A Door is Locked in Inkerman ...

108 Years of Memories...

This past Sunday, I had the privilege of attending the last Mass at St. Mark's Church in Inkerman. St. Mark's is yet another church that is being closed by the Diocese of Scranton. Many of the parishioners will come to my parish in Laflin. Some may decide to go elsewhere. Hopefully none will walk away from the Church.

I wasn't a member of St. Mark's parish, but that little church in Inkerman holds a special place in my heart. Several years ago I started doing some annual data entry work for Father Ed Masakowski, then the pastor at St. Mark's. These are wonderful, happy memories for me. A number of evenings each year, Father and I would sit in front of his old PC and do some hard work together. Julie, his housekeeper and a wonderul woman, would keep the ginger ale flowing while we toiled. We were a heck of a team ...a well-oiled machine by the time we finished working together.

As much as I will miss working with Father Ed, I know it can't touch the pain St. Mark's parish feels right now. It must be extraordinarily hard for people to see their churches shuttered. A church is often the center of a community's life. Weddings. Baptisms. First Communions. Confirmations. Funeral Masses. Parish bazaars. Midnight Mass. Easter Sunday. So many memories built over the lifetimes of so many people. In the case of St. Mark's, 108 year's worth. And then, one day, the doors are simply locked.

Winston's Dog is Loose...

At my heels...

"I don't like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through. I like to stand right back and if possible get a pillar between me and the train. I don't like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second's action would end everything. A few drops of desperation." - Winston Churchill

THE GREATER DEPRESSION CHRONICLES: ...Smiling Ed is Stealing My Coffee!

Smiling Ed...

A few months back, I saw my weekly paycheck was suddenly a little bit fatter.

"It's your Obama tax cut," the payroll folks explained.

I got on the horn with the White House.

"Hey, O ...what's this extra dough in Dynamo's payroll?"

"Tax Cut, Dynamo!"

"Looks like about a weekly pizza's worth! Can I use it for wings?"

"Hey, baby," said the Big Guy, "It's a stimulus! Go forth and stimulate on whatever you want!"

So the Dynamo household started having weekly Friday pizza nights again. And there was abundant joy in Dynamoville.

But next came 50 straight days of increases in gas prices, and most of that Dynamo pizza ended up in the gas tank. Just enough remained for a weekly bag of java beans for the morning coffee.

Then Smiling Ed Rendell, PA's Governor, came to town to announce a plan for a whopping 16% increase in personal income tax.

"Hey," said smiling Ed, "It's not a big deal. A mere pittance. About a week's worth of java."

And there went the rest of Dynamo's stimulus.

And so I got right back on the horn to the Big Guy.

"Hey, O ...Big Oil and Smiling Ed have are trying to abscond with my stimulus!"

"Can't really talk now, Dynamo," said the Big Guy. "Gotta come up with a plan for all those hundreds of billions we're putting into Health Care."

"Say, Big Guy," I asked. "Isn't that bass-ackwards? How's about a plan first, then a budget?"

"Gotta run, Dynamo," said the Big Guy. "Joe B's here to walk my new doggie, Bo."

"But what about my stimulus pizza?"

Random "Freethinking" ....which means, hey, whatever popped into my head...

Women are always having baby showers for expectant mothers. How do those things work? Do you pop the kid out, hose'em down, then pop'em back in? I don't get these weird female customs.

* * *

I wrote about this once years ago, but it bears repeating. If you're having a god-awful day, one for the record books, and you want to lash out ...here's a perfectly legal way to do it. On your drive home, go exactly the speed limit. Soon you'll have a line of cars behind you that stretches nearly to the horizon. If you're deaf like me, it's even more fun, because you know they're blowing their horns.

The best part is watching the amusing gestures in the rear-view mirror. Oh, it gets quite colorful. Folks also pound their steering wheels. They punch their dashboards. I do pull over if they wave firearms, but that's just a couple times a week at most. I also think the Governor spit out the window at me once as his limo driver passed me illegally. But it might have just been some bird poop hitting the windshield.

I drive the speed limit all the time now. It makes my bad days bearable, and my good days even better. Sometimes when I arrive home, I pass the house and just keep on driving, the line of cars in my rear-view growing longer with each passing mile. The stress just flows right out of me...

