Tag Archives: dislikes

BIG REVELATION: I was banned because I spoke out against the trash mafia

In case you missed it, I’ve been banned from commenting on Bethlehem City Council Candidate Tony Simao’s YouTube videos. And no, I have not let this go yet.

The reason I have not moved on from this silliness is because I originally thought I was blocked as a result of the comment I posted on the video, but the more I think about it, the more I think I was banned from the beginning. And to make myself sound even more paranoid/crazy I think it all stemmed from me speaking out against the trash mafia.

Here’s why I think this:

Initially I tried to comment on the video from my iPhone. I received a generic looking error message “Could not connect to YouTube” but I was logged in and could see and play videos on my playlist. I thought it was just a stupid mobile site issue and forgot about it until later that night when I had a chance to log in from my laptop.

That night and saw that my comment was not there from the iPhone attempt that morning, as I was pretty much expecting based on the technical issues I was having. So I re-wrote my comment and to my surprise received this failure notice: You have been blocked by the owner of this video and of course I took a screen shot (see last post).

So initially I thought that maybe my earlier iPhone comment did in fact go through and it was removed by the owner of the video (Tony Simao) and I was blocked. That was my frame of mind when I wrote the last post. Then I remembered a few things.

I also “disliked” the video from my phone. When I went on the laptop later I was not registered as either liking or disliking the video, and even more importantly, the video at that time had NO DISLIKES. My dislike did not go through. But I was able to dislike it from my laptop successfully (I just cannot comment). This makes me believe it really just was a technical issue that morning and that my comment never did go through, therefore I would have had to have been banned from the start.

So why would Tony Simao ban me from the start? How does he even know who I am?

Tony Simao is on Twitter. We were following each other as recently as May when we had a disagreement. When I went back to see if I could find the conversation I quickly learned that Tony has since made his account private and he is no longer following me and I was dropped as a follower.

Ahhh, so the disagreement was about the trash mafia, right? Wrong. Well, at least initially. Tony posted a comment about Mayor Callahan going to some fancy seminar or training in DC that was more aligned to another run for Congress than his current position as mayor. He implied that Callahan was going to the seminar while on the clock as mayor. I asked him if he knew for a fact that he did not take a vacation day and was going on his own time. He basically said he did not but would be surprised if that was the case. I replied that maybe as a candidate for Council (this was just prior to the primary election) he should be sure about that before posting it on Twitter. I then said something along the lines that the position of Mayor is not a punch-in, punch-out type of position and that he spends plenty of weekends and evenings working and that even if he did not use vacation that it wasn’t a big deal. He disagreed and from what I remember we pretty much agreed to disagree and he said he’d like to talk to me in person sometime. I thought it ended pretty well. Then he came back and said “Just saw your blog and now I know why you wanted to argue…”

Based on my research this conversation happened on May 15 when my homepage would have had the first post against private haulers in Bethlehem. In fact, that post mentioned that a group of candidates for council (of which he was one though I did not mention him by name) were against Callahan’s proposal for a city-wide trash contract.

And as far as I can recall, that was our last interaction. Because he went private on twitter and twitter.com does not refresh back that far I only have partial screenshots to prove a conversation existed on May 15th (clicking on the links doesn’t help since he went private):




Unfortunately I can’t get my tweets to him to show up in the search results. I tried a few other websites that claimed to be able to find old tweets but had no luck. If anyone knows of a service or happened to take a screen shot of the conversation (hey you never know) feel free to let me know in the comments. This happened 5 months ago so my account may not be dead on word for word (outside of those I was able to get screen shots for) but I stand by the gist of the conversation. And if you noticed on the screen shots, and are familiar with tweets, it appears the first tweet about the training was sent as an @ reply directly to me, it wasn’t even me picking on a broadcast comment he made.

Oh, and I checked today, still banned:

My next move may be to put a Tony Simao sign in my yard with a picture of a person with duct tape over their mouth stating “My voice was blocked by Tony Simao” or something to that effect. Don’t tell my husband.

Talking Trash: The Latest on My Garbage Situation

So last week we went to Cape May for two days (can’t miss too much Musikfest). The night before we left we made sure to take out any trash including questionable foods from the fridge, dog poo (my husband wishes this stuff was made of gold) etc. because the day we were leaving for the shore, Wednesday, was also garbage day.

