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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top Ten: Ice and Contrails

A massive ice jam formed on the Susquehanna River in the Tunkhannock area in mid March.  Flood warnings were up for days, but only minor problems were reported.

I took this photo of a jagged ice covered river on the morning of March 16.  I should have hit the video button on my camera.  The ice made noise-- groans, cracks, pops, and more as it built up.

A few hours after this photo was taken, the ice jam broke, and all of what you see here moved downstream, without issue.

Please take special note of the contrails in the upper right of the photo.  They form a star or asterisk, and I think that's a first for me.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top Ten: Green Train Day

This was October's blog header.

I was photographing the train station in Old Forge when this freight train rumbled by.  This is a shot of the engines bringing up the rear.

When I got home and fed the images into my computer, I really liked the colors-- the blue sky, the green (my favorite color) and the yellow the Reading and Northern engines.

It screamed out "header" and "Top Ten."

Tomorrow:  my top photo of the year, and remembering the winter Jack Frost wouldn't leave.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Ten: Argonish Ride

Photos from the SGT Jan Argoinsh Motorcycle Ride have landed in the Top Ten every year, for the past few.

The photos don't do it justice.  They are unable to capture the roar of the engines, the smell of the exhaust, and the emotion of the people here.  SGT Argonish was killed in Afghanistan in 2007.  The motorcycle run raises money for charities Jan would have endorsed.  Over the years, the money has helped veterans, the elderly, kids, animals...   It's a long list.

The run begins and ends in Dalton, but this photo was taken in Throop, on the afternoon of September 13.  The riders are traveling up Dunmore Street-- bikes as far as the eye could see.

Tomorrow:  up close and colorful.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Top Ten: Flags

This one was taken the afternoon of November 9th at Marywood University in Scranton.  Students have been doing something really nice for the past few years.  Around Veterans Day, one flag is planted for every military member lost in recent conflicts.  As I said back on Veterans Day, I'm very proud of my alma mater when students to something liked this.

Similar photos have made the top ten every year.  2015 is no exception.

I went manual focus for this one.  Close flags sharp, distant flags blurred.

Tomorrow:  a ride for a cause.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Top Ten: Frein

This photo was taken just five days in to the new year.  It was the day of Eric Frein's preliminary hearing at the Pike County Courthouse in Milford.

As opposed to the long walk in the front door the day after his arrest in October of 2014, Frein had a short walk, in the back door, on a freezing January morning.

He looked much different-- clean, groomed, rested.

At the close of the January 5th hearing, a district justice ruled there was enough evidence to hold Frein for trial.  We're still waiting for that trial.  2016?

Tomorrow: remembering the loss.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Top Ten: Harrisburg

I was lucky enough to be live in Harrisburg the morning of January 20, to preview the Wolf inauguration.

This is a pre-sunrise shot of the capitol, from the east side.  Cold, clear morning.  Spectacular building.  It adds up to one of the Top Ten of 2015.

It's too bad state government was an unmitigated disaster this year.  The budget process was a mess.  Trouble at the top of the State Police.  The Kane saga.  Misplaced priorities in the General Assembly.  Dirty e-mails.  Chaos in the courts...

You deserve better.  Maybe it will happen in 2016.

Tomorrow:  the road to justice.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Today, the customary break from the Top Ten for a Christmas thought or two.

The Christmas experience isn't about gifts these days.  I have everything I want and need.  It bugs me to watch people spend money on me, but gift giving does make you feel good, so I won't deny someone the experience.

Christmas, for me, has become almost another Thanksgiving-- a time to count your blessings.  It's been far from a perfect year, but it sure as heck could have been a lot worse.

There have been a lot of Charlie Brown moments over the years.  I discovered I enjoyed Christmas more when I didn't try as hard.

I sincerely hope your Christmas is a great one.  Remember the less fortunate. 

Thank you for stopping by every day.

The Top Ten resumes tomorrow, with a trip down south.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Top Ten: Nick

Newswatch 16 photographer Nick Horsky retired at the end of June.  That's Nick on the right.  I took the photo on Nick's last morning of work.

Nick was an unforgettable character, and a first rate photographer and live truck operator.

Jon Meyer, on the left, worked with Nick on his last day.  Jon also worked with photographer Tom Hovey on his last day before retirement in 2014.

As I said back on retirement day, Nick was one of a kind.  I've worked with a lot of photographers over the years.  Nick had an incredible sense of knowing exactly how much video he needed for a story.  Never too little.  Never too much.  Always perfect.

My favorite part about Nick, other than his low tolerance for BS, was his speed.  He was the guy I wanted to do a noon live shot with.  No one set up a truck faster, and took it down more efficiently.

Nick, I hope your first six months of retirement have been great.  You are missed.

Tomorrow:  a Christmas thought or two.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Top Ten: Cabbage Explosion

It was the early morning of June 30th.  A photographer and I were dispatched to Interstate 81 in Lenox.  A tractor trailer carrying 42,000 pounds of cabbage and tomatoes crashed, leaving produce scattered over a half mile stretch of highway.

It looked like a snow storm, except it was cabbage.  It took seven hours to clean up.

The truck driver was cited for speeding.  He wasn't seriously hurt.

This was also the first photo taken with my new smartphone.

The phone takes great pictures, but it doesn't do the scene justice.  Imagine the smell of rotting cabbage and crushed tomatoes on a hot summer morning.  Mosquitoes everywhere, and several found me.

Tomorrow:  a friend packs it in.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Top Ten: Pedestrian Bridge

A nice photo from one of my favorite places-- the park along the Lackawanna River in Blakely.

Most of my photos are centered up, but I did what the experts say in this one-- compose in thirds.  You get a nice piece of sky, trees, water, and the pedestrian bridge.  Olyphant is on the left.  Blakely is on the right.

I took the photo on an early April day.  As you can see, spring was late this year.  There's still some snow on the banks of the river.  The trees have yet to green up.  The air was clear and the water was cold.

Tomorrow:  the pavement littered with green and red.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Top Ten: Destruction

A huge tire warehouse in Scranton was destroyed in a spectacular fire back in August.

