Category Archives: Lehigh Valley

Is Jeff Parks the Lehigh Valley’s Steve Jobs?

No…Jeff does not have a closet filled with black turtlenecks…the similarities are at a different level. In fact, it is more about perception and the strong reactions they generate, from both fans and critics, than about the men themselves.

Both men tend to have polarizing effects on people. There are lots of fan-boys and lots of haters, and seemingly few in between. I say seemingly because I think there are actually as many if not more who lie somewhere between fan-boy and hater, but they just tend not to be as vocal.

Both men have turned their vision into hugely successful products and both have remained synonymous with their brand. You don’t become one with your brand without being, to some extent, a control freak. Take the criticism that Apple receives for their tightly regulated iPhone App process, the whole no Flash thing, heck even the fact that you can’t just pop out the iPhone battery, and compare that with complaints about food and beverage tickets at Musikfest, what some believe was the rerouting of Musikfest over the years away from Joe’s Tavern and Ripper’s to reduce non-fest beer sales, and conspiracy theories that Jeff Parks was behind the sudden enforcement of open container laws at the beginning of the 2010 Musikfest, also to prevent non-fest beer sales.

As the center of their brands, the center of their respective universes, it is also hard to imagine their organizations without them. Critics can be found in the comments sections of local on-line newspapers calling for Jeff Parks to step down from Musikfest, that somehow the organization he built from his vision would be better without him. While I may not agree 100% of the time with the changes that Parks makes with Musikfest, I couldn’t imagine it without him behind it. The guy knows what he is doing but you will never please all the people all of the time. I see the three most probable possibilities with someone else at the helm as: 1) just about status quo (no changes, no evolution, someone takes over and they just follow the current recipe, an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude) 2) a gated festival 3) an attempt to “fix” the festival, based on critical feedback resulting in lower food and beverage tickets, an attempt to get “more relevant artists” and soon after finding that those high food and beverage tickets are high for a reason and the whole thing going under in a year or two.

We all know that Steve Jobs is stepping back from Apple. He remains as Chairman but he has health issues and eventually there will be an Apple without him at all. What will that look like? I think the possibilities are similar to Musikfest without Parks: 1) reduced innovation due to “following the recipe” 2) a new culture that is more about profit than product or 3) an attempt to “fix” things based on critics only to find that there was a method to his madness.

Of course, the hope for either would be for the organizations to continue the same vision as their founders, similar to Disney after Walt Disney died. Unfortunately while Disney shows us this is a forth possibility it is by no means automatic and is easily the most difficult outcome to achieve.

Apple has its fan-boys and its haters, as does Musikfest. Apple fan-boys see no faults, get every new product the day it comes out-camping overnight even though they can buy it on day 2 with no line and for hundreds of dollars less if they wait 60 days. They have a retort for every critic. If Steve says they should hold the phone differently, they do. They don’t jailbreak. Similarly, Musikfest fan-boys have no patience for beer bootleggers, plan their days actually around performances, performances they are eternally grateful to see for “free” and they totally get that their beer and food purchases subsidize them. Therefore, all of their food and beer purchases are with tickets and from tents. They do their Christmas shopping in Handwerkplatz and the Merchandise tent. They know the platzes by name, they use the shuttles, and if they are able to go every day, they do. Any given day of the year they know how many days there are to Musikfest. The fan-boy pre-orders both the non-light up and light up Musikfest mug (one for day, one for night) and they have a shrine of every Musikfest mug (even the ones before they were insulated with caps) in their basement. They correct you when you call “Cast in Bronze” the “Bell-Guy.”

Apple also has “one-product fans” who are not fans of the entire brand but they have an Apple product they just can’t live without. Many are PC users with an iPhone (like myself). They don’t like all the Apple “rules” but they play along for the most part because the product is so much better than anything else out there. Musikfest has similar non-fan-boy fans. They aren’t blind to the faults and they will criticize. Maybe it’s the price of tickets, maybe it’s the teenagers on Main Street, maybe they think all the main stage acts are washed up or the beer selection stinks. Whatever the complaints, there is still a product at Musikfest they cannot resist and they go. They may buy some, most, or all of their beer at local bars instead of with tickets but they will get enough tickets for a Hogar Crea shish kabob and an Aw Shucks corn, a Theo’s Gyro, and a taco from Take a Taco or the Holy Infancy Melting Pot. They stock up on salsa from the Salsa Guy too. They attend several days and go more for the hanging out, less for the music. They may have a few shows they know they want to check out, but often they are just stumbling on acts. The one product fan has a recent Musikfest mug, it may even be the current year. They call “Cast in Bronze” the “Bell Guy.”