We come home Thursday night to find the trash is still in the garbage cans. They never came. This is August mind you. So my husband calls and they tell him the truck broke down and they would be over as soon as possible. Thursday comes and goes, as does Friday. Saturday I’m sitting on the patio enjoying the last few days of my vacation but I’m not enjoying the aroma of rotting meat and dog shit. Nice.

I call one number for the trash people, the new one they gave my husband, and I get an answering machine telling me that anyone missed on Thursday or Friday was going to get picked up on Monday and that Wednesday people need to wait until the next Wednesday and that they would credit the account for the missed week. WTF??? So Thursday and Friday pick-ups only suffer a few days (which I acknowledge is a long time in August) while Wednesday people have to wait a week??? Last time I checked my calendar Wednesday came before Thursday or Friday. So what gives? My theory is that Thursday and Friday customers do not live on the southside. I’m willing to bet money on it.

So at this point I had enough of the answering machine, so I leave a not so nice message and call the number where people actually answer the phone. And they do. And they tell me that the truck was just now fixed and they would add us to the Monday list. Fine. I get off the phone and go back out to the patio. I get hit in the face with the stench of the garbage. I’m back on the phone. The good number. This time I get a machine. They know its me. So I tell them on my message that the more I think about this situation the less I understand why on Earth I need to wait until Monday if their truck is fixed now. Come tonight or Sunday morning. I also tell them while they are enjoying their Sunday off I have to sit here and smell garbage on the last remaining days of my vacation and I’m not liking it. I also tell them how I am tempted to pack the garbage up in my husband’s truck and dump it at their place so they can suffer with it and I don’t have to.

Ten minutes later my phone rings. It’s someone other than the person who I spoke to the first time. She immediately has an attitude telling me my message was inappropriate and she didn’t know where I was getting the information that the truck was fixed, it was not. I tell her “well, the other woman who answered at this number told me it was just fixed.” Silence. “Well we have sent you four invoices now with a new phone number on it. Stop calling this number.” (Nice, see that, changing the subject) Me: “I’m sorry I’m not studying your invoices to see if there are changes. I call this number because I tend not to get an answering machine when I do. And as a matter of fact, I have never received four invoices from you. You only recently began sending them (we pay 6 months ahead) because I have to beg for them.” Her “No, we sent you three” (oh…now it’s three?)

Then we went into this whole thing about how I should find another collector because I don’t pay my bills on time. I told her if I’m ever late it’s because I’m pondering if I should find a new hauler before I pay. I also told her I paid the last bill in about two weeks and that their due date is usually the day they send the bill or the day after which is ridiculous. We went back and forth about how they were giving us a special rate and how I should be more appreciative. I told her I never once asked for any favors and that if I got better service with a higher rate plan that I would take it. I also told her about how my garbage cans are left laying on the side-walk or thrown in my plants. That I never know what day of the week they are going to show up.

So then I told her that I hope that Bethlehem goes to city-wide collection soon. You can imagine that went over like a lead balloon. I told her about how wonderful it was when I lived in Allentown and they picked up twice a week. She was not amused. So she said, we are adding you to the list to pick up ASAP. (I wonder what other lists I got added to…)

So Sunday morning our garbage was picked up.

Here’s the picture of how we found our cans:

So the big question at home this morning was whether or not they would pick up today. I got the text from my husband today:

“Garbage assholes didn’t come and get the garbage”

Please Bethlehem. Enough is enough. I’m really tired of hiring and firing (or getting ripped off by) garbage haulers. But I tell you one thing. I am done with one truck operations. If you don’t have a fleet, I’m not hiring you. I’m not saying this is a cure-all either, I’ve had a bigger hauler in the past, I think they were the ones who told me my house was not there anymore.

Why Bethlehem Needs a Centralized Garbage Contract: My Trash Collector Horror Stories

A long time debate in Bethlehem is about to pick up momentum again as Mayor John Callahan wants City Council to once again consider long overdue city-wide trash hauling contract. And republican candidates for Bethlehem City Council are talking trash. In an effort to put some homeowner perspective on this, particularly if you do not live in the city or if you rent, this is my story. Warning, this gets beyond ridiculous.

