You can bank on it

We all have our passions.Some folks get their kicks, not to mention nicks, from juggling porcupines.Some dudes love to play golf as if they’re attacking an al-Qaeda hideout.Others get their goose bumps by barrel-rolling jets, playing pinochle in the nude, or gnashing their bicuspids while agonizing over the afterlife.And some people aren’t happy unless they’re robbing banks.Let me introduce Robert Jones, a.k.a. the most prolific bank robber in Pennsylvania history.This guy loves to burrow into banks like termites love to burrow into basements.It’s apparently a matter of stimulus and response, like the bear and the honey.Banks have money. Which means they suddenly have a salivating Robert Jones knocking on one of their teller windows.After knocking off 22 banks in a hyperactive 13 months, Jones spent more than a decade in federal prison.Hard time evidently didn’t short-circuit the magnetic appeal banks hold over his soul. But give the dude credit. He was a free man for seven months before he got an itch he apparently couldn’t resist scratching.So cut him some slack. The poor guy obviously is hopelessly addicted to the adrenaline rush of making illicit bank withdrawals.Whenever he sees a bank, he begins jumping for joy as if he were on a pogo stick.Kutztown police said Jones used a note Saturday to rob Citizen’s Bank at 601 Main St. in the borough. He walked away with $2,500 but police said a bank surveillance camera was his undoing. Granted, everyone’s innocent until proven guilty. But I suspect that Mr. Jones won’t be seeing any banks for another long stretch of time.He’ll just have to content himself with watching months and then years drift from the calendar.

Let's not allow the flood to drown riverfront development

I wasn’t around at the dawn of civilization, but I’m told that’s when mankind first started clinging like spiders to rivers.Rivers give life to a community, a spawning ground — or rather oasis — for development and entertainment.But rivers such as the Schuylkill, as we found out yesterday and in 1972 with Agnes, suddenly can turn on us with firehouse-red alarm.In such terrible moments, riverfront development suddenly can be as gone as an expired breath. Which, of course, infects everybody with a bright-lime nausea as they sift through the sad layers of debris.I just hope that Wednesday’s flood didn’t splash into watery motion a movement to squelch some of the riverfront development proposed to further stoke Reading’s renaissance.It would be a real shame if plans for such goodies as a 500-seat amphitheater and play-in fountain in a new riverfront park were now left dying in the sun.It’s all a matter of perspective. Great floods don’t come around the bend all that frequently. Our river is our friend almost all of the time. And if proper building cautions are implemented, we can deal with those rare occurrences when the Schuylkill becomes a foe.Hopefully our city fathers and resident visionaries will continue to look to the riverfront area as a wonderful venue to help stream Reading into a better tomorrow.

And where is an ark when you need one?

Whenever mankind starts preening from a smug feeling of superiority, we should never forget that Mother Nature can rise up and put us in our humble place.Trust me, nobody feels too superior when rising flood waters start jiggling their Adam’s apple.Berks County took it on the chin from Mother Nature today.Despite all our technology and resources, a violent weather incident can be a real haymaker that drops us to our knees.Mother Nature, alas, has the wingspan of a pterodactyl and it’s virtually impossible to duck her Sunday punch.The best we can do is try to roll with the punch.

Rush to judgment

You could suffer orbital fractures to both your eyes watching Rush Limbaugh disintegrate over prescription drugs.The glib conservative radio host has had more downs than ups since he got entangled in a messy prescription fraud case that he wiggled out after striking a deal with prosecutors.Still, Limbaugh has soldiered on with oodles of sass and brass stoking the airwaves with turbulence.But his bulbous balloon of rhetoric is leaking even more hot air now that customs officials have found a bottle of Viagra in his luggage — a bottle that didn’t have his name on the prescription.This latest incident could jeopardize his deal with prosecutors.The irony of Limbaugh’s situation is that the same big mouth that has given him fame and fortune could prove his ultimate undoing because he can’t seem to keep it shut when it comes to prescription drugs.Besides, now that the thrice-married Rush no longer is dating CNN hottie Daryn Kagan, why does the champion of right-wing moral values even need Viagra? Well, not that I’m a private eye or anything, but you don’t have to be a gumshoe to deduce why Limbaugh’s libido may have needed a little boost.He was returning from the Dominican Republic when he was detained at Palm Beach International Airport. The Dominican Republic is known for its thriving sex trade. I wonder if Rush has any bipartisan tourist tips for Bill Clinton.

California dreaming

I won’t bore you with the details of our wondrous California vacation to San Francisco, Los Angeles and multiple points in between.But suffice it to say that our holiday was quintessentially American in all its hues. Our sightseeing included eons of breathtaking scenery, money and materialism but, alas, no glimpses of celebrities or the Governator.Then we get home and discover that Greater Reading has morphed into Seattle East. While the weather was warm and dry in California, Berks County now seems to have become part of Waterworld. Oh, well. Perhaps this squalid patch of weather soon will subside and ebb like a glistening tide.Of course, soon after we all likely will be embarking on a safari hunt for a drought warning.

