.C. Murphy Company Foundation, as is the Murphy history book. Opinions expressed at Tube City Online are mine alone, and not those of the Murphy foundation.)
Category: default || By jt3y
Sunday was another road trip day, and again took me through the Hoopie State. This time, I pointed the Mercury west toward Wheeling.
Say what you like about the Mountaineer State, they have a very enlightened attitude toward speed limits. I-70 and I-470 through much of the northern panhandle are 70 miles per hour, which strikes me as a fairly sensible and prudent speed limit on a six-lane interstate with banked curves. The tank of Shell Premium I bought before setting off was well worth the extra money.
My destination was Bellaire, Ohio, right across the Ohio River from Wheeling, where I to interview someone for a freelance project. Bellaire had been a glassmaking town during much of the 20th century, and many people also worked over in Wheeling or in the coal mines back in the hills. There are still some working coal mines, and some steel mills, but otherwise, the valley has been suffering for decades --- not unlike the Mon-Yough area, come to think of it.
(An aside: I am fairly convinced that there isn't a blue state/red state divide as much as there's a town and country divide, or even a new vs. old divide. I saw a lot of Kerry signs still in evidence in Bellaire and Wheeling, and a lot of Bush signs out in the rolling hills west of Bellaire. Ohio and West Virginia, of course, both went for Bush. I suppose if you live out in the country, and there's a new shopping center down at the Interstate, and you don't have to look at abandoned buildings and shuttered factories all day long, the economy looks pretty darn good. I'll bet it doesn't look so good if you live in Bellaire or Wheeling. But I digress.)
Downtown Bellaire is dominated by two bridges --- the big stone bridge that bisects the town and carries the CSX Railroad, and an abandoned toll bridge.
The toll bridge is a truly bizarre site; on the Ohio side, they just chopped it off in mid-air. You're driving along south on Ohio 7, and approaching this very imposing, Victorian-era truss bridge --- one that wouldn't be out of place in Downtown Picksberg --- only to see that it's just dangling in mid-air. At least they left the ramps in place on the West Virginia side.
A question, for anyone who might know the answers: If the bridge is in hazardous condition, shouldn't they tear it down? And if it's safe, why don't they fix it up and open it to traffic? Wheeling's only growth business seems to be tourism, and the Bellaire Bridge is an impressive enough landmark. I'd go out of my way to drive across it.
The big story on front page of the Wheeling News-Register concerned a protest in front of the sheriff's office down in Monroe County. Apparently picketing steelworkers were arrested in front of an aluminum plant in Hannibal, Ohio --- a piece down river from Bellaire:
At the heart of the union workers' complaint Saturday was the fact that a bond hearing was not being made available to the incarcerated workers until Monday.
Ronnie Blatt, chairman of the grievance committee for Local 5724 at Ormet, said the corporation was in the process of bringing in replacement workers or "scabs" when some striking union members were placed under arrest Friday by members of the Monroe County Sheriff's Department with help from other area law enforcement agencies.
Officers maintain they were only following a court order that limits the number of pickets to 10 people at the Ormet plant entrances. Anyone else who did not leave the area was subject to arrest. Sheriff Maniford Keylor could not be reached for comment following Friday's arrest and was not at the sheriff's office on Saturday when the union members staged their protest.
Deputies had no comment on the matter Saturday but said they were looking into the legalities of the protest taking place in front of the sheriff's office.
Category: default || By jt3y
U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum has cleared up another issue that arose after the Penn Hills School District began investigating whether he is a Penn Hills resident.
The municipality yesterday inspected the home he and his wife, Karen, own on Stephens Lane and granted them an occupancy permit. ....
(Code officer Mary Lou) Flinn said the residents are listed as Alyssa DeLuca, Rick Santorum's niece; her husband, Bart, who is not related to Penn Hills Mayor Anthony DeLuca Jr.; and a child. ...
In the county for jury duty yesterday, Santorum, who has six children, said, "We have a nice arrangement there. It works out well. Candidly, we just sort of work it out.
"Sometimes, a couple of my kids stay over there [with the niece and her husband]. We get to stay at grandma's house, and a couple of kids go over and stay with their cousin. To me, that's a family situation.
"I don't know what people's business that is, to be very honest with you. The fact is, I own a home, pay taxes, reside here, go to jury duty. To me, this is much ado about nothing.
"We usually stay at the in-laws. They raised 10 kids there, so they have plenty of room for us. They [niece and her husband] house sit for us; they watch the house."
Category: default || By jt3y
Several people, upon reading my screed yesterday, questioned whether I could take a "flyer" to work from one of the park-and-ride lots. Unfortunately, I live in the Bermuda Triangle of PAT service. The nearest place for me to catch a flyer would be Swissvale, or, barring that, Lincoln Highway. I'm nowhere near either. I could also leave the car at the park-and-ride lot in Duquesne, but that doesn't help much.
Worse yet, I work in Oakland --- which PAT describes as "Pittsburgh's culturally diverse academic and medical core ... offers something for everyone." Yes, everything except an express bus to the Mon-Yough area. Trafford? Yes. Monroeville? Yes. McKeesport? What are you, some kind of a nut? So, I'm stuck taking two buses. But I do appreciate the advice.
What I really need is a 56J, which would pick me up at my house and deposit me at the office. Oh, it might make a few stops on the way --- for doughnuts, for instance --- but it would skirt all of the other stops and cross-traffic. Of course, between maintenance for the bus and paying the driver's wages, the Port Authority would be losing about $500 on each trip, but I'd be glad to help out. I could vacuum out the bus on weekends. And they wouldn't have to give me a new bus; a nice old GM Coach would suit my purposes.
There's more on the potential PAT service cuts that could happen early next year in Pat Cloonan's story in last night's Daily News.
Speaking of which, some how I missed this article by classmate and News desker Brian Krasman in last Wednesday's paper. When I finally saw it, I laughed so hard I thought my pants would never dry:
Leave it to "Pulp Fiction" to offer the ultimate pastry wisdom.
It was Fabienne who, before her boyfriend Butch participated in a bloody massacre, uttered the now immortal line, "Any time is a good time for pie."
She couldn't be more right. When doesn't a nice slice of apple or strawberry or banana cream pie hit the spot? If you disagree, you should be under intense investigation by the federal government because, in case you didn't know, that's an immediate right-to-surveillance violation according to the Patriot Act.
I do not think that municipalities deploy wireless broadband networks as a hobby, a fun thing to do in between council sessions and budget discussions. They do it because there are compelling reasons for it: saving on the city's telecommunications costs, remote utility monitoring, public safety, cheap broadband for low-income families.
Therefore, NOT having a law against municipal deployments does not automatically mean the cities will all rush in to deliver broadband. Placing restrictions on municipal deployments may, however, relieve the pressure on the cable and DSL operators to upgrade their networks, deliver higher bandwidth, lower prices and provide service to low-income neighborhoods. It is this pressure, which a robust, normally functioning "market" should be providing, that the telcos do not want.
I was reading the news headlines during my lunch today when I came across this story on ABC News.com:
Headline: Religious Conservatives Demand Changes at Nation’s Parks -- Debate over ‘Moral Values’ Spills Over Into Nation’s Landmarks. ...
The Constitution sets forth a principle that there should be a separation of church and state. So as long as I am stuck here in Jesusland, at least until my visa application to the U.S. of Canada clears, my advice to you is to butt out of my life. I do not need you to dictate what I should view nor how I should view it. If I don’t want to watch something that I find offensive, guess what? I won’t watch it, I’ll just simply walk away. I won’t be inclined to make my personal concerns a political crusade and take the issues to the highest levels of government for them to cleanse in a proper manner. It’s called taking personal responsibility, look into it.
Category: default || By jt3y
I try to take the bus to and from work as often as possible, because we don't have free parking at our office. As I've mentioned before, I need to take two buses; one out of Picksberg to a point midway between Picksberg and Our Fair City, and then another from the midway point to my home in the Mon-Yough metroplex.
This map, drawn by the Tube City Online Multimedia Dept., will serve to illustrate:
(not to scale)
All together, this trip takes a little more than a hour, including the transfer at the midway point, which is alongside a state highway. The second bus only runs every 40 minutes or so, and if I take the first bus too early, I have a long layover; if I miss my first bus, I get home up to two hours later. It's not a lot of fun, and I question how much money I'm really saving.
A week or so ago, my regular bus driver suggested I try a different combination that, he assured me, would get me home faster.
