A MinD in MoTown

They say “you can always go home,” but what if you don’t know where that is?
May 5, 2009, 2:52 pm
Filed under: Just whatever, Scrantonia, Such a quandry

Does there come a point where “home” is no longer the place you grew up?

I’ve always considered Scranton my “home.” It’s not just my hometown, but it’s where nearly my entire family is, where I spent the vast majority of my life and where I envisioned myself visiting every year, mulitple times perhaps, for as long as I lived.

That small corner of Pennsylvania is the place where I hold more memories than I could list, from my first kiss to my first car, my first job and my first love, the bestest of friends and the worst of them at the same time. I remain defensive of that place – i.e. The Office and one SNL skit in particular (::coughcoughJoeBidencoughcough::) – and yet proud of its accomplishments, regularly reading the news that streams from “The Electric City.”

And yet, the last few weeks have made me realize the detachment that truly exists.

Without spilling paragraphs of babble onto the page, in a nutshell, my parents are moving to Mooresville, NC. Yep, my mom and step-dad (I consider them my “parents” despite my dad and step-mom) will soon be relocating their lives to the place I settled into two years ago this month.

And with that move, I foresee fewer visits to Scranton. I can already sense less of an urgency to travel the 500 miles to see those familiar faces and sites, which is unfortunate because there is truly so much I love about that place. Yet part of me knows – not just “feels,” but undoubtedly knows – that very few of those people, sans my family (so I hope), will ever make the effort to venture to NC for me. It’s sad, but true, and as a result, I can’t help but think to myself, “why should I bother making the effort for them if they wouldn’t do the same for me?”

Maybe I’m being selfish. Perhaps a little juvenile as well. But that’s sincerely how I feel about the situation. I digress…

My mom is my best friend, hands down, and with her here in addition to my step-dad and possibly my brother in another year, my reasons for traveling north diminish. If they weren’t heading to Scranton for Christmas, would I go without them? Doubtful. Would I ever drive nine-hours for a holiday if my closest family was in my own backyard? Unlikely. And with all of those thoughts, I sense a strong disconnect to that “home” and an eagerness to share this new one with my family.

Is that strange? Is this temporary? Is my stance entirely skewed toward selfishness (especially considering the majority of my family will still be in Scranton)? Or is this all a natural, yet exceptionally unfamiliar, part of venturing away from the nest, creating a new home and growing up?

Someone, somewhere coined the phrase “home is where the heart is.” Is it possible that my heart is with my mom and home will forever be wherever she is? ‘Cause right now, that seems the most fathomable deduction.

Can anyone out there explain this emotional progression to me, because clearly I’m one confused 20-something.

Always throwing stones at my damn glass house.
October 9, 2008, 6:15 pm
Filed under: Poli...what?, Scrantonia

Another day, another stab at my dear old Scranton.

While I will openly admit the latest SNL election/debate parody was hilarious – primarily Tina Fey’s spot-on Sarah Palin-esque performance – I, as a native Scrantonian, couldn’t help but feel a bit dismayed by the criticism of my hometown. (And those of you who watched that skit and know me at all, even if through this blog alone, should’ve known a few comments on it would be forthcoming.)

For those who may have missed the skit – though, with the constant discussion of it on Monday, I’m not sure that was possible – check it out. (I would have embedded it, but NBC makes that nearly impossible on WordPress.)

In his depiction of Sen. Joe Biden – a Scranton native who constantly remarks about his “roots” – SNL cast member Jason Sudeikis calls my poor hometown “the absolute worst place on earth.” Okay okay, it was clearly a joke, but … there have to places worse than Scranton, right?

If you aren’t up to watching the skit – or already did and, unlike me, didn’t pay way-too-close attention to the Scranton references – here’s a transcript of what is said about my Northeastern Pennsylvania home:

“I come from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and that’s as hard-scrabble a place as you’re going to find. I’ll show you around sometime and you’ll see – it’s a hell hole, an absolute jerkwater of a town. You couldn’t stand to spend a weekend there. It’s just an awful, awful sad place, filled with sad, desperate people with no ambition. Nobody, I mean nobody, but me, has ever come out of that place. It’s a genetic cesspool. So don’t be telling me that I’m part of the Washington elite, because I come from the absolute worst place on earth – Scranton, Pennsylvania. And Wilmington, Delaware, is not much better.”

