Thursday, February 21, 2019

Storm Roulette

I was on a roll for a while.  The last spurt of winter storms happened on my work days.  The latest broke my way.  It fell on one of my days off.

There is a certain serenity to look out the window, watch the flakes fall, and know you don't have to go anywhere or do anything.  I made a big box store run after the gym at 4 AM yesterday for some essentials.  Luckily, the store had the printer ink cartridge I needed.  That meant I didn't have to hit the big office supply store during the daylight hours.  There are a few things I really should do, like a trip to the bank and the drug store.  They are not urgent.  They can wait.

I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay, watchin' the tide roll away.

Not quite, but you get the idea.

There are some give-backs.  I'm sure cabin fever will set in.  I will get that feeling like I've wasted a day off.  I might have to skip the trip to the gym, and that will make me antsy.

I did get a few things done, nothing major.  Just some straightening and organizing.  It was enough to keep me busy.  I also did get in a little extra sleep, and that is a blog entry down the road.

It's only February 21.  There is still plenty of winter left.  I'm sure I'll be standing in a parking lot, in a snowstorm, somewhere, telling you about what we hope will be winter's last blast.

If you do have to go out, please be extra careful.

Otis and I will be here when you get back.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cruel Shoes

I think I've only purchased a few pair of shoes from Payless over the years.  Still, its "going out of business" makes me sad.  People lose jobs.  Malls and shopping centers lose a tenant, and that has a domino effect.  Customers lose a place to get a decent pair of shoes at a low price, although there are many other options these days.

I remember grabbing a pair of boat style shoes at Payless that I really liked.  They didn't last long, but I expected that.  You really do get what you pay for.

I gave up on expensive work shoes a long time ago.  The news business puts a strain on footwear.  I've had expensive shoes wrecked by that unexpected snowfall, those puddles at fires, trudging through a swamp to see where a criminal dumped a body...

Comfort is the number one factor there says.  There can be long hours waiting for police to bring out an alleged criminal, pacing that hard courthouse floor, waiting for a trial to begin, keeping watch on a cold sidewalk, anticipating a candidates arrival...

I haven't been to one in ages, but I'm happy there are still a few shoe repair shops out there.  I do remember the days when you got a great pair of expensive shoes, and you kept them going by getting new heels and soles.  My last visit was to a place on Drinker Street in Dunmore.  I bought a belt that was too large, and I needed some extra holes punched.  The operator was a fan of the weekend morning broadcasts, and he did it for free.  I still give him a few dollars for a coffee.

My recent favorite pair of shoes finally wore out and had to be retired.  Believe it or not, Crocs made regular looking shoes, and they were designed for people in the food service industry.  They lasted for a very long time, light as a feather and exceptionally durable.  As luck would have it, Crocs discontinued that line.  I've searched every web site imaginable.  It's over, and I wish Crocs would bring them back.

By the way, "Cruel Shoes" was the title of a 1979 Steve Martin book and comedy routine.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

I Smell Spring

A couple of people have pointed out that my springtime skunk blog entry is a little late this year.

Yes, there has been an uptick in skunk activity recently, and as I always note, when skunks become more active and looking for love, spring is in the air.

This has been an odd winter.  While we have had some brutally cold days. I detected skunk in the air for just about the entire winter.  Yes, the activity and the scene become more pronounced as spring approaches.  It seems like the critters haven't had much down time.

It won't be long until the critters are out in full force, ripping up your lawns and tearing through your trash bags.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Going, Going, Gone!

It was the Valentine's Day Massacre.  Amazon announced it was giving up on building a facility on Long Island.  Thousands of jobs will never materialize.  Some city and state politicians balked at giving the richest company in the world billions in financial incentives.

I get that.

On the other hand, think of all those people who are being denied chances at good paying jobs, and all those businesses that would benefit from a new and huge employer in the area.

