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Commentary sheer awesomeness Uncategorized

Hellbenders Fighting In My Back Yard

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Grant Township Photo shamelessly pilfered from The Indiana Gazette, my favorite small town newspaper. Gazette

There is a nice article right now in Rolling Stone on a historic and heroic struggle that is happening just a few miles up the road from me. A while back, a big corporation came to a tiny little community and said, “we’re going to dump all our pollution here.” A lot of the good country folks who live there said “No, please.” The giant corporation said. “Shut up. We’re a corporation. We have human rights and we’ll do as we please!”

So the people went to the state and the Department of Environmental Protection agency said, “What we protect is the rights of corporations to use the environment as they see fit.” And so the people said, “Okay, we’ll do it ourselves.” So the corporations sued them and, to add insult to injury, the government sued them and still this group of renegade rural folks is standing strong, like real Americans, conscientious, committed, and courageous. The people of Grant Township Pennsylvania, and the East Run Hellbenders Society should have songs written and movies made about them. And maybe they will, in the end.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-a-small-town-is-standing-up-to-fracking-w482577

You’ll be hearing more about this. In the meantime, if you don’t know what a hellbender is, behold its awesomeness.

 

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Commentary Uncategorized

Nicely Done, 84

How about a shout-out to my fellow Westsylvanians, 84 Lumber, whose censored commercial is generating a ton of commendations and criticism this morning along with those other legendary political dissidents, Coca-Cola and Anheiser-Busch. I mean, who do they think they are? McDonalds?

84 Lumber had been getting some press in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl about their mysterious ad buy. Specifically, why is a regional lumber company from Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands spending millions and millions of dollars on the most expensive media night of the year. Sources at 84 would only say that they were looking to recruit a new generation of young, career-minded, not-necessarily-college-educated employees looking to exchange hard work for stability in the new economy. So, yeah, that ad was about attracting job applicants, not about selling you nails, shingles, and plywood. They wanted to get the word out, and I think they succeeded with an ad that, with few words and in just a few minutes, sums up the best about America–and the worst of our recent, wreckless indulgence in whining nationalism.

The predictable flurry of hyperventilating anti-immigrant verbal diarrhea immediately began splashing across the internet following the release of this video, “…but, but, but it they’re illegal and illegal is illegal and my grandparents had papers and went through Ellis Island and besides they’re white and learned English and…” you know the spiel.

Do I need to point out that the immigrant in the video doesn’t climb the fence or burrow beneath it? She finds a gate–that’s symbolism, folks–even Donald Trump said his shiny wall would have a lovely gate. The best gate, in fact. Better than anyone else’s gate (and he’s the only one who can build it.)  So, yeah. There’s no ass-covering here–the huffing and posting is garden variety xenophobia–and to hell with that. The symbolism that moves me–almost to tears, and in love of this screwed up country of ours–is at the very end when we see what the little girl has been doing with all the scraps of plastic trash and disgarded material she’s gathered through her voyage. Because yeah, I want that kid as my neighbor–not some melanin-obsessed speak-english-only redneck hump shouting just because he likes the sound of his own voice.

 

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Funny and/or Strange Photo I Like Photo I Took summer photos

2015 Summer Wonders #24: It’s Raining What?

A big storm blew through town the other day–we’ve had two rainless days in the past two weeks.  I’ve heard of it raining cats and dogs.  I’ve even heard of it raining men, but this is getting ridiculous.

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Journal Uncategorized

Prom Gown Shopping For Men

I don't know any of these kids--it's just a another random photo I pinched off the interwebs.
I don’t know any of these kids–it’s just a another random photo I pinched off the interwebs.

When I realized that the day of shopping for prom gowns my wife had scheduled with my daughters was not a much-anticipated day of mother-daughter bonding, but a drudgery to which my wife was looking forward with all the eagerness of shoeless pilgrim standing before a road of broken glass, I grimaced and stepped into the breech.  Maybe it had something to do with the disgust in her eye when I presumed I wouldn’t be part of the expedition–or maybe I’m just a great husband and dad.  Pfft.

“Of course I’ll go with you,” I said, my soul sighing miserably from the depths of each individual cell.  She brightened considerably not, I suspect, with glee for the chance to spend a few hours in my delightful company, but at the prospect of sharing the pain.