Yet another kick in the balls for the place I was born and raised…

And while I was fairly annoyed upon my first watching, a brief discussion with a coworker made me realize that this comedic parody was about much more than dissing Scranton; it was political commentary about Biden’s approach when addressing others about his NEPA roots.

Although he was born in the same town as I, Biden’s family left when he was only 10 years old. That’s hardly an age where a young boy would have any appreciation for … well, for anything but GI Joes, Legos and maybe toy trucks. And while Scranton may not be in the same league as other cities of the same size – unfortunately plagued with crime (which has not necessarily risen, but definitely become more prevalent), a poor job market and deteriorating conditions as a result of the slumping economy – there is value still there; value Biden claims to see and yet, consistently devalues in his remarks.

While attempting to portray himself as an average citizen, it seems Biden associates himself with Scranton – a practically perfect example of a blue-collar, working class place, which viewers of “The Office” (blah) can easily notice. But anyone can also see that Biden is as far away from blue-collar as Clay Aiken is from straight. It doesn’t take a genius to figure either of those facts out even if neither man wants (or wanted, in Clay’s case) to admit the truth.

It also helps Biden to continually mention his “home” because Pennsylvania remains such a swing state. Despite being more Republican-minded in the rural areas, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are filled with liberal voters. This mix, and the fact that Scranton remains one of the bigger cities in the state following the latter two, creates a stomping ground for candidates. And any tie – even former Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton’s somewhat weak connection – to Scranton makes for a formidable one these contenders can use to gain those necessary votes.

So even if I may not entirely approve of being called a “nobody” since I did leave Scranton, but am obviously not of the Biden-caliber, at the very least I see the undercurrent of political commentary that more clearly demonstrates the Democratic VP candidate’s tendency to subconciously berate my hometown while seemingly praising his “humble” Pennsylvania roots.

There’s no place like home.
August 25, 2008, 4:57 pm
Filed under: Argh, News Girl, Poli...what?, Scrantonia

For a town to take pride in itself, and thus its local newspaper to tout the accomplishments and ties of residents, is one thing. But I think my hometown has moved into an entirely different realm, perhaps including obsession and feeble attempts to reclaim a good name.

Although I was only seven years old when President Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, I still recall the publicity my hometown paper – which was recently renamed to The (Scranton) Times-Tribune – gave to him and his wife simply because Hillary’s father, Hugh Rodham, was born in Scranton, Pa. Over the years, including 1993 when Rodham died and was buried in Scranton, that particular factor carried significantly more importance to Northeastern Pennsylvania community.

Then, when (Hillary) Clinton began her campaign for the Democratic nomination, her relationship to the former coal-mining city was often prominently displayed on the front pages of every publication, looming over their Web sites on a fairly consistent basis. Officials considered Clinton’s chances in NEPA, and the entire state, rather well considering her ties — Sorry folks, I rarely keep up with politics and have no idea how she eventually faired in the primary election. — almost labeling her a “shoe in” for the presidential nomination.

Clearly, we all know how that played out.

And then, after months of speculation over who Democratic candidate Barack Obama would choose as his vice presidential running mate, what did he do? He chose a Scranton native, turning the city into an uproar of excitement over the possibilities for Pennsylvania’s sixth most populous city – despite Forbes magazine recently listing it among “America’s Fastest Dying Cities.” Go Scrantonia.

Since the VP announcement, The Times-Tribune Web site has been clouded with various references to Sen. Joe Biden. Apparently CNN was filming around the city, allowing for a five sentence article today about the media outlet’s endeavors. As of this moment, I count four separate Biden-related stories under the local news category. A bit heavy, in my opinion.

I may have moved away from Scranton – primarily because the journalism opportunities there were few and I always yearned for life elsewhere – but the city has made various commendable efforts to regain a positive name.

For too long, my hometown has had a negative reputation as “a hole,” a place where successes are few and crime has continually increased; a place that was once known for coal mining and electric cars, but has since been fairly unable to create a prosperous economy for the region following the decline of those two industries. This is a point the Forbes article blatantly states, “Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Penn. are no longer thriving coal towns, and the region has struggled to build a post-industrial economy.”

All of that is very true. But the current Mayor and many officials throughout both the city and county have worked continuously to regain the positive reputation held nearly a century ago. But rather than those accomplishments being nationally recognized, or even locally at times, those progressive steps have been trumped by politicians – who, HELLO!?, left Scranton! – and comedic syndication. (Yes, I’m talking about The Office, and I’m not even going to start on that topic.)

