Monthly Archives: July 2010


Thursday I went to St. Michael’s Orthodox Church, 125 Steel St., Youngstown for lunch.  In their social hall they serve dine-in or take-out Chinese food. For an Elecpencil friendly $5 they served a very fresh tasting beef or chicken non-fried dish. They were doing a brisk business and everyone had good things to say about the meal. The lunch is served Thursdays from 11-am to 4 pm.  I want to thank Janko at the “I Will Shout Youngstown” blog for posting info that led me to this great lunch find. He has a great blog and really serves the community with it so check it out.

R.I.P. Union Square Sparkle on Gypsy Lane. It was killed in cold blood by mass business murderer Wal-Mart. The Save-A-Lot near Wal-Mart then Giant Eagle on Belmont will likely be the next murder victims. I’ve already mentioned how a relative on break from college took a summer job at the  Wal-Mart on Belmont Ave. On his first day of work, they sat him down to watch their Wal-Mart doesn’t do unions movie. If you are in a union and patronize Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club you are cutting your own throat and the throat of union workers at Sparkle and Giant Eagle. Every social justice issue you can think of has Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club on the wrong side. How can you justify morally shopping there? Are their bargains really worth trading your soul for?

A few posts back I wrote about the great hamburger I had at Martini Brothers Restaurant 1300 North State St. (in the Golf Dome) Girard, OH. Well, Martini Brothers won first place in the most creative category with their Maui Wowii Burger at the 2010 Akron Burger Festival this year! The Cleveland Sandwich Board said that Martini Brothers had the best meat they tasted at the event. I attended the event in 2009, which drew 20,o00 over two days and enjoyed it very much.

I think of Akron as a bigger sister to Youngstown and it is one of my favorite towns. It really is home to the hamburger as they have some great places for burgers. For burger drive-up stands, Skyway and the sweet tasting burgers at Swensons are some great tasting bargains. I’m not much of a pop drinker but I order a California when I go to either. It is a Grape pop mixed with, I think, a Sprite and a lemon slice added. To sit down and eat a burger  go to Menches, Crave, Windsor Pub or even better Louie’s Bar and Grille which may have the best burger I’ve ever eaten. If you want some great pizza check out Luigi’s also get their salad with a mountain of shredded cheese.

The Akron Art Museum, We GallerySummit Art Space are well worth seeing as is a stop at artist Don Drumm’s Studio and Gallery. Mrs Elecpencil and I  just attended the 2010 Akron Art Expo. It’s  a free event and our favorite juried arts and craft show. Highland Square is a unique area where I’ve gone to do poetry at the Angel Falls Coffee shop. The Peanut Shoppe downtown is a neat shop also not to miss are the many thrift shops through out the Akron area. Instead of me listing everything worth seeing check out this map.

I think Youngstown could use something like Akron’s Burger Festival. The Mahoning Valley has so many good pizza shops I’d love to see a pizza competition. There could be categories like: best Briar Hill pizza, best white, best vegetable, best creative etc.  I’d also like to see a “buy local festival”  (or it could be part of the pizza festival) showcasing the great local businesses we have. I know we’ve had home and garden events showcasing local companies selling: windows, doors, siding etc. but I’m talking about an event featuring everyday local or regional affordable products we could be buying instead of the brands we do that don’t benefit our valley.

I know when I am shopping I make an effort to buy local products like: Schwabel’s bread, Gia Russa products, Ghossains, Rullis, Chieffo’s, Mt. Carmel sauce, DiRusso’s products, Phantom fireworks products etc. I’m sure there are a ton of local products I don’t know about. Maybe,  someone with more computer knowledge than me could creat a website listing local companies, their products and where they are available. We need to learn more about the businesses we have in our own backyard that we could be supporting. At a buy local festival,  local companies could give out free or nominally priced samples or coupons to buy their products. I’d like to see a few dollars charged to get in and the money go towards  a community project (maybe something like restoring the Paramount Theater).

I really think some kind of buy local event featuring local businesses could be informative. Also,  putting a face on local companies could help build relationships between buyers and sellers. It would show the community that these businesses are invested in the community’s future. I’m wondering if we have area people with enough business contacts to put on such an event. I am just an average guy who doesn’t know how to pull something like this off. I am willing to help in any way I can because I think it is something that needs to be done. Drop me an e-mail or comment if you’d like to see such an event or get involved. I’d love to hear any ideas you have. Maybe we could call a buy local event “Local-Mart.”

