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Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Grand Unified Theory (of NEPA)

The Scranton Times had an opinion piece in its March 24th edition that talked about why so few women run for office in Lackawanna Country.  This comes almost a week after the same newspaper glowing reported on the annual Friendly Sons banquet, an ALL MALE event held every year around St. Patrick's Day.  That event is as much about establishment power brokers as it is local Irish Heritage.  Apparently, the editors of the Scranton Times don't see the irony in their reporting/opinion pieces.  I do.

In other news of the ironic, Lackawanna County Commissioner Laureen Cummings, self-styled "Tea Party Patriot", apparently is fine with a back-room Democratic party public job offering to someone who seems more connected than qualified(1).  Yes, she who rails "against the system" is actually fine with the system, all the while managing to try and protect county residents from that scourge known as the bicycle(2).  My personal feeling is that, with all due respect to Ms. Cummings and her personal achievements, the simple concept of irony seems beyond her capabilities.

What do these things have in common?

Well for starters, this isn't about some big-headed anonymous Internet commentator throwing stones.  I will readily and publicly admit that I'm an idiot sometimes.  However, I try to be a consistent idiot.  What's more, I just write crap on the Internet. I don't pretend to have a big audience.  I don't claim to be inspiring or smart.  I can barely influence my own behaviors, let alone the behaviors of others.  I just claim to be me.  I'll leave the biting political commentary to Tom Borthwick(3).  However, few things bother me more in life than hypocrisy. 

No, these things are about something bigger.  If there was a Grand Unified Theory(4) of NEPA, it would center around the notion that power is the antithesis of progress.  It would be that change... it to "cutting edge of 1950's" social norms

or the notion of politics as usual no matter who you are inherently something to be avoided at all costs.  It's about "We've got ours, so screw yours!".  NEPA is a small pond with a few big fish, a small number of aspiring to be big fish, and lots of guppies.  And that's the way the big fish have always like it. 

(1) Reference THIS story.
(2) Reference THIS editorial.   
(3) You can find him HERE, although I do think fatherhood has mellowed him out quite a bit.
(4) Just because I am also a science nerd; see THIS reference.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Writing and Emotions

In October this blog will be ten years old.  In blog years, well, that's pretty damn old.  So many blogs have come and gone since I started this, far more than I can actually remember.  Anyway, that fact...coupled with a lot of work I'm doing on/for me to thinking about recently about why I do this thing.  Well, outside of the obvious part about liking to do this thing.

I've always been writing things.  In college, I would write voluminous letters.  When I started with my last employer, I kept something of a journal.  I would, in fact, journal quite a bit over the years.  Much of that stuff still exists in notebooks that are stuck in boxes and corners, awaiting my untimely demise, ready to find some emo-esque enjoyment on the part of my children no doubt.

Prior to the formality of my own URL, I was writing on another social media platform.  Side note:  I really do need to recycle...or at least read...some of that old content.

Anyway, the point is made:  I write a lot.  But why?

I think it's because writing allows me to process things that are sometimes too difficult for me to process otherwise.

Growing up, well let's just say that emotional expression wasn't exactly encouraged by my sole engaged parent.  As I've noted here from time to time, I think it was everything my Mother could muster just to keep four boys fed and clothed.  Granted that the Albert boys...

(circa 1970)

...could be something of a handful, but more than a half-century and my own parental experiences later, I can say with some certainty that we were actually among the better crop of young men in our respective age brackets.  Recent deep ponderings on my part yield the fact that there was likely more going on with my Mother, which for better or worse, pushed things like encouragement, developing healthy relationships, self-confidence, and managing adversity out of scope for us as life-lessons (at least as taught by my Mother).

Many of these skills I have learned...some the hard way, I will note...later in life, and I am grateful for that fact.  I do, however, think my late brother Chris may have struggled even more than yours truly when it comes to some of these lessons.  Let's hope that there is an afterlife and that he's there now, fully redeemed.

Anyway, I didn't learn how to manage emotions in a healthy manner growing up.  For some, that could equate to a lifetime of, for example, anger management issues, or maybe even self-medication/substance abuse.  For me?  It manifests itself through what I've learned is a kind of intellectualization of emotions.  Basically, I have difficulty understanding and expressing my feelings, so my lifetime coping mechanism has been to try and parse things out into logical chunks that I could more readily understand.  I turn how I am feeling into an exercise in data analysis, mostly because:

1) I am good at analyzing things


2) See above...I never learned about the healthy expression of emotions

I actually have to be careful here, as I could end up being guilty of the same set of actions in this very posting.  Simply put, it's easier for me to deal with emotions intellectually than it is for me to actually feel them.

