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Welcome to the Bethlehem Gadfly!

Definition of gadfly
1: any of various flies that annoy livestock

2: a person who stimulates other people especially by persistent criticism
3: someone who challenges people in positions of power

The main goal of the Gadfly blog is to provide a space for healthy public dialogue about issues of concern to Bethlehem, Pa., residents. All sides, all perspectives welcome.

For good examples of in-depth coverage of continuing serious issues, see the threads onGadfly 54 candidates for election, Martin Tower, Parking, and on 2 W. Market St.

As context for and balance to the serious issues, we also have some fun stuff relating to Bethlehem as well.

Please use your contact list to pass the word about “The Bethlehem Gadfly” to others and, most importantly, click the button on the sidebar to follow us.

And follow the Gadfly on Facebook @TheBethlehemGadfly

The Gadfly — Ed Gallagher — would like to hear from you!

“What I see happening isn’t really promoting a walkable community”

logo57th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

He confessed it. Total admission. Put it right out there. No hiding.

“I love to walk.”

That was Wally Trimble at the “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” event.

“Hear, Hear,” a flock of Gadfly followers assented, “We’ll drink to that!”

Much on our minds on this blog.

But a ways to go, says Wally.

  • “I love to walk.”
  • “I wish it were a more walkable community.”
  • “We have a great trail system . . .”
  • “Our crosswalks seem designed as kill zones.”
  • “There are a lot of really dangerous places . . . “
  • “The best way to see [our] neighborhoods is to walk.”
  • “It makes us feel better just to talk with a stranger.”
  • “If everybody was out walking around and talking with each other . . .”
  • “What I see happening isn’t really promoting a walkable community.”

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“There’s not really a place where people of color who look like me gather in this town”

logo56th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

After that discussion of “place” in Bethlehem, Sharon Brown guided the denizens of Godfrey Daniels after the Festival UnBound’s “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” performance to the topic of “race” with this startling statement:

“There’s not really a place where people of color who look like me gather in this town.”

  • “It’s important to have a presence.”
  • “If you don’t have a presence, you can’t make a change, and nobody is going to invite you to the table to have a conversation.”
  • I’m continuing to think about as we look into the future how do we engage and make our world a truly more inclusive community.”
  • “How do I and others and other allies help to get folks to develop a critical consciousness, so that when you are doing a program you are making sure that you are including The Other and whoever that Other is at the table in the performance.”
  • “We have to do better.”
  • “After being here all these years, it is still a majority community governed by majority people, and all the Arts are still majority dominated and don’t engage other voices to be at the table.”
  • “It’s as though there’s this invisibility that occurs.”
  • “Where are the people who look like me?”
  • “Since we have this conversation, remember that there is a level of invisibility that exists throughout the entire Lehigh Valley but especially in Bethlehem no matter what side you are on.”

The audience went quiet for a bit, as if in thought.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“Do you think this is a city of two cities?”

logo55th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

A quiet voice fairly timidly took the mic:

“I have a question . . . do you think this is a city of two cities?

And thus began in earnest the discussion after “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers.”

The room got right to the question of identity that we sometimes seem unable to settle.

Are we the tale of two cities?

Are we the wail of two cities?

Northside and Southside–

And the conversation jumped quickly to an even greater multiplicity of cities within our city!

  • “There are three sides of town: Northside, Southside, and Lehigh.”
  • “There’s the Eastside . . . another neighborhood that everybody forgets.”
  • “In any town, there are many towns . . . for any town, any community to go forward, it has to recognize it’s a good thing and a bad thing that there are more than one town in that town . . . It can be diversity and opportunity if we recognize and try to bring those communities together and take strength from that rather than trouble.”

Ahhh, this is a rich subject that you must have some feelings about.

Lehigh as a third side of town?

Badaboom!

Share?

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“Nobody’s going to save us . . . we’re going to have to fight for our community”: the “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” panel

logo54th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

So Gadfly set up for you the panel conversations about the future of Bethlehem after Festival UnBound’s “Prometheus / Redux” and “The Secret.”