I didn't go there during the fire.  I did stop by a few days later, as the building smoldered and demolition was about to begin.

It wasn't the prettiest building in Scranton, but it did have a lot of history.  It's now just an empty lot, ripe for development.  We'll see what happens here in 2016.  The site is in an industrial/commercial area, several blocks from downtown.  It doesn't mean something interesting and attractive can't go here.

The tire business has bounced back nicely.  The company has secured warehouse space in the Keystone Industrial park, while an adjacent retail building is open for business again.

Tomorrow:  a little nature.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

2015 Top Ten

It is that time of year again-- my annual review of the top ten photos of the year.

As always, the criteria is not the best photograph, but rather, a photograph that means something.  And yes, there are a few cool shots in the mix as well.

Assembling the Top Ten is never difficult.  I'll instantly see a shot worthy of the yearly review, and it goes right in to the cloud to guard against any computer issues.

While the assembly is a breeze, the ranking isn't.  The top two or three is usually easy.  The rest of the Top Ten presents a bit of a challenge, but that's part of the fun for me.  It brings back a lot of recent memories. Some good.  Others, not so good.

There will be a one day break in the Top Ten.  I'll try to find something nice for Christmas Day.

While the Top Ten affords me a little holiday break, I'll still open my yap to comment on the news of the day, if something tickles my fancy, or if something gets stuck in my craw.

Tomorrow, the Top Ten countdown begins.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Train Station Saturday: Pocono Summit

Next Saturday, this space will be occupied by one of the Top Ten of 2015 photographs, and I hate to end the year with the saddest train station of the collection, but here goes.
This is what you'll find at Pocono Summit, just outside of Mount Pocono.  A beautiful building neglected.

The walls are concrete and in apparent good shape.  The roof is another story, and I shudder to think about the condition of the inside.
There was life here once, and then again when Steamtown trains were running.  It seems that with the casino and resort explosion in the area, passenger service makes sense.
It is such a shame to see a beautiful building wasted.
The plan was to end Train Station Saturday at the close of 2015, but there is one more I'd like to show you.  It is perhaps my favorite, and look for it January 2, 2016.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Thanks, Jim

My first radio news director, the great Jerry Heller, retired some time ago.  At the end of the year, my first television news director, Jim DePury, joins the list.

Stand by for story time.

I tried a couple of times, in the 80's, to get a job, at the old Channel 22.  It didn't work.  A couple of auditions weren't awful, but they didn't scream "hire me" either.  I had the news chops.  I had been on the radio for several years, but television is a different animal.

Finally, something came along I for which I was suited.  The station was starting 30 second hourly news updates.  They needed a guy for Saturday, and I was it.  Jim and I discussed the concept when I dropped by the station one night to pick up a friend for a social engagement.  A few people who worked there said nice things about me (shocking, I know) and I was on the part time payroll.

My first day was on St. Patrick's Parade Day of 1990.  Six months later, Jim offered a full time job.  I declined.  He understood.  Another full time position opened up in September of 1991, and I took it.

Lesson to kids just getting in the business:  take what little you're given, do the best you can, and you will eventually move up.

Jim was very smart with his TV newbie.  I was assigned to work with one of the veteran photographers.  There were times I tried things that didn't quite work.  Jim would ask what I was attempting to do.  I'd explain.  He'd offer suggestions.  Jim taught.  I learned.  He was the first to drill the "tight writing" thing in to my head.  Best lesson ever.  When you signed on to the computer system the station used at the time, a message board popped up. Message number one was "tight writing = top casts."

Jim left the station several months after I went full time, and we kept in touch.  From Scranton, he put a news operation on the air at WPMT in Harrisburg.  I believe there was a "best newscast" Emmy in their first year.  That's amazing.  By the way, WPMT is now one of WNEP's sister stations, and we frequently trade video and information.

In 1996, I was offered the job of full time morning anchor at the old Channel 22, which was under new ownership.  I was happy being the fill-in anchor guy.  I declined.  They weren't pleased.  I was shown the door a few weeks later.  I can write a book on that experience, and one day, I might.  It won't be pretty.

I called Jim in Harrisburg to do a little networking.  He explained that he had two on maternity leave and another on vacation.  He needed reporting help.  I was pulling in to the station's parking lot a few days later.  In fact, I had the lead story on my first night there, a truck carrying pesticides flipped on Interstate 81 near Carlisle.

The proof of friendship wasn't necessary, but I really appreciated it.  I don't know if you've ever lost a job, but it's not fun.  It's quite a kick in the teeth.  Getting that little freelance gig from Jim helped reestablish my self esteem.  Mood improved.  Better attitude.  I owe the man a lot.

I should have stayed a freelancer longer, but a full time job opened around here.    I applied.  An offer was made.  I took it, in one of the worst personal decisions I ever made.  Oh well.  It happens.  Things eventually worked out rather nicely for me.  Don't worry.  It will all be in the book.

For the last few years, Jim has been managing the newsroom for our friends down the street.  He leaves at the end of the year.

I was lucky to have Jim DePury for a boss, and I'm still lucky to have him as a friend.

Jim, enjoy your retirement.  Thank you for all you've done for me.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Turning the Page

I was just sitting at my desk, thinking of stand out stories and images from the year that's about to end.

I'm not counting stories covered by others-- just stories in which I had a hand.

I remember that day in May when I was in Selinsgrove, for the fire at Christ United Methodist Church.  There was so much damage, but also, so much resolve from church members.  The fire was a major kick in the teeth.  Yet, they vowed it wouldn't destroy the congregation.  They would come out of this stronger than before.

Just before the end of the school year, a little girl from East Stroudsburg was killed in a crash.  We were at the school to talk with a teacher, parents, and classmates.  That child made such a large impact during her short life.

In May, I was in Williamsport for another homicide.  I will never forget watching the fire department washing the victim's blood off the street and into a storm sewer.  What a sad ending, and what a waste.

Two good friends, Nick Horsky and Bob Reynolds, retired.  I miss them both.  Both taught me a lot, and I hope they are enjoying their time off.

