There goes the neighborhood

Sounds like the Wal-Mart folks are going to be singing their siren song Wednesday evening, making it so sweet that it kills the poor Spring Township folks with kindness.Yep, officials for the mammoth retail chain are holding a dog-and-pony show Wednesday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Sheraton.Of course, they aren’t calling it a dog-and-pony show. Rather, they’re calling it a community meeting where they can put a positive spin on their plans to build a super store at Broadcasting and Paper Mill roads — streets that instantly will be transformed into parking lots. Wal-Mart is seeking zoning approval from Spring Township to build the store in an business-office district. If Wal-Mart gains approval and builds the Spring store, it would close an existing Wal-Mart in Wyomissing.Well, the prospect of a gigantic Wal-Mart store squatting in my neck of the woods certainly doesn’t light up my face like a happy pumpkin.I dread the likely arrival of this colossus of commerce much like I would incoming tracer fire.

Spinning wheels have turned our town around — if just for a day

OK, I’m a cynic by nature. So count me in as one of those folks who thought the Reading Classic pro cycling race would be a hassle for all of us downtown working stiffs.And let me quickly add that I am a stoked proponent of bringing all the cultural, entertainment and athletic events we can to help infuse new vitality into our town and fresh coin into our coffers.Just not on a workday during working hours.Well, I changed my mind today. Today was fun downtown. Traffic wasn’t a gridlock this morning. It were as if Moses had parted the Penn Street Bridge and allowed every one an easy pass into the city.Yep, it was a festive party here in front of the Reading Eagle building. Except for a brief shower or two, it was a resplendent day for sunshine junkies. And the cyclists rushing past certainly gave a pulse-racing dimension to the bubbly quality of the day.It would be a stretch to say that folks at the start/finish line were jumping with joy as if they were on pogo sticks.But I haven’t seen so many smiles downtown in one day in what seems like eons. P.S.: The dandy topping on a sundae of a day was that getting home during the PM rush wasn’t an apocalyptic ordeal after all.By leaving the office at 4:30 before the Reading Classic was over and snaking through the south side of town to access the Bingaman Street Bridge, I was home almost as quick as a hiccup.

AM rush horror story much ado about nothing

Well, my two sons and I car-pooled into town this morning, expecting Reading to be an insane place clogged with traffic and all choked up with frustrated drivers spitting out road rage.And what did we find?To our utter surprise, we cruised right into town. Indeed, Reading on the morn of the much-ballyhooed Reading Classic professional cycling race was indeed a sane plot of earth.In fact, where was everybody? Were the women and children hidden away in attics and basements? Did everybody wimp out and stay home from work? In the shimmer and gleam of a gorgeous early June morning, Reading seemed to be a quaint little town, with some vehicles and pedestrians leisurely commuting to work.It seemed to be a place for whom time had stopped. Granted, we shall see if it’s as easy to get out of town late this afternoon.

Cycling to a better tomorrow

The Reading Classic professional cycling race hits town tomorrow, which definitely will put our city on the ledge of immortality.After this blockbuster event, our rep is gonna swell like a blowfish. Which should take some of the buckshot out of crime around here.Drug dealers like to work in the shadows. If we keep constructing magical moments like this that squeeze our senses until the juice runs, all the dopers will take flight like rats escaping a burning building. At least that’s the plan.

Donovan: No more mama's soup for you!

Being labeled a “mama’s boy” is the ultimate pillory in a sport populated with studs high on muscle and impact.So Donovan McNabb wants the world to know he’s not a mama’s boy.”I hate the term, he proclaimed. “I’m not a mama’s boy.”Of course, the Eagles quarterback can’t have it both ways. One the one hand, he has cashed in richly on our immeasurably consumerist and capitalistic society by starring in a series of soup commercials with his mother. So if he wants to lose the image of being a mama’s boy, he should lose those spots.Granted, there’s another reason why McNabb is viewed as soft as a mama’s boy: He allowed Terrell Owens to mow through his locker-room persona as a team leader and mulch it into fresh-cut grass clippings.While Owens’ real fight with the Eagles was with what he perceived to be the greed heads in the front office, he picked McNabb as his surrogate punching bag. And while taking the high road, McNabb was vulnerable to all of T.O.’s low blows. So Donovan now has learned a harsh lesson: Life’s a funny old raccoon at times, especially in a society that lionizes the lion, not the lamb.And in his post-TO. world, McNabb is trying to lose his image as a sacrificial lamb.It may take a while.

