Sunday, January 31, 2016

Andy's Angles: Buttermilk Falls

Today, another January 1 photo of Buttermilk Falls in Falls Township, Wyoming County.  This is the view looking downstream, toward the Susquehanna River.

A web search shows several sites in Pennsylvania with the name Buttermilk Falls.  However, I was unable to find the reason.

Perhaps one of our area's many historians can enlighten me.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Andy's Angles: Falls

This weekend, the final photos from my New Year's Day photo expedition.

This is the falls at Falls in Wyoming County.  Buttermilk Falls to be exact.  As you can see, we were coming off a very warm December.  I'm sure the area has iced over due to some recent cold temperatures.

January 1 was very cloudy, but even on a grey day, this was an impressive sight.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Abe Vigoda

I have a meager DVD collection.  There are only two TV series, in their entirety in my stack.  One is Scrubs.  Barney Miller is the other.

By now, you know Abe Vigoda passed away earlier this week.  94.  For three years, he was Sgt. Phillip K. Fish in Barney's Miller squad room.

Barney Miller was an ensemble comedy, with several criminals entering and exiting every week.  It meant no one actor had a lot of lines.  Abe Vigoda made every word work, but it was more than that.  It was the walk, the expressions.  That face.  The delivery.

There is one scene that always comes to mind.  Vigoda's Fish was the "old cop," the one nearing retirement, the one with the old person medical issues.  In police work (and journalism), experience means a lot.  Most days, Fish was the smartest one in the room.  A woman brought in on prostitution charges was trying to make small talk with Fish.  She asks "How long have you been a cop?"  Fish, wanting to be left alone, snaps back "I was the first."  I've seen it a dozen times.  It never fails to make me laugh.

Vigoda left for a spin off series, and, unfortunately, it didn't work.  There were a few Barney Miller guest appearances in later years.  It was always a kick to see Fish walk through that door one more time.

Bloody dramas are not my thing, so I can't really write about Vigoda's Tessio character in Godfather I and II.  I've read the reviews in the obituaries and have seen the clips.  Excellent work.

Abe Vigoda made me laugh.  Thank you.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


It's been 30 years since the space shuttle Challenger exploded a minute after take off.  30 years have passed quickly.  There are some things I vividly remember about that day.  Others, not so much.

I was working at WARM, handling one of the best positions ever in this market-- radio street reporter.  I spent almost my entire day on the road, filing reports on several different stories a day.  It kept me hopping, and it was great fun.

The day began at the Luzerne County Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.  I do not remember the story that brought me there.  Whatever it was, it wasn't happening yet.  I was sitting in the little media office, at the back of what used to be the commissioners' meeting room, shooting the bull with WNEP photographer Jan Votapka, who would later become one of my co workers.  Jan left WNEP several years ago.  We've lost touch.  Jan, if you're reading this, drop me a line.  I hope you are doing well.  you are missed.

Suddenly, WNEP's Wilkes-Barre reporter at the time, Mark Davis, burst in to the room and said "Jan, get your camera, the shuttle just blew up."  I started thinking "Where?  On the courthouse lawn?"  Back in the day, jurors assembled in a little area between the south entrance to the courthouse and the rotunda.  There was a big TV to help potential jurors kill the time.  Courthouse employees often wandered in to watch a little TV.  Mark wanted Jan to get video of people watching the tragedy unfold on TV.

As for the story that brought us all to the courthouse, I don't know if it ever took place.  If I covered it, or if I blew it off.  I jumped in to my news car and high tailed it back to the WARM newsroom in Avoca.  One of the afternoon anchors, Gordon Weise, called in sick.  I'd have to anchor some afternoon broadcasts, and co-anchor our 5 PM news hour.  It was mid morning, so there was still time to do some things.

After that, it was a trip to Sears in the Viewmont Mall, where I interviewed people watching wall-to-wall TV coverage.

When I returned to the station, there was an interview with Rep. Paul Kanjorski via telephone.  I got his thoughts on what had happened.  We also spent a little time discussing the future of space flight, whether it was time to let unmanned missions take the lead in America's space program.

We slammed together a really good NewsHour, which would up being shortened because of an address by President Reagan.  My shift ended at 6.  We handed off to the night reporter, and I was on my way home.

It was a short and light dinner.  Food and those awful images didn't mix.

I was five years old when three astronauts were killed on the launch pad aboard Apollo 1.  I have no memory of that.  Challenger was my first space tragedy.  Successful flights had become routine.  We took them for granted.  January 28, 1986 was the day it all changed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

First Person: Fire

I've been doing this a long time, and I've never gotten used to fires, especially fatal fires.  The sights, the smells, the tears, the frustration...

The latest was yesterday morning in Pottsville.  Photographer Jason and I had just put the finishing touches on a couple of stories on the Pittston area's serial mini mart robber.  We were in the truck on the way to Pittston when the call came in from the assignment desk.  Fatal fire.  Head to East Norwegian Street in Pottsville.