Here we’ll introduce the panel and significant audience participation of the “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” event and in a following post the panel after “Hidden Seed,” which Gadfly almost forgot about since he didn’t get any video.

Gadfly is first setting these panels up for you and then will come back for closer looks.

PT&T at the intimate Godfrey Daniels on 4th St. was an hour or so of original music by Godfrey Danielslocal folk singers and composers that was followed by a like amount of time for a panel with audience participation.

Panel members were Bill George (Touchstone wizard), Bob Watts (poet, Lehigh U English Department), Paul Walsh (Charter Arts Artistic Director), Geoff Gehman (arts journalist), and Anne Hills (folk singer).

In setting up the first two panels, we’ve heard shorthand descriptions of the guiding purpose of the entire Festival as generating “a sense of ‘we’ that we have never accomplished before” and envisioning “how we move forward as people committed to building a better Bethlehem.”

Here Bill George frames once again the first principles and principal motivation for the massive 10-day Festival.

  • “The purpose is to use our art as a way of bringing us together to express our feelings and thoughts about who we are as individuals and as a community and somehow where we’re going and to help it generate conversation among ourselves as to what kind of community we really want.”
  • “Like Stephanie’s [Stephanie Watts] novel, nobody’s coming to save us.”
  • “This music . . . calls us to understand that we have a job if we want this town, that we want our community, we’re going to have to fight for it, and the fight isn’t really with other people, it’s with ourselves not just to sit back and let it go.”

Much more on this event in later posts.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Summer bowing out

logoThe Gadfly invites “local color” photos of this sortlogo

October 15

Alison 2

Frosty penstemon this morning . . . Come back, summer!
Alison Steele
—–
Alison is a Bethlehem native, Liberty grad, daughter of “former-hippie parents” from the Northeast part of town, who is working in the Sustainability field in Pittsburgh. Gadfly bets  her blog on this topic will be of interest to many followers.

“It happens when the money comes / The wild and poor get pushed aside”

logoLatest post on the Arts in Bethlehemlogo

Listening to brand-new music about Bethlehem while wedged into Godfrey Daniel’s for Festival UnBound’s “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” performance, knees welded together, elbows pinned to ribs, butt little more comfortable than a flag-pole sitter’s, Gadfly’s mind drifted back to the past . . . to John Gorka.

Anyone remember?

“My time [in Bethlehem] roughly coincided with the decline of Bethlehem Steel . . . and the town was trying to adapt to the new economic realities . . . a lot of what they did I was fine with . . . but the way they were fixing up the southside of town, where Godfrey Daniels is . . . I started to feel like aspiring folksingers and other poor people would no longer be welcome there . . . wrote this in 1991 . . . The song is kind of contemporary in a horrible way.”

Gorka 1

“Where the Bottles Break”

I walk where the bottles break
And the blacktop still comes back for more
I walk where the bottles break
And the blacktop still comes back

I live where the neighbors yell
And their music comes up through the floor
I live where the neighbors yell
And their music wakes me up

Life beyond the playground fence
Is serious as basketball
Life beyond the playground fence
Is serious

Four blocks from the steel mill blasts
I paint my claim up on the wall
Four blocks from the steel mill blasts
I paint my claim

From my end of the southside drag
It’s a common thought to call the cops
Further west it’s been gentrified
They turned biker bars into flower shops

I kind of miss those Harley guys
Who rarely did a body harm
They mostly liked to drink and shout
And flash the pictures on their arms

It happens when the money comes
The wild and poor get pushed aside
It happens when the money comes
The poor get pushed
The buyers come from somewhere else
And raise the rent so you can’t hide
The buyers come from out of state
And they raise the rent

Buy low sell high
You get rich and you still die
Money talks and people jump
Ask how high low-life Donald what’s-his-name
And who cares
I don’t want to know what his new wife doesn’t wear
It’s a shame that the people at work
want to hear about this kind of jerk