Ten reasons to shop local.

Toledo, Ohio’s Choose Local Campaign.

How about some regional music?

Celebrating their 40th anniversary here’s

Kent, Ohio’s The Numbers Band (15-60-75) : Jimmy Bell

also: She Becomes the Jones

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.  I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.  ~George Bernard Shaw


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Speak Out/Shut Up

I went to see War at Judge Morley Pavilion with Mrs. E tonight. I want to thank the 7Up bottling company for sponsoring this summer series of concerts. It’s a great place for outdoor concerts. I grew up with War’s music and always liked it. That being said, this evening I thought they were terrible in concert.  I don’t think I’m the only one who felt that way as many around us left even earlier than we did. I don’t expect a band to play their hit songs note for note the way they were recorded. On the other hand, long extended instrumental jams get boring rather quickly. That is probably why I was never a Greatful Dead fan. I also found War’s drug references cheesy and in poor taste with so many children in the audience.  I did get to sit in the shade and the concert was thankfully free so all was not lost.  Maybe, it’s true that you can’t go back.

There is power in speaking out and I want to give you an example. In my last post I mentioned I had e-mailed a complaint to the Ohio Turnpike Commission. I had informed them about the dirty restroom and slow service at the McDonalds’ rest stop before the turnpike’s Mahoning Valley exit. It is the first exit motorist leaving  Pennsylvania encounter upon entering Ohio.

A couple of days after making my complaint, I received a phone call from the Division Manager for Ohio Turnpike Service Parks. He informed me he had received a few other complaints just this week about the same messy rest stop. He also said he has heard about extended waits for service at  McDonalds because customers have said there weren’t enough employees working. He couldn’t have been any more apologetic or polite. He said that stop is contracted out to an owner that owns it and a few other McDonalds along the Ohio Turnpike. It is 55 years old and will soon be torn down and replaced with a rest stop owned by the state. I did agree with him that the Ohio owned rest stops I have patronized along the turnpike have been some of the best in the country.

I also received an e-mail from Andrew Herberger the Director of Service Plaza Operations. Both men expressed that they would be making a visit to personally check out the Mahoning Valley rest stop.

A few days after hearing from both men I knew they’d talked with McDonalds about the problems. That’s because I received a letter  from Kris Stuhidreherthe District Supervisor for McDonalds. She wrote, “I have discussed your concerns with my management team. Corrective action has been taken to ensure a similar incident will never occur.” She added, ” The best way we can improve is if people who aren’t satisfied tell us so… and tell us why. You’ve given me an opportunity to make improvements, and hopefully we’ll exceed your expectations on your next visit.”

The title of my last blog was “We Can Do Better.” The problem is to do better we must make the time and effort to speak out. I will stop at this rest stop the next time I take my daughter back to college in Pittsburgh. I will then contact the Turnpike Commission and McDonalds again. I am hoping it is better and I will be happy to thank both McDonalds and the Ohio Turnpike Commission. It is just as important to thank people for a job well done as it is to complain. I need to remember this more and I hope you will also.

I just talked about speaking out, now I want to speak about times when you need to shut up. Let me start by asking you a few questions. Have you ever gone to one of our many excellent area venues for live plays? If for example you went to see, “Phantom of the Opera” did anyone yell, “I want to see  Grease.” If you went to a movie theater that was showing, “Shrek” did anyone scream, “I want to see Titanic.” Did you go to see the Youngstown  Symphony Orchestra performing, “The Nutcracker” and hear someone  call out “I want to hear Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.” Ever been to an artists opening at a gallery? Did you hear somebody tell the artist that they like Leonardo di Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” better than his art?

Of course you haven’t experienced any of that and neither have I. That is until I attended an outdoor free concert last Sunday at the square in my hometown of Vienna, OH.  Over a 150 people came to hear Rachael Wearsch & The Beatnik Playboys. As you can see at their site they have some great original music. After listening online I was excited to hear their music. Sadly, I didn’t get to hear many of their own tunes. That is because some members of the audience had other plans. They were yelling,  “Play some Patsy Cline, George Jones, Kenny Rogers, Loretta Lynn etc.” Before you think this was done by some rude young kids let me tell you the culprits were all senior citizens.