So the other night, when the first part of the combination that the driver had mentioned came before my regular bus, I decided to try it instead.
I can now say, conclusively, that there are whole areas of the Mon Valley that I've never, ever seen before. At least before that night. Here's how the new route went:
(not to scale)
We passed the same video rental store twice. The third time we approached that same intersection again, I moved toward the front of the bus, having decided that I was going to get off, call a cab, and go home that way. I felt a little like "Charlie on the MTA" in the old song by the Kingston Trio, and I'm not sure, but I think we slipped through a wormhole in space at one point. I also saw Mr. Peabody and Sherman fly past the windows with a WABAC machine.
Just at that moment, the bus veered sharply to the left, and soon I was back on a familiar road that I knew was close to home. Good thing, too, because I can't imagine how much worse turning myself over to the vagaries of Yellow Cab would have been. But I wasn't in my right mind by then. By the time the bus made it to the transfer point, I had a headache from carbon monoxide fumes, a stomachache from the constant twists and turns, and a nervous twitch from watching the guy across the aisle rocking back and forth, talking to himself.
Oh, wait a minute; that was my reflection in the bus window that I was watching.
When I finally got home, I knelt down and kissed the berber in the front hallway, before offering a prayer thanking God for delivering me safely from the clutches of the Port Authority. But by crackey, the doggone thing did get me home about 15 minutes sooner.
Anyway, yesterday morning, I saw my regular bus driver again. "I tried that bus you suggested," I said.
"How was it?"
"Well, I'll admit I got home faster," I said, "but, boy, what a cockeyed tour of Pittsburgh you get. I was in neighborhoods where I didn't even realize there were neighborhoods."
He just smiled. "If you don't mind walking a little bit, you may want to try that flyer up ahead," he said, nodding toward another bus that was taking on passengers a few carlengths ahead of ours. "After work, you walk down to the place where the Gulf station used to be, and it'll take you right up here to the avenue, all on one bus."
When I got to the office, I looked up that flyer. At each end of the bus route, I'd have about a mile-long walk to and from the nearest stop. On the leg near my house, most of that walk would be on a busy state highway.
A friend is convinced that I must be giving the bus a bad name, and that the driver's trying to get rid of me. At first, I thought he was crazy, but he's starting to make some sense.
Either that, or all of the diesel fumes are finally getting to me.
Depending on whether Fast Eddie and his staff are able to funnel some highway-building money to Port Authority and the Commonwealth's other transit agencies, missing my bus connection may be the least of my problems soon, according to Joe Grata in the Post-Gazette.
The state Legislature has refused any sort of additional aid to transit before they adjourn for the year. At least Rendell laid down the law, saying he would veto any attempt by legislators to vote themselves a pay raise, according to Brad Bumsted in the Trib. But they also got into a spitting match over three people who Rendell wanted to appoint to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, and in the end, no one was appointed.
They say people get the kind of government they deserve. What, oh what, did Pennsyltucky ever do to deserve this, oh Lord?
P.S. I stole the bus photo from the Antique Motor Coach Association of Pennsylvania Web site, which is well worth a look. "Pa Pitt" is from one of Cy Hungerford's old cartoons for the P-G, via the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Web site.
Category: default || By jt3y
I've always had a great fondness for "Peanuts" --- the comic strip, not the legumes, though they're pretty good, too. I've only written one fan letter in my life, when I was 8 years old, to Charles Schulz. To my astonishment, he wrote back. It was a form letter, to be sure, but can you imagine what a thrill it was for a third-grader to get an envelope in the mail with a return address of 1 Snoopy Place, Santa Rosa, Calif.? I wish I still had the letter, but I have no idea whatever happened to it.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I was fairly depressed when Schulz died a few years back, ironically just as his last comic strip was hitting the papers. It was like part of my childhood had died, too. A year or so later, I heard his widow, Jeanne Schulz, being interviewed on the radio as I was driving home from work, and I felt myself starting to choke up again. Goofy? Maybe. But that's the kind of impact Schulz's work had on me.
Still, the syndicate that distributes "Peanuts" announced plans to put his "classic" comic strips into distribution, I was skeptical. There are enough comic strips in the newspaper that have outlived their creators, and frankly, their usefulness. With real estate on the comics pages being scarce enough as it is, why waste the space with reruns? (Or "Reruns," as the case may be.)
I'm not skeptical any more. Reading "Classic Peanuts" for the past few years has been like watching a favorite movie over again, or hearing a certain song on the radio. I first saw all of these early '70s strips in paperback books when I was learning to read; I didn't appreciate many of the punchlines, but I liked the funny pictures. Seeing the same strips now, and being able to appreciate the humor, is a very sweet feeling.
Why the affection for "Peanuts"? Heck, Schulz's doodles have been dissected, analyzed, re-analyzed and studied for more than 50 years, by cultural critics, clerics, countless professors, and other people much smarter than I, so I'm not about to rehash their conclusions. (Go read one of Rabbi Twerski's books, or Robert Short's famous "The Gospel According to Peanuts," instead.)
Suffice it to say that I relate to "Peanuts," and mainly to Charlie Brown, because I'm constantly having Charlie Brown moments. Yesterday in church, at a fairly sparsely attended service, the collection plate was making its rounds. The usher handed the plate to the woman at the end of the pew; instead of passing it to me, she handed it back to the usher, who handed it to me ...
... but I was reaching to her, and missed the plate, sending it crashing to the floor behind me. The usher and a woman sitting behind me were left scrabbling on the floor to pick up the money and collection envelopes (thank God there was no loose change) while I was left to watch them, helplessly. Worse yet, I was sitting near the front of the church, so everyone behind us had a great view of the action.
If that's not a Charlie Brown moment, I don't know what is. What else can you say in that case but "good grief"?
In the news, and on a somber note: Tragedy marred the inaugural game of McKeesport's entry into the new American Basketball Association. With about eight minutes left to go at the Wunderley Gymnasium Friday night, and the Pennsylvania Pit Bulls up by 18 points, Head Coach Tom Washington collapsed on the court. He was pronounced dead a short time later at UPMC McKeesport hospital. Greg Kristen had the story in Saturday morning's Daily News. According to a follow-up in the Post-Gazette, an autopsy determined that Washington was suffering from heart disease.
The Pit Bulls stopped the Friday game and cancelled another matchup set for Saturday because of Washington's passing.
Nicknamed "Trooper," Washington was a graduate of Cheyney University and played in the original ABA with the Pittsburgh Pipers from 1967 to 1970, according to an ABA press kit. He leaves behind a wife and one daughter. Funeral arrangements are incomplete, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.
The Pit Bulls play their next two games at home on Thanksgiving weekend versus the Philadelphia Fusion. Details at ABAlive.com.
Update: I don't know if we have any regular readers in Caketown, but there apparently have been some hinky dealings on the Mt. Lebanon School Board, and Professor Pittsblog is covering them like the dew. The school directors bought out the contract of the superintendent at a price of about a half-million dollars, with little or no discussion in public, and now the parents are steamed up. Good for them.
It's worth noting for readers in Our Fair City and the Mon-Yough metroplex that we had a similar situation not long ago, when the school board in South Allegheny bought out the contract of its superintendent for more than $325,000. The former SA superintendent has since turned around and applied for the same job in the McKeesport Area School District.
(Disclaimer: I'm treading on treacherous ice here, because I know many, many people in both school districts, including at least one school director; and a family member is a public schoolteacher. Let me just emphasize that any opinions are mine, and mine alone, and reflect only what I've read in the public prints, and should not be construed to represent anyone else's opinions.)
Considering that they're the taxing bodies responsible for the lion's share of local taxes that Pennsylvanians pay, school boards operate with a shocking lack of transparency, and most people pay little or no attention to what they do.
Issues like the firing of a school superintendent are handled behind closed doors; snooping reporters and prying citizens who question decisions are brushed off with the comment that it was a "personnel matter" --- a catch-all term that covers any issue that elected officials in Pennsylvania don't want to discuss.
More on that in a day or two, when I gather my thoughts; I just thought it was important to tip the Tube City Online hat to Pittsblog while the issues over there were still fresh.
Category: default || By jt3y
Now, live from Bettis Hill in Dravosburg, it's the Tube City Almanac Information Booth ... where the "I-Team" is always on the go, taking action, for you! (Cue your thumping TV news music here.)
