Obama gets to meet Zeke

It was his moment, and he was on one of the great stages of our time and town.Yep, Barack Obama was in Reading this afternoon and he stopped by the Marvel Ranch, of all places. The Marvel, of course, is a downtown treasure. In fact, it’s so famous it doesn’t even have a sign with its name on it. But it has about a zillion other signs all over the place. It’s also famous for its, well, rather unique ambience and dining atmosphere. Its legendary haute cuisine delights your digestive tract while gagging your arteries. It’s a wonderful tradeoff even if every breakfast or lunch there likely takes five minutes off the backend of your life.The Marvel Ranch is just down Fourth Street from where we drones in Reading Eagle Marketing/Promotions slave away. When word filtered out that Obama was at the Marvel, some of us blew off work and hustled down there.Never being shy, I reached over some excited shorter folks who were jumping here and there like balls in a lottery machine and shook Obama’s hand as he strode with silky ease and nonchalance into the Marvel. I remarked to him that he was seeing “real” Reading by visiting the Marvel. Without breaking his champagne smile, Obama laughed and replied, “I’ve heard that.”Since our conversation was so fleeting, I didn’t get a chance to tell him that my dear mother thinks his name is Bahama. Oh well, what do you expect from a Hillary supporter?I also didn’t get a chance to invite Obama to play our “Can You Beat Zeke?” contest. Of course, if he is elected president, he probably will be too busy next February to travel to the Pro Bowl in Honolulu with the Zeke posse. But it would have been nice to fly Air Force One to Hawaii instead of flying commercial.I was not granted access to the Marvel because I’m no longer an active member of the working press and because I wasn’t on the guest list. Jeez, I felt suddenly reduced to being an inferior item on the menu. And at the Marvel Ranch, of all places.But I did manage to shake Obama’s hand again on his way out and I also got to shake hands with and speak briefly with Ann Curry of NBC. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that “Today Show” colleague Meredith Viera makes me want to gag on my Wheaties every morning. Perhaps I should now eat all future breakfasts at the Marvel instead of watching “Today” at home. By the way, unlike fellow blogger Al Walentis, at least I can say I was Johnny-on-the-spot when Barack Obama came to town. And I have proof, courtesy of Jason Weitzel’s photo above. Of course, Jason did miss the money shot of me shaking hands with Obama. And since I did it twice, Jason went oh-for-two. Granted, he was somewhat distracted at the time by the Phillies’ season opener. He, after all, is the esteemed Jason of Beerleaguer blog fame.

Booze percolates in the DNA of college kids

A two-part series on the fallout of students’ drinking on college towns concluded today in the Reading Eagle by pointing out that community leaders, students and bar operators must work together before everybody drowns in a lager-fueled, real-life version of the reel-life “Animal House.” Well, I just want to wish everyone good luck with that.Because the reality is that drinking is the greatest thing to happen to campus life since the repeal of Prohibition. College students always will drink to excess. They seemingly develop a killer thirst from the very moment they enroll.You spend all day reading “The Brothers Karamazov” or looking at germs under a microscope in biology lab and you, too, will become a drunk.Even a squadron of fighter planes and the National Guard, assuming they’re not all deployed to Iraq, couldn’t stop college kids from getting trashed and trashing the town.The solution?Locate all colleges in ghost towns. Or move them all to Bourbon Street where our future rocket scientists can fuel up on Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s.

It's nice to be the president

It may have caught your attention that Bill Clinton was in town yesterday, stumping for his wife at Albright College.The local media outlets, like ants on peanut butter and jelly, were all over the story. Since this presidential campaign seemingly kicked off while Moses and the Israelites still were strolling through the Red Sea, the political rhetoric spewing forth from Bill was essentially rehashed beans.But his reflections about the pomp and splendor of being King of the Universe were interesting, at least to this faithful blogger.”It’s easy to think you’re really something special when you’re president,” Clinton said. “They play ‘Hail to the Chief’ every time you walk in a room. You think that’s not a rush? For the first three weeks after I left the White House, I didn’t know where I was.”Washington is a traffic nightmare for everybody but the president. You zip along in your limo. Every night you go to bed in America’s finest public housing. Your airplane is so cool they make movies about it.”Yep, no matter what his stature, a president stands taller than your average NBA center.And enjoys having a posse of people at his beck and call to replace the divots while he plays those hard fairways of global politics.I guess being First Gentleman would be the next best thing for Bill.

