Category Archives: civic commentary

city life; local color;

Open Letter to Mayor Schember, City of Erie PA:

Open Letter to Mayor Schember, City of Erie, PA:
Dear Mayor Schember:
When, and why, was “Event Parking” instituted in the City of Erie? Who benefits? And, why are there no ATMs in the ramp stairwells?
.
Last night, I drove downtown to attend the Erie Philharmonic’s symphonic concert. Having been a regularly performing member for hire as both a section cellist and orchestral pianist from 1986 – 2013, I knew that parking for musicians of record with large instruments was still likely the bank lot south of the 9th Street stage entrance; but, I followed the caravan of those planning to attend, east on 8th toward the two public parking ramps.
.
My friend had offered me his extra ticket, and said we could meet in the Warner lobby, so I was among those arriving after 7:30 and the first ramp’s placard already read FULL. I continued east on 8th to the second ramp, opposite the arena. Having parked there more than once in the past for other reasons, I knew that newer ramp to be equipped with card readers upon entry.
.
Pulling up to this ramp, however, I noted not one but FOUR uniformed parking attendants, all of them male, posted two each at the double entryway. One of the two posted at the left motioned to me to enter on their side and, while I waited for the two cars ahead to move forward so I could turn in, I rolled my window and called out: “For a minute, I thought maybe you were a street crew? Haha! Not digging any holes, tonight!”, or words to that effect. They seemed to get the joke, without visible rancor. Finally able to maneuver my car up to meet the two attendants on the left, I asked how much?, reaching for my credit card.
.
” Five dollars – cash only!”
.
Startled, I squinted back: “What? I’ve used my card here, before?!” But, they wouldn’t budge. “Cash only – didn’t you see the sign?!”
.
NO — the sign, positioned at the curb on the right drive up which he’d motioned I not take, was totally obstructed by the vehicles moving ahead of me. I had not seen it – and, I had no prepared cash.
.
I looked around, hemmed in by the steady caravan of vehicles. What was I to do? “Look, I played in the Phil for 27 years — can you give a girl a break, here?” (I failed to note that this ramp was serving the hockey game directly across at the arena). “Nope! Cash only! Drive up, turn right, go out the exit….” I had to move my vehicle out of the ramp; other people needed to park.
.
Moving forward, I followed his insistence and turned right into the ramp proper. About 25 feet east, cars merging my lane from the parallel entrance, I spied what appeared to be the exit he referenced, with its accordion pleated door closed to pavement. I slowed, stared at it, thinking: “ What, exactly, is the set up, here?” (I’d never taken such an exit, facing 8th, from this ramp, in the past). It did not APPEAR to me to be the kind of exit door which would be electric eye triggered to open and, furthermore, the steady line of cars behind me was pressing to park.
.
Soon, it became apparent that I’d coasted beyond any option to turn and attempt to take that alleged exit. (I’d actually entertained an additional notion: what if this was NOT a working exit, and what would happen if I got stuck there, completely unable to back up to escape it – thereby being late for the concert, my first priority to avoid?) All this having been considered in the twelve seconds so described, I kept moving, bearing left and up into the next level of the ramp. I reasoned that I would park my car, and figure out how to pay the 5 bucks on foot, thereby saving myself time and allowing the rest of the drivers to continue moving through.
.
Finding spots on the 3rd or 4th level, I pulled into one and then saw a sign reading “Parking for TLC Only”. Good Gourd – what was that all about?? I got out of my car, just as both the woman pulling in next to me asked the very question of me and my former ECO cello section member appeared, parked two spaces up, in full tails removing his cello from his trunk. The three of us decided to leave our vehicles in these [marked] spaces, and we walked down toward the street together.
.
During this walk, I suddenly remembered that I might have some cash in my purse! At some point, I removed this cash, discovering only two dollars. Perhaps the attendants would accept this as a downpayment, and trust me for the remainder after the concert. After all, I’d already told them I’d played in the Phil for 27 years. I was confident of my veracity and trustworthiness.
.
But, as we approached the pedestrian exit point, the meanest attendant was already positioned to accost me. No, I would not get out/sneak out on foot, I would go back and get my car and drive it out of the ramp, as instructed. I extended my hand, which was holding the two dollars. Would he accept this much, for now, with a promise I’d return after the concert with the remainder? No, I’d have to get the cash, or move the car.
.
Frantic, I said again that I’d played in the orchestra for 27 years, and added that I might very well be the only honest woman he knew. There were two of them now, and the second one said they might have done me a favor, had I been “nicer to them.” “Nicer?” How had I not been “nice”? Oh, I’d been “very rude!!” The other one shot back: “ If you had played for 27 years, you’d have known the rules for parking here!”
.
I realized, then, that telling him we’d always parked in the bank lot behind the theater was futile. My history had preceded his; I was totally unknown. Where was Dave Mazzone, or Ray Reilly? I didn’t know any of these guys, and they were all bullying me. Furthermore: none of them knew where I could go to get cash, only one of them pointing up toward French Street, several blocks away!! Then, one of them asked the head attendant, who was receiving money from steadily entering drivers, if I could give my two dollars. That attendant said no, that he “had to account for every car in the lot. “
.
All of this was unfolding in full view of people entering the ramp in their vehicles. At that point, 30 years of civic contribution on my part lit my mercury. I’d had it with these people. I said I’d go get my car, and park on the street someplace, calling my friend to tell him the whole ridiculous story, him saying there was a spot — by the police station, four long blocks away. It was well past 7:30, at this point. Suddenly —  one of the attendants approached me, dripping with condescension: “See that building, over there? You can go in there, and get cash out of the ATM, in there.”
.
My head spun. I began to walk toward the building. Then, the meanest one actually called to one of his guys to ESCORT me to the arena, “in case she tries to skip out on us.” Me! 25 years of service to the Erie School District, 34 years as an orchestral musician! Being treated as if I were some vagrant, just because I didn’t have three dollars in my purse?!
.
Mortified, I crossed 8th with the attendant escort, in full view of all the drivers entering the ramp. Tears were in my eyes. I wailed: “I knew I should have stayed home from this concert!!”
.
When we got into the arena lobby, here was a Do Not Cross tape blocking access to the ATM. I turned to the attendant, pointing this out. He said to go ahead and reach across and use it, anyway. God help me if that machine was compromised.
.
The smallest denomination permitted at that ATM was $20. I removed the $20 bill, walked toward the attendant, handed it to him…… and, kept walking. Reaching the lobby door, I leaned against it to exit.
.
He called to me. “Ma’am? I have your change, come get your change….”
I said: “Keep it. You need it more than I do!”
.
He protested. “Nope!” I said. “Keep it.”
“But, be sure you tell your buddies I gave you a twenty.”
.
He said: “I don’t lie!”
And, I repeated, with finality:
“Neither do I. ”
Then, I was out of the arena, and heading across the promenade toward the Warner Theater.
.
************************
Mayor Schember, one more time: Who benefits from Event Parking/CASH ONLY, at parking ramps which are fitted with card readers, and why on earth can’t these card readers be used when drivers approach the ramps without five dollars in their pockets seeing as there are no ATMs in the ramp entryways? Is it worth the chaos and humiliation, just for yet another source of city revenue at the expense of civic minded professionals who pay their taxes?
© 11/17/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line.
littlebarefeetblog.com