Many moons ago I lived in an apartment in Allentown. We had trash collection twice a week. TWICE! It was wonderful. No worries about throwing chicken in the garbage after the trash man already picked up, he’d be back in a few days. And you could set your clock to it too. Our pick up was Tuesday and Friday. I still remember. They always came, never a worry about being skipped or having to call. I never called the City’s waste management or my landlord once about trash collection issues. Never even crossed my mind.

Skip ahead two years to 1999 when my husband and I bought our first house in Bethlehem. What do you mean I have to find my own trash man? This is a joke right? I grew up in Hellertown which also had their own hauler. My husband grew up in Bethlehem so he new this was no joke.

And you can’t just go to just any garbage hauler. You have to contact the city to get a list of “approved” haulers. I tried to find a copy on the city’s website and by searching on google and had no luck. Yes, in 2011 you have to call so they can fax you the list. So you would think that if the city is giving you a narrowed down list they would have weeded out the unreliable haulers. Not. Last time I looked at this list there were 20-30 haulers on it.

So back to 1999. I called a few haulers and quickly realized they don’t all pick up in my neighborhood on the same day. Putting two and two together, I also realize this means I will have garbage trucks in my alley every day of the week. Lovely. Also, some charge “by the bag” and some charge a flat rate, some have a choice. Some provide their own containers. Well, we already bought two brand new garbage cans and the cans they provided are a bright blue that sticks out like a sore thumb. No thanks. Some are small local mom and pop haulers, others are large companies. Some are from New Jersey.

We spent 5 years in that house and had at least three haulers, maybe four. In our current house (we are here about 7 1/2 years) we had two. We I generally tried to stick with local mom and pops but did use one or two of the larger companies.

One put stickers on our garage to identify the house. Really? Fired.

Others were fired because they would skip us for weeks. WEEKS. Garbage stinking things up for WEEKS. When you call you get voice mail 99% of the time. Or if your pick up day is Wednesday they come Thursday. Then, after several weeks you think ok, they moved me to Thursday so you start to put the garbage out on Thursday. They come on Wednesday, grrr.

Or they tell you you have to bring your cans out to the street. Not true. In fact the City does not want you to. Haulers are required to go up your driveway or onto your back yard to pick up the cans AND RETURN THEM. If they don’t, call the city. Our current trash hauler is often guilty of leaving my trash cans all over the sidewalk. Sometimes after I have already left for work, which means they sit there blocking the sidewalk all day unless one of my neighbors is home to move them.

I’m trying not to name names but for this one I will because they are no longer in business. Trash Monster. Never heard of them? Check the morning call archives. We paid in advance so we wouldn’t have yet another monthly bill to worry about. They went out of business without telling us and let our trash sit for a month, just weeks after I paid for the next 6 months. Never got it back.

I had to convince their replacement (our current hauler) that normal businesses send invoices and don’t call and say I’ll stop by Wednesday at 10AM (when I’m at work) to pick up a check. Finally they started sending me an invoice but they call me within two days of me receiving it to find out when I’m paying. You go straight to the bottom of the pile for that one.

My current hauler is also the hauler that decided they are no longer serving the east side of the southside where a friend of ours lives. Problem? They never told their customers, including our friend. So he had to scramble to find a new hauler after reading about it in the paper because he couldn’t get a hold of the hauler. Nice.

My favorite story though happened at our last house. Our garbage hauler didn’t come for weeks. I’d call every week, leave messages or talk to someone who would apologize and tell me they’d stop out today or the next to pick it up and never come. Finally they asked the men on the road what the heck was going on. Their response? OUR HOUSE WAS NO LONGER THERE. Idiots. We did some landscaping and they no longer could find our house. It was a brick twin in a block full of brick twins. If the house was no longer there it would be a pretty obvious gap.

It’s bullshit that anyone should have to put up with this crap. On top of the experiences I have with my own haulers, I live on a one way street, surrounded by other small streets, many one way. Almost every day of the week I get stuck behind a garbage truck.

Plus, if someone has trash all over you can’t tell how long it has been there. Maybe today is their trash day? You won’t know until a week goes by and it is still there.

Also, there is no accountability. The city has no idea if you have contracted a hauler or not. People could be dumping their trash in the woods, in the street, on their neighbors pile, or even taking it to a relative’s house that has city or borough-wide collection.

