Wednesday, August 5, 2015

New Owner

I've held off on yammering away about the new Mall at Steamtown owner John Basalyga.  I wanted to hear something concrete about what he has planned for the struggling, putting it mildly, shopping center in the middle of downtown Scranton.

So far, all we've heard is the mall will remain a mall.  It's privately owned, so Basalyga doesn't have to divulge chapter and verse on how he intends to make the mall viable again.

It has one department store, Boscov's, and a handful of smaller stores, a library branch, a train display, a tax office, a sub shop, a pizza stand and some empty space.  A whole lot of empty space.

The mall is a fixer upper.  The parking garage really needs work, and you have to find tenants in a building dozens of retailers have deserted, for various reasons.

I keep reading where Americans no longer like malls.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  There are other choices.  Bad malls go away.  Good malls thrive.  Wyoming Valley, Stroud, Lehigh Valley and Viewmont are nearly full.  Lycoming does well.  Columbia and Schuylkill have struggled for years.

People will shop at good malls.  Basalyga has to find that magic formula.  Viewmont has the big department stores locked up.  I can't see them abandoning their space there.  BonTon tried downtown and it didn't work.  What's left?

John Basalyga has a good track record.  He's taken old factories and turned them in to apartments.  His Olyphant and Dickson City projects are really nice.  We're all just wondering if he can work some magic on a much bigger scale.  Good luck.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


The presidential election is 462 days away, and I fear people will be sick of the process long before we reach Tuesday, November 8.

I know candidates have to jump in early to raise the massive amount of money needed for a run.

Thanks to Donald Trump's statements, and the constant could over Hillary Clinton, political news has been dominating the headlines recently.  I'm okay with that because I find politics a fascinating sport.

However, it probably turns off the casual observers.  We have 17 months of speeches, glad handing, debates, and commercials.

You'll see a spurt early next years for the early primaries and caucuses.  We'll likely see some candidates withdraw when the money dries up.  Momentum is a cruel mistress, and those who stumble out of the starting blocks are sunk.

Recent history has taught us the parties will have settled on nominees well before the summer conventions.  The parties would hate for messy scenes, broadcast to the world, from Cleveland and Philadelphia.

Then, it's the sprint to November 8.

It would be nice to see Pennsylvania remain in play.  Candidates would actually have to stop here to plead their cases.  Even though the peak of 38 electoral votes in the 1920's is ancient history, 20 is nothing to sneeze at.

It's disturbing to see that most of the recent election news centered on polls.  I fear many in the media say "There's nothing happening this week.  Let's do a poll."  Even my eyes tend to glaze over at endless polling data, unless something interesting jumps out, like the Trump surge.

There's a long time between today and election day.  Let us inform you, but not overwhelm you.  Please, stay interested and stay informed.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Victory Tour

I preface this by saying this certainly isn't "Go Joe."  Nothing on that level.  Not even close.

Ever since I bought my bike four summers ago, I've been essentially traveling the same circuit-- two mile loops through my little town.  The number of loops depended on how I was feeling on that particular morning.  It's a nice route-- a lot of it is flat, but there are some hills and slopes.  There's enough variety to keep me entertained and the blood pumping.

However, there was something I wanted to do for the past four summers-- recreate the bike trips through a few little towns that I used to take during my early teen years.  They were great fun.  Pals Markie, Frankie, and Bobby, and I getting out of the neighborhood and out of our comfort zone.

I got in the car last week to scope out the route and the mileage.  The mileage was do-able.  A couple of hills frightened me.  My early teen years are ancient history.

Tuesday morning, I finally decided to do it.  I've driven that route hundreds of times.  You get a different perspective on two wheels.  So much commercial development.  The roads are in awful shape.  Drivers were courteous.  There appeared to be an early morning police convention at Dunkin Donuts.  Hey, they deserve a break once in a while.

That daunting hill is on the last quarter of my trip.  I took a deep breath when I saw it ahead of me.  Andy 1  Hill 0.

I made it, in less time than anticipated.  Unlike the early teen years, there were no breaks.  I surprised myself.

Other than the trip to KMart, it was the highlight of last week's vacation.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Andy's Angles: The Other Building

This is building is adjacent to the Moscow train station.

An internet search failed to turn up information.  I suspect it was for freight and/or storage, and I know some rail fan will enlighten me.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Andy's Angles: Train Station Saturday

We'll be featuring train stations on the next few Saturdays.  There is no particular reason.  I just happened to come across a few during some recent wandering.

Today, it's Moscow in Lackawanna County.

Below is a paragraph I lifted from the borough's web site.
The construction of a rail line from Scranton to the transportation hub of Hoboken, New Jersey increased the importance of the area not only for commerce but also as a destination for vacationers, who used the rail lines to visit the numerous local hotels built in this beautiful country setting. By the early 1900's there was even a daily commuter train called "the accommodation train" bringing workers from Moscow to Scranton. Today, the Victorian-era Moscow railroad station is a reminder of the profound influence rail transportation has had on this area.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Vacation's End

You know I had to sneak in a train photo before my vacation comes to an end.  I took this one Saturday morning.  The sun and weather are taking their toll on the colors.  The green and gold aren't quite as vivid.  This combo is in need of some TLC.

As for my vacation, it was average stuff...  some minor wandering, a few photos, a lot of sleep, I cleaned a ceiling light fixture,  KMart, the gym, I ate my body weight in sweet corn from the Scranton Farmers Market, a few bike rides, and I fixed my eyeglasses with one of those kits from the dollar store.  All in all, not bad.