Then there are the jailbreakers. They love the product but not the rules. They laugh when you say you can’t run Flash on the iPhone or that you have to pay extra to tether. At Musikfest the jailbreakers bring their own beer, in strollers, in cars parked near by. They know the secret free parking spots or they live close enough to walk. Many have grown up with Musikfest in their backyards and know all the tricks. Others are newbies who think they are hot shots and get busted. All pride themselves on working the system. Most get that the free shows are supported by food and beverage tickets but also know that Musikfest has already factored their jail breaking ways into the equation, let the “suckers” pay for it. Some jailbreakers are there for the music, many are there for the ability to walk around with a beer on the street. The jailbreaker has an old Musikfest mug from 2002 that his buddy left at his house. He may have drilled a hole in the lining. He calls “Cast in Bronze” the “The Creepy Bell Guy” if he knows who he is at all.

Then we have the haters. Apple haters won’t go within 100 ft of an Apple store. They have lost friends when they switched from PC/Blackberry/Android to Apple. They write posts called “Steve Jobs Exposed as a Terrorist” Similarly, Musikfest haters troll the local newspaper websites and blog for every Musikfest article ever written and complain about trash in their yards, drunks peeing in their bushes, the price of beer, conspiracy theories about Jeff Parks spending tax payers money or being in the pocket of the Liquor Control Board They schedule vacations the week of Musikfest, but not to attend-to get the hell out of Dodge. I think some haters actually secretly want to enjoy Musikfest but have been so outspoken about it they have to save face and not go. I imagine them attending secretly, in disguise. Haters don’t own a Musikfest mug, or they have one they found one at a yard sale and wrote something obscene on it with a Sharpie. They’ll swear up and down they don’t know who “The Bell Guy” is.

So there you have it. Jeff Parks is the Lehigh Valley’s Steve Jobs and therefore Musikfest is our Apple.

Where are you in the mix? Honestly I’m a bit of each of the above. Fanboy in that I take vacation every year and go almost every day, know all the platzes, buy my mugs early (no blinky ones) and I’m an Artsquest member. One Product fan in that I don’t buy all my beer in tents, I complain about the main stage acts some years (not this year) and I tend to stroll more than plan. I’m also a bit of a jailbreaker, but I won’t get into that here ;). I’m not really a hater, but I will occasionally partake in weaving a conspiracy theory or two.

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Talking Trash: The Latest on My Garbage Situation

So last week we went to Cape May for two days (can’t miss too much Musikfest). The night before we left we made sure to take out any trash including questionable foods from the fridge, dog poo (my husband wishes this stuff was made of gold) etc. because the day we were leaving for the shore, Wednesday, was also garbage day.

We come home Thursday night to find the trash is still in the garbage cans. They never came. This is August mind you. So my husband calls and they tell him the truck broke down and they would be over as soon as possible. Thursday comes and goes, as does Friday. Saturday I’m sitting on the patio enjoying the last few days of my vacation but I’m not enjoying the aroma of rotting meat and dog shit. Nice.

I call one number for the trash people, the new one they gave my husband, and I get an answering machine telling me that anyone missed on Thursday or Friday was going to get picked up on Monday and that Wednesday people need to wait until the next Wednesday and that they would credit the account for the missed week. WTF??? So Thursday and Friday pick-ups only suffer a few days (which I acknowledge is a long time in August) while Wednesday people have to wait a week??? Last time I checked my calendar Wednesday came before Thursday or Friday. So what gives? My theory is that Thursday and Friday customers do not live on the southside. I’m willing to bet money on it.

So at this point I had enough of the answering machine, so I leave a not so nice message and call the number where people actually answer the phone. And they do. And they tell me that the truck was just now fixed and they would add us to the Monday list. Fine. I get off the phone and go back out to the patio. I get hit in the face with the stench of the garbage. I’m back on the phone. The good number. This time I get a machine. They know its me. So I tell them on my message that the more I think about this situation the less I understand why on Earth I need to wait until Monday if their truck is fixed now. Come tonight or Sunday morning. I also tell them while they are enjoying their Sunday off I have to sit here and smell garbage on the last remaining days of my vacation and I’m not liking it. I also tell them how I am tempted to pack the garbage up in my husband’s truck and dump it at their place so they can suffer with it and I don’t have to.