The speed limit. It's not just the law, it's cheap therapy.

* * *

Someone at work ran out of tape today. I left a roll of invisible tape on their desk, but they couldn't find it. I told'em, "...well, at least we know it works."

* * *

Language War Heats up in the Korean Theatre ...

The war of words continues on the Korean peninsula.

Following a decision by the U.N. Security Council which bans North Korean weapons imports and exports and authorizes the inspection of North Korean sea, air and land cargo, a military spokesman for the isolated communist nation vowed a swift and merciless response.

True to their word, North Korean special forces raided South Korea last night and removed all of the nation's vowels.

"Ys, th vwls hv bn stln," a US General told reporters assembled for a press conference in Seoul.

One military analyst said that while the North Korean action was a serious provocation, its effect was limited. "The military can run on consonants alone. But it certainly makes it more difficult."

Reports say that many y's may have been spared in the raid, due to confusion over whether that letter is a vowel or consonant. "We hear about half of them survived," said an analyst.

US forces issues an ultimatum to the North: "Rtrn th vwls r w wll bmb yr cntry bck t th stn g."

After the ultimatum, US Special Forces teamed up with Korean alphabet specialists and raided North Korea, removing all consonants. Analysts say the US action was likely far more damaging than North Korea's raid on vowels. As proof of the raid's effectivness, the US military released an intercepted message from the North Korean high command: "Aa ieiaey. Aiiae e Eey!"

Upon receiving the message, some North Korean units disbanded, some attacked other North Korean units, and one battalion inexplicably disrobed and went swimming in a nearby river.

"An army can't fight on vowels alone," said an analyst.

* * *

Tech Support in the Middle Ages...

From the Sky - Part IV

From the Sky - Part IV

By James M. O'Meara, © 2009

(Need to catch up on From the Sky? Just click here to read Part I, here to read Part II, or here to read Part III!)

Vini - Bianchi

Vini Bianchi...

They play well together, our children. Where do they get all that energy? Look at them run! Your girls love that swing set, don't they? My boys beeline right to the jungle gym. David is fearless; he climbs right to the top, lickety-split. Donnie is the tentative one. He goes up a bit, stops to consider things a moment, and climbs a little higher …but rarely all the way up. They're identical in appearance only, my boys. Donnie loves grilled cheese and tomato, but David pulls out the tomatoes and leaves them on his plate. David: Plain milk. Donnie: Chocolate only, please. A million little differences offset all that physical sameness. But they both love this park, and they both love to climb. At least they won't fall very far if they take a tumble. Not like with trees: you can fall a long way out of a tree. Believe me, I know. And it's not a matter of if they fall off the jungle gym one day, is it? It's a matter of when. But they'll probably just dust themselves off and start climbing again, no harm done.

Now there's nothing wrong with a little tree climbing, I suppose. It's safer these days, too. They make all kinds of fancy tree-climbing gear now: Harnesses. Helmets. Climbing boots. It's practically a science. But if a child wants to climb, they're going to climb, with or without all the paraphernalia. If you can't afford the hardware, just stick to the jungle gyms and keep your kids out of the trees.

That's actually odd advice, coming from me. I climbed more than my share of trees growing up. There was no hi-tech gear: just hands and sneakers. I was full-blooded tom-boy, and as I saw it trees were fated to be climbed. It was part of their job description, like giving shade or providing a good home for birds. And oh, did I climb! I was fearless, like my David. I could go higher than most of the boys in the neighborhood, too. I was really quite good; I only had one bad fall.

My Uncle Gio once had a good climbing tree in his backyard. It was a honey locust, and each autumn reddish-brown pods …a half-foot or more in length, some of them …would fall all around the tree. Uncle gathered them up to make a homemade beer from the soft pulp found within those seed pods. He said the Indians did that, long ago. We would eat the pulp sometimes, as a treat after school. I remember it was sweet, a kind of honey-molasses taste. I think he even made a sort of sugar from it. Sometimes Uncle would let me climb up the tree a little ways and sit on the lower branches. I couldn't have easily done that on a wild honey locust. They have long, nasty thorns all around their trunks that would make you think twice or six times about trying to conquer them. Uncle said you could use the thorns of a wild honey locust for nails, they were that hard. He knew a lot about trees, my Uncle Gio. While the honey locust in his backyard was of the thornless variety, there were still a few stray thorns here and there to keep me on my toes. I learned quickly to be careful about where I reached when I worked my way up the trunk, and also to wear jeans instead of slacks, which snagged easily and weren't much protection from that occasional thorn.