Yesterday, Ed from Washington, Pa., asked about a 1960s Mon Valley garage band called "The Oncomers." We sent out feelers to our vast (half-vast?) network of correspondents, and high school classmate Bill Scully, drummer for The Hi-Frequencies, and son of the drummer for The Arondies, responded:
I know the drummer. Jack O'Neill ... he still lives in McKeesport. I'm supposed to contact him again because Get Hip Records wants to release an Oncomers album. The Oncomers & Arondies were close friends ... the Oncomers were their "big brother" band when they were just getting started.
They only released one record, I think ("Every Day Now" b/w "You Let Me Down"), but they recorded about 10 or 11 songs total.
I have just about everything that they did on a cassette tape (a copy of a copy of a copy of a scratchy acetate). I'm a big fan of their work...you can hear similarities between them & The Arondies, though The Arondies were a better band in my opinion. But then I'm a bit biased.
The Arondies played the Cove regularly (every Friday night, I think). I have always hoped that someone taped The Arondies in performance, or possibly filmed them via Super 8, but I haven't found anything yet. News like this keeps me hopeful, though.
When I got out of the U.S. Navy in late 1960, the first thing I bought was a Sony reel-to-reel stereo tape recorder and a cheap Radio Shack electric guitar. The "Twist" was breathing new life into a lot of the old beer joints along Rt. 51, and I was hitting them all, listening to a lot of different bands, drinking beer, and chasing women. "The Cove" in Large became my favorite, and a lot of bands/groups came and went during that time. The Oncomers were head and shoulders above anyone else that ever played there. My love for Chuck Berry style guitar may have clouded my judgement, but I truly loved to listen to them play. I never was a groupie, as such, in that I never knew (or cared) what any of their names were. I loved the music though, and they all knew it. One of the greatest moments in my young life was when the guitar player allowed me to pick up his guitar and play a few chords during break.
One day I asked them if it would be OK if I recorded them while they were playing, and they agreed that it would be fun. The next Friday night I set up right on stage with them. I vividly recall hooking one channel of the recorder directly into the output of the guitarist's amp., without even a mike on that channel. The other channel I hooked to two mikes (with a mixer) for the drummer and bass, which also picked up some of the guitar. That setup was a long way from being "studio quality," but I ended up with what could be the most perfect reproduction of his guitar playing that could possibly be made. The quality of the reproduced sound is just like it was made yesterday, although my mixing ability left a little to be desired.
The tape has a lot of interesting (to me) stuff on it, such as when the guitarist broke a string right after starting, and they had to play an extreme drum and base "Topsy" until he got re-strung. They also do what they refer to as their "Dusty Disk" on the tape, "You Let me Down." There is a rendition of their version of "Bullfight," and "Johnny B. Goode" that still stands my hair on end, along with about 20 or so others.
I used to often listen to the tape, but as time went on I gradually lost interest and put it away where it has been for the last 35 years or so. My 6-year-old grandson is showing great interest in playing guitar, and has already played for his fellow schoolers in the auditorium. His favorite saying is "I want to rock the house." I dug out this tape to show him what really good R&R sounds like, and while I was listening, it ocurred to me that maybe The Oncomers may never have had a chance to save any of their own music, and maybe they might want some of this so they can pass it on to their own grandkids.
Category: default || By jt3y
Shoot! How did I forget about this?
For the first time, the artistic process of one of the world's foremost artists, McKeesport native Duane Michals, is captured on film. Michals is known for his narrative, sequential photography as well as his commercial work, including the cover art for The Police's Synchronicity album, Life magazine covers, and fashion spreads for Vogue magazine. Mostly self-taught, he’s revered throughout the world of art photography. For this documentary Michals was asked to talk about his memories, his history, his work, his life and philosophy. He enthusiastically agreed. The first interview was recorded in May 2003 and the focus soon centered on a new book, The House I Once Called Home, a work that Michals calls a photographic memoir. The film highlights yet another of the dynamic, creative, and successful talents who was born and nurtured in the Pittsburgh region. (Directed by Stephen Seliy and Joe Seamans; USA; 2004; 64min)
Regent Sq Theater: Thu, Nov 18 - 7:00 (special event ticket required); Thu, Nov 18 - 9:15. Joe Seamans and Duane Michals are scheduled to appear. Michals' photographs and calligraphy are on exhibit from October 29 through December 17 at Melwood Galleries.
Category: default || By jt3y
The Tube City Almanac Information Booth is open for business once again. Ed in Washington, Pa., writes:
Don't ask me what I was looking for when I found your website, but I stumbled on the info about old nightclubs and bands, and I thought I'd take a shot.
Twenty-five minutes ago I was listening to an old four-track stereo reel-to-reel tape recording that I made live at The Cove nightclub on Route 51 in Large, Pa., in 1961 or '62. The tape was of the "Oncomers", that I'm pretty sure were making the circuit around the Mon Valley (including McKeesport) at that time.
You mentioned this band on your site, and if you have any clue as to how I might reach any surviving member, (I'm sure that lifestyle takes it's toll) I'd greatly appreciate it. I thought that their guitarist was one of the best I ever heard, and listening to this old tape as brought me hours of enjoyment.
My only reason for trying to find one of them is so I might give them back some of this music so they can show their grandchildren, if they want to.
If you can't help, don't bother responding to this. I'm sure you are busy enough with things that matter to someone.
A little Mon Valley anecdote for you, or something like that. I was listening to the Steelers game on the radio, and in the fourth quarter, safety Russell Stuvaints returned a fumble for a touchdown. Bill Hillgrove said "He's running straight up Lysle Boulevard" and I was thinking "Hmm ... why the McKeesport reference, or is there another Lysle Boulevard." Well, it turns out Stuvaints is from McKeesport.
Category: default || By jt3y
News and notes you may have missed:
College senior and White Oak native Adam Striegel has secured a piece of immortality. A previously-unknown species of amphibian is going to be named for him.
While on a field trip in the west hills with a geology professor, Striegel spotted an interesting fossil and showed it to the instructor. The rock, which was examined by experts at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, was identified as the skull of a salamander-like animal that probably lived about 300 million years ago.
More in Bill Zlatos' story in the Tribune-Review and in this press release from Pitt. (Standard disclaimer: I do not speak for Pitt, and Pitt does not speak for me.)
Mark Stroup passes along links to pictures of signs that were photographed during a summer walking tour of Braddock, along with news (via Ann Belser in the Post-Gazette) that a group of buildings dating back to the 19th century are about to be demolished.
PBS's always-excellent "Frontline" last night revealed that the star in the Wal-Mart logo is apparently a red one, signifying the retailer's increasing reliance on Chinese-made goods, produced by subsidized labor below the world market price. Jon Lehman was a Wal-Mart manager for 17 years; he now works for a union trying to organize Wal-Mart stores:
(Question:) So who's driving the process? ... What does it look like to you? You've been inside Wal-Mart. You've seen it. You've talked to Wal-Mart buyers; you've seen suppliers; you've heard the story. ... You just said these companies are having trouble bargaining... I mean, it's pretty hard to escape the conclusion, isn't it, that Wal-Mart is a factor pushing the jobs to China?
(Answer:) Absolutely. The company's completed (sic) shifted its focus again from the founding principles of Sam Walton, who, by the way, used to really enjoy and take a lot of pride in what's called the "Buy America" program, "Made in America," "Bring it home to the USA." He was all about going to factories in America that were closing, like a flannel-shirt factory. I remember one example of that. They couldn't make flannel shirts in America as cheap[ly] as they could in China, so the factory closed. Three hundred-something jobs went down.
Well, Sam went to that owner of that manufacturer and said: "Look, if you'll make flannel shirts just for Wal-Mart exclusively for the next three years, I'll retool your plant. I'll give you a loan ... get your business up and going, and you just sell them to us." And that's what he was all about.
I recently heard a speech by Lee Scott, the CEO, and in his speech, what was disturbing to me is he said -- somebody questioned him about China: "Why are you doing so much business in China?" And he just kind of resigned himself to it and said: "Well, it's just the way it's got to be. This is a global economy now. We've got to do business with China. We have no other choice."
What happened to Sam Walton's founding principles? What happened to "Buy America," "Bring it home to the USA," good, American, union jobs? What happened to that?
(Question:) Was there something fishy in the competition you saw from China?
(Answer:) This business is a very low-margin business to start with, and we know that. But when we started looking at the competition, and we compared feature levels and screen size, and we know what labor costs are, we know what material costs are, we know all the different shipping costs, we know what that is. So when you started adding all those things together and you said, "OK, Chinese have lower labor; we'll discount it for that labor, but we're going to add shipping costs," and you take all the other costs and add them together, you know there was no way that they could be meeting those price points on a fair playing field.