“Undercover Billionaire” builds UNDERDOG BBQ in Erie, PA.

Just watched the Season Finale of “Undercover Billionaire” on the Discovery Channel – after following every episode, all summer.

This is a story of faith, and commitment, and the work ethic which built our city. That team, so artfully chosen by Glen, staying strong on a volunteer basis, just because some guy walked into their lives with a proposition.

Glen Stearns has me convinced as an adorable, warm, genuine, positive, and true guy, and I really don’t care what his net worth actually is. Admittedly, after the first episode, I wondered how he could get somebody to buy used tires from him on a discard lot, and I said so on Facebook.  Then, about three weeks ago, I and members of my string quartet had lunch at UNDERDOG BBQ, the restaurant he and his team built in 90 days.

We had a really great time there! The sandwiches were hearty, the portions were generous, I had well more than a scant one or two gluten and soy free options, detecting no added sugars or excess salt in the meat – in fact, my lunch was complete – (about which I was ecstatic!), and the service from Carmen was personalized and memorable.

Some locals have compared their food to Federal BBQ on Peach, but I have never yet been there so I offer no quality judgments; what I will say is that I cannot wait to return to UNDERDOG BBQ for a rib rack on a plate and a fair taste of the entire menu. This multi-faceted, multi-armed venture has the potential to do so much for our beloved hometown and people who are really willing to w.o.r.k., just like his team, and we should get b.e.h.i.n.d. them 150%!!!! In fact, as a former “waitress” to Panos, on Pine, Denny’s on Peach AND W 26th, and Friendly Ice Cream, this old retired teacher might just show up and apply for a summer job!