It was a sad story, but an easy one to put together.  All the elements were right in front of us.  Smoldering building.  Informative assistant fire chief.  Victim's friends.  We set up the satellite truck to go live during Newswatch 16 This Morning, plus an update during Good Morning America.

We kept going back for more video and more information between updates.  We packed up and headed back to the office to put together a story for our noon broadcast.  Photographer Corey edited that story.  I transmitted a script back to the station for management's approval before I left Pottsville.  An approved version was waiting for me when I returned.  Brittany Boyer took over at the scene, and she provided the updates for our afternoon and evening broadcasts.

As of this writing, no cause listed.  We do have some fire seasons.  One is during a summer heat wave.  People attempt to run giant air conditioners off extension cords from the 99 cents store.  The next is at the start of the fall heating season.  Neglected heating systems let you know they need help by catching fire.  A major cold snap is another trigger.  It's the 99 cent extension cord story, except with space heaters.

It wasn't a brutally cold night.  Other causes popped in to my mind.  Cooking.  Smoking.  General bad wiring.  We'll know eventually.  It doesn't make it less sad.

Please, be careful.  Make sure you have smoke alarms and they work.  Prevent tragedies.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Common Thread

It happens from time to time, but it's really been a rash lately, and that rash has become more ferocious.

There's been a plague of bank, mini mart and assorted other business armed robberies.

You look for the link.  It usually gets traced back to drugs.

Drug abuse is a crime and sickness at the same time.  I find it hard to believe that it's easier to stick a gun in a mini mart clerk's face than it is to ask for help.

There are no easy answers.  Police arrest dealers.  Other dealers move in to take their place.  Fast.  Logic would indicate that if you get rid of demand, you'll get rid of the supply.  No one has figured out how to do that.  If you have the solution, let me know, and I'll pass it along.  The possibility of prison just doesn't scare some people.  That's the sickness part of this whole thing.

Another troublesome rash these days is workers stealing from their bosses.  Toss in drugs, plus the occasional big gambling debt, and you likely have the common thread there.  Problem gamblers can get help.  The casino industry pays for some of it.  Once again, it's ever to pull the lever on a slot machine than admit you have a problem.

My heart goes out to the addicted.  I'm sure no one wants to be a druggie or a problem gambler.  I'm also sure this rips families apart, creating even more issues.

If there's not enough, we seem to have another frequent problem around here-- people driving the wrong way on interstate highways.  All the evidence isn't in, but people are already pointing to alcohol as the common thread here.  I can understand how a wrong way mistake can be made.  Highway entrances and exits can be confusing, especially in the dark, and especially if you're not familiar with the road.  I can't understand how these drivers make it several miles without realizing what they've done.  Four people lost their lives Saturday morning.

The final common thread with the robberies, the theft, and the wrong way driving:  none of it needs to happen.

Monday, January 25, 2016


Some thoughts from the weekend's big snow storm...

We've been seeing and hearing the rush to the hardware and/or supermarket stories.  We can add another to the list:  the liquor store.  It seems like it's not a major snow event without an adult beverage.  I have no problems with the responsible use of alcohol, but shouldn't an emergency be the time to be at your sharpest?  I think I answered my own question.  The weekend, for most, was far from an emergency.

I was seeing some of those unreliable computer models, everywhere,  right up until the flakes began to fly.  Advice to weather people:  if you don't believe it, don't show it.  Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.  There is no shame in saying "it's too early to give you an accurate prediction on snow totals."

Thanks to my Amazon Echo and C. Crane radio, internet listening is an absolute breeze.  WTOP in Washington and WBAL in Baltimore, the blow torches, were outstanding.  KYW in Philadelphia was at its solid best.  The same goes for WCBS and WINS in New York.  Listening to radio done right, especially in a "big news" situation, is an absolute delight.  Information without the hysterics.

I do this absolutely insane thing when big snow is predicted.  I constantly check the forecast, in hopes of seeing the predicted totals come down.  Last week, it was just the opposite.  I kept checking the forecast to make sure the totals were low, and they stayed that way, for the most part.  They started creeping up late Friday night.

A big stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike was closed for a big hunk of the weekend.  Hundreds of people were stranded.  There is absolutely no reason some something like that to happen.  Somebody really dropped the ball.

Washington, DC constantly amazes me.  Less than an inch of snow and ice paralyzed the city-- and that was days before the big one hit.  It is incompetence at its highest level.

I saw examples of kindness at its highest level.  Several WNEP stories featured people digging out their neighbors, offering rides, providing food and shelter.  We live in a great area.

It's always a kick to see former co-workers shine in big news situations.  Cases in point:  The Weather Channel's Raegan Medgie, WBAL's Phil Yacuboski, photographer Ben Rice at WJLA, and WPVI's Trish Hartman.