The name game revisited

Well, folks, after thousands of dollars and thousands of hours engaged in debate, our official advertising brand is “Greater Reading: Take a Ride!”Its tag line, while trying to build a bridge to our future, took root in our past — outlet stores and the Reading Railroad. Perhaps our new brand can show that our town, despite all its warts, still has a locomotive’s heart.Honestly, after all the hoopla and speculation about what the sexy new brand would be, I’m a tad disappointed. I thought it would be bigger, bolder and brassier.Granted, tag lines seldom burst out of nowhere like a hormone surge and are so absolutely perfect from conception that they brook no further discussion.Reaching consensus on a brand can be a tidal wave of a job. With so many clever phrases to pick from while surfing the pipeline of slogans, the undertow can get downright treacherous.This particular chore was particularly perplexing because there were so many cynics trying to nail the process with a low blow. Indeed, more than one local pundit suggested playing off the city’s crime and drug problems by pitching some wiseacre slogan like “Greater Reading: Don’t Inhale the Bullets!”But the time for cynics has passed. We need to move beyond all of that.However, I wonder if our new brand already is dated. After all, with all the mania about the pro cycling tour hitting town Thursday, perhaps a more appropriate one would be “Greater Reading: Take a Bike Ride!”

A Bright supernova of a story

Some stories are precious enough to be painted in watercolor and preserved on a postcard.Such is the tale of the Brights of Mount Penn.Yes, Boyd and Emily Bright hit the nickel-slot jackpot for a million bucks — $1,092,868.03 if you’re counting every penny — at the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City on their 50th wedding anniversary. A heartstring-plucking saga of luck and good fortune just doesn’t get any better than that.I imagine all the stars and planets were perfectly aligned in a galactic explosion of white light for the Brights, who obviously were riding an awesome wave of perfect karma.Indeed, Lady Luck took the Brights by the hand on their golden anniversary and treated them to a delightful dance with an unstoppable rhythm. I don’t really know the Brights, but as a boy growing up in Mount Penn I knew Boyd’s parents – a very nice elderly couple who lived down the hill from my parents.I remember after Boyd and his wife moved into a log cabin higher up on Mount Penn, my mirthful family would refer to Boyd in jest as Nature Boy whenever they saw him visiting his parents.So I was amused to read in this morning’s Reading Eagle that they still live in a log cabin.Granted, Nature Boy now can be called Golden Boy as well.

Wilson football thrown for a loss

Wilson football has a marvelous legacy. The storied program, under John Gurski, Gerry Slemmer and Jim Cantafio, has been the benchmark for excellence.But now the Bulldogs are peering down the nasty barrel of a disheartening, dispiriting distraction.Cantafio, under district investigation, has been suspended as the head football coach and as a physical education teacher. School officials have been vague about details, but a district source has said the probe concerns financial matters involving Cantafio’s summer football camps.Whatever circumstances have ushered Cantafio into a suspended state of limbo, this hardly has been a cheer-up moment for the Wilson football program.And it may take a bit of time — not to mention some resounding victories this autumn — to dispel the nightmare.

The time is not yet ripe for T.O. to leave his new colleagues in despair

Some NFL dudes show up for spring workouts and make less of a splash then a jelly bean landing in a pond.Terrell Owens shows up and everybody gets soaked from the gigantic media splash.Which is what transpired yesterday in Dallas as T.O. participated in his first formal workout as a Cowboy.Needless to say, T.O. oozed the charm from every pore as he pelted the media with verbal rose petals of nice-nice.What did you expect? T.O. to be truculent or sullen? Or gag his new teammates with choking plumes of egocentricity?Trust me. There will be plenty of time for all of that nonsense later.Eagles fans just hope and pray that the time for the Cowboys to be in dire need of a relief convoy arrives sooner than later.

FDA tries to take a bite out of gluttons

Let’s face it: Many Americans are as self-indulgent as triple fudge cake.Which means they delight in inhaling freezer-sized meals populated with burgers, fries and pizza.Also, now that many Americans are too busy to cook, they regularly eat out or get take-out.The FDA has noticed that our country is chock full of porkers who apparently salivate whenever they get in sniffing distance of Haagen-Dazs.So the FDA is urging restaurants to help us help ourselves by serving smaller portions and healthier side dishes.A good move. Some restaurant portions could feed the entire Bolivian Army coming off a 30-day hunger strike. And with smaller portions, restaurant prices should shrink along with our waistlines.