Monday, July 25, 2011

Fair thee well, West Chester!

Hi y'all, (I can do that now without feeling silly) have you figured it out yet?  Had I sufficiently managed to put the writing on the wall?  Yes, I can confirm it's true, I've left West Chester for greener pastures, or in my specific case, whiter, sandier beaches.  It was a tough decision, but in the end, it's going to be for the best.  I'd give almost anything to have been able to stay, but it just wasn't in the cards.  I've moved to the sprawling suburbs of Jacksonville, Florida to take a job that's shaping up to be a much better fit for me and my career.

Am I going to miss West Chester?  Really? Do you have to ask?  Of course I will.  Now of course what I will miss the most about West Chester, is not the geographic boundries that make up the borough of West Chester, with all it's charming homes and buildings, but the people that live within those boundries. (and immediate area)  I resigned from the Borough Planning commission and that was hard, especially with the wishes of good luck from the people I worked with there, they really made me feel appreciated for the time that I put in to that labor of love.  Then there were the friends I made there, people like Dr. Jim Jones, professor at West Chester University and member of the Borough Council.  His interest in preserving and documenting the unique history of West Chester is invaluable as well as is his stewardship on Borough Council.  He was the one that encouraged me to serve on the Borough Planning Commission and I'll be forever greatful to him.  Mary Bigham, of West Chester Dish, bringing awareness to all things foody going on in West Chester is a gem.  Jim Breslin, local writer and founder of the West Chester Story Slam, simply put, you couldn't meet a nicer guy. He really has made West Chester a special place by bringing together some of it's denizans to tell our stories.  Finally no discussion about the character of West Chester personified could be complete without mentioning, the irrepressible John Young of Guerilla Drive In, Brandywine Rollergirls, and many many other side projects.  I would hate to embarrass him, but John really has been an inspiration for me, and I hope West Chester realizes what they have in him as a community cheerleader.  Good wishes to them all.

I suppose before I leave the subject of people of West Chester, some might find it incomplete without at least a passing reference to Mr. Bam Margera.  Now it's true that West Chester has generated some important and famous people, like Samuel Barber, the writer of Addigo for Strings, and Bayard Rustin, early civil rights pioneer, but the truth is the reason some people in the United States and the world might be aware of the borough of West Chester exists at all is due in no small amount to him.  People fall into either a love him or hate him catagories, and although I've only exchanged a few nods of acknowledgement from him when I would see him around town, I find myself not being a hater because he did bring "The Note" music venue into the borough, where I've enjoyed on more than one occasion an excellent show.  Having only been in Jacksonville a few weeks and learning about the passsing of his friend Ryan Dunn in that horrible accident, my thoughts turned to West Chester and how uncomfortable it felt to be away from a town that I love that had suffered a loss of one of it's own.

Oh one more mention of West Chester People, I have to admit what made me proud about living in West Chester was the weekly anti-war protestors/pro-troop supporters on the corner of the courthouse.  I'm glad I lived in a place where people felt strongly about anything enough to hold a sign and stand around for an hour once a week.  Suburbia doesn't have a lot of that, I assure you, unless you count the people holding signs for going out of business sales at furniture stores.

So to be truthful, there will be some physical places in West Chester I'll miss, one of the many places is this home on West Nields Street.  I've never met the people who live in it, but I've admired this home since the moment I moved to West Chester.  That Craftsman style with the Frank Lloyd Wright touches, the natural colors, if I were going to build my dream home, this is pretty much it in a nutshell, I wouldn't change a thing.

So this is it West Chester, my last blog about living in West Chester.  It might not be my last entry into this blog, as I have a feeling that West Chester and I will cross paths again and again, there's just to much things to draw one back at least to visit.  Meanwhile, blogging will continue, so would you consider following my new Blog, "Blogging the First Coast". It will be my attempt to make the greater Jacksonville area seem as interesting as West Chester is already.  Wish me luck.

Andrew Rodriguez

PS, did you ever wonder where arod138 came from? arod from Andrew Rodriguez, and 138 from the 138th Aviation Company (EW), the unit I served with in the US Army.  Now you know!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Things I would miss, IF I was to leave West Chester

You know, it's an early Sunday afternoon.  The spring showers haven't come yet, a mild breeze flows through the open windows of the apartment, the grumble of the more and more frequently appearing Harley-Davidson passes by, and wafting through the newly leaved Oaks and Maples of West Chester is the lilting sounds of Irish Music.  Now it's true, we have an Irish Pub a mere steps from where I live, and occasionally, the sounds coming from there are no less as fine as to what I'm listening to now, but the source of the music in this particular case seems somehow a little bit more pure, and not sullied by the attempts of a money making saloon owner to draw in additional patrons.

Keegan, (age 11, on Whistles) and Alexander, (age 12, on fiddle) are simply playing there hearts out to raise money so they can go to Ireland to compete in a Irish Music competition this summer.  I'm not sure if I can say with any certainty, that at any given moment, somewhere in these great United States, some one, in particular a pair of some ones, more particularly a pair of young men someones, is out on a street corner playing beautiful music, raising money for a trip to represent us in a World wide competition, while at the same time adding to the ambiance and quality of life we enjoy here in West Chester.

I have very serious doubts, that if I were to live anywhere else in the country, say, Jacksonville, Florida for example, I doubt that I could open the windows to my place and hear the dulcet tones of fiddle and flute being expertly played just outside, and it is for that reason, and many many other reasons, that I would seriously miss, like SERIOUSLY miss the people and the place that is the community of West Chester, Pennsylvania.

If you are living outside of easy visiting distance of West Chester, I would highly recommend an evaluation of your life so much so that you might determine if you might be able to move here, I assure you, you wouldn't regret it...Oh, and if you hear them around town, can you throw them a few bucks?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Signs of West Chester

Hola Amigos....Let's just pretend that you're not wondering why I haven't posted a blog in over 2 months, and just get into it already, shall we?
(Boy I'm getting worse than Jim Anchower)
Anyway here we are, well into what is it, May? Crap! The year has moved along at a good clip, ain't it! And I'll be honest, I was kind of boycotting Blogging until the weather got better, but somehow, it managed to snow on April 1st, and we've had lot's of cold and rainy days since then, all the while the trees kicking in on the annual pollen pollution drive, so I've been out of it just trying to get by for a while. (Poor me, right? Yea, right as if I expect any sympathy from you guys...:)

When I finally got some time to walk around town, and the weather somewhat cooperated, I started to notice a lot of signs.  Sure, the signs of spring were finally here, like when the Cherry Blossoms fall onto parked cars along our borough's congested streets, but other signs too.

I suppose there is something about the skate culture that is more than prevalent in West Chester, that says you have to tag things with stickers.  Thank you Bam MargeraShepard Fairy and Banksy for all that then. You know what I mean right?  You've seen stickers on signs all around town right? Like these? 
Don't get me wrong, I really don't have a problem with any of the stickers, it's part of our urban landscape, and heck some of the stuff is downright whimsical, like the ubiquitous STICKMEN in the street, but now there is Yawn Bombing, H/T to John Young for discovering this link.  I wish I knew what some of them meant, I have a hard time grasping the idea that someone took the time and trouble to silk screen some image onto some sticky sided polyvinyl to then post onto some random object in public only to perplex squares like me?