And I can't explain what was going on, because I don't know what goes on inside of China, but I did know that when you take a tube cost, what it costs to make a cabinet, what it costs for electronics, and you put it all together, you can't sell it for less than you make, and that's what it looked like to us. So that got our attention.
So we got together ... with a law firm and said, "This doesn't look right," and they looked at it, and of course Georgetown Economic Services got involved and looked at it and came back and said: "No, we believe this is a reasonable case. We think that there in fact is dumping going on." ... [...]
(Question:) And where was Wal-Mart in your case? What side did Wal-Mart come down on?
(Answer:) Wal-Mart chose the side of the Chinese. And basically Wal-Mart spent a lot of time and effort at the International Trade Commission hearings testifying against us and our case.
So they're testifying against you. I thought Wal-Mart was a "Buy America" company.
Well, I think that's the old Wal-Mart that we used to know when Sam Walton was alive. I don't think today if you walk in to Wal-Mart and you probably did a count, you wouldn't find a lot of American products in Wal-Mart. I think they've changed that direction over the years.
Category: default || By jt3y
Produce manager Joe Blimfark went into the store manager's office at the West Elizabeth Pic'n Shop this morning.
"What is it, Blimfark?" asked Mr. Goldshmitz.
"Well, boss, I just wanted you to be the first to know the good news," Blimfark said. "The staff took a vote last night, and we all agreed that we deserve a raise."
"Jeez, I'm sorry, Blimfark," Goldshmitz said, sticking a pinkie finger into his right ear and wiggling it vigorously. "This damned hearing aid must be on the blink again. I could have sworn that you said that yinz voted last night to give yourselves raises."
"No, that's right, boss," Blimfark said. "The vote went 51 percent to 48 percent. I'd say that's a mandate."
"51 and 48 don't add up to 100 percent," Goldshmitz said. "What happened to the other 1 percent?"
"We couldn't read the ballot that Julie from the bakery department sent in," Blimfark said. "It was covered in icing. Anyway, we've earned some political capital, and we intend to spend it."
Goldshmitz took his reading glasses off and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "And what gave you this half-witted idea?"
"Well, we read in the paper last night ..."
"Who gave you permission to read the paper?" Goldshmitz said, interrupting him. "I'm not paying you to read the paper."
"On our 15-minute break, boss," Blimfark said.
"Fine, but I hope you paid for that paper," Goldshmitz said. "Go on."
"We read that the state legislature is thinking about giving itself a $12,000 pay raise, and we figured, heck, we're worth another $12,000."
"How so?" asked Goldshmitz. "Isn't it enough that I pay you $5.15 an hour, plus all the dented and bulging cans you can carry home?"
"Believe me, boss, we appreciate it," said Blimfark, "even if my little girl did come down with food poisoning from that cherry pie filling. But if the state legislature can vote itself a raise, then we decided we can, too.
"And that's not all," he said.
"What else?" said Goldshmitz, with a sigh.
"We read where the state legislators each get $126 in expense money for every day they spend at work," Blimfark said. "Now, it's probably more expensive to eat in Harrisburg than it is in West Elizabeth, so we figure that we can cut you a break there. How's $100 a day sound?"
"That will buy a lot of hot dogs at the 7-Eleven," Goldshmitz said.
"Also, state legislators each get a free car. Since we can't afford a car on our pay --- and believe me, we're not complaining, boss --- most of us have to take the bus or walk. Now, we're not asking you to buy a car for each of us. If you just want to rent them, that's fine, too. And we don't need Lincoln Town Cars or SUVs like the state legislators get. A nice Chevy will be fine for each of us."
"Gee, that's fair," Goldshmitz said. "Anything else?"
"Well, there's one last thing," Blimfark said. "The Pennsylvania General Assembly takes the entire month of December off. Now, we know how important Christmas is at a grocery store, so we'd like to take a slower month off, instead. Maybe August."
"I really appreciate your consideration," Goldshmitz said.
"So, are you going to grant our requests?" Blimfark said.
"No, but I'll tell you what I will do," Goldshmitz said. "I'll give you until the count of five to get out of my office before I throw you out of that window and into the lottery counter."
"But we took a fair, open vote, just like the legislature is going to do!" Blimfark said, stamping his foot down.
"There's a big difference between you schlubs and the state legislature," Goldshmitz roared. "They spend the tax money, and you jerks just earn it!"
Goldshmitz stood up and rolled back his sleeves, counting: "Five ... four ... three ... " Blimfark quickly made his retreat back onto the sales floor.
Sharon, the lottery clerk, was waiting for him. "Well? How'd it go?"
"We scored a few important victories," Blimfark said, "but in the end, the decision turned on moral issues."
Category: default || By jt3y
Hit 'n run thoughts, and things I learned from the Internet while I was looking for other things:
Bentleyville's Maple Creek Mining, which announced last week that was laying off several hundred people in response to a state Department of Environmental Protection order, has a Website. And a pretty good one, too, though the press releases don't seem to be particularly up to date.
All of the Sears, Roebuck & Co. nostalgia you can stand and more is available at the Sears Archives. For instance, did you realize that Arthur Crudup and Muddy Waters got their start playing Sears Silvertone guitars? (We had a Sears Silvertone TV when I was growing up, and I still have a Silvertone tape recorder.)
Or, did you realize that creepy actor Vincent Price once marketed his own collection of fine art through Sears stores? He didn't sell wax mannequins, unfortunately, but the portraits of Dorian Gray were very popular.
Appropos of nothing: How does a terrible show like "Crossing Jordan" keep getting back on the air? I mean, I think Jill Hennessy is as cute as a bug, but this has got to be one of the most contrived, over-the-top dramas ever to air on network television --- outside of daytime soap operas, of course. And I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks so.
I wish Alan Dershowitz would tell everyone what he really thinks:
The world made a terrible mistake by not treating Arafat as a criminal. He should have been indicted for ordering the murder of American diplomats, Israeli athletes, and international travelers instead of being praised for his "courage." It takes no courage to kill the helpless and much courage to risk one's own life in pursuit of peace. It was such courage that Arafat lacked.
The Nobel Peace Prize was cheapened by being awarded to this hater of peace. The Vatican was tarnished by its frequent welcoming of a man who violated every teaching of the Church. The United Nations was trivialized by its lionization of this coward. And terrorism was encouraged by the rewards Arafat received for his murders.
CMU, which didn't have a starter taller than 6-foot-6, held a 45-43 halftime lead, led 53-46 early in the second half and trailed by only five points until Pitt's late surge.
Category: default || By jt3y
In high school, one of the guys in our clique --- which was too dorky for the nerds and too nerdy for the dorks --- began to noticeably lose his hair during sophomore year. Needless to say, demonstrating the sensitivity, wit and grace that are hallmarks of teen-age boys, we behaved with dignity and class.
No, of course not. We teased him unmercifully. He would wear hats to cover up the hair loss; we'd sneak up behind him and steal them. And then we'd complain about the glare off of his scalp.
Karma, as they say, is a (witch), and God is getting even with us. Two of us are sporting large foreheads these days, and I've noticed that a third member of our group is developing just the slightest bald spot.
I have vowed not to resort to a Rudy Giuliani/Donald Trump style combover, and so far, I'm sticking to that. Instead, I've been having the barber cut the rest of my hair really, really short, perhaps in the hope that people will think that I'm some how having it "styled" that way. What sort of hairstyle calls for the front part to be plucked out, anyway?
OK, so, I'm grasping at straws --- or is that hairs? At least it looks even.
The problem is that I rarely have time to go to the barber shop, and when I do have time, I don't have the money, so for several weeks a month, my hair ends up looking something like Dagwood Bumstead's --- bizarrely thin on top and splaying out at wild angles on the sides. (Ah, but if only I was married to Blondie Boopadoop!)
My barber recently raised his price from $11 to $13, which doesn't seem fair. That works out to about 25 cents a hair for me, after all, and it only takes him half as long to cut my hair as it does other customers. If anything, I should be getting a 50 percent discount!
I made that argument, by the way, and he doesn't agree. I didn't press the point, because I try never to argue with a man who's holding a straight razor.
I had a meeting earlier this week, and my hair was looking typically awful, especially around my ears and at the back of my neck. To clean it up a little, I tried trimming the shaggy parts on the side, and shaving my neck. From the front, it didn't look too bad --- or so I thought --- but that night I stopped at the barber shop, and my barber blanched when I sat down in his chair.