America under assault

Thank heaven the crime rate has dropped in Reading. Because the bad dudes are brandishing increased firepower on American streets these wicked days and nights.The AK-47 rifle — a powerful, rapid-fire weapon that frequently is the weapon of choice in the Third World when zealots aren’t otherwise engaged blowing themselves, and others, up — is nothing to sneeze at. It makes an ordinary handgun look like a popgun.Criminals, like rabbits who are always nibbling at the lettuce, are tireless in their pursuit of being ever more armed and dangerous. I know this will make the NRA folks gasp with horror and quiver with anger, but I think there is no place for AK-47s in polite American society. If hunters are so tough, let them fight off Bambi with a swizzle stick instead of blasting the poor deer with an assault rifle.Speaking of animal cruelty, I realize I’m beating a dead horse here. Which sort of leaves our hopes for a safer tomorrow crackling like crunched glass.

Recession hits home

The slump in housing now has hit a 13-year low as sales of new homes dropped like a bedroom dresser from a third-story window in February for the fourth straight month.Economic hysteria now is reaching out in all directions. The banker, the farmer, the mechanic, the housewife, the lawyer, the plumber, the local business owner and the Indian chief are all afflicted. And it’s spreading like measles. The plummet in housing essentially is a strangler’s cord around the neck of the economy. Then factor in a credit crunch suffocating enough to crack ribs, skyrocketing energy prices, the trillions we are burning through in Iraq, and consumer confidence that has more holes in it than a slice of Swiss cheese. Suddenly there are so many gums flapping about a recession that only the periodontists are making a buck these days. All of which leaves us on the eve of a depression.In the interim, have a good day.

Can Obama bridge the left and the right without getting impaled on the medial barrier?

There’s no question that Barack Obama is a charismatic campaigner who has brought a blaze of electric light to the presidential campaign. He has the style and fervor of a preacher … his articulate soliloquies unleashing thunderbolts of emotion in his disciples. The electorate that embraces Obama has faith that he can reawaken the deadened clank of hope the Bush years have fashioned like an anvil around their necks. But if elected president, can Obama truly deliver the goods? Talking change is one thing. Bringing change is a whole new ballgame.The key question is this: Can a liberal like Obama, even if the country is tilting left in the wake of the Bush fallout, truly galvanize a new governing coalition across party lines?If so, he likely will have wrought a monumental sea change in our centrist-right approach to politics. If not, all the promise of a new tomorrow that he engenders likely will be as bleak as today and yesterday.

Why are we all tolerating these wicked gas pains?

With gas prices in a state of constant overdrive, why hasn’t an outraged public been beating oil drums in protest?I guess we all have rolled over and played dead, wearing the look of a broken dog that has once again been shown the whip.The average price of a gallon of gas in this country has spiked to a record $3.26. And the cost of diesel fuel has skyrocketed to a record $4.06 a gallon. Living fast can be addictive, and the cycle feeds on itself. So no matter what it costs to fill up our tanks, we just do it and stomp on the gas. But sooner or later when our wallets hit empty, we’re going to have to park our wheels. And saddle up a horse.So start squawking!

Fine art? Gag me with a spoon!

The Reading Redevelopment Authority evidently didn’t think the Fine Arts Board was all that fine and has voted to reduce it to rubble.Which seems to have been the prudent thing. The redevelopment folks’ idea of fine art is tall trees of steel. And the authority had its undies twisted because the city risks losing too many deals by forcing developers to pay 1 percent of their projects costs to a public arts fund.When you’re trying to prevent your city from dying on the vine, no sense in bleeding developers pale.Besides, fine art is only for people who love subtleties and subtitles. It doesn’t resonate with the masses, whose idea of fine art is their kids’ fingerpainting.Granted, a town without art could have a spare grimness. But let’s be real. Some of the supposedly fine art the Fine Arts Board approved around here is so coyote ugly it would make a jackal wretch.

Well, she was just seventeen, you know what I mean, and the way she looked was way beyond compare

Call girl Ashley Alexandra Dupre and “Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis likely won’t be attending Holy Week services, but perhaps they should. They both could use some divine intervention and redemption.Dupre, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s hooker of choice, won’t be able to tithe a 100 grand to her church of choice since Francis has rescinded his $1 million offer to her because she’d already appeared in “Girls Gone Wild” footage. A good thing for Francis that he checked his archived footage. Now he won’t have to pay a princess’ ransom for a product he already had.A bad thing for Francis is now he won’t be able to make a buck off Dupre’s penchant for living life at full throttle. There goes his big Easter Sunday envelope out the window. A double-bad thing for Francis is Dupre apparently was only 17 when her 2003 “Girls Gone Wild” footage was taken. I guess one of the symptoms of working in a decadent industry is a reptilian coldness toward the protocol of checking birth certificates.Maybe the authorities will put Francis on double-secret probation for that.