This would be no quick jaunt down the block.  We would be embarking on a 2-hour drive to the dismal, post-industrial remnants of the town of Sharon, PA–a once vibrant steel town ln062997bthat is, well, surviving “despite all that.”  Our particular destination; a store called “The Winner,” a three-story former department store filled with tens of thousands of dresses that bills itself as “The world’s largest off-price fashion store.”  I don’t think they’re exaggerating, at 75,000 square feet of historic charm, the place was a bit overwhelming.

I have to admit that I was dubious about the whole endeavor.  It sounded too good to be true–a treasure trove of deeply discounted formal gowns set a city for which the term “post industrial wasteland” is a compliment?  Have you seen that movie “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome?”  Well, welcome to the Thunderdome.  The last time we’d been through Sharon they had been using stop signs wired to barrels in the center of the downtown as substitutes for broken traffic signals, and while the lights had been fixed this time around, we found that the streets had been only partially cleared of snow after a storm several days before, and had become uneven obstacle courses of packed ice and slush. I expected to see a sign on the outskirts of town that said: Welcome To Sharon. We’re Well Past Trying.

The sidewalks in the business district were no better–some were clear and some were treacherous.  Nevertheless, we reluctantly parked our new car on the streets–would it be there when we returned?–and found our way to the store.  It wasn’t difficult to find–along with the well-kept diner next door, and a dodgy-looking Army Navy store, there’s just not anything else going on in the downtown.  It’s got the feel of a place where folks have just given up.On our last visit there had been a decent used book store, but it was gone, replaced by some sort of off-brand tax preparation storefront.

Special-Occasion-Dresses-The-WinnerInside The Winner, however I began to be convinced.  You walk inside and the first thing you see is a vintage Jaguar E-type that belonged to the owner of the store, in front of which is stationed a genteel matron at a small desk who welcomed us and politely explained the layout of the store.  And what a good thing that was: the place is huge, filled to the gills with thousands upon thousands of gowns.  I followed my kids around for about twenty minutes before I ambled back over to the lady by the Jag and cracked a joke at one of the clerks, “you guys should open a sports bar next door, you’d make a killing.”

The pleasant, distinguished woman leaned in close and said, “haven’t you visited our men’s lounge adjacent to the fitting rooms?”

Why no, I hadn’t.

I glanced at my wife, who nodded indulgently.  I’d already become an anchor despite my good intentions, and both she and my daughters were eager to have me out of their hair.  With some trepidation I found my way down a narrow hall, past a knot of women outside the fitting rooms, and around a corner.  I half-expected to find a door with of those little slide-open peepholes like you see in speakeasies in the movies, but what I found instead was brotherhood.  Well, maybe not brotherhood–but there was a TV set to ESPN, a half dozen la-z-boy recliners, a sofa, and one of those cute “theater style” popcorn cart poppers and…a keg of Rolling Rock on tap.

Genius.  Free beer and popcorn!  I settled in to watch Tennessee versus Auburn, but soon enough a bunch of us–mostly dads but also a fiance, two boyfriends, and a “family friend.”  Given the date and location (western PA, the day before the superbowl) we talked a lot about football, but also a little about shopping,  a bit about women, and–to my surprise and delight–our mutual admiration for regional hero rogers_esquireFred “Mister” Rogers, which was unanimous. 

Of course, it’s not uncommon for even the hardest among us to wax misty-eyed over Mister Rogers–there’s a true Pittsburgh story, in fact, about how Rogers’ car was stolen from outside the WQED studio.  The story was quickly reported on the local news, and the car showed up back in front of the studio in short order, with a note on the dash that said something like “If I’d known this was your car I never would have taken it.”

But I digress. My children are smart, efficient shoppers–they found beautiful dresses in little more than two hours, for a grand total of about $300 (if you’ve shopped for these formal gowns, you know we got off light).  I bid my compadres a reluctant adieu, lingering in the main gallery to listen to the pianist stroking the keys of baby grand piano–talk about atmosphere!–and we were gone, with a brief stop at a local hand-made candy shop.

On the drive home, my wife decided she had a hankering for a Primanti Brothers sandwich, so that was dinner, a satisfying end to a relatively painless day.  Heck, I didn’t even have to drive, with two learner’s permits in the family: one daughter drove north in the morning, one drove south in the evening–all in all a painless day.

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Photo I Took

Autumn: Big Rocks

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Westsylvania Jazz & Blues Festival

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mjpowers/westsylvania-jazz-and-blues-festival

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