"Um ... did someone try to ... um ... trim your hair?" he said, cautiously, as he fastened the smock over my shoulders.
I chuckled. "Well, I had a meeting today, and I just tried to touch it up with a razor," I said. "Why, is it crooked?"
He didn't chuckle. Indeed, I've never heard him so serious. "Um ... well ... it's pretty obvious," he said. "It's going to take me a while to fix this." Keep in mind I'd been walking around all day, apparently, with giant jagged checkmarks carved into the back of my head.
And then he got to the sides.
"Whoa," he said. "I'm going to have to clean your sideburns up, too. Do you know there's a big chunk taken out of them?"
He fixed the damage. I no longer look as if I shave on a ferry crossing Lake Erie in a heavy storm while I'm drunk, so in retrospect, he deserves the extra two bucks for trying to polish a lump of coal into a diamond.
I will say this much. In high school, I used to say I'd rather have gray hair than go bald, because at least with gray hair, you look distinguished. When I got home and inspected the haircut closely, I noticed that I've finally got my wish.
Sure enough, there they were ... gray hairs.
I can't wait for the rest of my hair to turn gray. Then, instead of a dork with big chunks carved out of the back of his bald head, I'll look like a distinguished dork with big chunks carved out of the back of his bald head.
Deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Post-Gazette critic Ron Weiskind, who died Thursday at age 54. I knew him only from his byline, but very much enjoyed his work. Requiescat in pace.
Tip of the Tube City hard hat to the Tribune-Review's editorial cartoonist, Randy Bish, whose take on Yasser Arafat's death pulls absolutely no punches, and made me laugh out loud to boot. When Randy scores, he scores big.
Tip also to James Lileks, who goes much farther than I would have --- though I can't say I disagree with him:
Our paper had this headline: "Enduring Symbol of Palestine Dies." Personally, I'm old school. I'd go with something, oh, factual, like "ARAFAT DEAD." Hard to argue. Hard to find bias. I don't know what would be satisfying, really. "Goaty Old Fiend Expires, Loses Power, Fortune, Bowel Control; Fills Room with Odor of Offal and Urine" would put people off their breakfast, I suppose. I am content to know he is not in Hell. Nope. Arafat did not go to Hell. He boards the ferry, yes; he makes it halfway across the River Styx, yes. Then the ferry blows up. Ten times a day for eternity. For a start.
The Mon Yough Trail ... has been strangely absent from Tube City postings, which is unfortunate. Our Fair City is increasingly becoming a stopping or starting point for people to access the trail. More important, the Pittsburgh-McKeesport link is one of only two unfinished sections of the trail, which sees something like 400,000 visitors every year, each of whom spend between $5 and $15.
And these visitors aren't your typical tree huggers. Parents, kids, retired people all use the trail, too. Check the Boston access parking lot any weekend. Better yet, try finding a parking space there after 10 a.m.
The widflowers, river, rock outcroppings, and history make the Yough Trail a spectacular getaway. Truly, it's a Western Pennsylvania jewel.
Meet the regulars. There's Hammer Chuck who often bikes a 100-mile length of the trail on a banana-yellow Tour Easy, the Cadillac of bicycles. Try keeping up with him. He'll leave you in the dust every time. And the kicker is that depending on who you ask, Chuck is between 70 and 80 years old. He could easily pass for 50. In fact, look closely at any of the older bikers. Every one looks at least 10 years younger than their age.
While bikers discover the beauty of the trail, Our Fair City is barely aware of the treasure nearby, barely aware of the thousands of visitors passing through on their way to the trail.
Hmmm. I wonder how popular the Pittsburgh-McKeesport link will be once it's finished. I wonder how many bikers will make the trip from Pittsburgh, eat lunch in Our Fair City, maybe buy some other stuff before returning to Pittsburgh. I know I can't wait to try it. And I know that's happening at many of the trail access points where businesses has sprouted up. In Fayette County, a developer is marketing a new subdivision of homes based on its proximity to the trail. Say, is there a message here?
Category: default || By jt3y
Protesters marched on Harrisburg yesterday to demand "predictable, reliable and dedicated" funding for public transit, according to the Post-Gazette's Tom Barnes. State Senators Sean Logan and Jay Costa, who represent the East Hills and Mon Valley, also attended.
Barnes writes that the state Legislature "can't agree on how to supply more money." For the moment, let's leave aside the idea, advanced by many, many people, that PAT spending is wasteful, and that the transit authority spends money on many projects because they're politically useful, not because they actually move people around. (And I'm looking at you, light-rail system and "par three miniature subway.") Let's assume, therefore, that the real problem really is that the state doesn't give public transit enough money, which has not been proven (at least not to my satisfaction).
I can't help but think that one of the reasons that the Legislature can't come up with a funding plan is that most of the state doesn't use public transit. If you're a legislator from Potter County, what do you care if people from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia can't ride the bus? Let 'em walk!
And frankly, the fact that the transit authorities are heavily dependent on unionized workers doesn't help their causes with the more conservative members of the General Assembly, who frankly think Henry Clay Frick was too soft when dealing with strikers.
Thus the town and country internicine warfare that characterizes all state government issues in the Commonwealth continues unabated. Is it any wonder that while other states are experiencing population explosions, Pennsylvania sits and spins its wheels? (But possibly not its bus wheels for much longer.)
A spokeswoman for the Governor, by the way, says that he's "committed to finding a permanent funding stream that's dedicated solely to mass transit."
Five bucks says it involves putting video poker and slot machines on the buses.
Bob Grom, who heads up the Heritage Health Foundation in Braddock, had an interesting op-ed in Wednesday's P-G on the topic:
I think it's about time for us to get a handle on the broader implications of this issue and quickly find a way to deal with it, for now and with an eye to the longer term. I believe that we're missing the bus in this situation, particularly as it relates to the more severe consequences of continued inadequate public transit funding on our region's economic infrastructure.
Put simply, our ability to sustain or improve public transportation affects all of us -- whether or not we actually ever board a public transit vehicle. Access to convenient and reliable public transportation is essential for the region's economic health and prosperity for many reasons, some of which aren't typically considered. ...
Bottom line: As citizens of Allegheny County, we should be greatly concerned about continued talk -- without action -- on these critical public transportation issues. If the talkathon continues, it will impair the ability of thousands of people to obtain or maintain employment, consume goods and services and otherwise live productive lives.
These elements -- along with its music, its movies and several other ingredients -- endow Texas with a swagger, a halo of self-congratulatory pomposity unmatched by any other state. In 2003, the Texas Legislature passed a law requiring schoolchildren to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning -- to the Texas flag. Texans have internalized this maniacal self-obsession with their state. It's a concept best summarized by singer-songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard (a native of Oklahoma), who, in 2003, released the instantaneous classic "Screw You, We're From Texas."
Category: default || By jt3y
What is it about college students, that they feel the need to step off of curbs in front of my vehicle and cross against the light? Do I look like the sort of fellow who's inclined to swerve? Do the vehicles that I drive look like they respond well to evasive maneuvers? Well, they don't.
I need to mount a cowcatcher on the front of the bleeding car. Or else some giant "Nerf" bumpers.
Also, what it is about microwave popcorn that there's no threshold between "popped to perfection" and "burnt to a crisp"? All I wanted Tuesday night was a tasty snack. The directions say to put the popcorn in for two to three minutes, and when the popping slows down, take it out of the microwave.
I followed the directions to the letter and got butter-flavored charcoal briquettes.
And the smoke! I fried up hamburgers and potatoes the other day, and didn't smoke up the kitchen nearly as bad as one bag of microwave popcorn. Plus, the stink clings to everything. I finally took the still-smoldering popcorn outside and doused it with water before dumping it into a garbage can.
OK, so if those are the worst things that happen to me, I suppose I'm in pretty good shape.
Things could have been much, much worse, after all. I could have been these guys:
Toxic fumes inside a septic tank of a Lapu-Lapu City resort overwhelmed and killed two people who were cleaning the tank Saturday afternoon. ... (Senior Police Officer Rolito) Jumao-as said the wastewater inside the tank was already knee-deep when the nozzle of their draining hose got blocked.
Category: default || By jt3y
If you're like me, you believe that charity begins at home. So when my employer offered a chance for us to contribute to the United Way of Allegheny County via payroll deduction, my first thought was: How can I turn myself into an agency that gets United Way funds?
