Friday, March 09, 2007

Erie Pizza

So, last night we had one of those recurring debates about who has the best pizza in Erie. We were down at Skeeter's watching the Pitt game. At halftime, with Skeeter's kitchen being closed, we decided we needed order out for a pie. Being the guy who came up with the idea, I was put in charge of making this happen, and being down the street from Dominick's, I made my call. Mind you, it was a bit of an expensive proposition, $14.25 or something for a large with cheese, pep, and sausage, but I think it was worth it. Dominick's has changed hands since I frequented it 15-20 years ago in college, and their pie recipe has also changed. One thing that has not changed is their sausage, which is still very plump, juicy, tasty, and plentiful. I would say the sausage alone saved the pizza, and actually made it very filling, so the large, which was actually pretty good size, was able to take care of 5-6 hungry drunks.

Anyways, Dominick's does not have the best pizza in Erie, but it was convenient and alright. After the pizza came in, the bartender told us that, believe it or not, The Cellblock has some of the best pie in town. "I'll stand by their pizza," was her exact quote, which led to some obvious jokes. J.B. insisted that Skeeter made a killer pie, and I have heard before he is a good cook. And then someone said their wife had been raving about a pizza shop downtown, but we weren't sure of the name. Someone said it may be Howie's, which is actually a chain, but that doesn't mean they have bad pizza...except that ordering from a chain, in a town like Erie that used to have a local shop on every other block, is a bit of shame. For a while though, I'll admit, I was hard-pressed to find good local pizza and took to going to Papa John's and Pizza Hut, which are both convenient, make decent pies, and always have coupons available. However, recently, we've turned back to Mr. Pizza, which has good solid pie and wings and is run by a really nice couple, which counts for something. Steel City has some good pie too, especially their cheese, and their crust receives high reviews.

Finally, my wife's friend highly recommends Mama Mia's, which of course, suffered the tragic loss of one of its delivery men in a notorious bank robbery a few years back. As bad as that whole situation was/is, it did put Erie's local pizza shops back on the map and I think we are seeing a bit of a resurgance in this area. Any thoughts?



Monday, March 05, 2007

Smoking ban

Let's give some props to Judge Bozza for proving he is indeed no Bozo and striking down the county-wide smoking ban. Now, I'm not a smoker, so I really shouldn't care about this, but I am a big freedom and rights guy. I mean if you want to run a restaurant or bar where people are allowed to smoke, why shouldn't you be able to do it? Cigarettes were still legal, last I checked. If there is really tons of public support to ban smoking in public places, wouldn't that mean there is a huge opportunity for non-smoking establishments to open up, and these droves of people who destest smoking could just go to those?

I think it's a farce. I really don't think the majority of people in Erie County are in favor of a smoking ban. Rather, I think it's a vocal (and somewhat powerful) minority. I say we put the matter to the test. Put a proposed smoking ban on a public ballot, and if we get more than 50% of county-wide voters in favor of it, go for it. If not, then don't. We still live in a democracy, don't we? I mean if we can get stuff like gay marriage ammendments on the ballot, why not an anti-smoking ordinance? All those in favor, say, aye.



What's the hang-up in Koehler project?

It has been recently reported in the Times that the project was stopped dead by some "paperwork" disagreements between Cornerstone (the acute health care guys) and the developers. Could we be more specific about this? Originally, it was reported that there was a problem specifically involving an "Estoppel Certificate" that the banks wanted Cornerstone to sign before they would finalize their loan to the Koehler developers. So, what's an Estoppel Certificate? Through some Googling, the best I could find is that it's some sort of agreement stating that terms in the lease have been agreed upon. So, was there a discrepency between the lease the Koehler developers showed the banks and the one Cornerstone agreed on? One story I heard was that the lending banks wanted Cornerstone to guarentee 20 years worth of lease payments, because that's how long the loan is for, but because Cornerstone only has a 10-year lease, they wouldn't do it. I would just like some more detail on this matter before we close the book on the project.