I admit, I was lucky.  Where I live, the storm was a broom event rather than one that required a shovel.  Travel to and from work was a breeze.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Andy's Angles: LSP 2

Today, it's another view of the lake at Lackawanna State Park.  This looks like a late fall photo.  It was actually taken the morning of January 1.

The clouds look menacing, but they produced neither rain nor flurries.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Andy's Angles: LSP 1

I'm sure it looks a little different now, but this is the lake at Lackawanna State Park back on New Year's Day.

Above normal temperatures.  Above normal clouds.  No ice in sight.
And even some guys in a boat, doing a little New Year's Day fishing.

Friday, January 22, 2016


I cringed when I heard the words.  "Coastal storm."

The initial stomach tightening was due to the fact that these things are dangerous and capable of dumping snow in feet.

The rest-- the words were being uttered by meteorologists six days before the monster was supposed to hit.

This might be inside baseball, but here goes.  Thanks to amateur forecasters on social media, who spew snow totals at the drop of the hat, and have no accountability, the real meteorologists are under increasing pressure to deliver detailed forecasts before they're ready.

The real pros will tell you that you can't provide an accurate number until 24 to 48 hours before a storm hits.

Computer models were all over the place early in the week.  I saw several of those on television, everywhere.  I shouldn't have.    Again, go back to the 24 to 48 guideline.

As the days wore on, the prediction for feet in my little corner of the planet came down to inches.   The computer models fell in to place.  They agreed. The last Weather Channel forecast I saw, seconds before writing this, didn't mention any snow for Saturday.  Parts of the mid Atlantic, are due for a hammering.

I will admit that I did fall victim to the supermarket panic, to a limited degree.  I left for work early Tuesday, so I can hit a 24 hour store on the way to the office.  My home freezer always has a few extra things during the winter.  There's extra canned soup in the cabinet.  A friend got me an industrial sized box of Pop Tarts for Christmas.  Brown sugar/cinnamon.  I was at the store to stock up for work-- diet soda, Spaghetti O's.  Granola bars.  I brought in a box of Pop Tarts from home.

I'm glad the storm will say to the south, and predictions for a horrible weekend have fizzled.  I wasn't comfortable watching meteorologists, everywhere, forced out on that limb.  This is one case where it got sawed off.  The internet has taken away our patience, and it will never return.  We're forcing weather people to make calls out of their comfort zone.  What begins as an early warning has morphed into a dive for the panic button.

We need to pull back.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


I'm sorry that my trip to Rock 107 in Scranton was to do a story on the death of Eagles co founder Glenn Frey, but I enjoyed the visit nonetheless.

Regular blog readers know that radio is my first love.  My first air shift on my college station was in December of 1979.  A job playing religion and public affairs shows at WARM began in April of 1981,  I stayed at WARM for nearly eleven years.  I saw the station declining, with less of an emphasis on local news, so I jumped over to TV-- part time in March 1990, full time in September 1991.  You know the rest.  TV has provided a nice living, and I still enjoy doing it.

It's still a kick to hang around a radio station.  It reminds me of what attracted me to the business in the first place-- the immediacy, the spontaneity, the electronics, the magic of a voice going through wires and circuits, up a tower, out an antenna, so thousands can hear it.

Radio studios look a lot different these days.  No vinyl.  No tape.  Nothing mechanical.  Everything is computerized and controlled via touch screen.  It's fascinating.  However, the basics haven't changed.  Relate to the audience.  Entertain.  Inform.  Think.  Talk.

Thanks to Rock 107's morning man, The Prospector, for letting us drop by on short notice, for sharing his opinion on the musical influence of Glenn Frey and the Eagles.  His comments were the hook for an entertaining piece that ran Tuesday afternoon on Newswatch 16.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Judge

Retired Luzerne County Judge Gifford Cappellini died last week.  90.

I used to spend a lot of time at the Luzerne County Courthouse, and here is what I will remember about Judge Cappellini.  He was never afraid to explain or defend a ruling.

One case jumps out.  Cappellini okayed a change of venire-- bringing in a jury from another county to hear a homicide case.  Cappellini cited "inflammatory" media coverage of the case.

After Cappellini closed the hearing, he called the media up to the bench.  He explained that we, the media, did nothing wrong, but the mere facts of the homicide case were enough to inflame a potential jury pool.  There was no choice but to bring in a jury from another county.

The law can be complicated, even to one in a courtroom on a regular basis.  There were times i needed clarification on one of Judge Cappellini's rulings.  I'd pass a message through a tipstaff.  In minutes, I'd be called in to his chambers for a quick chat.  I walked out knowing more, and because of that, you knew more.

I have to be fair.  Cappellini was known for his compassion.  Some in legal (and illegal) circles saw him as the "easy" judge, one most likely to give defendants lighter sentences.  Was it true?  That would require months of analysis and record digging. I really don't know.  Unfortunately, perception often equals reality.