My second thought, after receiving a very nasty letter from the district attorney's office, was: What agencies in the Mon-Yough area get United Way funds, and how can I contribute to them directly?
Very easily, as it turns out. At the bottom of your United Way contribution form, simply write in the name of the agency that you want your donation to benefit, along with their ID number.
It took me a little bit of time to track down the agencies in Our Fair City and surrounding areas that receive United Way grants. To save you the hassle, I thought I'd pass along the research. You can search for other agencies at the United Way of Allegheny County Web site.
(Note: Tube City Online and the Tube City Almanac are not in any way endorsing or encouraging you to contribute to any of these agencies, and this list is for informational purposes only. I present the list strictly in alphabetical order. The information is subject to change without notice and is offered without any warranty as to its accuracy, though I have made every attempt to be accurate.)
City of McKeesport ("Our Fair City")
American Cancer Society, Mon-Yough Division: 1311
Boys & Girls Club of McKeesport: 7051
Circle C Foster Home: 7250
Family Support Center: 880712
Long Run Children's Learning Center*: 406
Lutheran Service Society (Meals on Wheels): 3040
McKeesport Hospital Foundation: 888454
McKeesport Collaborative: 9514
Mon Valley Education Consortium: 2910
Mon Yough Adult Retarded Center: 1490
Mon Yough Community Services: 343
Mon Yough Community Services, Bridge: 4650
Mon Yough Community Services, CRR Full Care/Minimal Care: 7152
Mon Yough Community Services, D&A Corrections: 1921
Mon Yough Community Services, Day Treatment: 3077
Mon Yough Community Services, MH/MR: 2539
Mon Yough Community Services, Substance Abuse Center: 251
Mon Yough Community Services, Women & Family Center: 3582
Mon Yough Human Services, 3805
Salvation Army, McKeesport: 4875
UPMC McKeesport hospital: 360
UPMC McKeesport Diabetes Center: 9354
UPMC McKeesport Oncology Center: 4905
UPMC McKeesport Pediatrics Unit: 4904
YMCA of McKeesport: 112
YMCA Camp T. Frank Soles: 7263
YWCA of McKeesport: 115
(* --- formerly McKeesport Pre-School for Exceptional Children)
To see a list of United Way participating agencies located in the Mon-Yough area outside of Our Fair City, click on the link below.
Category: default || By jt3y
On Sunday, I pointed the big Mercury southbound and headed for the Big Mo, Mo-Town, Touchdown City, the Capital of Hoopieland, the ... um ...
Right. Let's start over. On Sunday, I pointed the big Mercury southbound and headed for Morgantown, W.Va., where I was due to meet with someone for a project I've been working on.
It was my first time driving on the new stretch of the Mon-Fayette Expressway between Route 51 and Interstate 70, and what a day for driving it was. There are few things more pleasant than blasting along at 70 miles an hour in a big V-8 powered 'murrcan car with the stereo wailing on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the fall. Not even the congested stretch of 70 between Bentleyville and Little Worshington could spoil my mood.
In retrospect, maybe I should have slowed down a little. From Large to Mt. Morris, where I jumped off of I-79 and onto U.S. 19 south, I must have seen a dozen exploded deer carcasses on the berm of the road. (My buddy Dan calls those "transporter accidents," and if I have to explain it, you haven't watched enough Star Trek.)
There's a simple explanation for all of the deer guts, of course. According to the Morgantown Dominion Post, it's that time of year when love is in the air, and a young buck's fancy turns to thoughts of rut:
The importance of the rut on deer activity is hard to overstate. The older bucks that are almost exclusively nocturnal are suddenly sighted out and about in the middle of the day, making them susceptible to hunting. Many hunters save their vacation days for this prime November period and try to stay in their stands from daylight until dark.
This is also a period when deer are on the move constantly and many are killed on highways. It pays to be particularly on guard when traveling in areas with high deer populations -- which, it seems, is just about everywhere these days.
"There are now two lawsuits pending, there are investigators in town," Mayor James Brewster told McKeesport City Council this week about the sale and resale of the Peoples Building to West Coast interests. And there's more, literally from coast to coast, in the wake of the transactions 18 months ago that put $600,000 in local hands --- and led, among other things, to a defaulted $2.5 million mortgage. ...
When the sales were consummated, Geneva Equities told state Department of Revenue Strong acted as its agent - so the city of McKeesport was not entitled to a 1.5 percent transfer tax that would have brought in $30,000. City Solicitor J. Jason Elash said he's been talking to state revenue officials now investigating the various deals.
Although he drives the engine to school on Mondays, he doesn't try to parallel park. He generally parks it in a school-owned lot or along West Street. Most of the time he has his vehicle in a storage garage in Carlisle.
His classmates' reaction to his choice of vehicle is "mixed," Tadich says with a smile. Students recognize him as he's driving to class or taking friends on rides around town. He says the most common reaction is "disbelief." But that's a typical reaction for other people as well.
Category: default || By jt3y
On Thursday, the Almanac incorrectly reported that the minor-league pro basketball Pit Bulls would be moving to Our Fair City. Due to a typographical error (Ed. Note: No, actually due to our own incompetence), we spelled the team's name incorrectly and gave the wrong location for their games.
The Pennsylvania Pit Bulls will be playing their home games at Penn State McKeesport Campus' Wunderley Gymnasium.
(What did we get correct? We spelled "McKeesport" accurately.)
Joe Starkey reports in the Trib that former Pitt Panthers stars Julius Page and Jaron Brown are expected to play. The Pit Bulls will be part of the reborn American Basketball Association. The general manager of the franchise is Freddie Lewis, a native of Our Fair City who played in the original ABA for the Indiana Pacers, Memphis Sounds and St. Louis Spirits.
The first tryout camp for the Pit Bulls is being held this weekend at PSM. For more information, visit abalive.com.
The Almanac regrets the errors, and those responsible have been sacked.
Category: default || By jt3y
In world news, there are unconfirmed reports from France that Yasser Arafat is brain dead. No offense, but how does this surprise people? It's been fairly obvious for a long time.
Tom Lehrer said once that "satire died" when Henry Kissinger was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize; for me, it died when Arafat got one. I don't wish ill on anyone, but it will be hard for many people to shed tears when Arafat passes onto his final reward.
In other news, a National Guard F-16 fighter pilot on a nighttime training mission strafed a New Jersey elementary school last night.
Geez, I suspected that the Bush administration would want retribution on the states that went for Yawn Kerry, but I didn't think it would happen so quickly!
Bo Grace's comic strip "Piranha Club" (formerly "Ernie"), which runs locally in both the Trib and the P-G, hits about as often as it misses. But I thought last week's sequence, exploring a Ralph Nader presidency, was a hoot.
Judge for yourself. Start with last Monday and work your way forward to Saturday: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday
Our Steel Valley correspondent, Dan Speed, passes along this link to the video clip portion of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Web site. Have any questions that routine police work is dangerous? This should settle those doubts.
And if you like those car crashes, you might also like these little movies from "Something Awful." (Warning: The language is not family-friendly.) "Letter from the Internet, Vol. 1," is my favorite, by far. (You need a Macromedia Flash player to view those movies.)
I share James Lileks' reservations about "trick-or-treat":
Let's review the situation, children. You are masked. You are engaged in an extortionate activity, threatening tricks unless I give you candy; I comply with your demands. Your next move:
A. Say "thank you, sir" and walk away with grace and cheerful confidence. Or ... B. Lope away like some slope-shouldered goblin who probably thinks "manners" is a slang term for a part of the body. Dude hit me right in the manners.
Experience has taught me that the answer is usually B. And you say hey, Mr. Wilson, do you want kids to show up like Dickensian orphans, lined up, bags out, desperately putting on a false show of cheer and gratitude? Well, yes. Please sir, may we have some more? No! Who do you think I am, Father Hershey? Now begone.
Category: default || By jt3y
Unofficial but complete election returns for Mon-Yough area communities:
Allegheny County: Braddock | Braddock Hills | Chalfant | Churchill | Clairton | Dravosburg | Duquesne | East McKeesport | East Pittsburgh | Edgewood | Elizabeth Borough | Elizabeth Township | Forest Hills | Forward Township | Glassport | Homestead | Liberty | Lincoln | McKeesport | Monroeville | Munhall | North Braddock | North Versailles Township | Pitcairn | Pleasant Hills | Port Vue | Rankin | South Versailles Township (Coulter) | Swissvale | Trafford (Allegheny County portion) | Turtle Creek | Versailles | Wall | West Elizabeth | West Homestead | West Mifflin | Whitaker | White Oak | Wilkins Township | Wilmerding.