Friday, March 02, 2007

Passan column on steroids

So, was it coincidence that a new steroid scandal broke right when I finished the compelling book about the last big sports steroid scandal. As my firend Dr. Dee likes to put it "there are no accidents." Anyways, I would be less interested in this current story if I hadn't read such an in depth and interesting account about the old one. And the title of one of the chapters in Game of Shadows rights truer than ever: "Cheat or Lose." After all, the Pittsburgh Steelers doctor is accused of spending $150,000 on Human Growth Hormone last year, which he claims was medicine for one of his patients. Yeah right. Didn't the Steelers win the Super Bowl last year?

Then there's this great Jeff Passan column. Passan is a former Kansas City Royals beat guy who now writes for Yahoo! and cranks out consistenly riveting copy. He pretty much calls Gary Matthews, Jr. and the California Angels onto the carpet for some sort of collusion in which Matthews got a $50 million contract because of one good year, which we find out was now was contributed to by some sort of "supplements." Let's see, great year out of nowhere by a mediocre player who appeared to be reaching the end of the line... haven't we seen this scenario before, like starting with Brady Anderson about 10-15 years ago, and down through the years. Anyways, Passan says if the Angels had bothered to look, they could have figured out for themselves that Matthews was juicing, but they chose instead to ignore it and pay sign him to a $50 million contract, that they're probably stuck with now, even though Matthews has been busted... Anyways, Passan's point is that if Matthews gets his $50 million, it's yet more evidence that the cheaters have won.... and just wait until Barry Bonds breaks Hammerin' Hank's home run record. Aye Carumbas!


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Honoring Fr. John "Tex" HIlbert

For many in the Erie community, the recent passing of Fr. John Hilbert was shocking and sad. "Tex" as he was known (as was his father before him) was active in the Erie Cursillo movement, the Erie CALL program, and was chaplain at Mercyhurst Erie for nearly 20 years. At the time of his death, he was chaplain to Mercyhurst North East.

Tex was a friend to my family since 1970 and I worked with him personally for the past five years. He was a great man with a great spiritual presence. His funeral at St. Peter's Cathedral on Tuesday was standing room only. Clearly, he touched many lives.

Tex and I used to have long conversations at MNE concerning politics (he did not care for the Bush administration and its rush to war) and spirituality (he believed that all of us are God's childrem, regardless of color or gender or belief system). I will miss those conversations and I will miss seeing him in the hallways of MNE.

If you have not yet see his obit on GoErie, you might want to take a look to see how many people loved Tex. It's very moving.

A great light has been taken from us, and he will be impossible to replace. We can only thank God that Tex was able to spend his entire life helping the people of Erie, PA. We need more people like him.


Presque Isle Downs

I've been talking to people about the new casino in Summit Township, Presque Isle Downs. As you might imagine, some people think it's a good thing, some think it's bad, and others are indifferent.

Those who support the project cite jobs and tax revenue. And although they are skeptical about the promise of Property Tax Reform (meaning that your property taxes will go away and be paid for by the slots), they believe that county-funded projects like the Zoo and the County Library System will now be able to avoid their annual funding crises.

Those who do not like the casino cite social problems. People told me that gambling "attracts the wrong crowd to Erie County" and will create additional strain on social service agencies (presumably, because gambling creates debt and debt can destroy families). In addition, debt also leads to the lending of money which quite often cannot be paid back, and this leads to Draconian Debt Collection, if you get my drift.

Those who are indifferent tend to see both sides of the issue. They agree that revenue generation is necessary; however, they're not sure that a casino is the best way to generate jobs and tax revenue.

Interestingly, the seniors I spoke with are more likely to visit the casino than people in other age groups. They said they like to play the slots because it's fun, safe, and potentially profitable...and now they won't have to travel to Salamanca or Canada to play the slots.

Personally, it seems to me that there is so much to do in this world: Helping people learn to read and write, feeding the hungry, volunteering for various local projects...making Erie a better place to live, that it seems odd that so many people have time to sit on a stool and play slots. But it's back to Bread and Circus, I guess. As long as the masses are fed and entertained, then all is well in the U.S. of A.