Category Archives: Southside

Where am I?

Because the picture pretty much already gives it away, the only clue is I was on the southside when I took this. Where was I?

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UPDATE: Within 10 minutes of posting this my friend Lisa posted the answer on Facebook: It is embedded in the sidewalk in front of the old Bethlehem Steel headquarters on 3rd Street. Sorry it only took me 6 weeks or so to update this!

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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Bucket List Update…I’m Slacking

Back in January, one of my first blog posts was a personal bucket list of local attractions that I have never been to and want to cross of my list in 2011. So how is it going? Of late….not so good. In the beginning I crossed off a few items rather quickly. I thought that June, mid-year, would be a good time to look back and review my progress and regain some momentum.

So here’s what I’ve done so far:

  1. America On Wheel’s Museum  – see my post
  2. Visit a local vineyardsee my post
  3. Souper Bowl at Banana Factorysee my post

Three things. I did three things, that’s it??? And all three of these were crossed off by mid-February!

So here’s what I didn’t do, along with my sorry excuses…

  1. Easton State Theatre – I originally wrote:
    “Everything I am interested in seeing is always sold out by the time I hear about it or the cost is not in-line with my level of interest.” Pretty much the same thing is happening. I either fail to check the schedule or I do find something I’m sort of interested in but the price is higher than my interest (for example, Bryan Adams).
  2. Any number of restaurants in Easton I have yet to get to. We aren’t big restaurant goers…my husband doesn’t care for crowds and we have a kid. Might have to turn this one into a birthday dinner.
  3. Godfrey Daniels – busy weekends…wanted to take Hailey to a storytelling event but was already over booked. Need to take another look at the schedule.
  4. Touchstone Theater – I’d like to get there sooner but if I don’t, I plan on seeing the Christmas Follies in December.
  5. Gio’s Italian Grill in Macungie – I jinxed myself. This was supposed to be a done deal…my reunion was supposed to be here but it got hijacked and turned into a picnic. I must admit the picnic was a lot of fun, not that Gio’s wouldn’t have been good, but it was great seeing everyone’s kids so it worked out for the best. Even if that means I have to make new plans to cross this off the list.
  6. Historic Bethlehem Cemetery Tours this is in October so I’m still ok…for now.
  7. Renninger’s Antiques and Collectors Extravaganza in Kutztown. I made plans to go to the June Extravaganza with a friend who also loves antiques. They are moving into a new house in July and she has sworn off buying more stuff that they will have to pack and move so we rescheduled for September’s Extravaganza.
  8. Glass blowing and/or photography classes at the Banana Factory. I found the class I want to take (a photography class where you make a book) but I forgot to sign up and I think it already started. I’ll have to check the next schedule.
  9. Martin Guitar Tour – I’m going to go to this when I’m on vacation for Musikfest in August.

To be honest, I’d be happy if I got through more than half of this list this year. I think the hardest one for me is going to be the State Theatre and maybe the Banana Factory class, depending on what is offered and when. 

I’m also making a summer to-do list. Not really a bucket list because many of the things I’ve already done previously, but just want to get there again. Hopefully I’ll get around to writing a post about it soon.

Did you make a bucket list for this year? How are you doing with it? Let me know in the comments! 


Where am I? Photo quiz

New photo quiz today. Remember, the question is “Where Am I?” not “What is it?”

I can’t decide if this one is easy or hard. It’s really tucked away yet the building it stands in front of has a big presence. Ok, I’ve already said too much…

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No one guessed in the comments but we did have some excellent guesses via twitter including:

Behind the Steelworkers memorial, in front of the Fahy Bridge. (right idea, wrong bridge)

And the closest guess: In front of the Sands casino.

It’s actually BEHIND the Sands casino in front of the MINSI TRAIL BRIDGE and Bethlehem Steel’s High House building. I found this when I was checking out the new Sands hotel on a run. It’s on the far end of the hotel parking lot, you can’t miss it if you just walk over toward the High House (the really tall building in front of the bridge). The High House is where they made really tall stuff for the wars, such as naval gun barrels, which is on display in this photo. Go check out some our city’s…and our country’s history.

 

 

 

Why Bethlehem Needs a Centralized Garbage Contract: My Trash Collector Horror Stories

A long time debate in Bethlehem is about to pick up momentum again as Mayor John Callahan wants City Council to once again consider long overdue city-wide trash hauling contract. And republican candidates for Bethlehem City Council are talking trash. In an effort to put some homeowner perspective on this, particularly if you do not live in the city or if you rent, this is my story. Warning, this gets beyond ridiculous.

Many moons ago I lived in an apartment in Allentown. We had trash collection twice a week. TWICE! It was wonderful. No worries about throwing chicken in the garbage after the trash man already picked up, he’d be back in a few days. And you could set your clock to it too. Our pick up was Tuesday and Friday. I still remember. They always came, never a worry about being skipped or having to call. I never called the City’s waste management or my landlord once about trash collection issues. Never even crossed my mind.

Skip ahead two years to 1999 when my husband and I bought our first house in Bethlehem. What do you mean I have to find my own trash man? This is a joke right? I grew up in Hellertown which also had their own hauler. My husband grew up in Bethlehem so he new this was no joke.