That's the mission patch for STS-95, the return to space of Astronaut John Glenn! I'd like to meet the nerd who put that there!
Of course there will be somethings I won't like, like stickers quoting Che Guevera, boy that's somebody's mug I sure could do less seeing of, but as long as there are clueless college kids with money, there will be his visage thrown into the faces of those of us with Cuban ancestry as a constant reminder of paradise lost. (Let alone of relatives lost to firing squads by his personal hand, but I digress.)

And yet these are not the only signs we see around West Chester on a regular basis.  Why just the other day, a lot of signs were seen at a rally to support education in Pennsylvania on the steps of the County Courthouse.  State Senator Andy Dinniman hosted the rally, with his dog a giant poodle for some reason.  I'm not sure if he couldn't get someone to watch the dog or what kind of image he was trying to convey here. (No, I'm not writing words dripping with sarcasm, why do you ask?)

Now I don't know exactly how one opposes supporting education, that's like being opposed to oxygen.  If there is a hitch to it all of course, it's the ability to afford it in a budget strapped environment.  We can have the most educated populace on the planet, but none of it is worth a hill of beans if we are an economic wasteland because we've defaulted on debt. I get it, really I do.  However amidst the hoopla, once again, there was another example among the signs that were there that seemed to have the sole purpose of vexing me was this one.

Was he being ironic?  Was he being allegoric? Was he being idiotic?  Was he just an asshole, I'll never know, I sure didn't want to find out what ulterior motive, if any, he had.

America, Fuck Yea
Circling the Wagons
Finally I figured it would be an interesting weekend to check out our 1 hour express war protests on the corner of Market and High in front of the Courthouse.  A lot's changed since President Bush left office, in so much that the population density of the protesters shifted from the anti war crowd to the support the troops crowd.  

I knew all along that there were few people on both sides truely commited to their ideals, in so much the anti-war group was really populated with anti-George Bush people, and right on que, when President Obama got elected, they were replaced with anti-Barrack Obama people.  I really respect anybody who really is for peace, but they got to be consistent.  That said, it warms my heart to see someone sending love towards a soldier and hoping for victory on the battlefield, but when the politics get involved, taxes, immigration, and birth certificates, it's such a turnoff.  All that being said, it was a weekend for the pro troops people, who didn't gloat or get any more jingoistic than usual, what with the very satisfying demise of Osama Bin Laden, they stayed on message.  So did the antiwar people believe it or not.  I think the few hard core peaceniks that are left have the honorable conviction of their feelings and are just wanting peace, and who can argue with that? 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Anybody seen my wallet? Oh there it is...

Anybody else ready for winter to end?  Yea I thought so me too.  I have to admit that we're much closer to the end of winter than the beginning of it, but this stretch of time when one day blurs into the next for days on end is so much tougher than in the beginning, when we are kind of eased into the season with the various holidays that we actually look forward to like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Kwanzaa.

Maybe it's a coincidence, that during these dog days of winter, (or is it "cat" days of winter?) where I really, really start to lose my mind.  Specifically, I've been losing my wallet lately.  Not misplacing it, but flat out losing it, only to have the great lucky fortune of having it be found by a kind stranger or in the last place I'd look, (as if I'd keep looking after I found it)

I think a lot of the reasons I'm losing it in the first place is because I'm usually doing something outside of my routine, like getting up early in the morning to move the car out of the parking garage to some far off corner of the borough where I can leave it there without paying.  Or going across the street to the YMCA to workout for an hour.  In both examples my wallet is not going into my right rear pocket like it does every morning of every day when I work, but it's going into a pocket in my sweat pants, or a pocket in a pullover which leads me to be lose track of it if it falls out into the snow covered streets without making a sound.

It should be known that I've yet to lose my iPhone, as that little collection of silicon chips might as well be surgically implanted into the palm of my hand at this point. Yet twice now in the last two weeks I've gone through the exercise of turning the apartment upside down, and retracing my steps through the streets of West Chester to see if I might come upon it, laying on the sidewalk, undisturbed, as if somehow I prearranged to meet my wallet here at some future point like the meeting of old friends in town for a drink.

I even go through the steps of bringing the spiritual world into the process, by reaching out to Saint Anthony of Padua, the Patron Saint of lost things.  I'm sure I got started on that kick by my mom, back when my GI Joe's head would somehow become liberated from the rest of his body.  She'd have me pray to him to help me find it, and sure enough, sooner or later I would find it inexplicably buried in the sand box in the back yard in some sort of ritual warning to the other GI Joe's to stay out of enemy territory.  I mean it's kind of silly when you think about it, to check in with a celestial lost and found, but hey, I'm not taking any chances.

You know the thing of it is, I could probably avoid all the hysterics, by making my wallet as exciting as the glove compartment in my car by reducing it to a simple carrying case for money, ID and credit cards only, as all of those can be replaced pretty easily in this day and age.  But I've got some really personal things in there, like my old Military ID, long since expired, my PADI Dive certification card that's still good, but, it's got a great picture of me being 21 years old at the time that I got dive qualified.  Finally it's got a picture of Lana and a lucky dollar bill that she gave me when she gave me the wallet, the first of many gifts she has given me throughout the years. (and I hope many gifts she will continue to shower me with in the years to come.)

That's what makes the wallet almost irreplaceable, it's a bit of the nostalgia I've got going on in there, and the sense of the future that's there too. Plenty of room for pictures of the kid(s) that may happen one of these days.

So, if you have to be walking up and down High Street, and you see a black leather wallet sitting on the sidewalk, would you stop by the Greentree Building and drop it off?  No questions asked, reward if returned.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snowbound and down


First off, let me say Happy New Year! For that matter, Merry Christmas and Chappy Chanukah. (You like that last one? Yea me too.)  Anyway, sorry I didn't write a blog for December, I was going to put in my 2 cents about the local controversy about how the Philadelphia Free Thought Society (Atheist) didn't get to put up their "Tree of Knowledge" decorated with ornaments that are the covers of books written by famous non-believers.  I was going to juxtapose this with the fact that a few blocks down the street a homeowner who really goes all out for Christmas with the inflatable lawn decorations had some of them stolen right off his lawn so he pulled all his decorations inside in protest.  I was going to cleverly tie together with some wit and insight on freedom of expression, religious freedom, and commercialism, then I realized I'd get in over my head and decided to drop the whole thing because in the end I would have probably arrived at a depressing conclusion.

 Speaking of depressing, what's the deal with all this snow?  Again I've mentioned it before, despite my Florida nativity, and my Cuban ethnicity, I know snow.  In fact, here are some pictures of me in the snow from when I was in the Army.

Ok here technically I'm not in the snow, but I'm taking this picture hiding in my room in the barracks instead of going to PT in the snow, so I still count it. Ft Devens, 1986

Here I am in Chitose, Saporro, Japan, January 1989. Coldest place I've ever been.

They had us staying in WWII barracks instead of the Marriott this one time, can you believe it? 
Fort Sheridan, Illinois 1993

I think if you looked back at all my blogs over the last 3 years, you'd think I live in some Arctic frontier town or something.  Today of course is no exception, we've gotten snow overnight, with more snow coming this afternoon.  I tell you, it's bad enough with the snow and never seeing the sun during the day, but with the early darkness of daylight savings time, I'm inclined to lend a lot of credence to that whole "Seasonal Affective Disorder" thing aka "S.A.D.", can you believe it?