Moon! Moon!

Welcome aboard...
Welcome Aboard...

They would find me on the windowsill, asleep.

I was probably four or five years old, and sometimes I'd leave my bed in the middle of the night to lie on the windowsill and watch the moon. We were living on 62nd Avenue in Riverdale, Maryland. Our place was half a red brick double block. Bedrooms upstairs. Living room downstairs. Kitchen in the rear, and a back yard with a fruit tree of some sort. I can't recall the fruit…might have been peaches, or pears. Whatever fruit the tree bore, when it fell from the branches to the thick green grass, the bees swarmed around it. I learned quickly not to trot around the back yard barefoot.

My days were the days of any small boy: playing hard, getting dirty, kicking a ball around, and, of course, doing a lot of pretending. Imagination ruled.

On hot summer days, the sidewalk in front of the house became a submarine. Each section of concrete a different compartment: here, the torpedo room, there the conning tower, behind that the engine room. We didn't need a crews quarters or a galley; we had the house for that. The sidewalk submarine was all about the business of imaginary combat. Sunk by a depth charge? No problem…we'd just escape from the murky depths and swim up onto the front lawn, an imaginary tropical island inhabited by cannibals and dinosaurs.


Waterboarding America...
Waterboarding America...

There's a lot of talk these days about Gitmo and waterboarding.

The President wants Gitmo closed. Fast. Without any plan in place to deal with Gitmo's inmates. (That seems to be a hallmark of this Administration...act now, sweat the details later. The "Trust us" strategy. Why should that work any better with this Administration than the last? Umm...this is the Government we're talking about, right?)

And then there's waterboarding ...a form of torture that simulates drowning. That, too, must cease and desist. Immediately, if not sooner.

And while the Administration tries to rush-rush the closing of Gitmo ...and while the talking heads debate waterboarding ...our Congress is about to pass legislation ...legislation our President will surely sign... to "reign in" those bloodsucking credit card companies who are crushing so many American taxpayers.

Great! Terrific! Finally, the Government goes to bat for the little guy!

So when will Americans get relief?

Not immediately. Not tomorrow. Not even next week or next month.

Try next year, starting in February of 2010.

Which means from now until then, banks and credit card companies can and will waterboard America with higher rates, fees, fees, fees, and arbitrarily reduced credit lines.

THE GREATER DEPRESSION CHRONICLES: ...Phrases I'm sick to death of hearing

Break out the weed killer...
Break Out the Weed Killer...

There are Green Shoots in the Economy!

Each spring, I watch my sleeping lawn, waiting for the first sign of fresh growth and the imminent promise of grass to be cut. A month or so back, I looked out from my porch and saw a blotch of color. Green shoots! I ambled over for a closer look, thinking ahead to hot summer afternoons mowing and the cool adult refreshment after a hard day's work.

I bent down for a look at my green shoots, and frowned. My "green shoots" were just weeds.

Weeds, weeds, weeds...

Just like our economy.

Weeds, weeds, weeds...

I am frankly sick to death of hearing about "green shoots" whenever a beleagured company posts either a small profit or a smaller than expected loss.


Because all too often the profits have been boosted by "cost-cutting" measures. Companies cut back on capital spending. They freeze hiring. They freeze or cut wages. They kick people to the curb, leaving those left on the job with more to do (a torturous process called "increasing employee efficiency").

Sure...this most certainly cuts expenses. In the short run, it may boost profits. And from a distance, this improved bottom line looks like a "green shoot."

T'aint so. Those "green shoots" growing around those corporate profits are just weeds ...a quickly growing army of unemployed Americans.

Weeds, weeds, weeds... and they will eventually overwhelm all those corporate profits.

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