If the city contracts trash collection they have more clout with the hauler. If the city gets too many complaints about the hauler they can be sure to take that into consideration when the contract is up for renewal and if bad enough, sooner.

So what are the arguments against a city wide contract? Two major issues: 1) the elderly think it will cost them more because many use the “by the bag” rate to keep their rate “low” 2) it will hurt the haulers that don’t get the contract (bad for business, large government blah blah blah).

So my arguments for the first point? If you compare against Allentown’s twice a week collection they pay less than the average Bethlehem resident. If that average is higher than the by the bag rate? Give seniors a discount. NEXT!

For the second point? Oh shut the hell up already. If garbage collection and keeping the city clean, sanitary and healthy is not a city government responsibility then I don’t know what the hell is. As for the small haulers, I am usually a huge supporter of small businesses but we would not have to even consider centralized trash collection if they were doing their jobs. We could simply divide the city into 5 wards, each ward would have its own trash collection day. This would ease the traffic concerns as well as allow neighbors and officials to better tell how long garbage has been sitting out on the street. But many of the haulers aren’t doing their jobs so that won’t work. To appease the ones who are, why not continue to allow businesses to contract their own trash (including apartment complexes). Sure some of the small haulers will likely go under, but hopefully it will be the ones that shouldn’t be operating anyway.

It’s time to clean up the city. A city-wide contract is the way to go.

Update: immediately after posting this, I found my garbage cans in this condition:

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You really, really like me…I swear this hasn’t gone to my head #winning #tigerblood

Thank you, thank you very much. In all seriousness I am so thankful for everyone who voted for my blog, although I feel kind of silly since I’ve only written a handful of posts over the short 3 months since I’ve started this thing. And I really do swear that I won’t let this go to my head.

So now that I’m officially an award-winning blogger I feel this great pressure to write more regularly…not to mention the pressure to be more funny…which people seem to enjoy reminding me of. Yet, when I look at the picture of me and my double chin tweeting away while fellow award winning blogger Jaime bursts with excitement as she wins her second award of the night, I am reminded that I need to continue my weightloss journey, which at the moment means I have less time to sit on my ass and write. The major problem? I am more likely to exercise if I get it out of the way in the AM, and that just so happens to be the same time that I do my “best” (using that term loosely) writing.

It’s not that I don’t have ideas, I have like 5 blog posts in my head right now (trust me, this was NOT one of them -hence all the rambling goofiness). But I’m a procrastinator and procrastinators love reasons to put things off. I’ll work on that I promise…tomorrow.

Speaking of procrastinating, that’s what I’m actually doing right now…I still have to write my next column for the Lehigh Brown and White that is due any day now. It will print this Friday. In the meantime, here’s a link to my last column about Becoming Part of the Community it includes some suggestions that not only could help Lehigh students but anyone in the Lehigh Valley feel more connected. If you are interested you can also see my first one here, as well as Part I and Part II of my columns on stereotypes and town-gown relations.

I had a little dilemma about this next column. I already created a “Lehigh Bucket List” a list of must-do’s before graduating from Lehigh but have not actually typed out the column (it’s all there still in my head). Then I saw a Lehigh student tweet out a request for ideas for a Lehigh Bucket List…for her article. I was originally bummed…I’m running out of ideas here. But then realized that I was specifically asked to write my column based on my view as a non-Lehigh student, as the “token-townie” as I call myself. So I’m writing it anyway. She will write from a student’s standpoint, I’ll offer my local insight. My next dilemma was to decide if I should look at the student’s article in order to reduce some redundancy (assuming her’s prints before mine). But then I decided not to because I don’t want it to affect what’s already written in my mind. What are the chances they will really be that similar? I guess we shall see. Who knows, maybe hers was actually for a journalism project and not even for the paper. I really have no idea.

This brings me to a possible topic for another blog post. Why do we sometimes get annoyed when someone “steals” your idea, even if they had no idea you were thinking of doing the same thing? It’s weird isn’t it? I don’t like it and I’m trying to cure myself of it…if that is possible. Maybe it is the disappointment that we really aren’t as original as we would like to think we are?

Ok…a little too deep for the BEST HUMOR COLUMN EVER.

So anyway…an update:

Still doing weight watchers, though I’m way too dependant on those extra weekly points. Only lost 4.2 lbs so far. Yes, I know muscle weighs more than fat. I can tell you that is not muscle in that double chin.