Well despite it all, one has to make the best of things, like today, when I had to go get Lana's car from where it was parked, (why is she parked outside, blocks away from our apartment, instead of in the warm comfort of the newly built parking garage you ask? Because if you are not out of the garage by 7:30 AM, they close the gates and start charging you to leave, 75 cents every half hour.  If she starts work at 3:00 PM, well, you can imagine it'll start to add up, so we play this game every other day of finding a place to park near Marshall Park) and of course when I got there the car had been covered with up to 6 inches of snow.

Trying to make light of things, I gave her car a Mohawk, (Snowhawk?) 

 Finally, coming back in from the cold, this is what my scooter looked like.
Well, what can I say, we're all hanging in there to one varying degree or another, it's very hard because it's very easy that in addition to the environmental factors, we allow that mental parasite known as the internet to get it's clutches on our brainstem, and we spend these dark evenings reading article after article about how everything is so terrible in these United States, whether it's about the economy, the war in Afghanistan, the rise of China, or ironically, the weather, for that matter.  Oh and let me tell you, it's really hard, but a bit of advice from me to you would be to avoid reading the comments on certain articles, the things people spout off these days because of the anonymity, I tell ya, sheesh!

Please though, don't be shy, feel free to leave a comment!  A special note to my readers from around the world, tell us how you are feeling?  Russia, China, Japan, Brazil, India, UK, I see you there landing on my blog, check in won't you? Does anybody else on the planet have a sense of brightness of future right around the corner, or is everyone feeling the same kind of ennui that we are here?

Maybe instead of hiding under blankets, I need to get out there and make the best of it.  I may end up in Arizona one day and then I'll be missing the snow.....then again, maybe not.  Oh the heck with it, I think I'll go build a snowman.
Snowmageddon, West Chester PA 2010

See you soon!

Oh by the way, anybody else think the title of today's blog entry is even remotely clever?  I do....just saying...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving, 25 Years Ago

I almost hate commenting on the season since I'm sure that there are an infinite amount of personal stories related to Thanksgiving, given as to how it lends itself to themes of nostalgia what with the family aspect of one's childhood, of relatives and friends long gone and such, but I suppose since I was out at the Grocery Store last night and for a brief moment of looking at aluminum foil drip pans I became momentarily overwhelmed by a kind of emotion, I figured I ought to add to the record another story of Thanksgivings past.

Time: November, 1985

Conditions: Grey skies, intermittent snow and sleet, around 35 degrees.

Place: A quaint looking Farmhouse overlooking a harvested cornfield, now brown and littered with the remains of dried out cornstalks, just outside of Ayer, Massachusetts which is in turn just outside of Fort Devens, Massachusetts.

The Players: Six, 18 year old soldiers from around the United States learning Morse Code and two, 21 year old guys doing the same thing.

Opening scene is in the barracks at Ft. Devens, Wednesday before the four day holiday, right after "school".
Robert Nelms and Matt Calloni in the Foreground, Doug Dry middle fingering and others in background

Enter Robert Nelms, the slightly older, much cooler, leader of our gang.  Very nonchalantly, he tossed a pair of unfamiliar keys up into the air only to catch them again and again, as he strolled into our day room.

"Guys," he announced, "I've got the ticket out of this depressing situation"

All of us looked up at him, with a brightness in our faces as it appears that we were to be saved from the collective gloom that had been our situation, which was to be young, far away from home, and missing our families on Thanksgiving.

"Mike and Annette are going to Indiana for Thanksgiving, so he gave me the keys to their apartment off Post, so we are going to have the greatest Thanksgiving dinner since the Pilgrims got to this miserable state!"

Yes! We were sold, no need for any cajoling or persuasion, we were 100% on board, anything, ANYTHING to get away from these goddamn barracks and away from Captain Chang and First Sergeant Willis.  I crammed into the back of a red and rusted 1974 Ford Pinto, a car that had apparently been at Ft Devens for generations of soldiers, passed down from someone who was graduating to someone in the class behind them for about 50 bucks each time.  We drove slick and slippery roads to the local A & P Grocery stores and proceeded to act like idiots as we tried our best, with what money we had, to buy the ingredients and accouterments needed to put together a Thanksgiving feast.  I'm more than a little bit sure that we were followed at a distance by the store manager, as I'm sure that our actions of youthful, goofy excitement, yelling to each other across aisles, and the reenactment of scenes out of the movie Animal House where we faked putting various staples down our pants gave him something to be suspicious about.

Now unless you've never been 18 and male, you might not be able to appreciate that putting together a Thanksgiving dinner is not exactly something that comes naturally.  Odds are that in homes across the USA, even today, the teenage boys are not exactly involved with the cooking process.  This thus explained the series of long distance calls that were made over the course of the day made to towns in Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, and others to Moms and Grandma's and Aunts to ask what went into the Turkey stuffing, what went into the corn, the potatoes, etcetera, etcetera.  The Kitchen became a whirlwind of activity, young guys cutting, chopping, and sauteing, bouncing off of each other like heated molecules as they opened kitchen cabinet doors and reached for measuring cups, knives, bowls, frying pans, whatever it would take to make this dinner happen.

Believe me when I say I offered to help, I really did, but I was summarily dismissed from the kitchen for blatantly ethnic discrimination reasons.  "Get out of here Rodriguez, you don't know anything about Thanksgiving, you're Cuban! Go back into the living room and watch Football or pop in one of those Porno tapes we rented."  So I obligingly went back into the living room and watched a young, (as it would turn out, an entirely too young) Traci Lords do some of her best work.  Who was I to complain with that kind of mandate?  Strange note, to this day, I always seem to have a ridiculous smile on my face whenever I smell of Turkey in the oven.

Now I know that nowhere in that iconic Norman Rockwell image of Thanksgiving is a TV in the background showing hard core pornography, but maybe it's on in another room who knows.  (Look at the smiles on these people's faces, it can't be just about the Turkey, am I right?) Anyway, despite the porn, the scene from windows of that second story farmhouse living room couldn't have been more idilic.  The sun was nowhere to be seen, hidden by indistinguishable layers of low hanging, slow moving, grey clouds.  On any other day it would seem gloomy but for some reason on this day they didn't.  Snow lightly fell into the empty fields where cornstalks lay strewn about after the harvest, frost formed in the corners of the panes of glass set in the wooden frames of this old house, and the smells of things being cooked, boiled and baked were very heavy in the air.

Finally, night fell, and we were STARVING.  Since we had all been in the apartment throughout the previous night and into the day, we hadn't eaten anything.  Away from the barracks also meant being away from the Mess Hall and free food, and of course with the kitchen fully employed at the effort of making dinner, nothing else was had to eat.  Imagine that while at the same time being in a room thick with the aromas of food being cooked.  It's a wonder the Turkey came out of the oven in one piece.
The moment had to be preserved, so I took out my camera, a very nice Pentax that I had yet to afford to buy a flash for, so everyone had to remain absolutely still for several seconds posed around the Turkey, much to the annoyance of my friends.  "Goddamn Rodriguez get a real camera next time for fucksake, I'm starving already!"  Sadly, that photo no longer exists, but it's blurry colors, those overly extended smiles on people's faces, and perfectly hued Turkey are something that remain with me and always will.