These people aren’t saints
No people just are
They want to feel like they count
They want to ride in their own car
People aren’t saints
No people just are
They want to feel like they count
They want to ride in their own car

I just want to make enough
To buy this town and keep it rough
I just want to make enough
To buy this town

Buy low sell high
You get rich and you still die
Money talks and people jump
Ask how high low-life Donald what’s-his-name
I walk where the bottles break
And the blacktop still comes back for more
I walk where the bottles break
And the blacktop still comes back

I live where the neighbors yell
And their music comes up through the floor
I live where the neighbors yell
And their music wakes me up

Life beyond the playground fence
Is serious as basketball
Life beyond the playground fence
Is serious

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

The Mack strike hits “home”

logoThe Gadfly invites “local color” photos of this sortlogo

Jon Harris and Anthony Salamone, “Striking Mack Trucks workers irked after company cuts their health care plans.” [MACK WORKERS DISTRESSED] Morning Call, October 18, 2019.

Paul Muschick, “We should support striking Mack Trucks workers.” Morning Call, October 18, 2019.

Matt 1

“MACK WORKERS DISTRESSED” blares the headline in the print edition of today’s Morning Call.

For some reason the online edition softens “distressed” to “irked.”

Remember the statistics that came out during the government shut down earlier this year about how the vast majority of average American workers do not have, say, $400 put away to meet an emergency?

Distressed is more like it.

The Mack strike hits home.

Gadfly #4 son Matt is a proud Union member standing tall on the picket line.

(Can you pick him out in the above photo? Family resemblance? We once won a Morning Call Father’s Day look-alike photo contest.)

Because of the Touchstone Theatre Festival, Gadfly’s thinking the past few weeks has been framed by “The Steel.”

Now the Mack strike.

Gadfly knows factories.

He grew up just barely across the tracks from a neighborhood called “Tin Town,” whose factories owned the families of his friends as well as the future for many of them, families whose fathers Gadfly remembers coughing out their assembly line dust over cheesesteaks at Novino’s luncheonette.

Supporting self and young family through graduate school, Gadfly in overalls carried his lunch bucket to Kaiser Jeep outside of South Bend, Ind., helping to make Army trucks for Viet Nam, enduring good-humored jibes of “college boy” from soot-stained men who literally counted days to retirement-escape.

His father and uncles worked for Westinghouse just outside Philadelphia in the 1940s and 1950s, and many were crippled by the massive strike in 1955. His father, following his American Dream, had just been promoted from the “floor” to low-level third-shift foreman, where he was proud to wear a white shirt. But the promotion potentially drove a wedge between him and his friends at an ugly time when Union-Company confrontations turned violent as strike days turned into strike months.

Doing necessary maintenance on the machines, Gadfly’s father for several weeks lived in a Westinghouse plant ringed by squads of angry Union members. Gadfly remembers that he was worried about his car as more and more violence erupted. It was 1955. He had just bought a well used 1950 Ford with his pay raise and invested in a paint job.

A “new” car — livin’ the dream.

Unfortunately, the sample paint splotch turned out to be misleading — and the end result was a gleaming, virtually pink embarrassment — especially to a shy teen looking forward to using the car on dates.

But that car was his baby, and his Union still-friends escorted his not yet 16-yr-old Gadfly son through the dense picket line, and, though unpracticed in stick shift, with their convoy, to drive his gleaming pink beauty slowly and sputteringly back through the picket line and out of the plant to safety. It was bizarre.

Gadfly’s kidneys still ripple at the memory.

Gadfly’s father never forgot his Union roots.

Gadfly has felt that influence in his own life.

Gadfly will always remember an African American mourner grasping his hand at the funeral, saying his father was the best foreman he ever had.

That meant something.

Many Bethlehem residents and Gadfly followers worked (or work) for Mack as well as “The Steel.” Would there be strike memories to share?