Rachael and the Beatnik Playboys were musically talented enough to play all  of the requests. At the same time you could tell their hearts were not into the requests but they remained very professional. They even gave in and asked the audience what they wanted to hear next. If I was in the band I would have said, “Will it really make you happy to hear Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” for the millionth time in your life? How about instead I play one of my original tunes which will make me happy and if you give it a chance just might make you happy.”

I’d be offended if I came to a poetry reading to read my poems and someone handed me Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and said, “It’s my favorite poem read it.”

I want to thanks Vienna, Ohio’s  local sponsors who put on this free Sunday summer concert series.  I just hope the audience will shut up and let the musicians at the next one be themselves. We all need to help promote the arts not stifle them. This Sunday, July 25th  come hear Cleveland singer/songwriter Jim Gill. Jim has a great voice and some award winning original songs. Join us on the Vienna town square corner of Rt 193 and old 82 at 6:30. Remember to shut up and LISTEN.

Black Water parody about BP

Drill Baby Drill

“An artist never really finishes his work, he merely abandons it.” ~ Paul Valery


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We Can Do Better

Did you ever have a conversation that was worth dying for? No, me neither. I did see a guy that had such a conversation. He was yakking on his cell phone while walking across the busy four lanes of Belmont Ave. in Liberty. Cars were swerving into other lanes to miss him. He was deep in a “cell phone coma” and oblivious to where he was. Either that or it was Clark Kent and he knew he wouldn’t be injured by a two ton car hitting him. What gives with these idiots?

Mrs. Elecpencil and I went to Pittsburgh Wednesday night. We went to Club Café to see 48 year-old singer/songwriter James McMurtry. He is the son of novelist Larry McMurtry who wrote “Lonesome Dove.” Like his father James is a gifted storyteller. James’ songs are about working-class life and all of its struggles. Some of his songs are about getting older and wondering how your life went by in a flash. They also make you question whether you did enough with your life. These are questions folks my age ask themselves every day. Recently, I was looking in the mirror at all of the age spots I ‘m getting on my face. I was contemplating that it just seems like yesterday I was struggling with teenage acne.

Writer Steven King has called James McMurtry “the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation.” John Mellencamp co-produced McMurtry’s 1989 debut album, “Too Long in the Wasteland.” Every time McMurtry releases an album many critics will call it album of the year. Though he has had lots of critical acclaim he plays clubs like Club Café that hold 150 people. The crowd on Wednesday was age 30-70. That is the age of people that want a message in their music and James delivered the goods for two hours. The crowd was very exuberant all except the guy sitting next to me  at the bar. He spent the whole time yakking on his cell phone and texting. What gives with these idiots?

If there was any fairness in the world McMurtry would be playing at stadiums. Instead we have acts like Lady Cucka, Goo Goo or GaGa or whatever her name is selling out stadiums. Notice I said act as I wouldn’t honor her by calling her a musician.

Warren, Ohio is featuring a concert series called “River Rock at the Amp.” It features tribute bands that should be electrocuted with their amps, weighed down with a rock and tossed in the river. I don’t think I’m being harsh at all as I wouldn’t go see any of the acts they are covering let alone an imitation.  Tribute bands are also called, “tribute acts.” Most of the bands they pay tribute to don’t deserve it. I won’t go into how sad I think  tribute bands are because I’ve already done that  sometime back here. I would like to see Warren be more progressive and have a new music review like Austin, Texas does. Money would be better spent on artists like James McMutry instead of tribute acts. Let’s move into the future instead of trying to capture the past. Seriously, does anyone need to hear that screechy “Stairway to Heaven” for the millionth time.? If so, we need to set up Rock ‘n’ Roll rehabs.

I prefer leaving a concert thinking, life is short what can I do to make the world better. Others want to leave a Kiss concert singing, “I Want to Rock ‘n’ Roll All Nite and Party Everyday.” Which is more constructive? I’m told Nero fiddled, “Rock ‘n’ Roll All Nite and Party Everyday” while Rome burned.  I’m just saying.

We drove home from Pittsburgh on the PA/OH Turnpike. We stopped at the first rest stop in Ohio. It was a McDonalds in Mahoning County. The bathroom was filthy. Stall doors hung open revealing unflushed toilets. The garbage cans were overflowing and the counter tops were flooded with water. I went and got in line at McDonalds to get an unsweetened iced tea. Several people were off to the side waiting on their orders. One elderly woman was making the food at a speed one notch above stopped. The girl at the counter was one speed above crawl. She had a frown and a bored look on her face as she looked over glasses slid low on her nose. Her face seemed to say I’m only working at McDonalds until I get that job that show cases my best talent. I’m thinking her best talent is being bored, so she’ll be retiring in thirty years from Mickey D’s. I know that patience is a virtue but I didn’t have the time so I got out of line and left.