For a brief moment, we transformed into gentlemen.  We gathered around the table, we bowed our heads in prayer and thanks, and we toasted to each other.  We then proceeded to have a some of the best Turkey I've ever had, and probably ever will have.  In reality I'm sure the Turkey wasn't perfect, but rarely is Thanksgiving about the food, it's about the moment, and this was as fine a moment as I'll ever have.

I was especially proud of my contribution to the dinner, without which it could not have happened.  The Tin Foil Drip Pan that the Turkey sat upon, that was me.  The day before at the A & P among the chaos and merriment I spotted what was the stores last example.  Thanksgiving Dinner's success or failure depended on procuring this critical item.  As I reached for it I realized I was in a race for it with some other woman.  Realizing what was at stake my reach became a lunge, and I snatched it out of it's display shelf mere milliseconds before she could grasp it. I smiled and walked away not looking back at what I'm sure was her heart broken face.

Last night, at the Grocery store, I saw a large stack of these drip pans and was for a moment, overwhelmed by a surge of nostalgia.  I became momentarily weak kneed and weepy.  Seriously my eyes became moist I kid you not and I'm not afraid to admit it!  I thought, "Damn, I'm doing the same thing I was Twenty Freaking Five years ago."  Today, the company I keep and the circumstances under which I live are light years and 100's of miles away from that time, yet I suppose if there was a point in sharing this story was to point out how THANKFUL, I guess, I am for having had that experience.  I'm thankful that I was young, immature, naive, and all those things I'm not today (well, somewhat), because without those experiences I wouldn't be who I am today, and I wouldn't be sharing these experiences with the people I love today, so again, I have a lot to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all.

Post Script:

The rest of the weekend, Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday morning, well, you can bet that any semblance of a orthodox Thanksgiving went out the window when we invited a bunch of other people who were stuck at the barracks, along with some local girls, and a kitchen sink filled to the brim with fruit punch and several different clear grain alcohols.  The Sunday morning clean up, the racing back to the barracks, the sheepish apologies for the mess we had made are legendary and still reminisced at get togethers to this day, but those stories are for another day.  Maybe Tomorrow since after all it was 25 years ago this week....

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Just checking in...

Hi all.  Not much going on really, not a whole heck of a lot to report on, but I wanted to just write something for the sake of writing something.  The new gig keeps me pretty stressed out and working long days, so my life in town has me retreating beneath the covers of my bed almost as soon as I walk in the door. There's a great deal of shame in that as I find excuses not to go to the gym, but there you have it.  I know people say that working out relieves stress, but what if you're too stressed to go?  Anybody got any tips in tricking the mind into getting back at it?

Anyway I digress, there's not much going on at Borough hall either actually, the town's short about a million and a half bucks as you may have heard, so there goes my free parking on weekends at my own apartment. (Actually, we'll see, maybe somebody forgot to carry over a decimal or something.)
Joe, Lana, and Yours Truly
The only things of any interest, and probably only to me, was the stopping by of my brother a couple of weeks ago on his 2 week leave from his year long deployment to Afghanistan.  This was followed up yesterday by the visit of his Canadian girlfriend on a 5 hour layover in PHL.  *Note, yes he actually has a Canadian girlfriend, not the kind that we nerds would make up to tell our friends, but an actual French and English speaking Canadian.  How aboot that, eh?
Yours Truly, Lana, and Sheyla

One of the things they now have in common, (ok, now one MORE thing they have in common) is that they've both visited West Chester.  They both rave about the place by the way, they are so impressed with our nature, our winding roads, our babbling brooks, our historic architecture, and great restaurants.

You know I think living here one might lose sight of how darn nice it is here, and it's something worth preserving as well as promoting.  Now one might think the two ideas can't coincide, but let's face it, if we're ever going to get out of our million dollar hole, it is by preserving what we have, and promoting what we have to others.  Which as you are probably getting it by now, involves preserving what we have as something worth promoting!

(In other words, can we not tear down everything in town willy nilly especially if we're not going to improve upon it?)

That's why I participate on a Historical Preservation Task Force, trying to figure out what kind of things should our town hang on to, and how do we get more people informed and involved?  Should the borough be in the business of helping homeowners renovate the historically approved way appropriate for the property they own?  What does that look like, is it "hand them a pamphlet about how to do it, wish them good luck and that's the end of it?" or  "a financial/tax rebate kind of thing" if they use historically correct materials in any renovations?

Speaking of tax things, I sure hate the idea of being taxed or having to pay for services I currently don't pay for now. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm not sure there are too many people out there who do like to pay for stuff they're not paying for now, but if not that, then it's going to have to be cuts in the services I currently get, and you just know that translates into a poorer (pun both intended and not) quality of life for those of us who live here UNLESS, we can shift the burden onto some other magical entity that would pay for it.

Let's see now, I grew up in Florida, hmmm, I remember not paying state income tax, hmmm, what was it that kept me from paying more in services from the community?  Hmmmm, yes, labor costs were not as much down there that's true, but there was something else, what was it, oh I remember, TOURISTS!  If we can figure out a way, to attract people from other parts of the world to come here, to enjoy what we enjoy, and get them to leave a few coins in our coffers, (while somehow minimizing their impact and demand for services) then we may be on the right track!

Would we as a community, live with our roads packed with 1000's instead of the currently 100's of bikers (the spandex kind) pedaling along the sides of our roads?  Could we tolerate 1000's of bikers (the leather kind) roaring up and down our roads?  Could we tolerate 1000's of ponytailed college girls with shinguards and sticks with nets at the end of them running up and down our fields?  How about Revolutionary War Re-enactors, Civil War Re-enactors, hell, WWII re-enactors having encampments in our parks?  1000's of cross stitchers? 1000's of Roller Derby enthusiasts?  How about minor league baseball fans? I know, I know, we're trying to make money, not lose it here, but hey, has anybody really done the numbers?

I'm sure out there there are people with great ideas, we just have to move them off of the comments section of the Daily Local News and into a forum where they actually get heard by those that can make them come to fruition.

I can tell you what, just like I've learned (or re-learned, pretty recently, I might add) in life, the accepting the status quo is not an option.

So, who's with me, who's got ideas to make this a better place to live? (that don't cost so dang much!)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Well, THAT was interesting!

I've actually had a busy week, when I'm not in over my head at my new job, (well, not in over my head, but the analogy of having the similar feeling to that of a gentleman who is a below the knee amputee at a contest where kicking the posteriors of others comes to mind) I've gone to a Planning Commission Work Session, a community meeting of the Historical Preservation Task Force, (thanks for coming out to THAT West Chester...said sarcastically) and finally tonight the Turk's Head Stadium Alliance presentation at the Charles A Melton Arts and Education Center.

Now I'm sure like you, although the idea of a Baseball Stadium in West Chester has been buzzing around the borough for about 5 years, it seems like only recently has there been a burst of activity in the last couple of weeks, when there was an impromptu, and perhaps ill advised press conference about how the Philadelphia Phillies, a local athletic club of some renown I'm led to believe, is ready to commit to coming to West Chester with one of their Minor League organizations.  This led many to immediately man the redoubts and take position, because one had the feeling that one might get run over by this steam roller express and not have a say in it before thousands of people come traipsing through our sleepy, innocent little burg.

Well, as it turns out, we are nowhere near that happening anytime soon, if my year or so on Borough planning commission has taught me anything.  If the Borough is going to get involved in purchasing land from the current owner, and then leasing out to a tenant, in this case the ball club, a LOT has to happen first.