Ten minutes later my phone rings. It’s someone other than the person who I spoke to the first time. She immediately has an attitude telling me my message was inappropriate and she didn’t know where I was getting the information that the truck was fixed, it was not. I tell her “well, the other woman who answered at this number told me it was just fixed.” Silence. “Well we have sent you four invoices now with a new phone number on it. Stop calling this number.” (Nice, see that, changing the subject) Me: “I’m sorry I’m not studying your invoices to see if there are changes. I call this number because I tend not to get an answering machine when I do. And as a matter of fact, I have never received four invoices from you. You only recently began sending them (we pay 6 months ahead) because I have to beg for them.” Her “No, we sent you three” (oh…now it’s three?)

Then we went into this whole thing about how I should find another collector because I don’t pay my bills on time. I told her if I’m ever late it’s because I’m pondering if I should find a new hauler before I pay. I also told her I paid the last bill in about two weeks and that their due date is usually the day they send the bill or the day after which is ridiculous. We went back and forth about how they were giving us a special rate and how I should be more appreciative. I told her I never once asked for any favors and that if I got better service with a higher rate plan that I would take it. I also told her about how my garbage cans are left laying on the side-walk or thrown in my plants. That I never know what day of the week they are going to show up.

So then I told her that I hope that Bethlehem goes to city-wide collection soon. You can imagine that went over like a lead balloon. I told her about how wonderful it was when I lived in Allentown and they picked up twice a week. She was not amused. So she said, we are adding you to the list to pick up ASAP. (I wonder what other lists I got added to…)

So Sunday morning our garbage was picked up.

Here’s the picture of how we found our cans:

So the big question at home this morning was whether or not they would pick up today. I got the text from my husband today:

“Garbage assholes didn’t come and get the garbage”

Please Bethlehem. Enough is enough. I’m really tired of hiring and firing (or getting ripped off by) garbage haulers. But I tell you one thing. I am done with one truck operations. If you don’t have a fleet, I’m not hiring you. I’m not saying this is a cure-all either, I’ve had a bigger hauler in the past, I think they were the ones who told me my house was not there anymore.

Horns – New Sustainable Restaurant Coming to South Bethlehem

During the heatwave this past weekend Hailey and I went for a walk through the sideside (yes, we are insane) and we stopped to peak in the windows of a new restaurant under construction at 123 West 4th Street near Play It Again Records. What immediately caught my eye were the two antique Singer sewing machine tables converted into small cafe tables and the old pictures leaning against the wall.

Hailey and I were quickly spotted by John Silvestera who took a break from working on the interior of his future restaurant to invite us in for a tour. The place was really cool. One of the first things I noticed once inside was where the place may have gotten its name…there were a few animal mounted heads on the wall, some with horns. The place has a rustic look, but not in any sort of Cracker Barrel way, definitely much cooler and darker. Aside from the Singer tables in the window there are wooden picnic tables (trust me, it works) and a coffee bar area under-construction. The coffee will be fair trade of course. John also said he was going to have a Chef’s table in the kitchen where lucky diners can get up-close to the action in the kitchen. Chalkboards across the wall in several areas will include the menu, specials, and one black-board is already devoted to defining some of the terms common to sustainable dining. He made his own lighting fixtures.

In the corner there is a big barrel with a vessel sink. John explained that instead of having water bottles people can either bring their own containers for free “super filtered” water or pay a small amount for a cup to fill up. The purpose is to encourage people to think about waste and ways they can be more green. I asked about take-out and the containers he’d be using and he’s on top of it already, it’s all green.

John and Horns are both welcome additions to the southside. In case you missed it, the Express-Times ran a story recently about how John came to the southside after being turned down by Easton. Easton’s loss is definitely our gain.

It was also refreshing to see work being done behind open glass. I wish more people would consider this. I realize it may steal some of the thunder by not having a big reveal once it’s all done but because he didn’t hide behind windows covered in craft-paper or newspaper he gets to interact with future customers now to get the buzz started. I’ve seen tweets since my visit from others who have been invited inside by John for a tour and I think that’s just so smart. I was actually chased off by peaking inside an open door when floors were being redone in the old McCorry’s building on 3rd Street. Really? You’re going to chase curious people away people showing interest before you even open? I just don’t get it.

Ok, sorry, back to Horns. John is hoping to have Horns open in early September. Check out some of pictures I took, though it doesn’t compare to seeing it in person. Go take a walk, look curious, maybe you’ll get a sneak peak too.