This rest stop and McDonalds is the first thing tourist may experience about Ohio. What a sad ass note that is. Citizens of Ohio we can do better. Citizens of Warren we can do better than tribute bands. I contacted the Ohio Turnpike Commission about their rest stop. I’ve e-mailed about how sorry their tribute band concerts are. Please, please for the sake of real musicians click on the above site and say, NO MORE  TRIBUTE BANDS. Let’s make Ohio a place we are proud to call home.

James McMurtry: We Can’t Make it Here No More

Painting by Numbers

Small Town (Talkin at the Texaco)

Only the guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat. ~ Jean-Paul Sartre


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Bar Food and War Lies

Mrs. Elecpencil and I enjoyed lunch at a new valley restaurant yesterday. We ate at All-Starz Sports Grille in Liberty, Ohio. It is located on Belmont Ave.  attached to the Quality Inn. Maybe, you’ll remember it as the old Cancun Restaurant across from Denny’s.

If you’re in the mood for bar food this is the place. Mrs. E had an excellent fish sandwich that was so long it came in a sausage length bun. It was nicely breaded and very mild. Mrs. E chose it with a side salad that had a tasty  herb vinaigrette dressing. I ordered a Reuben that was served Pittsburgh style with fries and cole slaw on top. It was served on marble bread and was  the best one I’ve had in a long time. I got it with hot wrinkle cut Yukon Gold potato chips that were very good. They also feature: steak and chicken topped salads,  burgers with lots of toppings, wings, BBQ pulled pork sliders and lots of other sandwiches.  They also have one of those, “Man Vs. Food” TV type challenge meals. It consists of a one pound hot dog with fries and condiments that weighs in at over 3 1/2 lbs. Food was reasonably priced considering portions are big enough you could take some home for another meal. Service was fast & friendly and while this isn’t healthy food it is happy food and don’t we all need a little more happy in our lives? Stop in and get happy!

Did you see the story about German President Horst Koehler? He resigned over comments he made after visiting German troops in Afghanistan. In a radio interview,  he said for a country with Germany’s dependency on exports, military deployments could be “necessary … in order to defend our interests, for example free trade routes.”

Most reasonable humans believe military force should be used for homeland defense or humanitarian reasons. When a politician like Koehler tells the  underlying truth about why countries go to war anymore it is quite unusual. The history of wars shows they have been fought for land and natural resources. The last 100 years of wars were fought mostly for corporate interests. We are sold these wars as “national security and “national interest.” Of course corporations like Halliburton are the only interest that benefits from wars. Their former CEO Dick Cheney has way more interest to be made in the war than our sons and daughters on the front lines.

Unlike, President Koehler we’ve had lots of U.S. presidents lie about wars they got us involved in. In 1889 President McKinley lied about the reason we invaded Cuba. He claimed it was to liberate the Cubans from Spain. McKinley really wanted Cuba so that the island could be open to United Fruit and other American companies. McKinley killed 200,00o in the Philippines to “civilize” them. He actually wanted to own a valuable piece of real estate in the far Pacific. Ohio is littered with schools etc. named after this terrible president. It’s an embarrassment to anyone who knows their history.

We’ve had Eisenhower and JFK lie about the extent of our involvement in Vietnam. Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin and  Nixon about the secret bombing of Cambodia. They all claimed they wanted to keep South Vietnam free of communism. The truth is they all desired South Vietnam as an American outpost on the edge of the Asian continent.

Reagan lied about the invasion of Grenada, claiming  that it was a threat to the United States. The fact is Grenada did not need or want to have its economy dominated by U.S. corporate interests. While other Caribbean nations were struggling Grenada had a 9% growth rate. Unemployment dropped from 49% to 14%. The government developed cooperatives that led to a reduction of the percentage of food and total imports from over 40% to 28%. This level of economic independence along with improvements in housing, health care and literacy made Grenada’s  socialist government a role model for other Caribbean countries. The capitalist running the USA decide they needed to destroy Grenada socialist agenda before it spread. A military coup against this government gave the U.S. an excuse to invade and set up  a government that was corrupt and committed numerous human rights violations. On the other hand it was now capitalistic and U.S. corporate friendly and that is all that mattered to the Reagan administration.