As for tonight's meeting, I'm not sure I saw it coming, but I suppose it could have been predicted.  You had sitting at a table, in 3 chairs facing a group of about 30 people, 3 very nice looking, elderly, white AND white haired gentlemen. One, was the owner of a local sporting goods establishment, the other, a man who has when they say, "Baseball is my life", really made it his life, being a player in High School, College, and the Pros, as well as in executive positions with many teams and as a consultant in bringing Minor Leagues to towns across the USA.  Now normally the race of these I'm sure fine and upstanding men wouldn't even be used as an adjective under normal circumstances, but sitting across from them were the actual residents of the community in which this stadium might be built, right smack in the middle of a historically African American Community.

This Dr. Killenger (not LBJ BTW)
From the moment it began, these men spoke in what I'm positive was a heartfelt place, about a passion for the sport, and a passion for the town.  They dropped names of teams played for, coaches they worked for (You played for Doc Killinger? Really? The black garbed, "villain consultant" with the Henry Kissenger-esq accent from the Venture Brothers? Oh, not him, some other guy, oh never mind then, that's just me watching way to much Adult Swim.)

Not This Dr. Killenger

The problem was as I saw it, was that these gentlemen, all in their 70's in age, were not connecting to this audience.  As the murmurs grew while they spoke of alleged benefits to the community most effected, you could tell the speakers weren't picking up on it.  That's why they seemed so unprepared to deal with unleashed fury of a community that felt neglected.

In the words of some people, "our kids have nothing to do" "somebody came and broke all the side view mirrors on our cars parked on the street last night" and "we didn't even get the snow shoveled out during the last storm", true, non-sequitor statements given the agenda of the meeting but none the less, it felt like, and I say this as an observer, so who knows if I got it right, but that "maybe this project was just another thing that old white guys are trying to dump in our laps"

So, we all know what NIMBY is right?  Not In My Back Yard?  Well, there are a lot of people who would love to have this in their back yard.  I know for a personal fact that the residents near 1060 West Addison Avenue in Chicago around Wrigley Field don't seem to mind much at all, in fact they love it.

So why the hostility tonight?

The truth is I think a lot of the initial frustration with this project, despite what some might say about how it seemed to be gathering steam in the shadows, despite what some might say about where the money is going to come from, is that people are projecting the current problems of the borough on to project thinking that somehow the project will magnify these issues a hundred fold.  Now of course who knows, maybe it will destroy property values, tax rates will skyrocket, and quality of life will diminish, EVEN MORE for a certain sector of the community who've historically had it rough all along. (You think all those chemical companies and trucking companies are there for no particular reason?)

What made it worse I have to say, was how these gentlemen, goodnatured all I'm sure, were just unprepared for it.  Unprepared in that they had no numbers on taxes, traffic flows, foot traffic, revenues, policing needs, light pollution, noise pollution, on and on and on.  Furthermore they seemed to want to push away from that subject, as if they only were the group brining an idea and matching it with the decision makers in the community, and weren't otherwise responsible for working out the details.  While that maybe true, one might want to do a little advertising first, solicit ideas, have some numbers for people to mull over, before presenting something that looks like it might break ground next spring.  That is in fact what's so troubling, it's no where near ready to go, but they were very clumsy in trying to get that fact across.

They did talk about 125 jobs, they did talk about a all year long, 100 seat indoor auditorium for lectures and college classes, they did talk about giving the kids something to do via free tickets from local churches, they talked about Halloween parades at the park and New Years Eve celebrations with fireworks, they did talk about how it might seriously help get the SEPTA R3 West Chester line back to the borough, they even talked about how the Chester County Pops Orchestra needed a place to call home, but they just didn't have much else.

Add the age gap, the race gap, and the income gap between the audience and the presenters, and it just made for a cringe inducing evening that I hope won't be ever be repeated.

I tell you what though, if you want to see fireworks, go the next Borough Council meeting when this is on the agenda!  I think I'll pass, and let Anne Pickering of the Daily Local News tell me all about it!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

There's a doing's a West Chester!

You know, I had to look up my own reference, has that happened to you?  I knew when it popped into my head, the title of today's blog, I just knew it couldn't have been an original thought, so where did it come from?

My first thought was that it came from a cherished Warner Brothers Bugs Bunny Cartoon, the one where he's traveling through the Ozarks, and runs afoul of these two hillbillies, Curt and Pumpkinhead Martin, and the subsequent savage beating they give each other in the course of a hyper-violent square dance called by Bugs himself.  Now I know political correctness has it's place, but I wonder what with the some of the more distasteful by today's standards cartoons having been swept under the nation's rug for their shiver inducing racism in the way that some ethnic minorities in the 20's 30's 40's and 50's were portrayed, the fact that the two main characters are white, (and southern redneck to boot) the uber violence is somehow ok, SINCE it is happening TO them.

Ok maybe I'm reading too much into that.  It just bothers me that I can't find decent copies on the internet of the Speedy Gonzalez cartoons where he has a cousin by the name of "Slowpoke Rodriguez"  because as a slow running fat kid named Rodriguez, I was some how saved from further mockery because we all watched on Saturday mornings when Speedy would give the ever sage advice that, "don't mess with Slowpoke, he carry a gun!"

Anyway, believe it or not, this is not what this blog is about, it's about what's happening in town.  And that is, not much, really.  Well, let's cover a few things.

Brownfield of Dreams, or the West Chester Minor League Stadium.

If they build it, will we pay?

I'm still forming my opinion on it, but I lean towards positive, because I do recall having a very pleasant day at a Minor League ball park in Salt Lake City, and to have a venue of this size that is walkable from downtown, I have to say I like it adding to my quality of life, especially if there were outdoor concerts and such being given there.  Now of course as my quality of life goes up, perhaps someone living next to it their quality of life goes down, so it all remains to be seen, there are so many things that have to happen before they break ground, I doubt I'll see anything presented to me at the planning commission anytime soon.

Demolition by neglect.

Photo Credit @ddragger

You learn a lot being on the Planning Commission, so the whole backstory on this property is fascinating, of course I won't get into it here, but suffice to say, the owners of the property probably prayed for this to happen so they wouldn't have to pay out of pocket for it's upkeep, given the building is in the Historic District and the requirements on building upkeep that go with that.  So, with the borough's hands tied and a property owner who was too broke to bother, another bit of history is lost.  It's bad enough when mother nature and fires take their toll, it's another thing when we destroy things on purpose which would bring me to talking about the First Presbyterian Church and their desire to expand their church by demolishing two 19th Century residences (that they do own by the way) but since that's been forwarded on to Borough Council for decision, I won't say much more about that.

So finally, filed under the category of "Why didn't I think of that", West Chester is getting it's first Hookah and Cigar Bar with free Wi-Fi. I don't get how they get around the clean air act stuff that has all but eliminated smoking from most bars and restaurants, but the idea of being able to sip tea, coffee, or wine, while smoking cherry flavored tobacco, while working on that screenplay of yours, wow, that's all I can say.  It'll empty out the Starbucks in town for sure as every bearded, ironic t-shirt wearing hipster in town and every horn-rimmed glasses wearing babe who scribbles away in her Moleskin journal will flock to the place.  Oh and you can bet I'll be there.  I just wish I had a velvet jacket and a Fez.

OH I almost forgot.