All I can say is the people of Luzerne County were lucky to have Gifford Cappellini on the bench.  My sympathy to his family and friends.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Media Notes

Welcome to the first Media Notes of 2016...

Wayne Rogers died just before the start of the new year.  His first three years of MASH were among the funniest ever on television.  I understand why he left.  Alan Alda's Hawkeye became the dominant character and there wasn't much for Rogers' Trapper to do.

MASH ran for 11 years, which was about five years too long.  I watched an episode from the later years the other night.  Klinger imported items from home to decorate his office.  Beyond awful.  I will say the serious episodes from later years were well done.

Richard Libertini passed away January 7.  He was in a ton of things, but I will always remember him for a few Barney Miller episodes.  Producers were fond of a salon of actors, who played many different roles, throughout the series run.  Libertini played a loon who believed he was from the future, and a man who fought to change his name to a number.  A funny man.

I'm really glad the Powerball thing is over for a while.  By far, the most interesting report during the frenzy was one on CBS that showed exactly how the numbers are drawn and the precautions taken to ensure fairness.

Al Jazeera America disappears in April.  It lasted two and a half years.  One of the ABC overnight anchors called it "the end of an era."  I'm sorry.  30 months is not an "era."  In what universe did owners, in Qatar, believe Americans would watch a news channel called Al Jazeera?  It produced some good journalism, and some talented people will lose their jobs.  I'm sorry.

The Yahoo Sports Radio network now begins its programming right at the top of the hour.  It's one more nail in the coffin of traditional network and local top of the hour news broadcasts.  It appears there is a slot for something local about four minutes before the top of the hour.  There's a FOX Sports Radio station in Harrisburg that wedges a network news update in there.  I'm not going to apologize for being old school, but top of the hour news is what made radio great, and I'm sorry it's now an afterthought.

ABC is working on a Pyramid series for the summer.  Michael Strahan hosts.  Strahan is a likable and charismatic guy.  It's probably a good fit, but I can't say I'm thrilled.  There are clips floating around on YouTube.  It's an old Pyramid pilot with Andy Richter, and he's really good.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Gym Rats

For the longest time, I thought those New Year's gym stories were a lot of bull.

TV stations, looking to fill time on a holiday, go to gyms to see all the people working off Christmas weight gains and following through on resolutions to get fit.

I joined a gym in November of 2012, and have been making two or three visits per week ever since.

For the last four Januaries, I've witnessed the influx of new bodies and the return of some old ones.  I also watched them drift away after a short time.

Last year was a little strange.  The influx didn't seem quite as large.  This year, more strangeness.  The influx was shockingly short.  Here we are, just a couple of weeks in to the new year, and most of the newbies have disappeared.

Please, don't give up.

A little advice:

Have modest expectations.  You are not going to reach your goals overnight.  Be happy to work up a little sweat, burn off a few calories.  Small steps.

Second, get a gym buddy.  Exercise can be really boring (although I really enjoy my solitary moonlight bike rides).  Having someone to talk with helps the time fly by.  I didn't start out with a gym buddy, but I found a couple after I started-- a couple of veterans who helped point me in the right direction.

To those who left and aren't coming back...  a couple of weeks at the gym was better than nothing.  See you same time, next year.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Andy's Angles: Long Street

Scranton has some really long streets and avenues.  North and South Washington, Wyoming, Adams, and Mulberry instantly come to mind.

And then, there is Green Ridge Street.  North Scranton Junior High is at my back.  The shot looks toward Dunmore.

It's a vital artery, and also a maddening one.  If you are unlucky, you get stuck at every traffic light, throughout your trip from here to there.  Green Ridge Street really is in need of some TLC.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Andy's Angles: Tail Between My Legs

I will admit when I am wrong.

I never thought I'd see the day people were living in the old North Scranton Junior High School at Green Ridge and Main.

I remember doing the story when the building closed thirty years ago.  I followed all the redevelopment plans over the years that followed.  The project had more false starts and delays than the mall in Downtown Scranton in the 80's and 90's.  The adults in the group remember that maddening odyssey.

Finally, Goodwill pulled it off.  The building houses apartments, plus a community auditorium.

It's a beautiful building and I'm glad it was saved.  Regular blog readers will recall I felt, a few years ago, that it was time to pull the plug, demolish the building, redevelop the site and move on.

I'm glad Goodwill stuck with it.

Friday, January 15, 2016


I haven't burdened you with this type of blog entry in quite a while...

It's my silly winter math game.

The three coldest months of the year are December, January, and February.  Do the math.  Winter is half over!

We've been lucky.  Above normal temperatures.  Below normal snow.

You can feel the days getting longer, the sun a little stronger.  We can still get some wicked storms in February and March, but you can feel the slow turn toward spring.

Regular blog readers know I don't enjoy summers as much as I once did.  Spending my days in an air conditioned darkened house to avoid the heat isn't my idea of fun.  I do love spring and fall.