The winter was too cold, too snowy, and too long.  There was an unforgettable morning, standing in 10 below weather in Freeland, doing a story on frozen pipes.

We watched Eric Frein in court.

We watched the Mall at Steamtown die a slow death, then show signs of life at year's end.

There were teacher strikes in the spring and fall.

Cheeky panties were lifted from Victoria's Secret inside the Wyoming Valley Mall.

I lost some good friends.

A young police officer injured and died.

Cabbage all over Interstate 81.

Tire fire.

The pope in Philadelphia.

Turmoil at my alma mater, Marywood, and 24 hour Egg McMuffins at McDonald's.

More radio industry deterioration.  No Letterman.  Mediocre Colbert.

I loved my January trip to Harrisburg to preview the new governor's inauguration.

It was a long year in Harrisburg.  No budget.  Plenty of trouble for the attorney general.

A massive water main break on a brutally hot summer's day, and 16 live shots to let people know what was going on.

Blog of the Year!

This space will be soon be occupied by some of my favorite photos from 2015, so it was time for a year-end-wrap.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas Ride

I knew it would be warm, but 59 on Sunday night was outrageous, and I knew I had to do something to celebrate.

I got out my bike at midnight and went for a ride.  Every second was fantastic, and there is one section in particular that is the subject of today's entry.

Four towns are on my usual route.  Not to sound condescending, but I pass a row of homes and apartments that aren't in the greatest shape.  It's not a crime ridden section, but it's clear it's not a rich neighborhood.  Every home had a tree in the window, even if it was a small one.  Every home and apartment had a string of lights on the front porch.  Not wealthy in terms of dollars, but wealthy in terms of spirit, and one is a whole lot more important than the other.

That brings to mind a Christmas story from years ago.  I've told this one before, but it's been a while, and we have some new readers.  It was 1990 or 1991.  I was working down the street.  Photographer John and I, who now works with me here at WNEP, were sent to do a story on an East Stroudsburg Salvation Army Christmas Eve dinner for the less fortunate.  Everyone there was great.  A tree, gifts, food, music, happy adults, even happier children, Santa...  The whole nine yards.  It was a good story.

As John and I were leaving the Salvation Army to head to a few more assignments, I said to John that I felt sorry for the people there.  John replied that I shouldn't feel sorry.  The people at the Salvation Army were having a great Christmas, and they had things they otherwise couldn't get or afford.  It was a party with friends and family.  They knew people cared.

It was the classic glass half empty/half full situation.  I was the half empty guy.  John saw the glass as half full, and you know what?  He was right.  I often think of that cold December night, and it came to mind as I was riding my bike on a warm December morning, more than twenty years later.

Warm weather.  Warm thoughts.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas Shopping

A friend and I were having a conversation at the gym the other morning.  She said it seems stores are less crowded this year, and I agreed.  I had to go out for a few things last week, and I zipped in and out of three stores.

I suspect the internet has a lot to do with it.  I was buried in catalogs via snail mail, and offers via e-mail.

It's always best to support local businesses.  If you can't do that, go to a chain store that employs local people.  Unfortunately, some of us don't have the time to do a lot of running around.  It's so easy and convenient to see something you like, click on it, and have it delivered to your door in two days.

American retail is changing.  Rapidly.

There is still a place for brick and mortar stores.  There are things, like clothes and shoes, I want to try on first.  Wandering through the mall is also a great way to kill an hour.  Soft pretzel.  Ice cream cone.  Can't get that that via the internet.

I'm sure the retail thing will pick up before Christmas.  Remember, the last Saturday before Christmas is traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year.  Black Friday lost its title a long time ago.

Use common sense.  Be safe.  Shop wisely.  Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Monday Scrapple

In spite of all its problems, I'm curious about Chipotle food.  There has been a store a few miles from me, and I still haven't found the time or inspiration to stop by.

I respect the popularity of the series, but I cannot envision any scenario that gets me to a theater for the new Star Wars movie.

Dickson City has added some red and green holly to its white snowflake Christmas street lights.  It makes a world of difference-- much more visually interesting, much warmer.

I like fruit cake.

Is the pumpkin spice craze over yet?  One of my favorite mini marts had a huge display of Trident Pumpkin Spice Gum.  I think it sold about four packages.

While the warm December has taken a bite out of the Christmas atmosphere, I really don't mind.

It seems like everyone around me has a cold.  I'm just waiting for it to be passed to me.

National Weather Service radio is one of the great joys of life.

I'm not a big Christmas guy, but I will really miss David Letterman's annual Christmas show and Darlene Love singing "Baby, Please Come Home."

How did we ever get along without the program guide at the bottom of the TV screen?  Yes, I know there was TV Guide magazine and the newspaper.  The on screen guide could be one of the best inventions ever.

I haven't been watching much college football this season, but I'm happy ESPN is having the great Brent Musberger call the Las Vegas Bowl and the Rose Bowl.  He is one of broadcasting's all time greats.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Andy's Angles: Boxed In

I spied this beauty during a recent trip around Olde Good Things in Scranton.

Don't ask me why, but I've always liked cupolas and steeples.  This one is clearly copper, and probably worth a fair piece of change.  I couldn't find information on it at the company's web site.

There's big money in salvage.  We're tearing down a lot of old buildings, so salvage companies will continue to do a good business.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Train Station Saturday: Jessup

Jessup has a little train station, and like most, it serves a purpose, even though trains are few and far between.  It gives the town a focal point, and some additional visual interest.  the Santa train made a stop here last week, and I understand it was a big hit (as always).
Sad to say, there's been a vandalism problem here lately, and the borough has taken steps to stop it, including the installation of security cameras.  It's a very pretty part of town, and it's a pity there are some who don't appreciate it.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Unfinished Friday

Time magazine has chosen German chancellor Angela Merkel as its person of the year.  Merkel's leadership skills is the main reason.  An ISIS leader and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump are on the runners up list.  Sad to say, but ISIS has changed life here in the United States and around the world.  Donald Trump would have been the easy choice, and one I would have made.  He's turned the American political system on its ear.