Eve Of Destruction

Spring Township, it is explodingWal-Mart coming, sprawl suffocatingYeah, my blood’s so mad feels like coagulatingI’m sitting here just contemplatingBut you tell meOver and over and over again, my friendAh, you don’t believeWe’re on the eveof destructionThe pounding of the horns, the traffic gridlock and disgracePeace and quiet evaporating without leaving a traceHate your retail goliath neighbor, but don’t forget to say graceAll our serenity is disintegratingThis whole crazy township is just too frustratingAnd… tell me over and over and over and over again, my friendYou don’t believeWe’re on the eveOf destructionMm, no no, you don’t believeWe’re on the eveof destruction– Mike Zielinski(With apologies to Barry McGuire)

Something smells funny about the Great Stolen Sewer Cap Caper

All right, we all know that crime is slightly older than carbon.You’ve got people living together, you’ve got crime.Reading, of course, is no stranger to crime. But it’s usually the murders, the drive-by shootings, the rapes, the robberies, the car thefts and the drug trafficking that have folks walking around with a cage of rabbits in their stomachs. Now there’s a new crime in town: Sometime over Monday night thieves removed more than 20 brass sewer caps in south Reading.Who the hell was the executive producer on this one? Zat is zee question, Inspector Clouseau. Of course, zat is not zee only question. Another one: Why?Well, probably for their value as scrap metal.Whatever, just another strange chapter in the tales of Reading’s dark underbelly of crime.

Big Ben clocked on the invincible highway where virile young men dare cruise

It would be convenient to crudely caricature Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as an idiot for taking great pride in not wearing a helmet while riding his motorcycle.And now after enduring seven hours of surgery for multiple facial fractures including a broken jaw and having to face life for a bit with the smile of a Jack-o-Lantern after his Monday crash, Roethlisberger is the latest poster boy for jocks concussed by their own machismo.Young men blessed with prime physical skills often are consumed by a ferocious drive to experience life on the edge. Something gathers inside them, like severe weather building.Consequently, they aren’t content to just sit on the sofa and wait for the loose change to drop between the cushions. Instead, they’re compelled to blow past life’s asterisks — the gateways to the fine-print footnotes where it is written that thrills often lead to spills.And consequences.

I'll gleefully drink to prostate cancer prevention

Now don’t get too excited, because all those medical studies that come out seemingly every 4.7 seconds frequently light fires of hope before they burn down to ash.Still, I can’t help myself. I’m so jacked right now I could bounce around the planet even without a massive jolt of caffeine. Because a dandy new study suggests that a main ingredient in beer may help prevent prostate cancer and enlargement.Oregon State University researchers say the compound xanthohumol, found in hops, inhibits a specific protein in the cells along the surface of the prostate gland.Jeez, I always knew that beer was the perfect petri dish for something good besides creating a delightful buzz. Researchers caution, however, that the ingredient is present in such microscopic amounts that you would have to drink more than 17 beers to reap a benefit.Personally, I think that yellow flag the researchers are waving is inconsequential.To hearty beer drinkers blessed with an unquenchable thirst, knocking back three six-packs a night is no problem — assuming they don’t get behind the wheel.

B-Hop still dancing with all the youthful vitality of hip-hop

Boxing, because it is a hybrid of physical chess, ballet and barbarism all forged into one intoxicating blast furnace of guttural emotion, is best left to young men whose physical skills bask in prime sunshine.But when light slips into evening, the ring can be a cruel place for those young men who morph into ancient warriors.Time, alas, wears away fighters like an old rock.Unless, of course, their name is Bernard Hopkins.Hopkins somehow has managed to trap time in a bottle and sip from it as if it were the fountain of youth.B-Hop, 41 years young, pulled off a magnificent upset victory Saturday night in Atlantic City when he knocked around reigning champ Antonio Tarver like a volleyball to win the light heavyweight championship of the world.And it was my privilege to be in Boardwalk Hall to experience the incredible energy of an epic evening.Hopkins’ sensational performance showered everyone present with shock and awe. Indeed, there was such an incredible buzz resonating in the ancient hall you wondered if everybody had just gulped a half-dozen double Scotches. B-Hop, who etched his name into boxing folklore with a division-record 20 middleweight title defenses, penned perhaps the greatest chapter of his illustrious career last night.He was scary good even though he moved up two weight classes to topple the man who had emphatically punctured the legend of the once-fabulous Roy Jones Jr.Hopkins, whose iron discipline was forged in the crucible of penitentiary living, was as scary as a strong night wind in nearby trees. He reduced Tarver to a hollowed-out pug, like a big fruit shorn of its ripe interior.Borne by the energy of a revamped conditioning program and fueled by a diamond-hard concentration, Hopkins hardly looked like an old man ready to be whisked away for convalescence. Hopkins was extremely aggressive throughout the fight, eliciting frequent fusillades of octave-busting chants of “B-Hop” from the adoring crowd.His defense was a textbook of clever angles and subtle movement, never giving Tarver an opportunity to unleash his big gun of a left hand. Conversely, Hopkins’ strong lead right hand was a hyperactive and percussive piston stroke all night — the perfect weapon to dismantle a southpaw like Tarver.Bernard Hopkins, whose profane, cocksure attitude has earned him an indelible ranking in boxing’s storied gallery of rogues, truly is the human equivalent of a war machine.Hopefully, however, he will now call a permanent ceasefire to his ring hostilities. Because even his stiff jab can’t keep Father Time at bay for ever and a day.