Cold is okay.  You can always put on an extra heavy coat.  Snow and ice is another story.  I dislike sliding to work.

Having said all that, there is a fantastic charm and comfort to crawling under a mass of blankets on a cold winter night.

With any luck, those days are numbered.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Unfinished Thursday

As of this writing, I don't know if someone knocked off the billion dollar plus Powerball jackpot.  First, I'm sick of hearing about it.  Second, it's made trips to the mini mart a nightmare.  The simple purchase of a soda and a newspaper (you're welcome, print brethren), is an hour long experience because the line is clogged with people buying lottery tickets.

>>>UPDATE:  There are three winning tickets.  California, Tennessee, Florida.  The jackpot for Saturday night's drawing drops to a puny $ 40 million, and Pennsylvania mini marts are safe once again.

The NFL is abandoning St. Louis for Los Angeles.  There were complaints the St. Louis stadium is sub standard.  By the way, that stadium just passed its 20th birthday late last year.  The Rams owner always wanted to be back in Los Angeles.  The fix was in, and St. Louis fans, who supported their team, got hosed.

Los Angeles was never a football town.  In all fairness, the old Rams played in the lousy Anaheim stadium, and the even lousier Los Angeles Colosseum.

What really annoys me is the NFL throwing at the Oakland Raiders, and Oakland has dome nothing to keep that team in the city.

Criminals on and off the field, cheating, lack of respect for the fans...  it's really getting easy to dislike the NFL.

It's strange to look out my window and see the ground covered with snow.  My town got about an inch Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.  It was the first measurable snow of the season.  I really didn't miss it.

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in a month.  Bring it on.

KMart and Sears have announced another round of store closings.  None in our area.  I walked around a Sears last week, and it was bleak.  It's been a couple of months  since I set foot in a KMart.  It was a yellow and dingy store, badly in need of a good cleaning, painting, and updating.  You really get the feeling that it's just a matter of time before these two fade in to history.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


The question has been asked in my office, and chances are, yours as well.  Would you quit your job is you knocked off the billion dollar plus Powerball jackpot tonight.

My answer is "yes" and let me tell you why.

I love my job, and current management has been great to me.  I still enjoy getting up in the morning (or late at night) and learning what's new in the world, and how to best relate that information to you.  It's a wonderful job.  That's the problem.

There aren't a lot of wonderful jobs out there.  I know a lot of people who have awful jobs in awful places.  They'd kill for what I have.  I'd actually feel guilty hanging to a job that someone needed more than I.

Would I miss it?  Of course.  I'd try to find a way to keep my hand in the biz.  A blog.  A web site.  A podcast.  Limitless possibilities.

I'd love to own a little radio station somewhere.  Being a billionaire would allow me to do that.  Unfortunately, you'd being competing with mega corporations, with dozens of stations.  It's a recipe for bankruptcy, and a way to watch that billion evaporate.

The point is moot.

With one in 292 million odds, I have no plans to buy a ticket.  I'd rather spend the money on something I'd enjoy more-- like a soda or a sandwich.

I'll see you back at work this weekend.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


I've finally figured out what's bothering me about Stephen Colbert's CBS Late Show.  The epiphany came to me while watching Johnny Carson reruns on WNEP2.

Carson was at his funniest when relating to the audience.  Unscripted moments.  It happened when a joke was bombing, or he was just bantering with Ed and Doc.

Letterman was the same way.  Some of his best moments were ad libs, deviating from the script, letting the moment flow.  He was at his best just rambling on about something in the news, or something that happened in his life.

Everything with Colbert is scripted.  The interviews are weak, at best.  His most human moments came during the Joe Biden interview, and that was several weeks ago.  The problem is Colbert has no one to talk with.  His band leader, a talented musician, is a total stiff in the personality department.  A real zero.  Colbert's first half hour is nearly identical to his old Comedy Central show.  It's not a late night talk show.  It's scripted, unspontaneous comedy.

Colbert is doing the show his way.  He's not going to run around 30 Rock like Letterman did during the NBC days.  Dave explored his neighborhood after the move to CBS.  Colbert recently visited Rupert Jee, Letterman's old friend, at a deli around the corner.  Colbert isn't a Letterman style comic, but that doesn't mean he can't be spontaneous.

Colbert relies too heavy on politics, and it's the same old stuff.  Yes, we know Hillary is one step ahead of the law.  Yes, we know Trump is orange and has funny hair.  Yawn.  Move on.

CBS is getting hammered by NBC in late night.  Still, Colbert isn't making Letterman money.  CBS has taken ownership of Late Show.  In the old days, Letterman was the owner.  CBS paid a licensing fee.  In other words, mediocre ratings still translate in to a financial bonanza for CBS.

Look, all late night comics took a while to hit their stride. Carson struggled at first.  The same for Letterman and Leno.  Colbert has a lot of talent.  He just has to figure out how to best use it.