Still no budget, but the state senate passed a liquor reform bill Wednesday.  It's a long one.  You should read it.  One thing that jumped out at me is casinos getting the OK to sell alcohol 24/7.  Casinos already get major exemptions from anti smoking regulations.  Alcohol sounds like a logical progression.  The bill faces an uncertain future in the house.

Speaking of alcohol, the Philadelphia Inquirer listed the top sellers in Pennsylvania.  I was a bit surprised when I saw Fireball at the top of the list.  I knew it was popular, but the top ranking was a stunner.  Jack Daniels is second.  By the way, Pennsylvanians love all kinds of vodka.

You really have to wonder what's going on here in Pennsylvania.  Every facet of government, from the Supreme Court on down, seems to be an absolute disaster.  We deserve better.

Philadelphia sports fans also deserve better.  The 76'ers have one win.  The Flyers are near the bottom of their division.  The Eagles are uneven, and the Phillies were awful this past season.

Scranton mayor Courtright didn't seem to exhibit a lot of confidence when he told residents that selling the Sewer Authority was the right thing to do.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Eye Guess

It's funny how one little event can trigger a flood of memories, and inspire a blog entry.  Let's start from the beginning.

I rarely get people who instantly recognize me, especially on my days off, hair uncombed, unshaven, civilian clothes...  It's more of "I think I know that guy.  He looks like the one who does my brother in law's taxes."

I was in line at a big box office supply store yesterday.  The woman in front of me kept stealing a glance backward.  I didn't pay much attention to it.  Playing with the car USB chargers and cables occupied my time at the check out line.  She paid and left.  I had only one item, so my transaction was amazingly swift.  That particular big box store is not known for quick in-and-out service.

As fate would have it, the woman was parked next to me.  She walked over as I was getting in my car and said "Excuse me, I'm -----.  My husband operated on you a few years ago."

Indeed he did.  The husband is one of the Scranton area's best known plastic surgeons.  The wife worked in the office and helped handle my appointments and insurance paperwork.  I told her I was very satisfied with her husband's work and added I'll likely be back as I'm not getting any younger.

I had a mole removed from my lower lip area in 2010, which was quite the adventure in and of itself.

The procedure was scheduled for one of those outpatient surgery centers, except it wouldn't take the insurance I had at the time.  It was off to a hospital instead.

Even though the surgery went well, I couldn't wait to get out of there.  I had an intense thirst when I awoke from the anesthesia.  I begged the nurse for anything cold, like a diet soda.  She returned with an 8 ounce can of Diet Shasta Cola.  I hoped for a little more.  The nurse was instructed to keep them coming.  She did.  I was happy.  The staff was exceptionally nice.

After discharge, it was a trip to the drug store.  A couple of prescriptions needed to be filled.  My sister drove me there.  Keep in mind, my face is stitched up and bandaged.  While I was waiting in line, I sprung a leak, and blood was oozing from beneath the bandage, trailing down my chin.  The woman at the pharmacy counter actually asked me if I wanted my prescription now, or if I wanted to return to pick it up.  As blood ran down my neck, I replied "I think I need it now."

The next day, and against medical advice, I drove to the station to show management what I had done.  They knew I was getting surgery on my face, and there would be stitches.  I couldn't shave.  It was up to the news director to decide if I could go on the air that weekend.  Much to my surprise, he said "yes."

I'll have to admit, I was uncomfortable that weekend.  It just didn't feel right.  I got through the Saturday and Sunday morning broadcasts, and my reporting assignments that followed.  I understand there were some quizzical Talkback calls, but I was in the clear.  Management knew about the surgery, and it signed off on my slightly different on air appearance.

Back to yesterday, the woman at the office supply store said she and the doctor watch on weekends, and he's happy with his work.  So am I.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Radio

Marywood University lit its big Christmas tree one week ago.  See Friday's blog entry for the skinny on that.

I don't attend reunions or other Marywood events, but I do hit the tree lighting every year.  It's a pattern.  I'll grab a diet soda and veg in the student center, Nazareth Hall, for a moment.  Wander through the book store.  Hit the library.  Pop in to the radio and TV stations.  Say hello to a classmate working in one of the offices.  Go to the Rotunda.  Socialize.  Watch the tree lighting.  Photos.  More socialization.  Home.

This year was different on a few fronts.  There was no Nazareth Hall visit.  I was watching the San Bernadino coverage at home and got a late start to Marywood.

The library of my era is closed and awaits the bulldozers.  I will miss it.  I tried doing the math.  College is in session for roughly 40 weeks out of the year.  Four years of school.  Two or three library visits a week.  The library had a circular design, and no matter how many times I visited, I always got lost.

The radio and TV stations are in a new home, deep below the new library.  When I paid my tree lighting day visit last year, I wrote here how it was likely my last time in the rooms where I got my start, a long, long time ago.  Great memories.

I got a tour of the new digs Friday afternoon.  It's spectacular.  The radio control room is above.  I was in a rush and didn't have time to snap off photos in the television area.  Any commercial operation would be envious of what the Marywood students now have to work with.

I'll stand by comments made in this space in the past.  The lack of live and local programming troubles me.  It's unfortunate that the radio and tv operation is so far out of sight. It seems like radio skews heavily toward being an automated jukebox rather than training broadcasters.

There is an area here called "the newsroom."  There was nothing going on during my visit.  That could be because the radio station is just playing music.  The control room wasn't ready for humans yet.

I thought of my day and how the radio/tv area was always buzzing with students.  It was the social center for broadcasters, especially when some big news event was going on.   You should have been there the afternoon President Reagan was shot in 1981.  Half of us were gathered around a television in the cable control room.  The rest were clustered around the Associated Press teletype.  The instructor practically had to drag me away from it.

I gave it some thought, and how smart phones have put the world in your pocket.  If you wanted to learn about San Bernadino, all you had to do is pull out your phone.  There's no need for a student to go to the office, so to speak.

Most of the people at Marywood are very aware of the critical things written here in the past, and most were nice, cordial, and pleasant during my visit nonetheless.