And you can’t just go to just any garbage hauler. You have to contact the city to get a list of “approved” haulers. I tried to find a copy on the city’s website and by searching on google and had no luck. Yes, in 2011 you have to call so they can fax you the list. So you would think that if the city is giving you a narrowed down list they would have weeded out the unreliable haulers. Not. Last time I looked at this list there were 20-30 haulers on it.

So back to 1999. I called a few haulers and quickly realized they don’t all pick up in my neighborhood on the same day. Putting two and two together, I also realize this means I will have garbage trucks in my alley every day of the week. Lovely. Also, some charge “by the bag” and some charge a flat rate, some have a choice. Some provide their own containers. Well, we already bought two brand new garbage cans and the cans they provided are a bright blue that sticks out like a sore thumb. No thanks. Some are small local mom and pop haulers, others are large companies. Some are from New Jersey.

We spent 5 years in that house and had at least three haulers, maybe four. In our current house (we are here about 7 1/2 years) we had two. We I generally tried to stick with local mom and pops but did use one or two of the larger companies.

One put stickers on our garage to identify the house. Really? Fired.

Others were fired because they would skip us for weeks. WEEKS. Garbage stinking things up for WEEKS. When you call you get voice mail 99% of the time. Or if your pick up day is Wednesday they come Thursday. Then, after several weeks you think ok, they moved me to Thursday so you start to put the garbage out on Thursday. They come on Wednesday, grrr.

Or they tell you you have to bring your cans out to the street. Not true. In fact the City does not want you to. Haulers are required to go up your driveway or onto your back yard to pick up the cans AND RETURN THEM. If they don’t, call the city. Our current trash hauler is often guilty of leaving my trash cans all over the sidewalk. Sometimes after I have already left for work, which means they sit there blocking the sidewalk all day unless one of my neighbors is home to move them.

I’m trying not to name names but for this one I will because they are no longer in business. Trash Monster. Never heard of them? Check the morning call archives. We paid in advance so we wouldn’t have yet another monthly bill to worry about. They went out of business without telling us and let our trash sit for a month, just weeks after I paid for the next 6 months. Never got it back.

I had to convince their replacement (our current hauler) that normal businesses send invoices and don’t call and say I’ll stop by Wednesday at 10AM (when I’m at work) to pick up a check. Finally they started sending me an invoice but they call me within two days of me receiving it to find out when I’m paying. You go straight to the bottom of the pile for that one.

My current hauler is also the hauler that decided they are no longer serving the east side of the southside where a friend of ours lives. Problem? They never told their customers, including our friend. So he had to scramble to find a new hauler after reading about it in the paper because he couldn’t get a hold of the hauler. Nice.

My favorite story though happened at our last house. Our garbage hauler didn’t come for weeks. I’d call every week, leave messages or talk to someone who would apologize and tell me they’d stop out today or the next to pick it up and never come. Finally they asked the men on the road what the heck was going on. Their response? OUR HOUSE WAS NO LONGER THERE. Idiots. We did some landscaping and they no longer could find our house. It was a brick twin in a block full of brick twins. If the house was no longer there it would be a pretty obvious gap.

It’s bullshit that anyone should have to put up with this crap. On top of the experiences I have with my own haulers, I live on a one way street, surrounded by other small streets, many one way. Almost every day of the week I get stuck behind a garbage truck.

Plus, if someone has trash all over you can’t tell how long it has been there. Maybe today is their trash day? You won’t know until a week goes by and it is still there.

Also, there is no accountability. The city has no idea if you have contracted a hauler or not. People could be dumping their trash in the woods, in the street, on their neighbors pile, or even taking it to a relative’s house that has city or borough-wide collection.

If the city contracts trash collection they have more clout with the hauler. If the city gets too many complaints about the hauler they can be sure to take that into consideration when the contract is up for renewal and if bad enough, sooner.

So what are the arguments against a city wide contract? Two major issues: 1) the elderly think it will cost them more because many use the “by the bag” rate to keep their rate “low” 2) it will hurt the haulers that don’t get the contract (bad for business, large government blah blah blah).

So my arguments for the first point? If you compare against Allentown’s twice a week collection they pay less than the average Bethlehem resident. If that average is higher than the by the bag rate? Give seniors a discount. NEXT!

For the second point? Oh shut the hell up already. If garbage collection and keeping the city clean, sanitary and healthy is not a city government responsibility then I don’t know what the hell is. As for the small haulers, I am usually a huge supporter of small businesses but we would not have to even consider centralized trash collection if they were doing their jobs. We could simply divide the city into 5 wards, each ward would have its own trash collection day. This would ease the traffic concerns as well as allow neighbors and officials to better tell how long garbage has been sitting out on the street. But many of the haulers aren’t doing their jobs so that won’t work. To appease the ones who are, why not continue to allow businesses to contract their own trash (including apartment complexes). Sure some of the small haulers will likely go under, but hopefully it will be the ones that shouldn’t be operating anyway.

It’s time to clean up the city. A city-wide contract is the way to go.

Update: immediately after posting this, I found my garbage cans in this condition:

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Where am I photo quiz & good news

Another photo quiz. Obviously this is a sidewalk, but where was I? The good news is also a hint. I’ve been worried about the status of this sidewalk ever since construction began.

Here goes:

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