Still doing P90X and feel sooooo much better already. Why the hell did I stop in the first place?

Doing well with the running, keeping up and increasing my pace slowly but surely.

Still deciding on that perfect wrinkle cream.  Thank you all for the suggestions! For now I’m using up my free samples from Sephora that I had laying around. First I tried Miracle in a Jar from Philosophy (actually miracle in a tiny packet) and I didn’t see any miracles. Now I’m finishing up some Shiseido Bio-Performance Super Restoring Cream. The stuff seems to work but is a bit greasy. Probably won’t buy it, but I’ll keep using it until it is gone (it was a “deluxe” sample). Bonus: If you click on the link look at the links on the left of the page…there is a “Dick Page” link. I was like what the hell, but it turns out that’s the unfortunate name of their Artistic Director. Yes, I have the sense of humor of a 13 year old boy, ala Beavis and Butthead. But hey, you voted for me.

Ack! A Wrinkle!

The other morning I woke up looking like Yoda. Well actually, not that many wrinkles, but two, one on each side of the bridge between my eyebrows. And these are not superficial wrinkles, these are fairly deep.

Botox is NOT an option for me. I depend to much on my animated expressions. Especially the eyebrow furrow and the eye roll. Actually, it’s surprising this has not happened sooner. I don’t necessarily care if other’s see it, but I don’t like looking at it. I have been lucky to make it to my grand age of 37 without grays or wrinkles…looks like the wrinkle bit is coming to a close. I credit my lack of grays to my grandmother’s genes, and my skin…well…I don’t credit my genes for that…it probably has more to do with the fact that I started using Oil of Olay when I was 11 and I have been obsessed with anti-aging moisturizers ever since. Oh and sunscreen. I have freckles year round, so to keep them in check I wear SPF 50 sunscreen on my face. And sunglasses. My entire family is like vampires, none of us can be outside without sunglasses, even the house is dimly lit.

So why am I bothering you with all of this? I need your help. I need to find a new wrinkle cream to help me smooth this crap out. Here are my requirements and preferences in order of importance:

Must haves:

  1. Must work (at least to some extent, and not just as a smoother, must  prevent further damage, would be nice if it could reverse some existing damage)
  2. Must not be tested on animals
  3. Must be all natural

Must not have:

  1. Nasty ingredients like petrochemicals, lanolin

Would be nice if:

  1. Ingredients are all natural
  2. Organic
  3. Locally available
  4. Locally made
  5. Vegan (I can live with bee products if it really works, but I don’t want to rub a placenta on my face)
  6. Not crazy expensive. I would consider $75 bucks for something that only lasts a month crazy expensive. $75 for something that lasts 6 months…I can deal with that.
  7. It would be great if it also worked as an eye cream.

Currently for an all over moisturizer I use a product called Amurie Rejuventation Moisturizer. It is locally distributed (Northampton PA) and I get it through the Lehigh Valley Food Coop (full disclosure, I am a shareholder and board member). It is also all natural, and it works great as an all over moisturizer. But it is not a targeted wrinkle cream.

If you have anything that you have actually used and love, share it here. If you in anyway represent the product, that is fine, please comment, but be up-front that you represent the product so your comments can be taken in context.

Looking forward to hearing your suggestions!

P90X, Runkeeper, Weight Watchers, On Target Living and what the hell…some Chinese Bee Pollen

I’m throwing it all in the ring.

I was trying to decide what my next post was going to be and narrowed it down to a list of Lehigh Valley attractions or events I’ve never been to and want to visit in 2011 or my need to really get back on some type of exercise/diet program. I think my choice is clear. I was inspired by two things  1) my friend Silagh’s blog post last night and 2) when putting on my “big” pants this morning  I had to suck in my gut (OMG just a few weeks ago they were loose!!!).


And that’s how quickly it happens. I was on the P90X program from the end of July to early November, and then vacation happened…then thanksgiving…then Christmas…then New Years… Truth is there is ALWAYS an excuse…it’s too cold… it’s dark…Groundhog Day…the super bowl …Valentine’s Day…Daylight Savings…St. Patrick’s Day…Easter…Chilifest…Cinco de Mayo…and before you know it…it’s time for shorts, short sleeves and *gasp* bathing suits.