You might be wondering about why I'm a hard arse about live and local, plus news on college stations.  I do realize that not everyone wants to go in to news.  Students have to know that most of the jobs, especially the entry level jobs, are in the information side of things.  That's how you'll pay the bills until you get that chance to be an independent film producer.

Students have been handed a first class facility.  I sincerely hope they are guided to make the best use of it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

35

I was like the rest of America 35 years ago-- watching Monday Night Football.  Howard Cosell broke the news.  John Lennon.  Shot.  Dead.

I was in that half awake/half asleep state at the time.  MNF started at 9 PM in those days, and Cosell made the announcement toward the end of the game.  I stayed up for the local news, and ABC's Nightline.  Stunned.

One of the reasons I like older music so much is it takes you back to places and times.  Some good.  Some bad.

I finally got to sleep that morning, to wake up to a barrage of Beatles and Lennon music on the radio.  No problem.  It was appropriate.  John Lennon was a dominant presence on the world stage throughout the 60's and 70's...  even when he took time off to be a stay at home father.  You were never more than a few minutes away from one of his songs on the radio.

I vividly remember the day after.  I was a Marywood sophomore.  After an early class, I picked up my friend, Markie, who was home from the Army for a couple of weeks.  We drove around the Poconos, listening to the radio, talking about Lennon, talking about our lives since he enlisted and I entered college.

For some reason, we stopped at the Stroud Mall near Stroudsburg.  I can still see the record department in Hess's.  Mobbed.  Wall to wall humanity.  People were grabbing all the Beatles and Lennon records they could get their hands on.  Yes, records.  Vinyl.  I wonder what today's equivalent would be.  Most record stores are long gone.  Would computers, servers, and web sites crash from all the downloads?

Markie and I eventually made our way home.  In spite of the sadness over Lennon's murder, it was still a decent day, an opportunity to catch up with an old friend, a little sightseeing, a few laughs remembering all the trouble we used to find as kids.

I was a DJ at Marywood's radio station back then.  I had a shift a couple of days after Lennon's death.  I remember playing a few of his songs, not a lot.  I reasoned that others could do tributes better, and we all needed a little bit of a break.

Hearing a John Lennon song still brings back memories of that night, that next day, and that week-- 35 years ago.


Monday, December 7, 2015

The Christmas Letter


It is my most difficult task of the Christmas season.  There is always a letter and card from my college friend, Sue.  I know those Christmas family newsletters are annoying to many.  I say this with all sincerity.  I treasure it.  One of my many regrets in life is not getting to know Sue during our four years at Marywood.  We became good friends just before we graduated, so I wasted three and a half years.  She's married.  Great husband.  Great job.  Great kids.  Great.  She deserves it.  My yearly challenge is to come up with a response.  Here is my first draft.

Dear Sue:

As always, your card and letter are one of the highlights of the Christmas season.  I'm thrilled you think of me every year, and I really look forward to hearing from you.  Your life seems great, and that makes me very happy.

As far as the situation in Northeastern Pennsylvania, it's much the same, and I'm not complaining.

I've started using an iPad at work.  I liked it so much, I bought one for myself-- and a new phone.  That's a lot of technology, and keeping up with it is a full time job.

I'm still producing and anchoring WNEP's weekend morning broadcasts.  It's been a long time.  It's still fun.  I'm lucky.  I wouldn't argue with "blessed."

Another busy news year is about to wrap up.  2015 started off very cold and snowy.  It turned hot in the summer.  Fall was above normal.  No hurricanes.  No flooding.

Our attorney general kept us busy.

Penndot complicated our lives with endless construction.  We're learning to live with needless and unnecessary roundabouts, which Penndot insists are NOT traffic circles.

I've slowed my pen and baseball cap collecting.  I still have way too many ties, but I can't resist a sale.

Colbert and Corden are OK.  However, they pale in comparison to Letterman and Ferguson.

5 Hour Energy is out.  Berocca is in.  I took my first sick day in two and a half years, and I was actually sick.

I'm trying to get used to the new sweetener formula in Diet Pepsi.  It's awful, but I'm still not switching to another brand.

It was another busy year with the camera, and the blog, www.andypalumbo.blogspot.com, turned 11.  I've even branched out in to video for the television station.

Still riding my bike, still going to the gym, and I found some shoes I really like.

Our alma mater seems to have a "turmoil of the week."  It makes me sad.  It WAS a good school, and it seems to have lost its way.

Well, that's 2015.  The year has flown by.

Sue, it's great to hear from you.  I really miss you.  I hope 2016 is all you want it to be.

Merry Christmas.  Happy New Year.

I don't care about Starbucks cups.

Your friend in Scranton,

Andy.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Andy's Angles: Infinity

Regular blog readers know I'm exceptionally fond of shots like this-- railroad tracks stretching off in to infinity.

I get the same feeling, whether I'm along the tracks, or watching an actual train.  Arlo Guthrie's "City of New Orleans" starts running through my head.  I think of all the people, all the freight, all the workers, who used these tracks.

It really is a magic carpet made of steel.  Thank you, Mr. Guthrie.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Train Station Saturday: Cresco

I've had my eye on the Cresco train station ever since last fall, when I spent a month in the area, for another reason.

I finally got my opportunity Thanksgiving morning.  As is my habit, I take some photographs every Thanksgiving morning, while the food is in the oven.  I pulled in to the parking lot on a very quiet morning, and I wasn't disappointed.

They really care for the building, and it appears a lot of the original materials are still here, including the stained glass windows.
I'm sorry I didn't get here sooner.

Friday, December 4, 2015

180 Degrees

People who drop by this space on a regular basis know it is one of my few holiday traditions-- a trip to my alma mater, Marywood University (it was a college when I was here) to watch the Christmas tree lighting in the rotunda of the Liberal Arts Center.

For my first three years as a student, they decorated a tree outside, and that was nice.  The rotunda tree made its debut when I was a senior.  I didn't go that first year.  Don't ask me why.  It was a long time ago.  I'm guessing I was working at WARM at the time.  In fact, I don't remember ever seeing that first tree.  I loaded up on credits my first two years, and attended classes every summer.  By the time senior year arrived, I was rarely on campus.