Washington County: Finleyville | Monongahela, 1 | Monongahela, 2-1 | Monongahela, 2-3 | Monongahela, 3-1 | Monongahela, 3-2 | New Eagle, 1 | New Eagle, 2 | Union Township, 1 | Union Township, 2 | Union Township, 3 | Union Township, 4 | Union Township, 5 | Union Township, 6 | Union Township, 7
Westmoreland County: Irwin, Ward 1 | Irwin, Ward 2 | Irwin, Ward 3 | Irwin, Ward 4 | Irwin, Ward 5 | Irwin, Ward 6 | Irwin, Ward 7 | Manor | North Irwin | North Huntingdon Township, 1 1 |
North Huntingdon Township, 1 2 | North Huntingdon Township, 1 3 | North Huntingdon Township, 1 4 | North Huntingdon Township, 2 1 | North Huntingdon Township, 2 2 | North Huntingdon Township, 2 3 | North Huntingdon Township, 3 1 | North Huntingdon Township, 3 2 | North Huntingdon Township, 4 1 | North Huntingdon Township, 4 2 | North Huntingdon Township, 4 3 | North Huntingdon Township, 4 4 | North Huntingdon Township, 5 1 | North Huntingdon Township, 5 2 | North Huntingdon Township, 5 3 | North Huntingdon Township, 6 1 | North Huntingdon Township, 6 2 | North Huntingdon Township, 6 3 | North Huntingdon Township, 6 4 | North Huntingdon Township, 7 1 | North Huntingdon Township, 7 2 | North Huntingdon Township, 7 3 | North Huntingdon Township, 7 4 | Rostraver Township, Collinsburg | Rostraver Township, Concord | Rostraver Township, Cross Road | Rostraver Township, Fellsburg | Rostraver Township, Lynnwood | Rostraver Township, Pricedale | Rostraver Township, Van Meter | Rostraver Township, Webster | Sewickley Township, East Herminie | Sewickley Township, Lowber | Sewickley Township, Rillton | Sewickley Township, Sewickley Township, | Sewickley Township, West Herminie | Sewickley Township, Whyel | Sutersville | Trafford, District 1 (Westmoreland County portion) | Trafford, District 2 (Westmoreland County portion) | West Newton, Ward 1 | West Newton, Ward 2 | West Newton, Ward 3
Category: default || By jt3y
Where, oh where, will the nasty geese of Renzie Park go? Doesn't anyone think about the poor geese?
You see, as Jonathan Barnes writes in the Post-Gazette, Lake Emilie is being dredged and cleaned "in accordance with a Department of Environmental Protection mandate given to the city about a year ago, Mayor James Brewster said."
The spillway dam at the end of the lake is being reconstructed, and new fish beds will be installed in the middle of the lake and near the dam, where the lake bottom will be dredged to 12 feet to allow the water to flow more freely and to give more room for the fish to proliferate, Brewster said.
With just a concept plan presented at this stage of application, the planning commission would have to take the builder's word in how the prime real estate would be developed. The board would have to trust, said Allen Cohen, planning director.
"What if you die?" asked commission member Stump.
Shuster replied that his two sons and a daughter are very involved in the daily operation of his business RWS and they hold the same ethics. "They'll be around in 30, 40 years," Shuster said projecting faith, which Cohen also said would be needed toward the project that will take three to four years to build out.
"Four more years of 'faith-based' policies that fly in the face of science, reality and common sense?"
Come on, now, do you really want to go there? 90 percent of the American people claim to believe in God, the vast majority of them in the Christian God of the Bible. The name of God, in a general sense, is invoked in many of the founding documents of this nation and, for that matter, by the Supreme Court and Congress every day they are in session. ...
Don't we all get our instructions directly from God? If not, we should. The Ten Commandments would be a good place to start. And I believe Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God and to love one another - also a great idea. Whether you believe in Jesus as Deity or not, I think that's sound advice. And while I am not a Buddhist or Confucian, there is some fine moral material to be found there, too.
(I) don't think the United States is suddenly a laughingstock because Bush was re-elected, except for those people on the other side who would have us believe it is so. And if there are issues here, I don't think the faith-based issues are the ones to be concerned about. They might just even be the solution.
My Democratic Party took another hit .... isn't it time we started asking some serious questions to our leadership and not blaming the opposition which is oh so easy to do these days. I would venture to say that some flexibility on one or several issues would have clenched the last two elections, however, we have let our party become what it is now and the sad part is that I don't know what it is.
Category: default || By jt3y
(Warning: This is a completely partisan, bitter rant. Back to the lighter stuff tomorrow, I promise.)
As I write this, things don't look good for Long John. Cue Lee Andrews and the Hearts at the homes of doo-wop loving Kerry voters everywhere:
"Long, long and lonely nights
I cry my eyes out over you
Wond'ring if I did right
And why you left me with a broken heart."
Well, let me see. Yawn Kerry left you with a broken heart because he ran a lousy campaign that never hammered home a consistent message. And because he wrote off the South and Midwest -- including states like Missouri and Arkansas, which he could have conceivably won.
Also, the President's re-election campaign stayed relentlessly on message and spoon-fed the press corps lie after lie after lie --- and the press corps ate it up. Way to go, Fourth Estate!
"As I go along my lonely way I visualize your face
When I pass through (yeah!) my doorway
What's left for me to face?"
Let me think about that one, too. What's left for Americans to face?
How about four more years of the gap between rich and poor growing wider? Four more years of reckless spending, with no one paying the bills? Four more years of "faith-based" policies that fly in the face of science, reality and common sense? And no end to the quagmire in Iraq, created by a President who claims that he's never made a mistake, and that he takes instructions directly from God?
Excuse me --- Lee and the Hearts continue:
"Oh, oh, oh, long, long and lonely nights
I guess you're never coming home
Long, long and lonely nights
Ever since you've been gone."
Yeah, I'm singin' that one for the Bill of Rights. I been singin' it for four years. Which reminds me --- it's time to renew my membership in the ACLU. I joined up the day the Patriot Act was signed into law.
"Please, please, come back to me
You've been gone too long."
You know what's been gone too long? Civility, decency and Christian charity. They've been gone too damn long from the Republican Party.
But why worry about such weak-kneed, sissy concepts as those, when the strategy they've been using has worked so well? Focus on God, guns and gays. "John Kerry wants to allow gays to stop you from praying and take your guns away!"
And people believe this nonsense! Barnum was right.
You know what else has been gone for too damn long? The spines of moderate Republicans. They've allowed their party to be hijacked by the Flat Earth Society, just as the far-left hijacked the Democrats in the 1970s and '80s.
Other thoughts before I crawl into a beer bottle for the night:
-- The voter fraud in this election stinks out loud. Where the Democratic strategy was to mobilize voters at all costs, the Republican strategy was to stop Democratic voters from voting. Nice guys finish last.
-- If the Democrats can gain a majority in Congress --- and after watching this travesty unfold for the past eight months, I don't think they could successfully organize a fart at a bean-eating contest --- I look for some major investigations to be launched against the President's re-election campaign. The same patterns of arrogance and abuse of power that led to the Watergate scandal are evident in the Bush White House.
-- The lies and calumny slung by Republican party operatives, from the Not-So-Swift Boat Veterans to the right's water-carriers on TV and radio, were astonishing in their brazenness. Yet they were never effectively rebutted by the Democrats. At all. The Democrats allowed the opposition to lob big festering stink bombs at them, and then tut-tutted while everyone else was trying not to retch from the odor, instead of throwing the stink bombs back at the opposition.
-- President Dubya successfully turned this election into a referendum on his challenger instead of allowing Kerry to make it a referendum on his re-election. That speaks to the truly remarkable incompetence of the Kerry campaign.
-- This also speaks to the truly remarkable incompetence of Kerry's campaign: Kerry was running against a president who lost the popular vote in 2000, started an unpopular war, and turned a huge surplus into a huge deficit. Had he run a decent campaign, it would never have been close.
-- The fact that Kerry couldn't put a decent campaign together should give one pause about his ability to run the United States of America.
-- The much-vaunted youth vote that the Kerry camp was counting on stayed home in droves, as anyone with half a brain could have predicted. Young people don't vote. Maybe they'll vote in the next election --- while they're sitting on the Humvees in Iraq, Iran or North Korea.
Do I sound bitter?