It was The Simpsons, when Bart and the Gang had to go to Shelbyville to recover the stolen Lemon tree, the impound lot manager who sounded a lot like Walter Mathau, he was the one who said it. "There's a doing's a transpiring!"

God please shoot me....

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Aestas Horribilis or, One Crazy Summer

Whew, glad that's over with!  Have you noticed I've been keeping the low profile as of late?  What, you didn't notice? Oh, well then, fine, never mind....

Seriously though I can finally and thankfully say, "No more!" to the whole laying low thing.  Not that I'm one to have a particularly high profile in the first place, but things have transpired throughout the month so much so that I feel good about raising my head above the trenches again without fear of having my head shot to speak...I'll explain.

Under most circumstances, I tend to look forward to the summer months, like most people in the world do, for the longer days of sunlight, the passing of the spring allergy season, and the chance to take some time off from work.

This year, was a little different, and not in the good, John Cusack, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy tries to win girl back and hilarity ensues good kind of different like in the movies...

Here's the deal. In all honesty work for me was in a death spiral, and after 7 years it had become clear that there was no future for me there.  Now normally one does not take a leap of faith in the middle of what is categorized as "The Great Recession", but I did, and alas, it worked!  I actually found a better paying job!

Unfortunately, that lasted all of 2 weeks and 2 days before they rescinded the offer of employment, no explanation given.  As one might imagine I was pretty much freaked out, but just when you thought that the team was up against it, and the breaks were beating the boys, (and you can file this under the category of "Will miracles never cease?"), I found another job!

Fast forward to today, after 2 weeks and 3 days of being at the new job, I can say safely that I will be there for the duration, thus allowing me to breath a sigh of relief, and start looking again towards the future.

To give you a timeline of when all of this went down, this was from June 29th to August 16th. Total time unemployed, less than 3 weeks.  Not bad in the grand scheme of things if I do say so myself, NOT that I'm one to gloat, because believe me I started to get pretty full of myself after landing the first gig, I've since been a lot more humble (and thankful to God) the second time around.

Oh, and in addition, as if I needed to add to the drama and make this period of time even more of a emotionally chaotic time for me, I formally proposed to Lana in Key West.  Thankfully, she said yes.

So, where do we go from here?  Well, the personal life will assume it's course, that's for certain, and as for the blogging, well I'm confidant I'll be able to post more frequently. I've got a lot of pent up "writing lust' to work out of my system, and let's face it, there's no shortage of things to cover here in Beautiful West Chester, Pennsylvania.

I'll let you know how it goes...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Anybody want to explain this? Anyone?

Call me naive, but I want to believe it's about the troops, I want it to be about patriotism and love of country, I want it to be about victory, and duty-honor-country, but can anybody explain this? (Look closely at the center, or look at the blow up photo below this one)

Ok, maybe it's about victory over fascism. Maybe this guy is saying, "See this flag? It's a "Riechskriegflagge", and my grandpa captured it from some Waffen SS troops when his platoon took the bridge over the Rhine at Remagen as part of the Big Red One." (1st Infantry Division) So he's implying that by showing the banner of a vanquished enemy that could easily be described without hyperbole as evil incarnate, supporting the troops is in fact a noble thing to do.

Or, maybe he's saying he likes white people and hates Jews...

No matter what, it's a question of messaging, with the question being, "What's the message?"

What is the message when 100s of bikers roll into town, and rally to support the troops? Is it only bikers that support the troops? Are these people racists? I think most importantly, are they intolerant of intolerance among their midst?

Why didn't anyone confront this guy and ask what his deal was? If anybody wanted to make the anti-war protesters job any easier and to help reinforce the narrative that anybody who disagrees with President or waves the American flag is a xenophobic, jingoistic, white supremacist, this guy did it perfectly! You can imagine them yelling, "You see?, you see?, they ARE a bunch of jackbooted Nazi thugs!"

I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure that I can throw out every comment on every article I read online, because only extremists on the left and right apparently have the time (and are otherwise cowardly in that they don't speak out in person) to post such lunatic ravings. I wonder why those who lean left don't tell some of those among them to shut the hell up, because they are making them seem crazy, but as one can see by what's demonstrated today, people that lean right are just as either ambivalent or feel just as non-confrontational to say anything to the crazies that they hang out with as well.

I hate pointing out things in life that are wrong without offering a solution, but this here problem sure has me buffaloed. Anybody got any ideas? Anybody want to brainstorm this?


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

That Stupid Cake! (Flickr Stats)

Hey all, just a quick note, I'm super busy what with having just got back from Saratoga Springs New York, and having to do a quick turn (2 weeks) to head down to Florida. Saratoga Springs was great, boy that town is like West Chester on Steroids, I'll never complain about the crowds or the nightlife here again. Their little burg is hopping on Friday and Saturday Nights, it's as if half of Manhattan caught the train into Saratoga Springs for a little shopping, swimming and night life. Anyway, I was up there for a military reunion, actually the whole story probably deserves its own blog post, so I'll see if I can get around to it soon.

What I wanted to post about, and I still haven't posted about what Grinds my Gears, that's coming soon too I promise, is this seemingly innocuous photo I took last summer at the "Back to the Future" Guerrilla Drive In Show on the roof of the Bicentennial Garage.

Jailbird Uncle Joey

Why, is this freaking photo so G.D. popular? I mean it's my number one searched for photo on my Flickr page! I mean, every G.D. day, someone, somewhere Google Images queries this photo by looking for the keywords "Jailbird" "Uncle Joey Cake", or some combination there of.
I mean sure, it was clever, to have a cake who's design was taken from a movie prop and some throw away dialogue that never really entered into the main plot of the movie, but still, what gives?

So, curiosity got the better part of me so I Googled it and sure enough, my photo on Flickr is the number one result! Upon further investigation, it turns out that according to none other than the big "O" herself, (that's Oprah people, come on!) people throw "Back to the Future" themed parties, and no party is complete, no matter how many DeLoreans show up, without the freaking "Welcome Home Uncle Joey" cake!

If you've been paying attention, and I'm sure you have as I'm sure you always hang on my every posting, my every tweet, is that I've been posting a lot of photos I got scanned of me "back in the day" doing the whole Army thing. It's mostly pictures of a 100 pound lesser version of me drinking a lot of beer and looking cool in Ray Bans and a Flight Suit. Despite that though, I think generally I've got a lot of cool photos of Airplanes, Scooters, beautiful places, beautiful people, but are people interested in that? No. People are interested in a stupid cake.......

Wish I had baked it....

Monday, June 7, 2010

Man, Blogging is hard!

Hey all, just a quick note to let you know I'm alive. I don't know how I let the month of May come and go without writing anything, certainly not because there hasn't been much to write about, but I'll catch up soon since I've got stuff on my mind I wanted to share.

Otherwise, I wanted to say we here in West Chester have successfully made the transition from Winter to Spring, and are about to turn the corner into Summer. Allergies have come and gone, with only a hint of pink eye. I even missed the World War II weekend in Reading, PA, my first in 5 years. Of course living with a female again might have had something to do with that, especially since we went last year. That said, I'm going to try and drag her to the air show at New Garden Flying Field in Toughkenomen this weekend, June 12th and 13th, Saturday there is supposed to be a flyby of a B-2 bomber, so that'll be cool! Anybody else want to come with? Anybody? No? Ok fine, whatever.