I also blew off the first several years of the rotunda tree tradition.  Don't ask me why again, but I started going back about ten years ago, maybe more.  Maybe a little less.  It's a nice shot of Christmas, and I really like how Christmas at Marywood doesn't get rolling until AFTER Thanksgiving.

This year was a little strange.  Just before I left for Marywood, I was watching the San Bernardino shooting tragedy unfold on television.  I arrived on campus the the scene you above-- joy, happiness, innocence, fun, holiday.  180 degrees from what I saw on my TV.

There was actually one stop between home and the rotunda, and I'll have a few words on that next week.

As I walked in to the Liberal Arts building, I noticed quite a few security guards out front.  I'm not sure if that was because of world/national events, a recent Marywood bomb scare, or they just wanted to make sure no one parked illegally.

I know nothing as simple as a Christmas tree (even a big one) can take away the sorrow over San Bernardino, but, at least thousands of miles away, it was a few moments of happiness-- the music, the lights, the joy of the children running about on the rotunda floor below.

Before all this started, I intended to use the opening line of "Let's give the weighty issues of the day a rest for a moment..."  Sorry.  It can't be done.  Not now.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Unfinished Thursday

Hunting season has become quite the polarizing issue lately, and it seems to get worse every year.  Let's examine that for a moment today.

First of all, non hunters find dead animals unpleasant to look at.  I've been doing hunting stories for years, and I still haven't gotten used to it.  Brave old me does the interviews, and sends the photographer in to the butcher shop to get the video alone.

Like any activity, a few bad hunters give the rest a bad name.  You know the ones-- the ones who shoot too close to homes, who leave a mess in the woods, aren't careful, break the rules, etc.

Is death the best method of population control?  I don't know.  I'm just throwing that out there.  Thanks to killing bears at the Avoca airport, and a friendly turkey in Tunkhannock, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has developed a reputation for taking death as the easy answer.

Should we control growth better?  There are many roads I used to wander when I was doing my hunting stories.  Some of those roads are now housing developments.

It's clear we have to do something.  You should listen to all the police radio activity, and see the news releases that come in to my office.  Crash after crash after crash caused by collisions with deer.

The state really does need to change.  The start of bear season was moved to a Saturday a few years ago.  That seems to be working well.  There's no reason we can't do the same with rifle deer season.  Shorten Thanksgiving break for the schools.  It gives you another snow day pad, or you can graduate earlier in the spring.

Why do we still have a Game Commission and a Fish and Boat Commission?  A merger makes sense on so many levels.

Look, there are a lot of responsible hunters out there.  Some hunt to eat, and others donate the meat to food banks and those in need.  Deer hunters pump $ 1.6 billion into the state's economy.  It helps fill hotels in the off season after Thanksgiving and before skiing. 

The whole activity seems to have a major public relations program.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

50

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" aired for the 50th time Monday night.  For me, "A Charile Brown Christmas" stands head and shoulders above the rest.  It isn't even close.

Of course, it triggered a discussion at the office.  I was shocked when I heard some say they don't like it because it's depressing.

I will concede that there are depressing moments, as Charile Brown struggles with the concept and commercialization of Christmas.  But he overcomes that, and everyone comes together at the end to appreciate the true meaning of Christmas.

I can relate.  Christmas isn't easy for some people.  My holidays were always low key.  I envied those with big families and a lot to do in late December.  There were years I sent out tons of Christmas cards in an attempt to capture the holiday spirit.  It was a nice gesture, but it hollowed out after a while, and I stopped.

Silly as it may sound, but Christmas isn't in a card.  I appreciate what I have.  My holidays aren't that busy, and I've learned to savor the quiet time.  I've worked a lot of Christmas Eves and Christmas days over the years.  No complaints.  When you take a job in news, it comes along with the territory.  It's part of the package.

You know what?  I've never attended a company Christmas party.  Never ever.  There was never a desire to.  I like the people I work for and with.  Christmas party?  Pass.  There have been small gatherings with friends over the years, but most of those have fallen by the wayside because of work.

There are some things I really miss, including slamming the school books for the last time before an extended holiday vacation.   I miss how Marywood would clear out after finals, and a small group of us would keep the radio station up and running for a month, until the new semester started.  I miss that absolute quiet from about 10 pm Christmas Eve until early Christmas morning.  That doesn't seem to happen any more.  I miss walking around town with my friends, looking at decorated houses.

I've been dropping Marywood's Christmas tree lighting for the past several years.  If that doesn't get you feeling happy, nothing well-- a great tree, in a spectacular building, music, happy children and adults, the occasional old friend stopping by...

The bottom line is that the glass half empty / half full struggle is very real at this time of year.  Charlie Brown had it, and I've very happy with my half full glass.  In many respects, it's filled to the top and even overflowing.

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

About the Cover

I was doing a little wandering Thanksgiving morning, hoping for header inspiration.  The goal was for something "Christmassy."  I was blowing through rural locations, so there wasn't a lot from which to choose.  Nothing inspired, and I had no plans to wander in to one of the cities.

Then, I happened to spy the bear.  I know it's not Christmas related.  It's at the entrance to Covington Industrial Park year-round, but I liked it, and here it is.
I like bears.  They are a part of Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania.  I always thoght Black Bears or Black Diamond Bears were a better name for the baseball team than RailRiders.  What the heck is a RailRider, and what does it have to do with porcupines?

We're just coming off a bear season.  They are majestic creatures, and I hate to see them shot.  Perhaps we should get out of their way rather than make them get out of our way.

Have a good December.  We'll talk tomorrow.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Nathan

I tweeted a picture of Nathan the kitten on Thanksgiving, and several responded with kind comments.  Nathan and I appreciate it.  When Nathan was plucked off the streets of Wilkes-Barre, a cold and dirty stray, he didn't expect to be an internet star.