Pardon my language, but you're goddamn right I am.
The United States of America --- a country that I love, a country that I would gladly volunteer to defend if they would have taken me, a country that I think is the greatest country in the world --- is right now a laughingstock.
And a large percentage of Americans want to send back to the White House the people who have harmed my country so badly through their arrogance and ignorance.
If you believe in prayer, please pray for the United States of America. It's going to need all of the prayers it can get.
Category: default || By jt3y
Voting for the first time today? Take ID.
Voting for the first time in a new precinct? Take ID.
You say you already have a voter registration card, and it says right on it that it's sufficient ID? It doesn't matter. Take another ID.
When I moved to North Bittyburg, a suburb of Our Fair City, earlier this year, I changed my voter registration to the new address. This morning, I went to my new polling place for the first time and handed over my voter registration card.
"It says 'ID Required,'" the judge of elections told me after looking up my registration information in her binder. Sure enough, "ID REQUIRED" was stamped over my name and on several other names --- presumably newly registered voters, or voters who recently moved.
Neither she nor the polling place inspectors could decide whether the voter registration card was adequate.
Keep in mind that on the back of the card, it says, in capital letters, "YOU SHOULD KEEP THIS CARD ON YOUR PERSON ... IT IS IDENTIFICATION OF YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE AT YOUR NEW ELECTION DISTRICT, DIVISION OR PRECINCT. Under the law you must present a form of identification to the election officials on Election Day the first time you vote in a new election district, division or precinct. This card is an acceptable form of identification."
Under the "Help America Vote Act" --- the half-hearted attempt by the U.S. Congress to prevent a rerun of the 2000 Florida debacle --- states are allowed to request ID from voters. The idea, of course, is to prevent people from registering multiple times, or registering fictitious names.
The problem, of course, is that this is the first presidential election since "HAVA" was enacted, and there is bound to be some confusion.
Luckily for me, I had remembered to bring a wage tax stub, a phone bill and an electric bill, all with the new address on them. (My state driver's license still lists my old address --- the update card hasn't arrived yet.) The judge of elections complimented me on my "efficiency." (That made my day, although I admit I'm easily amused.)
So if you're voting for the first time, or you've recently moved, take ID with you. A utility bill, a photo ID, or a paystub are all sufficient, according to the inspectors.
And be grateful you're not living in Florida or Ohio, where Republicans are going to make concerted efforts to challenge voters in heavily Democratic areas to prove they're eligible to vote. They're challenging up to 10,000 new registrations in Pennsylvania, according to Dennis Roddy in the Post-Gazette.
Please note that as far as I know, the Democratic Party is not sending poll watchers to, say, Sewickley Heights, Mount Lebanon or Fox Chapel to challenge voters to prove that they're eligible to cast ballots. But if they do, and you hear about it, please feel free to let me know.
I mention that strictly in the name of being fair and balanced. God bless America!
Election turnout at North Bittyburg Ward 3, Precinct 1, where I vote, wasn't particularly heavy --- I was voter number 40, as of 7:45 a.m. --- but business was expected to be brisk across the region, according to Pat Cloonan in The Daily News:
Four out of every five registered voters are anticipated at polls as the Mon-Yough region joins the rest of the nation in the 2004 general election. The biggest contests to be considered between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. tomorrow are, of course, the presidential contest and Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race that could help decide which party controls that segment of Congress.
But three other statewide races are on tomorrow's ballot, not to mention a wide range of contests for U.S. House and both houses of Pennsylvania's General Assembly. There are seven local contests on ballots in Mon-Yough communities.
Category: default || By jt3y
On Friday, with a couple of hundred other people, I went to Mount Alvernia High School's auditorium in Millvale to see the Class of 2004 graduate from the St. Margaret School of Nursing.
Among the graduates was my mom.
I rarely write about my family, but in this case I can't help it. There are many different kinds of courage and bravery --- firefighters who dive into burning buildings; soldiers, sailors and Marines who volunteer to go off to war; people who break down restrictions in the name of civil rights.
Nursing school doesn't have any particular physical dangers, I suppose (you're unlikely to get shot at, although one of my mother's classmates did fall and break an ankle). Nevertheless, it takes a lot of courage to give up your full-time job and mortgage your house to go back to school at (mumblety-mumble) years old, with absolutely no guarantee --- save your own initiative --- that you'll come out the other side with a degree.
And it wasn't easy for her. Nursing, as you might expect, is a demanding field, and the training is designed to weed out all but the most qualified. After all, you literally often have the lives of your patients in your hands while making observations, administering medication and assisting doctors. The lazy, the sloppy and the uncaring need not apply.
But besides the academic rigors, my mom faced a couple of specific challenges that would have derailed someone with less fortitude, including a bout with ill health and a couple of bullies (as far as I could determine, young RNs who resented her) who tried to push her out of the program.
She's not out of the woods yet. She's been hired at one of the local hospitals already, but she still has to pass the state licensing test --- and now, she wants to go on and get her bachelor's degree. I don't know if I'd have that kind of gumption.
Lots of people say their parents are their heroes. I'm sure they're sincere, even if it's become something of a cliche. I've always admired and loved my mom, but it's no knee-jerk reaction for me to say she's my hero --- she's earned that respect. Way to go, mom!
In a related matter, I did something on Friday I usually try to avoid; I shopped at Wal-Mart. I wanted to find a "gag gift" for mom's graduation party, and thought either a toy nurse's kit or the board game "Operation" would be funny. Where else can you go for cheap toys?
Let me start by saying the toy department at Wal-Mart is frighteningly large. Wal-Mart in and of itself is too damned big, which is one of many reasons (their predatory employment and procurement practices are two others) that I avoid Wal-Mart at all costs. I must have wandered the aisles for a half-hour looking for what I wanted.
Second, is there any toy made today that doesn't come with a licensed character attached? They don't have dress-up costumes for little girls who want to play "princess," they have "The Disney Princesses" and "Barbie" princess outfits. They don't have "Operation," they have "Special Edition Shrek Operation."
Third, toys no longer require any imagination at all. Each toy comes with a specific, scripted function, usually tied to some TV show or movie. You don't buy a mere toy car --- you buy a "Limited Edition Bratz Hummer." You don't get a box of building blocks that you can turn into anything you want --- you get a Lego "Star Wars" Playset that builds one, and one thing only. (You can "Build The Story!" according to the package, and if you deviate from the story, presumably George Lucas comes to your house and takes all of your blocks back from you.)
Finally, Wal-Mart is featuring a disturbing number of role-playing toys designed for low-wage service jobs. Instead of policeman, cowboy, teacher, doctor and firefighter playsets, there were "cashier" and "cook" playsets for several different fast-food chains, including McDonald's (which, of course, usually puts restaurants inside Wal-Marts).
What are the messages that we're sending kids by giving them these toys? Only buy things with approved, licensed brand names from large multinational corporations; and prepare yourself for a career flipping burgers. Good Lord!
I realize I'm sounding like a old fogey, but I long for the days of nice, peaceful toys like plastic machine guns and lawn darts.
I eventually found a toy doctor's kit. God bless the Fisher-Price people; they're still turning out lumpy, hard plastic interpretations of stethoscopes, hypodermic needles and other items, neatly packaged for $13.99.
From the Tube City Almanac's National Affairs Desk, comes this object lesson: If you can't win honestly, then cheat.
In South Carolina, there's no poll tax any more, but that hasn't stopped more creative miscreants:
A bogus letter circulating in South Carolina, purporting to be from the NAACP, threatens the arrest of voters who have outstanding parking tickets or failed to pay child support. The NAACP said Friday the letter is a scare tactic and called for an investigation. ... The letter also says voters must have a credit check, provide two forms of photo identification, a Social Security card, a voter registration card and a handwriting sample.
County Elections Manager Mark Wolosik said he has sent five fraud complaints to the county police so far, all involving young voters who were re-registered as Republicans through deception. In a letter sent this week, District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has advised security chiefs at the county's colleges and universities to forward additional complaints of voter-registration fraud to Moffatt. ...
(An) official-looking but thoroughly humorous notice, posted at Ross Park Mall ... suggests Democrats should wait until Nov. 3 to vote. "Due to the immense voter turnout that is expected on Tuesday, Nov. 2, the state of Pennsylvania has requested an extended voting period," states the faux notice, printed on letterhead with the Allegheny County seal.
The notice states that Republicans will vote on Tuesday, while Democrats will vote on Wednesday. (Post-Gazette)