Monday, July 23, 2007


On two occasions, I have taken my family up to the Poconos to do white water rafting. After checking-in, you are given an informal briefing as to the do's and don'ts of Lehigh River rafting etiquette. Then everyone piles into a school bus and are taken through Carbon County along rural route 903. Ten miles later in the mountains, you can see how the area earned the nickname, "Switzerland of America."

When the bus enters the east side of a tiny town, the driver slows down to a crawl. On the right, he points out through a cluster of tourists, a large granite mausoleum in a park-like setting. The name of the town is Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania.

A native American and descendant of Chief Black Hawk, Jim Thorpe was born in the Oklahoma territory in 1888. He was voted one of the greatest athletes of the twentieth century AND back in 1950, he was voted THE greatest athlete of the first half-century. Thorpe's rise to prominence was due to his spectacular performance in the pentathlon and decathlon during the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm Sweden. When King Gustav met Thorpe he said, "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world." To which Thorpe responded, "Thanks, King."
A ticker-tape parade in New York City welcomed him back to the states and from it, superstar Thorpe became a celebrity. That is until a newspaper reporter uncovered that Thorpe, prior to the Olympics had played baseball in North Carolina for sixty dollars a month. This legitimate technicality had cost Thorpe his amateur status. Although he claimed ignorance of the law, he was stripped of his gold medals and his name was taken out of the record books. Thorpe was disgraced and never recovered.

On a low level, Thorpe managed to stay in the limelight. Among other things, he played major league baseball with the New York Giants. But as the years went by, his depression led to alcoholism and a decline in health. His situation worsened because he gave "his people" a lot of his money and was in many cases exploited.

He and his wife Patricia were so poor by 1951 that when he developed cancer, a Philadelphia hospital took him on as a charity case. Jim Thorpe was sixty-five when he died in 1953. Then, Jim's native state of Oklahoma refused to assist Mrs. Thorpe in erecting a suitable memorial in his honor.

So why is Thorpe buried in Northeast Pennsylvania and why does the whole town bear his name? Jim's only connection to Pennsylvania came when attended the Carlisle Indian Academy near Harrisburg. But that was a hundred miles away and there's no proof that he ever visited coal country or had any links to it.

The story starts in a tiny settlement called Coalville. When the depth of the anthracite coal bonanza was realized, entrepreneurs rushed into the area. By 1818, the town became so large that it became two separate municipalities and changed its name Mauch Chunk (Bear Mountain) and East Mauch Chunk.

Mauch Chunk became a vital coal distribution point as the Lehigh River was used to ship the coal out. When the railroad came in, production skyrocketed and the region boomed. In and around the 1840's, despite the danger and disproportionally low pay, poor Irish immigrants were attracted to the area and became miners. The area's Protestant coal and railroad tycoons treated the miners with as much dignity as they would a pick-ax. The working conditions were deplorable. Deaths and injuries from cave-ins, and other mishaps plus lung disease were rampant.

To fight these conditions, an underground terrorist network called the Molly Maguires was formed. A movie, based on truth, by that name from 1970 starred Sean Connery and Richard Harris. The film depicts Connery as a Molly Maguire leader while Harris is a Pinkerton Detective hired by the tycoons to infiltrate the organization and destroy it.

An interesting piece of negative American history, scenes from this 2 1/2 star movie was filmed on location in Jim Thorpe.

In the 1930's, the great depression hit Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk hard. Jobs became scarce and a good deal of its population left. However, when the rest of the nation bounced back, they didn't.

When Jim Thorpe died in 1953, the town learned of Mrs. Thorpe's plight. So, in an attempt to reverse the town's continuous downward spiral, they approached her with the idea of memorializing him and naming the town after him.

Spear-headed by the memorial, today Jim Thorpe and its 4,800 permanent residents are a revitalized community. Rafting the Lehigh River and other nearby outdoor activities attract many tourists. There are also museums as well as tours of the mines and canals. Additionally, cultural events and street fairs take place in the town's Victorian business district. Beautifully juxtaposed against the mountains; galleries, restaurants and Bed & Breakfasts make Jim Thorpe great family fun or as a romantic getaway.

Monday, July 16, 2007


On the 4th of July, I played in a father-son softball game. I believe it was the first time I swung a bat in anger since about 1989. In this game, the dads were not only a lot younger than me but most of them seemed quite fit and used to doing athletics feats of strength.

I was handed an 8 year old's glove and took the field with two objectives.

A) Don't get hurt.

B) Don't embarrass myself, my son or the great Edelblum name.

I soon learned that the dad's didn't take the field to make their boys feel better about themselves or to entertain the kids with their own sophomoric hi-jinx. Actually it was quite the opposite. The dads were especially competitive and swung for the fences. Even worse, the boys were "robbed" on all the close calls. Still the son's (mostly 12-15 with a couple of older teens mixed in) tried their hardest...if not to win but to impress their dads.

My son Andrew was playing right field as all the dads were cracking shots to left. So when I came to bat, I tried to get him into the action. However, I missed and hit the best shot of my life over the center fielder's head. My first instinct was of course to run...somehow I overcame this urge and blissfully watched the ball sail away. After admiring my prodigious poke, I began my Ruthian trot, (for those who are not familiar with baseball...I ran slow)...After all, I didn't come there to pull any muscles ! I probably could have kept coming but I decided on settling for a sweatless triple. I truly hate to brag...BUT, it really felt good to hear the other dads congratulate me...Hence I succeeded in accomplishing objective B by not embarrassing the great Edelblum name.