Oh, and another quick note, Tuesday is West Chester Story Slam, with the theme of "Broke", and I still don't know what I'm going to talk about, (I wouldn't know anything about not having money, *ahem*) and Thursday I'm one of about 10 people hosting walking tours of the neighborhood of Northwest West Chester starting from the Chester County Historical Society and compared to some of the human encyclopedias that live here in West Chester, I'll be lucky to finish my tour with the same people I started with and not get lost.

So on all counts, wish me luck, and once I get over the hump here, I'll write more about what's grinding my gears....

Sunday, April 25, 2010

West Chester Film Festival in Review.

You might have noticed, if you spend anytime downtown, that this weekend was the West Chester Film Festival. Signs posted in store windows, banners hanging across High Street, obnoxious Hollywood types walking around yaking on their cell phones, not paying attention to traffic, ordering their fu-fu Soy Decaf no foam lattes...oh wait, that one is probably one of us. Seriously, unless you are not the observant type, you might have missed it. And based on the attendance I saw, a lot of us did, and for that, for shame!

Listen I'm not trying to lay a guilt trip, don't feel bad, I get it. That's the one thing about living here, the plethora of things to occupy our time. We've got to shop, and feed ourselves and work out, and get the job done generally, and heck we simply do not have a shortage of things to do.

Heck, me and Lana took the bikes out on a trail, so we missed some of the movies...

Perhaps though, maybe we need to look at things from the perspectives of "wants to" and "needs to". When it comes time to support the arts, maybe that should be something we "need to" do. We manage to be athletic supporters, (I've always loved that joke) as there is no shortage of decal Eagle's heads or giant red letter "P"'s on the backs of cars around here, and Political Supporters, as there is no shortage of Obama/Palin stickers on the backs of cars around here. (Did you ever think you'd see those two names separated by a slash in the same sentence in your life? Yea me neither...) And you know you won't find argument in me that we are all supporters of our kids. Especially the ones that are on the honor roll, although God help me I can't find any bumper stickers that say "My kid is just your average kid, and he's great anyway!"

So we, Americans, and West Chesterarians, specifically, (I think that's right) at the beginning of the 3rd Millennium, do we have time for patronage of the arts? Now I know we are not all DiMedici's or Rockefellars, around here, and we can't pay out of our own pockets to commission works of art, be they sculptures or paintings or arias or amphitheaters, but we really should find some time in our busy schedule and treat ourselves to something like independent films, right? I mean if for nothing else but purely selfish reasons, why not entertain ourselves? The beauty of it is though, is through the act of entertaining yourselves for a couple of hours, you support people who are involved in telling stories through the medium of film. Through that, ideas are communicated, alternates points of view are shared, minds are changed, and can't this only be a good thing?

I managed to catch 3 different blocks of the Film Festival and enjoyed each one. There were on average 7 or so small films within the block of films running anywhere from 3 minutes to 15 minutes in length. The diversity was definitely there, Polish, Jewish, Israeli, Women, African American, Dutch, Chinese and of course French subtitled films made appearances. (You can't have a pretentious film festival without something French in there!) Honestly though, "Alter Ego" and "Le Hobby" both excellent movie shorts and hardly pretentious.
Oh did I mention we even got to vote for our favorite movie in the block that we watched? Thing of it is though, I felt a bit like Homer Simpson in the episode where Springfield has a film festival, and he votes for the movie, "Man gets hit in groin by football" in so much that I pretty much went for the obviously funny (but with heart) movies.

Heck and where else, after watching a movie, can you turn around in your seat and ask the director or the producer of one of the films you just watched a question as to how they made it?

I think maybe, and here's my two scents, both smelling good of course, is that a way to involve the West Chester community more is to, well, involve the West Chester community more? If Sundance has it's Slamdance, than why couldn't we have a Slam Chester film festival tie in? How about we grab our home movie cameras and make a few, few minute shorts? Invite the college kids to enter, keep them from drinking for more than 20 minutes anyway, (if you believe some of the people around here that that's what they are all about) Test our talents and entertain our neighbors, why not? Everyone a star or a writer/director for a day.

I'm sure there's probably some issue about releases and Unions and such that I'm not aware of that would play into this thing, but still, if you don't want to make a movie, can't you at least watch one?

Monday, April 12, 2010

I probably could have tweeted this...or not...

Can I ask you a question? If I say to you, "...more beans Mr. Taggart?" wouldn't your natural inclination, your almost Pavlovian, involuntary response to this query would be, "I'd say you'd had about enough!"? Or any variation on that statement. It doesn't have to be perfect, for some reason we imagine dialogue that may never have taken place, but in our mind, the statement is incomplete without it.

What am I talking about? In a nutshell, we had free lunch at work, tacos, and somebody whom I THOUGHT was cool, was changing out the serving dish and replacing it with a new one that had more beans in them. Naturally, instincts kicked in, and I asked him the beggingly obvious question, "More Beans, Mr. Taggart?" and with giddy anticipation I awaited the correct response, like a challenge/response used in the military, like "Flash/Thunder", I was returned with a weak, "yes, more beans...." and an otherwise annoyed, blank look.

Now come on! I was so deflated after that. If ever I have more living proof of my "square peg" status at work. True, when a boss of mine actually wanted to end a meeting on a high note, and I said without missing a beat in my best falsetto, "AAAAAAAAAH", although everyone stared at me like I was choking on something, my boss said simply "History of the World, Part 1".

I shudder to think if he hadn't gotten it.

So, you would have gotten it, right? Kind of like if I ask you if you've got a pool back there, and you would say "............................................."


By the way, speaking in terms of quotations from Pop culture; a sign of advanced or stunted social development? Any worse than memorizing Baseball statistics from 20 years ago?

Monday, March 29, 2010

West Chester Awakenings

Hey all, Did you ever see the movie "Awakenings"? Robin Williams, Robert DeNiro? No? Yes? Well I did. I saw it on a date in 1991 when I was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. For that matter, have you ever been to San Angelo, Texas? I'll bet you didn't know it's the largest city in the United States....NOT located where a major interstate highway passes through. So, to sum up, you probably didn't see Awakenings, and you've probably never been to San Angelo, Texas at the same time. I guess it was just me. As far as the movie, the date, and the town of San Angelo, trust me you didn't miss much.

ANYway, lately, I'm reminded of the movie Awakenings by the schizophrenic weather we've had around here lately. Let me explain.

The basic plot of the movie "Awakenings" (SPOILER ALERT in case it was actually on your Netflicks list for that Robin Williams retrospective film festival you were going to have down in the basement.) is that Robin Williams is a Doctor working with catatonic patients, and that he stumbles across a drug that can bring these patients out of their catatonic state. Enter Robert DeNiro as the patient that "Awakens" to a world of brightness and opportunity and love after years of darkness. The problem of course, is that the drug's effect is temporary, and he begins to exhibit signs that he's about to go back into that catatonic state and there is nothing he can do about it. The movie ends as it begins, with Robert DeNiro once again catatonic.

Remember that weekend a few weekends ago where the weather was bright and sunny, seemingly only weeks after all that snow? Dudes walking around in ubiquitous cargo shorts and flip flops and ironic statement t-shirts with a red backward Phillies ball cap. Chicks parading in short shorts and tight tank tops, cleavage spilling over ever so slightly and appealingly. Dogs and baby strollers. Skateboards. Harley-Davidsons. That's West Chester on any given weekend when the weather is nice.