So what now? I’m just going to throw everything at it. If I have learned anything about losing weight it’s that no one thing works for me, I can’t just diet and I can’t just exercise-exercising makes me hungry and dieting makes me lazy. Then there is the boredom.

P90X is pretty intense; a different exercise everyday…until the next week and then it’s still the same old thing all over again. But it is definitely a serious workout. My chiropractor noticed the results after just a couple of weeks and I still feel better in that regard even though I have not completed a workout since November. I don’t expect that to last to much longer however…

Running can be interesting as long as you don’t fall into a pattern of the same old route (unless that’s what you like) but damn it’s cold out there…that is until it gets hot. I use the Runkeeper Pro app on my iPhone, which is excellent and by the way…is FREE ($9.99 normally) until January 31. It is tracks your routes, calories, pace, and there is this nice British lady who tells you how long you’ve been torturing yourse…er running.  If you want to try Couch to 5K or First Strides it allows you to program intervals that match these programs or any interval you come up with on your own. You can even shout out your progress on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and post pictures along your route.  It definitely helps with motivation when you start seeing your average pace improve and if you get support from friends on Twitter and Facebook.

Then I have this gym membership at Steel Fitness and a Wii Fit…neither of which I use anymore and were merely failed attempts to throw money at a problem without following through.  But I’m giving my membership one more try. If I don’t spend at least 6 hours there this month I’m canceling. And what the heck…I’m going to set up the Wii again and maybe try out the Wii Zumba Fitness workout. A friend has been raving about it on Facebook. Maybe all this workout diversity will keep me interested.

And then there is the food…The P90X nutrition plan and Weight Watchers both encourage keeping track of food intake, although P90X is more specific (read: more of a pain in the ass) as to how many carbs, proteins, etc. you can have. On the other hand with Weight Watchers I can eat 15 1pt carrot cake snacks and still be within my daily points (not that I ever did that…OK well maybe once). On Target Living: Nutrition is an interesting book by Chris Johnson, he encourages natural organic foods and uses just a food target illustration to determine the best food choices. Most or all of your foods should be in the center of the target. He says to keep portions in check and is rather vague in this regard… I found that I just ate A LOT of healthy food and didn’t lose any weight. So I’m thinking about combining, somehow, someway, the proper proportions of the P90X nutrition plan, the ease of the weightwatchers point system with the food choices in the center of the On Target Living target. If I come up with something that works…I’ll sell it to you.

In addition to the boredom there is the habit thing. In order for any program to be successful it needs to become second nature yet fun. Is this possible? Maybe that means scheduling the same hour everyday for exercise, but then just change up what I’m doing in that hour (running, P90Xing, class/treadmill at gym, Wii).

…And for good measure I may just stop by Kim’s on the Southside for that Bee Pollen everyone has been raving about…because a cure in a bottle is just sooooo much easier.

In all seriousness, has anyone tried it? I’ve heard it has some harmless…yet inconvenient side effects. Basically from what I understand from a friend’s Facebook updates…it makes you poop. A lot.

Please share your workout & dieting woes/hints/inspiration or any new year’s resolution challenges in the comments.

Stating the obvious: I am not a medical professional. No one in their right mind should take any diet, exercise or nutrition advise from me of all people. Seriously…don’t do it.

Why I Hate Allentown

OK, two things…one, “hate” is a strong word, it caught your attention right? I don’t really HATE Allentown, I’m just disappointed with it-but that makes for a boring title. Second, if I’m “Michele of Bethlehem” why is my first post about Allentown? Because I said so.

Now that all that is out of the way…

I actually have very fond memories of Allentown growing up in the Lehigh Valley as a kid. One word, Hess’s.

When I was little, my grammy and I used to take the bus from South Bethlehem to Hamilton Street and make a day of shopping and eating in downtown Allentown. We would start at McDonald’s for breakfast, then go shopping up and down Hamilton Street, and of course to Hess’s. Right when you walked in there would be counter upon counter of perfumes. I’d spray every last one on me. Not so much because I liked the way they all smelled, but because the smell would make her gag.

Anyway…there were toys, clothing, jewelery, shoes, huge chandeliers, marble, models, talking elevators, the place was magical for a little girl. My grandmother would then drag me out of the store and we would continue down Hamilton to Woolworths’s which she always called the five & dime. We would get ice cream sodas and I’d spin around on the stools at the counter. Then it was back to Hess’s for more shopping and then to cap off a perfect day…the Hess’s patio.