The above is a workable strategy, to a point.  The wheels came off though with the rapid-fire loss of a job and a brother.  I've learned that there is no amount of logic could help me through the heartache of losing my brother.  In tandem, the anger I felt at the way in which I lost my last job defied a logical, intellectual understanding (see THIS posting).  I've actually felt guilty over feeling angry in that case.  In totality though, my ability to simply intellectualize my feelings was overwhelmed by the dual loss of a job and a sibling.  Rightfully so, I will add.

Now the rainman gave me two cures
Then he said, “Jump right in”
The one was Texas medicine
The other was just railroad gin
An’ like a fool I mixed them
An’ it strangled up my mind
An’ now people just get uglier
An’ I have no sense of time

For me, there is no Texas medicine (or railroad gin) that would actually help, which is actually a pretty good thing.  No, what happened to me has forced a kind of re-assessment of how I experience parts of the world...mostly the part of the world that sits inside my own head.  While I am grateful for the opportunity that my losses have given me for reflection and growth, part of me is a bit saddened at the revelnation/prospect of just how much I missed growing up.  Reflection will do that sometimes.  Now no parent is perfect, me especially, but I hope was able to provide more encouragement...more permission to my children than what I was given.  Hopefully, I've broken a cycle before it could continue.
Now the bricks lay on Grand Street
Where the neon madmen climb
They all fall there so perfectly
It all seems so well timed
An’ here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice

The song lyrics, by the way, are from Bob Dylan's "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again".  Highly recommended.

So where to from here?  Why even write this?

Well, I feel a bit unsure about posting this, but that hasn't stopped me before.  Besides, I do feel a kind of need to now "get on" with some things in my life, and I do think this is a part of the process.  What kind of chronology of my life would this be if it didn't include revelations of both the small and the big? 

In the end, I still can't give a complete voice to how I feel over Chris' death, but I do feel more at peace with having those feelings.  What's more, I have an understanding why the process of expressing those emotions has been so very difficult for me over this past year.

I'll call the above a win, all be it a hard-fought one.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Mark Your Calendars (Men): Saturday March 17th at 7pm

The Scranton Chapter...

(from THIS site)

...(also known as the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick) will hold it's annual (men only) banquet this Saturday, March 17th.

The fact that most of the men (only) in the room are Democrats adds just a dash of irony to the whole event.  If this were predominantly Republican event would there be moral outrage coming from all corners of NEPA?  Call me crazy, but I'm thinking that the answer is a resounding yes.

Now does the organization in question do good work?  I am sure that's the case.

Am I committing NEPA career suicide by event writing this post?  Maybe.

Will this post change anything?  A resounding no.

However, I do think this event speaks volumes about Northeastern Pennsylvania, particularly from the perspective of patriarchy, the over-sized influence of religion in the area, and a general resistance to change among local power brokers.   

I'll be waiting with bated breath for the glowing coverage of the event that no doubt be found in the Sunday edition of The Scranton Times.  Who knows?  Maybe that same edition will feature an outstanding editorial on the importance of having more women run for elected office in NEPA.

Note:  It's not just me; read a similar opinion in today's edition of the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Celebrating Scranton's High Profile Sausage Party

For the benefit of the uninformed, every year around Saint Patrick's Day a group in Scranton holds a special event where the politically and socially connected get together, listen to speeches, eat a grand dinner and generally hobnob.  It also happens to be a men-only event.

Yes, in 2018...nearly 100 years after women gained the right to vote via the 19th Amendment to the Constitution...Scranton has a dinner where those same women are not welcome.  What's just as astounding is the fact that the local newspaper gushes over this event year after year.

This is a gathering where, by my estimation, these same politically and socially connected engage in some self-congratulations on how well they, and by extension, the communities they lead, are doing.  Except for the fact that only the men can attend.  And except for the fact that northeastern Pennsylvania continues to be an area where unemployment is high, wages are low and graft has reached Olympic Gold Medal levels.

For the record, I know there is another event for the womenfolk.  There's even a phrase to describe such a thing.  Now, what is it?  Oh, "separate but equal".  Yeah, that's it.  A convenient excuse to continue a tradition that should have died 80 years ago.

Maybe at this year's event, the men can get together to talk about the ramifications of the #MeToo movement.