Monday, January 11, 2016

20 Years Later

It's the 20th anniversary of one of the strangest weather weeks in our area's history-- a blizzard followed by massive flooding.

I was working down the street at the time, and here's what I remember.

Police wanted you off the streets during the blizzard, but I had to get to work.  Interstate 81 was off limits, so I had to drive through Dunmore to get to my office in downtown Scranton.  If memory serves, I had a Pontiac back then.  It wasn't the greatest car in the snow, but it got me there.  I remember encountering a police officer at Dunmore Corners, expecting a ticket or a lecture or something.  I passed through the intersection unquestioned.

Strangely, I don't remember much about our snow coverage that day.  Was I anchoring and in a nice, warm building?  Honestly, I can't recall.  Whatever I did, it was unremarkable.

The bizarre things started piling up in the next few days.  Temperatures skyrocketed upward.  The snow went down.  The rivers went up.  And up.  And up.

As it was hitting the fan, photographer Jim Keenan and I wound up on top of a mountain in Eaton Township, near Tunkhannock.  Mud was rolling off the mountain,  inundating homes.  I had never seen anything like it.  We got a really good story, and just as we were wrapping up, tons of dirt, snow, ice and mud came sliding off the mountain.  We got more video and high-tailed it out of there.It truly was a frightening moment.

Jimmy and I put together out story back at the office in Scranton.  In the meantime, the Susquehanna River was rising.  People were being forced from their homes.  We had a lot going on.  One of my co-workers, Jen Watson, noticed something was bugging me.  My story wasn't getting the attention it deserved.  Jen went to management and suggested I do a live shot from somewhere.  It was a last minute addition.  At the time, we were doing our weather from the roof of the Oppenheim building, so I was live up there to introduce and close my piece.

As I was leaving, the news director cornered me. He wanted some presence the next day, a Saturday.  The plan was for quickie updates on the hour and half hour, beginning at 6:00 AM.  I said "sure" and went home.

Let me back up a bit.  This news director had just changed some assignments and many staffers were angry.  Several had reasons why they couldn't come in on a Saturday.  I'm sure some were legitimate and some were manufactured.  My schedule and responsibilities weren't being touched.  I liked my boss, so I wound up in the anchor chair the next morning.

Things were going OK.  I was anchoring from our set in the newsroom.  Just before the 9:30 AM hit, the boss said "keep going as long as you can."  The 9:30 AM update, which was supposed to last a few minutes, went on for more than two and a half hours.

Needless to say, I didn't do it alone.  First of all, we had a really good production staff.  We had meteorologist Barry Finn and reporter Melissa Becker Sgroi in West Pittston.  David DeCosmo, who knows as much about the Susquehanna River as anyone, was in Wilkes-Barre.  Weather anchor Derry Bird was with me in the studio.  I'm sure there were a few others, but hey, it's been 20 years.

You can't have a good anchor without a good producer.  In this case, it was Eileen Kennedy.  She kept the balls in the air, telling me where to go next, whispering the latest information in my ear.

We wrapped it up after the river crested, the level started going down, and the evacuation order was lifted.

Regular readers know my veins are filled with diet soda, and so was my bladder, after two and half  hours on the air without a break.  My first stop after signing off was the rest room.  I sprinted down the long hall way and up the steps to the second floor.  Pardon my bluntness, but my bladder was at its limit.

The bottom line on the day is we were undermanned and underplanned, but we got some good information on the air without hype and hysterics.  I hesitate to use the word "fun" to describe the day because so many were experiencing misery.  Let's say it was a huge challenge, and I'm glad the team got it done.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Andy's Angles: Out of Business

One of the things I really like about Lackawanna State park is it's a four season destination.

The warming shed, just steps from the lake, hasn't seen any activity this winter.   The shed, with its fireplace, has been rather quiet.  There's no need to get ice fishermen and ice skaters out of the cold and wind because, as you will see in later blog entries, there is no ice on the lake.

Still, it's a useful building and a nice concept.  For cold weather lovers, there hasn't been much to celebrate so far this season.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

About the Cover

I was out playing with my camera New Year's morning.  I spied these two in a field, along the road in North Abington Township that takes you from Interstate 81 to Lackawanna State Park.

The pair wasn't camera shy at all, but I wish they did venture a little closer.  Can't go wrong with a horse picture.  They are magnificent animals.

A photo taken on the first day of 2016 is already a contender for this year's Top Ten.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Grand Theft Soda

I am confessing to the felony of fraud.

It is my Wednesday morning ritual.  After a couple of hours at the gym, I breeze on over to a Turkey Hill for a 44 ounce diet soda.

Being an environmentally conscious guy, as well as a cost conscious one, I always get one of my old cups refilled.  It's only 99 cents.  $ 1.05 with tax, soon to be higher.

There are two regulars on the Turkey Hill overnighter.  Friendly lady and crabby lady.  Keep that in mind.