My question is, "where did it go?"

This is for John Young and Dr. Zibbs, another great Ben Folds cover, when he's not covering Dr. Dre, the Clash, the Cure, the Flaming Lips, the Buggles, the Postal Service, or working with William Shatner covering Pulp's Common People!

Well we are, West Chester that is, catatonic again. The cold is back, the rain is back, the darkness is back. I knew winter wasn't done with us quite yet, it was too early. I suppose it was a nice treat to get a preview of what's to come, but frankly, it's pretty depressing! We've collectively survived a tougher than usual winter, and I'm looking forward to getting on with the business of living the good life.

I'm looking forward to getting on my scooter and riding! I'm looking forward to the May Day festival at Everhart park, I'm looking forward to Swinging Thursdays, Grower's markets, Guerilla Drive Ins!, Turk's Head Music festivals. Continued Story Slams, Heck, I'll even be giving walking historical tours of West Chester this summer! (More on that when I have more info) The Airshow at New Garden Flying Field near Kennett Square, Then of course there is the Iron Hill Criterium Bike Race. Did I miss something? Of course I did, that's the beauty of it. There's a lot going on, a lot to do, so let's get on with it already!

(Mother nature you have my email when you're ready to apologize and fix this whole weather thing)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Goodbye Walter, I wish I'd said more... 1939-2010

Walter and Friend, West Chester Swinging Summer 2009

Walter. You all knew Walter. Even if you swear up and down you didn't know Walter, I'm telling you, you knew Walter. Metaphysics aside, the deal is, if you hung out in downtown West Chester in the last 4 or 5 years, you knew Walter. Ok let me put it this way, you "saw" Walter, or you might have been "aware" of him. You saw him at the Coffee Shop before the Starbucks opened up, you saw him at Peace of Pizza, you saw him shuffling up and down Gay Street, the slight hunch of his back, his coke bottle glasses, his ubiquitous baseball cap, the cane he would use to steady himself, and his never ending smile.

And what I mean when I say "You knew Walter" even if you're reading this blog post from your corner of the world, you knew "A" Walter. A kindly old gentlemen who no matter what, managed a polite and enthusiastic one word greeting of "Hello".

I knew a Walter when I was a kid, an elderly man that we called Colonel Sanders who would come over to watch us younger kids play football on our front lawn in Titusville, and always at a pause in the game he would start into an unsolicited Speech about America, and Patriotism, and how great it is to live in these United States. The other kids I played with were kind of ambivalent towards him, and of course the neighborhood teenagers were a lost cause, but I kind of liked and defended him. One Christmas, before becoming a hyper conscious and angst filled teenager, before it became uncool, I convinced "the gang" to go around the neighborhood and specially Colonel Sanders house to sing Christmas carols. When he cracked the door open, behind padlocks and chains, surely put there by his experiences with the egg wielding teenagers at night, and saw us singing, tears filled his eyes and he offered us candy and of course, gave us one of his speeches. Maybe there was hope for our generation after all.I am ashamed to admit though, having become an adult, or for becoming for what passes for an adult, that I became the cynical, ambivalent, irony and sarcasm spewing elitist asshole the 11 year old version of myself would never thought, and would frankly be disappointed I'd be.

Walter Wright, was the first person I knew in West Chester. Having arrived here in town after an ugly, ugly breakup with a live in Girlfriend, the newly single me was a guy hoping to integrate myself into my newly adopted community. A pretty tall order to fill, what with my aversion to actually striking up conversations with people whom I convinced are not like me hence not worthy of my efforts to get to know them, or the seemingly clique-ish, clan like coteries that seem to exist in most specifically the Northeast USA. It seemed to me, (or maybe I convinced myself) that people around here just weren't into meeting new people, or allowing new people into their circles, because let's face it, people here are born here, they go to parochial school together, they vacation at the shore together, the ski in the Poconos together, they die here, they don't really have any room for a "new" guy.

Yet there was always Walter.Walter lived in my building, the illustrious Greentree Building on the corner of Gay and High Street in beautiful downtown West Chester. When I was going to work, there he was in the lobby, making his slow, deliberate journey to the coffee shop. I'm sure I'd be on 202 on the way to work before he made it across the street, but he always made it, and he always managed to stay there and hold court all day long. If I was going the Laundry room, there he was in the elevator, on his way to the Basement Recreation Room to watch TV on the Big Screen. And if I was in town picking up my dry cleaning, getting a Latte, buying a slice of Pizza, there was Walter, with baristas fussing all over him, people of all walks of life stopping to say hello to him, lawyers, construction workers, the *ahem* temporarily un-homed, everyone knew and loved Walter.

Don't get me wrong, I liked Walter too. I always said hello to him, I always held doors and elevator gates for him, I was quick to return his smile. If I saw him on the street I'd ask him how he was doing, and what was going on in our building. He was definitely wired in to what was happening in town.

But a part of me, god I hate to admit it, rolled my eyes when I saw him. A part of me cringed at the thought of having to start a conversation with him. "Geeze, what if he invites me to some kind of Bible Study group or something, that would suck." I'd think to myself. Or, "Crap, 2 years in West Chester, and do I know any girls? Do I know any cool people I could hang out with to have a beer? No. The only person I know by name in this burg is a 4'10 inch 90 year old man, could my life suck any worse?"

Last Summer, I noticed Walter shuffling along a heck of a lot slower than his usual pace. I really did give that guy credit, for the determination it took to be on his own and make sure he made his rounds around town. Alas though, about a month or so later I learned that he was taken somewhere to Pocopson where he could get the full time attention of people that my god, the man had earned by now. There were actually moments where I thought to myself, "I'll have to head out there and visit him, I'm sure he'd enjoy that." Then I thought to myself, "Yea right Andy, who are you kidding, you don't even call your parents on their birthdays....I'm such a Jerk"

Well, as you may know by now, I'm on the Borough Planning Commission, I'm on the REGIONAL planning commission, I'm a liaison to the Historic Preservation Steering committee, and between Guerrilla Drive Ins and Story Slams and having Lana up with me full time, I've got a pretty nice life now. I'm even enjoying meeting the people from the Chiropractic office in town when I wrenched my back a few weeks ago. So with my busy life, I came home to a photocopied article taped to one of the doors at the entrance of the Greentree Building.

Walter C. Wright of West Chester
Walter Caldicott Wright, 70, died Sunday Feb. 21, 2010.
Mr. Wright was known as the unofficial Mayor of
West Chester and was a longtime resident of the
Greentree Apartments.

My heart sank. Then I knew I had no right to feel bad. Did I ever reach out to him? Did I give him a chance, to get to know him? Shit no.

I went to the Cornstone Christian Fellowship where he liked to hang out, no doubt he enjoyed the homecooked meals and the fellowship to pay my respects, but I had already missed the Memorial Service and managed only to observe a gymnasium full of Walter's friends sitting down to eat some great looking fried chicken dinners. Me? I couldn't do it. I couldn't bring myself to say hello to anybody, I couldn't enjoy a free meal on his behalf, I just took a few pictures, thought about Walter, and got back on my Scooter and went home.

Don't be like me, don't let the Walter's that you know pass into obscurity, be fearless where I was cowardly, get to know people, life is too f'ng short. (God I hate cliches, but if there is something else more apropos to say, I don't know it.)