In a way, it reminds me of what we had around here-- politicians artificially keeping unneeded entities up and running.  The jobs were great, but your kids and grand kids will pay for it in the long run.

The Amazon case was a little different, in that Amazon is a private entity.

Big business chooses locations based on cheap labor, cheap utilities and cheap land.  It doesn't look like Queens has any of that.  That's where the incentives come in.  An educated work force and a favorable tax structure is icing on the cake.

Financial incentives for businesses are nothing new.  After the Amazon debacle, it looks like the practice is coming to an end.

Shifting gears, it's over for Payless Shoes.  A second bankruptcy filing came last week.  No buyer could be found.  The only option was liquidation.  I visited on occasion.  It wasn't a bad place.  Others did it better and that is always the path to ruin.  I'm sorry for the thousands who will lose their jobs, and all those shopping centers that will take a hit due to an additional vacancy.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Andy's Angles: Attire

OK, technically not a photo, but rather a screen grab.

This was the way I dressed for Tuesday's snow and ice storm that I covered from the Hazleton area.

I swapped out the liner that came with my company provided jacket for one of my thinner puffy coats.  I prefer baseball caps to knit hats, and the wind forced the addition of ear muffs.  The muffs had an added benefit.  I wear a thing called an IFB that allows me to hear the station.  It's made of flexible plastic that become less flexible in the cold.  The muffs keep it comfortably seated in my ear.

The ensemble worked nicely.

I wrote about puffy coats a while back, and how I have become fond of them.  I'm not thrilled with the bulk, but the light weight is fantastic.  On my days off, when the wind stopped and the temperature came up, I traded my puffy coat for a standard nylon coat with a fleece lining.  In comparison, it felt like it weighed a ton.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Andy's Angles/First Person: I Gotta Get Out!

I've written about this phenomenon before.  I call it "truck claustrophobia.  The truck you see above was my office from 3 am to 1 pm Tuesday.  Photographer Corey and I were covering the snow and ice storm in Hazleton.

Outside of stepping out to do live hits and interviews from time to time, this was my home for ten hours.  I don't know how astronauts aboard the International Space Station stay cooped up for a year.  A trip to Mars will take years.  Good luck with that.

Corey and I finished out duties for Newswatch 16 This Morning and our Good Morning America updates.  We did a story for our noon broadcast.  Corey ducked into McDonald's while I looked at video, listened to interviews, and wrote my script in the back.  The finished script was transmitted back to producer Teresa for approval.  When it was green lighted, I asked Corey to drive over to the near by Laurel Mall.  I wanted to get out and walk around while Corey edited the video.  It was a temporary respite from truck claustrophobia.  I should note that in an era when malls are struggling, the Laurel Mall was an exceptionally pleasant place to spend a few minutes.  After a few loops and a quick sandwich break, it was back in the truck for our noon broadcast, and the drive home.
Truckers take a lot of heat, especially in snow storms, and some of it is deserved.  But I do respect those who can spend long hours in a metal or fiberglass box.  I couldn't wait to get out.

By the way, old timers will get the title reference.  In the early 80's, Solomon Roth conducted a going out of business sale at his Wyoming Avenue, Scranton furniture store.  An announcer gave the details.  Spaced in between were little snippets of Mr. Roth saying things like "Listen to me," and "I gotta get out."  They were among the most memorable radio commercials ever aired in this market.

"I gotta get out!"

Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday Scrapple

I get tired of Valentine's Day complaints rather quickly.  Buy the candy and roses.  Go out to dinner, and be thankful you have someone in your life.

The food wasn't great, but it was fun and comfortable.  I miss Howard Johnson's/

I did a little malling this week.  I won't mention the place.   Dead.  Tired.  Shabby.

I'm expecting a huge pothole problem this year.  Poor patching in 2018 rears its ugly head in 2019.

It's that horrible time of year.  After football.  Before baseball.

We had some nastiness so far, but overall, we've had worse winters.