During our four inning tussle somehow the ball was never hit to me or my little 8 year old's glove. However, on the last play of the game we got one of the boys in a pickle, ( a run-down, more specifically a base runner trapped between 3rd and 2nd base). I was covering second base when the third baseman fired me the ball. I ran the runner back to third and threw him out. The game was over and I was glad that I hadn't injured myself ...objective A had also been accomplished...that is, until I took off my padding-deprived mitt. The one ball I had to catch had sprained the middle knuckle of my left hand. OUCHIES !

I was on vacation that week so I was well enough to work with it five days later. But unfortunately old age has a way slowing down the healing process because now, twelve days later its much better but not 100%.

Moral of the story is, even if you aren't 17, always keep your own baseball glove in the trunk of your car for emergencies. If not, be sure you don't get stuck using a toy.

P. S. - For those of you who have read my short story, "BLESSING IN DISGUISE," you might remember a similar circumstance. The inspiration for that passage came from a real incident in 1981.

I was invited by "Combat" Larry to play ice hockey in Henderson Nevada with the dad's from a squirt league, (in the story, I cleverly changed his name to Combat Harry to reduce the risk of slander charges). When the guy with the extra equipment didn't show up, I was forced to use "Combat" Larry's 9 year old's shin pads, stick and a pair of gardening gloves.

Maybe on a slow news week in the future, I will can give you the full and hilarious story in this column...or for more information on "BLESSING IN DISGUISE" or any of my stories, the screenplays or my novel, please refer to this blog's archives to read a synopsis of them. Then, if you like, I can E-Mail you or provide a hard copy of whatever you might want to read.

Monday, July 9, 2007


I'm not only a great uncle but now I'm a great-uncle. My niece Allison with a noteworthy assist from her husband Tanah gave birth to Daniel Noah earlier today. Both mother and son are doing well and apparently dad is expected to make a full recovery from his swooning incident.

In keeping with the "Child" theme, I went to two lavish backyard parties this week. Both offered liquor to its guests and both used "ADULTS ONLY" signs to keep the kids away from it.

I used this an an opportunity to further mold my thirteen year-old scion with the wisdom of my experiences. Underage drinking I told him, is one of the many treacherous "peer group pressure" forks in the road of life. After the usual "Yeah, yeah yeahs," and a couple of "I know alreadys," my point was beautifully illustrated by a far-from happy drunk. She was kind enough to blither incoherently, fall and pass-out. This brief scene laid an important foundation and easily replaced the volumes of lectures school or anyone else could give him.

Such demonstrations rarely pop-up at an opportune moment. After all, parenthood is a lot like virus protection for your computer. As quickly as the anti-virus company comes up with new updates to fight-off invasions on our hard-drives, hackers come-up with more sophisticated schemes to get in.

Friends of MGTP told me...that during the winter, their son (17) and his friends masked their drinking and pot smoking with cigars. These kids were screened and interviewed on the way in, yet the contraband was still smuggled in. By luck, this potentially volatile situation was diffused...however it did bring on quite a domestic upheaval. Eventually, their boy understood his parents' responsibility on underage drinking in their home.

Not everyone is so lucky. Last month former NFL quarterback Jack Trudeau had a graduation party at his house for his daughter. Although no liquor was being served, Trudeau had all the kids sign-in and leave their car keys with him. When the party sprouted to outside, a complaining neighbor phoned the police.

Trudeau had a less than stellar football career but in his hometown, he is a celebrity. The officers that responded apologized for the intrusion and further apologized because they were required to randomly check kids with a breathalyzer. Trudeau confidently obliged and eight of them had alcohol in their system. Jack Trudeau now has felony charges pending on him.

So you can never be too safe. It doesn't matter how old your kids always have to stay on your guard. Unless your kid was born today... then YOU and only YOU get the day off.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Kind Words for: JACK-ASS, THE MOVIE

About a year ago, one of Andrew's friends was at our house. We were all watching a show on the SPIKE network called "Most Extreme Challenge" or simply "MXC."
MXC was an ingenious show that took the video from a wild 1980's Japanese game show. The soundtrack was removed and they added their own audio. The show worked on two levels; the actually physical stunts performed by the contestants were not only difficult but dangerous, (the cost of liability insurance had to have been astronomical because despite helmets and thin padding, broken bones seemed inevitable). This aspect of the show appealed to Andrew.

On the other hand, what appealed to a more adult audience was that they dubbed the show into a sporting event format. But where they were really clever was, they also wove a tapestry of toilet humor and sexually innuendo that went over the kiddies head.

When Andrew's friend was picked up by his mother and four year old brother, the show was still on. When the little brother heard us roaring, he came in and watched with us. The stunt they were attempting involved wearing a Velcro suit and jumping off a high platform clinging to a rope. On the other side was a Velcro target. The idea was to swing across a slimy moat, let go of the rope and slam face first into the wall. If you stuck, you won...few people did.

Our laughing died-out as a commercial came on...except for the little brother. He kept laughing, stood up and ran, full-speed into our wall.

The moral of the story is...children are influenced by what they see on TV. As obvious as that might seem, a lot of people refuse to believe it.

With that in mind, a few years ago an "asinine" movie came out called, "JACK-ASS, the movie." In a series of mind melting idiocy, a group of film-making friends set-up weird and dangerous pranks to perform themselves...or on each other. Their antics were designed to shock and nauseate passers-by as well as the movie-goers...and they succeeded

When I was told of this, I made a mental point never to let Andrew see it. Well, I was channel surfing the other day and came across it, without realizing what it was. Soon, I was laughing and called Andrew to join me. While watching, I checked the listing and it was indeed, Jack-Ass but I must concede that it funny. Albeit the kind of funny that is gross, dangerous and stupid but its entertaining enough that you can't take your eyes off it.

If you have a kid who is sharp enough to separate over-the-top stupidity that OTHER people do from the things he can do...or you are willing to sit with them and add your own propaganda...reminding your kid that these are "professionals," then this is a worthwhile piece of mindless tripe.