As both a journalist and someone who spent the majority of her life in Scranton – a girl who terribly misses Catholic churches and bars on every other corner and the taste of NEPA pizza, not to mention Church picnics, kielbasa, pizza fritas, poppyseed stollen, the Electric City sign, the Times tower and “Jeet yet? No, j’ew?” – it bothers me terribly to see these lackluster ties overshadowing the progressive attempts toward creating a better city.

The publications there should be recognizing those milestones, rather than the newest “celebrity” whose grandmother once ate a turkey sandwich from a downtown diner. It’s about taking pride in what/who still remains and the steps being taken to revive the unfortunately dying coal region. Misplacing the city’s importance in politicians and fictional television shows will do little when the world is laughing at Scranton as a place that “could have been” or “would have been,” but simply “isn’t.”

You are the monster hiding under every child’s bed.
July 31, 2008, 4:57 pm
Filed under: Argh, News Girl, Scrantonia

Although I had already started a post for today, it’s not often that I come across a news article that provokes an emotion from me. Generally speaking, I tend to read a story and move on to the next one without pausing to think about the material in front of me.

But this article made me angry; actually, it caused chills and made me absolutely livid to the point where I had to discuss how peeved I was with a coworker.

**Note (before I continue): For the back story behind the article linked here, visit this previous article from July 18, “The inside story of Scranton’s triple homicide.” It discusses how 25-year-old Randal Rushing brutally killed three people because he thought his girlfriend was cheating on him (that’s the crux anyway). Oh, and did I mention this took place in my hometown? Lovely.

**Note #2 (for the slackers): Since many people lack the love of news that I have – and because, let’s face it, most of us are pretty lazy, as Surviving Myself pointed out – the jist of the story goes as follows: Rushing lived in the basement of his girlfriend’s home that she shared with her mother and three brothers. While the girlfriend was at work, Rushing killed two of her brothers and her ex-boyfriend (with whom she had a toddler-aged child (the ex did not live in the house, but his dead body was there)) because of a belief she cheated on him. He tied up the remaining members of the family (sans the baby), including the girlfriend when she returned home. He fled to a neighboring town where, less than 12 hours later, police captured him and charged him with murder.

The new article (for those who don’t click the link above) primarily discusses Rushing’s lawyer’s belief that his client has been depicted as a “monster,” which has tainted the potential jury pool in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The lawyer continues his argument by saying “there has been a significant effort to paint this guy as a monster,” something he seemingly blames on the media coverage of the murders – coverage that was nothing short of fact and the words from the still-breathing victims’ mouths.

Not a monster? A man who, acting out of anger and revenge, brutally – and I’m talking stabbed one son to death as his mother listened to him cry out – killed three people and then had the nerve to tell reporters following his arrest, “I had fun.” And this man isn’t a monster? He isn’t the person every mother fears, every father threatens and every child hides from? Is he someone you would put any trust into, knowing that at any moment, he could snap?

And his lawyer has the gall to say, “This kid has come from an extremely difficult childhood and background,” thus he must have “some serious emotional and mental health problems” that led him to bludgeon three people. Clearly, we should blame his actions on “serious … problems.”

Did I mention this is Rushing’s second lawyer? Well, it is, and why? Because Lackawanna County’s capital-case-certified attorney declined to defend the “monster.” If an attorney with the stature and experience to be certified as such won’t take the case, that should throw up a major blood-red flag.

And while the lawyer did not explicitly state that the media – i.e. The Times-Tribune (formerly known as The Scranton Times) and local television stations – were to blame, he clearly insinuates such, to which the District Attorney added, “Law enforcement and police haven’t leaked anything to the media, and the media has stated the facts.” Perhaps Rushing’s lawyer does not realize it is the media’s job to tell the story, especially one as horrifying as a triple homicide, of the incidents in the readers’ backyards. To blame the media, in my opinion (of course), is to simply put the negative attention one is receiving at the hand’s of another; to place the fault on someone/something that didn’t beat a man so badly that cause of death couldn’t be determined.

And while it wasn’t the story itself that angered me, but rather the tale it told, I cannot believe that people in this world seriously think as this lawyer does. Yes, I fully comprehend that it is your job to see that this man receives the lightest sentence possible, even if that includes attempting to persuade a jury into believing it was his background and “difficult childhood” that created this “monster.” But a little compassion wouldn’t kill you … nor a little confidence in society. The media didn’t create this “monster” the public now sees; Rushing did it himself.