He's doing well, and growing fast.  In fact, I had to swap out his baby collar for a big boy collar the day before Thanksgiving.  Nathan has recovered well from his surgery, and I hope he doesn't miss Father's Day.  Some vets nip off an ear tip so you can readily tell the ones who are spayed or neutered.  I'm not thrilled with the process for boys.  One nip is more than enough.

Nathan has an interesting color pattern.  His nose, chin, and whiskers aren't dirty.  He just has splashes of red and beige there.

Nathan is a spunky little guy, already spoiled beyond belief.  Sorry to say, there are a lot more like him out there.  I wish we could get them all off the streets and in to good homes.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Andy's Angles: The Tower



The WEJL tower is all lit up for the holiday season, and it's a spectacular sight.  You can see it for miles, and it always gives me a happy feeling when I look down from Interstate 81 on my way to work-- and I'm not a Christmas guy.

This photo was taken around 3 AM Friday.  There are times the tower is shut off for the overnight hours.  I hope the "all night" is here until the new year.  It's quite a sight any time, especially when it's the dead of night, and the surroundings are almost totally dark.

For the last few years, the Scranton Times~Tribune has been throwing a big party on tower lighting night-- the night before Thanksgiving, and I think that's fantastic.  Things like First Night, First Fridays, and the Italian Festival keep the streets active in to the evening, and the city certainly needs more of that.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Train Station Saturday: Waymart

Today, it's another one from the archives.  This is the Gravity Railroad Depot in Waymart.

It always reminded me of a quaint little home, in a residential section of town.  The building was restored about ten years ago.  It's now home to the D&H Gravity Railroad Museum.

This railroad building could have been like so many others-- demolished.  It's fantastic a bit of history is preserved in Waymart.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday

I don't want to disappoint, so here's my yearly anti Black Friday rant...

I get that a lot of people have to go out on Black Friday.  Those sales do stretch a budget.  It all seems tremendously excessive to me, and I really dislike the concept of stores open on Thanksgiving.  I can see mini marts and drug stores, but malls and department stores?  Not for me.

By the way, Black Friday is NOT the biggest shopping day of the year.  It's actually Super Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas.  If you hear a news reporter or anchor say Black Friday is the biggest shopping day, someone didn't do their research.

My Thanksgiving was nice.  A visit to the gym in the very early morning, followed by some picture taking, a dog walk, some computer time, family dinner, football, and an early trip to bed.

By the way, I detoured through downtown Scranton after leaving the gym.  It was nice to see the WEJL tower still lit at 4:30 AM.  The rest downtown, except for Courthouse Square, was dark and dismal.  Somebody really has to work on that.

My picture taking expedition took me on to Interstate 380.  Jeez O'Pete, what a bumpy road!  If it's this bad now, I shudder to think of its condition when we get to pothole season in the spring.

I hope you had a good holiday.  See you tomorrow morning, and don't forget about Small Business Saturday.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving

I usually put a cartoon turkey here, but this year, it's some real ones.  This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, in a grassy area outside the old Harper Collins building, along Marshwood Road in Throop.

Forgive me for lecturing and preaching today.

We eat turkey, but it's not Turkey Day.  It's Thanksgiving.

No matter how miserable things might be, we can all find something, tiny as it may be, for which to be thankful.

I'm counting my blessings.  The year has been far from perfect, but I have a great family, good friends, a job I like, the unconditional love of a beagle, and a newly rescued, formerly stray, kitten named Nathan.

Enjoy the day, and please think of what it's all about.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

First Person: Charity

I saw it coming.  Yesterday, I predicted a holiday charity story in my future.  The prediction came true.

I was assigned to to a Thanksgiving food distribution for families in need.  United Neighborhood Centers and volunteerts provided the heavy lifting.  Much of the donated food came from WNEP's Feed a Friend program.  The distribution point was a church on Madison Avenue in Scranton.

Photographer Dave and I arrived around 10 AM.  We found a line in front of the church, people braving a November wind to get a little holiday help.  We approached a few for interviews.  They declined.  I explained that our photography would be done from behind, and much of it below the waist.  We were not out to wound anyone's dignity.
It was an amazing sight inside the church.  Mounds of turkeys, boxes of foods, and an army of volunteers to make sure everyone had what they needed.  Many of the volunteers were school kids.  They lugged the food out to cars, and never complained.
We eventually found a couple of people willing to share their stories.  Interviews.  Video.  Back out to the truck to write, edit, and microwave the completed package back to the office for playback on Newswatch 16 at Noon.  We then set up the camera and I stepped in front of it, ready for a live intro and close.

There was an issue.  President Obama and the president of France were speaking.  ABC News aired a special report, and it ate up all our news time.  We were told to stay hot until 12:30, in case the special report ended, and we had a little time left for news.  It didn't happen.  It was frustrating.  We had a good story to tell, but world events are also important.  I get it.

The story aired in the afternoon.  Thanks to those who made it happen.

One of the reasons I got into the business was to help people.  I hope we did okay, exposing poverty issues, showing people were there to make life a little easier.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Giving Thanks

I had a few spare moments at the office yesterday, so I checked what's called the planner or daybook.  It's a computer file of upcoming stories.

It's that time of year again.

Many of the potential assignments deal with distribution of food to families in need at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Christmas toys for children in less fortunate families.

I can't speak for others, but let me tell you how I operate.  Photographers are instructed to shoot recipients from the back, or the waist down.  No one is interviewed without their permission.  Getting the story is important.  Preserving dignity is extremely important.

I've never been in one of those lines.  I had to sign up for unemployment compensation once, and it was one of the most difficult things I'd ever done.  I did nothing wrong.  I was entitled to the help.  Still, it was a blow to my pride.  I've never forgotten that, and it's made me extremely sensitive covering stories involving charities and donations.

You may ask, why do we cover these things?  That's easy.  It lets people know where they can get help.  It lets fortunate people know where to make donations, and shows there is a need for charity here in our area.  It seems to grow larger every year.

There is a phenomenon I call "charity fatigue."  So many organizations are looking for help.  It's overwhelming.  You can't help them all.  No one has that much money.  It breaks your heart when you have to decline.

