Friday, August 20, 2010

Why, Eric, why?

I hear all the time about the terrible roads in Trenton, and I experience them periodically, too. One thing I've noticed is that — in general — the louder the complaint, the faster the driver. My neighborhood was repaved in 2004 and isn't too bad, and as such, many of my fellow Trentonians tend to treat the streets near me like the freakin' Autobahn. Don't get me wrong, I'm not perfect; so I don't judge others for speeding, necessarily. But I am critical of their aggression, and more importantly, their lack of thought: it is wholly unsatisfying to get up to a good cruising speed, only to have to stop a half a block later. We have stop signs every two blocks here, which, in my opinion, defeats the point of speeding. A lot of people would also argue that it's dangerous — and they're right: we have about six to eight accidents in front of our house every year.

Anyway, my point is that most people in Trenton drive too fast, which is stupid because of the lack of a satisfying straightaway, and it's a downright destructive activity given the state of most of our road surfaces. If your undercarriage is damaged, there's a very good chance it's your own damn fault.

Still. If Former Director of Public Works and one-time mayoral hopeful, Eric Jackson, had only filled some potholes this spring, Trenton wouldn't be in its current pickle, and we'd all have mufflers. To be fair, it is largely an inherited pickle: we're in this terrible predicament because of the mismanagement of the former administration and council, with a little help from the current economy. We all knew the new mayor would be walking into a nightmare. We needed him to think quickly and responsibly, and instead, we wound up with a guy who can't even take care of his own family, so the inherited mess is just as tangled as ever, and the pile is growing. I feel bad for Mayor Tony Mack, but my sympathy doesn't mean that I think we should turn a blind eye to the regional headlines about his impending foreclosure; his kind-of nepotistic hirings in the face of lay-offs that will have dire, far-reaching consequences for our safety; his questionable handling of campaign money; his empty, broken promises. It's one thing if his thinking, and possibly his integrity, is so impaired that it interferes with his ability to provide for his wife and four young children, but it's another thing entirely if it drags another 80,000 people down further into the abyss along with him.

I'm an optimist, and I hope Mack can work out his personal financial disaster, and start figuring out the city's. But in case that doesn't happen, we need to be prepared to recall him. For information on how to do that, check out Old Mill Hill's latest post, and Recall Countdown Clock.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Resign, Tony. Please.

I said I wouldn't give Mayor Tony Mack a hard time until he had a chance to prove himself, and unfortunately he's doing so in all the wrong ways. I don't want to cover ground that's already been covered (Kevin Moriarty and Old Mill Hill have both summed up the mayor's egregious failings since taking office), so I'm just going to ask the mayor to resign. We'd be better off if Toonces the Driving Cat were steering the city. I requested that he pull out of the mayoral race a couple of months ago if he really loved Trenton, since back then he was only delinquent on his taxes, and taking campaign contributions from a convicted child rapist, and was recently fired for mishandling a school district's money. But the fact he didn't pull out of the race was an indicator that the mayoral position was about power, and not love of home. Those missteps are small beans compared to what he's doing now. Has Trenton not sunk low enough without the Mayor hiring felons, sneakily firing people while they're out to lunch, bringing in his cronies to positions the city doesn't need despite the financial chasm about to swallow us, letting extremely qualified volunteers walk out the door, and claiming to not understand how his own residence might possibly be listed on the sheriff's sale?

Those on the outside are probably laughing, claiming we got what we asked for. After all, the majority of voters, including me, put Tony Mack in office. I will say I pulled the level under duress and confusion: I went into the booth with no idea of how I'd vote, and had a fussy toddler with me, and I was baffled as to why the write-in side was taped over. No excuse, I know. But, I don't think voting mistakes are unforgivable: we've all voted for candidates who've let us down, though perhaps none so much as Tony Mack.

I am tired of feeling embarrassed by Trenton, especially because of what the leadership does; I'm tired of feeling embarrassed by Trenton, because of what the leadership DOESN'T do. It hurts me that we've come to accept garbage as the norm. We cannot afford to sink any lower. Mack must resign, and if he doesn't, Trenton residents need to stand together to see to his removal. We need a fresh start without ego; we need real direction and leadership. That may come in the form of a state takeover. I'm not fond of that idea, but the city is surely headed over the cliff otherwise.

Monday, August 2, 2010


For the record, 10 year old Pez candies are yummy. They don't look always that great — the purple ones, for instance, are kind of mottled — but they taste just the same as fresh ones. Not that I was ever really into the candies. I just wound up with zillions of them.

Mottled, but tasty grape Pez.