George H. Bush lied about the invasion of Panama, causing the death of thousands of ordinary citizens in that country. On January 1, 1990, most of the administration of the Panama Canal was to go from joint US-Panamanian administration, to Panama’s control. The U.S. powers that be wanted  Panama’s bankers and elite controlling the canal not Panama’s President Noriega.  Noriega had been a CIA informant and drug smuggler for two decades. Now because he did not did not aid the U.S. backed contras in Nicaragua he could no longer be trusted and Panama was invaded.

George W. Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction to invade Iraq.The invasion was really because the U.S. wanted to assert power in the oil-rich Middle East.

The “Boy Who Cried Wolf” only cried wolf two times before the villagers no longer believed him. How many more times will we believe our Presidents who cry wolf? It’s way past time to learn from history.

One of my new favorite singer/songwriters:

Mat Kearney: All I Have

Girl America

Poor Boy

“Capitalism has destroyed our belief in any effective power but that of self interests backed by force.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

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Semi-Independence Day

This morning was a perfect Mahoning Valley (MV) Friday. Why you ask? First off I got on the phone and called, (330) 746-9577 for the perfect Friday MV lunch. That number and $7 got me a Briar Hill Pizza from St. Anthony’s  Church located at, 1125 Turin Ave. Youngstown, OH. St. Anthony’s members have been making these pizzas for decades and they are something special.  Think of them as the perfect Italian communion host. They are only available on Fridays and need to be picked up by 11:30 am. They will make them again next Friday and then not until after Labor Day.

Next, Mrs. Elecpencil and I  headed for Ghossains Mid East Bakery 3990 South Ave. Youngstown, OH. They also have a branch on Rt 422 in Niles near Rt. 46. I bought a package of their whole wheat pita bread, some hummus and tabouli.  The bread is baked fresh Mon-Fri and is wonderful  as it’s fresh and still warm.

Next, we set out for our weekly destination of Rulli Brothers Market at 8025 South Ave. Boardman, OH. We bought pineapples for $.99 each, red bell peppers $.99 a lb., leaf lettuce $.79 a lb., bone-less skinless chicken breasts for $1.89 a lb. and  T-bone steaks for $4.99 a lb. All Elecpencil family friendly prices.

The only thing missing from such a perfect Friday outing was an ice cream cone from Handel’s the best ice cream in the world. I passed one on Belmont Ave. but I was just to full from eating pizza for brunch. Damn we live in the best place in the country!

I don’t tend to get a lot of comments but I do get quite a few e-mails about things I have written. Feel free to do either. I got a few e-mails when I wrote about the horrible conditions in the factory that makes many of Apple’s products.  One e-mailer chastised me, saying I was practically calling him a murderer for buying Apple’s new iPhone. I was not calling him a murderer,  but I will point out that he is supporting murderers and rapists. Corporations that make both PCs and Macs do business with the war-torn Congo. Over a ten-year period in the Congo three million have been murdered and a 100,000  girls and women have been raped. Corporations buying minerals from the Congo have helped fuel the  deadliest war since WW II. The minerals like tin, tungsten and gold are being called conflict minerals. The products are available in more peaceful nations but would cost penny’s more per product. It seems Third World lives just aren’t worth a cent. See more about it  in this video.  Ways you can take action about the conflict minerals issue.

I got an e-mail from my friend Bob who lives in Pittsburgh, PA fighting the good fight. Bob said, “This Independence Day, let’s think about those who made that “God Bless America” T-shirt.” Bob sent along this article about garment workers in Bangladesh being attacked by police for striking over poor working conditions and back pay they are owed. Like Bob, I find the photo of police striking a young boy very disturbing. These are our brother and sister FW’s  (fellow workers) who make global brand products that might be hanging in our closets. It’s a big world but the internet is bringing us closer together information wise. Out of sight does not have to be out of mind.

We need to make corporations accountable for their actions. They respond best to a closed wallet or purse. Corporations are not human beings because they have no social conscience. They will never be human beings no matter how many times the Supreme Court says they are.

Happy Semi-Independence Day and let’s work towards a world-wide Independence Day.

Buck 65: Protest

Buck 65: Mr. Nobody

I really like Buck so one more: Wicked and Weird

All historical experience demonstrates the following: Our Earth cannot be changed unless in the not too distant future an alteration in the consciousness of individuals is achieved. ~ Hans Kung


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