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Summer To-do List Update

Quick update on the Summer to-do list and two additions! With 5 days off over the holiday weekend I had a lot of time to cross off some of my to-do list:

  1. Knoebels we went the Friday before 4th of July for the second year in a row and it seems to be a great day to go, low crowds during the day, walk right onto kiddie rides and the big kid rides didn’t seem to have very long lines either. Later in the evening, right around the time we were getting tired anyway, it started to get more crowded. The same thing happened last year, probably the result of two things: 1) people leaving the pool/water park 2) cheaper evening all ride bracelets. Money saving tip: on weekdays you can buy ride bracelets, about $20 for little one’s like Hailey (under 48″ I believe) and then the ‘rents can use tickets to get on a few rides (we used $18 in tickets between the two of us). We didn’t make it over to the pool that day, next time. (On a sad note, there was a tragedy at the Crystal Pool on Wednesday, very sad).
  2. Lehigh Valley Zoo, Hailey and I visited on Sunday afternoon and I renewed our family membership while we were there. The otters were sleeping so we missed seeing them swimming around but the penguins were having a blast in their pool. Bad parenting move: I told Hailey to stand on the bench so she could reach the goats at the top of the fence and two goats almost knocked her off the bench…oops. And of course I snapped a picture first before catching her. She had a blast though!
  3. Kutztown Folk Festival Hailey, my mom and I went here on Tuesday, it still runs through July 10th. We had a good time, I spent too much money on who knows what, Hailey was just interested in the bouncy rides and the tractor train. The highlight of the trip was when my mom yelled at all the customers at the kite stand ” You realize they are all MADE IN CHINA…DON’T YOU?!?” It was pretty funny…I see where I get it from. She has a good point too. All of the other stands are pretty much handcrafted goods, then you have this huge sea of lawn flags and kites in the middle of it all, and everything is manufactured in China. It’s one thing if you go to a big box store, it is sadly expected, but at a craft show it is inappropriate, yet they are there every year. My best purchase was a (handmade in the USA) wooden spatula. I’ve been looking for a non-plastic, non-metal spatula for flipping eggs. This should work out well.

All this extra time on my hands over the weekend also gave me the chance to think of a couple of things I missed on my original list:

  1. Hershey Park, I haven’t been here since my 6th grade field trip. Someone just told me that it’s about $50 regular price to get in here so I’ll be looking for some good discount tickets. Hailey loves chocolate and I think she’ll not only enjoy some of the rides, but the chocolate tour.
  2. Ringing Rocks, Upper Black Eddy, Bucks County, this is a great free thing to check out. Bring a little hammer and you can bang on the rocks and they ring like bells. It’s a nice bonus to a day hike.

So that’s a total of 5 things off my list and 2 new things added…looks like it will be a busy summer.

Photo Quiz: Where am I?

Ok, this one is not in Bethlehem, but is close by. If you have never been there you probably won’t get this, but if you are like me and grew up going here you’ll know it IMMEDIATELY and this picture will bring backs lots of fun memories.

I’m being too generous with the hints…

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Update…Ok, I’ve already heard from a few people who are obviously very familiar with this clown. For those who aren’t, here is another shot…from about 35 years ago. Hey!? Who’s that kid in the pool? It’s not Hailey 😉

20110626-032325.jpgUpdate #2 Ok, I had a few people who absolutely new where I was when I took this photo but didn’t want to ruin the contest for everyone else. One, even worked there and emptied these garbage cans. One memory I always had about these was the amount of bees around them so of course my first question? “How many times did you get stung?” Response? “At least twice a summer”

I received a lot of guesses here and on twitter for Bushkill park. But finally Hillary Kwiatek correctly guessed (after many hints, I might add) “Hellertown Pool.”  But like I said, unless you have ever been there, this was not an easy one.

I tried doing a little research on the clown head and apparently they were not originally manufactured to be used as garbage can toppers, they were to be put on a pool and used as a throwing target in playgrounds or carnival games. If you would like one here’s an auction site that has one. They were manufactured in the mid-20th century and have been at the Hellertown Pool longer than I can remember. The pool opened in 1939 and the plaque on the garbage can toppers indicate they were donated by a drum and bugle corp.

There are also lion heads, as you can see in the pictures below, but clearly the clown is creepier.  Although I’m just noticing now that the lion has a Hitler-esque mustache…

And this one from back in the day…