I’m SOLD.

UNDERDOG BBQ — featuring ribs, brisket, multiple sides/love the collard greens, original sauces, complete gluten and soy free options, and a hallmark craft beer, Undergrog.
Where: 3040 W Lake Rd, Erie, PA 16505
Phone: 814.790.4001.  Merch available online.
.
.
.
.
© 9/25/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo, Erie PA.
littlebarefeetblog.com

The Assembly Line Mentality and Public Education — Feeding from the Same Trough?

My mother was a World War II “We Can Do It” poster girl. When she wasn’t seated at her sewing machine making gowns and coats and fully lined three piece suits, she worked a semi-automatic machine at Csencsis Manufacturing, a shop which produced nuts and bolts for the war effort.

.

Every morning, my brother and I would awaken to her shrill holler, frantic herald that our nocturnal sludge threatened to make her late for work. The round jar of Pro-Tek greeted us on the toilet tank, next to her fragile hairnet, foreshadowing that petroleum products intended to protect skin from the stain of petroleum products would shorten her life. And, every day after we walked to school, she’d stand at the noisy, oil spewing tool, tapping and threading out “piecework” until the buzzer signaled either lunch or the end of her shift.

.

Like everything else mum did, she excelled at the numbers; her quota always long exceeded, the other workers grumbled that her standard was beyond expectation and made them look lazy. But, to her, one must put one’s hand to the plow and do the work to one’s best ability. This was all part of the grand order of things: the assembly line of life, and her part in it.

.

Back in school, mum was a math “whiz”, and tutored other students. She also wrote clever verse, and kept a diary. But, hers was a life of deferred dreams; winning a sewing contest as a girl, the award — a trip to New York, to study fashion — was aborted when the Great Depression called a halt to everything, and the French soldier pen pal over whose letters she obsessed would never come to the States to finally meet; instead, she would deliver the home baked bread door to door, take in sewing, and marry the Italian soldier, who appeared on the night train just in the nick of time to save her from a life with preacher Willie. Once the war ended and the dust settled, dad would have a house built for her and faithfully carry home the cash from his barbershop, on Saturday nights, to count it on the kitchen table.

.

The extra money earned in the machine shop meant more material for our clothes, which were all handmade by her, and food for the cooking; my brothers and I ate at mealtime, then dad would arrive home by 8pm to sit down and eat his supper alone. I never had any memory of mum having supper with any of us.

.

While mum was at work and dad was at work, I’d be up the hill to Lincoln School, watching the other children in my class, trying to remain in my scratchy spot on the Kindergarten rug, cringing bewilderedly at Mrs. Williams gentle scowl every time I opened my mouth, then stretching my arm as high as it could go and waving my hand until she finally let me speak. There were so many things in the classroom — easels, for painting; a piano for playing; so many books to read; so many things to make. I would look around, at everybody on the rug, then stare at the teacher’s laced up shoes, waiting, waiting for a moment to do what I wanted to do. To my eye, everything in that room was there to be used, and I couldn’t stand sitting while we talked about the calendar and the days of the week and what time it was until we could finally do any of it.

.

Twenty five years later, I would be at the front of the room, facing hundreds of children, all week long. For the first time, I could actually see all their faces, and absorb their expressions. And, for twenty five more years, I did this every week from September to June.

Fifty years went by; had I contributed anything important?

.

The assembly line mentality had herded me, and my mother before me, into a predictable, limited life. I grew up to perpetuate the myth that controlling the masses mattered most, that a democratic majority could be found among those who followed along. Somehow, in spite of intellectual strength and inborn gifts, my mother would die at age 76 from a cancer which had never, before or since, appeared in any member of her family, a disease which the assembly line had wrought, caused by multiple chemicals produced in shops, chemicals used on the lawn at which she knelt all summer weeding the flower gardens, chemicals in the artificially sweetened beverages she drank to lose mid section weight brought on by daily, sedentary toil and malnutrition, chemicals in the air surrounding the manufacturing machine and in the water she used to make her coffee.

.

The assembly line generation is fearful that their jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence. This is borne of a lulled sense that, apart from the job they do all day, their lives have no further value. And, that is tragedy on the cusp of realization.

.

Ours is a structurally outmoded society. And yet, those in power persist in allowing war to dictate how our economy survives. If this doesn’t change, we could very well starve to death before we have ever truly lived.

.

.

.

.

.

© 8/1/19  Ruth Ann Scanzillo      Originally published at Medium.com    Thank you for respecting original material.

littlebarefeetblog.com