Models would glide around the tables and the waitress brought the kid’s meal out in a little refrigerator. I still remember my grandmother would order the turkey platter and I’d order the kid’s burger. Once the waitress left my grammy and I would switch plates, me eating the adult portion turkey platter, her the kid’s burger. And of course there was the mountain of gigantic strawberries and whipped cream that was Hess’s strawberry pie. This story also partially explains my horrible relationship with food but…that is a post for another day.

This was in the late 70′s through early 80′s, by no means Allentown or Hess’s hay-day but well before its demise. Actually, at that time I thought of Allentown as the cool place to be and Bethlehem as *gasp* boring. And it was true. Back then.

So what happened?

Hess’s actually helped accelerate its own demise by expanding into the suburbs (Hess’s West, East, and South are now Bon-ton’s, Hess’s North I believe was roughly where Sam’s Club in Whitehall is today) but suburban sprawl was happening regardless of Hess’s expansion, and the Lehigh Valley Mall and what happened next in Allentown would have killed it with or without the help of Hess’s own expansion.

In the late 80′s & 90′s Allentown was in denial. They denied that gangs and crime were problems.  They believed that the only gangs in the area were “copycat” gangs, not the real deal. Of course the truth was New York City was chasing its criminals out and they took I-78 straight to Allentown’s doorstep. The city was not prepared to handle gang related crime and the criminals knew it and exploited it.

Combine crime with absentee landlords and dirt balls like Mark Mendelson who got away with decimating the city’s housing stock and landmark downtown buildings and the city was left with a huge mess. A mess that has taken and will continue to take Allentown years to dig its self out of.

So what does Allentown need to work on in order to have any shot of reclaiming even a glimmer of its former glory? Well, working on the crime problem would be number one on my list. Not all of Allentown’s crime problem is tied to actual crime however. I would venture to guess that the perceived crime as many times greater than the actual crime rate. If people perceive an area as unsafe it doesn’t matter if they are wrong, they are still not going to visit.

Concentrating on the “small things”  like litter, graffiti, double parking, noise complaints, and loitering can work wonders on lowering the perception of crime in an area. Of course reducing the actual crime rate and seeing fewer headlines about shootings and stabbings outside of its public schools would also help.

So what is next?

People are willing to trade some level of security for culture. People will leave their safe havens in their McMansions (again, another post for another day) to get some culture in the cit but the reward needs to outweigh the risk. Some, particularly young professionals, will jump at the chance at city life. Think NYC, Philadelphia. Today for many people the math does not add up to make a visit or a move to Allentown worthwhile. How do you solve the imbalance? 1) Lower actual crime. 2) Lower perceived crime (taking care of the small stuff, appearences). 3) Increase the number and quality of cultural attractions.

Allentown has concentrated on number three in the last few years (restaurants, ball fields, automobile museums, plans for additional river front development) and up until recently has basically ignored numbers 1 and 2. It is refreshing to see that the current administration is working on first appearances by targeting slum lords who let their properties waste away and by finally acknowledging they have a double parking problem in the city. Still, they have only begun to scratch the surface. There is a lot of room for improvement.

Downtown Allentown still has a few old gems, including its beautiful historic architecture and the Art Museum, that passed the test of time. But besides a few additions like the Allentown Brew Works little has endured to replace the numerous treasures lost. The key to making investments in cultural improvements pay dividends is to simultaneously work to improve the crime issues-both actual and perceived. The city needs to be less inviting to criminals to achieve this.

So why do I “hate” Allentown? Because they gave up and I see little hope that it will ever return to being an exciting place to be like it was when I was a kid. (Exciting in a good way, not in a fear-for-your-life way)

Look, I know that even if Allentown solved its crime problem that Hess’s is gone for good but I cringe every time I hear someone comment “Ugh, Hess’s again? stop living in the past.”

Most often the people who say this never experienced Hess’s and it was something one must experience to “get.” The closest I believe you can get today to experiencing Hess’s is to get your hands on a copy of Hollywood on Hamilton – Remembering Hess’s You can pick up a copy at the Moravian Bookshop or by making a donation to PBS39 WLVT .