Just before Christmas, I was refilling my cup at the Turkey Hill fountain when I looked down and realized I was refilling one of my old Sheetz cups!  They hold the same amount.

I could have transferred the soda into a new Turkey Hill cup and paid full price, or I could roll the dice and take my chances at the check out.  As luck would have it, crabby clerk was filling in for the nice one.  There was no doubt nice clerk would have laughed it off.  Crabby clerk?  Not so sure.

I filled the Sheetz cup to the brim and, terrified, walked over to the check out.  If crabby clerk realized the problem, she didn't say a word.  I paid my $ 1.05 and headed for the door.  Quickly.

I still feel guilty, but having given up my right to remain silent, the confession does make me feel a little better.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Thursday Scrapple

I do feel sorry for those who make a living off snow and ice, but a dry winter is a lot safer than a wet one.  The cold is OK.  Just put on an extra sweater.  People get killed on snow and ice.

Twitter is considering doing away with the 140 character limit.  There are other avenues, like a blog, for people who choose to say more.  140 characters for Twitter is more than enough.

Another holiday tradition has manifested itself.  Every year, I can't wait for Christmas, my birthday, and New Year's Eve/Day to pass.  Once they do, I kick myself for not doing anything fun.

I heard a business expert on the radio predicting massive end of winter sales.  I went shopping Tuesday and found tons of stuff at big discounts.  Unfortunately, it was nothing I needed.  I came home with one thing-- a calendar from the dollar store featuring American lighthouses.

ABC broadcasts an NFL playoff game Saturday afternoon.  Even though it's a simulcast with ESPN, featuring announcers I really don't care for, it's still nice to see the NFL back on the big network.

I'll do a bigger blog entry on it someday soon, but I'm really enjoying Johnny Carson on WNEP2.

I splurged and tried European style butter the other day.  Yes, there is a difference-- mostly, in the priced.  It seemed richer and sweeter.  Was it worth the added expense?  Meh.  Not really.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

First Person: Going for a Ride

Let me tell you about my Monday.

First, let's back up for a second.  Monday was the first work day after the long holiday layoff, and I detected a lot of grumpiness.  The vacation was over for many, and it was back to the grind for a long, cold, dark January.  I thought everything was ok at the TV station.  We're a 24/7/365 business, so the holidays are just another day.  In fact, I took my Christmas holiday yesterday.  I'll celebrate New Year's Day on Tuesday, January 12.

I arrived at the office around 2:30 AM.  My assignment was the opening of the new intermodal transportation center in downtown Scranton.  Interesting story.  The public was getting its first look at a $12.4 million bus station.

I banged out my scripts.  Photographer Jason and I got in to one of our microwave trucks, and we pulled in to the bus station around 4:00 AM.  We got there early to scope out the turf, a site survey as we call it.  We wanted a spot where you could see what was going on, but yet, we wanted to be out of everyone's way.  We found one.  Our first hit was 4:30 AM.  No problem.

The COLTS news release said the bus station would open at 5:00 AM.  Well, 5:00 AM came and went.  The building was still dark.  Deserted.  I started to worry.  Did I miss the postponement e-mail?  Did I miss a phone call?

Eventually, several minutes after 5:00 AM, a maintenance worker in a pick up truck arrived.  He didn't have a key.  He mumbled something about a miscommunication about who was supposed to open and when.  A solitary rider showed up to catch a bus.  He waited in the cold.  Fail.

COLTS chief operating officer arrived several minutes after that.  He had the keys.  Lights on.  Building open.  Passengers streamed in.  Warm, happy people.  We were in business.

The bus station got good reviews.  As noted here in the past, I have my reservations.  The biggest is the building is several blocks away from where people want to be, or need to be.  The COLTS people explain that everything is the same, except every route starts and ends here.  The old de facto hub on Wyoming Avenue will still be a stop.

Photographer Jason and I shot a story for our later broadcasts, in between live hits during Newswatch 16 This Morning.  We headed back to the office after our last live hit at 6:30 AM.  I wrote.  Jason edited.  Success.

Shortly after that, the station needed a body to cover the Laureen Cummings Lackawanna County Commissioner inauguration.  I volunteered, so it was in another truck, this time with photographer Corey.  Back to Scranton.  This time, it was the courthouse rather than a bus station.

We got there in plenty of time and set up our gear.  Something didn't feel right.  It didn't smell right.  The dominoes were starting to tumble.

We got video of MS. Cummings taking the oath.  Interview afterward.  She complained about being left out of the transition process.  Red flag!  The story was bigger than we first believed.  As it turned out, quite a mess was developing.  Someone who was supposed to be chief of staff was out.  Strange alliances were developing.  Bad feelings all around.  So much for that tired bit about politics ending after an election and everyone working together for the good of the people.  Politics is alive and well, and possibly going down a bad road.  Working together?  Hardly.

I handed off my stuff to Carmella Mataloni, and she developed it into some nice pieces for our afternoon broadcasts.