The handwriting was on the wall.  Rocky's Bar in Scranton agreed to close for six months.  There have been a few shootings outside it in recent months.  We'll see the next trouble spot that develops.

It would be nice if the Pittsburgh Penguins agree to keep their AHL team in Wilkes-Barre Township, but if they leave, another team will take their place.

Another huge bank merger recently announced:  SunTrust and BB&T.  The latter has a small footprint in our area.  The merged bank will have a new name, yet to be announced.

Academy Awards coming up.  I'm no expert.  Best Picture looks wide open to me.

It's been ages since I've had a really good onion ring.

Katie Couric is writing her autobiography.  It'll be out in a couple of years.  I doubt I'll read it, but the chapter on walking away from one of the best jobs in broadcasting, the Cronkite chair, should be interesting.

Thursday, February 14, 2019


It is rare that you will find me in agreement with a state and/or Penndot policy, but here it is.

The state has been quick to pull the trigger on truck bans during snow and ice storms this winter.  Bravo!

I do feel sorry for the men and women who earn a living by driving these things.  It's hard work.  The vast, vast majority are decent and honorable people.  But, let's face the facts.  Trucks don't do well in ice and deep snow.

I put on a lot of miles during Tuesday's snow and ice storm.  It was a relief not having to worry about a jackknifed tractor trailer blocking the road.  It was wonderful not having your vision diminished by a big rig splashing slush all over your windshield.  Yes, I know that's unavoidable.

The ban wasn't all that long, but it did go an enormous way toward keeping our highways safe and open.

Keep it up!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Thank You!

It has long been established here that I work odd hours and live at mini marts.  There aren't a lot of food and drink choices at 2 am.  I have also repeatedly pointed out that a tiny gesture can make a huge difference in your day.

I felt the need for a giant soda on my way to work yesterday morning, as if my stomach needed more acid due to worry about the approaching snow and ice storm.  I ducked in to a store I've hit several times before, but it wasn't one of my usual stops.  I filled my cup with icy caffeinated goodness,  and made my way to the counter, cash in hand, along with my loyalty card.

The clerk, a mountain of a man I had never met before, scanned my card and told me to keep my cash in my pocket.  I had earned enough points for a freebie.  This has happened many, many, many times before, because of my diet soda addiction, and I gave him my standard response:  "That's the best thing that's going to happen to me today."  I'm not lying of exaggerating.  Often, a free soda is the overwhelming highlight of my day.

The clerk responded:  "No it won't be.  Something better will happen to you today."  I said I hoped he was right.  I thanked him for the free soda and made my way toward the door.  He added a "bless you."

I thought about it on the way to work.  I love my free soda, but I do have a lot for which to be thankful.  A cat who is happy to see me.  A roof over my head.  A great job with fantastic people.  Some people close to me are battling health problems, so every day is an enormous gift.

Mr. Mini Mart Clerk, thank you for the free soda.  Thank you even more for helping me count my blessings.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Not Again!

Weather always fascinated me.  I abandoned it as a career choice eons ago when I realized all the math it involves.   I'm not a math fan.

It is one of those weeks where I envy meteorologists and pity them at the same time.  A really interesting storm is approaching-- one that brings with it just about every type of precipitation.  So much involves timing and location-- when and where the snow will turn to sleet, freezing rain, and rain.  It seems the forecast changes and it refined every hour.  Snow totals go up, and they come back down.

This is reminiscent of a storm we had in mid January.  Big snow totals that were in for forecast never materialized because the warm air arrived a little early.  That is the storm that kept me in a hotel next to the station for the weekend, and I'm still trying to catch up on my sleep after that little adventure.

I'm taking all the precautions.  My car's gas tank has been topped off.  All of my electronic devices have been charged.  There are extra Power Bars in my work bag.  Hats and gloves are ready.  I will be very happy if this storm is like the last one, and we don't get all that snow that was in the original forecast.  Of course, sleet and freezing rain are no picnic either.