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Sunday, February 20, 2011

He'll still leave the light on

It seems that yet another blogger from NEPA, Tom Carten, has decided to hang up his skivvies. As in, he’s no longer going to be blogging in his underwear from the deepest recesses of his mom’s basement.

The link: Things at King’s

Stereotypes aside, I have regularly visited his site over the years because his was always a calm voice of sanity somehow emanating from the cacophonous shouting of know-it-alls such as myself.

Or as he put it…

“No rants, no politics, no snarkiness either on my part nor yours. Just a nice chat together through the eyes of one who ponders the mysteries of the universe and occasionally posts his findings here.”

Ah, sanity. Something that still escapes me to this very day.

The other thing I really looked forward to were his frequent mentions of the area of Connecticut that I called home during what now seems like a previous life. They would get that yearning, that niggling feeling that I've missed out on finishing something I started all over again.

Thing is, there are those days when I’m not sure where I grew up. I ranged over the rolling hills of the Derby/Ansonia area to the ripe old age of 12 plus darn near 10 months. And then I went and spent my teen years here in Wilkes-Barre. Even though informed sources would tell you I never did grow up, I’ve always hesitated for a nanosecond when asked about where I grew up.

“Grew up” as in playing Buck Buck in gym class, flipping Topps baseball cards at recess and ogling over Penny Robinson‘s cover photo on Tiger Beat? Or “grew up” as in sneaking 7-oz cans of Rolling Rock into high school football games via my bulky Pea coat?

Which is it? The good Markie who got good grades while cohabiting with an abusive dictator, or the bad Markie who did what he wanted and when he wanted after the revolution by divorce decree? The Markie who made mom proud? Or the Markie who made mom gray?

In retrospect, I’m not sure the relocation to Wilkes-Barre was the best move for me. Sure, I desperately wanted to live here with my grandparents and all of my many cousins. But then again, the ground doesn’t open and swallow people in Connecticut. In the Wilkes-Barre of old, people made dresses and lumps of back rock. In Connecticut, people built submarine parts and battle tanks.

Back in Derby, we bowled for duck pins. In these here parts, people were expecting me to heave one of those heavy bowling balls made for full-blown adults. In Colony Park, the dare was to swim across the pond without emerging with leaches attached to one’s body. In that Wilkes-Barre, you needed to attach a clothespin to your nose when encountering bodies of water.

Back in the day, we’d bicycle all the way up to the Sikorsky plant and hope and pray that one of the new prototypes being tested would crash. Or, at least treat us to a hard landing. Did you ever see a Huey go down and go down hard? Nah, you were probably too easily amused while riding pieces of scrap tin down the sides of the culm banks.

Here, you had to stroke and coax the rabbit ears to deliver a demolition derby to you by way of ABC’s Wide World of Sports. There, I would stand at attention and be ready to hand tools to the step-dad as he laid under the jalopies he was prepping for the local, quote/unquote, races.

In those days in CT, we’d jump on a train and arrive in New York City in what seemed like an instant. Yankee Stadium. The Bronx Zoo. The Horn and Hardart Automat, a place that always fascinated me as a struggling sprat. In those days in W-B, the trains would take you to a faraway high school football game if you were ballsy enough and stupid enough to grab a hold of a box car and hang on for dear life. The trains still run in NYC and the surrounding environs. Here, they rot alongside the exact spot where the mines once went and swallowed the river.

In Derby, the Roseland Apizza still packs ‘em in despite being practically hidden from public view. Around here, they flock all the way to Old Forge for an overrated pizza simply because the folks from Old Forge have some serious expertise in marketing. There, we had Duchess. Here, you had Stop ‘n Go burgers. Here, you had Ac-a-me. There, we had the Stop ‘n Go supermarket chain. We had Carvel and International House of Pancakes. You had the Woodlawn Dairy and Percy A. Brown & Company: Foods of Distinction.

You had gridlock, while we had traffic circles. Here they had councilmen, while we had assemblymen, or committeemen, or vickers, or converted red coats, or some such thing that escapes me now.

Did I just digress and then some? Circumlocutory, or what?

Anyway, one of the few voices of sanity here in the fast-fading NEPA blogorama will no longer be there in the electronic ether to be taken for granted. But as Tom said to me at my brother’s viewing in 2007, he’s well on his way to a better place. Here’s to better places, Tom.

While I’m out and about on one of my mountain bikes as I always am, I’ll still expect to see the light on up there on the hill at Franklin Street.


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