It's back to work this weekend.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

About the Cover

The August blog header appeared a little early this month.

There are a few reasons.  I wasn't thrilled with the July offering.  I have a topic planned for tomorrow, and I want to do an advancer on Andy's Angles for Saturdays in the month of August.

We're doing a theme month.  Merv Griffin would be proud.  I know only those over 50 got the reference.  Merv had an afternoon talk show, and many shows were "theme" days.  Johnny Carson made fun of it on a regular basis.  He could.  Johnny's brother, Dick, was Merv's director for many years.  Dick Carson was the director on the original Wheel of Fortune.

Enjoy the shot of the Radisson at Lackawanna Station, formerly the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western  station.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


My heart nearly stopped when I read the news.  Walmart is closing some of its stores between midnight and 6 AM.  The company says it needs the time to make sure the stores are ready, and present a great experience for shoppers.

Regular blog readers know I live in an alternate universe-- sleep all day, work all night.  I keep the same schedule on my days off.  I've found that one schedule is easier to handle than trying to live normally for a couple of days, then going back on the all-nighter.  Needless to say, 24 hour stores help me get by.

So far, two stores in my territory will be closed all night-- Wilkes-Barre and Mount Pocono.  I suspect they're problem properties for the company.

I quizzed my spies at a couple of other stores in my orbit.  They're not on the closing list, but they could be if the Mount Pocono and Wilkes-Barre experiments are a success.  The added that the stores see a fair amount of business overnights, and closing for six hours would cost the company a lot of money.

Look, I can live without a 24 hour Walmart.  There are a couple of other 24 hour options near by, but they cost more and they don't have everything Walmart has.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Supply and Demand

Last week, the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders announced a cut in season ticket prices.

Many in the media reacted if something miraculous occurred.  Maybe.  In a small way.  After all, it is rare to see prices go down.

On the other hand, do the math.  This is simply the law of supply and demand.  Attendance isn't great, so cut the prices.  As has been noted here, Scranton Wilkes-Barre is languishing near the bottom of the list in the International League.  Yes, marketing can be better.  More on that in a moment.  A big part of the lousy attendance is this is one of the smallest, if not THE smallest in the International League.

The stadium is a nice place to watch a game.  I think the team would be better off cutting food and drink prices, along with single game ticket prices.  If you can afford season tickets, trimming a couple of bucks won't matter much.  The team also intends to give season ticket holders goodies not available to the average fan.  We'll see if it works.

The RailRiders also intend to tweak the logo, embracing the local teams of the past, including the Phillies years in Moosic.  Again, a nice idea.  The skeptic in me says this is an effort to kickstart merchandise sales.  Walk around Courthouse Square on a summer day.  You don't see many RailRider caps and tee shirts.  A mall store or two would help.  Visibility.  We'll see the new logo after the season.  Is the porcupine on the way out?

All in all, I think the owners do an okay job of marketing the team.  There's always something going on at the ballpark.  The atmosphere is fan friendly, even if the prices are not.  However, there's always room for improvement.  The numbers are proof.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Flop Card

I had forgotten about it until I saw a recent internet post.  We've been talking a lot about Donald Trump in recent weeks, but few remember a game show, with his name on it, back in the fall of 1990.

It was taped at a Trump hotel in Atlantic City, and it was called Trump Card.  Jimmy Cefalo was the host.

I was part time at the station that carried it, not WNEP, and here's what I remember at the time.

Cefalo was from Pittston, so the station thought Trump Card would be ratings gold.  It scheduled the show at 5 PM, replacing the very popular People's Court.

As I said, I was doing part time TV work back in 1990, and I don't know why I dropped by the station that afternoon.  I might have been working.  It might have been to say hello and talk with the news director.

There was a huge build up to Trump Card.  The station hosted a reception with Cefalo, advertisers, station employees and contest winners, if I recall correctly.  I do remember that I wasn't invited.  Jimmy cut customized promos for the station.  Management was pumped.

And then, Trump Card premiered.

I was in the office when 5 PM rolled around on that early September afternoon.  People's Court wasn't on.  Trump Card was.  The phones went nuts.  Viewers wanted Judge Wapner, and his black robe, not the tuxedo wearing Cefalo.

Several of us watched the premiere episode in the newsroom.  It wasn't awful.  It was far from great, sort of a Jeopardy rip-off, where you had to answer questions to fill spaces on a bingo type card.  There were a couple of twists, and the final two rounds were actually decent.  You can check it out for yourself.  Do a search on YouTube.

We smelled a loser.  Some staffers started calling it Flop Card.  The syndicator pulled the plug after one season.  I don't think my TV station carried Trump Card for the full year.

As for Jimmy Cefalo, I thought he was very smooth, very good.  He did football games for NBC, plus local radio and TV in Miami, where he starred with the Dolphins.  He wasn't on the national stage long.  I think that was his choice.  Cefalo was better than most of the football broadcasting talent out there.  He's still at it.

Even though Trump Card was a flop, I can see why the station dumped People's Court to carry it.  People's Court was still hot, and probably expensive.  Trump Card had the local connection.  It looked like a good lead-in to local news at 5:30 PM, but even Jimmy Cefalo couldn't save a mediocre product.

I don't remember what replaced it.