I do have a couple of favorite organizations and they hear from me every year at this time.  2015 will be no different.  As I said, you can't help them all.  Do a little research.  Choose wisely and carefully.  Find someone deserving of a hand, and do your best to help.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Media Notes

It's been a while since a Media Notes entry appeared, so here goes..
.

I was saddened to learn on Friday that Jim Perry had passed away.  Cancer.  82.

There were two major game show claims to fame here in the United States-- the first Card Sharks on NBC and $ale of the Century.  Perry was good at both-- seeming genuinely happy when contestants won, sad when they lost.  He moved the games along quickly, and he never became bigger than the show.  Jim Perry realized the game was the star, and he made them fun to watch-- moving them along at just the right pace.

Jim Perry did other games shows in Canada, plus the Miss Canada pageant.  For years, I thought he was Canadian, but Jim Perry was born in New Jersey.

If you want a chuckle, go to YouTube.com and look up the pilot for a game show called "Twisters."  It was interesting.  There was potential.  However, the pilot never came together and the show was never picked up by a network or a syndicator.

Christopher Kimball left the America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Country magazine and television show group.  Management says they couldn't agree on a new contract.

Maybe Kimball was asking for too much, but at first blush, I see this as a big mistake.  Kimball was the heart and soul of those TV shows.

I'll level with you.  the first time I saw ATK, I hated it.  Kimball seemed like a miserable old sob.  For some bizarre reason, I watched a little more, and realized the crankiness was part of the program.  He was an effective conduit.  Kimball knew how to ask the right questions, and get the best information out of his chefs and contributors.  He was also smart enough to know the food was the star.

It's too bad they never got that concept at another public TV show, This Old House.  It became hideously unwatchable the day Bob Vila was asked to leave.  First, no one can afford those projects.  Second, the producers made the contributors bigger than the projects.  Mistake.  Big one.  It could work if the hosts are likable and interesting.  The last two hosts were duds.  The landscaping guy acts like he's the only one who knows how to plant a bush.  The plumber thinks he's the first one who ever fluxed a fitting.

There can be exceptions.  Big host.  Successful show.  Robert Irvine on Restaurant Impossible immediately comes to mind.  He makes that show work.

Shifting gears, this FCC AM radio revitalization thing is getting a lot of interest.  It's quite the topic in the trades, and I received a few e-mails when I wrote about  it here a couple of weeks ago.

A big key is the FCC giving AM operators a crack at FM translators.  All that does is spread bad programming over an additional frequency, and the concept fails in big cities, where there are few, if any, available FM frequencies left.

Plus, most AM operators also have full powered FM's in the same market.  Why don't they put the AM programming on one of the big sticks?

The key is programming.  Do something good, and listeners will flock to you.

Perfect example of the AM malaise, and I'd really like to mention names...  One of the big radio groups had its vehicles in Scranton's Santa Parade Saturday morning.  Its FM stations were represented by big, bright, shiny, colorful vans and SUV's.  The AM station, and a well known one at that, wasn't represented.  Nothing.  Zero.  Also, zero is about its share of the local listening audience.

If you don't promote and invest in your product, don't complain that people aren't listening.  You shouldn't be running to the government for the gift of an additional frequency.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Andy's Angles: The Lackawanna

The leaves had peaked when I took this photo earlier this month.  I'm standing on the Olyphant side of the Lackawanna River.  Blakely is off to the left.

I grew up near the river, and it was an open sewer not too long ago.  I'm amazed and pleased as to how well it's recovered.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Train Station Saturday: Tamaqua

I pulled this one out of the archives from five years ago.

I was doing a story in Tamaqua, when I had a few moments to stroll through the downtown.  Tamaqua was smart enough to preserve its train station, and make it the centerpiece of an improved business district.

The train station is home to a restaurant, plus travelers information station.  Just off to the left, out of the photo is a fountain.  You can see the gazebo, the flowers, and trains come rolling through now and then.

I'm happy the people of Tamaqua realized how lucky they are to have a passenger train station right in the middle of the borough.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Stop the Presses

Marywood University has decided to stop printing its student newspaper, the Wood Word.  It's a move that distresses me greatly, and let me tell you why.

Print is struggling.  Greatly.  It's not dead.  A Wood Word editorial called print the past.

There are thousands of journalists around the world busting their humps to make print relevant.  To them, it's not the past, but it is changing.

As far as I'm concerned, if something needs help, you fix it.  You don't pull the plug.  Keep breaking news on the web site.  Use print for long form.  Photography.  Essays.  Things best served away from daily deadlines.

Believe it or not, print is a different writing style from web.  What I write here is different from what I put on WNEP.com and the stories I write for our newscasts.  I'm sorry you have decided to take a "one size fits all" approach.

There are some good things going on at Marywood. In my day, print and broadcast never mingled.  I'm glad someone there has figured out we're in the same business.  The Wood Word has aggressively covered social issues on campus and Marywood's apparent financial problems.  Kudos, again.

It's too late now, but you should have kept the print.  You're not saving that much money.  You're missing a lot of the medium's potential.

This is not a jab at Marywood in particular, but I take you back to what might have been the greatest four minutes in the history of television.  It was character Will McAvoy's rant in the first minutes, of the first broadcast of HBO's "The Newsroom."  McAvoy said America was great in the past because we "were informed by great men, men who were revered."

I grew up on Cronkite and his stable of outstanding CBS correspondents, Chancellor, Brinkley, Smith...  I marveled at how Woodward and Bernstein brought down a president, and the Washington Post (that's a newspaper) had the onions to back them.  What do you have in the internet age?  Matt Drudge?  I consider myself to be very lucky.

One more print item before I hit the "publish" button.  Stan Lukowski passed away this week.  He was Throop mayor for many years.  Before that, he was spokesman for Tobyhanna Army Depot.  Lukowski also wrote a Scrantonian column, focusing on Throop, Dickson City, and Olyphant.  I received a few mentions over the years.  It was always a kick, and a source of pride for the family.  Stan will be fondly remembered.  My sympathy to his family, friends, and fans.