It started 15 years ago: my mother gave me a little spring-themed dispenser for Easter, and I brought it into work to keep near my phone in my cubicle. I was working in tech support at MacWarehouse at the time, and I was pretty new to the job. The mid-1990s were a busy time for the computer world, and the phones were constantly ringing in the tech support department at MacWarehouse — the callers, sadly, were so feebleminded that they should not have been set loose with a crayon, much less an entire computer — making it difficult to get to know my coworkers. But, the Pez dispenser got a few of us talking, mostly because nothing brings people together like candy. A couple of my coworkers started to get me more dispensers candy, so they could eat it at work. I mentioned this to my mother, and not to be outdone, she bought me more Pez dispensers. Within a year, I had about 20.

I moved back to Trenton not long after that, and started working at a lobbying company downtown. I set up the collection on my office bookcase, and it grew there as well, thanks to gifts from coworkers and matching contributions from my mother. I had a neighbor around the corner, on Ashmore Avenue, and he actively collected Pez dispensers, so when he bought one for himself, he'd get one for me. By 1997, I had 50 dispensers.

There were too many for work at that point, so I set them up at home on a shelf in my office, prompting everyone to ask if I collected them. I'd explain that I only displayed them: others were collecting them for me. Nonetheless, my email address was; the company I set the account up with went through buyouts, before it wound up with Verizon; and in the first of a series of unforgivable screw-ups, Verizon killed my pezchick account in 2004. "Oopsie! We're so sorry!" they said. "But it's irreversible." They went on to commit other serious crimes in the next few years, and I do not care how great their cell service is, or if they're an okay company to work for, Verizon can pound salt. They'll never get another dime from me.

Anyway, I don't think I've purchased more than 10 dispensers for myself in the 15 years this Pez thing has been going on; I had no need, since my mother bought them constantly for me. I hate to say it now that she's gone, but it was borderline annoying at the time. They weren't just for holidays and birthdays: every time I saw her, she handed me a shopping bag filled with Pez dispensers. My too large but manageable collection of 50 grew excessively to hundreds and hundreds.

My mom visited with my sister Jenny in March of 2008, and dropped off a large bag of Pez for me. Jenny forgot about it initially, and I didn't bring the bag home until late April of 2008. I set it on the stairs to go up to the attic, where I had my other other sacks of Pez. I didn't really look in it. My mother complained to my sister that I didn't thank her, and Jenny told her that I didn't get them until recently. I sent my mother an email to say thanks, even though the Pez were beginning to feel like a burden. A couple of weeks later, she was gone.

I looked in the bag, and among the standard dispensers in bags, there were two collectors' boxes.

The Elvis Pez does not come with a peanut butter, bacon, and banana sandwich, or sequins, but it does come with a CD.

Hello Kitty Pez.

I felt like such an ass.

Glen and I have been working on a major clean-up in the attic, and the catharsis has been great. Seeing so much floor has been incredibly motivating. But periodically, we'll stumble on something that stops us in our tracks. Gathering all of the Pez from this box and that corner, and putting them in one spot — a large Rubbermaid tote — caused my Great Attic Purge come skidding to a halt this morning. I didn't count them, but I looked at all of the dispensers, especially the loose ones, which had been on display at various workplaces and apartments. I heard Ken, the collector on Ashmore, tell me, "the ones without feet are worth more money." And, "They started out as peppermint candies in Germany." Vicky, a coworker, used to tease me about the ever-expanding collection. "You'll have to start a new shelf," she said. Another coworker of mine, Mac, in a different place and time, loved the candy but enjoyed the ritual of eating it out of the dispenser, and once, he felt badly that he ate so many, that he gave me money to buy more. My friend, Chris, on the other hand, was only interested in the candy, and she'd eat a few packs at a time, after I received the dispensers from my mom.

My large bin of Pez.

It was Chris who encouraged me today to try the candy to see if it was any good. Matthew woke up during my tasting, and he seems to really like the candy, which sucks, because every time we brush his teeth, it's Armageddon. But on a more positive note, he watched, enthralled, as I installed a pack into a dispenser — a character from the Disney flick, Cars — and I'm happy to say he's far more interested in the dispenser than the candies. This kind of thing makes me feel good: he'll never get to know my mother, and she won't have a chance to spoil him like she spoiled her other grandchildren. So, I like when he holds on to something that she touched and thought about. Maybe it helps to connect them. Maybe not. I don't know.

He's still holding the dispenser, calling it "Mater," because he calls all the cars from that movie "Mater." This particular car depicted on the dispenser is not Mater, but since I only saw the movie once, with Matthew, stopping every 11 minutes for some major toddler crisis or another, I couldn't tell you who it is, only that it's not Mater.

I'm hoping to get back to work up in the attic later today without any major emotional interruptions. And, I'm hoping this crazy Pez collection, started by my mother, is something Matthew can enjoy in the years to come.

These are two of my favorite dispensers, acquired during my MacWarehouse days:

The Tractor Trailer and Dino.