Experience shows the following:  When an individual or an organization gets off to a bad start, one of two things will happen.  It could spiral downward and get even worse.  Or, some rational thought could strike like a bolt of lightning, and the powers that be can pull the jet out of the nosedive before it crashes and burns.  I have my theory.

What looked like a routine day turned into anything but.  The plan is for people to enter the county using that new bus station.  I fear more might be exiting.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


Some unfinished business from the year gone by...

I can understand how Steve Harvey can botch the Miss Universe winner, but bet's face it.  He's not that good.  Family Feud ratings are up because the producers dumbed it down and dirtied it up.

McDonald's is testing macaroni and cheese in the Cleveland area.  I love mac and cheese, but the McDonald's touch is turning me off.

Has the ugly Christmas sweater thing run its course?  Talk about tired.  Can we try something else this year?

CBS has pulled the plug on its all news radio station in Washington/Baltimore.  Upstart all newsers have failed in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York in recent years.  It seems like it's tough to go up against the well established competitors, and if you're not in the game already, you won't be.

Disney has installed metal detectors at its theme parks.  I can see it happening at shopping malls in ten years.  Probably closer to five.

Barbara Walters picked Caitlin Jenner as the Most Fascinating Person of 2015.  Lack of imagination on Barbara's part.

Baseball's commissioner still won't let Pete Rose in the game.  Bravo!  I really feared the worst here.  Rose broke the biggest rule of all.  A lifetime ban is more than appropriate.

Penndot keeps trying to shine the disaster known as the Avoca airport interchange roundabouts.

I respect the popularity of the series, but all things Star Wars bore me to tears.

Sheldon and Amy finally had "relations" on The Big Bang Theory.  This series peaked long ago, but this was a very good episode.

The creep who jacked up the price of pharmaceuticals got whacked on stock charges.  As Imus would say, the man was due for a trip to the karma bank.

Monday, January 4, 2016


It's the beginning of the end for Marywood University's old library.

It makes me sad, but I'm smart enough to know the building has outlived its usefulness.  The radio and TV stations were housed in an appendage in the back, off to the right in the photo above.  How I can still vividly remember that first radio shift in December of 1979.  It looked so easy.  It wasn't.

There were times spent gazing at the tower and antenna on the roof.  I recall the amazement of my voice coming out of that assortment of steel, copper, cables and tubes.

Academically speaking, I first started coming here in high school.  My school had a poor excuse for a library (which administration and the school board thought was just fine).  When I really wanted to read and learn, I came here or Penn State's library in Dunmore.  It was night and day when compared to high school.

This library was laid out in a circle.  I tried doing the math-- a couple of visits a week, for four years.  The total was in the hundreds.  I still got lost nearly every time.

This is where I went every week, usually Tuesday or Wednesday, to sit down with the latest copy of  "Broadcasting."  I loved it.  Remember, this was pre-internet.  Getting caught up on industry news was a welcome break from academics.

I'd drop by every year, at least once, after I graduated.  It was one of my stops on Christmas tree lighting day.  The place still smelled the same-- the aroma of the books, the carpet, the papers, the magazines...  Unforgettable.

This building has been replaced by one next door-- a campus severing monstrosity, a tribute to glass and steel, a glorified computer lab where a robot retrieves your book for you.  Marywood needed a new library.  You know how I feel about the rest.  Bad design.  Bad location.

My first commercial TV station was leveled a long time ago.  My first commercial radio station is now a construction company office.  Now, my college radio and TV stations will soon be history.

Thanks for the memories.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Andy's Angles: Country Church

Regular blog readers know I love little country churches, and those regular readers know it's been a while since I featured one here.

The first Sunday of 2016 is as good a time as any.  I passed by this one Friday morning between Falls and Clarks Summit.
A bright, sunny day could have made the photo much better, but you have to work with what the Lord gave you.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Train Station Saturday: Mayfield

I've had my eye on this place for a few years, and I finally visited with my camera on a Sunday afternoon in November.

Then:  train station.  Now:  construction company office.  It's been added to and modified, but the basic details are still there.
And there's more, a little out building with a concrete marker.  It's a gem, and I'm thrilled it's been preserved.

Well, that's it for Train Station Saturday, unless I stumble upon some others!  Thanks for stopping by.

Maybe, someday, we'll see some train stations around here in regular use.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

I never put any great significance into the turning of a calendar page, so I have forever been amused by the celebrations associated with the start of a new year.

If you resolve to change to do something, you can do it any time.  Why wait for 1/1?  If the start of a new year gives you inspiration, I'm not going to stand in your way.

A former radio boss always referred to New Year's Eve as "amateur's night."  I have largely stayed away from big parties during my decades on the planet.

I have to admit that a new year often finds me more frightened than optimistic.

I hope the new year finds you happy and healthy, and it continues that way for 366 more days.  Yes, 2016 is a leap year.